I’ve learned a lot about cooking, and entertaining for that matter, from my Uncle Gary (my favorite uncle, as I often remind him). He’s taught me to become a proficient charcoal griller, prep a bar for any party and order almost everything on the menu at a restaurant with no apologies. Most importantly, he remind me to have a blast while doing all of it.
I became a student of Uncle Gary’s during our annual summer trips to my grandparent’s house on Iowa’s Lake Okoboji – which some have called the happiest place on earth. It’s the place where our extended family would gather for meals, drinks, games, boating and laughs that put your stomach in knots. It was in preparation for many of these epic meals that Uncle Gary would take on the role of grill master, and many times commissioned me to be his apprentice.
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I can think of few things that wouldn’t be made better when slathered on a piece of crusty bread. Actually, maybe I can’t think of any. Perhaps it’s my recent half marathon training (and the extra carbohydrates that are encouraged as part of the training diet) that has led me to believe that every meal should include thick slices of bread. But whatever it is, toast is on my brain these days and it just makes me happy.
Hello again! I have returned from my winter hibernation, and am now ready to take on more cooking, photographing and generally obsessing about food. This installment is inspired by this weekend’s high holiday: Easter. I always associate a few key memories with Easter Sunday. One is being dressed up as a young child in coordinated, puffy-sleeved bow dresses with my sisters (complete with headbands and those frilly white socks) and hunting for plastic eggs on a giant lush lawn. The other is mimosas and fine brunch foods, which I think should always include ham and asparagus. I may be not the traditional Easter observer, but I think we can all agree on champagne and pork, no?
Ahhhh Valentine’s Day. Usually not my favorite holiday, but this year I decided to embrace that lovin’ feelin’ with these cookie sandwiches that captivated my attention on last year’s cover of Martha Stewart Living. Chocolate hearts, pink sugar cookie hearts and Oreo-like filling make for a batch of festive treats that are fun to look and even more fun to eat.
I had to make this one my own since I could only find 2-inch heart shaped cutters (a new problem I didn’t realize I had until this week). But, the great thing is that anything goes as long as you have an even number of cookies to sandwich. And even then, putting the odd numbers to good use is fairly easy.
So, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never actually had the SoHo brasserie version of the recipe I’m about to gush over. But since I’ve made this soup a few times now, I am confident I can brag about the results you can achieve at home.
As temperatures have dipped down into the 20s here in Seattle, I come home from work and crave something piping hot. Preferably with a cheesy crust.
I don’t think it’s a mistake that Balthazar calls the recipe a “gratinée,” since the jam-like texture of the onions, broth-logged bread and cheese crust on top make the soup portion feel like an afterthought. One thing I’ve learned with this recipe (as with many aspect of cooking) is to practice patience. The recipe says to cook the onions down for 30 minutes, which when you’re hungry and stirring the pot seems like an eternity. After about 10 minutes, the onions will become soft and take on a light caramel color, which may lead you to believe you’ve reached that “golden color” referenced in the instructions. Do not stop. I actually set a timer so that I wouldn’t shortchange the onion transformation process (I have a tendency to get a bit impatient). Stir, stir, stir. Don’t let them burn, but let the onions become so caramelized that they seem to almost disintegrate. They should begin to latch onto the wooden spoon when you stir.
Put this up against any pie at a holiday feast and I predict you’ll have the crowd favorite. I say this following careful study. By that I mean, I made it for a work Thanksgiving potluck and saw more than one person asking, “how did you make this?” as they bypassed the pumpkin pie for another scoop. It’s become a regular on my family’s Thanksgiving table and we serve it with dinner because, well, it’s a vegetable (ehhhh?). But it would be a great addition to any party if you want a dessert disguised as a side dish, or just a twist on a classic crumble. Label it any course you want, it will be delicious. I love the airy texture with the crunch topping, and that striking orange perfume that cuts the richness (there is more than a little butter in here).
I like to have a few recipes on hand so that, on occasion, I can feel like Gwyneth Paltrow. Did you just cock your head and give the screen a quizzical look? Let me explain.
Ms. Paltrow is reported to follow a fairly strict diet, based around locally sourced, seasonal and organic food. She stays away from processed foods, red meat, sugar and dairy for the most part. She also does things like soak raw almonds in water before she eats them to allow for better digestion. If you’d like a first-hand (and highly entertaining) account of what it’s like to eat like the Goop goddess, please read Rebecca Harrington’s The Cut article. While I’m not signing up for veganism just yet, eating a full bowl of colorful veggie and seed goodness, free of impurities (and sadly cheese, meat, bread and all the other things that generally excite me) makes me feel like I’m following in her amazingly youthful footsteps. And like I deserve a pat on the back for all my good deeds.
I look forward to football season more and more. With it comes a welcome cooling trend from the summer heat, festive weekends and, of course, addictive snack foods that go best with sports. I don’t know all the stats or follow the majority of the games, but I’m just as happy being along for the ride (and around for a lot of the food). For a recent UW game, I decided to change up the usual chips, burgers and hot dogs for some good ol’ fried chicken.
So, I know it’s been a while, and a few things have happened since I last posted the Arnold Palmer cake. I moved to Seattle, upgraded to a rustic French kitchen and now have my very own Kitchen Aid mixer (more on my love affair with this later). Life is good and I’m ready to dust off my gear and get cooking again.