May 052014
 
Compound Butter

Compound butter is, quite simply, a softened butter into which you have stirred/mashed/infused/incorporated other flavorings. It’s an old workhorse of French cuisine, and it’s incredibly easy to whip one up. Herbs of all stripes, aromatic vegetables such as onion, garlic, peppers, or shallots, soft cooked fruits, spices, flavorful roots such as horseradish or ginger, assorted salts, miso, hot sauce, citrus zest, and/or sweet flavorings such as honey, maple syrup, or pomegranate molasses, are all excellent candidates for inclusion in a compound butter. I like to do a peach-honey compound butter at the height of summer, to melt over cornbread and […]

Apr 152014
 
Eat More Greens: Reasonably Quick Saag Paneer

If there is a more flavorful way to eat greens than as Saag Paneer, I’m not sure what it is.  While it’s a must-have dish every time we go out for Indian food, I’ve also been whipping it up at home– with various degrees of success– for at least a decade. I’ve settled on the recipe below– it’s a good compromise for me between authenticity, flavor, ease of prep, and preservation of all those vitamins in the greens. (That’s why, though it’s more common to blanch the greens and discard their cooking water, along with all the vitamins in it, […]

Oct 032013
 
Three Bean Chorizo Chili, and Some Tips on Building and Layering Flavor in Your Own Recipe

I understand from my Facebook feed that something called “football season” has begun. My interest in the sport starts and stops with the prospect of making something yummy to be eaten during a Super Bowl party in January. To this end, I am aware that chili (robust, spicy, pairs well with beer, can be made in advance) is a popular food to accompany football viewing. There are those who say beans have no place in chili. These people are wrong. Beans add contrasting texture, body, flavor, and color. And they go spectacularly well with cheese. You want to cover your […]

Jun 102013
 
Braised Peanut Curry Chicken with Thai Gremolata

I used to make my Thai curry paste from scratch; it was an afternoon-long affair, (longer, if you count the time I spent running down all the ingredients), but I was smug in my commitment to authentic flavor. I had learned to make green, red, and Panang curry pastes at the Somphet Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from the wonderful chef who runs the school out of a six-station kitchen attached to her home. She was adamant that using a food processor ruined the taste and soul of the curry paste, and that it must be done with […]

Feb 102013
 
Fideo: A Spin through Mexican Culinary History Takes Us to the Ultimate Comfort Food

The Mexican dish “Fideo” first came to my attention several years ago, when my grandmother spoke of it while reminiscing about the dishes her mother used to make for her as a child. I’d never had it, but recently my grandma reported that she’d tried making it for herself and her youngest grandchild, and that it had been a hit with both of them. I filed it away in the “things to cook one of these days” section of my brain. (It’s right behind the amygdala.)   I’m not sure what brought fideo back to the forefront of my consciousness […]

Jan 132013
 
Good Luck Gumbo and a Guide to Developing the Right Roux

  A couple of weeks ago, I was walking around the house, preparing a grocery list and plotting some upcoming meals, including for New Year’s Day. I asked my wife what she wanted for New Year’s dinner, and she said, “Black-Eyed Peas, and Greens, of course!” Now she’s from the North and I’m from the West, but an aunt from the South has gotten us firmly entrenched in this New Year’s Day tradition. Those dishes are meant to be good luck, and to foretell a prosperous year, (the greens represent paper money; the black-eyed peas represent safety from hunger, dating […]

Dec 222012
 
The Christmas Tamale. Yes, It Is Time.

I grew up in California, one side of my family is Mexican, and let me be the first to tell you that it simply is not Christmas without tamales.   Some people will tell you that the proper Christmas tamale is sweet; the masa infused with cinnamon and raisins, or for the even more wayward, pineapple or strawberry. These people are wrong. The tamale you really want, this time of year, is one of savory meat in a spice-inflected red chile sauce, encased in flavorful, airy masa (treated ground cornmeal mixed with liquid and fat– more on that below), and […]

Oct 042012
 
Formulating a Salsa Recipe; Roasted Heirloom Tomato Salsa

  Salsa is my go-to project whenever tomatoes are so abundant I’m not sure what to do with them all. (Which isn’t to say you must be navigating an overabundance of tomatoes in order to make it– it’s delicious even when not strictly necessary.) I’ve made Roasted Heirloom Tomato Salsa twice recently, due to a profusion of tomatoes on offer from our landlords/neighbors’ beautiful and extensive vegetable garden. This morning my inbox held a last-minute request from friends in Portland looking for a good salsa recipe. (Always a happy occurrence.) The friend that wrote said her husband needs to whip […]

Jul 082012
 
Working With Dried Chiles; Making Chile Colorado

  Dishes derived from Mexican and Southwestern US culinary traditions have a special place in my heart; I grew up on them, and when I’m apart from these foods while traveling, I crave them. One of the primary keys to these cuisines are the variety of sauces that underpin the traditional dishes.  Nail these sauces, and authentic flavors will burst from your kitchen. So let’s talk about a red chile sauce, known as chile colorado. Making dried red chiles into a delicious sauce is easier than it might have appeared to you previously, if you ever peered dubiously into a […]

Mar 262012
 
Green Garlic

    It’s green garlic season, and I’m thrilled. I stopped by the Capay Organic stand at the farmer’s market a couple of weekends ago and saw the hand-lettered sign: Green Garlic, $2 a handful. It was noon– close to time for the stand to be packed up and its remaining delicious wares taken– where, I wonder?  I stood there, carefully selecting a few choice stalks, (I was picking out the most bulbous specimens), and calculating what constituted a “handful.” It should be noted that I have particularly small hands, and will win any “small hand” comparison contest to which I […]