Pucker Up: Learning to love sour food


Like bitter flavors, sourness is nature’s way of waving a red flag over a substance that is unripe, spoiled, or otherwise inedible. But for those of us who don’t mind a bit of tartness, this warning signal may actually be the first sign of some healthy benefits.


We can taste sourness thanks to receptors on our tastebuds that detect hydrogen ions from organic acids found in certain foods. Many of these acids occur naturally and are part of a food’s flavor profile, such as citric in lemons, tartaric in tamarinds, and oxalic in leafy greens. 


Unripe fruits are particularly sour before becoming sweeter, since their acids are eventually broken down during the ripening process and their acerbic taste replaced by natural sugars. Other acids in foods are due to additives like acetic acid (used to make vinegar) or as a result of fermentation, which produces lactic acid in pickled produce like sauerkraut and cultured dairy such as yogurt.

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Spice Trade: Appreciating the lure of cloves


As every cook learns, spices yield depth and dimension to many foods. With each spice story, you find a fascinating history lesson, better understanding of the origins of various ethnic dishes, as well as the base for many modern-day pharmaceuticals. 


History tells us spices used to be a major form of commerce, and created vast wealth for many civilizations, with pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon traded much like gold, silk, and cotton.


Clove was an especially a hot commodity, connecting the Maluku “Spice” Islands of Indonesia to Egyptians, Chinese, and European buyers. Cloves are reddish-black, dried flower buds of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia. Once a Spice Island sanctity, cloves are now collected from India, Madagascar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. 


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Hunting for Dinner: Roast duck breast

roast duck

This last hunting season was a hard one for me, I didn’t get out as much as I had hoped and the little hunting I did wasn’t as fruitful as I needed it to be. I didn’t shoot a deer this year and I didn’t get as many squirrels as I usually do. On the plus side, I did spend some time grouse hunting and actually came away with several grouse. I also did really well on ducks this year. I didn’t get out very many times but my good friend Eric Passe down in Wabasha put me on some ducks on the days I did get out, so I have plenty of duck in the freezer.


I don’t know what it is about ducks, but I have an affection for them that I don’t have for other animals I hunt. Maybe it is the fact that ducks were the very first thing I ever hunted. Or maybe it is the people that I have hunted ducks with. Either way, ducks and duck hunting are just part of who I am and what I do. 


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Vino 101: J’accuse! Wine frauds and scandals

roman god wine

While the wine trade enjoys a romantic public image, it is a business, and a cutthroat one at that. And, like any other business, it has had its share of unscrupulous operators. The first fraud involving wine probably arose shortly after it was initially recognized as a valuable commodity many thousands of years ago, and the ensuing years have only seen the schemes grow more ingenious, even as more controls have been put in place to stop them. 


The history of scandal in the wine business is not only long and colorful; it also has much to say about our complicated relationship with this complicated beverage. Wine may be the most regulated drink in the world, and yet it remains surprisingly easy for knaves and scoundrels to exploit our fundamental gullibility, credulousness, and insecurity about it. 


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Hunting for Dinner: Attempting the perfect polenta


Nobody is ever going to mistake me for a vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like vegetables. I just don’t think I could live off them alone. After all, meat is a central part of most everything I do. I hunt, fish and trap a lot of meat. There really isn’t anything out there that I won’t eat. 


But that said, it is probably time I started making more vegetable-themed meals. I don’t even know what is considered vegetarian.  I have a few friends and family members that are vegetarians but they still eat fish and eggs and cheese. I’m not sure that counts as being vegetarian but what do I know. 


 My interest in vegetables has grown ever since planting my first garden a few years ago. I do a fair amount of canning and freezing and enjoy vegetables from my garden year-round. I enjoy them next to some kind of meat, as a side dish. I have never really considered them anything other than a side dish until recently. 

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Kids Cook French: Eggs Jeannette

pepin cover

As a society, we have tried to encourage kids to eat healthy foods by hiding them, disguising them as something else, or pouring processed cheese sauce on them, and I think that we do a disservice to children by doing so. Children don’t come into the world eating only chicken nuggets, pizza, and french fries. They will eat the food that they are given. That’s the food that they will become used to and like.


So, if we feed them only “kid” food, those are the tastes they will develop. If, however, we feed them all sorts of foods, they will eat them as well. Our daughter, Shorey, eats almost everything. Now, though, at ten years old, she doesn’t like asparagus, tripe, polenta, sweet potatoes, or head cheese. We’re okay with that — and her grandfather says that she will change anyway.


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Kitchen DIY: Tumeric and cumin spiced potatoes

tumeric cumin potatoes

The potato craving usually hits hard in the winter when I need some good ol’ comfort food that will stick to my ribs and satisfy my need for warmth — if only for a while. These potatoes, spiced with turmeric and green chilies does just that.


I usually use sweet potatoes in my cooking since it's the healthier option and they contain a ton of good stuff, especially vitamins A and C. But for this recipe only a good old-fashioned potato will do, in a dish I call "batata fry."


Tear off a warm piece of ghee-soaked roti, use it to envelope a couple of spiced potatoes and a bit of the green chili and pop it into your mouth. With each bite, the warm heat from the green chilies will slowly creep into your body and the comfort of the potatoes will have you floating into an abyss of happiness. I would suggest grabbing a warm comfy blanket and head off for a nap after this comforting meal.  Sigh…


Batata Fry

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Cooking with Cast Iron: 4 reasons to love your cookware

cast iron

Having burned and scraped my way through various pots and pans and spent a pretty penny for new issues every five years or so, I have a few reasons for reverting to old ways and adopting cast iron into my cookware family.


Formed by a pouring molten pig iron into casts, the technology behind the creation of this age-tested cookware is very simple. The earliest references to civilization’s use of cast iron can be traced back to fourth century BC and its debut into the kitchen scene was around the 17th century. 


Though the cast iron skillet was chucked aside by most and Teflon-coated pans became commonplace, there are many worthy qualities to be examined and preserved. Here are four reasons you should consider giving this time-honored cookware a try:


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