Category Archives: Obsessions

A Summer of Simplicity

By | Cooking Outdoors, Dishes, Ingredients, Local, Obsessions, People, Sauces, Seasonal, Traditions | No Comments

Last year was complicated. For the first time in my life, words actually escaped me. I spent a lot of time holed-up indoors, anxiously awaiting emergency phone calls. I stayed productive, searing mountains of meat and poultry and draping them in various sauces. I finished my newest book, Pan Sauces (Scheduled to be released by W.W. Norton in August 2018) and I regularly chastised myself for not updating my website. Then I let it go. That was the right decision. This summer my circumstances have changed. I feel bright and hopeful, and my sauces have been similarly fresh and simple: vinaigrettes, dressings, and coulis.  Perhaps it is nostalgia for family now gone, but I have been magnetically drawn to the seasonal foods of my childhood. My iron kettles have been filled and emptied of clams. Dozens of oysters have been grilled and slathered with spicy garlic butter. For the first time in…

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Going Underground – Finishing up my new book on Pan Sauces

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The deadline for my new book is just around the corner. EEK! So, I will be taking a break from posting and writing for a bit. I’ve been pretty negligent about posting a weekly sauce for a while now, but that’s because I have been cooking like a maniac. It’s tough to write about a single, weekly sauce when you have made and tweaked 20 variations over the past few days. Writing a cookbook is a pretty great gig. It can be very fun. I get to peruse cookbooks, read lots of food websites and magazines, check out restaurant menus, and explore sources for new ingredients. For about a third of the process it is a very physical and social job; shopping, cooking, cleaning, serving friends and family, watching how testers handle ingredients and tools and sharing tips for success. But then things take a dramatic turn – the party ends….

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Rediscovering Lemons (Chicken Picatta Recipe)

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

The Pacific Northwest is not citrus country. I’m going to use that as my excuse for gradually forgetting about lemons. The lemons at my local supermarket tend to be lousy: underripe and rock hard or dry, leathery, and tired. At nearly $2 a pop, they are rarely a temptation…until now. Earlier this month, I went to LA for a conference and skipped classes on Sunday morning to explore the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. It was citrus heaven. I fondled tiny tangerines, compared the heft of orange varieties, and practically snorted the grapefruit. The aromas, samples, and prices were outstanding. I devoured what I could on site, and managed some remarkable restraint by limiting my purchases to only what I could carry in my purse. The idea that citrus, pomegranates, and avocados can actually grow in backyards instills in me a wonder that I suppose visitors to this region feel about our pears…

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A bend in the weekly sauce road

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Okay, so I’ve done it again. Rather than sit calmly at home and research recipes, or type, or shop, chop, and sizzle ingredients, I have chosen to wade neck deep into the raging waters of a new, temporary job. I’m back at a culinary school, standing in as chef/instructor for a few months while the regular chef is elsewhere. And once again, I feel like I may drown. Some professional friends who knew of the opening sent me a text. I made a call. I made my minimal qualifications and formal teaching experience perfectly clear and yet the job was still offered to me. I started two days after speaking to the dean. Apparently, when your editor renames your book “Mastering” something and you get public accolades from unexpected sources, your resume takes on a certain opalescence. I’m not writing this to downplay my knowledge or diverse culinary experiences. What they may…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Spicy Peanut Slaw Dressing

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

The Seahawks ended their season on Sunday so our game day gatherings have come to an end. It was a fine finale. In addition to being an intense playoff match, it was Jeff’s birthday celebration. Of course, I obsessed about the food for far too long. I even asked for suggestions on Facebook. I wanted a special menu that catered to Jeff’s tastes, but was still suitable for eating in front of the big screen. Jeff’s birthday menus are always challenging. By mid-January we are sated with formal feasting and special event fare.  Now that we are doing the football thing, many of our favorite comfort foods have come and gone. It’s not quite time to usher in our Heart-Healthier February tradition. The trouble is that Jeff is a really nice guy who is perfectly happy with almost everything. My suggestions tend to be met with “Sure, that sounds good”. Ugh. “Perfectly happy” isn’t good…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Cilantro Curry Dressing

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

It’s a brand new year. Like most people, I’m starting 2016 with the whispered mantra “I can do better”. I didn’t write much this month. I rationalized my procrastination by calling it a seasonal hiatus, but in truth I just didn’t think my holiday dishes were cutting edge or artful enough to make public. Instead of polishing up recipes for elegant gingerbread demi glace or cranberry quince relish, I made merry with friends and family, ate too many cookies, whipped up easy mid-week meals, and felt slightly ashamed that my concoctions would never be considered those of a “Sauce Master”. (That title change will forever get under my skin.) In 2016 I can do better, and the place to start is by crawling out of the food blogger’s pit of despair and stop confusing “better” with “more complicated”. I wrote my book to teach home cooks that the “right” way…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Shallot and Cream Sherry Beurre Blanc

By | Dishes, Entertaining, Obsessions, Sauces, Seasonal | No Comments

Today’s cooks are clearly eager to learn about fresh, seasonal, and healthy sauces, but over the past few weeks I have been reminded that people still LOVE butter sauces. I rarely make them but this weekend we had a birthday celebration for my friend, Mark, so I decided to splurge. Mark and another dear friend, Kris, grew up in families with Scandinavian roots. When they get together around the holidays, they often share buttery tales: Mom spread butter on her chocolate cake, Grandma refused her buffet plate of lutefisk until the fish and potatoes were visibly swimming in it, entire cubes of butter were the norm just unwrapped and plopped on the top of steaming green vegetables. I’m sure my mish-mash of European ancestors were also butter lovers, but Mom and Dad were partial to green vegetables seasoned with vinegar or soy sauce. I felt almost giddy when I decided, at…

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