Category Archives: Obsessions

This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Chanterelle and Bacon Pasta Sauce

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

It was Thanksgiving week,  so every time I opened the fridge in search of dinner inspiration I was faced with a wall of ingredients slated for other events. Things were a bit crazy. There were a lot of gravy-centric interviews on radio and TV. I can’t actually remember what I threw together for spontaneous midweek dinners – except for this magnificent chanterelle and bacon sauce. I had restocked my stash of chanterelle mushrooms last weekend because they were just too pretty and cheap to pass up. ($10.99 a pound I think. I’ve seen them for a lot less, but not this year.) Then I forgot about them. When I discovered them tucked away in their brown paper bag, I was thrilled. I grew up hunting chanterelles. Mom and Dad kitted us out in hiking boots, raincoat, compass, safety whistle, and our own special “mushroom knife” with a belt holster. We broke into…

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By | Adventures, Cooking Outdoors, Obsessions, Sauces, Travels | No Comments

We just returned from a 12 day vacation in Argentina, so it seems only natural to be pondering chimichurri right now.  I suppose the place to start is to explain that, while I’m an admittedly obsessive cook, I’m not an especially obsessive food tourist. Before I travel I do a fair amount of research and make mental lists of the local foods I want to try, then I do my best to fit them into my trip. I rarely do it the other way around. In Argentina, chimichurri topped my “must try” list but I never sought out the “best” or most authentic samples. I didn’t organize afternoons of chopping or grilling with locals either, but that’s not going to stop me from forevermore making sweeping, “expert” generalizations about “real” chimichurri. I was served a few bowls of the stuff in the right country. I figure that counts for something. If you…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Cider and Sage Pan Sauce

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

I’ve always loved cider. Squat brown bottles of Canadian cider were always tucked in among the beer during our summer vacations. I drank more pints in London pubs than I probably should have. Over the years I turned my back on cider and my eyes wandered to our sexy local craft beers, but I’m thrilled that good, local ciders are back and demanding attention. They are far too good to forsake. I’m searing a lot these days – testing out temperatures and surfaces, but I’m not yet ready to lock in recipes until I can explain what is going on in the pans. That means I’ve got good pan residue that I can spontaneously deglaze with whatever is handy. Cider has been handy, apples are handy and I have a giant shrub of purple sage that is always calling out for attention. No doubt this recipe will be tested and improved…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – “Almost Aardvark” Chile Sauce

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Hooray! Chile season is here! We are big fans of chiles and chile sauces. So much so that there is an entire chapter devoted to them in Mastering Sauces. Tabasco is practically a religion for Jeff. Sriracha is always at hand – both homemade and the rooster variety. Tapatio is served with every taco. Homemade Chinese Chile Oil, Korean chiles (gochugaru and gochugang), extra hot Indian ground chiles, whole dried New Mexican, ancho, chipotles…oh dear, it might be best not to count. The quantities, varieties, and prices now available at the farmer’s market make fresh chiles almost impossible to pass up. Last Sunday, when the market opened, I dashed straight to the Tonnemaker’s Farm stand in search of just the right peppers to make this year’s batch of Homemade Sriracha Sauce (page 302). For sriracha you need peppers that are both hot and slightly fleshy. Cleaning several pounds of tiny hot chiles…

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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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Talk Less. Teach More

By | Adventures, Obsessions, Seasonal | No Comments

Five weeks ago I thought I’d dip my toe into a picturesque pond and now I’m in the belly of a whale. Just over a month ago, I sent an email to a new Facebook Friend introducing myself. I had seen his post that the Wine Country Culinary Institute in Walla Walla was looking for an adjunct professor for summer quarter. I have teaching experience. My summer work schedule was portable. Dad’s basement is always free, and his deck has an absolutely stunning view of the Blue Mountains. Why not? I would read, write, and do lots of creative recipe testing with the amazing local produce. Dad and I might go fly fishing on the rare weekend I didn’t make the 300 mile drive back home. You can see it, can’t you? The grassy bank and buttercups? The dragonflies and gently rippled waters? WHAMMO! Whale food. I’ve taught a lot…

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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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