Nov 072009

By now, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m very much a make-your-own-ingredients sort of cook. It’s not hard to notice that one of my very favorite homemade ingredients to have on hand is chicken stock – it’s extremely versatile and oh-so-flavorful. A lot of cooks, though, haven’t been properly introduced to the joys and benefits of real chicken stock and so they continue to take a shortcut or two, buying insipid broth in aseptic packaging, not fully realizing what they’re missing. So, in this entry, I’m going to try to rectify that.

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Jan 212008

Sometimes we get caught up trying to outdo ourselves in the kitchen, especially when we’re trying to impress or entertain. Enough herculean feats of cooking, I say! Sometimes you just have to step back and appreciate the way that we really cook – food that is simple, fresh, and delicious.

Simple food: no-knead bread
No- knead bread – Nikon D50
Simple food: garlic head
Garlic head – Nikon D50

Simple food: Insalata caprese con mozzarella di bufala (caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella)
Insalata caprese con mozzarella di bufala – Nikon D50
Simple food: Matanuska Valley-grown carrots
Matanuska Valley-grown carrots – Nikon D50

Simple food: Wild Alaskan red salmon with rosemary and garlic
Wild Alaskan red salmon with rosemary and garlic – Nikon D50
Simple food: red Swiss chard
Red Swiss chard – Nikon D50

Simple food: Indulgent Irish oatmeal with pomegranate seeds
Indulgent Irish oatmeal with pomegranate seeds – Nikon D50
Nov 172007

If you couldn’t already tell, I’m not a big fan of adding fats to everything for flavor. It’s a serious cheater route. Anyone can make something laced with butter taste good, but real culinary skill comes from, well, being more sophisticated in your approach to food.

With that, I’m not a big fan of Paula Deen. Shocker, I know, but she represents the worst of the Food Network: someone with no culinary skills beyond cream cheese but with mass marketability (which is why I’m not a big fan of most of the people on that network *cough* Rachel Ray *cough*).

I always joke about how Paula Deen adds a pound of cream cheese to everything. I never thought it was 100% literal, but….

She’s managed to add cream cheese to….

… wait for it…


I couldn’t believe it. That woman has got some serious cream cheese talent. It’s talent she needs to keep to herself, but it’s talent nonetheless.

Seeing is believing: link

Happy Thanksgiving menu planning to you all, and for god’s sake, leave the cream cheese out of it!

Update: Ye gods!!! She’s gone one step beyond cream cheese and – get this – DEEP-FRIED some cranberry sauce!!! That’s just offensive. It’s like a train wreck, I can’t look away. And we wonder why Americans are the fattest people on earth….

Oct 232007

Maybe I’m just a huge food snob, but when I see people getting excited about going to chain restaurants like Applebees, Chili’s, or Friday’s, I just have to shake my head in wonder. Come on, really, the food their sucks. It all tastes like it has been stuffed with preservatives and microwaved and the menu is enough to put me into spasms of yawns. Plus, it’s expensive. I will gladly pay good money for good food, but not much pisses me off more than having to pay for a crappy meal. This happened to me a couple of times last week when I had to go out with co-workers for working lunches and all I could think about was how much yummier my sandwich of homemade roasted chicken on homemade oatmeal bread with locally-grown tomatoes and red leaf lettuce would have been. Luckily one of the lunches was free, but at the other place, 90% (literally) of the things on the menu were deep fried. Anger. Much anger.

Here’s where the snobbery (and maybe a bit of being too proud of my own abilities) comes in — I don’t go out to eat much because I can cook better than 90% of the places out there. I’m not saying that I can hold a candle to a Mom-and-Pop-owned hole in the wall Italian place, a fabulous local pizza joint, or a to-die-for breakfast cafe, but let’s face it — most of the food being hawked at Americans is rubbish. You owe it to yourself to do better than that.

Judging from my experiences in restaurants throughout the country, there are two things that the generic American diner seems to want:
1. Salt
2. Fat

Most restaurants are thrilled by this because it’s a cheap formula for success. It doesn’t take much money — either through hiring well-skilled cooks or by buying quality ingredients — to make dishes that have both of those key ingredients. It’s like these people have never heard of oregano, sage, or rosemary, much less nutmeg, ginger, cumin, or coriander. The food is incredibly bland yet is guaranteed to be three times what you need, nutritionally devoid, clog your arteries, and raise your blood pressure! (By the way, if you serve me a salad and the greens are comprised of iceberg lettuce — which has all the nutritional value of water and is a shame to the word ‘vegetable’ — you will automatically be relegated to the list of “gross place to eat.”)

In contrast to many restaurants, when I’m cooking for myself or for friends I know what will make my tastebuds happy and will keep my friends eagerly accepting my dinner invitations:
1. Fresh quality ingredients
2. An interesting menu that finds delicious ways to incorporate things like veggies
3. A heavy hand with herbs and spices

And that’s where the big difference lies: restaurants care — above all — about turning a profit. If they turn a profit because their food is good, then great. But the corollary is that if stuffing your food so full of sodium and saturated or trans fats in huge portions to put you into a caloric stupor means they make money, they will do that too. In contrast, my sole aim is to make good food. End of story.

A delicious homemade meal of red king crab, locally-grown read leaf lettuce salad with homemade balsalmic vinaigrette and Tuscan tomato and bread soup
Nikon D50
May 192007

Cooking: It’s a lost art in America.

People increasingly have no idea what to do in the kitchen (aside from the microwave, of course), and the scary thing is that many people think this is something to boast about. For hundreds of generations before us, cooking was a basic survival skill. It seems to now be regarded as a luxury, something that can fall by the wayside while we fill our lives with “more important” things. But cooking is the art of nourishing yourself, your family, and your friends — what could be more important? Another aspect that’s being lost is the sense of accomplishment that comes with putting a delicious meal on the table and seeing your own satisfaction reflected on the faces of your dining companions. Now that so many jobs in our society fail to put a finished product in our hands, the kitchen is one place to reclaim the sense of usefulness that you seek.

Where did we go wrong? Why is it extreme to make your own food, to feed yourself well, and do it the way that people did it for thousands of years before this scary food industry came about? Why am I the anomaly because I eat food that I made from scratch in my kitchen instead of buying in the freezer section and popping in the microwave?

Whole-wheat bread dough with herbes de provence

Here’s the thing about that food industry: they exist to make money. Plain and simple. They are going to do what they need to do to make their food sell so that they can make money and if that means plugging their food so full of preservatives, carcinogens, and saturated fats that your health is sacrificed in the process, they won’t care. It’s not profitable to care. Corporations don’t have consciences, and food corporations are no exception. Besides, once you start cooking your own food from fresh ingredients you start to realize that processed food and most meals in restaurants taste like utter crap.

And that is why I trust very few people with my food preparation.

In fact, I think our society would be much better off if we all heard and understood the adage “if the person who made your food doesn’t know you and doesn’t care about you as a person, don’t expect it to be good for you.”

And so with those words, consider this blog launched. It’ll be about a love of good food made with my own hands (with perhaps the occasional guest foodie) so that we can all rediscover exactly what the thing we put in our mouths three times a day is all about. Food is too good to be eaten mindlessly!

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