Category Archives: Ingredients

This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Green Bean, Cabbage, and Red Curry “Salsa”

By | Ingredients, Sauces, Seasonal | No Comments

I had too many tiny, tender green beans. I worried about them. Luckily, I had been invited to bring some “finger food” to a party. Could my beloved green beans be turned into a forkless appetizer? Sure, why not? I just needed to make sure that the finished product didn’t involve awkward maneuvering to get into the mouths of tidy guests. The answer was salsa…sort of. Like many Americans, my definition of salsa tends to be all-encompassing. If it’s in a bowl, made of fruits and vegetables and you can scoop it up with a chip, it’s salsa. Since this recipe has tons of SE Asian influences, I suppose it might be better described as sambal. Because it calls for vegetables that are quite dense and low in natural water content, you need to salt it as early as possible so it gets naturally juicy. Overnight is fine. Or, you…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Quick Tomato Chile Jam

By | Books, Ingredients, Obsessions, Sauces, Seasonal | No Comments

I’m usually a big fan of frozen fish, but I recently found myself with a bunch of mediocre wild salmon fillets. They didn’t thaw well and had little salmon flavor. In Mastering Sauces, I write about how you need to think creatively and come up with ways to make your food better, rather than settle for something unsatisfying. I decided to follow my own advice and Change the Ratio of Flavorful and Flavorless Components. (Maximize Flavor -Page 38) I spelunked in the fridge for inspiration and decided to make salmon burgers and a good sauce. I chopped the fish and mixed it with a duxelle of sauteed of shallots, garlic, and portabella mushrooms. Then I stirred in lots of freshly blanched, chopped spinach, and some cooked quinoa. I added a couple of eggs to hold it together and seasoned the mix with lots of black pepper and my secret seasoning…

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Preserving our Spectacular Roses

By | Ingredients, Local, Preserving, Sauces, Seasonal, Sweets | No Comments

Every year at this time, I attempt to preserve the mind-blowing aroma of the tea roses in our front yard. This is inevitably followed by me throwing out the untouched rose-infused products I made the year before.  Previous experiments with rose water and simple syrup infused with rose petals were charming, but quaint isn’t really my cooking style, so I never worked them into a recipe. I can only imagine the look of surprise on Jeff’s face if I spritzed rose water on our linens, and then his sleep-deprived scowl after a night of my constant sneezes.  Last year I made some very nice Rose Scented Almond Milk. It was good enough that I included it in the book. But milks don’t keep. My compulsion for preserving the roses is threefold. 1) Our antique rose bush produces, without question, the most aromatic blossoms I have ever come across. I’ve shared…

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By | Adventures, Ingredients, Local, Obsessions, Sauces, Seasonal | No Comments

Why, oh why, would I want to eat a wild plant that stings? My skin is so sensitive that I get rashes after a night on hotel sheets. Why would I voluntarily wander in the woods, plucking leaves that are famous for causing painful welts? Because, I’ve always wanted to test my culinary mettle with nettle. Last year I was particularly motivated because I wanted to include a nettle pesto recipe in Mastering Sauces. Our friends, the magnificent Runnings, have several acres of wilderness and woods just half an hour away. Last year, my foraging adventure evolved into a feast and a pretty great party, so I invited myself over for a repeat performance. This year, instead of stressing about testing and logging recipes and the threat of serious allergic reaction, I was able to just have fun. Nettles are treated as “no big deal” by locavore cooks and herbalists….

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Okonomiyaki – Osaka Pancakes

By | Dishes, Ingredients, Obsessions, Sauces | No Comments

Okonomi = as you like it. Yaki = cooked or grilled.  How can you help becoming obsessed with such a dish? I currently want to eat these Osaka-style cabbage pancakes at every meal. My first few attempts at home were not great. Cabbage in crepe-ish pancake batter does not an okonomiyaki make. I tried some Korean panjeon mix and that was even worse.  Finally, I called in an expert; Mayu Jensen. Mayu is married to Jeff’s cousin, Tim Jensen. Tim has lived in Japan for nearly 30 years.  After a successful career in the Tokyo rock and roll industry, they moved to a traditional mountain house in Nagano. They visit every holiday season and sometimes tack on a little extra time because paper walls make for brutal winters. This year, while Tim and Jeff re-ignited their childhood slot-car rivalry, Mayu and I went to our excellent Japanese supermarket, Uwajimaya. She patiently listened as I explained…

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Cooking with Fire

By | Entertaining, Ingredients, Obsessions, People, Seasonal, Tools and Equipment, Traditions | No Comments

For roughly thirty years, my family has had an annual “Grape Stomp” where we pick and crush the fruit from an acre of vines planted in front of my parent’s Walla Walla home. The first grapes ripened just as I graduated from French culinary school so this event became my favorite performance stage. This year, I got the fire bug. We have cooked several of these meals in or over live fire. Once, we buried a bunch of stuff in a pit and covered them with grape must. Another year my friend, Doug Cooper, rigged a makeshift rotisserie using the churning mechanism from an old ice cream maker. We have spun legs of lamb suspended by tripods. People still talk about Scott Wellsandt’s incredible paellas. This year, I wanted very little fuss and lots of flexibility because there were very important considerations besides the food. This was our first party in…

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