Seventeen years ago, my friend Stephanie began a Burns‘ night celebration, in honor of her Scottish heritage, and we carry it on still, an occasion to gather a group, once all in Cleveland but now half dispersed.  We tour the highlands, as it were, and I address the haggis— “Fair fa your honest soncie face/Great chieftan o’ the puddin race” —thrusting the knife in at the appropriate “warm-reeking” moment.  But Stephanie had arrived as well with her grandmother’s shortbread, and the book from which it comes.  Having coincidentally been making various versions of shortbread for a current project, I was particularly interested in hers. Shortbread is the simplest of preparations, flour, butter and sugar and in that simplicity is its deliciousness.  Also, it couldn’t be easier or faster.  Boxed pancake mix takes longer.  Shortbread to Read On »

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I was honored to be asked to speak at our local TEDxCLE last Friday where I was allowed to try to explain why I think cooking is important.  There’s a great book out now that argues that our ancestors became human only after we began cooking for ourselves and our families. I believe it’s still important, but for different reasons.  Not just sort of important.  Really important.  I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been said before, but I know it can’t be said enough. Consider that cooking food might be far more vital than you ever imagined.  I don’t believe that everyone ought to cook.  But I think at least one person in every group ought to cook.  We fail to cook for ourselves at our own peril.  I make the case here that Read On »

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I’ve had braised beef short ribs on my mind for the past couple weeks, working on a preparation for the current book, another for an OpenSky promotion, and also because we’ve got ten people coming for dinner on Saturday, and short ribs are the wintertime choice for entertaining! It’s bleak and cold and wintery here, perfect weather for these rich short ribs.  They’re also relatively inexpensive—important during the frugal post-holiday months.  And they can be prepared up to a week in advance, so I don’t have to be rushing around at the last minute. What I want to talk about here, though, is the gremolata, which sometimes gets lost in the shuffle at the end, but is absolutely essential to the finished dish. Most are familiar with this potent troika, minced garlic, lemon zest and Read On »

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Have had butter on my mind for the past two weeks (I often have butter on my mind, but it’s been acute recently), and when my thoughts turned to Indian food the combination resulted in the desire to make ghee.  Ghee, the Indian version of clarified butter, is traditionally made with cultured butter that’s cooked till it’s lightly browned.  In the mood to experiment I thought I’d try doing it myself.  I wanted to know what it really tasted like.  And I wanted to know what genuine buttermilk tasted like. As we are a cowless family, I bought a pint of organic cream and used some of my yogurt culture.  The cream thickened and took on a gentle acidity in a day.  I then hammered it in the food processor, dumped it into a cloth-lined Read On »

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Over the weekend I was working on a recipe based on the traditional low country dish, shrimp and grits.  I’d found excellent grits from this company at my grocery store, I tapped my friend and former instructor Eve Felder for her recollections of growing up in Charleston, and I made shrimp and grits for Donna, a late dinner after seeing the amazing Jeff Bridges performance in Crazy Heart. I’d made extra grits so in cleaning up after dinner, I poured the leftovers into a springform pan and refrigerated them.  By morning they were solid and sliceable. Donna happened to be setting up to shoot wine braised short ribs and semolina egg noodles.  I happened to be hungry.  I also happened to have some duck sausage and chicken sausage (from Charcuterie) on hand, a gift for Read On »

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