Breakfast TM_BF_PORRID_FI_001

There is little glamour in porridge. It may be historically significant, nutritious, and cost efficient, but it isn’t an inherently trendy food. This is no surprise really, considering the fact that it is difficult to make a bowl of lumpy, beige, amorphous goo look appealing to the uninitiated eater. Most people see porridge as an emergency food – something to cook when there’s nothing left in the pantry besides a few odd scoopfuls of wheat and a bit of salt. So it might seem funny that porridge is rising in the culinary ranks.

There is nothing new about porridge. Humans have been turning various cereals into porridge for nearly 6,000 years, well before society decided that grains needed to be hulled, ground, leavened, risen, baked, and sliced in order to be palatable. Cooking whole grains in liquid requires only minimal effort and results in a greater total yield than milling and processing grain into flour and bread. Grain could be harvested, dried, and stored to provide food year-round, and more valuable foods such as fruits, nuts, and spices could be added when available to create infinite variations on the base dish.

The rising popularity of bread – a more expensive, labor-intensive, and delicious grain-based dish – spelled disaster for porridge’s place in food culture. Where bread has seen countless waves of innovation, such as slicing and electric toasting, porridge has mostly been frozen in time, its recipes unchanged for thousands of years. Now, however, new generations of chefs seem to be taking those age-old recipes and revitalizing them with modern techniques and elements.
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Forgotten Foods TM_FF_DIETS_FI_002

It’s January, which means that all across America, people are resolving to eat better. And that means that they’re also resolving to smugly tell you about it. But the next time your newly gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free co-worker insists that you need to jump on the kale-acai smoothie express, just be thankful that this isn’t the turn of the century. Because back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, diet adherents really knew how to twist the guilt knife.
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DIY TM_FLOUR_AP_003

White flour is like a ghost: if we don’t think about it, we’re fine. But when we do start to think about it, we get a little creeped out. Oh, it might not look like we’re scared of it when we wolf our restaurant bread baskets or take forkfuls of cream cheese-frosted carrot cake, but when we start to think about that powdery wheat product on its own, some serious flourphobia rises to the surface. Together I’m hoping we can make it through this. That’s right, together: I have flour-fear issues, too.
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The Larder TM_TL_ASPAR_FI_001

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

The Larder

Roll Out the Oats

A flexible pantry staple full of possibilities

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My maternal grandmother (Tutu) was not much of a cook. A perpetual dieter, she was far more interested in what she wasn’t eating than what she was. However, as a woman raising children in the 1950s, it wasn’t possible that she escape the kitchen entirely and so learned to make a few things to fill the gaps when the maid or my grandfather were unavailable.

Oddly, her specialties involved either beef (broiled steak, hamburger patties, and pot roast) or rolled oats (hot oatmeal and oatmeal cookies, mostly). When she made meatloaf, she would bring her two favorite ingredients together, relying on the oats to act as a binder. Beaten eggs and generous amounts of onion salt rounded out that recipe.

When I was old enough to pay attention, she took me into the kitchen and taught me her secret for making creamy oatmeal. You always start the oats in cold water and you heat them very slowly. That way, you give them the chance to soften and release their starch. As we stirred the quietly simmering oats, she’d say, “Cook them like that and you don’t even need butter!”
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Bookshelf

Whole Grains for a New Generation

Kick off the new year with delicious, healthy home cooking

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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 Krissoff’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

Bookshelf

Learning to Love Winter

A cookbook to banish the winter blues

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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 Home Made Winter. A follow-up to her first book, which was simply called, Home Made, 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