Sunday, July 30, 2006

Around the World in 450 Recipes: Daigaku Imo (Caramelized Sweet Potatoes)


Do you know how hard it is to find recipes for Asian desserts?  Ridiculous.  They obviously haven't gotten the word that sugar is awesome.  They obviously are also missing out on diabetes and high blood pressure, but let's not get too technical.  This is about the only thing I could find for a Japanese sweet that didn't involve mochi or red bean paste.  And they're actually not too bad.  Good job, Japan.

Daigaku Imo (Caramelized Sweet Potatoes)
From Around the World in 450 Recipes by Sarah Ainley

1¼ pounds sweet potatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon mizuame (Japanese potato syrup), Lyle's golden syrup, or honey
Black sesame seeds (for garnish)

Peel the sweet potato and slice in half lengthwise. Slice each half into half-moons, about ½-inch thick.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potato and fry until the potato begins to soften. Drain the sweet potato slices on a piece of paper towel and set aside.

Heat the sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat. The water will come to a simmer and the sugar will melt. Continue to cook until the sugar caramelizes and turns a nutty brown color. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the mizuame. Return the syrup to the heat and toss the sweet potatoes in the syrup. When warm, pour the potatoes into a serving dish and sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, July 29, 2006

CDKitchen: Onigiri and Around the World in 450 Recipes: Tsukune

Okay, eventually I was going to make Japanese food. It was a given, considering the mountain of books on Japanese culture currently littering the floor of my bedroom. But unfortunately for me, and many other Americans, good Japanese cookbooks are few and far between. And really thin. And I am convinced that the Japanese have to eat more than the same twenty dishes.

I made the rice for the onigiri in my handy Zojirushi rice maker that sings to me. (On a side note, why do Japanese appliances sing to you? Even the toilets sing.) I can easily see why these are so popular for lunches and picnics.  They're like sandwiches, except better.  I am now officially jealous of all the people that get to eat like this on a daily basis. Which is probably the whole nation of Japan.

My only irritation came when I purchased the ground chicken. I really wanted a combination of dark and white meat, but here in the US, if you eat ground chicken, people think you MUST be a health nut, and therefore, you only want ground chicken breast.  The butcher already looked harassed enough, so I let it go.

Onigiri (Rice Balls)
From CDKitchen


4 ounces salmon fillet
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 cups medium grain rice
1 envelope bonito shavings
5 seasoned plums (umeboshi)
2 sheets nori (seaweed wrappers)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Rinse salmon and pat dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place the salmon on a rack over a cookie sheet or small dish and bake for an hour to dry it out.

Cook the rice according to package directions (i.e. without adding fat) so that it's sticky.

Prepare three bowls. When the salmon is done, ground the fillet up into small pieces with a fork or mortar and pestle and place in the first bowl.  Mash the seasoned plums with a fork and place in the second bowl.  Empty the contents of one small bonito shavings envelope into the third bowl.  Divide the cooked rice into three portions, and add one portion to each bowl.   Mix lightly to combine with seasoning ingredients.

Wet hands slightly.  Dip one fingertip into leftover salt and smear the salt across your palms so that sticks on both hands.  Take ¼ of rice mixture from the first bowl.  Form into a ball.  Make it compact, but not so much that the grains of rice become mush.  Form into a triangle, square, or cylinder.  Repeat for the remaining rice.  Each seasoning bowl should yield four rice balls, for a total of twelve.  Place each one on a piece of parchment paper to keep them from sticking.

Cut each sheet of nori into three strips lengthwise, then cut each strip in half.  Wrap one small strip of nori around the bottom of each rice ball to form an envelope to hold it with.  Serve immediately.

If you won't be serving immediately, wait to wrap the rice in the nori, as it will absorb water from the rice and lose its crunch.  Instead, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Let the rice balls come to room temperature before serving.


Makes 12 servings

Tsukune (Chicken Cakes with Teriyaki Sauce)
From Around the World in 450 Recipes by Sarah Ainley

1 pound ground chicken
1 large egg
¼ cup grated onion
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons soy sauce
Cornstarch, for coating
½ bunch scallion, finely shredded, to garnish
1 tablespoon oil
Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake or dry white wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Mix the ground chicken with the egg, grated onion, sugar and soy sauce until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and well bound. This process takes about 3 minutes, until the mixture is quite sticky, which makes for good texture. Shape the mixture into 12 small, flat, round cakes and dust them lightly all over with cornstarch.

Soak the scallions in cold water for 5 minutes and drain well.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Place the chicken cakes in a single layer, and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Turn the cakes and cook for 3 minutes longer.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce and pour it into the pan. Turn the chicken cakes occasionally until they are evenly glazed. Move or gently shake the pan constantly to prevent the sauce from burning.

Arrange the chicken cakes on a plate and top with the scallions. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 tsukune

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch: Siu Mai/Shaomai (Chinese Pork and Shrimp Dumplings) and Gau Choi Gau (Chinese Chive Dumplings)




I'm not sure what I did with myself before I discovered dim sum.  The first time I had it was when I was living in Austin.  A Chinese friend of mine invited me to come to brunch one weekend, and we ended up at a restaurant called Tien Hong near my apartment, complete with carts full of dumplings making their way around.  It was a life-altering experience.  As chicken feet tend to be.

I've been trying to replicate some of those fabulous dumplings ever since, but every recipe I've come across was just not cutting it.  In a final act of desperation, I got one last dim sum book.  And just like that, the clouds cleared and all was good in the land of dumplings.  These are the real deal.

Siu Mai/Shaomai (Chinese Pork and Shrimp Dumplings)
From Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder

8 ounces pork shoulder, coarsely ground or chopped
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in ½-inch chunks
4 water chestnuts, finely diced
1 scallion, (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry
¼ teaspoon sugar
 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
24 packaged siu mai wrappers

In a medium bowl, mix the filling ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Oil several 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.  Put about a tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the packaged wrapper; then gather up the edges all around to form a cup shape.  Tap the bottom lightly on a flat surface to flatten the bottom slightly.  Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.  Arrange finished dumplings ½ inch apart in the oiled pans.

Set up a steamer and bring the water to a boil.  Steam the dumplings for 12 minutes over high heat, replenishing the pot with boiling water as necessary between batches.  Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate.  Serve hot.

Makes 24 dumplings

Gau Choi Gau (Chinese Chive Dumplings)
From Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder

1½ teaspoons salt
½ pound Chinese chives, cleaned, trimmed, and cut in ½-inch lengths
4 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in ¼-inch dice (about ½ cup)
½ teaspoon soy sauce
 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Wheat Starch Dough, substituting 1 tablespoon glutinous rice flour for 1 tablespoon of the tapioca flour
Peanut or vegetable oil, for pan-frying

Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the chives and blanch for 1 minute over high heat.  Drain the chives in a colander, and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.  Squeeze the chives dry and transfer them to a medium bowl.  (You should have about 1¼ cups.)

Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Combine the chives with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, the shrimp, soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil, and cornstarch.  Set aside.

Cut each cylinder of the wheat starch dough crosswise into 6 pieces.  Put on piece of dough, cut side up, between two 6-inch squares of baking parchment; then position the flat side of a cleaver blade or a flat bottom of a pan over it and press straight down to form a 3½-inch circle.  Peel off the parchment.

Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the filling onto the center of a circle of dough.  Make 8 to 10 pleats all around the edge, bringing up the sides evenly, and then pinch closed.  Turn the dumpling pinched side down, and pat it gently to flatten it into a 2-inch disk.  Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.  Lightly dust a board with wheat starch; then place the finished dumplings on it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and then add 1 tablespoon oil.  When it is almost smoking, arrange one layer of dumplings in the skillet, leaving enough room so they are not touching one another.  Cook the dumplings for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, pressing them gently with a spatula, until they turn crisp and just begin to brown.  Carefully add ½ cup water (it will spatter), cover the skillet tightly, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the dough becomes somewhat translucent around the sides.  Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer, or until the water has evaporated; turn the dumplings to cook until both sides become slightly crisp and light brown.  Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate, cover them lightly with foil, and keep them warm in the oven while you make the next batches.  Serve hot.

Makes about 18 dumplings

Wheat Starch Dough
1¼ cups wheat starch plus ¼ cup tapioca flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, combine the wheat starch, tapioca flour, and salt.  Add the boiling water and the oil and stir with chopsticks or a wooden spoon.  While the dough is still very hot, turn it out onto a board dusted with 1 tablespoon of wheat starch.  Knead until smooth, adding a little more wheat starch if necessary.  The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Divide the dough into thirds.  Use your palms to roll each portion into an 8-inch cylinder.  Cover loosely with a slightly damp paper towel to keep the dough from drying out.  The dough is now ready to cut and press or roll out as needed.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Popia Thot (Thai Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce)


I absolutely love eggrolls/spring rolls.  I may like them more than the actual Chinese/Thai food.  Okay, I DO like them more than the actual Chinese/Thai food.  They're a wonderful little package: crispy shell, warm and flavorful meat and veggie interior.  And with the right dipping sauce, they near perfection.  And no, I do not mean the neon duck sauce that comes in plastic pouches.  Didn't your mama tell you that you shouldn't eat things that glow in the dark?

Popia Thot (Thai Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce)

1 package Spring Home spring roll wrappers
1 (1.3-ounce) bundle mung bean noodles
⅓ pound ground pork
10 shrimp, uncooked, shelled and deveined
2 large eggs
½ cup cabbage, finely shredded
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon green onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Oil for frying

Soak the mung bean noodles in water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain the noodles and snip into short lengths with a pair of scissors.

Mix together the pork, shrimp, one egg, and next 11 ingredients. Add the noodles and mix well.

Let the spring roll wrappers sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before stuffing. Spread a wrapper on a flat surface. Spoon filling in the center. Fold one corner over the filling, fold in the sides, and roll up to the remaining corner. Beat remaining egg and use to seal the roll. Repeat until all the filling is used.

Heat oil in a fryer to 365°F. Fry the rolls for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. The rolls will float when they are done.

If not frying the rolls immediately, dust them with cornstarch and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

Makes about 20 rolls

Dipping Sauce
¾ cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
⅓ cup seasoned rice vinegar
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking until it thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Dim Sum Book: Nor Mai Gai (Chinese Mixed Rice in a Lotus Leaf)



I'm all about fried rice, so imagine my surprise when I came across this little bundle of joy.  Seasoned sticky rice mixed with a bunch of fun fillings, steamed a perfect serving packet.  That's about as good as it gets in the dim sum world.

Of course finding a recipe would be much harder.  I pulled this one from a newsgroup or something and it took me nearly forever to figure out where it come from.  Gosh, I just aged myself.  Anyway, I think the ingredient list seems pretty authentic, and I like the results.  Just be prepared to take some time to pull this together.

Nor Mai Gai (Chinese Mixed Rice in a Lotus Leaf)
Adapted from The Dim Sum Book by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

Sauce:
3½ tablespoons oyster sauce
3½ teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1¼ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pinch of white pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup chicken broth
9 dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, stems removed, chopped

Filling:
2½ cups water
1 piece star anise
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 inch piece of ginger, mashed
1 scallion, washed, ends discarded, cut in half
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1x2-inch pieces
¼ pound pork butt or 1 double pork chop, cut in ¼x2-inch pieces
¼ pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, dried, and cut in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon white wine

Rice:
2 cups glutinous rice (sweet rice)
2 cups medium-grain rice
2 to 3 Chinese sausages (lapcheong)
2 eggs, beaten
2 ounces barbecue roast pork, cut into 16 slices
3½ tablespoons oyster sauce
3¼ teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pinch of white pepper
1½ teaspoons salt
4 large lotus leaves, cut in 4 triangle sections each

Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside.

Bring the water, star anise, baking soda, ginger, and green onion to a boil in a large wok.  Add pork and bring again to a boil.  Add chicken and bring again to a boil.  Add shrimp.  When the shrimp turns pink and curls, remove all ingredients and let them drain in a strainer.  Remove the green onion, star anise, and ginger, and discard.

Wash wok and dry thoroughly.  Heat for 30 seconds over high heat.  Add peanut oil and spread around.  Add blanched meats.  Stir around for about 1 minute.  Add white wine.  Mix thoroughly.  Make a well in the center of the ingredients.  Stir sauce and add to meat.  Mix well and quickly, until the sauce thickens and turns a dark brown.  Transfer to a shallow dish.  Allow to come to room temperature.  Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

Soak lotus leaves in hot water for 1 to 2 hours until soft.

Wash rice 3 to 4 times in cold water and drain.  Place in rice cooker.  Wash sausages and place on top of rice.  Steam.  This will make a lot of rice.  After steaming is complete, cut sausages into 16 slices and set aside.

Fry beaten egg in a little peanut oil into a thin sheet.  Slice into ribbons and set aside.

Place cooked rice in a large mixing bowl; add the oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauces, sesame oil, white pepper, and salt.  Mix well.  Divide filling into 8 equal portions.

Take 2 leaves and overlap one another.  Place 3½ ounces of rice in the center.  Pat it down lightly.  Add 1 portion of filling, 2 slices of barbecue pork, 2 slices of sausage, and a few egg ribbons.  Cover with another 3½ ounces of rice.  Wrap mixture and steam for half an hour.

Bundles cannot be frozen.  Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.  Steam for half an hour to reheat.

Makes 8 bundles

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Bon Appétit Cookbook: Paprikás Csirke (Hungarian Paprika Chicken) and Spätzle (German Egg Noodles)

I loved Hungary. Absolutely loved it. It's charming and modern and ancient and romantic. I only spent two days there, but it was enough. I hope to go back again. But until I can, I have pictures and memories.

One of the nights in Budapest, I went with several friends to an amazing restaurant called Sorforras. The food and the atmosphere were equally amazing. I remember that the dish I ordered was an amazing take on the traditional chicken paprikas, but I believe they had named it Empress Chicken after Empress Sissy.

I have always hoped to find some sort of recipe for the dish I had that night, but my memory is getting a little difficult to resurrect, so it's now or never.

Paprikás Csirke (Hungarian Paprika Chicken)
Loosely adapted from The Bon Appétit Cookbook


1 ounce dried wild mushrooms, such as porcini or chanterelle
2 cups warm water
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1½ ounces rendered duck fat or unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, chopped fine
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 cup sour cream

In a medium bowl, add warm water to dried mushrooms, and allow to sit for at least twenty minutes.
Cut each chicken breast width-wise into angled slices. Heat half of rendered fat in a large frying pan and add chicken. Brown on both sides until light golden. Remove to separate platter. Chicken may need to be browned in two batches. Add remaining fat, shallots, and all mushrooms. When onions and mushrooms are slightly limp and browning, add chicken back in, along with paprika and chicken broth. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until sauce is reduced by at least half. Add sour cream and heat through. Serve over egg dumplings, spätzle, or pasta.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Spätzle (German Egg Noodles)

1 cup flour
2 large eggs
½ cup of cold water
Dash of nutmeg
Salt

Combine all ingredients.  Push the dough through a spätzle maker into boiling salted water. The spätzle are ready when they pop to the surface.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bon Appétit: Parmesan-Crusted Lemon Chicken


What to do for dinner on a Thursday night in July with the hot Texas sun still beating down? Good question. And I can guarantee you that the answer does not include "turn the oven on".  After working all day and then slogging home to an empty refrigerator, the last thing I want to do is think too much, so I need something simple and delicious. And something that will use up the pile of lemons sitting in my fridge.  This recipe certainly fits the bill.  Tender, juicy, fabulous.

Parmesan-Crusted Lemon Chicken
From Bon Appétit magazine, December 1991

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
1¼ cups dry breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
Lemon wedges

Pound each chicken piece to thickness of ½-inch between sheets of waxed paper.  Place chicken in baking dish.  Pour 4 tablespoons lemon juice over chicken and turn to coat.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Beat eggs with remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice in medium bowl.  Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and lemon peel in a shallow dish.  Dip 1 chicken breast into egg mixture.  Dip into breadcrumbs to coat; gently shake off excess.  Season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with remaining chicken, egg mixture, and breadcrumbs.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a third of chicken to skillet and sauté until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a platter and keep warm.  Repeat with remaining chicken in 2 more batches, adding 1 tablespoon of butter with each batch.  Garnish platter with lemon wedges and serve.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gourmed: Kaymakli Kayisi (Turkish Cream Filled Apricots)


I'm always interested in desserts from other countries.  Occasionally I get tired of chocolate for a brief, brief period of time.  BRIEF.  But during these intervals, I get to explore other sugary options.  I was actually pretty impressed with how these turned out.  Candied apricots stuffed with cream and nuts?  Winner.

Kaymakli Kayisi (Turkish Cream Filled Apricots)
From Gourmed

1 pound dried apricots
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
½ lemon
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
Pistachios (optional)

Soak apricots in warm water for 2 hours to soften.  Drain.

Combine sugar, water and lemon half.  Boil until syrupy, 225°F to 230°F on a candy thermometer.  Add the apricots and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whip cream until stiff.  Fold 1 cup almonds into cream.  Pull apricots apart into halves and arrange apricot halves in single layer, inner side up.  Dollop cream mixture onto half of the apricot halves.  Cover with the other halves, like a sandwich.  Sprinkle the remaining almonds and pistachios over the top.

Makes about 75, if small apricots are used

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mediterranean Cooking: Farareej Mashwi (Lebanese Lemon Chicken) and Glutton Cat: Warm Lentil Salad


I would say Middle Eastern food is a bit of a stretch for most people. In fact, most people probably didn't even know where the Middle East was until the Gulf War in 1990 (and most probably still don't). Well, shame on those people, because they sure know how to cook a fabulous grilled chicken in Lebanon.  And forget the fussiness of French lentils.  Lemon makes all the difference.

Farareej Mashwi (Lebanese Lemon Chicken)
From Mediterranean Cooking by Paula Wolfert

1 small chicken, quartered, skin on
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt
Black pepper

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Combine garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley in a shallow dish. Roll chicken quarters in the mixture to coat, and then allow them to marinate in the dish for at least an hour.

Make sure the top oven rack is about seven inches from the coil in the top of the oven. Preheat the broiler. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and set a flat rack on top to keep the dripping fat away from the chicken. Spray the whole thing lightly with cooking spray like Pam. Drain the chicken, but reserve the marinade. Place the quarters skin side down on the rack, and broil for ten minutes. You must baste the chicken with the reserved marinade every 3-4 minutes. Turn the chicken over and broil for ten minutes longer, again, basting as you go. When the skin is nice and golden and crispy, it's done!

Makes 4 servings

Warm Lentil Salad
From Glutton Cat blog

1 cup dried lentils
4 cups cool water
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Soak the lentils in the four cups of water with the cinnamon stick and the bay leaf in a small pot for an hour. When the time's up, add the salt and turn on the burner. Bring the water to a boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer the lentils for about 15 minutes, or until soft. Drain any remaining water and dump the lentils into a serving bowl. Add the onion, parsley, lemon juice, turmeric, and ground cumin.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and then add the cumin seeds. Toast them in the oil for a minute or two, and then pour both the oil and seeds over the lentils. Stir to combine. Add the feta right before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Noobie Blogger Takes on Gastronomy

Like most good white Anglo-Saxon children, I was raised on traditional American dinners. My mother is a wonderful cook, and I remember fondly her meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and pumpkin pie. The food wasn't terribly adventurous, but it was warm and comforting. Since my mother was a homemaker for most of my early childhood, I could always look forward to one of her dinners each night, and we always sat together around the table.

Unlike most WASP daughters in today's America, however, my mother actually taught me to cook. She believed that even if you didn't end up as a homemaker, you would also need to be able to feed yourself. Most of my friends growing up didn't get the same education, so I'm grateful for the lessons. I remember making cookies at Christmas, with my mom doing the stirring at the end when the dough was too sticky for my little hands. I also remember going through my mother's cookbooks, in awe of the crystal clear gelatin molds and ornate crown roasts that filled the 1950's-era books, wishing I could make something that stunning.

Now that I'm older, and the US has undergone a kind of cooking revolution, I have many more options when it comes to dinner each night. As each new immigrant group has entered the US, they have brought their amazing food with them, and I am more than happy to try it all. This means plenty of new cookbooks, ingredients, and sometimes even cooking classes. And I'm loving it all. This blog is my attempt to capture my growth as a cook, as well as the growing repertoire of foods and dishes that are available to the everyday American. I hope you enjoy it!