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Cooking on the Clock: 5 tips for speeding up meal prep

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When it comes to creating a savory, amazing meal on a weeknight, most people think you have to stay home from work to cook for a few hours, but it's more than possible to put together sumptuous dishes in the same amount of time it would take to heat up a frozen pizza. You just have to put the right strategies in place. Here are five tips on getting speedy without sacrificing taste:

 

1. Create a real pantry. Most of us don't do long-term menu planning, and that's fine, but being aware of what's available in your house and stocking your cupboards with go-to items can be a boon for quick meals. Think about dry goods that will serve you well and that will store for weeks, if not months: instant polenta, cous cous, dried fruits, nuts, spices, flavored oils, etc. I like jarred items like pesto, anchovy paste, and olives, that you can throw into a dish easily but don't need refrigeration until you open them.

 

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Hunting for Dinner: Squirrel and dumplings

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It's been almost two years exactly since I wrote my first article for Simple Good & Tasty, about taking my mother squirrel hunting for the very first time. Over the past two years, I've received some very good feedback about that article and best of all, I ended up meeting Mike Pugsley.


A career musician in his 50s, Mike has been an avid shooter for most of his life but only hunted a couple times 20 years ago. He was interested in getting into hunting and doing some research online when he came across my squirrel article, in which I noted that I frequently take new hunters out and introduce them to the outdoors. After he called, and talked about squirrel hunting, we set up a time to go out. 

 

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Mallmann on Fire: Red and golden beet salad with radishes and soft-boiled eggs

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In honor of an upcoming Twin Cities visit by world-renowned chef Francis Mallmann, we provide this selection from his new book. Behold, the power of fire. 

 

This is one of the few fresh vegetable salads you can put together all through the winter. It is a favorite at my restaurant in Garzón, even in the summer. Very crunchy, very fresh. The eggs make it a complete light meal. I first had it on a trip to Australia with a number of other chefs, including David Tanis. If you don’t know David, he has had a very interesting life: For many years, he spent half the year as the chef at Chez Panisse and the other half of the year as a private chef in Paris. Now his recipes appear every week in The New York Times Dining section, and they are a highlight of my Wednesday morning reading. 

 

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Smitten with Squash: Glazed Brussels sprouts & butternut squash (with a bit of food history thrown in)

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On a chilly October morning, a stroll through my favorite farmers market yielded a large sack of winter squash from a lone man in the last row, his cheeks cherry red from the harsh wind. Unsure what to do with these odd-shaped ugly ducklings, I knew I was yearning for comfort food, seeking solace from a constant internal roar brought on by a chaotic job. Winter squash were not part of my cooking routine, but I sank into a rhythm as I peeled away the sandy brown rind of a butternut squash. As I revealed its gorgeous burnt-orange flesh, appreciation for the beauty of this squash struck me. 

 

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Eat Your Medicine: Five common herbs that pack medicinal clout

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Although I grow an array of vegetables every season, sometimes I still look across our fields and imagine lush medicinal gardens boasting fantastically named choices like feverfew, juniperus, damiana, or blackwort. Maybe, I think, I could even pull off some false unicorn? 

 

Then I realize that with the amount of wild plants bordering the farm — stinging nettle, evening primrose, lambs quarters, and plantain in abundance — along with culinary herbs, I really do have the medicinal garden of my dreams.

 

Many herb books make a distinction between culinary and medicinal herbs, but the truth is that there are numerous plants that overlap those categories. That means it's possible you're already getting a nice dose of medicinal power just by throwing some fresh herbs into your dinner. Here are five of my favorite picks, with a few ideas on how to use them.

 

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Root Vegetables: Slow-roasted goodness

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If you find fall root vegetables unfamiliar and baffling, you’re not alone. Turnips and rutabagas are often big and unwieldy; they’re hard and seem to need forever to cook. Celery root can be shaggy, dirty, and mottled green. And sunchokes look like — well, like nothing else in the market. They’re knobby and woody on the outside, like bloated ginger root. Once you get past their looks, however, there is plenty of delicious local flavor to be unlocked in these fall vegetables.

 

Rutabagas and turnips are like siblings who are constantly being mistaken for one another. In fact, what Americans call a rutabaga or a Swede (to the great amusement of the rest of Scandinavia) is called a turnip in some other English-speaking countries.

 

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Kitchen DIY: Homemade corned beef

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Even though St. Patrick’s Day is half a year away, I’m going to try to convince you to make your own corned beef. 

 

The word “corned” was originally a term used for the word grain or kernel. It refers to curing beef with “grains” of salt. We eat this dish every couple of months. It’s so good that I can’t possibly make it just once a year in celebration of my husband’s (very minimal) Irish heritage. And for the record, this version is the best corned beef I’ve ever tasted. Full stop.

 

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Vino 101: Provence in a different light 

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Ah, summer in Provence. Even for those who've never been, the mere mention conjures images of lavender fields, azure seas, and quaint villages stacked on hilltops or hugging the coast. Food lovers dream of a sunny cuisine based on the ample fruits of the land and sea — ratatouille, bouillabaisse, and pan bagnat, preferably in a seaside café, all of it washed down with a classic Provençal rosé. 

 

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