My dad wasn’t much of a cook! He even burned the bacon. His idea of making baked beans was to put them in a pan of boiling water – in the can with the top still on. This might actually work, although the only time I remember him doing it, he forgot about them, the water boiled down, the can exploded (EXPLODED!!!), luckily no one was in the kitchen at the time, and a lot of the baked beans flew up to the ceiling and rested there. I do not remember if my mother thought this was funny.
He was a great barbeq-uer but that’s a different story.
He, also, had a ridiculously high metabolism and ate more than anyone in the family practically until his dying day, (seemingly without much of a weight problem, or cholesterol problem, I might add.) When we were little, he used to get up in the middle of the night sometimes, wake one of us, and we’d tiptoe down to the kitchen for a slice of home-made pie or chocolate cake OR Dad’s one and only specialty not cooked on a grill -- although curiously with grill in its title -- grilled cheese sandwiches.
My dad had a theory that one of the reasons people wake up in the middle of the night is because they’re hungry, so if you ate a piece of pie or cake or a grilled cheese sandwich (preferably with a glass of milk), you would fall right back to sleep. Note: I have not tested this theory since childhood.
My friend, Lorraine Wallace, seems utterly dedicated to making her husband happy on Sundays! Chris anchors Fox News Sunday live each week, and Lorraine has taken that as her cue to make the evening meal especially welcoming.
I love comfort food and I love pork chops, so when I got my copy of Mr. and Mrs. Sunday's Suppers, the first recipes I checked out were for Pork Chops. I wasn’t disappointed: Pork Chops with Glazed Sweet Onions (perfect – Vidalia onions are coming into season) and Pizza Pork Chops!!! HUH?? Don’t expect pizza dough, but do count on all the delicious flavors that go into pizza sauce enhancing the chops.
(And, surprise! Next to the newly discovered recipe for Pizza Pork Chops, I see another fabulous recipe: “Linguini Con Vongole From the kitchen of Nancy Ellison.” That’s me!)
Lorraine’s cookbooks - besides MR & MRS SUNDAY’S SUPPPERS - include Mr. Sunday’s Soups, and Mr. Sunday’s Saturday Night Chicken. All of them emphasize fresh ingredients, simple recipes that compliment our busy, contemporary life style, and a sense of wellbeing.
My friend Bobby is a really good cook. OK I know, we all have friends who are really good cooks but my friend is also really, really, REALLY brave. He doesn’t just cook for family and friends the way a lot of good cooks are happy to do, just leaving it at that. No Bobby cooks for famous food critics. Who does that? That’s like inviting Joan Didion or Richard Price to come read my stories. I’d be physically ill.
But Bobby invites Merrill Shindler, editor of the Zagat Los Angeles Survey, host of KABC’s radio show, Feed Your Face, author of several cookbooks including “American Dishes” and thousands upon thousands of restaurant reviews, and his wife over with a few other couples quite regularly. They are neighbors and as friendly neighbors they are prone to eating together. Yikes!!
Bob and his brother Peter Kaminsky, the noted food writer, are east coast guys who grew up loving to eat. Their grandparents owned and lived above a candy store in New Jersey. Bobby remembers his grandmother cooking brisket on the stove upstairs and running up and down to and from the store to brown it, with the candy store smelling like roasting meat and onions! After Peter graduated from Princeton, he used his degree to get a cabbie’s license so the brothers could drive all over Brooklyn searching for ethnic dives to eat in.
When Bobby graduated college he moved to Boston and worked at Joe’s Blues Bar as a bartender / bouncer / fill in guitar player. He’d often invite some of the out of town bands back to his place for home cooked meals. Calling food a “social lubricant” he’d get to hone his guitar skills with some of the best blues guys around while feeding them pasta with home cooked red sauce or his grandma’s brisket.
Elegant…purely elegant is the word that comes to mind when I think of foxgloves and delphiniums. Very similar in appearance and growth habit, these two garden goodies are excellent additions the spring tableau and fantastic in arrangements.
Digitalis purpurea is the Latin name for foxgloves. The genus Digitalis gathers its name from the ease of which one’s fingers, or digits, can be capped by the floral bells cascading down their stalks. In literary lore, a fox could slip its paws into the bells and use them as gloves - thus the common name. I bet Beatrix Potter had something to do with that. Pinks, creams, lavenders, lilacs, yellows, peaches, and speckled mixes of them all abound in the foxglove color range.
As for other uses besides gorgeous garden elements, the Digitalis genus is used in cardiology to create several types of heart medicine and even some neurological medicines. Quite amazing considering the whole plant, roots, leaves, seeds, and stems are toxic! The pharmaceutical positives are extracted from the leaves…somewhat akin to using snake venom for medicine or a flu vaccination. Don’t worry about the toxicity…just don’t eat them!
Side dishes are the key to making every meal a hit. They are essentially the glue that holds dinner together. Roasted asparagus is by far Spring's quintessential veggie and this mustard-dill vinaigrette just takes it up a notch! Now, having said that, asparagus can be the quintessential enemy of wine.
This vegetable is a member of the lily family and contains the sulfurous amino acid known as methionine. This chemical compound is the culprit that causes the notorious "asparagus-pee" effect known to many who can smell it, not everyone can. Lucky them.
When methionine is coupled with asparagus' already green and grassy flavors, it can make wine taste dank, metallic, thin and even bitter. Overall, it's not good.
The only way to work against this collision of taste buds is to prepare the asparagus a certain way or drink the right wine varietal with this wonderful Spring vegetable.
One cooking feat that has eluded me until now is searing fish with extra crispy skin. I've finally managed to do it after much experimentation and lamentation. After eating so many fish dishes with crispy skin in restaurants, some so crispy that it seemed I was eating a potato chip, I've wanted to try cooking it myself. The technique I use here is a lot like the one used on roasting chicken, where you smear it with butter before setting it in the oven to ensure a crispy brown skin. Here I smear the salmon skin with butter and sear it skin-side down. The result is not only crispy but also a lovely brown—it's just delicious.
For a unique springtime pairing, I adore fiddlehead ferns, which can only be found in early spring. You won't necessarily find them at the market since their harvested in the wild, but more likely at the farmers' market. But it just so happens that I did find mine at my local supermarket to my surprise. They were so beautiful that I couldn't resist buying a bagful. They look quite funny, because they're actually unfurled fern leaves. Don't worry, they are edible. Some say they taste like a cross between asparagus and artichoke, but I think they taste even better—of fresh spring.
I've always been a big Globe artichoke kind of girl. That was until a couple of years ago when I tried baby artichokes. Now, I have learned to divide my love between them both.
Baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes, as their rich, earthy flavor attests to, but they're picked from the lower part of the plant, where they simply don't develop as much. As a result, the artichoke's characteristic fuzzy choke isn't all that fuzzy and can be eaten.
In fact, other than a few tough outer loves, the entire artichoke is edible. So baby artichokes have all the flavor of their larger counterparts but without all the work. That's why they're ideal for a mid-week meal.
Select baby artichokes that are heavy for their size and have tight, firm, green or purple tinged leaves. White or brown streaks indicate frost bite or wind-burn; they are still edible, just unattractive. Do not, however, buy them if they're spongy or appear overly dry, brittle, or pitted. Baby artichokes can be refrigerated for up to 4-5 days, though the sooner you use them the better they'll taste.
Sometimes it’s all about the cut. Take asparagus. Everyone loves the long, lanky, sexy look of a whole asparagus spear. (Sorry—sounds like I’m describing a brand of Gap jeans). Why would you want to wreck that by cutting it up?
Oh, yeah, there’s that awkward moment when you’re trying to cut those long spears with a fork on your dinner plate.
And the even more awkward moment when you push the woody bottom half of the spears over to the side of your plate because they’re undercooked.
Now consider this—with a few extra seconds of work upfront, you can have a beautiful, evenly cooked, easy-to-eat asparagus side dish that can take on a variety of flavors, too.
So I’m going to ignore my mother (who claims I tend to get a bit fussy about my vegetable cuts), and suggest that you try slicing your asparagus on the diagonal (sharply…at a sharp angle…on the bias…however you want to say it) for a change.
I get excited when I see fresh asparagus standing tall in the produce department at the grocery store. It tells me spring is almost here. Although fresh-from-the-garden asparagus probably won't be available around here until sometime in June, I know that when spring hits the produce department it won't be long before we actually feel that season in northern Minnesota. Now, that's something to celebrate.
I've been blanching, steaming, sauteeing and roasting asparagus for the last week. I've discovered I love having blanched asparagus in the refrigerator. I can grab a spear and nibble on it just the way it is or dab it into some of the roasted red pepper and garlic hummus that I whip together in my food processor and store in the refrigerator for a healthful snack.
Asparagus with Hazelnut Crumble is a quick-to-make dish that takes advantage of blanched asparagus. On a recent evening I melted some butter in a saute pan. When it was hot, I added some minced shallot (because I had some in my little garlic basket on the counter) and cooked it just until tender. Then, I added blanched asparagus spears and kept shaking the pan back and forth so that the spears would be totally coated with butter.
Who doesn’t love Spring? With days growing longer, buds turning into blooms and winter produce giving way to spring’s greens, it’s the season of re-birth and renewal.
But in Southern California–with daily highs hitting 80 and nights dipping to 40–spring is also a season of contradictions. (How else could we explain short-shorts worn with Uggs?) And for those chilly evenings, here’s a soup that’s hot and hearty but still seasonal and skinny: Light and Lovely Spring and Split Pea Soup.
Dried green split peas–high in fiber, protein, B vitamins and complex carbohydrates–are one of the world’s healthiest foods. But like all dried legumes, once cooked, they have about 300 calories per cup.
And though turning dried peas into soup made with low fat broth can reduce calories, most recipes for split pea soup also tend to have an obnoxious amount of pork and fat. (Paula Deen’s recipe, for example, calls for bacon and sausage and butter and adds up to 1020 calories and 30 grams of fat per 2 cup serving.…almost two-thirds of the calories an average 5’5 woman should have in a day.)
Mushy peas are a traditional side dish to the British classic - Fish & Chips. I was recently in London for the Queen’s Jubilee and stayed at the incredibly beautiful Corinthia Hotel.
It is truly one of London’s best properties. The hotel’s restaurant, The Northall, features "traditional British fare focusing on seasonal produce supplied by artisanal producers from around the British Isles."
Without hesitation, I chose the Deep Fried Haddock in Beer Batter, chips and “proper mushy peas”. My version of mushy peas may not be “proper”, but they are delicious.
Bright, vibrant green with just a hint of mint, they’re great with fish or chicken. Use caution when pulsing with the food processor, you want them coarsely mashed, not pureed.
It was one of those days. I had run all over town doing errands when suddenly it was 5 o’clock and I remembered that the fridge was uncharacteristically empty. I got home, ran up the stairs, ran into the kitchen slightly panicked (the Mom must be fed) and saw that the Farmers Market Fairy had come. Really. That’s what Linda calls herself. And in that moment I could have kissed her.
For years I had to be in the studio at KCRW every Wednesday morning for interviews so that meant I missed the Santa Monica market every week. Until Linda came into my life and started shopping for me. Now she’s my biggest luxury. Sitting on my counter were fresh strawberries, kumquats, spigariello, spinach, green garlic, CHERRIES!, Roan Mills bread and peas. Shelled peas, no less.
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I love all French desserts and confections, but one of my most favorites is the macaron. Available in countless colors and flavors, macarons are very popular in France. In Paris, customers line up to buy them at many famous pastry shops, such as Dalloyau or Ladurée, which invented the double-decker sandwiched macaron in 1930. Since Paris is a...Read more...
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My mother was a 30-year-old new mom when she made her first batch of Italian lemon egg biscuits. She wrapped a few in cellophane and gave them to my older brother to give to his kindergarten teacher. The story goes that the teacher called up my mom begging for the recipe, claiming they were the best cookies she had ever tasted.
Since that day,...
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Easter is almost here and while many of us are planning the main meal, whether that's brunch or dinner, we can't forget about treating the kids (or adults) to something sweet for breakfast while they are hunting for those eggs.
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