Aug 2016
Salmon and that White Goo

Yeah, it's not the most appetizing adornment. Hard to miss against salmon's rosy-orange flesh, the white gooey stuff that sometimes appears during cooking is certainly a visual distraction. And might leave you feeling like you've messed up somehow. Possibly ruined that glorious piece of salmon even. First off, not ruined. Maybe a bit overcooked (more on that shortly), but not a calamity. And you’ll be happy to know there are a couple simple things you can do when cooking salmon to minimize the phenomenon. The white stuff you see is called albumin, a type of protein that’s found in the flesh of salmon and other fish, not to mention other foods. (The white of an egg is called albumen, which contains some albumin among other components and makes things a little confusing, but there you have it.) Because of salmon’s distinct orange tinge, the albumin contrast ...

Jul 2016
Oysters in Summer

"What's the deal?" a number of people have been asking me lately. "Isn't there something about not eating oysters in the summer?" Yeah, there is. Or was. The truth in the "don't eat oysters in the months without an 'R'" relates in part to the basic biology of oysters. When summer brings along an increase in water temperature, it induces natural oysters to spawn. These oysters aren't harmful to eat during spawning season. It's just that after expending all that energy on reproduction, they simply have softer, thinner meat that's not nearly as pleasing as most oyster lovers are hoping for. (And I trust, too, that part of the practice stemmed from the simple fact that years ago summer months proved challenging for keeping oysters fresh in transit.) What began changing a few decades ago is that a ...

May 2016
No-Shuck Oyster Shells

It's no surprise that I've been talking A LOT about oysters in the past few months, since the release of Oysters: Recipe that Bring Home a Taste of the Sea. And no, I haven't gotten tired of the topic, I'm not sick of them yet! In the course of interviews I've been doing and classes I'm teaching, a frequent question I get asked is about my favorite way to cook oysters. I  love them many ways, of course; classic pan-fried and raw are up there on the list. But  the top choice I share is usually grilled. It hardly gets simpler: heat source and oysters. They don't event need to be shucked first, just a quick toss under cold water to rinse away any grit or debris. Set the shell cup-side down on the ...

May 2016
Gin & Tonic’s Time to Shine

Ready for a gin and tonic revolution? Well. Maybe revolution is a bit overboard. But it's time for a movement of some kind to elevate the glories of the beloved G & T. A campaign maybe? Sure would beat the other brand of campaign we're being pounded with these days. This would be a happy and uplifting campaign. No caucuses and delegate-counting, no juvenile jousting and mind-numbing politicking. Just gin.....and tonic. And a few of their cool friends. I will always be a fan of old-school and have no aspersions to cast on a timeless Bombay & Schweppes version of this iconic cocktail. Tall glass, lots of ice, wedge of lime: perfect refreshment. But it's been great to see some interesting variations on the theme. And not just a house version of the G & T at ...

Apr 2016
The Kitchen Reno: Before and After

Even though the dust has settled and the workmen gone, I keep a comic strip stuck to the wall that really struck a chord a few months ago. In that timeless setting of the therapist's office, the therapist prattles on about how there are no quick fixes in therapy, it's a frustrating often traumatic process, it can be lengthy -- to which the patient replies "much like having your kitchen remodeled." Heavens. Could I relate. And we had a pretty straight-forward remodel. No walls moved, didn't expand the space. No scary discoveries once the plumbing was explored and the wiring fixed. Mostly new from the floor up, the construction was done in a couple of months. I even had a better-than-decent temporary kitchen in the basement, thanks to a 1940s range we inherited with the house, lots of counter space and a utility sink. The traumatically long ...

Jan 2016
Taste of Place: Meroir

Most of us have wrapped our brains, and our palates, around the idea of terroir by now. According to Merriam-Webster, its usage dates back to the mid-19th century, referencing the various influences from soil, climate, altitude, aspect, wind exposure, etc. that contribute to the unique character of wine grapes grown in a particular area. My 1941 copy of the Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary doesn’t include terroir sandwiched between territory and terror. Wine jargon seems to have owned the term until much more recent years. By now it’s such a common a concept that it’s applied to everything from cheese to (if you can believe Wikipedia) cannabis. A far more recent variation on this concept is that of meroir*, the seagoing version of terroir. And as terroir was uniquely linked with wine grapes initially, so is it that meroir ...

Dec 2015
The Gift of Experience

As a culture we've gotten incredibly good at accumulating things. Buying things that we need. Things that we don't need. Replacing things with new things because we get bored. Buying shiny-pretty-ooooh-gotta-have-it things just because. And then trying to figure out where to put it all. So then, what are we to do when those holidays hit? Just shift gears and do the same for others. I'm not dismissing gift-giving altogether, of course not. I'm not that much a Grinch! Finding items that will make your friends and family happy, authentically adding some richness to their lives, is the spirit of the season to be sure. But the "what the heck, do you think they'd like this nice [fill in the blank: candlestick, baseball hat, Chia kitten]?" kind of shopping, or ...

Nov 2015
The Joy of Thanksgiving

This time next week many of us will be scrambling around the kitchen, tending to a bird, popping a batch of rolls in the oven, trimming Brussels sprouts to steam, setting just-baked pies aside to cool. For some I know this can be a stressful occasion, whether it's because of pressure to not mess up the beloved meal, or in anticipation of the potentially-awkward dynamics around the dinner table later. (After hearing my friends Nancy and Dick discuss Thanksgiving annoyances on KPLU yesterday, I realized how well-behaved and enjoyable my Thanksgiving guests are--counting myself lucky!) For me Thanksgiving is pure bliss. Particularly if I'm home, having family and friends over, taking full advantage of the opportunity to cook my brains out. The menu's replete with cozy and satisfying food to match the mood of the season. It's ...

Oct 2015
Egg in Wine Sauce: Oeufs en Meurette

Eggs in your wine? I realize that concept may sound less than appealing at first. But leave it to the French to have put eggs in wine and made something glorious of it. Perhaps it doesn't hurt that there is also bacon, mushrooms, pearl onions. A bit of butter helping make a luscious sauce. If you've ever had oeufs en meurette--dug your fork into that pillow of poached egg, the yolk blending with the richly flavored sauce--you know how delicious that unexpected combination can be. This wine-y dish is, perhaps not surprisingly, a tradition from the Burgundy repertoire of French cuisine, this sauce combination echoing the flavors associated with à la bourguignonne preparations. Maybe it's that semester I spent at University of Dijon in the heart of Burgundy that made this dish instantly appealing to me. They make a LOT of lovely wine throughout Burgundy. And ...

Oct 2015

Jazz and Soufflé

Jazz and Soufflé

I know it's not an original consideration, that music and cooking share some common threads. Improvisation, playing around, just making stuff up. Being free with the art form. There's a lot of that in both camps. And both also rely on building blocks, foundational skills that you need to master (or at least accomplish with some degree of proficiency) to move incrementally into more advanced expressions of the art. Sitting down at the piano with not the least bit of practice, or understanding of scales and harmonics, and trying to jam like Oscar Peterson will be a discordant mess. Same would be true of hitting the kitchen without understanding of basic techniques, cooking methods and how different ingredients coalesce when cooked together. Unappetizing chaos more likely the result than something delicious. Which, on the flip side, makes walking into a kitchen WITH ...