Cooking with Recipes

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Aaaaaaand: I’m back! The school year is successfully underway and I finally have more time for other things, like all of you wonderful people.

Have you noticed lately how online food publications want us to be cooking without recipes? Strangely implying that somehow it is better for us home cooks. Becoming free of recipes is some aspirational state that we should all dream of living in someday. It drives me crazy. Most chefs and expert home cooks I know rely on recipes, whether they are memorized or on paper. It is how we get the food to taste the same each time. Maybe it is mostly semantics and what the editors mean is that they want us to be better at improvising. But if that is the case then I am confused by their experience of the internet. You only have to read the comments of any food blog to understand that most people seem pretty comfortable improvising (I was out of chicken stock so I used maple syrup!). Anyway, most of the time immediately following their claim that they are going to teach us how to cook without recipes, there is literally a recipe. So I guess they can’t get away from them either.

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Victories, Large and Small

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I hope that Julia Turshen is the future of home cooking. There are a few voices in the crowd of people talking about food that are worth listening to–Julia’s is one of those voices. I would describe her, in lazy shorthand—the kind used to pitch a new television series, as Ina Garten with a sense of humor (she is the queen of #dadjokes) and a political conscience. This basically describes my ideal food writer. Full-disclosure, I also consider Julia a friend, but I think that only influences my judgment in positive ways. I can testify that she is authentic. Additional evidence for her greatness is the mountain of praise she has received in the weeks leading up to the release of her new cookbook. read more+++

Digest: Charred Cucumbers and Pepperoni Pizza

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Recently I came across a recipe for some charred cucumbers. I’d never charred cucumbers before, what did I have to lose? (A cucumber, I guess.)

You should use little Persian Cucumbers for this, they’re less juicy which will serve them well in a hot pan. Heat up a cast iron skillet until it is very hot. In the meantime, slice your Persian cucumbers in half lengthwise and toss them in a bowl with some mild olive oil, salt, and pepper. Now that your pan is good and hot, carefully put your cucumbers, cut-side-down, into the hot pan. Let them sizzle away for a few minutes until the underside is charred. You’re done.

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Chopped Tofu Salad and more….

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We can’t stop with this chopped tofu salad that is posted over at Sprouted Kitchen. I can always rely on Sara for solid recipes that make me feel good. Love her cookbook, too. This recipe makes enough for 4 moderate servings. It keeps well in the fridge, even with the tofu and cashews, so I’d consider increasing the yield if I were you. read more+++

Saffron-Infused Tomato Sauce with Vermouth

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Maria Speck has written a second cookbook, Simply Ancient Grains, and it is reason to celebrate. I fell in love with Maria’s cooking and writing a couple of years ago when she published her first book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. It’s a book that has become a favorite in our house and taught me a lot about cooking with whole grains. I know I need more delicious grain recipes in my life, you probably do, too.  read more+++

Vegetable and Soba Salad with Mapled Tofu

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I’m going to keep this one simple: This is our current favorite thing to eat. It is so delicious, full of the flavors and textures that we often crave. And unlike salted caramel pound cake, it is actually healthy. It comes from the new book Bowl and Spoon by the smarties over at The Sprouted Kitchen, Sara and Hugh Forte. I like the food they make, and I like their books. This one is full of delicious recipes that are served in (#?)bowls, large and small. It feels just right for spring, and I have a lot of recipes bookmarked to try. read more+++

Crisp Baked Tofu

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We’re always freaking out about what to eat for dinner. Not on the weekend, on the weekend we enjoy the question, but during the week it is another story. At some point during the workday one of us will text or e-mail the other something along the lines of: WTF dinner?

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I like cooking, but like many of you I have a 9-5 (ish) job and a commute on either end of that day. I don’t have the energy to do too much for dinner. We tend to eat a combination of pieced together pantry/fridge meals, pick-up, and occasionally eat dinner out. You would not believe I had a food blog from my typical weeknight diet. It consists of a lot of improvised salads, fried rice, and the occasional pizza bagel. But once in a while, we’ll put in a little more effort. We might even plan ahead and make something on Sunday that will last us a few days into the week. This tofu is a good example.

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The Midwest

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My friends and I are approaching middle age, some of us more quickly than others. Babies are included in dinner reservations. Our bodies aren’t as reliable as they once were. Most of us have grown-up jobs or own property (buncha sell-outs!). I’m also noticing that many of us are questioning everything. It’s similar to what we went through after graduating from universities, but now the questions have changed: do we want to have kids? am I on the right professional path? where should we live? (who made these rules anyway?!)

Where should we live? is a question that Bryan and I ask each other a lot.  On our frequent trips to Los Angeles we often have moments where we think it would make sense to live there. We have family and friends in the city, the climate, landscape and lifestyle all seem to fit us. We fantasize about what life would be like in sunny California and it’s a blur of avocados, apocalyptic sunsets, and year-round backyard dinners. These fantasies are usually followed by very real moments trapped in freeway traffic where I end up screaming “I hate this fucking city!”. Sooooo, maybe not Los Angeles.

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Saffron Pasta with Spiced Butter

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I can’t see a pasta maker without thinking of this one painting by John Currin. The painting is of two guys, presumably a couple, making pasta together. It’s not a painting that I particularly like, but it is a painting I will never forget.

Chevrolet has recently been airing some commercials that feature diverse families: multiracial, single parents, same-sex parents. They almost make me care about Chevrolet.

Representation is an important thing. Those of us in marginalized groups grow to understand this, and either long for it or find ways of embracing our otherness. Seeing yourself reflected in the culture is powerful, it validates you. I grew up without any positive depictions of gay men—literally none. There was no literature read in high school, no characters in film or television, and I certainly did not have any examples in my own life. There were millions of examples of heterosexual love and lives. I have an imagination and so of course I was able to see myself in characters and situations that were unlike me, we all do. I identified with people like Mick Kelly in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks, and Levin in Anna Karenina.

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But this identification is not the same thing, it isn’t representation. That painting of the gay couple making pasta is burned into my mind because it was the first (only?) time I had seen my life represented in painting in a literal way. Both in terms of the relationship between the two men and depiction of them in a domestic situation. Even today, when there are more diverse representations of gay men, they are rarely in domestic spaces—they are rarely mundane. The act of painting imbues the couple and their domestic act with an importance that was oddly moving and unsettling the first time I saw it. Over the years it has become iconic to me and impossible for me to separate from the act of making pasta. How odd! I don’t necessarily like this fact. It is stupid that I could feel so desperate for this sort of representation that I am forced to hang onto a painting that I don’t even know if I like.

So when Bryan and I, in a collective effort to make better use of sometimes neglected kitchen appliances, decided to make pasta, we both said: LIKE IN THE PAINTING! Because it is stuck in Bryan’s head too.

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