How to Cook Steamed Asparagus--and Add a Little Class to Any Meal

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that seems fancier than it really is. It's healthy, full of vitamins and antioxidants, and it's a snap to prepare.

But the real benefit of this vegetable is that it adds extra class to even the simplest of meals. You can really raise the pedigree and the aesthetic appeal of even the most basic entree by placing a few steamed asparagus stalks alongside it on your plate. Expensive restaurants use this trick all the time--why can't we use it at home too?

So in keeping with Casual Kitchen's continuing efforts to promote healthy, affordable and delicious eating, today's post will contain simple instructions on how to prepare steamed asparagus.

1) As with all vegetables, it's a good idea to rinse the stalks well in cold water before cooking.

2) After rinsing, the only real prep work you need to do with asparagus stalks is to cut off the tough, woody ends. There are two schools of thought, however, on how best to do this. One technique is to firmly grasp the stalk at each end...

...bend the stalk until it breaks...

...and then discard the stalk below the break. The problem with this method is that you end up discarding up to 40% of the asparagus, much of which is perfectly edible.

A second technique, for those of us who simply hate wasting food, is to cut off just the bottom two or so inches of each stalk with a knife and discard that portion only.

The trade-off here, however, is that at times the ends of some stalks may seem a bit undercooked compared to the more tender asparagus tips. This shouldn't be an issue if you like your vegetables a bit firm and crunchy anyway.

3) Now it's time to cook the asparagus, and this is the easiest part of all: Pour an inch or so of cold water in the bottom of a saucepan, bring it to a boil, and then add the stalks so that they're laying on their sides (they don't need to submerged under the water). Cover and simmer for 4 minutes (3 minutes for thinner asparagus stalks), and then test the asparagus for doneness. They should be a delicious looking dark green, and they should be tender, but not mushy.

4) Drain the water away and serve immediately.

Didn't I tell you this was easy? Of course, there are many other ways to cook asparagus besides this simple steaming method, but this is a really easy way to get started for any cooks out there who have never had the pleasure of preparing this delicious vegetable at home. If you're curious about other ways to prepare asparagus, I've prepared a list of easy asparagus recipe links below for further reading. Enjoy!

Two final notes:
1) On storing asparagus:
Asparagus is a sturdy green that will keep for several days in your refrigerator. Here's a way to store it for maximum shelf life: Put a couple of tablespoons of cold water into a plastic bag, add the asparagus stalks and close the bag tightly. Then prop up the bag in your fridge so that the asparagus stalks can stand upright. The stalks will absorb the water in the bottom of the bag and keep crisp and fresh for longer.

2) On seasoning asparagus:
Like many vegetables, asparagus is mild in taste. Unfortunately, mild-tasting veggies often tempt cooks to cheat by overseasoning with butter or salt. I'll set aside (for another post perhaps) the questionable ethics of seasoning food for other people without their input, and simply recommend that you leave out the butter and salt entirely and instead try your asparagus seasoning-free. This is a veggie that should be experienced in all of its subtle glory. Barring that, consider sodium-free and fat-free seasonings such as a splash of lemon juice, a dash of cayenne pepper, or some fresh ground black pepper.

Asparagus Recipes:
Roasted Asparagus from Simply Recipes
Balsamic Roasted Asparagus from MyRecipes
Stir-Fried Asparagus with Garlic and Ginger from
Pickled Asparagus Recipe from
Penne with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes from the Food Network
Pan-Fried Asparagus from Allrecipes (although eesh on the butter)

Related Posts:
Antioxidant Alert! How to Cook Swiss Chard
Using Salt = Cheating
Quite Possibly the Easiest Lentil Soup Recipe You’ll Find Anywhere

Green Bean Salad: Another Ridiculously Easy Side Dish

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How to Make a Simple Frittata

The frittata is an easy dish that everyone should consider adding to their cooking arsenal. In many ways, it's the perfect dish for the typical Casual Kitchen reader. It's like an omelet, but easier to make. It's like a quiche, but healthier. And best of all, this dish looks like it's a lot more work to make than it really is.

And since nobody has yet coined the phrase "real men don't eat frittatas," sitting down to a easy and laughably cheap frittata dinner doesn't include an implied threat to your manhood.

The frittata recipe I'll share with you today includes spinach, feta cheese, garlic, onions and tomatoes, but keep in mind the primary advantage of the fritatta is that it can contain almost anything. Leftover veggies, invigorating greens--whatever you have sitting around in your fridge is fair game, as long as you think the ingredients will go well together.

Finally, for those of you who are interested, I've included a brief list of additional frittata recipes and resources at the bottom of this post.

Greek Frittata


6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups spinach, torn into medium-sized pieces
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1) Beat eggs and black pepper, set aside.
2) In a large, deep, broiler proof non-stick pan, saute onions and garlic in oil on medium heat until soft, about 4-5 minutes. While onions and garlic are sauteing, turn on oven broiler. Add torn spinach, saute another 2 minutes until spinach is limp. Add feta cheese.
3) Pour egg/pepper mixture into pan. As the eggs begin to set, run a spatula around the edge of the skillet, lifting the mixture to allow uncooked portions to flow underneath. Continue cooking and lifting until the entire egg mixture is almost set (the top surface should still be moist).
4) Place pan under your broiler roughly 4 inches from the heat source. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until the top of the frittata is set. Cut into wedges and serve.

Serves 3.
This recipe seems almost too easy to be true, but it really does amount to nothing more than sauteeing whatever leftover veggies or frittata fillings you have handy, dumping the beaten egg mixture over the top of it...

Futzing with it for a few minutes by lifting up the edges and making sure the entire egg mixture starts to set....
(Isn't it shocking how unappetizing it can be to look at a close-up photo of a partially cooked egg dish?)
....and then just take the entire pan and stick it in the oven, just a few inches away from the broiler burner. In a matter of minutes you'll be eating!

Frittata Recipe Resources:
40 Frittata recipes at
Top 20 best Frittata recipes at
30 Fritatta recipes at

Related Posts:
When High-Fat Food Can Actually Be Healthy For You
Seven Ways to Jazz Up Your Morning Eggs
Ten Tips to Save Money on Spices and Seasonings
How to Make a Perfectly Boiled Egg Every Time
How to Make Pickled Eggs

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
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CK Food Links--Friday November 21, 2008

Here's yet another selection of particularly interesting food-related links from around the internet.
The SATs of Cranberry Zinger Muffins at CheapHealthyGood
Every once in a while in the food blogosphere you find a post that literally makes you laugh out loud. Here, Kris writes up a (really good) muffin recipe in SAT test format, replete with confusing questions, a reading comprehension exercise and a math question incorporating both AIG and crystal meth. If in doubt, choose B.

Eight Ways to Save Time Doing the Dishes at Lifestyles of the Organized:
Oh the time I could have saved if I had read this twenty years ago! There is some surprisingly good advice here. In fact, long-time Casual Kitchen readers should recognize tip #1 as an example of doing tasks in parallel.

Roundup of Bread Recipes at
"It may be a cliché, but there really is nothing that compares to the smell of baking bread. I bake all year round, but there’s something about winter that truly feels like bread season." I've been looking for good roundup of bread recipes for a while now, and Susan Thomas (author of Farmgirl Fare) posts one of the best I've seen. If you're new to baking bread, start with her easy beer bread recipe. (A side note: look for a post here at CK on this very recipe in the next few weeks.)

Rice au Coca Cola at Accidental Hedonist:
Yep, you read that correctly. Rice cooked in Coca Cola. I don't know whether to laugh or hurl. But apparently this taste sensation--a combination of sweet and salty--really works. For some people.

Cream Scones, 1, 2, 3 at The Amateur Gourmet:
"The purpose of this experiment is to prove that a self-professed non-cook who loves scones can whip up a batch of cream scones so quickly, so easily, that they will: (1) no longer consider themselves a non-cook; and (2) eat scones to their heart's content."

How to Make Cottage Cheese at Savvy Housekeeping:
Amazingly simple and clearly written instructions on how to make your own cottage cheese at home. Thanks to CheapHealthyGood for finding this gem.

Squash Ravioli at Chefs Gone Wild:
Step by step instructions on how to make homemade ravioli, with everything explained, including the recipe for pasta dough, instructions on how to roll the pasta, even the type of pasta making machine he uses. Wow.

Quick Gazpacho at Cooking For Engineers:
This is the kind of recipe we love here at Casual Kitchen: easy, scalable and yet still ethnic and interesting.

Upside Down and Backwards at In Praise of Sardines:
Things are really coming to a climax as San Francisco-based chef Brett Edwards is getting very close to opening his restaurant. All of us dreaming of opening a restaurant someday should thank him for being so candid in this post about all of the construction and building problems he's facing right at the last minute. All worked out well, however, as the restaurant ultimately passed its final inspection, but it does make you wonder how anybody can survive the frustrations of starting a new business.

And if you are traveling to or have the good fortune to live in San Francisco, be sure to give this restaurant a try. Somehow I can just tell it's going to be amazing:

1320 Castro Street (at 24th)
San Francisco, CA 94114

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
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Cookbook Review: The Cornbread Gospels

A brief introductory disclaimer: I received no money or any other compensation for writing this post, and I will never promote something on this blog unless I sincerely believe it contains value for my readers.

There. Now with that out of the way, let me share with you one of the most entertaining cookbooks I've read in years.

Every once in a while a cookbook falls into your life that is such a pleasure to read that you simply have to recommend it to everyone you know. And just such a cookbook fell into my life a few weeks ago: The Cornbread Gospels, written by Crescent Dragonwagon, and published by Workman Publishing.

It's hard not to smile and even laugh throughout reading this book, thanks to the author's contagious enthusiasm and the self-evident fact that she had an absolute blast writing it. And with more than 200 recipes, ranging from straight cornbreads, to muffins, to flapjacks pancakes and johnnycakes, to desserts--even an enormous chapter on foods that go with cornbread--this cookbook is going to be a source of many, many recipes for me in the future.

"...just talking about cornbread makes people happy."

I'll share a few of the recipes that really stood out for me--it will give you a sense of the sheer depth and diversity of this cookbook:

1) Corn Thinbread with Olives, Walnuts, Feta and Sundried Tomatoes (page 106),
2) Fresh Corn Fritters (page 238),
3) Sweet-hot Aztec Two Steps (a muffin recipe that includes both cayenne pepper and chocolate, page 143),
4) Greek Cornbread (doused in an orange-honey syrup no less, page 105).
5) Seriously Spicy Main-Dish Cornbread (a complete meal in a single dish, page 75), and
6) Old South Style Beans (always served with cornbread, page 303).

I hope to feature some of these here at Casual Kitchen in the coming months.

It's a rare cookbook author who can write so engagingly, share so many great recipes--and actually teach you something too. Curious to learn how to season a cast-iron skillet, a critical tool for making Southern cornbreads? Want to know about the history of cornmeal as a subsistence food here in the USA? Ever wondered what really is the difference between Southern and Northern-style cornbread? This book explains all of these things and more.

"Cornbread takes us to the home we had, or the home we wish we had, or the best parts of the home we did have."

I can only think of one criticism of The Cornbread Gospels, and it's simply that the recipes should include expected prep and cook times. I always look for this information to help me decide what recipe I might make based on the time I have available to cook. But that's just a minor criticism of an otherwise exceptional cookbook.

Related Links:
Workman Publishing (by the way, a few of this publisher's other titles really caught my eye, including The Barbecue Bible and 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die)
Crescent Dragonwagon's Official Site
Crescent Dragonwagon's Blog (about writing, mostly)
See also Crescent's book, Passionate Vegetarian

Related Posts:
A List of Corn Bread Recipe Modifications
The Favorite Cookbooks of My Favorite Bloggers
Review of Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Cookbook
How to Get More Mileage Out of Your Cookbooks

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by subscribing to my RSS feed, or submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon.

Ten Tips on How to Cut Your Food Budget Using the 80/20 Rule

I'm always searching for new ways to apply creative and counterintuitive thinking to help my readers cook more and spend less. And after I asked my readers last week to share how you are adjusting to the economic crisis, the wide variety of interesting responses inspired me to apply one of my favorite rules--the 80/20 Rule--to arrive at still more ways to help us all save on our food bills.

Long time readers of Casual Kitchen will be familiar with my freakish obsession with the 80/20 Rule. I love using this conceptual framework to solve problems, because it suggests that enormously effective results can come from making just a few key changes. Today, by using a narrow application of the 80/20 Rule, we'll come up with a barrage of ideas to help you save money on food and other kitchen expenses.

For those of you unfamiliar with this powerful rule, or for those of you who would like a quick review of some of the ways we've already applied it towards cooking, please have a quick look at my first essay on the subject.

First, let's start with two basic 80/20 premises:

A) Roughly 80% of your food spending will come from 20% of your purchases.

B) Some 20% of the things you own (ingredients, cookware, cookbooks, etc.) will be used in 80% of the meals you prepare.

Seems simple enough, even a bit obvious, right? But if we think a bit more deeply about some of the ramifications of these two seemingly obvious statements, we can derive quite a few secondary conclusions that should give us some intriguingly easy ways to save money on our food budgets:

1) Identify and remove a only a few key grocery items.
The best thing about 80/20 is that it tells you that by making only one or two key changes, you can drive significant results. Thus by identifying and removing just a few particularly costly items on your grocery bill, you should be able to meaningfully cut your weekly food budget.

2) Cut out just one or two restaurant outings per month.
The 80/20 Rule doesn't say you have to suffer and cut out all restaurant meals. It suggests that you only need to cut out one or two key restaurant meals each month to drive a disproportionately large reduction in your food budget. Replace these dinners out with healthy home-cooked meals, or consider patronizing a less expensive casual ethnic restaurant in your town instead. You can still enjoy an interesting eating experience, but for a lot less money.

3) Extrapolate the 80/20 Rule to cookware items.
Okay, it borders on the self-evident to say that you will use 20% of your tools and equipment for 80% of your recipes. But the converse of that statement is a bit less obvious: you will rarely use some 80% of your kitchen gadgets. Therefore, you can easily justify indefinitely postponing the purchase of almost all new kitchen equipment, tools and gadgets--at least until the recession is over. The odds are quite good that any new tool you buy will not be one of your critical few.

4) No need for new cookbooks.
You are likely using only 20% of the recipes in the cookbooks you already own. This means you have an enormous resource of additional recipes just sitting there on your shelves! The 80/20 Rule implies that you can wait until economy recovers before spending another dime on any more cookbooks.

5) You're getting killed by just a few spices, ingredients or pantry items.
Pay close attention to the nature of the "critical few" 20% of your ingredients that you stock in your pantry. Do you have a weakness for expensive canned sauces or prepared salad dressings, unusual spices (saffron comes to mind), or other non-essential pantry items (croutons, nutrient-free fruit roll-ups or brand-name junk foods)? Cut out just a few of these key expensive items and you should be able to save a meaningful amount of money. An recent example from our home: just the other day we foolishly paid a nauseating $3.70 for a medium-sized bottle of Ken's Caesar Salad Dressing, when a splash of olive oil and vinegar would have been a much healthier and far cheaper alternative.

6) Likewise, a few recipes are killing you.
After thinking about which pantry items to cut out, you will likely begin to come up with some good ideas on specific recipes that you should emphasize (or de-emphasize) in your heavy rotation. Reduce the use of recipes that are made from the most expensive ingredients. A few tweaks like this to your weekly (or monthly) meal rotation could result in enormous savings on your food bill.

7) Be ruthless with spending on meat.
Meat is often the most expensive item in a family's grocery bill--in other words it's part of the 20% of items that drives the 80% of your expenses. You'll likely drive significant savings if you practice part-time vegetarianism by eating 30% of your meals meat-free.

8) Take advantage of staples.
Take a look at many of the world's most common staple foods, such as rice, potatoes, beans, oats, brown rice, etc. These foods are surprisingly cheap, surprisingly nutritious and they make up a large percentage of the aggregate calories of the diets of many of the people of the world. Can you use this to your advantage, perhaps by supplementing many of your meals with these inexpensive foods? At Casual Kitchen, we've used rice for years as an inexpensive and easy-to-make staple to accompany our home-cooked meals.

9) You probably have one or two key bad habits in how you run your kitchen or your household. Fix them and generate large savings.
People do inefficient things all the time, and many of us are consistently inefficient in some of our habits. Maybe you're not making a regular weekly grocery trip with a well-thought out list, causing you to make multiple trips to the store per week, each of which include expensive and extraneous purchases. Perhaps you don't make a coherent meal plan each week, causing you to waste food or buy unneeded and expensive prepared foods at the last minute in order to put dinner on the table. Perhaps you have a habit of buying certain fruits and vegetables out of season, paying extra money for produce that's not even that good anyway.

The great thing about 80/20 thinking is that it implies you only need to adjust or correct a very small number of these bad habits to drive a disproportionately large effect on your spending. Start by tweaking a couple of easy-to-change habits and observe the results. They may very well be "critical few" habits that drive amazing savings in time, money and effort.

10) In your household, 20% of your family consumes 80% of the food.
The 80/20 Rule indicates that there is likely to be one or two family members living under your roof who consume household resources far out of proportion to their number. Do you have a wolfish teenage son, or a husband with an unusually large appetite? Kick those family members out of the house and you'll generate immense savings. :)

Readers, can you think of any other ideas that I've missed?

Concluding Thoughts
The great thing about the 80/20 Rule is that it suggests that you don't have to make wholesale radical changes in your life to get what you want. Instead, it may only take just one or two tweaks to a couple of seemingly minor things to create consequences completely out of proportion to the changes you actually made. Most systems in our lives are highly non-linear in nature, and if you can make changes, even small changes, to the right "critical few" inputs, you can get enormously powerful results.

Good luck, and feel free to share in the comments section any applications of the 80/20 Rule that you've found effective in your homes!

Related Posts:
Seven Ways to Get Faster at Cooking
How to Team Up in the Kitchen
The Dinner Party: 10 Tips to Make Cooking for Company Fun and Easy
Cooking Like the Stars? Don't Waste Your Money

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by subscribing to my RSS feed, or submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon.

How are You Adjusting to the Economic Crisis? A Question for CK Readers

Given the recent credit crisis, the spectacular decline in the stock market, and the likelihood that the economy will slow down materially over the next year or so, I have a question that I'd like to put to my readers:

To what extent have you changed your cooking, eating, food-purchasing and food-related entertainment habits to adjust to coming economic uncertainty? What things are you doing differently, and most importantly, why have you made these choices?

Perhaps you have decided to switch away from more expensive organic foods, or you've decided to embrace part-time vegetarianism. Maybe you've decided to slash your restaurant budget in half, or you've postponed the purchase of big-ticket kitchen appliances. Whatever it is, I want to hear what adjustments you are making or thinking of making.

Even if you are a reader who isn't making any changes, I'd love to hear your thoughts on why not. Are you already cooking on a bare-bones budget that can't be cut much more? Are you just not all that unsettled by the economic crisis? Or do you view the current period as a great time for consumers (after all, there certainly seem to be a lot of sales going on lately) and thus you are stepping up your purchases of certain items?

I have two goals in asking for your thoughts. One is to get a better sense of what my readers are doing, so I can adapt to you and keep giving you content that you'll find useful.

The second goal is more collaborative in nature. I have the good fortune to write for an audience of extremely creative and insightful readers, and our collective ideas ought to be far more valuable than anything any one us could come up with on our own. That's one of the key strengths of a cooperative medium like blogging, and I think today's question could generate a lot of great ideas to help us all be more proactive in adapting to the economy.

So, please leave your thoughts in the comments below! And if you want to share your views in a longer form, feel free to email me at dan1529[at]yahoo[dot]com. Include the words "credit crisis question" in the subject line so I can sort those answers out from my regular emails.

Related Posts:
A Recession-Proof Guide to Saving Money on Food
Mastering Kitchen Setup Costs
Six Secrets to Save You from Cooking Burnout

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by subscribing to my RSS feed, or submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon.

On the Road with Casual Kitchen: Belgium a Volonte

A couple of weeks ago, Laura and I visited Belgium for the very first time, and I wanted to share with you three simple food-related tips for navigating this wonderful country:

1) Drink beer,
2) Eat chocolate,

And most importantly:

3) If you see the words "à volonté" written outside a restaurant, go in.

Just as the four greatest words in the English language are "all you can eat," the two greatest words in, uh, Walloon are "à volonté." And the greatest culinary experience we had in Belgium, and indeed the greatest all-you-can-eat experience I'll ever have in my entire life (that is, until somebody invents all-you-can-eat dark chocolate) was at a little restaurant in Ghent called Amadeus.

We're not talking an overcooked $6.95 Chinese buffet here. This restaurant sold ribs--barbecued ribs--that were as good as anything I've had in the American south. And they kept bringing more, and more... and more.

I wanted to grab the waiter by the shirt and tell him that he lived in paradise, but I was unable to get out of my chair.

And then came dessert. I had a spectacular chocolate mousse that was as good as Paul Prudhomme's recipe, and Laura and our Belgian friend had the coupe dame blanche, which we call in American an "ice cream sundae." Only it sounds even more delicious in French, doesn't it?

You can't eat like this too often, for obvious reasons. But if you're a disciplined and healthy eater most of the time, it's okay, occasionally, to drop your guard once in a while and really pig out.

There were only two (minor) disappointments that evening. First, I just couldn't find an open walk-in angioplasty clinic anywhere in town. And it wasn't even that late.

Second, Laura only finished off one and a half racks of ribs. I know she could have done better.

Related Links:
Amadeus Restaurant (locations in Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp)
The Xenophobe's Guide to the Belgians (I highly recommend this amusing mini-guidebook for anyone interested in visiting Belgium)

Related Posts:
Ten Strategies to Stop Mindless Eating
Ten Rules for the Modern Restaurant-Goer
The Chocolate Gene

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by subscribing to my RSS feed, or submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon.

The Macchinetta: How to Make Stovetop Espresso Coffee Using a Bialetti Moka Express Coffeemaker

I'm just back from a trip to Europe, and while I was there I learned about a type of coffeemaker, totally new to me, that made such exceptionally delicious coffee that I couldn't wait to share it with my readers.

It's variously called a stovetop espresso maker, a moka pot, an espresso pot, or simply a macchinetta. It was invented by the Italian engineer Alphonso Bialetti in 1933, and Bialetti's company still makes the best known and most popular type of these coffeemakers.

Whatever you call them, these coffeemakers produce a rich, strong, espresso-style coffee that is ready in just 10 minutes. They are fairly common in Italy and neighboring countries, but much less known in the USA.

Warning: this is not a traditional American-style stovetop percolator in any way. The coffee you get out of these espresso pots is strong. Really strong. And it was the perfect medicine to conquer my jet lag, that's for sure. After downing just one cup of this glorious brew, you could have peeled me off the ceiling!

Needless to say I think I need to get myself one of these. And thankfully they are available on Amazon, so I'll share some links to typical examples of these coffeemakers right here:

A less expensive version, available in several sizes:
Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker

A slicker and more expensive 4-cup version here:
Bialetti Musa 4-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker

Here's a different brand, although it's bit more expensive:
VeV Vigano Vespress Nero Espresso Maker

* Full disclosure: as always, if you enter Amazon via a link on my blog and buy something, I will receive a small affiliate fee. There is no extra cost to you. Please think of it as my "tip jar"--and thanks so much to readers for your support!

If you're interested in more detail on how the moka pot works, I've posted a series of photos below with an explanation of how to use this coffeemaker. I've also included an amusing conversation I had with a friend I was visiting in Slovenia which is typical of how I ask dumb questions and am easily confused by very simple things.

Here are the three main parts of the coffeemaker: the water reservoir (center), the filter basket (right), and the coffee pot itself (left):

Fill the water reservoir with cold water, up to the pressure release valve on the side. Then place the filter basket on top...

....and fill it with grounds. Generally, you'll want to use an espresso or turkish grind coffee (meaning extremely fine, powdery grounds) with these coffee makers, but you don't need to--I made one pot using with a large-grind hazelnut coffee and found that the coffee still came out delicious.

Then, take the upper chamber and screw it firmly on to the lower chamber.

Set it on the stovetop, turn the burner on high, and then go do something else for ten minutes or so. When you come back, you'll have amazing coffee waiting for you!

And here's essentially how my conversation with my friend went:

Wait! How will I know when it's done?

My Slovene Friend: You will know. [Smiles mysteriously and then leaves for work, leaving me both confused and in a state of near-enlightenment]

Note that it's not that big a secret. You can just tell, by the different sound the pot makes, when all of the water has boiled out of the lower chamber and the coffee is ready.

Related Posts:
The French Press
Calling All Coffee Addicts: 100% Kona Coffee
Our Favorite Coffee Store
Spending to Save: Frugality and Expensive Food

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
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The Acapulco

With the cold coming on in earnest now, we decided to make some drinks here that remind us of better weather. Today's drink, the Acapulco, turned out to be exactly what we needed to warm us up and ease the pain.

I know you'll enjoy this drink. It's smooth, strong and not too sweet, and the egg white makes the drink almost artistically foamy. Better still, the Acapulco doesn't require any exotic ingredients--any reasonably stocked liquor cabinet will have everything you'll need.

It's been a little while since we've returned to our monumental effort to work our way through the entire Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide, but today's drink was a real incentive to get back to working on this goal!
The Acapulco

1 1/2 ounces rum
1 1/2 Tablespoon Triple Sec
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg white

Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker, shake well and strain into a small glass over ice cubes. Add a mint sprig for garnish.


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