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

Smokin’ Hot White Pizza

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By Edward Schneider

Saturday was pizza night at our house. One regular Margherita (we even had basil in the house), and one not so regular, but delicious if you like smoky flavors. Onto a semi-baked crust (I find that this initial pre-baking is necessary in a regular oven with a maximum temperature of 500 or even 550 degrees F), I spread a mixture of about 1/4 nice fluffy, not watery, ricotta and 3/4 smoked mozzarella cut into little pieces, into which was mixed a generous ounce of chopped speck (smoked dry-cured ham, in this instance from Italy), a few slivered leaves of sage, some olive oil and salt and pepper. Watch out for the salt – there’s no predicting how much will be in your mozzarella.

The only danger with this – as, come to think of it, with any pizza – is that, for safety’s sake, it needs to cool a bit before the first bite. So pour a glass of wine, eat an olive or some of that mozzarella and be patient.

Posted in Italian, Recipes

This #$!% Has Got to Stop: Part Three

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[Barbra Walton, our first outside contributor to This #$!% Has Got to Stop, is a software engineer in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. One of her grandmothers cooked at early 20th century logging camps, and the other started her local food co-op. She has cooking in her bones, and is expecting her dry-cured chorizo to be ready any minute. Meanwhile, she sent us this piece. – mb]

I couldn’t help but think of your two “This has got to stop” articles when I saw the current Wendy’s commercial for their “Spicy Chipotle Boneless Wings.”

The catch phrase at the end of the Wendy’s commercial for their Spicy Chipotle Boneless Wings is “You know when it’s real.” Well, yeah, I do. And I know that chicken wings aren’t made of white breast meat, nor are “real” chicken wings boneless. And, in reading over the ingredient list (below), I know that I don’t’ need to add “chicken flavor” to chicken to make it taste good, nor do I need to add the volume of salt, sugar, and flavorings to make “real” chicken. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Pot Lucky Birthday

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By Pam Anderson

When my daughters Maggy and Sharon were growing up, I always let them choose their birthday dinner. Sharon frequently requested Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. I was always happy to oblige, but on the 20th of July, even with the AC blasting, we were all stuffed and sweaty by the end.

Last night we celebrated Maggy’s 27th. Since she and husband Andy live in NY now, we decided this year would be different. We were going out for a change. I was thrilled. Continue reading

Posted in Recipes, Thai

Sunday Supper: The Simplest, Best Shrimp Dish Ever

[This week I wrote about shrimp in my column at Kitchen Daily--offering up tips for buying, prepping, and cooking this beloved crustacean. Lots of good info in that piece, but if you just want to make something fabulous tonight, this recipe is one of my faves. In fact, it's the best take-to-a-party or stay-at-home shrimp dish I know of.]

The Simplest and Best Shrimp Dish

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 30 minutes

Adapted from How to Cook Everything

Excuse the superlatives; this spin on a Spanish tapa is my favorite, and everyone I serve it to loves it. The shrimp juices infuse the oil, and the sum is beyond delicious. It’s good with bread, over rice, tossed with pasta, or stuffed into tacos.

Other seafood you can use: similar-sized scallops (or larger, though they’ll take longer to cook).

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed

3 or 4 big cloves garlic, cut into slivers

About 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, 20 to 30 per pound, peeled, rinsed, and dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Warm the olive oil in a large, broad ovenproof skillet or flameproof baking pan over low heat. There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan; don’t skimp. Add the garlic and cook until it turns golden, a few minutes.

2. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, some salt and pepper, the cumin, and the paprika. Stir to blend and continue to cook, shaking the pan once or twice and turning the shrimp once or twice, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish and serve immediately.

Posted in Recipes, Spanish

Dressing in the Palm of Your Hand

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By Kerri Conan

I am not the sort of gal known for her delicate touch. But each spring, when the first garden salads of the season appear on our table, I muster a smidgeon of restraint.

This year our Kansas greens are waterlogged with two weeks of near-solid rain, so they’re extra fragile, tender, and mild. Add whatever microgreens I’m thinning from the plot—this week it was beet and dill sprouts—and suddenly dressing becomes an issue. Even the velocity of a thin stream of oil pouring from a bottle or spoon seems harsh. The answer: Mix the dressing in your hands, then use the same tools to toss it. Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Produce

The Minimalist Shoot, Live

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We are out in the blazing sun on a Manhattan rooftop (you can see our set in the first shot here, replete with view of the NYT building), shooting Minimalist videos. Stay tuned, we’re going to post more later. Also check out other shots over at the Times, at Diner’s Journal.

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Early Spring Vegetables Are Great on the Grill

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By Cathy Erway

[Cathy’s approach to early-season grilling. (I had to look up “appetant,” by the way.) – mb]

If your social calendar looks anything like mine, this weekend marks the debut of many appetent backyard owners’ barbecues. Seriously, don’t all shout at once! (Or do, but please stagger your times and locations conveniently, because I can’t wait to get to them all.)

So we all know and love to grill peppers, eggplant and corn on the cob, but since it’s still spring, our choices for local produce are more limited. Fear not, locavore: almost anything can be grilled. And better yet, slicked with a sweet-and-spicy sauce first. Just because spring and early summer vegetables don’t all have the vibrancy and flavor characteristic of those later on, with a little torching and some tweaking, they really shine. Here are some of my favorite, less-expected things to throw down.  Continue reading

Posted in Chinese, Produce