Category Archives: Traditions

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 multi-leveled 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. Historically, my summer menus involve a whole lot of hungry friends and a new culinary obsession – there were summers of arepas, fried noodles, and smoked meats. This year, I have been magnetically drawn to the fresh foods of my childhood. Perhaps it is nostalgia for family now…

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Thanksgiving

By | Entertaining, People, Seasonal, Traditions | No Comments

As a food writer with a brand new book out, I’ve felt some pressure to make Thanksgiving a big deal this year. Several people have asked about my plans. I have shared a few favorite recipes and lots of gravy tips but I have resisted the urge to namedrop turkey farmers or pledge allegiance to certain cranberry varieties. That’s just not my style. Instead, I’m going to come clean. I’ll admit that my Thanksgivings are rarely the jaw dropping, camera-ready feasts you might expect from a food professional. I have my years, but more often than not, we join my husband’s family and have a very traditional menu. This year, alongside a few small slices of Butterball or Costco turkey, I will serve myself an oversized portion of green bean casserole, the kind made with canned French beans and Campbell’s mushroom soup. I may scoop some salty StoveTop stuffing straight…

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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…

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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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Great Grandma’s Pickles

By | Dishes, Obsessions, People, Preserving, Seasonal, Traditions | No Comments

My ancestors were a colorful bunch, but they were not cooks. My Grandma’s grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches and brownies were spectacular. Since we liked them so much, and we only visited her for a week in the summers, that’s all she would make us – for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Inheriting three collections of treasured, sticky recipes tucked into  boxes and books seemed like a goldmine. Unfortunately 99% of them called for boxes of JellO, canned condensed soup, and/or Crisco. The only decent cook on either side was my Mother’s Grandmother, Catherine Miller. She was a first generation German/Russian immigrant who came to Washington near the turn of the 20th century. I remember her as a tiny woman with thin dresses and a thick accent. Mom had a few fond memories of rustic cabbagey and noodley dishes, but all I ever remember tasting at her house was second hand…

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