September 14, 2012
“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas; don’t burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don’t put it through a press. I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic. And try roasting garlic. It gets mellower and sweeter if you roast it whole, still on the clove, to be squeezed out later when it’s soft and brown. Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
— Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Mr. Bourdain has said it perfectly. Garlic is one of those transcendent ingredients that will permeate a dish with its heady flavor and aroma from just a small clove, it’s in nearly everything worth eating, and it should be treated with respect.
September 5, 2012
Okay, hear me out on this one. I know that dehydrating citrus zest isn’t nearly as widely practiced or ballyhooed as, say, making stock, but it should be. Think about all that orange juice we consume. All that fresh-squeezed lemon juice going into your vinaigrettes. The limes you squeeze over guacamole and Thai food.
Now think about how often you need lemon or lime zest for a completely different recipe, and have to go out and buy more citrus which sits in your fridge looking pale and naked after you’ve stripped it of zest.
The best way to get around this scenario is the waste-not-want-not method: just zest your citrus any time you’re going to use it for just its juice or flesh, and let the zest try out before bottling it and saving it. One minute of extra work and no fancy dehydrator necessary; since the bits of zest are so small and oily, they’ll dry out quite well on your counter. It doesn’t have the nose-smacking pungency of the fresh stuff, but it makes up for it by working its way into dishes you’d never think to pull out a whole lemon for — but since you’ve got a bottle of the stuff there on your shelf, well, why not?
Plus, it makes the house smell really good while it dries. Continue Reading
August 17, 2012
When we go to a carte-blanche meal and the server asks me if there’s anything I don’t eat, my answer’s simple: “raw onions.”
I was an extremely picky eater as a kid — being a spoiled only child will do that to you — but I have gotten over most of my food prejudices. After seeing the light about tomatoes, I have been systematically trying the foods I held a prejudice against, trying to present them in a way that would turn my disposition (read: covered in cheese and/or bacon and/or deep fried). Mushrooms are now my friends. Brussels sprouts are addictive when deep-roasted and covered in a sweet-spicy fish sauce dressing. Snails? Slather those bitches in butter and garlic and bring ’em on. But no matter how many variations I try of raw onions with not a wisp of heat put to them, I always wince and move them to the side of my plate.
It’s better than eating no onions at all, right? I can certainly get down with an onion ring now. I accept that sweated onions are essential for… well… almost everything, but soups certainly. But my favorite way of preparing onions is, unsurprisingly, the least oniony of all: it’s onions taken past mere cooking into candy-land.
August 9, 2012
I used to hate tomatoes. No joke. When I was in high school, and well into college, I refused to eat fresh tomatoes unless absolutely necessary. I was fine with tomato products — after all, what kind of person eats a white pizza anyway? — but present me with a sandwich with fresh tomato and I would pick out any offending slices.
Wrong. I was so, so wrong.
I saw the light when I was presented with a slice of salt-and-peppered black brandywine tomato at the Santa Monica farmer’s market. This was nothing like the anemic specimens I was used to seeing at the grocery store. Richly red and green and brown, it promised real flavor, not the bland wateriness of the tomatoes of my past. Chew, chew, swallow, and I was a changed girl.