Category Archives: Seasonal

Stocks, fast and slow

By | Ingredients, Seasonal, Traditions | No Comments

  The biggest stock pot is on the stove today. It’s just barely burbling and the aroma of onions, chicken parts, and herbs is shifting from raw and sharp to sentimentally pleasing. I’ve been talking a lot about “new” stocks and infusions lately; doing interviews, writing articles, teaching classes, and insisting that great sauces do not require cauldrons of simmering bones as a starting point. I’m touting the value of quick “mock stocks” made with vegetable scraps, dried mushrooms, shrimp shells, yeast concentrates and virtually anything that will add complexity and depth to plain water. I’ve been actively urging people to try alternatives like 30 minute vegetable stocks flavored with non-traditional ingredients like eggplant, green beans, and corn cobs. The only savory dark brown stock I have referenced in months has been a vegan recipe from the book that takes two hours.  (And is spectacular!) Today’s stock is nothing like the…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More


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….

Read More