My favorite fact about chutney: the word derives from the Sanskrit word caṭnī, meaning to lick. Chutneys are, loosely, a mixture of vegetables or fruit (or both) and spices. Indian chutneys can be cooked or raw, blended or pounded, pickled or fresh. In the West, chutneys are usually a combination of fruit, savory spices, sugar, and vinegar.
My palate for Western chutneys developed late. For a long time, I thought they were yucky. Salty spicy vinegary fruity pickle? Blech. Perhaps my aversion was a consequence of having to politely eat haroseth (a mixture of apples, wine, chopped nuts, and spices traditionally served at Passover seders) at an early age. But. Eat enough tagines in which apricots and quince have been slowly simmered with meats, salty cheese and French fig jam, cantaloupe and prosciutto, and eventually one starts to enjoy, albeit reluctantly, the contrasting tastes of sugar and salt, fruit and vinegar and spice in Western chutneys. Another fun fact: Western cuisines tend to pair ingredients that share flavour compounds, whereas many Asian, and particularly East Asian, cuisines tend to pair contrasting ingredients. Continue reading →
The last of the peaches. Parental scoffing notwithstanding, I found using up 25 pounds of peaches a formidable task. Despite making six quarts of canned peaches, four jars of peach jam, peach salsa, grilled peaches, and freezing a sack of peeled, sliced peaches for future use (a cop-out, I know), last week several bruised, wrinkly peaches, the remnants from my haul, still regarded me forlornly from the dry sink. Continue reading →
High on the list of the many things my mother does very, very well in the kitchen is pickling and preserving. During the summertime, my telephone conversations with my parents usually go something like this:
Me: What have you been doing?
Mom/Dad, triumphantly: We now have 27 quarts of blueberries from our own bushes!
We bought a bushel of tomatoes at the farmstand!
We picked three huge baskets of chanterelles!
And then later,
Your mother made the most incredible [insert] [jam/pickles/sauce/pie/vegetable tart/canned peaches/pears/plums]! Continue reading →
The end of summer is bittersweet. In the Pacific Northwest at midsummer it gets dark at 10 p.m., but by the end of August the days get shorter, the nights cooler, and the rain begins to return. This summer in Seattle has been glorious, and Labor Day weekend has given us a last burst of sunshine. Next week, however, it is going to rain. And rain. Hello autumn. Fortunately the markets are still full of splendid peaches, nectarines, and beautiful Italian plums, the last taste of summer.
I was in the Yakima Valley, in Eastern Washington, this weekend for a wedding. Yakima Valley is peach country. (It is also wine country, but that is a story for another day.) In Union Gap, a tiny town whose largest employer is a fruit packing company, I lost my mind and bought 25 pounds of canning peaches. At home, I spread them out to ripen and thought, “I had better do something about those nectarines.” Continue reading →
This week I have been grappling with the Great Crustacean Controversy. Specifically, do the crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans we eat feel pain, and if so, what is the most humane way to kill them? Or, as David Foster Wallace famously phrased it (far more articulately and precisely than I ever could), “Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?” At a more ignorant time of my life, I blithely tossed live lobsters into pots of boiling water, clapped the lid on, and equally blithely devoured them. Lobsters don’t scream when you cook them – that much is myth – but recent studies suggest that crustaceans do in fact feel pain, or at least they exhibit behaviors consistent with the avoidance of remembered pain, strongly supporting an inference that they experience pain. It thus is most humane to kill them before cooking them. But how? Maybe some of you remember the lobster scene from Mostly Martha, the 2001 film about a German chef who discovers her softer side thanks to her niece and an Italian sous chef. She sobs over the abstract suffering of the lobster, which in most circumstances is denied the mercy of a swift death. Even Gordon Ramsay kills his lobsters before cooking them. Continue reading →
It’s good to have people in your life who push you out of your comfort zone. My lovely friend Nicola pushes me way past my comfortable depth (in positive ways), and leads by example. Thanks to Nicola, in early May, I found myself in a car with four people driving to a smallish unpretty town about an hour south of London, where, along with three other friends, we would cook overnight in the British Barbecue Society’s Grassroots Shake and Sauce competition. Continue reading →
My mother is one of the world’s great food hoarders. Her freezer is always packed so full that when you open the freezer door things invariably tumble out: half a dozen New York bagels in a plastic bag, a Tupperware container of chicken stock, frozen leftovers, frozen packages of butter. The refrigerator is the same. Growing up, I did not realize that this was anything but normal. I’d look in friends’ refrigerators and think, “Where is the FOOD?” It should go without saying that this condition, if not hereditary, at least must create a strong genetic predisposition. I am always ready for the apocalypse; I reckon that I could feed myself and a small band of hardy survivors for at least a few months, although I do wonder what I’d do when I run out of cat food. Continue reading →
So I had another post in the line-up to publish today, but with the east coast, England, and northern Europe choking in a heat wave, I felt that I should bump something cool, refreshing, and summery to the head of the queue. And what a summer treat it is! I am IMMENSELY PROUD of this ice cream. I made it last weekend, in my nearly new ice cream maker, after I had another no-self-control U-Pick experience. After a little more than an hour, I’d picked six pounds of raspberries and four pounds of blueberries, and it’s only thanks to my sister, who was with me and able to lead me from temptation, that I did not pick more. Having far too many raspberries is not exactly a crisis. I used over half a pound of them for this recipe, and more than anything, it made me wonder why raspberry ice creams are not more common, because raspberry ice cream is DELICIOUS. Continue reading →
Exactly four years ago, I drove down Route 1 in California from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Of course I vividly remember the spectacular coastline of Big Sur, I remember an elephant seal sanctuary near Hearst Castle (male elephant seals make a colossal racket when they’re fighting for territory), and I remember a creepy motel in Carmel. But, oddly, one of my clearest memories is the fried artichokes sold at farmstands along the roadside. Warm, salty, comfortingly greasy in a paper sack and undoubtedly bad for you, deep-fried artichokes will forever make me think of California.
My romance with fried artichokes began the first time I ate carciofi alla giudia (literally, artichokes in the Jewish style), which are fried artichokes sold in Kosher restaurants in the old Jewish quarter of Rome. Roman-style fried artichokes are made differently and more simply than the fried artichokes I ate in California. There is no batter. Purists won’t even flour their artichokes, although I do because I think it adds texture and helps bind the seasoning to the artichokes. Continue reading →
Late spring in the Pacific Northwest has been unusually warm and sunny this year. In the last weeks of May, early strawberries start appearing at farmers markets, and by June, on sunny Saturdays, I find it near impossible to resist the siren call of U-Pick strawberries. For two Saturdays running now, I’ve driven to Carnation, where my favorite U-Pick farms grow strawberries and raspberries. A paradisical verdant valley fringed by jagged snow-tipped green-black mountains, Carnation feels almost ridiculously pastoral, an urban dweller’s fantasy of country living just 40 minutes outside of Seattle. I would have gone strawberry picking simply because Carnation is so darned pretty, but it turns out that Harvold Berry Farm grows the serious strawberry aficionado’s strawberry, Shuksan strawberries. Continue reading →