Kitchen Rookie TM_KR_CWURST_FI_001

Hot dogs. Although questionable in wholesomeness, they are sold everywhere, whether on the kid’s menu of a “fancy” restaurant, or simply from a street vendor. You can’t go three blocks in a city without finding a place to buy a hot dog! But these dogs were not always so artificial, and have roots all the way back in Germany, 1313 B.C.E.

The year 1313 B.C.E was one of the first times people found evidence of wurst, better known as sausages, being eaten. Since then, the wurst has become a common street food throughout Germany, but it can be found in other countries as well. In fact, the sausage’s origins lie in Austria, and the word “wiener” actually means “of Vienna.” In both countries, it can be found slathered in spicy curry sauce, have cheese right at the center, and many other ways. These wursts are mainly not eaten as meals, but as a quick snack.

One of the many variations of how the wurst is served is the currywurst. This is a sausage that is cut up into pieces, and then is slathered with a curry sauce made from tomatoes, onions and curry powder. For a final touch, curry powder is then sprinkled on top. The curry powder gives it a little extra spice, and also makes it look better. MORE

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.
MORE

DIY TM_DY_TEMPURA_FI_002

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.
MORE

Breakfast TM_BF_EGGSBN_FI_001

Every Sunday morning growing up was marked by the same sight: my father hovering over a griddle making pancakes, my sister requesting that he put strawberries in the batter, me reminding him to make mine without the berries, and my brother standing in front of the fridge drinking milk straight from the gallon. We all live in different states now, but our first question when we all come back home is if Dad will make pancakes in the morning.

Away from my family, I’m more likely to be sitting at a table with friends on a Sunday while a waitress takes our order. Being on my own in the city has opened my eyes to new kinds of breakfast treats aside from my Dad’s tried-and-true pancakes. My new breakfast delight? Eggs Benedict.
MORE

Cooking TM_CW_MOLE_FI_001

A labor of love.

Ask any cook who knows their Mexican cuisine, and that’s what they will tell you about mole, one of Mexico’s most iconic and decadent contributions to the culinary world.

A far cry from the lackluster “chocolate sauce” one might find in Americanized Mexican food joints, authentic mole plays host to upwards of 30 ingredients, including chile peppers, nuts, spices, fruits, tortillas and sometimes chocolate, and can take 4 to 6 hours to make correctly.

“You really have to be passionate to create [mole], because it’s not easy,” Carlos Gaytan, chef of Michelin-starred restaurant Mexique, explained to me on a recent frosty morning in Chicago. “You have to find the balance over time of sweetness, spiciness, bitterness; all those elements you need for the mole to be a success.”
MORE

First Person TM_FP_BBQ_AP_005_1

Every morning at 4:30 AM, riding or walking past Tar-Heel-Q off of Old Highway 64 in Lexington, North Carolina, the smell and crackle of fired-up hickory chips and logs fill the air for about a mile. No one minds the enormous amount of smoke that is being produced by this Mom-and-Pop Southern barbecue joint, especially because of the rich, warm and comforting smell. It’s the smell of Lexington, some people might say.

It takes a full tractor-trailer load of hickory wood to get Tar-Heel-Q through a month of making some of the best lip-smacking, finger-lickin‘ barbecue in all of the Piedmont Triad. It’s the only kind of wood that can smoke a 25-pound brisket to perfection.

I moved to North Carolina about five years ago to go to college, and one of my favorite hobbies (naturally) became eating at different barbecue restaurants around this beautiful state. I quickly found that the best places to visit weren’t searchable on the Internet. No websites or Facebook pages are necessary for these hole-in-the-wall joints – just word-of-mouth and a reputation for good old Carolina barbecue crafted by recipes handed down from generation to generation. MORE

Kitchen Hacks TM_KH_BBTTR_FI_001

Butter, I’m happy to say, is back in style.

In the 90s, America panicked when we found out that butter’s high saturated fat and cholesterol content could be doing a number on our hearts. Many switched to margarine, a man-made, vegetable oil-based substitute. Sadly, margarine doesn’t work nearly as well for baking: cookies get burned, muffins go flat.

So imagine the collective joy when the nutrition world announces that margarine has its evils, too, namely lots of trans fats, which can mess with human cholesterol levels more than actual cholesterol.

Butter might never be called a “health food,” but it’s not such a public sin to use it anymore. In fact, compared to processed sugar or high-fructose anything, it’s downright en vogue.
MORE

Kitchen Hacks

Jar Head

Peanut butter goes beyond jelly

by

They say that smell is the sense most linked to memory, and if that’s true, taste must follow close behind.

Whenever I taste peanut sauce, it’s like I’m teleported back to about 1999, Christmastime, around the dinner table. It was my small family, my nearly-senile, smelly-sweater-wearing grandpa, my uncle, and one of his long string of younger girlfriends with perms and degrees in fashion merchandising.

She–let’s call her Brandi because that sounds about right–wanted to help my mom make dinner that year. As my sister and I played with the cats to avoid interacting with actual relatives, she swooped out of the kitchen, lipsticked lips grinning. “It’s ready!”

“It” was peanut carrot soup. Or goop. Or something. It tasted like she’d put reduced-fat chunky Jif and rancid V-8 in a blender. Nasty. And we had to sit there fake-sipping it and saying “yum” without giggling (or gagging). MORE