cooking

  • A ran­dom sur­plus of sea­sonal veg­eta­bles may pose a prob­lem worth solv­ing.

    Com­ing out of a flush hol­i­day pantry or work­ing through a fat CSA box, par­tic­u­larly with seem­ingly incom­pat­i­ble or unusual fresh ingre­di­ents, may trip us up at first.

    Take a sec­ond look at what there is to work with in the kitchen. Fen­nel, cele­riac and but­ter­cup squash…then what?

    After a bit of head scratch­ing, turn to an inter­net search for a blog post spout­ing the ben­e­fits of that pecu­liar ingre­di­ent. A recipe pos­si­bil­ity is cer­tain to fol­low.

    A wide spec­trum of menu options will be pre­sented. Decide first on which meal solu­tion to tackle. Break­fast, lunch or din­ner? Snack or appe­tizer? That answer will clear a path to the next hur­dle.

    Cooked or served raw will be the next line to cross. Var­i­ous cook­ing meth­ods will pro­duce com­pletely dif­fer­ent tastes and tex­tures. Com­pare a crisp, crunchy car­rot to that of one, moist and soft, roasted in a hot oven.

    Roast­ing ver­sus grilling pro­duces dif­fer­ent results. Sautéing ver­sus pan fried yields takes it in yet another direc­tion.

    The pop­u­lar­ity of fresh pick­les lends itself to con­vert­ing some of these more obscure veg­gies.

    Thinly shaved, juli­enned and whole items brined or soaked with sweet and sour spices make for good snack­ing and gift giving.
  • Good news for fruit lovers after the Thanks­giv­ing feast. Apples and cit­rus fruits begin to dom­i­nate pro­duce stands and farmer’s mar­kets.

    No need for unwar­ranted com­par­isons. Both fruit fam­i­lies con­tribute to bev­er­ages, snacks or meals this time of year.

    Ver­sa­tile and dis­tinc­tive, each cat­e­gory seems to have end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties as new vari­eties become avail­able through­out the sea­son.

    Ambrosia, Hon­ey­crisp, Opal or Sweet Tango apples remind us that there is a favored choice for every taste pro­file. Sweet and crisp, choose the one that fits out of hand or bak­ing needs.

    Tiny Lady apples and other minia­ture vari­eties range from bril­liant red to golden yel­low with red blush. They run from sweet to tart in taste and are good for hand-​eating or cook­ing. They make for par­tic­u­larly good gar­nishes and fresh décor ingre­di­ents dur­ing win­ter months and upcom­ing hol­i­day celebrations.
  • It’s not that we hate cake. Most of us have enjoyed a deca­dent slice of choco­late, coconut or red vel­vet cel­e­bra­tory cake before.

    It tasted great as we toasted the bride and groom, grad­u­ate, retiree or anniver­sary couple.

    Birth­day cakes are a bit dif­fer­ent and very per­sonal. Young ones get tur­tles, trains and car­toon char­ac­ter cakes molded and dec­o­rated to their surprise.

    Teens fre­quently bake their own or one for their friend. They choose ice cream cakes, fun­fetti or Oreo cookie cake. Cup­cakes included for teens and sweet­ness is off the charts.

    Adults get the wide open cake range from car­rot with cream cheese frost­ing to molten choco­late lava and every­thing in-​between.

    Birth­day choices run the spec­trum with­out any guilt over bak­ery pur­chased cakes. Bundts and spe­cialty types go over the top on stun­ning designs. Where to place the can­dles might prob­lem­atic between the swirls, curls, rib­bons and fresh flower petals.

  • Sure­fire sea­sonal items are the things we antic­i­pate with glee and giddy. The dev­as­tat­ing losses of the Cal­i­for­nia cherry crop this year make the 2019 North­west fruit even more desir­able.

    Cher­ries are one of the fresh­est pro­duce items avail­able for a very short dura­tion in the sum­mer.

    Tree-​ripened, they are gen­er­ally har­vested, packed and shipped within two days, start to fin­ish.

    North­west grow­ing regions are scat­tered through­out Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, Idaho, Utah, and Mon­tana. Small dif­fer­ences in the micro­cli­mates allow cher­ries through­out the region to ripen at dif­fer­ent times through the sea­son.

    As har­vests win­dows depend on weather, Mother Nature had a heavy hand in this year’s late start. The sea­son has finally arrived. Now through August, we expect to enjoy scrump­tious North­west cherry varieties.

  • Chan­nel surf­ing through the tele­vi­sion cook­ing shows usu­ally yields at least one good prac­ti­cal tip.

    If its not about learn­ing some­thing new, then it def­i­nitely serves up a friendly reminder.

    The use of fresh culi­nary herbs is one such recent prompt. Any recipe really comes alive with the power of fresh herbs.

    How­ever sub­tle or heavy-​handed in use, herbs have the magic to trans­form any appe­tizer, entrée or dessert. Con­sider their astound­ing sen­sory appeal. Visual, taste and smell. Inhale.

    Coin­ci­dence to the tele­vi­sion watch­ing week­end was atten­dance at a din­ner party of a really fan­tas­tic home cook. Full dis­clo­sure, she is an indus­try pro­fes­sional who knows her way around good food, excep­tional restau­rants and many signed cook books.

  • Thanks­giv­ing left­overs are a bet for at least one good sand­wich or warm plate of com­fort post hol­i­day feast.

    If soups, sal­ads and sides don’t lend a cer­tain kitchen inspi­ra­tion to the day after foods, rethink the approach.

    A few sim­ple fresh ingre­di­ents will ignite a spark to the dol­drums of those glass dishes stacked in the fridge.

    Intro­duce gin­ger root, cilantro, edamame and shi­take mush­rooms for a boost of fla­vor to any bowl of Asian noo­dles or rice dish. Spice it up with chili pep­per paste (kochu­jang) or chili pep­per flakes (kochukaru).

    Fresh herbs like basil, mint and Ital­ian pars­ley boost taste buds with a dif­fer­ent take to cold sal­ads. Tar­ragon or baby dill move things in an alto­gether new direc­tion.

    Peas, arti­choke hearts and fen­nel bulbs and fronds add more than just bright green­ery. Allow the dis­tinc­tive tex­tures and extra­or­di­nary fla­vors to sur­prise the palette. It’s not grandma’s turkey salad if wal­nuts, apple chunks and curry pow­der get folded in to the mix.

  • The 2019 Lunar New Year starts on the fifth of Feb­ru­ary. Com­ing off the Year of the Dog, this is the begin­ning of the Year of the Pig in the Chi­nese zodiac. The ele­ment for the year is Earth.

    The promise for the new year is one of joy, cel­e­bra­tion and suc­cess in all areas of life.

    The pig (known also as the boar) is said to be gen­er­ous, social and sta­ble.

    An Earth Pig year com­bines a real­is­tic but happy-​go-​lucky socia­ble pig com­bined with the steady and sen­si­ble char­ac­ter­is­tics of Earth, it her­alds a reward­ing and pros­per­ous year. This will be a year to enjoy friend­ships and social con­tacts and come together for the com­mon good.

  • Happy Potato Lover’s Month! Learn all about fin­ger­ling pota­toes.

  • Turmeric: what it is, health ben­e­fits, prepa­ra­tion, usage.
  • Folk­lore and super­sti­tion pre­vail in the kitchen on New Year’s Day.

    What we eat on day one may well set the course for all the days to fol­low in 2019. Many cul­tures look to foods that are round or shaped like a ring will bring things full cir­cle. This sig­ni­fies good luck.

    For­ward move­ment, good health and pros­per­ity are all wel­comed as we cel­e­brate the com­ing days ahead.

    In Hol­land, by exam­ple, a round frit­ter made of raisins and apples is a New Year’s Day favorite. The tra­di­tional Dutch treat may, in fact, be the orig­i­nal donut. What a way to start to the New Year!

    Some fam­i­lies choose to assem­ble twelve round fruits, one for each month, to usher in the new year. Gather up oranges, grape­fruit, quince, pome­gran­ate, grapes, per­sim­mons, figs and apples for this fresh offer­ing. The healthy mon­tage will only lead to wise per­sonal choices for good eat­ing in the com­ing year. That is a cus­tom worth get­ting used to.
  • The cal­en­dar page says Novem­ber so all bets are off. The imme­di­ate feel of this new month takes on a more fes­tive and impres­sive aura.

    Maybe we start to pay closer atten­tion to every detail of the plate. Is it pos­si­ble to have even more col­ors avail­able when using fresh ingre­di­ents this month?

    The shift towards apples, pears and cit­rus is evi­dent as they crowd out peaches and nec­tarine dis­plays. Hard squashes and root veg­eta­bles make their way to menu selec­tions at food­ser­vice venues.

    Besides pump­kin every­thing (food and bev­er­ages), there are some easy ways to add drama to the plate. Take Sat­suma man­darins, com­ing on region­ally through­out Cal­i­for­nia, are a good start to glam­our.

    These delight­ful hand fruits have a zip peel and make the per­fect any­time snack. When the indi­vid­ual seg­ments are sep­a­rated, they brighten up a morn­ing break­fast and do more than dec­o­rate a sup­per dish. They perk up a ho-​hum serv­ing right away with a pop of color.
  • Every­one loves pie, right? No argu­ment there. The only thing that might come close to sur­pass­ing pie is to have an indi­vid­ual hand pie all to one’s self.

    We’re not talk­ing about those gar­den vari­ety, store bought, waxed paper wrapped, card­board crust, sug­ary coated, fake fill­ing small pies. Nope.

    Instead, the bar is set high for ten­der, flaky pie crusts, ready for portable, lovely cre­ations burst­ing with local ingre­di­ents.

    Crisp, cool evenings war­rant get­ting back into the kitchen with the folks we love to hang out with. Hand pies are the stuff that mem­o­ries are made of when we include friends, fam­ily mem­bers and even cowork­ers if one is so inclined.

    It really doesn’t mat­ter if scratch bak­ing skills are not per­fected. There are plenty of “secret recipes and tips” avail­able to make the process less daunting.
  • The beauty of sum­mer pro­duce is that meal options become more abun­dant with very lit­tle effort. Life activ­i­ties rule. Exces­sive time in the kitchen is counter to the casual vibe we all desire.

    Lucky then that fresh herbs, toma­toes, squashes, corn, avo­ca­dos, and let­tuces lay a foun­da­tion for sat­is­fy­ing one bowl or one plate meals.

    Pro­tein addi­tions (eggs, poul­try, meat, fish, tofu or grains) enhance an already quick fix ensem­ble of col­or­ful and tasty veg­eta­bles.

    Grilled or roasted arti­chokes, egg­plant or sweet pota­toes boost inher­ently good char­ac­ter­is­tics. Their smoky or earth­i­ness traits stand up to any culi­nary scrutiny.

    Secret weapons like a very good Bal­samic vine­gar or honey-​whiskey glaze build more depth and dis­tinc­tion. Hardly any prepa­ra­tion is due when sim­ple and high qual­ity ingre­di­ents are in the bag.

  • Nearly six years ago, meal kits com­pa­nies took the food scene by storm in the United States.

    They looked to be the major dis­rup­tors in how peo­ple choose to pro­cure, pre­pare and eat food.

    As Amer­i­can food cul­ture evolves, what we eat, when we eat and how we eat are all open to per­sonal inter­pre­ta­tion.

    The crowded space of meal kit com­pa­nies is fac­ing fierce com­pe­ti­tion as meal sub­scribers are select­ing from vast options for con­ve­nience, value and vari­ety.

    Gro­cery indus­try “brick and mor­tar” spend­ing rep­re­sents about $650 bil­lion, with a “B”, dol­lars in the U.S. The expe­ri­ence of daily pro­vi­sions can be frus­trat­ing at best with lots of energy devoted to meal plan­ning, gro­cery shop­ping and finally preparation.

  • About the Pro­duce Beat: David John hosts this weekly pro­gram regard­ing every­thing you ever wanted to know about fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles: selec­tion, stor­age, prepa­ra­tion, vari­eties, sea­sonal avail­abil­ity, trivia, and his per­sonal secrets about how to enjoy pro­duce.
  • Humans have been pick­ling and pre­serv­ing food for nearly 5000 years.

    Queen Cleopa­tra attrib­uted her good health and remark­able looks to her indul­gent diet of pick­les.

    The United States gov­ern­ment rationed pick­les in the 1940’s, dur­ing World War II. Forty per­cent of the nation’s pro­duc­tion went to our armed forces.

    Aunt Bee (the fic­tional tele­vi­sion char­ac­ter of the 1960’s Andy Grif­fith Show) entered her home­made pick­les in a local con­test, cre­at­ing angst in the fam­ily over her “kerosene cucum­bers”.

    Over cen­turies, the love affair for pick­led foods has only grown stronger. Cur­rent pickle trends move well past a cucum­bers only rule. A wave of “DIY” pick­les of fruits and veg­eta­bles in acidic baths or brines keeps us inter­ested.

    Sweet, sour, salty, spicy or hot cre­ative and com­plex com­bi­na­tions make us pickle happy. Cus­tomized blends of vine­gars, salts and spices are the for­mula to win­ning secret recipes.


  • Rhubarb: sea­sons, field vs. hot­house, how to use.
  • It could very well be a savory pear tart. Or a car­rot souf­flé or even a Brus­sels sprouts Cae­sar salad with pecans that starts a hol­i­day dis­pute.

    A seem­ingly nice sur­prise and uncon­ven­tional approach to fruits and veg­eta­bles this time of year might sound per­fectly ratio­nal.

    Thanks­giv­ing is a time to gather with friends and fam­ily around a table that holds mostly tra­di­tional favorite dishes.

    The mere thought or sug­ges­tion of sneak­ing in a new take on a famil­iar salad, side, appe­tizer or dessert may be grounds for a fam­ily fuss.

    Chances are good that if the group assem­bled at your Thanks­giv­ing table has been there year-​after-​year, the expec­ta­tion is to serve exactly those same “tried and true” dishes that have been plated before.
  • Sum­mer eat­ing occa­sions are inher­ently more for­giv­ing. Many foods are hand held, eaten out­doors and have a cer­tain casual put-​together-​look about them.

    No need for name call­ing or sham­ing, but sloppy look­ing foods get by this time of year out of sheer good­ness.

    Less for­mal pre­sen­ta­tions give us more time pool­side or on the patio. We’re more inter­ested in less meal prep and more face time with our peeps.

    A Cap­rese salad of rough cut toma­toes, torn basil leaves and ran­dom Buf­falo moz­zarella pieces is quite suit­able. Pep­pered and oiled, this sum­mer cold plate rivals any pris­tine sliced and shin­gled ver­sion.

    Sum­mer fruits and veg­eta­bles are well groomed for a quick toss with herbs, dress­ings and light sea­son­ings. A squeeze of lime, lemon or grape­fruit may be all chopped and sliced mel­ons need.

    Grilled corn is a stand out and stand alone messy food to rav­ish over bar­be­cues and cam­pouts. Shaved from the cob, the cooked ker­nels pro­vide a back­drop for wickedly good sal­sas, sal­ads or relishes.

  • Sum­mer eat­ing occa­sions are inher­ently more for­giv­ing. Many foods are hand held, eaten out­doors and have a cer­tain casual put-​together-​look about them.

    No need for name call­ing or sham­ing, but sloppy look­ing foods get by this time of year out of sheer good­ness.

    Less for­mal pre­sen­ta­tions give us more time pool­side or on the patio. We’re more inter­ested in less meal prep and more face time with our peeps.

    A Cap­rese salad of rough cut toma­toes, torn basil leaves and ran­dom Buf­falo moz­zarella pieces is quite suit­able. Pep­pered and oiled, this sum­mer cold plate rivals any pris­tine sliced and shin­gled ver­sion.

    Sum­mer fruits and veg­eta­bles are well groomed for a quick toss with herbs, dress­ings and light sea­son­ings. A squeeze of lime, lemon or grape­fruit may be all chopped and sliced mel­ons need.