There’s nostalgia associated with comfort food. Comfort food is food that is simple, solid and reminds us of childhood. Buttery, rich pound cake might very well be the ultimate down-home comfort dessert. It’s the cake that consoles as well as celebrates. It’s the all-purpose cake that’s perfect for birthdays, baby showers, funerals and everything in between. Pound cake is the slice of cake served with gossip and coffee to the neighbor down the street as well as for a baby’s first birthday. It’s the solid understudy waiting patiently under the cake dome, ready to step in at a moment’s notice. Read more
During the winter months, when most of the farmers markets in my area are closed, I find that I almost always default to the same five vegetables at the grocery store. We can eat only so much broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale, however, before edible fatigue sets in.
So I’ve been making a point to reach for vegetables outside of the standard five. I picked up a bag of snow peas recently, which made for a nice treat. Beets have made several appearances. And fennel has been hopping into my shopping basket a lot lately.
Fennel is actually a great vegetable to have in the crisper drawer, because it can do a variety of things. You can mince it and saute it into soups and stews in place of celery. You can shave it finely and dress it with a simple vinaigrette. It makes a very nice quick pickle. And as I learned recently, it works beautifully as a gratin.
I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Parmesan Fennel Gratin. She is the queen of simple, lush dishes, and this recipe did not let me down. She has you core the bulbs and cut them into two to four wedges. They get a dose of wine-fortified stock, are dotted with butter and covered with foil. You slide the pan into a hot oven and let them braise until they are entirely tender.
Quinoa is fast-cooking, versatile and protein-packed. Keep a pot of the cooked grains on hand (using the basic recipe below), and these meals will come together in 10 minutes for a nutrient-rich breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Soaking the q...
This weekend on Food Network, watch all-new episodes from Amy, Giada, Jeff and more in the mornings, plus new Sunday night episodes of Food Court Wars, Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen.
It’s all about cheese on Heartland Table as Amy runs the gamut of cheesy recipes. Then on The Kitchen, the co-hosts make the ultimate meatloaf and share their best meatloaf tips. Also Haylie Duff stops by to talk about her new book The Real Girl’s Kitchen, a copy of which will be given away tomorrow on FN Dish.
On Sunday morning, Giada cooks recipes that are healthy but packed with flavor. Then on Sandwich King, Jeff makes Caribbean-inspired sandwiches. On Buy This Restaurant, Keith helps a couple find a perfect pub location in sunny Florida. In the evening, on Food Court Wars, two couples go head-to-head in a battle to win an eatery space. After, watch four comedians step into the Chopped kitchen in Round 3 of the Tournament of Stars: Will it be all fun and games or a serious competition? And last but not least, watch an all-new episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, in which one chef must make breakfast in bed, literally.
Get Me a Spatula, Stat!
Last weekend,the Napa Valley branch of the Culinary In...
Spring is here. I’ll admit that when I lived in colder climates such as Vermont or Paris, the arrival of spring was more anticipated (“When can I put my boots away?!”). I remember in Burlington, Vt., we had the tradition of breaking out our swimsuits on the first day that it hit 50 degrees F, a temperature that would have me snuggling up to the fireplace now. Even in San Diego, I’m excited about spring for two reasons. First, my daughters’ spring break is around the corner, and we are hunkering down for a family staycation here in San Diego (all the family time and fun, none of the stress of travel!). And the second reason I’m eager for the end of winter is — traditional spring food! Yes, I know these days we can get many ingredients year round, but they are lackluster compared to their in-season versions. Quite simply, there are certain flavors that are just better in that magical shoulder season between winter and summer.
Here’s my ideal springtime menu, featuring seasonal ingredients that you can get at any supermarket right now:
Asparagus: I’ll start here because it’s perhaps the quintessential spring vegetable, with its tender stalk and earthy flavor. While you can get asparagus many months of the year, the flavor (and the cost!) both tell you that spring is the time to indulge. I buy several bunches a week in peak season. My methods of cooking asparagus are almost exclusively roasting or grilling: a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and about 10 minutes in a hot oven (or seven minutes on a hot grill) is all it takes to bring out the natural sweetness and earthiness. Roasted asparagus can be served hot, at room temperature or cold (toss it with a tangy mustard vinaigrette for a fresh spring salad as in my Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette). Or cook for even less time to make a fresh soup (try my Almost-Raw Asparagus Soup with Yogurt and Almonds — it couldn’t be easier to serve spring in a bowl).
With the new season just beginning it’s time to start thinking about spring-cleaning, your kitchen included. Getting organized means less time spent searching through your cabinets for key utensils or ingredients. That means less time in the kitchen overall when you need to get dinner on the table on a busy weeknight. From spices to baking tools, Vivian Jao put together her top tips for getting the most out of your space.
1. Your Pantry
Make meal planning easier with a well-organized pantry. Assign designated areas for different kinds of food, like baked goods, breakfast items, boxed goods and canned goods. Label these areas or shelves as a reminder for when you’re unpacking groceries. Designate a section for quick-cooking meals, like mac and cheese or canned soup, for when you just need to grab something in a pinch.
Trend Watch (for Cooks with Deep Pockets): What’s the the newest ‘it’ ingredient among discerning New York City chefs? Ramp seeds (“not the fawned-over leaves or bulbs”), according to Food Arts, which describes them as “tiny, with a pungent punch and an equally sock-it-to-me price tag.” Often preserved using salt or vinegar, the caper-like green seeds have a taste that evokes garlic and onion, and they are being used to add punch to dishes. One chef calls them “tiny flavor bombs.” But even extravagant chefs are sprinkling them sparingly: Labor intensive to harvest, ramp seeds cost about $120 per pound. [Food Arts]
Spare Your Schnoz: To tell if your milk has spoiled, you probably subject it to the sniff test — which really means subjecting yourself to the sniff test, but is still better than skipping directly to the taste test. (Yuck — yet expiration dates are not always reliable freshness indicators.) Now you can spare your senses such unpleasantness. Chinese scientists have come up with “smart tags” — small, gelatinous squares — you can stick on containers that change colors to indicate when the food in them has gone bad. [CBS News]
With an acronym that works more like a pet name, the PB element of the classic PB&J gets us through any kind of day, from the years on the playground to a hurried office lunch. But the infamous sandwich is just a jumping-off point for this beloved condiment. With its buttery consistency, it also has no problem melting away into our favorite desserts, giving everything it meets an intense nuttiness that nothing else could pull off. Grab your favorite jar — or churn out your own Homemade Peanut Butter (it’s easier than you’d think!) — and run with these endless peanut butter combinations.
1. PB & Jelly: This heck of a pairing is worthy of so much more than white bread. Ina’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars bake the fruity and nutty spreads together into crumb-topped treats, while creamy Miniature Peanut Butter and Jelly Pies come with a graham cracker crust.
2. PB & Chocolate: This classic combo comes wrapped up in candy bars so often for a reason. Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies are the second easiest way to get your fix.
3. PB & Cereal: It’s not just the kiddos who are beggin’ for a little peanut butter in their breakfasts. Whip up gooey Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Treats later in the day instead.