No one likes to waste incredible bread, especially me and my neighborhood baker Taylor Petrehn. Since he and his brother Reagan opened 1900 Barker in Lawrence, Kansas, last year—dangerously just two blocks down the street—my husband, Sean, and I have been enjoying perfect croissants, meticulously sourced and brewed coffee, and at least a loaf of bread a week. And I find ways to use every crumb.
I know you can buy good smoked cheese in most every supermarket. And I love the typical kinds—cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, mozzarella. But what about other cheeses—would smoke add or subtract?
I’ve experimented with grilling cheeses, putting them directly over the fire—in the protective embrace of a cast iron pan (like provolone for the classic South America asado appetizer, provoleta) and right on the grates, like halloumi, paneer, and queso de freir. For this exploration, I wanted to try wetter, softer cheeses, grilling them indirect, surrounded with wood smoke.
At the cheese counter, I settled on a French feta, a rich goat cheese, and bocconcini. Then I had another thought: Could I infuse smoke flavor into ricotta? Into my basket went a container. Continue reading
For the last year I’ve been working with my friend Ricardo Salvador and the Union of Concerned Scientists, strategizing about our so-called food system and making healthy food affordable for everyone.
One upshot of this is a recipe video series called, appropriately enough, “Recipe for a Better Food System,” which connects great recipes to even better food policies.
The first video uses peak season tomatoes to get us talking about the people who get those tomatoes (and all our food) to our tables, and the reality of their working conditions. You’ll learn something, I hope, and maybe get some ideas for dinner.
You can also find the video on the Union of Concerned Scientists’ blog.
When I started writing How to Cook Everything in 1994, I had no idea it would become a franchise. Now, 20-plus years, many thousands of recipes, and five doorstopper books later, I realize the initial title—which was sort of tongue in cheek—should have told me something.
With How to Bake Everything, the newest installment, I’ve taken what has become my expected (one could say “well-known”) approach—flexibility, improvisation, and variations—and applied it to over 1,000 sweet and savory recipes. Modesty aside, if you want to learn how to bake, this is the place.
Many people believe that you’re either a cook or a baker, that cooking is an art and baking a science, that one is left brain and one is right brain. Nah. Even if you identify as a “cook” and have never considered yourself a baker, baking has plenty to offer you, and, with the exception of a few fancy pastries, its rules aren’t nearly as ironclad as all that. Besides, baking is, at its very core, communal; you don’t make a cake unless you’re planning to share, and we celebrate almost every one of life’s milestones with one.
It is true that the skill sets are slightly different, but if you can cook, you can bake, and that means everything, from real puff pastry to chocolate soufflés to vegan brownies to whole grain pancakes. And, with just a little experience under your belt, you can decide for yourself which baking rules to follow, which to break, and how to put together a sweet or savory treat to fit with your diet, timeline, or whatever you happen to have in the house at that very moment.
How to Bake Everything comes out October 4th, but you can pre-order your copy now.
Thanks for all of your support over the years, and happy baking.
By the second bite of the first meatball I knew the mountain of perfectly sauced fresh spaghetti dominating the bowl was coming home with me for frittata. I’m actually lying: I knew before the menus arrived at the table. Continue reading
By Mark Bittman
I was in Des Moines this past weekend (wasn’t everyone?), in part for the Niman Ranch “farmer appreciation dinner” as, more or less, an observer. The weekend was interesting not only for that but for a number of other reasons. Continue reading
This summer my husband and I vacationed in Rhode Island with our friends Dolores and Steve. Dolores is a Long Island girl who knows her way around fish; she’s particularly fond of seafood boils, which I’ve enjoyed at their house several times. We talked about making a classic version but decided to do it on the grill instead: We’d try wrapping the ingredients up in individual-serving foil packets and let them steam over the fire.
It ended up being great fun. We started by placing a sliced red potato in the center of a large sheet of heavy-duty foil (about 16 inches long), then put crab claws on the top of that, followed by 5 to 6 shrimp, and finally a handful of littleneck clams. We broke shucked ears of corn and placed them on either side of the seafood. The whole thing got a generous sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning (Dolores kept telling me to add more, and she was right—about 1 teaspoon per packet), a tablespoon of butter cut into bits, a shot of white wine (again Dolores’s excellent suggestion) and two thin lemon slices. And instead of including sausage in the packets, we decided to put it directly on the grill (linguica, since we were in Rhode Island).
Next came the crimping of the packets. Dolores insisted that there needed to be good height over the center, so that there would be room for the steam to collect, then condense and fall back onto the food. We ended up with kind of a foil fan affair. (My goal for next year is to add a swan’s neck at one end!) We used a gas grill that had seen better days. We put the packets and sausage over direct heat, with the burners up as high as they would go, and it still took the better part of half an hour for the potatoes to cook through.
With the mingling of the seafood juices, the wine, butter, and Old Bay, the final flavor was fantastic—especially the potatoes, which soaked it all up. And the char on the sausage was a great complement. We did agree that the seafood got overcooked because of the extra time the potatoes needed, and next year we’ll parboil the slices for a few minutes before building the packets. And we might try Alaskan king crab legs cut into smaller pieces (to make them fit) instead of the steamed crab legs they had at the fish store—they’ll be a lot easier to eat, instead of messing with a cracker. Vacation cooking—especially with a friend like Dolores—doesn’t get much better!
By Emily Stephenson
Last week, when it was over 100 degrees outside, I had a pie baked by a professional, and even her dough was crumbly (warm butter means crumbly dough). I appreciate that there is a fabulous bounty of fruit available during the summer, the stuff of luscious pie fillings, but hot weather makes getting a perfectly flaky crust difficult.
I didn’t realize this until I started baking my own pies last summer. After more than a few less-than-ideal pie crusts, I did some research beyond the recipe at hand. I’m happy to report that, just like in school, extra-credit work really does pay off.
In honor of the last month of summer, here is the most useful advice I’ve found in pursuit of a perfect pie crust:
- After adding a little water to the butter and flour mixture, pinch a bit of it between your fingertips. If it holds together, the dough is ready. While the dough is resting in the refrigerator, the water will continue to hydrate the flour. This way, you’ll use less water than if you were expecting the dough to form a ball, and your crust won’t be tough. (If you have a vacuum sealer, you can see this in action: the difference in texture between when you seal the dough and when you take it out 30 minutes later is pretty incredible. Removing all the air expedites the process.)
- Many recipes say the butter should be no larger than pea-sized when cut in, but that doesn’t mean they should be exactly pea-sized. When I first started making dough, I didn’t cut the butter into the flour enough. I had pieces of butter that were too large, which meant I had to use more water to get the dough to come together, and my end result was very tough crust. When you’re cutting in the butter, you’re looking for bits of butter of a variety of sizes, none of them larger than pea sized. This doesn’t matter as much if you are using a food processor, but if you’re cutting in the butter by hand, keep cutting a little more.
- Don’t rush the resting time. You can’t over-rest dough (within reason) but you can certainly start working it too soon. Leave it for an hour or more in the refrigerator.
Any other tips I’m missing? I’d love to hear from dedicated summertime pie bakers.
By Kerri Conan
Witness the benefit of getting to the farmers’ market when the first stalls open at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning: one-of-a-kind cabbage sprouts.
This is Lawrence, Kansas, in mid-summer and you never know what’s going to pop out of the ground. But if it’s edible, Avery’s Produce will definitely put a box on their table, even if only a handful exists. A quick chat with Avery reveals that no, they’re not anemic Brussels sprouts but rather baby cabbages that he calls “second growths,” sprouted spontaneously in the abnormal rain and cool weather after the larger heads were cut.
Standing at this fork in the road—do I treat them like cabbage and make slaw or cook them like Brussels sprouts?—the decision was easy. Let’s split and grill ’em, then dress to mitigate potential bitterness with my go-to Brussels sprout honey-mustard-shallot-olive vinaigrette. I tossed them with olive oil and salt and put them in a grill basket over direct medium-high heat; they were ready in just a few minutes, shaking now and then to roll them around.
And surprise, surprise, they were quite sweet, even in the spots where they were charred. (So Brussels sprouts aren’t little cabbages after all.) I changed gears and went with more olive oil, white balsamic vinegar—to play on the sweetness—and handfuls of chopped dill and chives from the garden. The resulting warm salad was the most memorable farmers’ market dish of the summer. Until now. I’ve still got a couple months of Saturday early bird specials left to go.
By Pam Hoenig
It seems like months ago but I spent last week on vacation on Point Judith in Rhode Island. This is our fourth year renting the same lovely house with our good friends Dolores and Steve, who are always up for my culinary explorations. Last year it was grilling cheeses, this year it was Eisenhower steak.
Setting perfectly good meat right on blazing hot coals was apparently Ike’s favorite way to grill steak.
I’ve always had serious qualms about this technique. How could it possibly not end up a burnt mess? Vacation seemed like the perfect time to try. I found three gorgeous strip loin steaks, each just over a pound and a little more than one inch thick. I blotted them dry, then seasoned with salt and pepper.
For us, cooking dinner on vacation ends up being a late night affair, after lingering at the beach and enjoying cocktails in the backyard while we chat about the day and watch the sun set over the water. By the time I went out to build the fire, it was pitch black. But soon I had a blazing fire going and into the flames went the steaks. Six minutes on each side, out they came. Five-minute rest and they were perfectly medium rare, with a delicious char crust, the flavor unlike anything I had ever gotten cooking above the fire.
If you want to try this, a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Use hardwood charcoal (or hardwood burned down to coals, if you have the patience): Your food will be sitting right on the fuel.
- You want your steaks to lay flat on the coals, so make sure your fire is big enough to accommodate the number of steaks you are cooking.
- You want a hot fire. Even though you blot the steaks dry, they still contain moisture, which can tamp down the fire. If you let the fire get a little past prime or haven’t made it big enough, your steaks might take a bit longer to cook.
So why don’t the steaks just don’t catch fire? My theory is that because they’re right up against the coals, there is less airflow, which keeps the melting fat from lighting up like a firecracker.
One final warning: When you turn the steaks, pieces of charcoal tend to stick to them. Just pull them off with tongs and be sure you don’t take one into the house with you by mistake or drop one into dry grass.
And if you don’t have a chance to sit by a campfire this summer, you can always enjoy this Virtual Campfire GIF of my strip steaks sizzling away.