• A Few Good Eggs

    Kids of all ages have per­fected the art and tra­di­tion of egg dying for Easter.

    From waxy pen­cils to small tablets of color, not much has changed in the dec­o­ra­tion process. Or has it?

    The kitchen pantry is a stu­dio of nat­ural ingre­di­ents and inter­est­ing col­ors wait­ing to be used. Com­mon food items, and food waste in some cases, will trans­form an ordi­nary hard boiled egg into a beau­ti­ful show­piece.

    Nat­ural dying ele­ments have long been used in fab­rics and paper. Porous eggshells invite color no mat­ter the source.

    Red cab­bage and beets, brown, red or yel­low onion skins con­tribute to an array of egg color pos­si­bil­i­ties. So will cof­fee, tea, and dried spices.
  • Curry Curry

    Food is cul­ture. Every­thing hav­ing to do with food — from cul­ti­va­tion and prepa­ra­tion to con­sump­tion, reflect cer­tain aspects of dif­fer­ent cul­tures.

    Indian cui­sine con­sists of a vari­ety of regional and tra­di­tional dishes native to India. Given the diver­sity in soil, cli­mate, cus­toms, eth­nic groups, and occu­pa­tions, these cuisines vary sub­stan­tially.

    A climb­ing food trend is the pop­u­lar­ity of Indian restau­rants. Depend­ing on the influ­ences of regional dif­fer­ences, spe­cific spices, herbs, veg­eta­bles, and fruits are used. These are based on what may have been avail­able in the home­land regions.

    Indian food is heav­ily influ­enced by reli­gion, in par­tic­u­lar Hin­duism. The cui­sine is also shaped by cen­turies of Islamic rule, par­tic­u­larly the Mughal rule. Samosas and pilafs are exam­ples.

    Exotic ingre­di­ents and a full range of fla­vors– spicy, sweet, sour and hot, make it a desir­able and excit­ing food explo­ration.

    Famil­iar spices that are com­mon to many Indian dishes — cumin, corian­der, turmeric, and gin­ger, pro­vide numer­ous ways of using them and com­bin­ing them. There are at least thirty other spices behind those four.
  • Dial It Up!

    Chili pep­pers are a sta­ple of most Mex­i­can food recipes. The sheer pop­u­lar­ity of Mex­i­can cui­sine and the ever grow­ing His­panic pop­u­la­tion in the United States make chili pep­pers an essen­tial daily ingre­di­ent.

    Fresh chili pep­pers are gen­er­ally avail­able year round. They are grown in Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­ico, Texas, and Mex­ico. Dried chili ver­sions are also avail­able year-​round.
    California’s extreme sum­mer tem­per­a­tures are con­ducive to grow­ing a wide vari­ety of mild to very hot spec­i­mens. Cul­ti­vated in a full range of sizes, shapes, and degrees of hot­ness, the num­ber of vari­eties is impres­sive.

    The head-​scratching comes with try­ing to prop­erly iden­tify the var­i­ous pep­pers by name and fla­vor pro­file. It gets com­pli­cated when the name of a pep­per may vary from region to region. The name changes again when the pep­per goes from being fresh to being dried.

    With a vari­ety of heat lev­els and fla­vor pro­files, ver­sa­til­ity is a key attribute of both fresh and dried chili pep­pers.

    Har­vested through­out the sum­mer, some green chili pep­pers are left on the plants until autumn. They will go from bright green in color to their final hue of yel­low, orange, pur­ple or red, depend­ing on the variety.
  • Fresh Turmeric

    Turmeric: what it is, health ben­e­fits, prepa­ra­tion, usage.
  • Mulling it Over

    Stay­ing in on these cold win­ter nights is eas­ier to swal­low with some­thing warm to sip on. Mulled ciders and wines are just thing for this end of year con­tem­pla­tive period.

    Hol­i­day enter­tain­ing was the per­fect excuse for crowd-​pleasing pots of spicy, fra­grant hot drinks.

    With­out hav­ing any large group gath­er­ings, it’s still imper­a­tive this sea­son to cre­ate spe­cial scaled down moments of com­fort and cheer. Mulled drinks take top con­sid­er­a­tion.

    Smaller recipe ver­sions of mulled con­coc­tions will gen­er­ously serve two to four peo­ple. Don’t skimp.

    Intox­i­cat­ing kitchen aro­mas while mulling will come mostly from cit­rus choices, sliced apples, star anise, cin­na­mon sticks and whole cloves. Fresh gin­ger root, rose­mary sprigs and cit­rus peel do dou­ble duty as both gar­nish and ingre­di­ent.

    Hot sip­ping drinks are meant for slow­ing the frenzy of the hol­i­day pace. Uti­lize what is on hand or add a few key items to the shop­ping list. Check the pantry first to see what is already on the shelf for a quick “pick me up” cup of some­thing special.
  • Ready, Set, VOTE!

    Novem­ber vot­ing goes well beyond polit­i­cal bal­lots. Our thoughts begin to move toward hol­i­day plan­ning.

    The Thanks­giv­ing count­down is start­ing to look dif­fer­ent, like most other things in 2020.

    This year, tra­di­tions might be dialed back with smaller gath­er­ings forced upon us. Even so, deli­cious pies will be part of the grand finale to what­ever meal is served.

    A slice of pie makes us happy. Sure, hap­pi­ness could come from a wide slice of pizza pie, a savory pie or even chicken pot pie. In this moment, we’re talk­ing about those seri­ous Thanks­giv­ing dessert pies.

    Vot­ing on just one is super dif­fi­cult. Pie brings back fond mem­o­ries shared with loved ones. Those fam­ily mem­bers or friends we like to share the hol­i­day meal. With. Maybe an aun­tie or grand­mother made our spe­cial hol­i­day pies.

    There are at least twenty favorite fall pies from which to choose. Sweet potato, apple, pecan and pump­kin are in the top five.

    When it comes to apple, there are so many vari­a­tions on the theme that it may make take at least eight spots on the pie charts. Dutch apple, bour­bon apple, old-​fashioned apple and caramel apple lead the hit parade.
  • Roots

    Root veg­eta­bles are truly nat­ural, unadul­ter­ated sources of com­plex car­bo­hy­drates, antiox­i­dants and other impor­tant nutri­ents.

    Unlike most fresh veg­eta­bles, they can stay fresh for longer peri­ods of time when stored in a cool, dark place such as a cel­lar.

    Tech­ni­cally. not all root veg­eta­bles are tubers. Those are defined as geo­phytes, a botan­i­cal term for plants with their grow­ing point beneath the soil.

    Other types of veg­gies that we clas­sify as root veg­eta­bles are actu­ally bulbs, corms and rhi­zomes. This includes pota­toes, sun­chokes and yams that grow under­ground.

    Let’s not get hung up on tech­ni­cal­i­ties and stay focused on the good­ness of roots. A sta­ple food in many South Amer­i­can and Asian cul­tures for thou­sands of years, root veg­gies have played a key role in both global nutri­tion and folk med­i­cine.

    Com­mon types of root veg­eta­bles as we iden­tify them include: pota­toes, beets, parsnips, car­rots, cele­riac, sweet pota­toes, fen­nel, Jerusalem arti­chokes, jicama, yams, radishes and turnips.

    Turmeric, gar­lic and gin­ger are also root veg­eta­bles, though we asso­ciate them more as being spices.

    Less com­mon to West­ern­ers, but heav­ily cul­ti­vated and cov­eted in other coun­tries: are batata, arrow­root, boni­ato, bur­dock, taro, daikon, water chest­nuts and cas­sava roots.

    Car­rots, pota­toes and onions may be our favorite under­ground veg­gies for every­day use.

    With a range of meth­ods to pre­pare them, Fall is a log­i­cal sea­son to resume our love affair with roots.
  • That’s a wrap!

    Bring the out­side in for nec­es­sary hol­i­day cheer. Lift­ing spir­its is only one of the by-​products of dec­o­rat­ing using aro­matic ever­greens, col­or­ful fruits and dried pro­duce.

    Cre­ative expres­sion is well-​fed and sat­is­fied when it comes to assem­bling gath­ered and sourced stems, branches, cut­tings and the like.

    Christ­mas trees, wreaths, gar­lands and flo­ral arrange­ments set the hol­i­day tone. Seed pods, pinecones, fruits and berries add tex­ture, color and notably fra­grance to already inter­est­ing designs.

    Cran­ber­ries and pome­gran­ates add won­der­ful pops of color to any cut green­ery. Cit­rus slices come in an array of yel­low, orange and gold. With new vari­eties com­ing into sea­son, blood oranges, grape­fruit and Meyer lemons are attrac­tive ele­ments for swags and man­tels.

    Cin­na­mon sticks, star anise and whole cloves are not rel­e­gated to just hot toddy duty. Tie them, glue them and string them for gift wrap­ping bling, tree orna­ments and bowls of scented room fresh­en­ers.

    Pears and apples hold their ground dur­ing Decem­ber sup­ply. Keep in mind the tiny ver­sions for hol­i­day place set­tings and tablescapes. Seckel and Forelle for the pear choices are sim­ply adorable. Lady and crabap­ples hit the bulls­eye for diminu­tive apple selec­tions. It’s espe­cially impor­tant this year to change up liv­ing and work space envi­ron­ments for psy­chol­ogy sake.

    Work­ing remotely or self-​isolating ben­e­fit from event the small­est ges­ture of décor changes. Ele­vate the mood with some­thing new to view.

    Aro­mather­apy prop­er­ties of a sin­gle sprig of rose­mary can reshape atti­tudes and act as a de-​stresser.

    Explore other herbs and greens found in the yard, neigh­bor­hood or retail shops.
  • Tinga This

    Tinga is a pop­u­lar stew using a blend of Mex­i­can and Span­ish cook­ing meth­ods. The result is a per­fect mar­riage of spicy, sweet and smoky fla­vors.

    Chicken or pork are favored meats used in this tra­di­tional Pueblo dish. Lentils, chick­peas or pota­toes are solid veg­e­tar­ian twists.

    Onions and gar­lic are sauteed first. Like most authen­tic Mex­i­can recipes, white onions are pre­ferred. Toma­toes are then added. Fresh toma­toes are used when avail­able and taste great. Vari­ety isn’t really impor­tant.

    Oth­er­wise, canned toma­toes are quite suit­able. Good choices dur­ing win­ter months would be to use fire roasted toma­toes, crushed toma­toes or even tomato sauce or tomato paste in a can.

    Next comes adding the stock, herbs and spices. Bay leaves, salt, pep­per and Mex­i­can oregano are stan­dard spices used in a tinga. Corian­der, thyme and mar­jo­ram take another culi­nary path.

    Chipo­tle chilies in Adobo sauce give the stew a sub­stan­tial kick. Essen­tially, chipo­tles in adobo are smoked and dried jalapeños chiles– rehy­drated and then canned in toma­toes, vine­gar, gar­lic, and spices.

    Decide on the heat pref­er­ence before adding a whole can of pep­pery heat. There’s no turn­ing back once they go into the stew pot or slow cooker.

    House made chipo­tle chilies are doable, but require more effort. If han­dling chili pep­pers is no prob­lem, look for jalapeños that are firm. The fresher the pep­pers, the bet­ter the result.

    The mix­ture is sim­mered long enough to allow all of the ingre­di­ents to meld nicely together. If meat is desir­able, add that to the sim­mer­ing sauce. If not, add legumes or other vegetables.
  • Wave That Flag

    Food has always been a gal­va­niz­ing bridge towards under­stand­ing her­itage and dif­fer­ent cul­tures.

    Week what­ever dur­ing COVID con­fine­ment presents the per­fect storm to fly our food flags.

    Leisure travel is off the table. Enjoy the world through the eyes of a chef or cook.

    Col­or­ful assem­blage of plates from desir­able loca­tions feed more than the belly. Cap­rese salad, red, green and white– toma­toes, sweet basil and fresh moz­zarella — bring Italy to the table.

    Pep­pers are an essen­tial Span­ish ingre­di­ent, whether they are fresh, roasted or fried. Served as a side dish or a tapa, red and yel­low are flag emblems of Spain. So too are dishes like gaz­pa­cho (cold tomato soup), romesco sauce or sofrito. Add color and fla­vor of pep­pers and toma­toes to sig­nify Span­ish influ­ences.

    Cir­cle the globe with a week­night menu item that includes sea­sonal dishes from coun­tries of inter­est. Sum­mer corn and zuc­chini latkes move us to Israel for a light sup­per paired with a green salad. They’re per­fectly suit­able for week­end brunch with fruits and eggs cooked to order.

    Inter­est­ing that pre­cious saf­fron is used in Indian main dishes and desserts. This color is rep­re­sented in the national flag. Exotic in color, fla­vor and aroma, take advan­tage of this very evoca­tive spice.