Recipes

Kitchen DIY: Making the most of real vanilla

Vanilla Bean

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice following saffron. Vanilla remains pricey (around $3.50 a pod) largely due to the fact that it is very labor-intensive and challenging to grow. Originally from Mexico, the vanilla orchards had a highly symbiotic relationship with its natural pollinator, the Mellipona bee. Man-made attempts to replicate what nature was doing best by artificially pollinating the plant were largely unsuccessful until the discovery that the vanilla plant could be hand pollinated, thus enabling the plant to be grown in areas outside of Mexico.

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Grilled Salad: Welcome to your new obsession

grilled salad

I still remember the first time I decided to grill salad. Still in culinary school and just learning about layering flavors, my class was focusing on a duck confit salad, and that dish seemed very heavy for traditional greens. Yet I didn't want to go down the familiar path of a frisee salad. So, I wondered: what if I grilled some romaine? My thought was that the smoky, charred flavor would really complement the duck but not overpower it. Using duck fat and sherry vinaigrette as dressing, I gave it a shot, and it turned out to be a huge hit. I've been grilling salad ever since.

 

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Seasonal Pick: Garlic scape chimichurri

garlic scape chimichurrie

Ah, summer. Farmers markets are hopping, CSAs start up again, and access to über fresh and local produce is finally easy once more. Except that in the first days of summer, the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash we love to gobble up aren’t ready yet. Instead, vegetables and herbs that may be less familiar — pak choi, fiddleheads, ramps, and garlic scapes — still grace the stands. 

 

I’ve learned two tricks over the years when it comes to approaching cooking with new foods and both have served me well. First, ask the vendor. What is this? To what is it similar? How do you like to cook with it? They almost always steer you in the right direction.

 

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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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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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Kitchen DIY: Cooking with acid

kinilaw

Cooking is simply defined as the preparation of food, typically using heat. In a biochemical process called denaturing, high temperatures from various methods such as grilling, braising or steaming alter proteins in meat and seafood, making them firmer (as with egg whites) or breaking down tissue to make them more tender (as with tough cuts like shanks). 

 

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Hunting for Dinner: Sandhill crane au poivre

jamie carlson at cooks

I have been working with Cooks of Crocus Hill on a setting up a wild game cooking class and earlier this month, my first class took place. It was a huge step outside my comfort zone and I will admit that I was nervous as hell going into it. I think as a cook I am always afraid that I don’t know as much as I think I do and that I am going to fail. Or worse, one of my dishes is going to fail. 

 

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New Year Resolution: Cook like my great-grandmother

alice

I'm something of an industrial-size resolution creator. I love the huge, sweeping type of resolutions that involve dismantling my normal way of thinking or operating in the world — and I don't reserve them for New Years, although that's a traditionally fun kickoff for some of them. 

 

Even though there are approximately 5,000 blog posts out there right now about how resolutions don't work, I think the inclination to make these simple vows is tempting for a reason. Who doesn't love a fresh start, a sense of improvement, a brighter way forward instead of gloomy regrets? I do agree that some types of goals seem almost thwarted from the start, particularly those that are too vague — "I'm going to be a better person this year!" — or perhaps too ambitious or restrictive. 

 

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Kitchen Basics: Making homemade ghee

ghee

Welcome to your new favorite fat.

 

Ghee is a form of clarified butter, which is just butter without the milk/dairy solids in it. It’s those solids that cause butter to scorch at a high temperature, which is why butter is not your best bet for sautéing or frying at high temperatures. However, with the solids removed, ghee has a higher smoke point even than olive oil and coconut oil, and those high temperatures become your friend again.

 

And it’s not just for cooking. You can use ghee in any way you might use butter: spread on bread or toast, or melted as a topping for meats or vegetables. Other benefits of ghee:

 

Dairy free: With nearly all of the milk solids (lactose and casein) removed, it can be tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. It’s Paleo-friendly as well.

 

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All Treats, No Tricks: How to de-junk Halloween for kids

halloween kid

With jumbo candy bags for sale everywhere right now, and ads blasting sugary treats to give out next week, it's easy to associate Halloween with "fun size" giveaways. But what I've discovered in teaching cooking to kids is that they can definitely be swayed away from that deluge of junk — you just have to get them in the kitchen.

 

When kids make up their own treats, they quickly catch on to the idea that it's okay to have them in moderation, especially if you create savory foods at the same time. Even in my adult classes, I've found that having a larger variety of dishes is most popular, leading to guilt-free portion sizes for desserts. 

 

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