how-​to

  • A Few Good Eggs

    Kids of all ages have per­fected the art and tra­di­tion of egg dying for Easter.

    From waxy pen­cils to small tablets of color, not much has changed in the dec­o­ra­tion process. Or has it?

    The kitchen pantry is a stu­dio of nat­ural ingre­di­ents and inter­est­ing col­ors wait­ing to be used. Com­mon food items, and food waste in some cases, will trans­form an ordi­nary hard boiled egg into a beau­ti­ful show­piece.

    Nat­ural dying ele­ments have long been used in fab­rics and paper. Porous eggshells invite color no mat­ter the source.

    Red cab­bage and beets, brown, red or yel­low onion skins con­tribute to an array of egg color pos­si­bil­i­ties. So will cof­fee, tea, and dried spices.
  • A-​MAIZ-​ING!

    Two quin­tes­sen­tial foods that define sum­mer are water­melon and corn. By July fourth, both items are on house menus and in high demand.

    Water­melon takes a back seat to noth­ing in the pro­duce win col­umn. For now, set it aside for a bit of corn amaze­ment.

    On its own mer­its, a sin­gle but­tered ear of sweet corn is supremely sat­is­fy­ing. What we can do with these bright green husks and their sweet nuggets inside is noth­ing short of sur­pris­ing.

    Don’t believe there is any­thing more to dis­cover about sweet corn? Have you made or tried corn ice cream? How about a savory whipped corn dip to upstage hum­mus with dip­ping veg­eta­bles?

    Put on that corn apron and get busy with shrimp and corn chow­der or a lob­ster or crab boil with corn as a trusty side kick.

    Nancy Silverton’s L.A. restau­rant Pizze­ria Mozza cel­e­brates fresh Cal­i­for­nia pro­duce. She serves an upgraded grilled cheese sand­wich filled with a charred sweet corn-​studded blend of nutty English-​cheddar and sharp cacio­cav­allo.

    What­ever the cook­ing treat­ment, corn is like the unex­pected happy sur­prise to the main attrac­tion. Grilled corn plays so well with other fresh sum­mer items.

  • Cher­ries!

    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.

  • Deja Food

    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.

  • Fat Tues­day

    Car­ni­val sea­son always cul­mi­nates on Fat Tues­day, the day before Ash Wednes­day, the first day of Lent.

    Peo­ple lucky enough to visit New Orleans the week lead­ing up to Mardi Gras will enjoy a feast of foods and sig­na­ture bev­er­ages.

    Influ­ence comes largely from Cre­ole and Cajun cuisines. Clas­sic crowd pleasers include gumbo, jam­bal­aya and étouf­fée.

    Loca­tion aside, plan a cel­e­bra­tion dur­ing the days of Car­ni­val. High­light slow cooked, fla­vor rich meals that can feed a large table.

    Build­ing depth in dishes is easy when it comes to mas­ter­ing the all pow­er­ful Miropoix. Three veg­etable basics — car­rots, cel­ery and onions com­prise this start to many fine dishes.
  • Food Hacks

    Bril­liant food ideas that save some kitchen time, improve taste or ele­vate pre­sen­ta­tion are those which get adopted and are used over and over again.

    Youtube is full of amus­ing video con­tent that show the magic of every­thing from using ice cube trays to den­tal floss in the kitchen.

    Tips for mak­ing the per­fect poached egg or sin­gle serve gua­camole are not exactly life-​altering. They can be enter­tain­ing and maybe even make us feel smarter.

    The tricks of putting a microwave oven to good use are fas­ci­nat­ing. Dry­ing fresh herbs or effort­lessly peel­ing gar­lic and toma­toes put heat­ing water or broth on the bot­tom rung.

    Other brain­storms are fun and make impres­sive food theatre.

  • Greens & Berries

    Decem­ber hol­i­days beg for some décor that is fresh and nat­u­rally fra­grant to com­bat the assault of plas­tic, glit­ter all things arti­fi­cial.

    Yule­tide cheer has evolved from past tra­di­tions into mod­ern day dec­o­ra­tions using ever­greens, berries, fruits and lights.

    Gar­lands, wreaths and can­dles were once the only sure thing when it comes to door­ways and man­tels.

    The sig­nif­i­cance of a wreath, sym­bol­iz­ing ever­last­ing life, goes back to ancient Greek and Roman times.

    A renewed approach to fresh arrange­ments main­tains mean­ing to the com­po­nents. Con­tem­po­rary designs appeal to a much broader con­sumer base.
  • Hand Pies

    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.
  • Han­dle with Care

    Far too often, lack of care or inex­pe­ri­ence col­lide with pos­i­tive con­sumer encoun­ters. That clash adversely affects fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles.

    Prod­uct qual­ity and prod­uct con­di­tion are two sep­a­rate issues. How we han­dle fresh pro­duce can def­i­nitely impact the lat­ter.

    Care­ful han­dling will max­i­mize fresh­ness, and add to shelf life or serv­ing appear­ance. It makes sense then that mis­han­dling is counter pro­tect­ing the inven­tory and in-​stock items.

    The influx of new employ­ees through­out the food indus­try requires train­ing and coach­ing on the sub­ject of han­dling. Proper receiv­ing is the first step in main­tain­ing good qual­ity stan­dards.

    Observ­ing clean­li­ness of truck trail­ers, inte­rior vehi­cle tem­per­a­tures and neat and straight pal­let stacks are a few signs that a deliv­ery is accept­able. Look for car­tons or cases that have not been split open or torn.

    Cold chain pro­to­cols are impor­tant year round. As we approach cooler sea­sons, chances are that pro­duce is trav­el­ling to us from far­ther away places. Keep­ing prod­uct in best tem­per­a­ture ranges is crit­i­cal to longevity. This goes for every­thing from berries to zucchini.

  • Hol­i­day Cheer

    Fes­tiv­i­ties of the sea­son yield to indulging in hol­i­day cheer. Hot and cold bev­er­ages, alco­holic and non, have grown up by using bet­ter ingre­di­ents.

    Craft cock­tails dis­tin­guish them­selves by their bold inclu­sions of fresh, well-​balanced ingre­di­ents.

    Happy hour has got­ten more cheer­ful by elim­i­nat­ing pre­dictable canned juices and pow­dered mixes.

    Try fresh blood oranges, tan­ger­ines, lemons, limes, grape­fruits, and even mel­ons for the body or base of a cock­tail or hol­i­day bev­er­age. With purer fla­vors and col­ors, there are no addi­tional addi­tives and preser­v­a­tives to weigh down or mask the drinks. Antiox­i­dants and polyphe­nols from most fresh fruits are just an added bonus.

    Small batched drinks using house-​made syrups and infu­sions are keep­ing it real. Shaken or stirred, even the ice mat­ters more these days. Pre­ferred are the large, clean cubes that don’t rapidly melt and dilute the drink.
    From mulled wines to sparkling drinks, unpack a lineup of good sips through fresh, sea­sonal and bold fla­vors. Fresh herbs add excite­ment and awaken the senses. Mint, rose­mary and thyme, whole or mud­dle, impart a unique taste pro­file. Pome­gran­ate juice and arils come to mind.
  • Keep­ing It Sim­ple

    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.

  • Lighten Up!

    Zuc­chini and other sum­mer squash vari­eties seem to be every­where. What are we wait­ing for such a squash sur­plus at our fin­ger­tips?

    If pasta noo­dles are on the table at least once a week, this is the best sea­son to go for a light­ened up ver­sion with noo­dles cen­ter­plate.

    Alfredo, mari­nara and pesto clas­sics make for irre­sistible sauces on top of squash noo­dles.

    Grain free squash cut in either wide rib­bons or curly or flat thin noo­dles beckon to kitchen enthu­si­asts to explore all options. A sim­ple dressed up top­per of mint, basil, gar­lic and lemon juice keeps life sim­ple.

    Asian noo­dle bowls are a world apart from Italy. Pad Thai, lo mein, stir fries and broth­ier dishes meant to be slurped give way to robust flavors.
  • Made to Last

    Amer­i­can cooks have a mad crush on cast iron skil­lets and cook­ware. More than durable, these cook pans are long on tra­di­tion and easy to use.

    From pork roast to cherry pie, results in just this one pan style of cook­ing are pretty fan­tas­tic.

    Brand names like Lodge, Gris­wold and Wag­ner are fre­quently found at week­end yard sales. Vin­tage pans go rel­a­tively unno­ticed by adult kids edit­ing stuff for estate sales.

    A keen eye scours trade­marks and emblems to iden­tify a rusty, crusty old pan as a pos­si­ble trea­sure. A bit of clean­ing and re-​seasoning will bring a cast iron skil­let back to “work­ing in the kitchen” sta­tus.

    One pos­si­bil­ity of dis­tin­guish­ing an authen­tic cast iron pan are the sides. The depth (fry­ing pans are shal­lower than skil­lets) and the angle (sauté pans have straight sides while fry­ing pans have flared sides). Some saucepans have pour spouts. In older pans, the pour spouts were big­ger.

    Most older pans had two pour spouts while newer ones might have one. Con­tem­po­rary cast iron pans might also have a helper han­dle and non-​stick coat­ings, which are both newer.

  • Mak­ing the Cut

    Sure, there are more ways than one to accom­plish any given task. Or cut a melon, pineap­ple or mango.

    When ama­teur knife skills clash with more expert tech­niques, there is a lot to be learned.

    Any­one can wield a knife blade. Exact­ing just the right cuts to extract every bit of fruit with­out waste can be tricky. Doing so safely is yet another feat.

    Round-​shaped fruits are espe­cially unruly. Pic­ture a large can­taloupe or hon­ey­dew melon rolling around the coun­ter­top. There is a ten­dency to judo chop it dead cen­ter to stop that action.

    Deft hands will exer­cise patience and exe­cute a plan.

    One clever move is to first cut both ends of the melon off. This cre­ates a flat base on which to stand the melon on end.
  • Marme­lada

    Food his­to­ri­ans credit Por­tugese cooks for the tasty spread we’ve come to know as mar­malade.

    Orig­i­nally made of quince (marmelo is the fruit’s Por­tugese name), the sweet/​tart gel like paste is used in desserts, breads and cakes.

    Quince are a rel­a­tively unusual fruit in that they are rarely, if ever, eaten raw. Mak­ing them into a jelly/​preserve/​compote allows them to be savored well past their sea­son.

    In Brazil, most marme­los are boiled, sweet­ened and then reduced to a thick jelly-​like paste called marme­lada.

    Quince are very tart and tan­nic, mak­ing them almost impos­si­ble to eat in their nat­ural state. Dur­ing cook­ing, their tan­nins mel­low and change color, giv­ing cooked quince a lovely pink-​to-​reddish hue.
  • Mulling it Over

    Stay­ing in on these cold win­ter nights is eas­ier to swal­low with some­thing warm to sip on. Mulled ciders and wines are just thing for this end of year con­tem­pla­tive period.

    Hol­i­day enter­tain­ing was the per­fect excuse for crowd-​pleasing pots of spicy, fra­grant hot drinks.

    With­out hav­ing any large group gath­er­ings, it’s still imper­a­tive this sea­son to cre­ate spe­cial scaled down moments of com­fort and cheer. Mulled drinks take top con­sid­er­a­tion.

    Smaller recipe ver­sions of mulled con­coc­tions will gen­er­ously serve two to four peo­ple. Don’t skimp.

    Intox­i­cat­ing kitchen aro­mas while mulling will come mostly from cit­rus choices, sliced apples, star anise, cin­na­mon sticks and whole cloves. Fresh gin­ger root, rose­mary sprigs and cit­rus peel do dou­ble duty as both gar­nish and ingre­di­ent.

    Hot sip­ping drinks are meant for slow­ing the frenzy of the hol­i­day pace. Uti­lize what is on hand or add a few key items to the shop­ping list. Check the pantry first to see what is already on the shelf for a quick “pick me up” cup of some­thing special.
  • Patty Cakes

    As the eight days of Hanukkah fin­ish, we are gen­tly reminded of those lovely fried gems that are cus­tom­ar­ily eaten dur­ing the course of the Fes­ti­val of Lights.

    Tra­di­tion serves up golden brown latkes. One does not have to be Jew­ish to appre­ci­ate this espe­cially del­i­cate good bite. Nor do we need to con­fine our latke indul­gence to the few short days of the hol­i­day sea­son.

    Latkes (potato pan­cakes) are tra­di­tion­ally topped with apple­sauce or sour cream. There are many new cre­ative vari­a­tions to these cakes and top­pings.

    The crisp, golden clas­sic is made of shred­ded rus­set pota­toes and grated fresh onions. Yukon gold or sweet pota­toes put a softer spin on the clas­sic.

    Other root veg­eta­bles like car­rots, turnips and parsnips sur­prise the pal­let in a new cake direc­tion. Include zuc­chini, cau­li­flower, apples, green onions and fresh herbs to amp up flavors.
  • Peace, Love & Pears

    Gin­ger­bread and hol­i­day spices are warm­ing from the inside out. Take com­fort and joy to the next level by includ­ing pears in those fes­tive prepa­ra­tions.

    Maybe the best part of pears this time of year is their acci­den­tal orna­men­tal nature. The sen­su­ous shapes and var­i­ous sizes and skin col­ors sug­gest end­less culi­nary pos­si­bil­i­ties. They pro­vide a fresh fruit com­po­nent in baked goods, sal­ads and entrees, while all at once insert high drama and art on the plate.

    Pears are very ver­sa­tile. In addi­tion to being served raw in almost any­thing, pears bake, poach, sauté, roast and grill very nicely. They can be made into pre­serves, jams and chut­neys which can be a sea­sonal boost to pan­cakes, waf­fles and toast.

    Whole, sliced, chopped or chun­ked, pears offer great fla­vor in addi­tion to tex­ture and visual inter­est to many recipes.

    Firmer vari­eties like Bosc, Anjou, or Con­corde are best for heated appli­ca­tions— poach­ing, bak­ing and grilling. Because their flesh is denser, they hold their shape bet­ter. Their inher­ent fla­vor is not over­pow­ered by other cook­ing ingredients.
  • Peaches & Cream

    The taste of sum­mer might best be summed up in one bite. That’s if that bite is a juicy, ripe peach.

    One of sev­eral so called stone fruits, they fall into one of two dis­tinc­tive cat­e­gories. Cling­stone and free­stone are the peach camps.

    Cling­stones are known for their firm flesh that stub­bornly clings to the stone, mak­ing it hard to sep­a­rate with­out man­gling the fruit.

    Free­stone vari­eties, on the other hand, are easy to sep­a­rate the pit from the flesh. Cal­i­for­nia cling­stone peaches are best used for can­ning and freez­ing. Har­vest for these go roughly from mid-​July to mid-​September. Fresh mar­ket free­stone types are har­vested from April through Octo­ber.

    Both free­stone and cling­stone peaches have numer­ous vari­eties that dif­fer in skin color, flesh color, firm­ness, and juici­ness. Two of the most pop­u­lar vari­eties of yellow-​fleshed free­stone peaches are Ele­gant Lady and O’Henry. Other vari­eties include the Empress, Elberta, and Rio Oso Gem.

    Semi-​freestone or semi-​clingstone is a newer hybrid type of cling­stone and free­stone. It is good for using all around for both fresh and canned purposes.
  • Pickle Pantry

    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.