It’s Party Time: Make Dumplings!

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By Cathy Erway

My brother recently celebrated his 30th birthday. And just like his 29th and 28th, he celebrated with a dumpling party in his apartment. Friends showed up, having been told to bring any type of dumpling filling of their own, and after folding lessons and several rounds of pan-frying the party enjoyed “lasagna dumplings,” kielbasa and sauerkraut dumplings, and cream cheese, salmon and scallion dumplings, among other less-traditional varieties. We don’t think this is very strange at all: We toss out the books and invite any and all kinds of food combinations and cuisines inside a typical Chinese potsticker (guotie or jiaozi).

For us, there are no boundaries of taste when we’re making one of our favorite foods. We certainly didn’t inherit this inclination for unheard-of dumpling fillings from our Chinese mom, whose response to the latest creations was that they sounded “weird.” But I distinctly remember her squeezing out thawed, frozen spinach to chop into her pork dumpling filling, when she didn’t have the chance to get Napa cabbage from the Asian store. Nice one, mom. Now that I know to substitute with what’s available, I’ll make available everything.

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Posted in Chinese

Foraging for Fritters

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By Barry Estabrook

We live at the end of a gravel road named, appropriately, Locust Lane in recognition of the ancient black locust trees that line it. The recent spate of unseasonal heat has brought them into full, fragrant bloom. They perfume our entire yard. Our noses tell us that  it is time to invite the neighbors over for the most fleeting foraged treat of the year, usually available for less than one week.

Sunday’s brunch: Locust fritters with perhaps a gargle of prosecco to wash them down. We always use the recipe Jacques Pépin included in his memoir, The Apprentice. Continue reading

Posted in Recipes

Pork Fat and Spontaneous Cooking

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After roasting my pork – read about that here, if you haven’t already done so – I had a cup of gorgeous fat, scented with sage, garlic, salt, pepper, even potatoes. It sat in the fridge for days, and I used it randomly – in a risotto, to fry eggs, one or two other times. I felt, however, that I was not really exploiting its presence.

Until the night we came home late, to four already-cooked artichokes. We wanted pasta. (I have said this before: combine late-night hunger, my kitchen, and enough energy to cook and, three times out of five, the result is a spontaneous pasta dish.) I had a lovely onion. And some basil.   Continue reading

Posted in American

Enjoying and (Sort of) Preserving the First Strawberries

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By Edward Schneider

Not only was a favorite grower/vendor – Maxwell’s Farm, from Warren County, New Jersey – back at our local farmers’ market for the first time since last year, but they had brought strawberries with them. So had another vendor, but Jackie and I could smell Maxwell’s berries from yards away. We bought two quarts. Were these May strawberries as good as the ones we’ll get a little later in the season? Of course not. But they gave us a little thrill.

Rinsed, immediately drained, and hulled, they served two purposes: that day’s dessert (about a third of them, lightly sprinkled with sugar and eaten with cream) and future desserts, in the form of a quick, liquidy kind of jam that Jackie tells me Russians call varenye.   Continue reading

Posted in Produce

Fish, Steamed over Vegetables (or Samphire!)

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If you forage for something, it tastes much better than when you pay $12 a pound for it. This is why talk of ramps always seems to annoy me, I guess. Fiddleheads too – they’re not meant to be bought but found.

The same is true of samphire. I’ve never bought it; I always forage it. I’m so addicted now I might buy it if I had to, but I’m lucky enough to know a place on the Cape where it grows like mad and, from roughly now until mid-July I can pick as much as I want. (Now, the pickings are slim, but super-tender; it takes ten minutes to gather a pound; in a month, I’ll be able to gather three pounds in that same time.)  Continue reading

Posted in Produce, Recipes, Seafood

Just in Time for Memorial Day… Burgers the Bittman Way

Today’s Mini has a curious history: we decided, back in the winter, to do a piece about making a sausage-like burger (or a burger-like sausage), like the one I used to eat in Southport, CT, at a place I could drive to with my eyes closed (well, not really, but it’s right off Exit 19), but one whose name I can’t remember. (It’s probably something like Southport Lunchette.)

When I made it, twice, and we shot it, I said to Pete Wells (the Dining editor), “Why would anyone eat a regular hamburger when there are things like this in the world?” he proclaimed (yes, he did) “You need to make that a bigger piece.”

So we went to work on more burger alternatives… and here they are.

Posted in American

Let’s Move Needs to Get Real with the Food Industry

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By Tom Laskawy

Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity initiative has kicked into high gear. The Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity released a landmark report documenting the scale of the problem complete with a list of 70 recommendations and a set of benchmarks, including the goal of returning the childhood obesity rate to its 1972 level of 5% by 2030.

And last week a new industry partnership called the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, which includes most of the major food companies, agreed to reduce the number of calorie in its members products by one and a half trillion calories by 2015.   Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

The Thieving Cook

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By Suzanne Lenzer

I have a secret: I steal food. From myself and from anyone else who happens to be over for a meal. It’s one of the lesser known and certainly more furtive perks of being the cook in the house. I surreptitiously snack as I cook; an olive here, the crispest bit of skin off a roast chicken there.

Perhaps it’s a commitment issue: I’m more comfortable nibbling on lots of small bites rather than committing to any one single plate. (When it comes to a meal, monogamy is not my thing.) I’m sure this is why I love tapas and mezze so much; grazing is more fun than a full meal. Continue reading

Posted in Slow Food

Of Pork and Fat

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Forty years ago, I began to take learning to cook seriously. And one of my earliest memories was of a pork roast, a loin, seasoned with rosemary, cayenne, sugar, white wine, and garlic. I learned it, in fact, from Craig Claiborne’s still useful New York Times Cookbook.

What Mr. Claiborne did not do in that recipe (at least as far as I recall), was poke holes in the pork and shove that herb-spice mixture in there. That was left for my friend Andrea to teach me, a dozen or so years later. Andrea, who is from Rome and remains one of my closest friends and most adored cooking partners, took a pork roast and laid it on a bed of potatoes, then prepared a mixture of sage (or was it rosemary? either will work), garlic, salt, and pepper, and shoved that mixture into the pork, poking holes with a sharp knife. (There is, of course, a complicated French way of doing this, called barding.) He rubbed it on top, too, and sprinkled it over the potatoes. Then he poured what I then considered more-than-generous amounts of olive oil over all and roasted the thing.

The recipe, as they say in the music business, goes kinda like this (but please – read on afterwards; I’m just getting to the point here):   Continue reading

Posted in Recipes

Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook

Sustainable Seafood Counters

A major supermarket chain has announced that it initiated a program to stop buying seafood that failed to meet sustainability standards.

Publix Supermarkets, Inc., whose stores are ubiquitous in Florida and much of the Southeast, will begin to rank the 300 seafood items it carries according to sustainability. The program will unfold over the next year, and will involve categorizing seafood into three groups: Sustainable, Needs Improvement, and Needs Major Improvement. Publix officials told the Tampa Tribune  that they intend to apply pressure on fisheries with poor rankings to improve. If there is no sign of improvement over time, the company will stop buying.

It’s an encouraging trend in Big Retail. In January, Target adopted similar policies on seafood, including the elimination of all farmed salmon from its stores. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Seafood