I read cookbooks for fun. :)

  • Location: Greater Los Angeles
  • Favorite foods: Down-home comfort foods made over with fresh and light ingredients. It's hard to pick just a few favorites.
  • Last bite on earth: All the stuff I force myself to eat in moderation right now: fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, bacon, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and probably a couple steaks. And a strawberry smoothie to wash it all down.

Are the Rules of Big-Pot Blanching True?

I just blanched a crapload of kale and had these various thoughts myself. Very nice analysis! The ice bath is the most important, which I have discovered through trial and error. It's really incredible how vibrant green they stay. I didn't really worry about getting the water back to a boil as I was doing such volume, but the kale didn't seem to mind. I chopped/froze what I had and it is beautiful and green when I pull it out to use in pasta, etc. Love blanching! Although one time I made the mistake of blanching basil leaves trying to preserve their color in a dip. Blech, black basil leaves. Sad.

Chain Reaction: Eureka!

I love Eureka burger, have been there many times at the Claremont and Redlands locations. The fig jam burger is my favorite but I've tried many of the others and they are all good. The combinations are really tasty and they do work together. It sounds like the Santa Barbara one is a dud but my experiences have only been great. I usually stuff myself silly between the good beer and burgers, no room for anything else!

Los Angeles: A Fine Fusion Burger at Abricott

Try the kimchi pork belly sandwich! So, so good. Although a little light on the kimchi. They also have a lovely little room for private parties of 10-ish.

Cook the Book: 'The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook'

I made baked pork chops nestled in potatoes, leeks, onions, carrots with a balsamic-mustard sauce.

Cook the Book: Basic French Lentils

This recipe is fantastic - I just used water and it still tasted awesome. Really great.

Taste Test: Every Flavor of Chobani Greek Yogurt

Nonfat dairy products are a complete waste of time. 0% Greek yogurt tastes exactly the same as regular yogurt, so what's the point? Trader Joe's and more natural food-oriented stores have full-fat or 2%.

What Should an In-N-Out Virgin Order?

Double-double is overkill in my opinion. Get a double-single (two patties, one slice cheese) and it's perfect. Grilled onions. And then go animal-style with the fries. Get a shake if you want but be warned that you might have the worst stomach-ache afterwards. That is a lot of dairy.

What's Your Favorite Kashi Cereal?

Is this a veiled market research ploy?

For what it's worth, I actually like the autumn wheat squares better than any of these varieties. Go Lean Crunch and my digestive tract are not on the best of terms. Soooo much fiber.

Ask A Bartender: What's The Best Tip You've Ever Gotten?

Ooh, tipping in frequent flyer miles is smart. Duly noted.

Memorial Day Grilling Giveaway: Win This Delicious Cap of Ribeye

Corn! And kebabs.

Grilled meat in Manhattan

Ilili in the Flatiron district is amazing and definitely date-worthy. They have some kebabs and such.

Mark Bittman's Brownies

Phil, maybe it was the vanilla making it seem too sweet? When I reduced the vanilla I liked it much better.

Mark Bittman's Brownies

Having Bittman's How to Cook Everything already, I made this as-is and it came out too gooey for my tastes. The next time I added a touch more flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder, and the brownies were perfect (I live at high elevation - 4k ft). I also reduced the vanilla just a bit. Cooking time was more like 30 min at high elevation with a glass pan.

This recipe is for an 8x8 pan. It doubles well too.

Punishable proceedures

Well, I did try to make poached eggs in the microwave. It failed. And one time I undercooked my hard boiled eggs and tried to finish it off in the micro. Gave myself a pretty good burn right on my gums. I was sober while doing it too.

Punishable proceedures

I just read this really interesting piece on Poor Man's Feast about how her mother cooked "angry breakfast eggs". Read all the way down to what the mother does at the end - that would be a punishable sin for me! (And no, not a blog shill, I honestly really enjoyed the writing!)

"Copout" ingredients...."crutches"

If we want to talk college cop-outs, my college had potatoes in everything. Could not avoid them! I dropped 10 pounds instantly after graduating because I wasn't eating so many potatoes.

"Copout" ingredients...."crutches"

I agree with the pasta and sauce thing. My latest kick has been to eat almost-naked pasta with just olive oil, pepper and parm.

Agreed re: bacon and other cured pork products, pancetta being one of the worst because it is bourgeois enough to sound cool but is still glorified bacon.

How Do You Pay the Bill at Restaurants?

My husband and I are the ones who order drinks when our other friends drink water and we always pay our fair share. When the bill is passed around, we have groups of friends who always come up short, and we have groups of friends who always come out with way too much. We have stopped going out with those folks who come up short. We only split the check evenly with very good friends, or we take turns treating each other.

One horror story, we went out with a group for a nominal friend's birthday. This one guy ordered more than the rest of us and then left early. He left about $12 for his actual $20 meal. Then we were all expected to chip in for the birthday girl - that guy did not chip in in addition to stiffing us. My husband and I had stupidly forgotten to get cash, so we had to put it all on our card because of course everyone else came up short. That nominal friend is no longer a friend at all.

And a final note, now if the check comes up short when it makes it around the table, I will sit there and make people put in a few more dollars. If the tip is short, I also make people put in more. No stiffing the server on my watch, but I will not enable cheapskates. :P

Spending a Franklin, Would You Rather Spend It-In-House or Out?

I would absolutely go out. For $100 I can go to a place that's worth paying for, so I am going to go and experience the great food. They can get 10 dishes dirty to prepare my meal and I don't have to worry about it.

Soondubu Jjigae (Korean Soft Tofu Stew)

Love Korean tofu dishes. This is going on the list!

Serious Salads: Grated Carrot and Mint Salad with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette

I'm trying to eat more vegetables and was getting of tired of heavy roasted ones. This salad sounds awesome.

As-Good-As-Cole-Slaw Cabbage and Parsley Salad

Perfect timing, I have cabbage and parsley that both need to used up. I am making this tonight!

Out of the Express Line if you have more than 10 items, please!

On Sunday, Superbowl Sunday, we got in the express line with our two items. The lady in front of us had $300+ worth of groceries. She was almost done so we hadn't noticed how epic her groceries were. There was no way those were 15 items and it took awhile to bag up after the clerk was done ringing them. In addition to holding up the express line with her deli potato salad and all kinds of other crap (literally all processed, chips, dip, mayonnaise up the wazoo), she made the clerk take another few minutes to write up a rain-check for a ginormous case of WHITE ZINFANDEL. Who gets a rain-check on white zinfandel? Even my husband was commenting, and he is the picture of saintliness.

Cook the Book: 'The Art of Eating Cookbook'

Grace/prayer at a dinner party

Our friends know where we stand on our faith. We say thanks before every meal at our home. If it's awkward, oh well. They know it's important to us, and they know we care about them as well, so it works out.

If I can't find chestnuts, then what?

I've checked all over local stores for pre-roasted chestnuts, or really any chestnuts at all at this point. I have gotten quizzical looks and no answers. I know I can order chestnuts on Amazon but I'm lazy. I've never tried them before. Are other nuts fine to substitute (for a stuffing recipe), should I skip the nuts altogether or should I make a rush order from the Internet?

Bringing turkey to room temp?

Aw, darn, Kenji's Q&A offer is now closed to new posts. I was going to ask: when you're roasting a whole turkey, do you bring it to room temp like you do with a chicken? It seems like that means it would be sitting out for a few hours before going into the oven. Not sure if that's sanitary. I'm not a germophobe, so I'm really just curious. SE'ers, do you bring your turkey to room temp before roasting or do you just put it in from the fridge?

Melty pie crust?

I have only made butter pie crusts. My crust never stays crimped, instead melting into one undifferentiated blob as soon as it hits the hot oven. Is this just how my pies are fated to be? Do I have to use another ingredient to get them to stay crimped? I kind of love butter too much to give it up, but I'm curious about what else is out there.

'Low and slow' spicy tomato potatoes

Say that ten times fast! I made up this recipe over the weekend and wanted to share. The flavors seem like a no-brainer but come together to form something amazing. I cooked the potatoes in a roasting pan with a turkey leg on a rack over the pan. Very easy dinner and makes awesome leftovers.

Favorite take on hummus?

There are so many gazillions of recipes out there for hummus. How to sort through them all? I just bought a bunch of chickpeas and am looking for advice. Help me make sense of what's out there - what's your favorite way to make hummus (with ratios, ingredients etc.)?

What's your favorite childhood meal?

This weekend I made my mom's enchilada casserole, a lovely concoction including enchilada sauce and ketchup, that I ate by the pound growing up and which I like to describe as "teenager crack". It was SO. GOOD. Just like home. I don't think I've had it for years until now. What's your favorite childhood meal and do you make it for yourself now that you're grown up?

What would you do with $50/week?

My food expenditures have been out of control (darn you, Serious Eats! :P) so my husband and I have set a challenge to live on $50/week for food for the next few weeks. That sounds like a lot until you factor in high cost of food in SoCal, my husband only wants to buy organic whenever possible, and you could say I'm spoiled, but I like variety in my food (not just pasta every night). What are your creative solutions to this challenge? How do you eat high-quality food but make it stretch? What are your favorite budget recipes? We're cutting back to eat meat only once or twice a week, so whatever vegetarian/vegan options you have would also be appreciated.

Can give you an idea of what we typically eat:
- Breakfast - eggs, yogurt/granola, cereal w/ milk, oatmeal
- Lunch - whatever leftovers from dinner
- Dinner - chili, pasta, sometimes meat w/ sides of grain/salad/vegetables, soup
- Snacks can include cheese and crackers, popcorn (bought in bulk)

It all doesn't sound expensive but somehow it's adding up. Please help!

Diabolical plot for pumpkin bread

So, I have this amazing recipe as a base thanks to Simply Recipes:

1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (240 ml) pumpkin purée
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped walnuts

If I swapped out the olive oil for cream cheese, what do you think would happen? Good idea, or really bad? I think I'll try it this weekend. If you have any prior experience with such substitions, I'd appreciate your feedback. If it's good I'll definitely post an update. If it's not, I will hide in shame. :P

So what's the deal with MSG?

Many people talk about how MSG is bad and food that contains it is evil, etc etc. I was one of those people. However, my husband is reading a book on salt (called Salt) and relayed that the book said that MSG is actually natural - it's a derivative of wheat gluten. So now I'm confused. He just told me this morning so I haven't had time to research yet, and I plan to, but I wanted to get your take on MSG. What gives? Why is it so evil when it turns out that a lot of traditional cooking contains it? What has made it the bane of the Western food world?

I'll chime in too as I learn more. Looking forward to hearing some discussion.

Peach and blackberry together: yes? no?

I have both peaches and blackberries in the freezer from this summer that I'd like to make into a tart. They're both summer fruits - so what do you think, good combo? The blackberries have broken down a lot so they will definitely stain and flavor the peaches. I am thinking this could be along the lines of blueberry-peach pie, a very winning pair.

Smoked turkey stock

This is a testament to my foolish frugality - I had a smoked turkey leg that I was afraid was going to go bad, so I threw it in a pot with some veggie scraps to make stock. While the whole thing cost $2 or less (Grandma would be proud), I am now in possession of a couple quarts of stock that may impart a strangely smoky flavor. Where to go from here? I haven't tasted the stock yet and I am wondering what to make with it. What would you do with smoked turkey stock, assuming that it will be edible and not horribly salty/smoky? My first thought was to cook beans in it. Any other ideas welcome, the more inventive the better.

Comment response notification not working

Not to sound like an addict, "I NEED comments showing up in my email!!!", but I am not getting responses showing up in my email. Anyone else having issues? I have already checked my email filters to make sure I didn't do something stupid. Thanks for taking a look.

What's for dinner on this MLK Day?

For lunch (will probably also be dinner) I made up a batch of spaghetti with a pumpkin-pesto sauce and bread crumbs. Wasn't sure if it would work but the pesto blended well with the pumpkin puree and it turned out to have a wonderful subtle taste. It was also way more filling than tomato sauce - I am stuffed.

What about you? What's for dinner today? Any special cooking projects if you have the day off?

Your thoughts on lunches for a group

For New Year's I'm going on a trip with a big group (14 people) and I offered to plan the food. I have the menu mostly planned out but I'm having trouble with lunches since I normally eat leftovers for lunch and I don't like the typical food (sandwiches) that much. I am just not creative with this meal. Two lunches can be cooked at the place, and the last lunch has to be packed for driving home. Any grand ideas for these? I'm going to assign a team of two to each meal so they can do prep work more easily. We also have two vegetarians so meat has to be on the side or we just have to go veggie.

Here's the rest of the menu to give you an idea of what we're already eating:

Thursday dinner: Veg chili
Fri breakfast: Scrambled eggs with toast/english muffins
Fri lunch: ??
Fri dinner: Spaghetti and meatballs (meatballs on the side), salad
Sat breakfast: Baked oatmeal w/ scrambled eggs and yogurt
Sat lunch: ??
Sat dinner: Red lentil coconut curry w/ rice
Sun breakfast: Oatmeal w/ fruit
Sun lunch/dinner: ?? packed for driving

Thanks for your feedback!

How long do onions keep?

Alright, this is a really basic question that I could probably google but honestly I like your answers better, so I will pose it here. Onions are 49 cents a pound right now, omg! I want to stock up but am wondering how long they keep. I think my fridge does weird things to onions because sometimes they get moldy within a few weeks. If you keep them elsewhere (dark, cool, etc), how long should they last? Can I buy huge bundles and be ok in a month or more? Thanks all.

Cheap(er) cheese options

So we're cutting the food spending (sob!). Of course this comes at a time when all the wonderful cheese and *name your food* recipes come out for fall. Right now I splurge occasionally on the nice cheeses but in the future it's going to be standard stuff like grocery store cheddar and limited amounts of parmesan to grate over pasta. We don't eat a lot of cheese anyway but when there's the prospect of having little to none, it makes me sad. What ways have you found to make cheese stretch in a recipe? Can you use some of a cheaper cheese and round it out with a hint of more expensive cheese? Or have you used other things (dairy or other ingredients) to round out flavor?

How to deglaze a pan without making a mess?

This question seems really elementary, but is there a way to deglaze a pan without having a huge periphery of spatters on your stove top? I'm mainly thinking of how it happens when you deglaze with red wine. The spatters don't show up as evidently when it's vinegar or white wine (so it means they aren't really there).

And, what are your favorite things to use when deglacing and making pan sauces?

Update on pie-crust-by-hand techniques

I could start a talk series on this - this shall be #1. Made a pie this weekend and incorporated your many generous suggestions. To cut the butter and flour, I tried grating the butter, starting from a frozen solid state. Here are my observations:

1. Had a nasty run-in with the grater about 1/4 of the way into it. Not good.
2. I got halfway down the stick of butter and found that I couldn't get a good grip on it to finish the grating. It also did start to melt in my hand, even starting from frozen. Had to resort to cutting into cubes.
3. Tried to cut in the frozen solid butter cubes w/ forks, quickly gave up (because of reasons listed before: impatience, etc).
4. Using fingers to mash the butter and flour together worked very well. I ran very cold water over my hands before I did this. It's also therapeutic to feel the ingredients in between your fingers.

Alright, so maybe this will be a series of one because I tried almost all the methods in one shot. My thumb still hurts.

I was also diligent to keep everything very cold. I rested the crust for about 2 hours in the fridge, then rolled one crust between two sheets of lightly floured plastic (it stuck, a lot) and then on a floured table top (stuck much less). Filled, then brushed the top with milk. Baked at 450 for 10 min and 350 for 50 min.

The finished product: Amazing, flaky, beautifully browned pie crust filled with delicious blackberries and apples. When you looked at the pie, you could see the flakiness. Even using all three methods to cut in butter, it was still very tasty.

My conclusion: It probably doesn't matter what methods you use. For butter/flour, just use the method that is least injurious to your fingers. Keeping it cold does make a difference. And that is my series of 1 on pie crusts.

Kenji: In response to santoku vs. chef's knives

I said awhile ago in some thread that I was going to try a side-by-side comparison of chef's knife vs. santoku to see which stuck more, because santoku is supposed to be better for releasing food. Couldn't remember the thread so I thought I'd post here. I am not saying my technique is totally up to par, but I found that when I finely chopped onions, they both stuck equally. My method was: cut the onion in half, cut slits all the way down, then slice against the slits. I did it with both knives and compared the amount stuck on after a slice. It was the same (and no, no photos, I am not that tech-savvy). Maybe it was because I chop slowly or maybe it's just not that much of a difference. Anyone else wondering about this or have different results?

Techniques for making pie crust by hand?

My dilemma came up with the food processor post a few months ago, and it still exists. I just don't have a food processor and every modern pie crust recipe calls for it. So, how do I make a good pie crust by hand? Any techniques and tips are appreciated. I made one before and it turned out okay, but I'm looking to refine.

What's for dinner?

Love this question since it's different answers every day. I also wanted to say that I really appreciated feedback on the beef stew question a week or two ago. I took suggestions from there and made the most awesome made-up beef soup (not quite stew) last night from the contents of my fridge. I pureed the leftover vegetables from this recipe: and added a quart of beef stock, 1/2 lb browned ground beef, can of tomatoes, 2 cups dried/soaked pinto beans and a handful of pureed caramelized onions (made from Kenji's technique - my husband and I were singing the In-N-Out song the whole time they were cooking!). Left it in the crock pot all day and came home to the most wonderful, satisfying soup. Added celery and carrots at the end to make it extra pretty.

So my dinner tonight is soup leftovers with drop biscuits. What about yours?

Eggplant and peppers with rice and garlic

Just made this up last night and it was tasty and cheap. I thought I'd share. It does not turn out spicy from the whole pepper - it just gives flavor to the finished dish. The white pepper at the end gives a delicate kick.

Purslane suggestions needed

I just bought purslane at the farmer's market. I have never seen this plant before but it looked interesting. I know there was a brief article about it here on Serious Eats. Has anyone cooked this recently? Any success stories? Any ideas on how to cook it?

In interest of pantry cooking, I also have 1/2 onion, garlic, small eggplants (the round speckly kind), various grains, can of diced tomatoes, pasta, etc.

Vegan Mayonnaise

The most neutral, natural-tasting vegan mayo is made with a bit of silken tofu replacing the egg yolks. Indeed, to me it tastes exactly like regular mayo. Note: For best results, use a hand blender along with the jar it... More

Eat for Eight Bucks: Maple-Mustard Baked Chicken Thighs with Potato Wedges

One of my favorite meals these days is a whole chicken roasted on top of potatoes. The chicken is flavorful with garlic, olive oil, and herbs. The potatoes are perhaps even better: they get seasoned with the chicken's juices, plus more olive oil and more herbs. But easy as it may be, roasting a whole chicken isn't that cheap, and it takes a while. So I've been experimenting with roasting chicken thighs and legs, and adding flavor even during a shorter cooking time. More

The Nasty Bits: Turkey Neck Gumbo

"It always feels so rewarding to add another type of neck to one's repertoire of necks." [Photographs: Chichi Wang, unless otherwise noted] I like to cook stews. I have a penchant for storied, time-consuming stews with a higher-than-average rate of... More

Sunday Brunch: Leftover Mashed Potato Biscuits

The smell of freshly baked biscuits can create an atmosphere of warmth and comfort throughout the house—and this recipe can also help use up ample Thanksgiving leftovers. Mashed potato biscuits are tender and flaky, but have enough structure to hold up to a slice of turkey and a dollop of gravy. Warm out of the oven with some cranberry butter, these tender biscuits go well with a hot cup of strong tea. More

Easy Artichoke Dip

Although in theory this dip should serve six, I find that people get a little strange around artichoke dip. They elbow each other out of the way and scoop a little too much onto their bread. Be ye warned, you... More

Dinner Tonight: Greek Pasta with Sausage and Cheese

Most of the time, Greek food is off my radar. Not by any conscious choice—I'm always on the lookout for new dishes and new ideas—but it became especially clear while flipping through the recent Greece issue of Saveur. As usual, their selected recipes were authentic, varied, and uniformly delicious-sounding. Though some were more involved than others, I was drawn in particular to this simple pasta and sausage dish and its intriguing use of blue cheese as the basis for the sauce. More

Dinner Tonight: Chickpeas and Chorizo

I know this dish probably doesn't look like much. It's lumpy and kind of monotone (my wife charitably commented, once I'd put it into bowls, that "it looks kind of like prison food"). But like people, all dishes can't be attractive, and certainly not everything that's tasty has to be good-looking. More

Dinner Tonight: Pasta with Bacon and Corn 'Pesto'

When it comes down to it, my favorite food is pasta. And if you held a gun to my head, I'd probably say that carbonara is my favorite pasta. I love its creaminess-with-no-cream, the chewy, salty bits of bacon, the roundness of Parmesan, the bite of black pepper. So it's not with any flippancy that I say that this recipe reminds me of carbonara, and in the best of possible ways. It's creamy, bacony, and satisfying—yet it's also a lot lighter and more fitting for summer. More