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 "rübe" (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:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Peanut sauce

I posted a picture of my lunch in the article I wrote last week: a bowl of couscous, sautéed greens and mushrooms topped with scallions, peanut sauce and sesame seeds. It was a meal that I threw together in 10 or 15 minutes, including the few moments I spent whipping up the sauce that topped the dish. That was some magic peanut sauce, the stuff of dreams. It was warm, creamy and packed with flavor.
There are so many things you can do with a good peanut sauce, and many of them basically amount to being an instant meal. Need a dinner in a hurry? Throw some soba noodles on the stove, and while the water is simmering, mix up a quick peanut sauce to pour over the noodles. Maybe chop a green onion to use as a topping, and then sprinkle it all with some sesame seeds. BAM. Dinner’s ready. When cooking up a strange medley of vegetables that need to be used up and you want something to bring them together, make a peanut sauce. It works for everything! It’s a salad dressing; a dip for raw vegetables or spring rolls; a condiment (try it in a sandwich or on fries!); or a sauce for anything from pasta, rice or potatoes to tempe, tofu, chicken, beef or fish. And kids love it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: More yummy greens

Wow! The greens keep pouring in. My weekly CSA pickup finds me bringing home all kinds of greens: radish leaves; kale; chard; and collard, turnip and mustard greens. I’m happily scrambling to come up with new and delicious things to do with them every evening, when there are always greens on the menu somewhere. If you’re also feeling a little overwhelmed by it all, consider making squeezed greens, filling a frittata with greens, whipping up a quick pesto or soup, or putting your chopped and wilted greens on pasta. Also, if you’re into smoothies, you can run through a lot of greens in short order.

I’ve recently picked up a few new cookbooks that I’m really excited about, and although I’m still digging around in them, I thought I’d share a couple of discoveries I’ve made that might come in handy if you’re also looking for inspiration when it comes to greens. "Thug Kitchen" and Mark Bittman’s"How to Cook Everything Fast" both came out recently, and they each offer lots of recipes while also including many ideas for variations so that it’s easy to improvise. This way, the recipes become more like springboards that provide inspiration for a creative cook.

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