Recently, the general public, especially younger people in the cities, have begun to embrace strong flavors previously thought of as icky, like bitterness, fermentation, funk, fat and umami, which are now all prized flavors. This is good. But Americans, as always, are unable to do anything in moderation, and, hypnotized by the constant racket of food television, food blogs, restaurant blogs, and have-you-tried-this, insist that if strong flavors can be good, then even stronger flavors must be better. This is why we can’t have a hoppy IPA; we have to have the hoppiest quadruple-IPA science can concoct. We can’t have a normal bowl of chili; we have to [...]
Here’s a controversial opinion: Grapes are very good. The grape vines in places that suffer through winter are still pumping out the last of the season’s fruits, which means two things: First, your standard-variety supermarket table grapes are very cheap. Second, and more importantly, you can get locally grown varieties, which have way more flavor—sweet and tart and floral and bitter all at once, with that very particular pop that only comes from a grape whose skin is less attached to its flesh than your typical supermarket grape—at the farmers market. And they’re pretty cheap.
The most common way to eat grapes is as follows: Eat a grape. That’s [...]
“Pesto is the quiche of the eighties.” Haha, that’s a line from a movie I just saw for the first time. The pesto of this decade is…other kinds of pesto.
Pesto originally comes from Genoa, in northern Italy, where the specific ingredients and preparation were codified sometime in the sixteenth century. That kind of pesto—made with basil leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino sardo, along with a fair amount of olive oil—is still by far the most popular, though its proper name now, in a world of many types of pesto, would be pesto alla genovese.
Most Italian dishes have, like, four ingredients max, but [...]
In a few days, grills will be ceremonially set ablaze for Labor Day (“it’s the end of summer,” we’ll say, even though the first three weeks of September are still summer, technically and temperamentally). Many of those grills will be piled high with vegetables. Good: Direct heat and smoke can do lovely things to plant matter. But the most common technique for grilling vegetables, the kebab, is performed incorrectly by the vast majority of American grillmasters of the universe—even though most other countries mastered the technique sometime around the time it was discovered that fire hurts when you touch it.
Stabbing things with a skewer and putting them over open [...]
New York has the best apples in the world. I say this grudgingly, since I am not a native New Yorker and prefer to argue about claims to New York’s superiority rather than accept them. But after four years of living in this ridiculous city, the facts are the facts: Washington may grow many more apples each year; Minnesota may have the best apple laboratories; and apples (well, besides crab-apples) may not even be native to this continent; but in terms of flavor and variety, I’ll hold up New York’s apples against anywhere in the world. That said, you’re probably buying the wrong ones.
I won’t even bother to [...]
The most outrageous area of the grocery store is not the frozen section, nor the canned section, nor even the gross pre-made foods section. I am happy to partake of certain kinds of frozen or canned produce in the wintertime (they are usually better than fresh, when out of season), and I have been known to buy whole rotisserie chickens, theoretically to turn the carcass into stock, but really to gorge on heavily salted flesh for two days straight. No, the most frustrating and worthless aisle, the one from which no self-respecting adult should ever purchase anything, under absolutely any circumstances, is the salad dressing aisle.
There is no [...]
Before eating many fruits and some vegetables, some people—bad, or perhaps ignorant people—do something which renders the produce less tasty, less colorful, less texturally interesting, and much less nutritious. The worst of these offenses involves one of my favorite fruits: the kiwi.
California grows the vast majority of domestic kiwi, and California’s kiwi growing season starts in October, which is mere weeks away. This is exciting, because the kiwi is a spectacular fruit: its color is otherworldly; it leans wonderfully to the tart side of the sweet/tart scale; and it has more vitamin C than an orange. But an awful lot of people don’t buy them, because they are [...]
Most summer produce has a cult of worship; there are those who wait all year for the few weeks of tomato season, those who will serve fresh corn with every meal, those who will gorge on peaches until the sweet-tart juice carves furrows into their faces like Grand Canyon erosion writ small. But there is one item which rarely if ever inspires devotion. I’m speaking here of the noble eggplant.
Many people do not like eggplant. Common complaints are that it is spongy, or bitter, or mushy. All of these are symptoms of improper cooking. Because, friends, when eggplant is cooked properly it can achieve something few other fruits [...]
Trends and memes may be on the side of fall and winter squash—I dare you to find a single vendor without some variety of pumpkin foodstuff between September and December—but I rue the transition from light, delicate, and fresh summer squash, like zucchini, to heavy, sugary, and starchy winter squash, like acorn, pumpkin, delicata, butternut, and, of course, pumpkin. The most common way to eat winter squash, the one I see at potlucks and on restaurant menus alike, is actually the worst: a simple PC&R (peel, cube, and roast).
This is a very good way to cook almost any vegetable, but a bad way to cook winter squash. [...]
The cuisine of the Ashkenazic Jews is kind of awful. This is not the fault of my people; they tried their best, they really did. But the climate, socioeconomic struggles, and raw materials they had to work with left them with some pretty rough dishes. Worst, in my mind, is that there are a few big Jewish feasts in the late summer and early fall—the best time of year for produce—and Ashkenazic Jewish food doesn’t take advantage of that. So I would like to propose a way to make the feasts of early fall—Rosh Hashanah and the breaking of the fast after Yom Kippur—a little more vegetable-friendly: We must [...]
It’s easy, and not wholly unwarranted, to roll one’s eyes at the aisles of exotic, imported “superfoods” in your local yuppie grocery store. These superfoodstuffs are often flavorless, or even outright unpleasant. (Goji berries: worthless, shriveled, lame-tasting superfruits.) Sometimes their packaging claims holistic or magical properties like cancer prevention or weight loss, which is very clearly superbullshit. But seeds, even some of the trendy, irritating ones, like quinoa, are healthful and flexible and typically totally delicious. You should not ignore them just because they have misleading or silly packaging or because Jared Leto once said in an interview that he loves them in his morning smoothie with reclaimed grass [...]
When someone says salad, your first thought is probably a bunch of leaves, like lettuce or spinach or kale, plus some other stuff, and a dressing. Here’s the thing about the word “salad”: it means nothing. It doesn’t mean something cold; it doesn’t mean something raw; it doesn’t mean something with lots of different ingredients; it doesn’t mean something vegetable-based; and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean a pile of leaves.
Leaves, even the stronger-tasting ones, are filler. No one has ever once thought, “Dang, this salad is good, but it’d be more good with more lettuce in it.” This idea of a leafy salad is perpetuated by make-your-own-salad joints that [...]