Saturday, December 6, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Talking food

If I had to pick just one holiday to celebrate every year, I’d choose Thanksgiving with no hesitation. It’s not just that I love cooking and reading about food and meal planning, but also because Thanksgiving, more than any other special meal, is so collaborative. Everyone contributes something, and the kitchen is full of people and conversation—and it stays that way, sometimes for days, adding to the holiday blessings. Stove-side chats and strategizing about wine pairings are just the sorts of exchanges that can inform our cooking in unexpected ways.
A few days after the big meal this year, my husband was turning leftovers into a turkey and wild mushroom soup. Cooking tends to be a solitary effort most days at our house because of time constraints and evening chaos, but because this was a holiday weekend, we were still enjoying family time. My daughter and I were hanging around the kitchen while he cooked and we all visited.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Pad thai

Now that you’ve enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner and a couple of days' worth of leftovers, I bet you’re in the mood for something that doesn’t involve turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce. Am I right? If so, here’s an idea that is about as far from all that as you can get: pad thai. And you don’t have to order takeout to enjoy this awesome dish. It’s surprisingly cheap, quick and easy to make it yourself!
The Guardian does a nice job of breaking down pad thai into its basic elements: noodles, protein, garnish and sauce. I did some looking around—at a lot of websites and in a number of cookbooks (consulting the "Thug," Mark Bittman"America’s Test Kitchen," and Carla Snyder, among others)—to see how different cooks approach these basic elements. I found that there is a lot that they all agree on. And where they don’t concur is where you get to add your own signature flourishes to your pad thai. Make it extra-spicy, vegan, gluten-free, paleo or whatever’s your thing!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Glug of Gratitude and Whiskey

Despite how much I love whiskey, I rarely stock it at my house. I like to save it for special occasions— nights out with friends, in birthday sazeracs, for celebratory libations, and of course for the holidays.

From a glug of Evan Williams in my gas station eggnog to my immediate family’s bizarre, endearing tradition of lighting candles for our deceased relatives and putting a shot of whiskey by each on the mantle, Christmas certainly gets its fair share of whiskey appreciation. So does New Years, with its flutes of champagne, each topped off with a little bourbon, a drink an ex-boyfriend introduced me to a couple years ago before our first and only midnight kiss.

But Thanksgiving, I think is where whiskey really fits in nice. It’s perfect with cranberries, with pie spice, with all the sweet and savory flavors of the day. It’s sharp bite cuts through the greasy turkey and if you pick a good, smokey oakey variety it lends a helping hand to what can sometimes be a dry, bland bird. It cleanses the palate after my father’s rich, camembert-studded mashed potatoes. Its sweetness backs up yams like old buddies. Its depth provides a nice contrast to the simple saltiness of broccoli casserole cooked in canned soup and crusted in crackers.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Close encounters with kohlrabi

Kohlrabi. Even the name looks strange. It is the platypus of the vegetable world, unable to make up its mind what kind of food it's going to be. It has a bulbous base, but with stems and leaves shooting out all over, making it seem a bit like a space alien. It tastes sort of like cauliflower or broccoli, only mellower and sweeter, and can be a very pale green or deep purple. The first time I saw one in my CSA basket, I had no idea what to do with it. But I've since played around with them quite a bit and have become a big fan.
They like cooler weather and will be in season well into winter (and might make another appearance in the spring, before the weather heats up). Its name comes from the German words "kohl" (cabbage) and "rĂ¼be" (turnip), and it is indeed a member of the cabbage family and can be prepared in much the same way as a turnip.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Fried rice

Most of the time when I sit down to write this column, I just share what I’ve been cooking in my own kitchen lately. This week is no exception, and I’m also starting to notice a pattern, because this is yet another dish that’s cheap, easy and quick—and can also be a good way to clean out the refrigerator. In fact, fried rice comes out so much better if your rice is not fresh.
First, get all your ingredients ready to go. As Edward Lee in "Smoke and Pickles," advises, "To make fried rice the right way, be sure to get your skillet or wok screaming-hot, and work furiously through the recipe." You won’t have time to chop anything or dig around in the refrigerator once you’ve started, so lay it all out on the counter next to the stove before you turn it on. Here’s what you’ll need: