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Content about Vegetables

For those who don't particularly like rhubarb.
"I hate rhubarb." That was the first sentence uttered by my local butcher after I described this sauce I wanted to make to pair with some pork chops. To be fair, rhubarb is a much-maligned spring vegetable. I was just convinced that I had to love it, and that I’d instantly find all kind of amazing uses for it. Though rhubarb and I don’t have much history to contend with, in cooking more that one dish with it in the...
Raw, Baked, and Coconut-Grilled
Kale sounds like a boring health food, but if you cook it well it's delicious. It's just that most recipes are too predictable: greens + fat + aromatics + acid.  Kale is a lot more versatile than people give it credit for. Sure, you can plug in different combinations (kale, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice is pretty common) and a pinch of red chile flakes is also welcome. Sherry vinegar is especially good, too, and the greens...
A fool-proof method discovered.
If you don’t want to go to all the bother of soaking and cooking them, canned chickpeas work extraordinarily well - James Beard, Beard on Food I wanted to go to all the bother of cooking dried chickpeas from scratch. Why? Well, because I never had cooked dried chickpeas before, and I really wanted to see whether taking the time to cook them from scratch would make for a more delicious and cheaper hummus. I had already toyed...
Tweaking the classic Chicago hot dog (aka The Superdawg)
Though it pains me to say this, the Chicago hot dog has one little flaw. It’s not always an issue, but it’s there just the same. Most of the seven toppings which make up a proper Chicago-style Hot Dog can be had at any time: mustard and relish are condiments, celery salt is a seasoning, the sport peppers and pickle come from a jar, and onions can be freshly cut up at any time of the year. No...the flaw is that damned red tomato...
Plus a recipe for Oaxacan-Style Peanuts with Chile and Garlic
Forget the chips. You know the drill. You walk into a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the country. You sit down. Within moments -often before drink orders are taken- a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa are rushed out to the table. You immediately dig in. Time disappears. Before you order, before you even think about ordering, salsa stains the tablecloth and all the chips are mysteriously gone. That’s just how it goes. Right? So...
Our solution for what to do with too many tomatoes
There isn't much argument that summertime is the peak season for cooking. It never gets easier than in August: the produce is top-notch, everywhere, and cheap. Locavores are finally settling down and enjoying themselves instead of passing judgement on the rest of us for buying zucchini out of season. You can make dinner by cutting up tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and calling it a masterpiece. My CSA vegetable delivery is overflowing...
A blend of bread, nuts, olive oil, tomato, and peppers
My fridge lately has been so full of food I can hardly see what’s inside of it. Since joining a CSA, I am completely overwhelmed with the amount of food I have, and how to cook it all quickly enough. The other day I realized that I had, like, 2 or 3 pounds of green onions--and not wispy little ones, big, fat ones, the white roots thick and juicy, the green shoots long and vibrant. I’d been using them as quickly as I could,...
Two pickle recipes that take less than a day to make
You know how you see scallops at the fish market and think to yourself, I could sauté those with?...When I’m at the farmers’ market, I see bushels and baskets of potential pickles... - David Chang, Momofuku It's been over three years, and yet I can still vividly remember an appetizer I ate at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. In a meal filled with gloriously fatty meat laced with spice, this small plate of cucumber and...
A delicious formula for making homemade pickles
Pickling vegetables is something that I’ve yet to get real excited about. Of all the "DIY" food movements, it’s one of the last to catch on. Why, I don’t know. Probably because a slab of homemade bacon is a lot more exciting than a jar of tangy vegetables. Which is no mark against the vegetables. Most anything next to a slab of bacon is bound to lose terribly. But actually, pickling is rather easy when it comes...
Hummus' neglected cousin
When it comes to Middle Eastern dips, hummus hogs most of the love and attention. (The New York Times recently reported that hummus is "catching on" in America, where it dominates the $325 million-a-year refrigerated flavored spreads category). You see tubs of it everywhere, and for good reason: it's a great snack to have around. But there's another beige spread (now doesn't that sound appetizing?) that gets short...
Urban gardening in Chicago
I've started an experiment this year: how easy is it, really, to grow vegetables and herbs in a windowsill? When I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan three years ago, I was rather taken with the idea of urban agriculture, romanticizing the rustic life of the small producer who grows his own vegetables, raises his own livestock, and scavenges the seas for the rest. (This fantasy was fueled rather steadily by episodes of the River Cottage...
Almonds, garlic, and bread are the magic ingredients in this alternative to tomato gazpacho
I heard a lot of complaining this month about Chicago weather, mostly about how cold and rainy it was, and I added my fair share to the chorus. "It's May, already, where's the warm weather?" was a common conversation starter, as weather always is. Apparently, somebody upstairs was listening. This week we have been thrust into what feels like the height of summer: it has climbed repeatedly above 90 degrees, and Chicago has...
Forget hollandaise: this will blow your mind
I recently stumbled on an essay called The Power of the Hot Vinaigrette in Michael Symon's new cookbook. "Cold vinaigrettes are excellent," he writes, "but add one to the hot pan you've sauteed some shrimp in, and the blended acid and oil will pick up all the flavor of the bits of protein and sugars that have stuck to the pan." He advocates for pan sauces to be vinaigrette-based, rather than stock-based. "I...
March 23, 2010
Sometimes you need to start with the basics.
I was recently bumming on a friend's membership to Costco, arms full of inexpensive bulk yeast and Dijon mustard for salad dressing, when I discovered the can of tomatoes you see above. It seemed like the deal of a century. For $3.89, I walked away with a can of San Marzano tomatoes weighing almost 7 pounds. That's the price you sometimes pay for a single 28 oz can of them. I immediately contemplated the massive pot of tomato...
February 19, 2010
Not all pesto is created the same.
I've been eating pesto with pasta since I knew how to boil water. That dense, fragrant, herb-y concentrate tossed with hot noodles -- it's magic. Even when I had no idea how to cook and bought pesto in a jar, it was wonderful and my favorite dinner. It provides that burst of freshness in the middle of February, and it's delicious enough that the flavor stays in my brain for days. The only problem I've ever had with pesto...
February 16, 2010
Cereal isn't the option in the morning.
For the past few weeks I've been eating salads for breakfast. I eat huge bowls of mixed greens sprinkled with dried fruits, toasted nuts, and whatever else happens to be on hand. If there is half an avocado in the fridge I'll cut it up and toss it in, same with roasted vegetables, chickpeas, goat cheese, carrots...you get the idea. I eat until I am no longer hungry. It has nothing to do with a diet, nor is it some devious plan my...
Great pizza doesn't have to cost much.
If you're not down with pizza stones, it's time. Bread-bakers and home pizza afficionados praise them for their heat-retaining, moisture-wicking ability to imitate the floor of a brick oven. You put it in your oven and it not only provides a rustic surface to bake the bread on, but it also keeps the heat of the oven steady. Especially when it comes to pizza, that ever-important underside char and blistering (sometimes known as the...
Vinegar and sugar can spruce up any sauce.
Once we had blanched and peeled the tomatoes we chopped them, strained the seeds, and simmered it for twenty minutes into a simple sauce. Then I made my gastrique, which involved no measuring -- maybe 1/4 cup of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of sugar -- and a quick boil into something thick and syrupy. I tasted the sauce before adding it, which was fine, clean and simple.  And then I tasted it after. The difference was noticeable. Both...
October 20, 2009
And the best kimchi award goes to...
After a tasting of both kimchi projects, the results are in. We have a winner! It wasn't easy to decide: there were things about Nick's kimchi that were better, and things about Blake's Kimchi that were better. We went back and forth about who should take the title. We tasted, waited, tasted again. First, the recipes. Though our recipes were similar, there were some crucial differences: Blake used a lot more salted shrimp...
Nick gives kimchi his best shot.
Though Blake was thrilled to jump right into this Kimchi-making process, I dragged my feet the whole way. It's not that I don't love kimchi. That's far from the case. It's just that I've been really happy with the jars of kimchi I've been buying from the Korean market. Uncovering the ways of kimchi, however enlightening the process may be, would sort of remove the magic from the whole experience and turn what...
Blake tries to make kimchi.
Nick and I are currently in the middle of a fierce kimchi-making contest, in which we've both set off to do our own research and exploration, make a batch of the best kimchi we know how to, and submit it for a taste test. Neither of us have made kimchi before, but we both love the taste of it dearly. Tired of paying for it at the store and intoxicated by the possibility that homemade kimchi could taste even better than the commercial...
September 29, 2009
What is your kimchi secret?
Vinegary, spicy, crunchy, and addictive. These are just some of the words we use to describe Korean dish kimchi. We could go on, but the idea is this: Kimchi fascinates us. We put it into stews, mix it with noodles and sesame oil, chop it up with fried rice, and side it up with Korean barbecue. We've been known to eat it straight out of the jar when we need a fix. There are all kinds of kimchi out there --...
Try this awesome Korean appetizer.
I began to wonder whether the banchan were going to overwhelm the table. We had placed the little Korean side dishes on the smallest plates I owned, but the shear number of them added up. It was our own fault. When Blake and I decided to do a Korean Barbecue feast last weekend we figured it was time to lavish attention on banchan, giving them the attention and care usually just reserved for the main course. Along the way we made...
How to create the perfect cucumber sandwich.
I feel like I finally understand the cucumber sandwich. After weeks of thinking about it, and trying to recreate the most authentic version I could muster, it finally sunk in. The taste isn't rich, indulgent, spicy, acidic, comforting, salty, or fatty. It's cool, calm, and collected. The strongest reaction I had towards one was a contented sigh, a sort of momentary delight. So why was I breaking a sweat trying to make one? I had...
What to pair with North Carolina-style barbecue.
The crisp bite of coleslaw, the crunchy crust of freshly fried hushpuppies, and the porky punch of black eyed peas: I realized after a mad dash through the barbecue trail in North Carolina that these were not just side dishes, but essentials. Without them my meals would have fallen apart, lost in meat gluttony. They helped achieve a barbecue balance, where everything complimented and heightened the taste of each other. I couldn't...
May 17, 2009
How to use a foodie's most scorned appliance.
Do most people use their microwaves often?  Or am I just now coming round to what most people know? I bought my microwave at a sidewalk sale for 10 bucks.  I simply asked the sellers if it still worked, and they assured me that it did.  That was good enough for me.  My previous model had just stopped working a few weeks before and Abby and I had nowhere to make popcorn.  Though I used it only rarely, a microwave...
March 30, 2009
How to make Chicago's favorite condiment.
Most of the recipes online are found on generic websites and just have a bunch of cut up vegetables mixed with olive oil, which I already knew was completely wrong.  There needed to be some kind of acidic kick, something to balance the aggressive heat and the fair amount of oil. I had my first breakthrough when I found this random video from the Food Network show "Unwrapped".  They were visiting agiardiniera factory, and...
September 10, 2008
How to make pickles at home without filling your place with the smell of pickles.
But all I did was worry.  Why was there no garlic in the dill pickles? Every other jar of dill pickles I had bought contained garlic.  And why did the pickling spice smell so sweet?  Dill pickles weren't sweet.  I worried that Ruhlman's recipe was too refined.  I wanted simple dill pickles.  I'd have to look elsewhere.    I pulled out Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking and found...
September 1, 2008
A couple days ago Elin and I went to our community garden plots to asses things after a two and a half week absence from New York.  When we left, our garden was thriving with tomatoes, kale, collard greens, beets, carrots, corn, and peppers.  Despite our best efforts to screw things up, the Brooklyn soil continues to sprout edibles. We returned to find out tomato plants brown, drooping, and shriveled. Yet as they had started to die,...
It was the most fantastic feeling in the world--especially for someone who has no idea how to grow food, like me. A bunch of seeds Elin and I planted months ago in a nearby community garden--tomatoes, kale, peppers, cucumbers, snap peas, beets, radishes, onions, lettuce, and corn--had been growing into large green bushy things that we hoped weren't weeds. Were they healthy and sated with water and getting just the right sunshine?  Did they...
June 26, 2008
For the fourth time in as many years, I'm going to spend the last weekend of June packing up boxes, carrying heavy couches down stairwells, and figuring out whether the odd Ikea piece of furniture is really worth the effort of moving.  I already cooked my last meal on the well worn stove (had to be the shrimp etouffee), and will now be living on bagels and sandwiches.  This time next week I'll be walking around Chicago, a city I can't...
Moving beyond pico de gallo into real authentic territory
I thought I knew everything there was to know about salsa.  Tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos, lime juice, salt.  Chop, mix, serve.  It’s an enormous pain, but the alternative (jarred salsa) just doesn’t compare.  Taking the time to chop is a noble pursuit.  That was until Blake visited last weekend.  What he threw together in a matter of minutes turned blood red and clung to every chip like it...