"Pantry" is for ingredients, tricks, tools and all things cool.

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Pim’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide

Come to think of it, I probably should call it Things-I-Love-And-Use-Myself-That-Will-Also-Make-Great-Holiday-Gifts Guide. I know it’s long and cumbersome, but it tells you so much more about the things that go into this guide I’ve put together for you. But before we even get to the guide itself, I’m going to introduce you to something else rather useful. It’s an image-tagging service called Thinglink.

Thinglink-ing chez Pim

Thinglink, from the brilliant minds of my friends Ulla-Maria and Jyri Engeström, makes image-tagging super simple. Any image on Chez Pim with Thinglike icon (4 black dots) on the top left corner has Thinglink tags in them. Roll over the image and you’ll see more dots popping up inside the image. Each dot is a link, on a thing, get it, Thinglink? Pretty brilliant, no? Point at one of those dots, you’ll see a small pop-up that tells you what the thing is and where to go to buy or learn more about it. Now images on Chez Pim help me tell stories and help connect you to useful things.

These are not advertising or sponsored links, by the way. Except for a small percentage of Amazon Associate Fees I get when I link to products on Amazon.com, I don’t make any money from these links. I simply point you to where I myself would buy or learn more about these items.

P.S. If you’re reading this post via an RSS feed, I’m sorry but Thinglink doesn’t work via RSS, so you’ll have to click through to Chez Pim to read and see the links on the images.

Now, let’s get on with my list, shall we?

Fiesta’s “Head Chefs” line of silicone kitchen tools for kids

I’ve only recently discovered these adorable kitchen tools, and now every kid in my life will get one (or more) as a present this holiday. I think one of the keys to get kids to eat well is to get them interested in food and in cooking, and what better way to do it than making it fun? Auntie Pimmie is going to be so popular with the kids this holiday, I can tell you that.

Tiny but not wimpy cameras

I am asked all the time what camera I use on the blog and when I travel. Here’s my answer, my absolute favorite camera, the one I carry with me pretty much all the time, is this Panasonic Lumix GF1 with the 20mm f/1.7 lens. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a camera more, and I’m sure I’ve never spent money better than when I bought it. The Micro 4/3 format basically allows DSLR cameras to shrink to this size, which is just a bit bigger than your tiny point/shoot. This camera let me geek out all I want on a shot, by manually doing everything, or just set it to Auto and have the camera do the thinking for me. And with a lot of the controls on the outside – knobs and dials and things – it’s actually quite quick to switch from one mode to another.

The GF1 is the first small camera that made me leave my big Canon 5D-Mark II at home when I went to Japan and Australia earlier this year. That’s how good it is, and how confident I am with it. Panasonic just announced the launch of the next model Panasonic Lumix GF2 in January, so you might want to check that one out instead. I can’t vouch for it since I haven’t used it myself.

Shooting with the fixed 20mm lens will take some getting used to, especially if you’re accustomed to the point/shoot with 10x zoom or something. But the lens is so fast and so awesome that it’ll be worth it. If this still doesn’t sound like a good idea, you could buy the GF1 with a more flexible 14-55mm lens.

I’ve been poo-pooing pocket point/shoot cameras for a long time now. No matter how well they advertise their “low light” ability, it’s just never adequate for me. The new CMOS sensor that recently came on the market changed my mind completely. The quality difference between shots made with the old CCD sensor and the CMOS sensor is truly night and day. Pun intended. I’ve been playing a bit with the Nikon S8100, another pocket camera with CMOS sensor, but the one that I really, really like is this Canon SD4000IS. The guys at dpreview like it a lot too. (I hope he doesn’t read this but that’s what you-know-who is getting for Christmas.) If you take photos of food when you go out to a restaurant, then get one of these and put aside your massive, embarrassing DSLR for other occasions.

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Lard, your fat of choice?

Happyforlard

Going through the pictures I took in New Orleans, I stumbled upon this cute sign inside the fantastic Kitchen Witch bookstore in the French Quarter.  It got me thinking about lard.  Even with renaissance of our love affair with pork, I don’t hear much about lard as the fat of choice in our cooking.  I myself love lard.  When I was growing up in Thailand, there was always a crock of home-rendered lard right above the gas stove, from which our cook would scoop up the semi-congealed fat by the ladle every time she stir-fried or deep-fried something.  If I had a choice, my last meal would be crisp Thai-style omelette fried in lard, on top of fragrant steamed Jasmine rice with lots of Sriracha (see-ra-sha) sauce.  It had to be lard, of course, because other fat would not fry the eggs as fluffy and as crisp.

What about you?  Are you, too, happy because you eat lard?  Or are you afraid of it?  What’s your fat of choice in your cooking, and why? Read more »

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my Martha moment

Cabbagesandzucchini

Have you had a Martha Moment?  I had one just yesterday, in the happy chaos and maddening madness of throwing a party.  A great big pig roast, in our case. 

What's a Martha Moment, you asked?  Well, it's when a great party idea strikes you seemingly out of nowhere–a great, simple, elegant idea that's just so evident you wonder why no one else had thought of it before.  (Someone probably did–and quite likely Martha herself even–but they just didn't bother telling you about it.)

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antique jars

Saltjars

My new "favorite thing" in the kitchen.  Antique jelly jars with tin lids.  David’s aunt Alice Ann gave me a whole box of them.  She inherited them from her mother, and had them lying around in her basement for years and years.  They were old fashioned jelly jars, the kind her mother used to seal with paraffin when she made homemade jams.  She said she was quite happy to be rid of them: I think she’s just being generous.  Of course I was being greedy, if you’ve been around here long enough you know my obsessions with glass jars.

They are on my counter now, repurposed as salt containers.  Quite handy for the different salts we use frequently.  From left to right, fleur de sel from Brittany, kosher salt, Australian red salt, Mexican sea salt from the sea of Cortez (found for 5 pesos a bag at a market in Todos Santos.)  I still have a whole box load, my mind is racing, so many possibilities, so many things I could do with these little darlings.  Stay tuned for more!

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Blenheim apricots

Img_316102

The best thing about coming home from this trip–besides seeing my kitty Ella, of course–is getting back in time for tiny Blenheim apricots.  They are a specialty of the Bay Area, and their season is so short you blink and they go *poof*. 

The blenheims are an old-fashioned kind of apricots that are getting increasingly hard to find.  Fewer and fewer farmers grow them every year.  The reason for the diminishing supplies is definitely not the taste, which is just heavenly, but more because they are ever so delicate.  Just look at them funny and they bruise, we like to say.

In the world where everything has to look blemish-free and perfectly formed, these bruised babies hardly have a place.  As for me, I just adore the freckled imperfection and ther sweet, fragrant flesh.  They are tiny, and they taste like you take normal size apricots and miniaturize them, intensifying the flavor.  I don’t mind the bruises here and there, they make them even sweeter I say.  The Blenheims don’t last very long off the trees, nor after they are bought at the market, but somehow that’s never been a problem for me either.  They are usually gone the same afternoon.

If you’re in Bay Area, or just happen to find yourself here right now, look out for them at the farmers market.  You’ll thank me later.

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