Homemade Rhubarb Syrup and the Rhubarb Daisy

For those who don't particularly like rhubarb.

24th May 2011

"I hate rhubarb." That was the first sentence uttered by my local butcher after I described this sauce I wanted to make to pair with some pork chops. To be fair, rhubarb is a much-maligned spring vegetable. I was just convinced that I had to love it, and that I’d instantly find all kind of amazing uses for it.

Though rhubarb and I don’t have much history to contend with, in cooking more tha...

Three More Interesting Ways to Cook Kale

Raw, Baked, and Coconut-Grilled

1st Feb 2011

Kale sounds like a boring health food, but if you cook it well it's delicious. It's just that most recipes are too predictable: greens + fat + aromatics + acid.  Kale is a lot more versatile than people give it credit for.

Sure, you can plug in different combinations (kale, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice is pretty common) and a pinch of red chile flakes is also welcome. Sherry vinegar is es...

The Homemade Hummus Challenge: Are Dried Chickpeas Better Than Canned?

A fool-proof method discovered.

3rd Nov 2010

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If you don’t want to go to all the bother of soaking and cooking them, canned chickpeas work extraordinarily well
- James Beard, Beard on Food

I wanted to go to all the bother of cooking dried chickpeas from scratch. Why? Well, because I never had cooked dried chickpeas before, and I really wanted to see whether taking the time to cook them from scratch would make for a more delicious...

Forget the Tomato: Chicago-Style Hot Dogs with Pickled Green Tomatoes

Tweaking the classic Chicago hot dog (aka The Superdawg)

29th Sep 2010

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Though it pains me to say this, the Chicago hot dog has one little flaw. It’s not always an issue, but it’s there just the same. Most of the seven toppings which make up a proper Chicago-style Hot Dog can be had at any time: mustard and relish are condiments, celery salt is a seasoning, the sport peppers and pickle come from a jar, and onions can be freshly cut up at any time of the year....

Beyond the Tortilla Chip: Three Mexican Snacks that Aren''t Deep Fried

Plus a recipe for Oaxacan-Style Peanuts with Chile and Garlic

16th Sep 2010

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Forget the chips.

You know the drill. You walk into a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the country. You sit down. Within moments -often before drink orders are taken- a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa are rushed out to the table. You immediately dig in. Time disappears. Before you order, before you even think about ordering, salsa stains the tablecloth and all the chips are mysteriously gone....

Tomato Conserva: How to Make Homemade Tomato Paste

Our solution for what to do with too many tomatoes

27th Aug 2010

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There isn't much argument that summertime is the peak season for cooking. It never gets easier than in August: the produce is top-notch, everywhere, and cheap. Locavores are finally settling down and enjoying themselves instead of passing judgement on the rest of us for buying zucchini out of season. You can make dinner by cutting up tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and calling it a masterpiece....

Romesco Sauce, Meet the Summertime Grill

A blend of bread, nuts, olive oil, tomato, and peppers

15th Jul 2010

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My fridge lately has been so full of food I can hardly see what’s inside of it. Since joining a CSA , I am completely overwhelmed with the amount of food I have, and how to cook it all quickly enough. The other day I realized that I had, like, 2 or 3 pounds of green onions--and not wispy little ones, big, fat ones, the white roots thick and juicy, the green shoots long and vibrant. I’d b...

Don''t Waste Time: How to Make Quick Pickles

Two pickle recipes that take less than a day to make

13th Jul 2010

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You know how you see scallops at the fish market and think to yourself, I could sauté those with?...When I’m at the farmers’ market, I see bushels and baskets of potential pickles...
- David Chang, Momofuku

It's been over three years, and yet I can still vividly remember an appetizer I ate at Momofuku Ssäm Bar . In a meal filled with gloriously fatty meat laced with spice, this s...

You Could Pickle Anything in This And It Would Taste Marvelous

A delicious formula for making homemade pickles

7th Jul 2010

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Pickling vegetables is something that I’ve yet to get real excited about. Of all the "DIY" food movements, it’s one of the last to catch on. Why, I don’t know. Probably because a slab of homemade bacon is a lot more exciting than a jar of tangy vegetables. Which is no mark against the vegetables. Most anything next to a slab of bacon is bound to lose terribly.

But actually, pickling is...

Baba Ganoush and a Fear of Eggplant

Hummus' neglected cousin

30th Jun 2010

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When it comes to Middle Eastern dips, hummus hogs most of the love and attention. (The New York Times recently reported that hummus is "catching on" in America, where it dominates the $325 million-a-year refrigerated flavored spreads category). You see tubs of it everywhere, and for good reason: it's a great snack to have around.

But there's another beige spread (now doesn't that so...

Authentic Caesar Salad From a Windowsill Garden

Urban gardening in Chicago

25th Jun 2010

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I've started an experiment this year: how easy is it, really, to grow vegetables and herbs in a windowsill?

When I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan three years ago, I was rather taken with the idea of urban agriculture, romanticizing the rustic life of the small producer who grows his own vegetables, raises his own livestock, and scavenges the seas for the rest. (This fantasy was fueled rat...

Discovering White Gazpacho

Almonds, garlic, and bread are the magic ingredients in this alternative to tomato gazpacho

27th May 2010

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I heard a lot of complaining this month about Chicago weather, mostly about how cold and rainy it was, and I added my fair share to the chorus. "It's May, already, where's the warm weather?" was a common conversation starter, as weather always is. Apparently, somebody upstairs was listening. This week we have been thrust into what feels like the height of summer: it has climbed repeatedly abov...

Asparagus + Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Forget hollandaise: this will blow your mind

13th May 2010

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I recently stumbled on an essay called The Power of the Hot Vinaigrette in Michael Symon's new cookboo k. "Cold vinaigrettes are excellent," he writes, "but add one to the hot pan you've sauteed some shrimp in, and the blended acid and oil will pick up all the flavor of the bits of protein and sugars that have stuck to the pan." He advocates for pan sauces to be vinaigrette-based, rath...

Basic Tomato Sauce

Sometimes you need to start with the basics.

23rd Mar 2010

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I was recently bumming on a friend's membership to Costco, arms full of inexpensive bulk yeast and Dijon mustard for salad dressing , when I discovered the can of tomatoes you see above. It seemed like the deal of a century. For $3.89, I walked away with a can of San Marzano tomatoes weighing almost 7 pounds. That's the price you sometimes pay for a single 28 oz can of them.

I immed...

Can Pesto Be Improved?

Not all pesto is created the same.

19th Feb 2010

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I've been eating pesto with pasta since I knew how to boil water. That dense, fragrant, herb-y concentrate tossed with hot noodles -- it's magic. Even when I had no idea how to cook and bought pesto in a jar, it was wonderful and my favorite dinner. It provides that burst of freshness in the middle of February, and it's delicious enough that the flavor stays in my brain for days.

The only p...

Salad For Breakfast

Cereal isn't the option in the morning.

16th Feb 2010

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For the past few weeks I've been eating salads for breakfast. I eat huge bowls of mixed greens sprinkled with dried fruits, toasted nuts, and whatever else happens to be on hand. If there is half an avocado in the fridge I'll cut it up and toss it in, same with roasted vegetables, chickpeas, goat cheese, carrots...you get the idea. I eat until I am no longer hungry. It has nothing to do with a...

How to Make a 3 Dollar Pizza Stone

Great pizza doesn't have to cost much.

12th Feb 2010

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If you're not down with pizza stones, it's time. Bread-bakers and home pizza afficionados praise them for their heat-retaining, moisture-wicking ability to imitate the floor of a brick oven. You put it in your oven and it not only provides a rustic surface to bake the bread on, but it also keeps the heat of the oven steady. Especially when it comes to pizza, that ever-important underside char...

A Gastrique Primer, or How to Improve Your Next Tomato Sauce

Vinegar and sugar can spruce up any sauce.

9th Feb 2010

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Once we had blanched and peeled the tomatoes we chopped them, strained the seeds, and simmered it for twenty minutes into a simple sauce. Then I made my gastrique , which involved no measuring -- maybe 1/4 cup of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of sugar -- and a quick boil into something thick and syrupy.

I tasted the sauce before adding it, which was fine, clean and simple.  And then I tast...

The Kimchi Contest Results

And the best kimchi award goes to...

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After a tasting of both kimchi projects, the results are in. We have a winner!

It wasn't easy to decide: there were things about Nick's kimchi that were better, and things about Blake's Kimchi that were better. We went back and forth about who should take the title. We tasted, waited, tasted again.

First, the recipes. Though our recipes were similar, there were some crucial diffe...

Homemade Kimchi Contest, Part II

Nick gives kimchi his best shot.

14th Oct 2009

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Though Blake was thrilled to jump right into this Kimchi-making process , I dragged my feet the whole way. It's not that I don't love kimchi. That's far from the case . It's just that I've been really happy with the jars of kimchi I've been buying from the Korean market. Uncovering the ways of kimchi, however enlightening the process may be, would sort of remove the magic from the who...

Homemade Kimchi Contest, Part I

Blake tries to make kimchi.

13th Oct 2009

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Nick and I are currently in the middle of a fierce kimchi-making contest , in which we've both set off to do our own research and exploration, make a batch of the best kimchi we know how to, and submit it for a taste test. Neither of us have made kimchi before, but we both love the taste of it dearly. Tired of paying for it at the store and intoxicated by the possibility that homemade kimc...

The Search: Cabbage Kimchi

What is your kimchi secret?

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Vinegary, spicy, crunchy, and addictive. These are just some of the words we use to describe Korean dish kimchi. We could go on, but the idea is this: Kimchi fascinates us. We put it into stews , mix it with noodles and sesame oil , chop it up with fried rice , and side it up with Korean barbecue . We've been known to eat it straight out of the jar when we need a fix.

There...

Oi-Sobagi: Cucumber Kimchi and the Purpose of Banchan

Try this awesome Korean appetizer.

18th Sep 2009

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I began to wonder whether the banchan were going to overwhelm the table. We had placed the little Korean side dishes on the smallest plates I owned, but the shear number of them added up. It was our own fault. When Blake and I decided to do a Korean Barbecue feast last weekend we figured it was time to lavish attention on banchan, giving them the attention and care usually just reserved...

Part Two of My Cucumber Sandwich Revenge: Tea Time

How to create the perfect cucumber sandwich.

21st Aug 2009

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I feel like I finally understand the cucumber sandwich. After weeks of thinking about it, and trying to recreate the most authentic version I could muster, it finally sunk in. The taste isn't rich, indulgent, spicy, acidic, comforting, salty, or fatty. It's cool, calm, and collected. The strongest reaction I had towards one was a contented sigh, a sort of momentary delight.

So why was I bre...

The Sides of Barbecue: Homemade Red Coleslaw, Hushpuppies, and Black Eyed Peas

What to pair with North Carolina-style barbecue.

6th Aug 2009

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The crisp bite of coleslaw, the crunchy crust of freshly fried hushpuppies, and the porky punch of black eyed peas: I realized after a mad dash through the barbecue trail in North Carolina that these were not just side dishes, but essentials. Without them my meals would have fallen apart, lost in meat gluttony. They helped achieve a barbecue balance, where everything complimented and heigh...

Do You Microwave?

How to use a foodie's most scorned appliance.

17th May 2009

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Do most people use their microwaves often?  Or am I just now coming round to what most people know?

I bought my microwave at a sidewalk sale for 10 bucks.  I simply asked the sellers if it still worked, and they assured me that it did.  That was good enough for me.  My previous model had just stopped working a few weeks before and Abby and I had nowhere to make popcorn.  Though I used i...

Giardiniera

How to make Chicago's favorite condiment.

30th Mar 2009

Most of the recipes online are found on generic websites and just have a bunch of cut up vegetables mixed with olive oil, which I already knew was completely wrong.  There needed to be some kind of acidic kick, something to balance the aggressive heat and the fair amount of oil.

I had my first breakthrough when I found this random video from the Food Network show "Unwrapped".  They were visiti...

The Wait of Dill Pickles

How to make pickles at home without filling your place with the smell of pickles.

10th Sep 2008

But all I did was worry.  Why was there no garlic in the dill pickles? Every other jar of dill pickles I had bought contained garlic.  And why did the pickling spice smell so sweet?  Dill pickles weren't sweet.  I worried that Ruhlman's recipe was too refined.  I wanted simple dill pickles.  I'd have to look elsewhere.

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I pulled out Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking and found Dill Pi...

My Last Brooklyn Salad

1st Sep 2008

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A couple days ago Elin and I went to our community garden plots to asses things after a two and a half week absence from New York.  When we left, our garden was thriving with tomatoes, kale, collard greens, beets, carrots, corn, and peppers.  Despite our best efforts to screw things up, the Brooklyn soil continues to sprout edibles.

We returned to find out tomato plants brown, drooping,...

A Salad Grows in Brooklyn

9th Jul 2008

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It was the most fantastic feeling in the world--especially for someone who has no idea how to grow food, like me. A bunch of seeds Elin and I planted months ago in a nearby community garden--tomatoes, kale, peppers, cucumbers, snap peas, beets, radishes, onions, lettuce, and corn--had been growing into large green bushy things that we hoped weren't weeds. Were they healthy and sated with water...

Goodbye Columbus

26th Jun 2008

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For the fourth time in as many years, I'm going to spend the last weekend of June packing up boxes, carrying heavy couches down stairwells, and figuring out whether the odd Ikea piece of furniture is really worth the effort of moving.  I already cooked my last meal on the well worn stove (had to be the shrimp etouffee ), and will now be living on bagels and sandwiches.  This time next wee...

Blend Your Salsa: A Tale of Two Salsas

Moving beyond pico de gallo into real authentic territory

21st May 2008

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I thought I knew everything there was to know about salsa.  Tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos, lime juice, salt.  Chop, mix, serve.  It’s an enormous pain, but the alternative (jarred salsa) just doesn’t compare.  Taking the time to chop is a noble pursuit.

That was until Blake visited last weekend.  What he threw together in a matter of minutes turned blood red and clung to every chip l...

Ziti with Tuscan-Style Cauliflower

27th Aug 2007

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Before this point in my life--some 24 years in--I’d never willingly eaten cauliflower.  Sure, it'd been sneaked into some of my dishes.  But I know for a fact that it has not played an integral role in any dish I’ve ever made.  A quick scan of our directory reveals only 1 mention of its name, and that was for a curried cauliflower dish that we didn’t even cook!  One of Blake’s form...

Fried Pickles, Busch Light, and Other Adventures in Fine Cuisine

29th Jul 2007

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A glistening can of Busch doesn’t excite many culinary possibilities in my mind.  Had we not been tempted by fate, that sad can of piss-beer probably would have sat undisturbed in the fridge for a long, long time.  But the events were right for a breakthrough.  I feel safe in saying that this little can of beer fulfilled its highest culinary possibility.

It was the last thing I expected to...

Really Ugly Green Beans Changed My Life

12th Jul 2007

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Before beginning even the most basic of recipes, I usually consult a few dozen cookbooks and online sources to make sure I’m not missing some essential technique I’d skipped the previous dozen or so times I made the meal.  It's a compulsory action, one that drives other people nuts, and very often myself.  But I just want to make absolutely positively sure that I'm doing something that r...

Zucchini Carpaccio''s Best Week Ever

11th Jun 2007

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So, I’d been eating too much meat.  After days of centering every single meal around some big cut, I realized it was time for a little break.  There aren’t too many times in my life that I can honestly say this, but what I wanted was zucchini.  And for those in need of a zucchini recipe, there really is only one place to go: Chocolate and Zucchini .

This adoring blog is in no need of mo...

The Florets Hit the Fan: Roasted Broccoli

16th May 2007

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"That's it?" you might be saying.  But yes.  This is a recipe for broccoli.  Well, roasted broccoli.  I did salt that beef lurking around out of focus in the background for hours, submerge it in lukewarm water for another hour, and sear it at high heat.  But the broccoli was better.  Even the stems were great.  Long relegated to second class citizens to the beautiful florets up top, whe...

My Favorite New Dinner: Fregola with Zucchini and Pine Nuts

15th May 2007

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A couple months ago I was eating at Otto , which is the place to bring friends who are visiting: a bit touristy, but very affordable; good to great food that’s easy to share; and most importantly, they have olive oil gelato , which floors just about everyone who tries it.  One thing we always do is order lots of the $4 vegetable dishes, like tiny radishes with anchovy-mustard sauce, o...

A Cool Side of Coleslaw

1st May 2007

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It's the food I never really think about, yet can't help but order.  While everyone else is thinking about fries or onion rings, whenever I hit a diner for some reason the one thing I want is coleslaw.  Maybe it just has the appearance of being a vegetable dish in a fried food haven, but it seems a cool retreat for all the hot food.

The problem with coleslaw is that it can often feel like t...

Skirt Steak with Red Potato Salad and Greens (A Harmony, Starring Limes)

5th Apr 2007

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Sometimes all you can hope for at the end of a long day is a little bit of harmony.  Whether through yoga, walking your dog, or blasting Bona Drag , you find it and somehow the day washes away.  Often I find this harmony by cooking (sometimes with the Morrissey at the same time)--a chance to relax, create, and then have something delicious to show for it.  I have a recipe that, while dec...

How-To: Soffritto

10th Jan 2007

Library_4881 I've been reading Thomas Keller's two cookbooks lately, one for each of his Napa Valley restaurants--Bouchon and The French Laundry--and I've doing a lot of drooling.  First off, they are probably the most gorgeous cookbooks I've ever seen, physically.  From the text design to the layout, paper quality, printing colors, it's all overwhelming. Then, of course, there is the matter of Keller's r...

Return of the Brussels Sprouts

13th Dec 2006

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Brussels Sprouts have quite an affect on people.  After seeing me mess up some perfectly fine sprouts , the people spoke and they resoundingly told me to roast.  The comment section offered no less than 5 different versions of this affair, and not knowing exactly where to start I went for the simplest recipe.  Meg's recipe called for nothing but a little olive oil, salt and pepper, an...

The Mean Green Brussels Sprouts

1st Dec 2006

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These are called Brussels sprouts, and unless you had some especially mean parents growing up, this might be your first time together.  Even I, who had been force-fed green beans for the first 10 years of my life, never had to touch them because my dad hated them so much.  I don't think I'm the only one.  I've never seen them on a menu, and have never been confronted with them at a friends...

Skirt Steak with Haughty Green Beans

30th Oct 2006

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I had no idea.  Abby and I are staring at this picture of skirt steak with string beans with mouths agape, salivating over the chance to make this fine meal , when we notice that nowhere in the ingredients are those beans listed.  We double check, and then wonder what it was exactly that we were looking at.  All they they had was something called haricot verts.  "I'm not sure what that...

Roasted Squash Salad with Bacon and Dandelion Greens

11th Oct 2006

Squash_salad_1 Someone is really concerned about us. We eat a lot of meat and not enough vegetables.  Nick spent a week devouring ham and now his face is the color of plain file folders .  (I'm in the office--this is the only simile available to me.)  We're facing vitamin deficiencies, colon problems.  We're afraid to go outside.  Because if we just ate a bunch of raw vegetables, we'd have nothing...

Jacques Pepin''s Corn Chowder

Possibly the easiest corn chowder recipe on the planet

4th Apr 2006

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A warm comfort food that, in this case, is remarkably easy to make. Generally chowder is thick and hearty with bacon and potatoes and thick creamy base, but this version instead goes for elegant. It’s almost (but not) too thin, almost silky, surprisingly tasty considering the lack of any complicated seasoning.
By Blake Royer

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On a Sunday afternoon, corn chowder is the idea.  A soup bot...