One quirky thing to know about tomato sauce:
In Australian slang, tomato sauce is a dead horse. (Oh, the things I learn on the Internet!) I don't know why, since tomatoes and horses don't seem to have much to do with one another, so I hope one of you can fill in the blank. In my New England pantry, tomato sauce, either home-canned or store-bought, is a staple; it's the consistency of baby food, with the concentrated essence of tomato flavor. You can make it, or buy it, with onions and garlic and herbs, but I love plain tomato sauce for its versatility.
Continue reading "Tomato sauce (Recipe: turkey or chicken picadillo empanadas)" »
A charming thing to know about maple syrup:
According to Native American legend, one morning an Iroquois chief pulled his tomahawk from a tree where he'd thrown it the night before. The weather had turned warm, and from the gash in the tree, sap flowed into a wooden bowl that happened to be sitting on the ground. A woman found the bowl of clear liquid; thinking it was water, she used it to prepare the day's meal. As the bowl cooked all day, the sap thickened and turned to syrup. The chief returned, and the woman served the sweet-flavored meal she had cooked. He loved it (who wouldn't?), and that was how maple syrup became a mainstay of Native American cuisine. How, when and where it paired up with pancakes is something I still need to find out.
Continue reading "Maple syrup (Recipe: spinach salad with glazed beets and blue cheese)" »
A reassuring thing to know about beef broth:
Store-bought beef broth is pretty good stuff, and that's great to know, because to make your own beef stock, you really have to commit an entire day of your life. Is there a difference between broth and stock? Actually, yes. Broth is made by simmering water with meat and/or vegetables; stock is made by simmering water with bones and vegetables. A really good umami-heavy beef broth starts with bones, browned in the oven along with root vegetables, then simmered for hours and strained and reduced and strained again. The gelatin in the bones gives stock a richer flavor, but in most cases, you can use broth and stock interchangeably. If you're using store-bought, taste before you add salt to the dish.
Continue reading "Beef broth (Recipe: seven-spice udon noodle soup)" »
An amazing thing to know about cornmeal:
Cornmeal can be anything you want it to be -- and how many times in life do we wish we could make something, or someone, be exactly what we want it to be? Cornmeal obliges. It can be smooth or coarse, thick or thin, yellow or white or blue or red. It can be soft, like porridge. It can be firm enough to cut into circles or stars or elephants, if you want to eat elephants. A sprinkling of cornmeal can slide a pizza into the oven, or coat baked chicken with a delicate crust, or transform into the cornbread that's just perfect with barbecue.
Continue reading "Cornmeal (Recipe: polenta with wild mushroom ragout)" »