Entries tagged with “Garlic”.


There are two reasons why Farmer Boy is my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, and both of them have to do with the descriptions of the food Almanzo Wilder enjoyed as a boy growing up on the farm.  The Wilders spared no expense in describing the food in this novel – and I suppose it should come as no surprise to me today that I loved these descriptions so dearly as a child.

The first reason has to do with the doughnuts Almanzo’s mother made on a regular basis.  I’m a lifelong doughnut fan, having grown up around the corner from Wally’s Donuts, a true mom and pop shop that I will tell you more about another time.  To me, doughnuts were (okay, still are) food nirvana.  Sweet, soft rings of dough topped with frosting and wrapped in fragile squares of waxed paper for me by Wally’s wife; bliss.  Still, I knew nothing about how they were made until I read Farmer Boy.  I have only recently begun making my own, and I can’t help but picture Almanzo and his mother whenever I slide a doughy ring into the hot oil.  What they shared by the stove is timeless, and it is part of why I cook so much today.

The second reason has to do with the pumpkin Almanzo raised for the fair.  To ensure maximum size, he devises a way to feed the pumpkin milk as it grows by slitting the stalk just above the chosen pumpkin and inserting a candle wick, the other end of which he places in a small dish of milk.  For years, I swore I would attempt the same.  One spring followed another and another, and each year my mom and I would plant pumpkins in the garden in our front yard.  Somehow, I never got around to tracking down a wick to test the milk-feeding method.  Instead, I watched in wonder as the blossoms became little secret orbs hiding beneath the vine’s broad, dusty leaves.  It was captivating, a daily treasure every day upon my return from school.


Ever since, I have come to love pumpkins and their related squash brethren as fall’s delivery on a tiny promise that begins in late spring with a hint of a something buried under a leaf.  Slowly, so slowly, they burgeon and ripen, developing tough rinds to ward off the elemental torment of months on the ground.  They are, to me, a sweet surprise to enjoy as night begins earlier and earlier; the subtle reminder the good things really do come to those who wait.

This recipe comes to me by way of my stepbrother, Brian.  He and his lovely wife, Sarah, dazzled the family with it last year in Salt Lake at Thanksgiving. It’s a genuine beauty, both visually and in terms of the delicate layers of flavors.  As you know, orange foods occupy a special place in my heart, and this dish is no exception. The spunky little orange cubes are silky and inviting, especially when stippled with a shot of fresh mint.  Sweet, tangy, garlicky, and salty, there is something in this dish for every palate.

(Keep reading Honeyed Butternut Squash…)


Oh dear.  I have become a woman who carries a pile of gadgets wherever I go.  It started innocently enough – a small cell phone.  Then an iPod.  Then a Blackberry.  Then a Kindle.  Then the cell phone died.  Then I got an iPhone.

People, I have a phone that farts on command.  Sixteen different ways.  I’m not sure if this is a sign that we, as a society, have reached a cultural and technological zenith, or if the other three horsemen are going to be pulling up soon, but it pretty much blows my mind either way.

As I type this, I’m sitting on a plane home a quick work trip to Chicago’s strip mall-dotted suburbs with a laptop on the tray table and a bag at my feet full of the aforementioned cadre of gadgets.  How is it possible that I have become a person who travels with four different power cords?  Heaven forbid one of these things should run out of juice (really, it happened last week during another even shorter trip, and it kind of sucked).  If nothing else, the many feet of cords that fill the bottom of my suitcase would have made it possible for me to rappel from the 11th floor of the Hyatt Lisle should the need have arisen.  A sort of modern-day Rapunzel.  After all, it’s good to have contingency plans.


It doesn’t seem like too terribly long ago that all I had was a cell phone.  A cell phone that did one thing: make calls.  It was years before I had a phone with a camera, which I used for nothing other than filling its memory card several times over with candid shots of the cats (Max in a box, Max next to a box, Max thinking about a box, Phoebe eyeing Max in a box with a glint of her trademark evil in her eye, etc.).  I eventually started work and received a Blackberry, the life force that sustains every modern attorney.  It was equipped with an even better camera, which afforded me the opportunity to take more completely inane cat pictures.  One day, however, the world turned on its axis when I found myself in line at Starbucks, realizing this Blackberry had been placed in my hands for the sole purpose of being able to discretely photograph the breast cancer awareness ribbon the Starbucks employees had made by taping packets of  Sweet N’ Low to the backsplash behind the barista.  That was technology at its finest.

It went downhill from there.  Forget an actress’s name while driving to Costco?  Google it from the Blackberry.  Need a makeshift flashlight to find a misplaced set of keys in the early morning without waking up a sleeping spouse? Turn on any one of the backlit screens and let its anemic glow light the way.  And the capacity, oh, the capacity.  Between an iPod and a Kindle, there’s enough capacity to fill even the longest, worst airport layover with thousands of diversions.

And then there’s the iPhone, which puts the rest of these things to shame.  The same little wad of metal and plastic that cheerfully woke me up on cue this morning (at the unholy hour of 4:45 pacific time) kept me entertained with a dozen games as I waited standby for my flight home (three times) and will help me pick a traffic-free route home from the airport.  It’s amazing, really.  And a little exhausting when I think back to the days when my purse held only a tiny wallet, a tube of lipstick, and that first single-purpose cell phone.


Sometimes, a little simplicity is a welcome refuge from the complexities we heap upon our lives with such abandon.  Or maybe I’m easily amused by things like fried capers.

After seeing fried capers mentioned three or four times in the course of a weekend, I really had to try them.  Wow.  Just…wow.  When introduced to a skillet of shimmering olive oil, they bloom.  Literally.  They open up into tiny florets as they brown.  Briny and crisp, they are delicious by themselves and stunning alongside something equally simple like garlicky shrimp.  For kicks, I’ve added fried garlic to the mix here, but you can mix and match the garlic and capers as you please.  My garlic was a fantastically weird and wonderful smoked variety – almost a garlic pickle – but plain raw garlic works just as well.

As I’ve mentioned before, I keep bags of flash frozen shrimp from Costco on hand for dishes like this.  They thaw in a few minutes in cold water.  Once that’s covered, you can bang this whole dish out in about 15 minutes.  Marinate the shrimp for a few hours in a bowl in the fridge if you feel like it, or let them have a quick nap in the oil and lemon juice while you fry your capers.  Both will be lovely, and refreshingly simple.

(Keep reading Simple Shrimp with Capers and Garlic…)

Welcome to the very first Salty Spoon contest! Tell me your favorite kind of bread and earn a chance to win an instant-read thermometer, the kind I (incessantly) recommend.  The contest will remain open for one week, until midnight Pacific time on Wednesday, July 8.  There are two ways to send me your entry, and you may use either or both once a day until the contest is over:
1.    Comment on this post
2.    Send me (@SaltySpoon) a tweet on Twitter
Good luck – I look forward to hearing about your favorites.


I’ve heard that real estate agents recommend baking a cake or a batch of cookies just before an open house.  The hope is that the sweet smell emanating from the oven will beckon to prospective buyers. When we shopped for our place, we saw something like 40 houses in four days, so I can’t tell you with any certainty whether any of them smelled like cookies.  There was one place in Marina del Rey that smelled like old soup, and several new condos that offered the seductive chemical high of new carpet fumes, but there are none that sing out in my mind as That Place That Smelled Like A Big Fat Cake.


I would have remembered roasting garlic.  My allegiance to baked goods notwithstanding, if I were to select one aroma to illustrate the olfactory concept of Home, it would be the smell of garlic roasting in a hot oven.  As it roasts, garlic softens, both in texture and intensity.  It abandons the militant aggression it so favors when raw and matures into something warmer, friendlier, with a softer smile.  If raw garlic is an outspoken 19-year-old, defiantly braless and passionately committed to a new cause biweekly, then roasted garlic is the 45-year-old that kid grows up to be, who reads edgy historical fiction, drinks more green tea than coffee, and always listens patiently.


When I cook with garlic, I breathe a contented sigh every time I reenter the kitchen. The scent surrounds me, offering a time-worn flannel shirt for the nose.  It reaches in and puts me at ease; even the overhead Ikea tracklights seem fuller and more golden.  A simple batch of aigo bouido – a garlic soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking – simmering on the stove sets guests’ faces aglow as they enter for dinner.  Graceful billows of garlicky steam tempt them to the table.  And a loaf of bread made with a rosemary garlic paste beams as it bakes, filling the whole house with herbed wizardry.  Almost enough to sell the place.


(Keep reading Roasted Garlic Rosemary Bread…)


The first time I roasted a chicken, my dad talked me through it over the phone.  The conversation went something like this:

Dad: Is the oven hot?
Me: Yeah.
Dad: Okay, put the bird in the roasting pan.
Me: Mmhmm, done.
Dad: Now spray it with Pam.
Me: The pan, or the bird?
Dad: The bird - just give it a good spray all over.
Me: Got it. Now what?
Dad: Peel an onion, and just shove the whole thing inside.
Me: Inside…where?
Dad: The bird.
Me: In its butt?
Dad: We generally call that the cavity, but yes.  Pop it in.
Me: Are you serious?
Dad: Yes! It will taste good.
Me: Okay, one onion in the butt coming up.
Dad: I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.
Me: Go on.
Dad: Shake a little salt and pepper over the outside and stick it in the oven.  Check it in an hour.
Me: That’s it?
Dad: That’s it.

And that really is it.  You can get a delicious roast chicken with almost zero work.  If you’ve never cooked a chicken before, and if you break out in hives of OH MY G-D THIS IS SO COMPLICATED when you read the rest of this recipe, go ahead and try the Butt Onion method.  But if you are feeling at all adventurous (and by “at all” I mean on a “dimes in your penny loafers” level), try your hand at the brine and paste method I describe below.  It’s really, really delicious.  And the smells that will fill your kitchen will blow your mind.

This recipe is an absolute stunner if you are trying to impress someone with your cooking skills. It comes out looking like a million bucks, and your guests will be rendered speechless when they take a bite of the moistest, tastiest chicken they have ever had.  The brining will assure you very moist meat (heh) - just don’t overcook it.  I know the spectre of undercooked chicken and all its various evils can keep the best of us up at night, but a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer is all the backup you need.  I highly recommend an instant-read for its speed, accuracy, and overall niftiness.  I came upon this one by way of Cooks Illustrated, and was impressed that it was both extremely functional and highly affordable.  Though not absolutely critical, it’s one of those pieces of equipment that can really streamline your cooking process.