Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

squash tart

What to do with all that awesome homemade ricotta from last week (other than boasting about it incessantly)? Here’s a recipe I dreamed of, and the reason I made the ricotta in the first place — the ricotta’s raison d’etre, if you will.

I’ve been seeing ricotta-squash tart everywhere recently, by which I mean at both Buttermilk Channel and Vinegar Hill House, both in Brooklyn, both homey new American style restaurants with a farmhouse decor. Aww.

And both with food that — while delicious — I felt pretty confident that I could duplicate at home. Well, this isn’t either of their tarts exactly, but it was pretty good nonetheless. What did I learn? I learned that if you make a good enough tart crust, and have good enough ricotta for the filling, and have good quality toppings,  you can make just about any kind of savory tart you want. (more…)

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Homemade Ricotta

making ricotta

This is incredible. It’s quick, it’s easy — it’s magic. It’s homemade ricotta cheese, using just whole milk, lemon juice (or vinegar), and a little salt, as well as a few pieces of equipment. It’s homemade ricotta cheese for less than the price of buying commercial ricotta. It’s homemade ricotta cheese that tastes fresh and pure in a way the stuff from the tub never will.

It’s homemade ricotta cheese! (more…)

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100_1866As I’ve said before, you really don’t need any fancy kitchen equipment to cook 99.5% of the things you’re likely to want to make at home, and I think investing in any big, expensive equipment (Antigriddle, anyone?) when you’re first starting out is a poor decision.

There are, however, a few intermediate toys that are nice to acquire along the way. Ones that aren’t too expensive and will get used often enough to make them worth the storage paper. A food processor is one. A mortar and pestle is another.

And a mandoline is one I highly recommend. It looks like a medieval torture device, but it’s much more affordable and it will make perfect thin slices of zucchini for this “pasta” faster than you can say antigriddle.


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There was a point when I spent most of my time in the kitchen in a state of inspired panic, lurching from one almost-disaster to another. I wondered sometimes about the nonchalant calm that seemed to reign in other people’s kitchens, but I was enjoying myself, for the most part, and it seemed clear that such total zen kitchen mastery was out of the question without a lifetime of practice behind me.

Recently, though, I discovered a brilliant way to short-circuit the process. Here is the secret: learn to do one thing well. Make it a dish or a Skill, as flashy or as humdrum as you like. Bake a mean soufflé! Poach an egg to perfection! The only requirement in this regimen is that, as soon as possible, you do it again. And again. And again. Knead it into your muscle memory until your mastery of the poached egg is out of all proportion to what it by rights should be.

There is something intensely gratifying about making a little study of a process like this. It is not, or at least not mostly, about the poached egg, or about basking in the afterglow of the praise it may inspire, although those can be collateral benefits. It is in the psychic payoff of being able to spend a peaceful hour in a familiar space feeling like you know exactly what you are doing.

In the last few weeks I have turned my attentions to roasting peppers.  I am still a few cycles shy of zen mastery, but I thought I’d share my observations on the process and two tasty dishes that resulted along the way. (more…)

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Another of the wonders of the CSA is occasionally receiving something you’ve never heard of before. Like lamb’s quarter, which I received a few weeks ago and which Wikipedia tells me is a varitey of goosefoot. Thanks, Wikipedia.

Lamb’s quarter, as it turns out, is a plant in the same family as the one that produces quinoa. It’s scientific name is chenopodium album or “white goosefoot” and it makes a mean pesto.



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Ah, the underrated beauty of a spring onion.
Dear Ah-Yee*,

One of the first meals I remember you preparing for me and my step-brothers is a tuna fish salad with fresh apple chunks mixed in. I was young and it was different, so I thought it was pretty weird. But like our new family, I started to appreciate the combination more the older I got.

This sandwich is inspired by the juxtaposition of savory and sweet, gamy and mellow, chewy and crisp I remember from our lunch table long ago. As with so many other things in my youth, you were right and I was wrong.

Like my tastes and our family, it’s grown up a bit. The white bread has bloomed into organic whole grain, seed-studded, thick-sliced brown bread. The tuna has evolved into low mercury, gloriously fishy, skinless and boneless sardines. The mayo has stepped aside for a smoother, healthier greek yogurt emulsifier. But the heart of it, the apple, remains constant from my childhood.

Thanks for the inspiration, the meals, and the heart.


*My family’s romanization of “step-mom” in Mandarin.


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egg salad

Egg salad is another thing (like coleslaw) that I thought was pretty disgusting until I made it myself. And then I realized that it’s delicious — and easy, and cheap. And endlessly variable. Here are some guidelines: egg salad is best when it’s freshly made, slightly warm, not too mayonnaisey, and served open-faced on a piece of toasted bread. It needs something a little acidic, something a little onion-y/crunchy, and a little spicing.

Another guideline: Egg salad likes to have other things mixed into it, or eaten on top or alongside it. Consider egg salad your canvas! I have listed a couple suggestions for toppings and side munchies below, which I’ve distinguished by whether you want to put them directly on top of your sandwich and eat altogether in one bite (toppings) or whether you want to eat between bites of sandwich, for a change of flavor/texture (side munchies). Side muchies can, I suppose, also be toppings, depending on how adventurous you are.

And, as the last feather in egg salad’s cap of endless flexibility, it should be noted that it can serve as any of the three meals of the day: a savory breakfast, a quick lunch, or a light supper. So get crackin’. (more…)

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