I love the convenience of premium, ready-made condiments, such as Thai Red Curry Paste. They can be quite good. Especially when they are locally made and preservative-free, such as the Thai and True brand. But that said, ready-made can’t beat home-made. No way. No how.
Who doesn’t love Creme Brulee? Or better yet, Chocolate Creme Brulee? And February is all about love and chocolate at LunaCafe. But, there are so many formulas for Chocolate Crème Brulee, I hardly knew where to begin. After some initial testing, I figured that the important thing was to first get the perfect proportion of egg yolks to cream, then the perfect types and amount of chocolate, and finally the perfect process. The romantic flavor pairing was added after I worked out the basic formula.
Cupid Crunch (Cracker Jacks for Lovers)
I’m in a Cracker Jack craze, and there is no end in sight. After developing Chinese Cracker Jacks in December and eating it daily for weeks, I can’t stop thinking about all the possible flavor permutations. This is such a versatile concept: popcorn, nuts, seasonings, caramel brittle. Hey, wait a minute, what about chocolate?
I have been in love with Chinese Fried Rice for as long as I can remember. Our family was Catholic, and we didn’t eat meat on Friday. Thus, Dad instituted what he called “Chinese Joint” night and every Friday evening, you could find our family of four at one of the many Chinese restaurants that dotted the Seattle cityscape. We even made it to Chinatown on a few special occasions. Chinese Joint night was special, because we each got to order the one dish we wanted most.
It’s All Asia All Month at LunaCafe. Of all the dishes I wanted to explore this month, Wonton Soup was at the top of my list. It’s one of the world’s greatest soups and my absolute favorite. This version is as close to perfection as you will find. Be sure to check back as the adventure unfolds this month.
Korean soup (Jjambbong) is a spicy, red-hued, infinitely variable, magically comforting noodle soup. Jjambbong is one of the most popular Korean dishes. It’s great with prawns and other seafood, but also delicious with vegetables only. The soup broth is clean and bright and only moderately spicy as prepared here.
Many moons ago, as director of the Yankee Kitchen Cooking Schools, I had the opportunity to work with the inestimable Barbra Tropp of the China Moon Café in San Francisco. She came to Seattle to teach a series of classes for the school and the first thing she wanted when she arrived was a whirlwind shopping tour of Chinatown.
I began this exploration with a question. “What is the difference between sticky and regular gingerbread?” Put another way, “What makes sticky gingerbread, well, sticky?” A couple of rounds of baking later, I had identified the differences. Namely, sticky gingerbread starts with a fluid, molasses-heavy batter, which, if not over baked, creates a beautifully moist cake, which if wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two and then brought back to room temperature, has a dense, chewy, somewhat sticky texture.
I have developed dozens of cheesecakes over the years. At one point, I even launched a cheesecake company.
But a recent request from a reader made me realize that my focus has been almost exclusively on baked cheesecakes. A quick scan of my files shows only two no-bake cheesecakes. This post is one small and very tasty step toward correcting that omission.
f I could have only one dish this Thanksgiving, it would be a tossup between this stuffing and this tart. Wait, I also need these rolls, these mashed potatoes, and this gravy. Okay, it’s hopeless; may as well throw in this salad and this turkey. But even though each of these dishes is memorable, I bet this stuffing wins “Best of Show” at our Thanksgiving table this year. I can’t seem to get enough of it.
Roasting a perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey is a cinch—especially if you keep a few things in mind. The first and most important of these is to buy a premium, FRESH turkey. Below are some of the options available in Portland, Oregon. The biggest myth I hear from folks about roasting turkey is that it “takes all day.” I just roasted a 16-pound bird to perfection in 2¼ hours. It’s resting on the stovetop now for another 30 minutes. Then we will eat it with the best stuffing I’ve ever made: Spicy Ciabatta & Cornbread Stuffing with Italian Sausage, Wild Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs. (Posting next.) So minus the brining (48 hours) and warming to room temperature (1 hour), the bird is ready to eat in under 3 hours.
A large roast turkey is considered mandatory for many families as part of the massive meal that typifies Thanksgiving. It’s big, bold, beautiful, and definitely celebratory. When you have a large crowd to feed, there is no grander way to go. But what if your family is small, dispersed across the country, or for whatever reason, you long for a more intimate but still festive dinner with only a few close friends?
True confession. This is my first real encounter with romanesco. Tempted by it many times over the years at the Portland Farmers Market, this past weekend, I succumbed. I bought two heads without a clue what to do with them. A member of the brassica oleracea family, romanesco has an exotic, almost alien beauty and can be a little formidable to the uninitiated.
I am very fortunate that the newest member of our family, Christopher Weaver, LOVES cheesecake. Because I love to create endless variations, and can’t afford all those calories hanging out in the fridge taunting me. Chris is a workout machine, so he doesn’t worry a fig about calories. If there are a few slices of cheesecake left after a family dinner, he saves me by taking them home.
Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.
Can you say NYOK-ee? Luckily, gnocchi are more difficult to pronounce than to actually make. And unlike the pronunciation, you have lots of latitude on how to make, shape, and sauce these delectable little dumplings. Beyond the standard ingredients of ricotta, eggs, flour, and cheese, you can go wild with additional flavors. It’s almost Halloween, so of course I added pumpkin to my time-tested gnocchi recipe. And I’m glad I did. These may be my favorite gnocchi of all time.
I knew these rolls were going to be a hit, but I didn’t anticipate the mania that ensued as I took them from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, pulled them apart, and piled them on a platter to serve. I mean, should you stop someone from eating six rolls, back-to-back, without coming up for air? Or just pass them more butter?
Never heard of sweet corn ice cream? Well then, you’re in for an ice cream flavor revelation. As my collection of American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks grew over the years, I occasionally encountered this “oddity” in one or another of the dessert chapters. Finally, I searched the web and lo and behold, the word is out.
You know the flavor contrast you get when you bite into a perfect caramel apple—first rich, creamy, sweet caramel, and then bracingly tart, juicy apple? Add half a dozen spices and that’s what this caramel sauce tastes like. At first, you think, “Oh yeah, luxuriously rich, wonderfully spiced caramel,” and then POW, the acidity of the reduced apple cider kicks in and your mouth goes, “Hey, whoa, what’s happening here?” I love this double-punch effect.
Like most of the baby boom generation, I grew up on the ubiquitous American iceberg lettuce salad with the usual assortment of dreary bottled dressings. It was only in adulthood that I discovered that fruit could be used to good effect in a salad—beyond those ghastly sweet coconut and marshmallow concoctions that sat high and proud on every family buffet of my youth.
Every fall, I look forward to the arrival of a huge variety of chile peppers at Northwest farmers markets—Poblano, Anaheim, Hatch, Cubanelle, Mesilla, Padron, New Mex Joe, Jalapeno, Crimson Lee, Serrano, Sweet Banana, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Hot Mexican to name a few–along with the gas-fired drum roaster that makes quick work of roasting them.
Northwest farmers markets were overflowing with fresh peaches this past weekend. And the selection is just beginning.
So far, I’ve seen Red Rose, Suncrest, Angelus, August Lady, Blushing Star, Snow Giant, Hale, Red Gold, Regina, September Snow, Summer Lady, and Yukon varieties. There are so many choices that making a decision is difficult. I sampled peaches at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturday and then again at the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sunday.
After last week’s post, I had a fridge full of Perfect Homemade Mayonnaise, and the super-delicious variation, Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Rouille, demanded attention.
Of course, I could have just slathered it on a heap of grilled vegetables or corn on the cob, but there was also a ½ pound of cold-smoked salmon staring at me every time I opened the fridge door. I imagined the two would taste great together but nothing came immediately to mind.
If mayonnaise has a season, it is definitely summer. I use more mayonnaise in summer than in the other three seasons combined. Where would pasta and potato salads be without mayonnaise? Or a grilled hamburger? Or grilled vegetables?
I can’t imagine these and a host of other dishes without mayonnaise or one of its endless variations. Imagine summer without garlicky Aioli and dill pickle-laden Tartar Sauce. Not possible. And where would our Northwest seafood soups be without the requisite swirl of roasted red bell pepper and garlic mayonnaise, otherwise known as Rouille?
True confession: Until two weeks ago, I had never heard of an arepa. And I certainly couldn’t pronounce it. Now this is weird, because entire shelves of my cookbook library are dedicated to the cuisines of Mexico, South America, the Caribbean, Cuba, and the American Southwest. (This girl can make a mean tortilla and even meaner tamale–yes, she can.) You would think that somewhere in all that reading and cooking, I would have encountered the crusty little Venezuelan or Columbian cornmeal cake called an arepa. But no, didn’t happen.