Thursday, April 17, 2008

Potatoes & Mushrooms Recipe

The first ZMO Journal recipe might deserve a little bit of introduction.

I cook at home a fair bit. I'm not a great cook by any means, but I've learned it's not too hard to cook really tasty stuff quickly. Even when they're not quick most of the things I make don't take a lot of time in front of the stove.

Most of my cooking is very simple. Now I know everyone says that about cooking, so let me explain what simple means to me.

There aren't a lot of ingredients
I use the same ingredients often so I don't have to buy a things that'll go bad
I don't use a lot of pans that I have to wash
I don't use many specialized tools

From time to time I'll post something that I made that I think is tasty enough you might want to make it at home. It'll feature an ingredient we sell. Call it education, demystification, or food porn...whatever you name i, I'm simply posting in in the spirit of sharing so that we can each feed our friends, families and loved ones just a little bit better. Enjoy!

Last night's dinner was a store-bought rotisserie chicken with some greens and this homemade side:

Potatoes & Mushrooms

Parboil whole potatoes (peeled, unpeeled, your choice) in well salted water for a few minutes. Parboil means you can poke a fork in them easily but they're not completely done. It took me about 10-15 minutes when I started from cold water with potatoes the size of small apples.
Slice into thick cuts, about a quarter inch at least.

Sauté some shallot, garlic in olive oil in a large skillet.
Add some salt and black pepper.
I also added some Merken, the smoky pepper we have from Chile.
Add the potatoes in one layer.
Add a little chunk of butter and enough liquid to just cover the potatoes.
Broth is best, but water is OK (you can even add half a bullion cube to water).
Add thick slices of some decent, small mushrooms on top.
If you've got some herbs, add those. Rosemary, bay and thyme are nice.
Put a lid on at first.
Take lid off about 10 minutes in.
Flip the potatoes gently so they don't fall apart.
Let the liquid cook off until it's gone.
Potatoes should be done now.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Margin. Part IV.

Last post about The Margin I said we make $30 profit on every order. That sounds like total bunk so let me explain. I should have said we would make $30 profit on every order. How could we do that? We could if we didn't have any other expenses.

What are the other expenses? Well, we've included all our variable costs when we calculated the margin. What's left? The pesky fixed costs! Let me show how they affect profit. And, forgive the possible ridiculousness of this, but I'm in a certain mood so I'll explain with nautical pictures.

Imagine it's last summer. August 1st, 2007. We're about to start our fiscal year. We begin the year at break even, neither profitable nor with a loss. Imagine break even as the surface of the sea. Above lies fresh air and profit.

Before we take our first sale we commit ourselves to paying for some things like rent and manager salaries. Since we're going to pay for these things whether we take a sale or not we think of them as "fixed." We call these expenses fixed costs. (Variable costs are the other kinds of costs, the ones we pay only when we take a sale.)

Since we're going to pay fixed costs no matter what we essentially start the first day of our fiscal year with a big loss. The loss is equal to our fixed costs for the year. This year fixed costs were $3.5 million. You can imagine fixed cost like a weight that drops us under sea level. Down, down, down we go, 3.5 million dollars below the break even surface.
How do we get back to the break even surface and, hopefully, above to fresh air and profit? We take sales. Each sale is like a step that lets us get closer to the surface. How fast do we rise? That's where the margin comes in: each step puts us $30 closer to the surface. In other words, each order gives us $30 to pay fixed costs and step closer to break even for the year.

How many sales does it take to get to break even? I'll save you the math.

$3.5 million ÷ $30 profit per order = 116, 667.

That's how many orders we have to take to break even this year. As soon as we take order 116,668, we make our first bit of profit. How much? Well, we know that number now: $30.