Ingredient TM_CK_YOLKS_FI_002

When it comes to eggs, it seems that white is becoming the new black. Possibly in response to the obesity-epidemic or as a result of required calorie-counts on menus, many fast-food chains are now serving “lighter option” egg white products. McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, Jack-in-the-box, Starbucks, and Sonic have all started supplying their stores with egg white menu items. Even the frozen food section is now showcasing frozen egg white breakfast sandwiches from major producers like Hillshire Farm and Kelloggs.

With all these big name food companies using egg whites it should be no surprise that we have hit an egg white crisis. Since 2013, egg white prices have soared to record-breaking highs of over $8 per lb. Dried egg white stocks have also been reported to be at startling lows, which leaves farmers and egg suppliers to “force molt” chickens in order to keep up with the demand.

But as a health conscious cook, I’m at a stand-still. It’s nice to see these healthier options available, but even I’m starting to grow tired of the high protein/low carb trend. Like a second coming of the Atkins diet, protein is becoming the macronutrient of choice for most dieters once again. Although it is true that egg whites are high in protein and contain zero fat and cholesterol, I’m a yolk kind of girl. Cholesterol-raising irrationalities aside, egg yolks are extremely nutritious – in my opinion, more so than egg whites. Egg yolks do contain fat, but it is vitamin-packed fat. Protein in no way, shape, or form is lacking from the American diet, but many fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, and other vital micronutrients are. Not to mention egg yolks taste way better.
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Baking TM_BK_SHORTCK_FI_001

As a child, the turning of the calendar page to June meant that a visit to see my grandmother and aunt in LaFayette, NY would be around the corner. My mother and I would pack a suitcase, wave to my father and German Shepherd Sasha as we pulled out of our driveway in southeastern Virginia, and began what seemed like the longest car ride ever up north, peppered with Phil Collins cassette tapes and quick fast food meals eaten in the car.

The reward at the end of the 9-hour drive, thankfully, would be my grandmother’s strawberry shortcake. She would pick the berries in the morning while we were driving up and bake the subtly sweet biscuits in the afternoon. We would arrive shortly before dinnertime, and after having a light meal, she would step away to make fresh whipped cream. Then the shortcakes would be served.
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Forgotten Foods TM_FF_PICNIC_AP_005

If my life is indeed a picnic, like the cliche says, I’d argue that it’s specifically a late-1800s picnic – stressful, frequently overpacked, and requiring me to wake up a lot earlier than I’d like.

At least, that’s how these “relaxing” Victorian outings often were for the women stuck with food preparation. 1883’s Practical Housekeeping demands that, when picnicking, women “be up ‘at five o’clock in the morning’ to have the chicken, biscuits, etc., freshly baked.” Mrs. Owens’ Complete Cookbook and New Household Manual, meanwhile, lists several types of foods that should be brought, from baked beans to canned deviled ham – and she also notes that “Bouillon tablets are just the thing, provided there is hot water.” Because one thing that is totally not a pain in the butt to eat at a picnic is soup broth. And oh, we haven’t even gotten to the other picnic accoutrements women needed to pack yet. 1882’s The Successful Housekeeper says, “Forget not the napkins, forks, spoons, and luncheon-cloth. Also carry tumblers, plates, salt, pepper, sugar, and a bottle of cream or a can of condensed milk. Cups with handles, but no saucers, are desirable for tea and coffee.” And here I was about to say that that was a ridiculous amount of stuff to pack, but thank goodness – picnickers can leave their saucers at home.*
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Snack Break TM_SB_BUNDT_FI_001

The summer of 1982, when I was 12, I did not do “quite as many things as I did the last” according to the annual report my parents made me write before school started again. But “I did a lot of fun small things.” One of those fun small things, I noted, was bake a cake with my grandmother. I recall it as the first real cake I ever made — no box of mix or mom measuring the flour while I stirred.

My grandmother lived in Pennsylvania, far across the country from us in California. We rarely saw her, or any extended family for that matter, and I always liked it when she visited. On this occasion, she was babysitting while my parents traveled to Northern Italy, Budapest, and Vienna (according to my handy summer report, which I found recently in a filing cabinet in my parents’ house).

The idea to bake the cake was certainly hers. She’d probably planned to make it herself, as something nice to serve my parents after their long flight home. But, perhaps tiring of me reading romance novels and floating in the swimming pool every day, she gave me the task. Grandma was hard-working and restless, and she couldn’t appreciate reading novels and sunbathing.
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Cooking TM_CK_SMMRSLO_AP_001

I’ve never been much of a summer girl. I like going to the beach, wearing flip flops, and the smell of sunscreen, but the heat always gets me (plus, growing up in New England, I’m a sucker for fall). As a home cook, I’m torn when it comes to summer cooking. The season is bursting with fresh, readily available ingredients, but trying to cook a feast indoors in the midst of the summer heat is dreadful — not to mention wanting to spend time outside in the beautiful weather instead of stuck in my kitchen. And ever since a traumatic barbecue incident which ended with my father having to hose down the grill (shrimp and asparagus included), my outlets for summer cooking are limited. That’s why I turn to one of my most trusted kitchen tools when the summer heat blazes: my slow cooker.

Yes, the appliance you might think is only good for pot roasts or hearty cold-weather stews is a lifesaver during the summer. Tucked away in the corner of my kitchen counter, it cooks for hours on its own without me having to hover over a burning flame or open a hot oven. It also keeps me safely away from the grill and allows me the freedom to enjoy the sunshine without having to be tied to my kitchen.
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Ingredient TM_IN_SUMAC_AP_001_004

If I told you that a spice often used to season grilled meats can also brighten up a delicate dessert, would you believe me? What if I told you that spice was sumac? Would you even have a jar of it to go home and taste?

Perhaps you’ve seen the plant’s bright red berries growing wild in your backyard before. Or maybe you’ve only heard about the poisonous variety, a relative of poison ivy and poison oak. If you’ve really been paying attention, you might recognize it as one of the primary components of za’atar, the increasingly popular Middle Eastern spice blend. But you’ve probably never tried sumac by itself, let alone cooked with it.

Sweet and tart, bitter and fruity, sumac has an unusual flavor profile for a spice. Imagine eating freshly picked raspberries, followed by a juicy tomato, topped off with a pleasantly savory finish. Made from a berry that is dried and ground into a bright burgundy powder, sumac is easily one of the most interesting — and certainly prettiest — spices you could have in your pantry. It has long been a saving grace spice in Middle Eastern cuisines, where it was traditionally used to brighten up dishes when lemons weren’t available or affordable.
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Forgotten Foods TM_FF_ENTRE_FI_001

For me, entremets are the food history equivalent of Gozer the Gozerian. You know, Gozer – the lace-body-suit demon lady from Ghostbusters? Venkman tells everyone not to think of a form for it to take, and Ray immediately thinks of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. It’s that classic brain gaffe – if someone tells you to not think of something, you can’t stop thinking about it.

That’s what happened to me when I looked up entremets in one of my favorite books, Alan Davidson’s wonderfully comprehensive Oxford Companion to Food. If you will forgive me the fifth-grade-essay transgression of beginning a piece with a definition quote, here is Davidson’s entry on entremets in its entirety:

entree, entremets a couple of French terms which no doubt retain interest for persons attending hotel and restaurant courses conducted under the show of French classical traditions, but have ceased to have any real use, partly because most people cannot remember what they mean and partly because their meanings have changed over time and vary from one part of the world to another. Forget them.

Forget them? Davidson, my man, come on – when almost everyone else has forgotten about something, that’s the time when you should remember it. Those almost-forgotten things are where fantastic weirdness usually hides. In the case of entremets, that fantastic weirdness is young boys singing duets with deer and roast pig heads vomiting fire like drunk dragons. But more on that in a moment.
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Thanksgiving TM_TK_ALLVEG_FI_001

When my sister was 14 years old, she stopped eating meat. We were always a household that was big on vegetables, so it wasn’t too much of a hardship, but when meat-centric holidays like Thanksgiving rolled around, it was a little bit more of a challenge.

One year, my mom sprang for a tofu roast that was pressed into the shape of a turkey. Other years, we did fanciful things with sautéed mushrooms, roasted acorn squash, and toasted nuts.

Eventually, my sister returned to the poultry-eating fold, but over those years I learned a lot about making main dishes that were both suitably celebratory and free from meat.
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Kitchen Rookie TM_KR_CHURROS_FI_006

I love churros. They’re amazing. But I never realized that we here in America had made them the wrong way, until I went to Spain. At fairs, in schools, in bakeries, and all over in the United States, churros are served long, covered in sugar and cinnamon, and only eaten one at a time. I used to eat them at my school that way and loved them. Everyone waited in line for a long time to get the churros, and they were really good because they were served hot. But a new principal wanted to make things “healthy” and took away churros from the lunch room (I think it was just budget cuts). Eventually the churros came back, but they were served cold, shipped in from somewhere else, and by the time lunch came, they no longer had the same goodness. I still bought them, though, because it was the only option. But then I went to Spain.
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Bookshelf

The Proof is in the Pudding

With Bakeless Sweets, you don't need an oven for a satisfying dessert

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When I was growing up, the one good thing about coming down with the flu was the guarantee that there would be pudding. My mom firmly believed that it was good for tender stomachs and since it was made with milk, it offered enough nutrition to get us back on the road to recovery. She’d alternate between a basic stovetop rice pudding and vanilla pudding from a packet.

For years, I thought puddings and custards were only good for those sick days when you needed something slightly sweet and easy to slurp. However, thanks to Faith Durand and her new book, Bakeless Sweets, my eyes have been opened to the many possibilities that exist in the world of puddings (as well as in panna cottas, jellies, and fluffs). MORE

Madame Fromage TM_MF_DIGEST_FI_001

Few things are lovelier than ending a meal with a spot of cheese. The French have done it for years without any trauma to their collective girth, which suggests that indulging in a morsel or two of cheese after supper, instead of a brownie sundae, just might be better for all of us. In fact, eating cheese at the end of a meal is supposed to be good for your teeth. Thank you, food scientist Harold McGee, for that important dental insight.

For after-dinner inspiration, try ordering a cheese course for dessert next time you go out. The Fountain Restaurant in Philadelphia is famous for its cheese cart, which is wheeled to each table like an elaborate pram; the Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan offers an impeccable assortment which sits, veiled, on a slate in its tavern dining room, so that’s it’s impossible not to steal furtive glances. Cheese after a meal should be so exquisite; it should arouse desire. MORE

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DIY Junk Food

A new book helps you recreate your childhood favorites

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When I was eight years old, my family moved from Southern California to a cozy neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. To my young mind, there were a number of good things about our move, but none was more tantalizing than the fact that for the first time in my life, there was a small market a few blocks away that I could get to entirely on my own steam. Suddenly a world of candy and store-bought snacks opened to me.

My friends and I would meet after school and ride our bikes to the “Little Store” to buy boxes of Cheez-Its or packets of Lik-M-Aid. From there, we’d go back to the playground, where we could sit on the swings and gobble our spoils. For a girl who had previously been led to believe that homemade popcorn and baked tortilla chips were the highest form of snackage, it was revelatory.

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Bookshelf

Not Your Mama’s Cookies

Win a copy of Hedy Goldsmith's new cookbook, Baking Out Loud

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When it comes to home baking, I tend to be utilitarian. I can turn out a serviceable loaf of banana bread, am fairly comfortable with basic yeast doughs and make a mean oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. However, once I stray beyond my familiar territory, things often go sideways.

It’s not that I’m not interested in more adventurous baking, I simply haven’t had much luck when I’ve tried things like homemade Oreo-style sandwich cookies (the filling separated and tasted like a grease slick) and many-layered cakes (never has a baked good so resembled the leaning tower of Pisa). And while even the ugliest disaster can still be delicious, it’s nice when you find that sweet spot of both visual and palatable success.

Knowing this, you’ll understand that I approached Hedy Goldsmith’s Baking Out Loud with both excitement and a little trepidation. Goldsmith is a pastry chef based in Miami, Florida, who is known for making over-the-top versions of familiar treats (like Twinkies and Cracker Jacks) and her glossy, beautifully photographed first book contains many of the items that have made her famous throughout the South. MORE