Latest Blog Posts
Call me a culinary thief, but I love cooking passed-down family recipes from other peoples’ families. I say that with a bit of mischievousness because usually, the recipe-writer—the nonna, auntie, etc.—had shared their recipe with someone whom they love, but they probably never imagined that it would one day be used by a total stranger, me. It’s kind of thrilling. Read More
Say you want something savory, crispy, and fried—to start out a dinner, perhaps. Or to round out a more wholesome meal. Or to bring to a party, instead of a bag of chips (which I’ve done many times out of sheer enthusiasm for good potato chips and its place and purpose, and find no shame in). But let’s say you have time to roll up your sleeves in something... Read More
When faced with a vegetable that you’ve never cooked before, you can always try making it a proxy for a something that you have. Especially if that vegetable is as familiar as a potato, and the preparation is as adaptable as a gratin. Nowadays, we tend to think of this dish as a creamy, cheesy casserole of sliced potatoes. But you can cook anything in the oven with a sprinkling of... Read More
Food tucked inside individual portion-sized packages—it’s a formula that has served many favorite dishes of mine. From dumplings to tamales, these dishes are often clever ways to stretch or use up scraps and leftovers. Because yesterday’s stale starches and bits of proteins are much more charming dressed up in a wrapper. This dish is a cross between the minced mushroom and meat-laden Chinese sticky rice that I grew up... Read More
Sweets with a salty, savory hint have always been around—think the pinch of salt in a chocolate-chip cookie recipe. But in recent years, it’s become a selling point. From “salty” caramel to “salted” chocolate chip cookies, the emphasis has really moved over to the savory side of the equation in sweets. And, we’ve seen plenty of sweets with a spicy kick as well. For me, the worlds of spicy, savory and sweet all came... Read More
I’ve had an earworm for the last few weeks. Ever since finding a record called “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & the Techniques, the title track has been playing in my head nearly constantly. It’s a great song—have a listen. This pie is not what the song is actually about, but I just couldn’t shake the idea of making it. In an uncanny confluence of new seasonal fruits and old... Read More
There’s really nothing that parallels that burst of succulent kernels when sweet corn is in season, late summer. Just the noise of biting them straight off the cob—often uncontrollably fast—is a soundtrack to the season. Not to diminish the enjoyment of pure corn on the cob, maybe slicked with butter, but I’ve been slathering those juicy ears with a combo like this all summer: mayo mixed with some kind of spicy sauce. This... Read More
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel for a meal. Especially not in the summer, when it’s often hot and humid enough to make the stove a scary place. I seem to wind up with so many heads of lettuce in the summer, too—from my CSA or farmers markets or friends—that I have to play a version of pin the tail on the donkey with them that involves lettuce heads,... Read More
This wonton filling is proudly—if improbably—fashioned after san bei ji or Three Cup Chicken. This is one of the ultimate dishes from Taiwan, and one I love enough to try to twist into different forms any day. It starts with a deeply satisfying blend of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine (the eponymous “three cups”), and it’s splashed with copious aromatics—garlic, ginger and basil. I wanted to get its zingy,... Read More
It may be the twilight hour for spring but I’m savoring as much fresh asparagus as I can get. You know those ethereally green, snappy twigs of juicy, crispy, woody goodness won’t be in season for much longer here in the Northeast. If you’ve been simply grilling them like I have been a lot these short pre-summer nights—or perhaps enjoying them raw in a lightly dressed salad—then you may... Read More
Cooking is empowering. And it’s unique, in that this simple exercise provides you with one of the few daily necessities for survival—food. You can’t say that for going to the gym, or writing a brilliant essay, as empowering as those activities may be. It’s not always the case that whipping up a plate of dinner gives you a great sense of personal accomplishment. But when you cook something that... Read More
I’m a big fan of two-ingredient “salads”—if you’ll allow me to call them that. What makes a salad a salad? It’s not uncommon to see a “tomato salad” with just tomato and dressing. So is the imperative on fresh vegetables? (Not so! What about chicken, egg or grain-based salads?) Does it need to be cold? (No! Warm or room-temperature salads are a typical Moroccan side, like with carrots, for instance.) To... Read More
I’m convinced that big chunks of root vegetables are the perfect complement for rich, hearty winter stews—they absorb all their juices like savory sponges while adding to the complexity of the sauce. Even if nontraditional, they can make a stealthy starring role in such venerable cold-weather, long-cooked staples as cassoulet—with or without the addition of meat. Or wine-braised short ribs. Read More
Who says you can’t put miso in chicken soup? Or chicken in miso soup? I get it—miso paste is a great plant-based source of protein and flavor. Chicken soup, made from flesh and bone, needs little help in those departments. But I couldn’t decide. When it comes to winter slurping satisfaction, both chicken soup and miso soup are such all-time comforts. If you like both those soups, too, they... Read More
Growing up, pretty much any time I ate fish it was prepared in one of two ways: steamed whole, then drenched with julienned ginger, scallions and soy sauce. Or, pan-fried whole, then drenched with spicy, garlicky bean sauce. Later on, I would grow to love dipping fried fish sticks into ketchup and savoring every juicy bite of a Cajun-seasoned catfish fillet. But at the beginning, it was all about... Read More
What doesn’t taste good in a dumpling? Good question. Another: Is there any festive occasion whose theme can’t be dumpli-fied? I say there is definitely not. So when Super Bowl LII weekend was approaching, and I realized that one of the teams playing was the Philadelphia Eagles, I decided to make dumplings with a filling a la the city’s signature hoagie. Cheesesteak Dumplings aren’t that different from Cheeseburger Dumplings, after all. Read More
There’s evil starches, then there’s good-for-you starches, from a modern-day health perspective. White potatoes are roundly shunned as one of those bad, rotten, festering ones of the bunch, bound to metastasize into a gummy tube of fat around your waistline. Refined white flours are bad, too, if you can even eat them without experiencing painful gluten intolerances! Now, I will never call either of these types of food “bad” entirely,... Read More
Let’s start off a year of fewer regrets. It’s 2018, a good time to start getting things done! It’s about time to do things that have long been neglected and put off, like a laundry list of—well, laundry is one of them. And for some reason, I have never made New England-style clam chowder before. Let’s knock this one off and keep on going strong. Read More
The lyrics to the classic wintry song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” did not age too well. Sung as a male-female duet, the woman repeatedly insists “I really must go,” to which the male singer retorts, “Baby, it’s cold outside.” But you can tell from the smugness in his voice that he’s really not that concerned about the cold. He wants to get her into his bed. And maybe she... Read More
Happy End of the Year. It’s that time of looking back at all the highs and lows of 2017. Best-ofs and worst-ofs. Instead of offering my take on the best food books of the year, or ranting again about Gifts Not To Give the Cook, I wanted to try to put a positive spin on one of the worst moments in dining of 2017, according to Eater’s Senior Food Critic, Robert Sietsema. Reviewing... Read More
Late fall, when the heaters turn on and the skies turn gusty and gray, is the start of dinner party season for me. The days of strolling around and sitting down in the park for an impromptu picnic are done for the year. The air conditioners have been deposited to their upper reaches of closets. It’s cozy indoors, and even when you pack a table with twelve guests and blow... Read More
The greatest Reason For Not Eating Out is having leftovers in the fridge. And the greatest reason for having leftovers in the fridge, of all days of the year, is perhaps Thanksgiving. If you made the requisite roast turkey for the grand dinner, you’re bound to have lots of bits and pieces of turkey meat clinging to the carcass, no matter how much of it you and your family ate. Many cultures can... Read More
This dish is part-recipe, part-stress therapy. When I served it as part of a baby shower brunch recently, people kept coming up to ask me a) Was that raw cabbage? and b) How did you cut it? You don’t cut it, I told them. You have to roll up your sleeves and tear it with your bare hands, which I demonstrated by air-tearing. It’s a lot of fun. Read More
A good gourd goes a long way. So does a package of wonton skins. Both ingredients have been known to travel afar, to unlikely juxtapositions and international cuisines. So when you’ve got a lot of them, it’s tempting to try em a number of ways. But how do you know—before you’ve tried it—whether two seemingly disparate ingredients will go together in one dish? Read More
I’m not sure which is more surprising: hosting a new podcast about food, or making kale ice cream. But they have a lot to do with one another this week. The new podcast is called Why We Eat What We Eat, and the first episode, out tomorrow, tackles the strangely swift rise in popularity of kale. Last weekend, I decided to make kale ice cream, since one of the discussions around the leafy green in... Read More
I had an earth-shattering sopa de lima (lime soup) a couple years ago in the Yucatan Peninsula, near Tulum. My friends and I had just swam in a cenote, an underground sinkhole created by the natural collapse of limestone bedrock. After emerging from what felt like a scene in Fraggle Rock, we looked for lunch nearby, and came to a small roadside restaurant. Having not consulted any guidebook or website, we... Read More
I am not sher what happened to sherbet. As a kid in the 80s and 90s, it was always playing second fiddle to ice cream. It wasn’t pungent and sour like frozen yogurt, which made some people dislike it. It wasn’t full-on fruity and as tart as sorbet, its nondairy cousin. And it didn’t have, at least in my recollection, too many fat-free or otherwise health-conscious claims attached to it,... Read More
It’s the season of no recipes needed. In winter, we might pore over splatter-pocked cookbooks, braising a stew or simmering a ragu just the right way. In the summer, things get a lot more loosey-goosey: we unsheathe the barbecue, dig into dirt, invent salads from overflowing refrigerator crispers and lounge around barefoot catching seafood, perhaps. All this fun and the peak quality of seasonal ingredients leads to a quick and effortless... Read More
Over the winter, I had fun making long-simmered pots of chicken paprika and goulash, Eastern European dishes that pull at my childhood memories. You see, my next-door neighbors growing up, an elderly couple from Poland the Kieslowskis, would often make these in their home and it filled my backyard with delicious scents as I scurried about in the yard, sometimes playing tetherball with my brother, sometimes helping my parents with yard... Read More
The tournament is on! The contenders? You versus Harvest Season, in a game of you trying to cook and eat up CSA veggies, garden veggies, or veggies that looked too good not to pick up at the farmers market before the next batch swarms into your kitchen. Because it’s summer, and that means everything looks good, and is plentiful (and relatively cheap). So it’s easy to have too much of a good... Read More
I’m not much of a granola-eater unless I get around to making it myself. Something about most store-bought granolas, crackling with sugar like crisp toffee, makes the whole eat-healthy endeavor seem fruitless. But I do love some oats, nuts and other whole grains and whatnot in the morning. And the fact that you can use any combination and ratio of them when you’re making granola yourself.
Recipes are a lot more flexible than you may think. Soups are especially welcome to additional ingredients, adaptable to changing seasons, and open to subtractions in the case of allergy or just preference. I’m of the opinion that in most cases, a recipe is a mere guideline for a certain idea rather than a strict set of instructions. And as such, I usually don’t follow them too closely. But to indulge one early-morning’s random obsessions about vichyssoise, I cracked open Julia Child’s Mastering … Read More
Good winter carrots are like a good idea left alone for a while as it silently, snugly, digs deeper. At least, I think this is what happens with ideas that I leave beside for a whole season—or year perhaps. They develop and grow more legs—or roots—as time goes by, so that when you’re ready to finally pull them up, they’ll be more matured and robust. Even if you did not consciously think about them.
Blooming heads of brassica make such a large, lovely impression that I’m not sure why they’re not kept intact when serving more often. They do take a while to cook—especially in the case of dense, crunchy cauliflower. It’s like a small planet of fiber. You can save an hour by cutting pieces down to equal size before roasting (and that is the preferred thing to do with cauliflower, to bring out its natural sugars and crisp its peaks with texture). But, … Read More
This week marks the publication of my friend Chitra‘s cookbook, Vibrant India. If you’ve been reading this blog a while—or if you just like home cooking as much as I do—you may have found that cheap, healthful, and seasonal are some essential beacons to guide everyday recipes. And Chitra’s home cooking—and, hence, her cookbook—have these traits in spades.
The taste and scent of celery root offends some, and this I had not known before. To me, the cleaned bare root looks, smells and tastes fairly innocent at first, then slowly creeps more complexity. The herbal, vegetal nuances are beguiling, surprising and intriguing to me. And combined with the sweetness of apple and the dairy richness of butter, it’s pure harmony.
When my mother first came to the US from Taiwan, she found the food here a little difficult to embrace. Except for spaghetti. Slurping up long, slippery strands of pasta was a familiar sensation that became the entry point for appreciating more American foods. Only spaghetti wasn’t exactly all-American. Or it wasn’t considered so then, at least. But now today, more and more Americans are slurping up bowls of Asian noodle soups, from soba to ramen to pho.
For the cookbook release of The Food of Taiwan, I threw a number of dinners and edible events. This was served at one of them, a pub menu-themed makeover of some classic Taiwanese dishes. Other dishes included clams braised with Taiwan Beer instead of rice wine with garlic, chilies and basil, and the famous Taiwanese “hamburger” or gua bao in a grilled slider bun instead of steamed bun. When Superbowl Sunday rolled around the other week, I thought of making a … Read More
Spaghetti was seen as exotic in my grandparents’ day in age. Hummus was strange and vegan-centric when I was in college. Guacamole grossed a lot of Americans out a few decades ago. I don’t need to point out that they’re now proud staples of the American diet. But just imagine what our plates would look like if we had closed the door on immigration years ago.