Each spring, when the first local asparagus arrives in the farmers markets, I go a little bit overboard. Those fat, green-verging-on-purple stalks mean that the season of abundance has finally arrived. I binge on asparagus, buying several pounds at a time without any kind of a plan, a little bit fearful that it will disappear before I have my fill. MORE
I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about peas. For most of the year, they are an ever-present vegetable that lives in the freezer. I regularly add a handful to soups and salads (rinse them under warm water to quickly defrost them) and appreciate them for how little they demand of me. However, when spring arrives and peas are in season, I feel it necessary to celebrate the joy that is the green pea. MORE
Red lentils are one of my staple legumes. They are wonderfully cheap, cook quickly, and look so darn pretty in a jar on the shelf. When I know I have a busy week ahead of me, I will often cook a few cups to keep in the fridge. I puree them into dips, use them to add bulk to lunchtime salads, or slip them to blended soups that I know could use some extra substance and thickening.
Pre-cooking lentils takes absolutely no time at all. I typically do it while I’m cleaning up from dinner, knowing that they’ll be done long before I do my final counter-wipe. Here’s how I do it.
Wasted food is one of the unfortunate facts of our modern lives (a recent study says that we toss between 30% and 50% of all food produced). We overbuy, we eat out on nights when we had planned to cook, and we let leftovers wither away into slimy puddles in the back of the fridge. For our planet to survive and thrive, we need to curb this waste.
While there are grand, systemic changes that need to occur to truly rectify this issue, there’s also a lot that we can do at home to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills. To my mind, the most important thing to do is to start seeing our aging and leftover food from a transformational perspective.
Leftovers from dinner can be scrambled into eggs for breakfast. The last bits of cheese can be blended into a pleasing spread the French call fromage fort. And then there’s stale bread. From use as a soup thickener, to bread puddings and panades to breadcrumbs, it can do almost anything. MORE
The arrival of the New Year means that it’s time for clean slates and refreshed habits. I always look forward to January as a chance to reset and start being a little more intentional about how I spend my time and what I eat. For me, this means getting a little more sleep and reintroducing vegetables and whole grains into my kitchen. (I have a bad habit of losing all restraint during the holiday season.)
In past years, redoubling my whole grain efforts has mostly meant that I eat a lot of sautes with brown rice, pots of vegetable soup with barley, and slabs of salmon over quinoa. While moderately healthy, tasty, and filling, these meals aren’t particularly inspired or exciting.
This year is different, thanks to Liana Krisoff’s new book, Whole Grains for a New Generation. As follow-up to her book Canning for a New Generation, this volume contains whole grain recipes for every meal of the day. It’s one of those books that made me want to leap up and start cooking. So far, I’ve made four recipes from it and I have at least another 20 earmarked for the very near future. MORE
Each year, as the days shorten and the nights get increasingly frigid, the hours I clock in the kitchen take a drastic tick upward. I crave braises, soups, and hearty baked goods to combat the chilly darkness.
This season, the cookbook I’m turning to again and again for these cozy, warming dishes is Yvette Van Boven’s Homemade Winter. A follow-up to her first book, which was simply called, Homemade, this second volume is bursting with beautifully imperfect photography, charming line drawings, and enticingly seasonal recipes.
One of the things that makes this book so darn special is its visual appeal. Van Boven is a Dutch food stylist, freelance writer, and designer. Instead of handing her recipes and content over to a team of folks (which is how it typically works in publishing), she created each and every page in the book (using photography by her husband Oof Verschuren). The end result is a volume that feels personal and intimate, more like a family scrapbook than a traditional cookbook. MORE
So many of my foundational food lessons came from family members. My grandma Bunny taught me about meringues, while my other grandmother showed me how to shove slivers of garlic into roast beef to enhance the flavor. My mom is responsible for my everyday food knowledge (along with my basic canning skills) and my dad shared everything he knew about fried eggs, pancakes, waffles and the art of the chocolate chip cookie.
I wish I could tell you that I learned to make béchamel and cheese sauces from an aunt or a kindly neighbor, but sadly, the truth is that all the credit for that particular skillset goes to Rachael Ray, circa 2002. MORE
I rush home from work, change into my gym clothes, and scurry four blocks to my friend’s house. It’s a nice five pound one, she says. From Maryland. They didn’t have any from Lancaster this time. We wash and dry the chicken, slice lemons and peel garlic for the cavity. We work our fingers underneath the skin and slide sundried tomatoes and rosemary over the white breast meat. We work quickly, making jokes about chicken parts; we’ve done this often.
By the time I get back from the gym, the roasted chicken is golden brown all over. Crisp, salty skin pulls away from meat so tender that it falls off the bone. Maryland raised this broiler well.
We pull the wings and legs for our supper and divide the rest, picking the bones clean. The meat will be shredded into soups, salads, rice, or couscous through the rest of the week. The refuse—bones, gristle, and innards—will freeze until we have a chance to boil them with clean carrot peels, the coarser layers of onions, and stems from parsley and thyme. Her boyfriend calls it garbage soup but it yields such a savory broth that we don’t dare add vinegar or salt. MORE
From the time I was young, I’ve had an instinct to tuck bits of food away for later. During my pre-school years, my mother would regularly find a crumbly handful of cheddar goldfish tucked into my sock drawer or a half-eaten banana in among my Golden Books. In high school, I always had a granola bar in my backpack, just in case hunger struck during after-school play rehearsal. In college, friends knew to knock on my dorm room door when they got peckish during late-night study sessions.
As an adult, I’ve channeled this instinct into the maintenance of a well-stock home pantry. There’s something I find deeply comforting about knowing that at any given moment, I can put my hands on two or three pounds of dried pasta, canned tuna fish, jars of tomatoes, brown rice, oats and half a dozen different kinds of beans. MORE
During the summer months, I’m not particularly interested in soup. I am happy to eat my weight in salads, quick pasta sauces and other fresh, crunchy things, but bowls of warm, creamy things have no appeal. Since the cooler days of fall have arrived, my home soup operation is in full swing once again.
Right now, I’m most in love with root vegetable soups. They are quick to make, incredibly filling and quite cheap. Paired with a few whole grain crackers or a hunk of bread, they make such a good lunch. For dinner, I add a salad for a bit of extra greenery.
There’s a basic formula to root vegetable soups. Once you master it, you can easily transform whatever roots your garden, CSA share or local farmers’ market provide into batches of creamy soup (you can also apply these same techniques to winter squash, should you feel so moved). MORE
Most vacationers misunderstand and consequently avoid the native dishes on the island that feature turtle, but I wasn’t an ordinary tourist during the trip I took to the Caymans last month. I was returning to a place where I had lived as a young girl, and I longed for the distinct taste of turtle that marked my childhood. When my family lived there, dishes with turtle in them were a regular part of my diet. I ate the meat in stews and soups, as well as in the form of pan-fried steaks. Consuming turtle was the normal thing to do, and I never thought much of it. MORE