Who the Hell Uses Onion Juice?


By John Thorne (http://www.outlawcook.com/)

The other day I was leafing through a vintage edition of The Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook looking for American chop suey (a story for another time), when my eye fell on a recipe with an ingredient list that included a “few drops onion juice” — and suddenly I was a child again, poking around in my grandmother’s kitchen.

It was an odd little room. The family lived on the bottom floor of a large duplex, built by my grandfather in the 1920s in Wollaston, on Boston’s South Shore. Long before I came along, my grandmother purchased a piano and turned the dining room into the piano room. Thus, the kitchen became the dining room and the adjoining pantry became the kitchen. It was just wide enough to hold the kitchen sink at one end and the gas stove at the other. (The refrigerator sat in the dining room.) Between them ran a narrow counter and, above and below it, storage shelves for cookware and food. This was the kitchen in which Nana prepared meals for a family of five children (my mother the only girl).
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Posted in American

Rhubarb: Beyond Pie


By Ben Kaufmann

[Ben Kaufmann is the first mb.com visitor to submit a post we’re running. He’s an architect, who says “I no longer follow recipes and seldom consult cookbooks. This is not a point of pride for me but rather an indication of my laziness.” I’ve been saying that, or at least the latter part, for years. But it’s an indication not only of laziness but of skill and creativity, as I believe he demonstrates here. Visit Ben’s blog at (http://gutblog.com). As for my recent adventures with rhubarb, check out today’s Minimalist column.]

I was standing in line the other day to buy some ramps. Yes, that’s correct, I was waiting in the hot sun to spend three dollars on 2 oz. of wild baby leeks. People have gone a little crazy for ramps here in New York and I felt compelled to join in the fun. I worried they would sell out when a bicycle (actually a large tricycle) from a local restaurant arrived and loaded up several crates of them. They skipped right past the line.

But as I was making my purchase, (“No, no. I don’t need a bag. I brought my own.”) I spotted some rhubarb. The folks in line behind me were already shoving their items toward the rampmonger. So I panicked and set some rhubarb on the scale. Like ramps, rhubarb must be had locally, and must be very fresh. They also herald the full arrival of the spring growing season. And I think there was a time when people were just as crazy about rhubarb. Some of us still are. Continue reading

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Late Frost and Two Spring Dinners


By Clotilde Hryshko

[Clotilde began chronicling her Vermont farm last week. Here she brings some of her earliest crops into the kitchen, and it sounds wonderful. -mb]

Last Sunday it spit snow until mid-afternoon. I spent some of that time finishing my onion transplanting, going inside twice for more layers. Before heading in I planted two Ann Magnolia trees I had received that morning for Mother’s Day. But the evening meal was mine to make because the previous week I had been unable to find the time to cook a proper birthday dinner for Jim. I had made wontons stuffed with a pea-shallot filling that would be served in a garlic-lemon broth and a fun appetizer of jalapeño poppers, and I was rounding out the offerings with a farm version of spring rolls.

We were expecting a cold week with several nights of frost. I picked all the asparagus I could, snapping off anything above the ground (these would be lost otherwise); I sautéed them in sesame oil. Other fillings for the rolls were rice, pan-fried tofu, cashews, carrots, and pickled ginger. I had cilantro to make a dipping sauce with. I had extra seedlings of Thai and lime basil that I snipped to also contribute.  Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Produce

Vietnamese Food to Go


As I said last week, my intention was to go back to Turtle Towers the next morning for another bowl of pho; that happened. This time I ordered chicken. (It was certainly not going to be a vegan-before-six day; my travel days rarely are.) The broth was deeply soothing, the noodles silken, the chicken itself not overcooked. And I wisely ordered a “small” this time.

Then I headed across the street to Saigon Sandwiches (560 Larkin). I was after a few bánh mi, and I got them. They were good, though I’ve had better. (Sorry. I’d like to be raving, but if you rave about everything the truth loses impact. And they were a helluva lot better than the junk they were serving on the plane. Sheesh.)

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Posted in Vietnamese

Politics of the Plate


By Barry Estabrook

Organic Economic Indicators

Looking for tangible signs that the recession is loosening its grip? Last week, major organic food producers, wholesalers, and retailers—who had taken hits during the meltdown as consumers lost their appetites for their pricey fare—announced heartening financial news.

A rundown:

United Natural Foods, Inc., a wholesaler of natural and organic foods, saw its share price hit its highest level in more than three years.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. reported that its earnings were the best “in several years” as sales for the quarter came in at more than twice what they were during the same period last year. Its stock is trading at nearly five times the 2008 low. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Produce

Abundance in Berlin


By Laura Virginia Anderson

There is an open-air Turkish market every Tuesday and Friday just across the canal from my apartment in Berlin. Today I went there, with 12 euros in my pocket. I came home with two small loaves of whole grain-sunflower seed bread, five organic bananas, three organic apples, six organic eggs, two fat bunches of radishes, a bundle of white asparagus, two kohlrabi, and 16 euro-cents.

It’s not my intention to gloat, nor do I expect anyone to be particularly surprised by this bargain bounty—Berlin’s low cost of living is hardly a well-kept secret. But I’m still in that dreamy, delirious first phase of being an American in Europe, when every discovery feels like a miracle.

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Posted in Produce

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


[Ideas welcome, and we will credit you: mark@markbittman.com]

Hard to believe: McCormick, who’s brought us spices since its inception in the late 19th century (though I suspect the quality was considerably higher then) has a new bad idea: Recipe Inspirations.

What is this? A recipe card with a not-especially-great-sounding recipe – like Shrimp Pasta Primavera – with ¼ ounce of spices, pre-measured and bubble-packed individually, so that you can be “inspired” to cook dinner, and not bother to buy or store or measure spices. For a mere two bucks. Of course, you probably have at least three of these spices already – in this case garlic, onion, and black pepper – and you can buy what’s probably a year’s supply of higher quality versions of the other two for less than four dollars at someplace like Penzey’s. Or a supermarket.

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Posted in Spices

Mac and Cheese, Tainted


By Edward Schneider

There were mousseron mushrooms where I was shopping the other day, and in very good condition, too. The plan had been to make macaroni and cheese for a few friends (and, unbeknownst to them, to clear our fridge of odd scraps of cheese that had been hanging around a little too long), and these pretty, tiny, flavorful mushrooms furthered that plan very neatly.

You probably don’t need me to tell you how to make macaroni and cheese. For this one, though, I’ll tell you that I cooked the whole mousserons right in the béchamel sauce base, along with some chopped speck (smoked dry-cured ham, Italian in this case), then proceeded as usual. Continue reading

Posted in Recipes

Sunday Supper: Meat-y Paella

[This week I wrote about peas (and offered up some recipes) in my column Kitchen Daily. My feeling, in general, is that frozen peas work just fine in many applications, and throughout most of the year, so there’s no reason to get hung up (or feel guilty) about using them. Of course if there’s any time you’re going to use fresh peas, this is it (as long as you don’t mind shelling them). That’s especially true if you’re going to serve them solo, but, really, for a paella? I almost always use frozen and neither I nor (I think) anyone else knows the difference.]

Meat-y Paealla

Makes 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

[Adapted from How to Cook Everything]

Far from a major production, basic paella is a simple combination of rice and other good stuff; terrific Sunday night dish and a staple in coastal Spain for centuries.

3 1/2 cups any stock or water

Pinch saffron threads

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 medium onion, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces Spanish chorizo or other cooked or smoked sausage

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1/2 dry white wine

1/2 cup tomato puree

2 cups short- or medium-grain rice, preferably paella rice or Arborio

1 cup peas (frozen are fine)

1 cup peeled shrimp (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Warm the stock with the saffron in a small saucepan. Put the oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the chicken until deeply browned on both sides, then add the onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the chorizo, paprika, wine, and tomato purée; bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice, scattering it in the pan as evenly as possible, cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s shiny, another minute or two. Carefully add the warm stock  and peas and stir until just combined, then tuck the shrimp into the top before putting in the oven.

3. Put the pan in the oven and bake, undisturbed, for 15 or 20 minutes. Check to see if the rice is dry and just tender. If not, return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes. If the rice looks too dry at this point, but still isn’t quite done, add a small amount of stock or water. When the rice is ready, turn off the oven and let it sit for at least 5 and up to 15 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put the pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

Posted in Recipes, Spanish

Mint Juleps, the Wrong Way


By Kerri Conan

I spent most of Derby Day in the herb garden under the wide brim of my manky sun-block hat, transplanting seedlings into containers. Our first year in the house, we made the mistake of putting peppermint in a worn out wooden barrel. By the end of the season sprigs and roots had bust out the seams and now, more than a decade later, we have a nice little mint patch alongside the deck.

As I wrapped up the day’s work my husband Sean mixed up the first mint juleps of the season—in honor of the race of course, and to celebrate that the herb has somehow managed to be pleasantly prolific without taking over the whole property. There’s a lot to be said for wrong turns. Continue reading

Posted in Cocktails