As I glugged cup after cup of canola oil into the pan, my confidence seemed to dissipate. “This is nothing like baking,” I thought. “How much oil is enough? Is this pan even going to work?” I realized I might have crossed into a whole new, unfamiliar world as I stared at my candy thermometer hoping the oil would reach the right temperature for deep-frying tempura. The oil finally reached 360°F, but then it started to go over. Removing the pan from the burner, I waited for it to cool, but then it dipped below 360°F. So I placed it back on the burner, where it didn’t heat up quickly enough, so I had to crank the heat, and of course, it went over that magic number again. At this point, I was really getting sick of deep-frying and thought I better stick to what I know. And this was before I splashed boiling hot oil into my eye.

You see, when it comes to me and cooking Asian food at home, I don’t have the best track record. I can pipe roses out of frosting, bake three pies in one day, or craft the perfect tart crust with one hand tied behind my back. But I still can’t even get the simplest stir fry right. At this point, I know to just call for take-out or make reservations when I get a craving for Chinese, or Japanese, or Thai – and for a person who loves cooking, that’s just sad. But lately, I’ve been getting a little antsy thinking how much salt and MSG is in my takeout order. So when my latest craving hit, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at making my own tempura at home.

Secret Ingredient

Open Sesame

Silky, sophisticated tahini is your pantry's new best friend


Homemade hummus is pretty easy to pull together from your cabinets – a can of chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, salt, maybe some lemon juice – except for one key ingredient. Tahini may not have made it on your grocery list yet, but I’m here to tell you that one of the most intriguing (and surprisingly versatile) ingredients that will ever grace your pantry. If tahini were a Pokémon, it would be Ditto, taking on the powers and properties of other Pokémon – or in this case, ingredients. It can be anything, anywhere, and can be incorporated into a wide gamut of recipes without sticking out like a sore thumb. It can take on other flavors, or stand out on its own – however you choose to use it.

The Larder TM_TL_RHUBA_FI_001

When I was eleven years old, my family moved to a house that had once been owned by a botanist. She left behind antique apple trees, a row of lilac bushes and a rhubarb patch the size of a queen bed. Every April, the rhubarb would start to unfurl from the soil and I knew that spring was really and truly on its way.


Playing Ketchup

Ketchup's history goes way beyond Heinz. So why shouldn't its flavor?


It’s like a movie: One day you wake up and discover that ketchup — the condiment you’ve loved for as long as you can remember, with whom you’ve shared countless juicy burgers and hot french fries — has a past it never shared. You thought ketchup always came in a familiar bottle or, at its wildest, those little single-serving pouches. You thought that ketchup’s parents were Heinz, who doted on the condiment and even spoiled it by moving it from that clunky glass bottle to an easy-to-use plastic squeezer. You thought that ketchup was your rock — even if you hopped from brand to brand, you thought ketchup wouldn’t change much. It would never do that to you.

You were wrong. For goodness sake,
when ketchup was born, it wasn’t even made
of tomatoes.

Secret Ingredient

Something Fishy

Fish sauce isn't as scary as it smells


Few ingredients have chilled me to my core like fish sauce once did. Even the name made my skin tingle. Before I even ever opened a bottle, I was convinced it would smell like liquid death. Hoisin, mirin, soy, plum sauce, ponzu… you could have given me any other Asian condiment out there, but I didn’t think I could have been paid enough to try fish sauce. My fish sauce avoidance was so intense that I needed to almost give myself a twelve-step introduction before even considering a grocery store purchase. I researched, I read, I collected recipes, I even had nightmares of being chased by a bottle of the brown liquid… But eventually I gave in, committed to a recipe that called for fish sauce, held my nose, and gave it
a whirl.

Kitchen Hacks TM_KH_SRIRA_FI_001

Sriracha sauce, a spicy Thai-style condiment made with chilis, is currently perched precariously on a cultural pinhead, teetering between cool and totally passé.

You see, in the life cycle of a food trend, first, people love it. Then they hate it. Then they love to hate it. And when they finally start hating to hate it, the circle of life is complete and we drop it like a used napkin.

The demographic most responsible for this vicious cycle? Hipsters. And, I propose, the most hipstery condiment out there is sriracha. MORE

Food Culture

Spread Good Taste

But don't spread it too thin


Grey Poupon’s new marketing campaign seems to be designed to keep out as many potential consumers as it invites in. Though one may browse the brand’s Facebook timeline and Pinterest page, you are not permitted to join the brand-approved Society of Good Taste until your own profile is subjected to an examination and found suitable.

In truth, the Society’s standards are a little random: your profile is scanned for grammar, art and music “likes,” and restaurant check-ins, but like any algorithm it lacks human subtlety—you can re-apply and receive a drastically different score.  The contents, once you’re in, are more consistent: recipes, little notes and observations about good taste, gently worded polls about which hors d’oeuvre to serve at your seasonal party. Generally, these posts or pins have tongue planted firmly in cheek: MORE