The Miracle of Mirepoix

Posted by    |  June 1, 2010  |  Filed under: Home, Ingredients, Technique

I’m gonna teach you about something so elementary that it will seem almost silly.  Being in possession of this grand culinary secret will make you feel like a gourmet insider.  It may be what some of you need to leap from recipe slaves to recipe architects. Read more

Produce Primer: Real Strawberries

Posted by    |  May 11, 2010  |  Filed under: Home, Ingredients

There is a strawberry season.   It’s in full swing right now in sunny California.  “Oh please,” you may say, “I can get strawberries year-round.”  In the dead of winter you can always pick up a pint of fruit called “strawberries”– those giant, scentless, underripe, and largely flavorless strawberry-shaped objects.  A little red styrofoam, anyone?  The truth is that those babies are engineered to fill containers cheaply (the bigger the berries, the easier to handle), look pretty (red and shiny on the outside, white and dry on the inside) and ship looooong distances without bruising or spoiling.  Flavor and texture are minor considerations, since you aren’t allowed the reality check of a taste before you pay for them. Read more

Produce Primer: Asparagus

Posted by    |  May 3, 2010  |  Filed under: Home, Ingredients

Asparagus is the culinary sentinel of spring.  The fresh asparagus available during April and May is the best argument for eating seasonally.  If you’ve been eating asparagus from South America in February and get a taste of the fresh local stuff from the farmer’s market, they hardly seem like the same vegetable.

Because of its versatility, you can eat it every night of the week, prepared a little differently, so that you never get sick of it.  By the time you start to get a little weary of it, the season will be over.  Below are four different very basic methods for preparing asparagus.  Play with these ideas to suit your own tastes. Read more

When life hands you rutabagas…

Posted by    |  March 24, 2010  |  Filed under: Home, Ingredients, Recipes

So I picked up my Community Supported Agriculture mystery box of veggies this week, and I thought I’d show you how I approach cooking my way through the contents.  Why not start with some chard and rutabagas?  Now, I know–who doesn’t have a dozen “go-to” rutabaga recipes in their repertoire already, right? Read more

Produce Primer: Artichoke Hearts

Posted by    |  March 18, 2010  |  Filed under: Home, Ingredients

Step 1: Cut off the base, going just north of the stem to take off the bottom layer of leaves.

This is what a motley artichoke looks like. After sitting on my counter for three days, their leaves dried out a bit, but their hearts were still wonderful.   They’re still beautiful to me because I know how wonderful they are on the inside.  Oh no. Am I talking about a vegetable or having a moment of self-examination?
Its artichoke season!  Do you know what this means?!  Do you?  Do you?  This is the beginning of the year’s good produce.  We’ve made it through the doldrums of January and February.  Another head of cabbage anyone? We can now begin the countdown to local asparagus- but we’re not rushing through artichokes.

Though the season technically runs from March through May, we just started getting good-looking ‘chokes that aren’t absurdly expensive.  I just paid 89-cents each for 10 slightly motley but quite large ones.  No one is more excited about this development than my Sally, whose love for the prickly, leathery flowers is legendary. Read more

Dashi Broth (Ichi-ban Dashi)

Posted by    |  March 9, 2010  |  Filed under: Ingredients, Recipes

I can’t help but giggle at the likely reaction most of you will have to the idea of this recipe even as I begin to write it.  This is going to seem like such a stretch for some of you.

“She wants me to make a broth out of seaweed- kelp, no less- and shaved flakes of dried fish!  Blech!  Are you kidding me?!” Read more

Winter Squash

Posted by    |  January 27, 2010  |  Filed under: Ingredients

One of my family’s favorite tales to rehash time and time again takes place while we were camping in an extremely crowded national park–tents cheek and jowel so that every noise your neighbors made could be easily overheard.  On this fateful night, my Dad, in the throes of some all-too-vivid dream, leapt from his sleeping bag and proceeded to attempt to climb the tent pole outside of our shelter.  Blame it on exhaustion or on having an exaggerated sense of culinary guilt, but his horror of horrors this night was summed up in his chorus:  “It’s the Squash!  I can’t cook it!”   Read more

Pork Chops

Posted by    |  January 27, 2010  |  Filed under: Ingredients

On a good day, pork chops are a delightful little platter of sweet meat on which all kinds of delicious flavors can be served.  On a bad day, pork chops have all the appeal of chewing on a piece of Humvee tire tread.  Why this dichotomy?  Its all about technique. Read more

Eat Your Greens!

Posted by    |  January 27, 2010  |  Filed under: Ingredients

We’ve been admonished from every direction about how important it is to eat hearty greens.  However, I know that the most compelling case in the world about the nutritional value of kale isn’t going to get you or your kids to touch the stuff if you aren’t pleased with its flavor.

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Elemental Marinara

Posted by    |  January 10, 2010  |  Filed under: Ingredients, Recipes

DSC_0084I love the easy quality of this sauce.  It is simple to make and pairs with everything.  Because I haven’t added any really assertive flavors, I always have the option of adding onion or roasted garlic or mushrooms or olives later.  I make this in big batches and freeze it in two and three cup portions in vacuum-sealed bags. Read more

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