Don’t fear the artichoke. Here’s how to steam and conquer it

artichokes

Don’t fear the fierce-looking artichoke. Instead, learn to conquer and eat it. Here’s how. (Photo by Laura Groch)

It pains me to see food misused. I once nearly keeled over while watching a cooking-show host take some very fine lobsters, remove all the meat from the shells, then puree it, mix it with other stuff and pour it into a baking dish. Oh! what a terrible way to treat beautiful, succulent lobster meat!

Similarly, I was shocked to see on another show a vendor at an open-air market slicing all the leaves off an artichoke to reach the tender (and yes, delicious) heart. Oh! what a waste of tasty leaves!

But I can understand it — somewhat. You may be familiar with jarred artichoke hearts, Continue reading

Safe at home: Those pesky ‘best by’ dates

"Best by" dates aren't absolutes. Most canned foods are perfectly fine for up to five years. (Photo by Laura Groch)

“Best by” dates aren’t absolutes. Most canned foods are perfectly fine for up to five years. (Photo by Laura Groch)

 

For the past three months, I’ve been feeding myself poison.

That is, if you count “Use by,” “Best by” and “Sell by” dates as absolutes when it comes to wholesome food.

Obviously, I don’t.

We’ve recently seen stories about how wasteful Americans are with their food, and how Continue reading

Lettuce try some new ways to do salad

Radish leaves are edible, so why not try them in a salad?

Radish leaves are edible, so why not try them in a salad? (Photo by Laura Groch)

With California’s winter rains flooding out some lettuce farms, greens are going up in price nationwide. Some reports say that lettuce is going for $3.99 a head.

Well, if you use your head, you can still enjoy salads without going broke. Stores and farmers markets still have plenty of less-expensive green leaves to fill your salad bowls.

Green and red cabbage come to my mind first, especially green. Just slice the leaves into Continue reading

Thrifty/nifty hints for holiday baking and beyond

pie crust

Build up the edge of the pie crust to help keep the uncooked filling (pecan pie here) from spilling as you maneuver it into the oven. Photo by Laura Groch

We’re coming up on prime holiday cooking season, so I wanted to share a couple of thrifty-nifty hints today.

• The first one is about baking, and more specifically, pie crusts. I have made my share of pies, and while they usually turn out pretty well, getting custard-type pies, like, well, custard, or pumpkin, or pecan into the oven without spilling the filling can be a bit fraught.

It dawned on me one day that things didn’t have to be that precarious. I’m not a huge fan Continue reading

Save your green with easy-to-mix salad dressing

Inexpensive ingredients for a delicious salad dressing are already in your pantry. Photo by Laura Groch

Inexpensive ingredients for a delicious salad dressing are already in your pantry. All you need is a simple recipe like this one. Photo by Laura Groch

If you’ve been checking out my posts, you know I keep returning to certain themes: Thrift in the kitchen. Eating real food. Preparing food yourself so you know what’s in it.

So in this season of salads and cold dishes — and especially for the picnic-happy holiday that is July 4 — I wanted to bring you a recipe that hits all those notes.

It’s a simple recipe for an oil- and vinegar-based salad dressing (not the kind of white Continue reading

Will you like lychees? You’ll have to find them first

lychees

Lychees are a delicious fruit, hidden behind a nubbly reddish-brown shell. Photo by Laura Groch

If you’re a fan of the Honeymooners (and I hope you are), you might remember the phrase, “sweet and sour leechee nuts.”

That was the treat Ralph Kramden offered his long-suffering wife, Alice, as the finale of dinner at her favorite Chinese restaurant, Hong Kong Gardens.
I thought “leechee nuts” were a figment of someone’s imagination until I ran into

Continue reading

Pancakes: Squaring the circle

baked pancakes

Who says pancakes have to be round? Baking them on a cookie sheet makes the job go twice as fast, too. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Oooh, pancakes! What a fun breakfast treat! And yet what a pain in the neck they can be for us cooks, who have to keep working while everyone is eating, and while trying to eat our own pancakes, which invariably grow cold while we are tending the griddle.

Even for the two of us, making pancakes seems always to be a major production. So I tested a different way of making them that lets everyone eat together: Bake them in a flat Continue reading