Previous month:
April 2011
Next month:
June 2011

May 2011 posts

Challenge: Eat Down the Pantry and Fridge

After a weekend of excessive food and fun, I feel like the best thing for my health is to detox - everything.

Too much wine, too many heavy meals and I start feeling sluggish.  The couch looks good and yet when I pop onto it, I can't rest. 

Time to cleanse - mentally and phsyically. To clear my mind and cleanse my house, meditation and burning sage and incense. 

Since we're getting ready for a trip. there's no better time to clear out the pantry and fridge than right now in the 11 days we have before departure.  

The challenge is this: eat only meals prepared with what is on hand.  Will I cheat and buy eggs and milk?  Not if I can help it.

I usually have a pretty well-stocked kitchen. We also have a lovely little garden with fresh greens and herbs, though no veggies yet, so we have some variety.  It's doubtful we will starve.  In fact, the first days will probably be pretty normal fare for us.

Lean days are ahead, but I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with three eggs and no milk.  

Game on! 


Top 5 Tips for Best Burgers on the Grill

Lucques Pork Burger

We're getting ready for a meat coma.

Burgers are at the top of our list and charbroiled is best.

Take note of these top five tips for best charbroiled burgers ever.

1. It goes without saying - or should - use really fresh meat. Make sure the fat content is at least 18%. Sorry, but super lean meat doesn't spell J-U-I-C-Y.

2. Don't forget the salt. Mix 1/2 tsp of salt into 2 tbps water for each lbs of ground meat you use. Water helps distribute the salt (and other seasonings) while adding moisture.

3. Add minced onion, garlic, and other seasonings (nix to bread crumbs, please) to ground meat before making patties. Don't manhandle the meat. Mix well enough to incorporate, then form patties gently.

4. Sear both sides of burger to seal in all the juicy goodness. When you see char marks, it's time to lower the heat. Flip early. Don't wait until the juices collect on the top of your burger. And never mash burgers! Please.

5. Don't overcook. Nothing kills a burger buzz like dry meat.

Fire Up the Grill for National Burger Weekend


Charred meat smells like summer and there's no more iconic cookout food than the burger. Nothing says cookout like a juicy hamburger fired on the grill.

The beauty of the burger is that it's so easy anyone can master making a terrific one.

Burgermeister Bobby Flay shows us his great Southwest version.

Get your burger on in honor of National Burger Weekend.


Discover Turkey's Local Culture and Artisan Silk Carpet-making

The joy of travel is discovery. 

Looking for something different for your next travel adventure?  Explore Turkey's ancient culture and experience the artistry of centuries old crafts like silk rug-making.  

Creating a silk carpet takes patience, years of practice and a good pair of scissors. Luckily for travel pro Mark Murphy he doesn’t have to make a carpet, he gets to observe the work, and enjoy the beautiful finished product.


Real, Honest Food with Sam the Cooking Guy & Just Grill This

Grilled Whole Trout with Sam the Cooking Guy

Forget about the 12 Emmys.

Sam Zien, better known as Sam the Cooking Guy, is just a regular guy who likes to cook real, honest food.

Okay, It's hard to forget about the Emmys.

But, Sam the Cooking Guy is down-to-earth and easy to talk food with.  He gives home cooks carte blanche, or complete freedom, to use short cuts. I love it whenever I have permission to cheat, especially when it tastes this good.

Frozen shrimp? Check. Ditto, frozen scallops and steaks.  Pizza crusts?  Cooked chicken breast? A big up.  

Sam compares cooking to riding a bicycle. You get on and you pedal.  The more you do it, the better you get.

The Canadian-born everyman of cooking started out just like everyone else - by opening the refrigerator door, peering in, and trying to figure out what would be good to eat. He began by grilling for his wife.

"I would go out and do the burning," Zien recalled recently. "Kelly and I would pretend it was good and eat it."  But, the more he grilled, cooked and experimented, the better the food tasted.

Along the way, he discovered his life's work.  

Originally, he intended to create a TV travel show for regular people who wanted to discover far flung places in uncomplicated ways. Poised to start, September 11th happened and with it, the way we live and travel was altered forever, so Zien had to rethink his idea.

Since everyone eats, a food show seemed like the next best option. 

Now, he's host of a regular half hour show Just Cook This, Thursday nights on Discovery Health, which is taped in his San Diego, CA, home, complete with wife, kids, and dogs. 

His third book, Just Grill This, (Wiley, softcover, US$19.95, 256 pp), is now out.  In our house, I've designated it as the go-to cookbook for the men in my life who love to eat but aren't very skilled in the kitchen.

Sam had some great ideas for my 12-year-old son, who is excited about learning to cook, and my boyfriend who wants to learn to cook, but is intimidated by food that requires more than five ingredients.

For my son to try, he recommended trying the Fry Dog, a basic hot dog made with great kosher hot dogs, topped with French Fries and spicy mayo.  We made a souped up version, adding our own twist with melted cheese and chili.

Think chili cheese fries over a hot dog. Delicious!

For my boyfriend, Sam suggested making Sesame Grilled Meatballs, a success story for any new cook.  A grill, a bag of defrosted fully cooked meatballs, skewers, hoisin and chili sauce, sesame oil and chopped green onions - you're in business.

There really is nothing like grilled meat on a stick.  

"Meatballs," he said. "Yeah, meatballs. Just do it. I love giving my guests a job. I hand them the appetizers. It gives them something fun to do and frees me up to do other stuff."

Just Grill This! Flipping through this third cookbook, it's easy to get whipped up about dinner - or lunch, or snacks, or drinks or dessert for that matter. This cookbook and his others are not only fun, but filled with recipes that are accessible for home cooks of all experience levels.  The same warmth and wit that makes Sam the Cooking Guy so approachable in person and on TV comes through in print.  

Among his favorite recipes are Sweet Sticky Ribs, Cedar Plank Salmon and Grilled Catfish Sandwich. Popular with his kids are what his sons call Sam Pockets, round refrigerator rolls flattened and stuffed with any filling you can dream up, then baked about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Keeping a well-stocked pantry is essential for happy, well-fed people. There are a few basic essentials that Sam the Cooking Guy recommends.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no shame in a shortcut or frozen food. 

On a trip to Hong Kong, he watched fascinated as women shopped for fresh foods to cook, thinking they were doing their daily food shopping. What he discovered was that these home cooks made a trip to the market for each meal. The reality for most households is that grocery shopping has got to be done far less frequently, but that doesn't mean food has to be industrial, fast food, bad for you or boring.

Kitchen Essentials

  • Sauces - Hoisin, Teriyaki, BBQ, Chili
  • Frozen Foods - Shrimp, Scallops, Steaks
  • General Foods - Olive Tapenade, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

My new favorite is the Whole Grilled Trout.  It fits right in with my favorite kitchen theory: the meal should look really fantastic, appearing complex, but really a breeze to prepare. On the plus side, you can use any whole fish for this recipe.

"This is about really good, honest food. Simple.  You make it. You eat it. It tastes great," Zien said.


Mark Bittman How to Cook Everything iPhone App Now Available

Mark Bittman How to Cook Everything Vegetarian iPhone App Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is now available as an app for iPhone and iPod TouchThis seminal work contains more than 2,000 meatless recipes and variations—plus ample cooking, shopping, and ingredient information—making this app every bit as useful as its predecessor, How to Cook Everything, for iPhone andiPad.

Like the incredibly popular How to Cook Everything apps, which have had more than half a million downloads, the new app on vegetarian cooking features enhanced search capabilities,shopping lists, timers for every recipe, and featured recipes (updated weekly). Similarly, too, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian can be used anywhere, anytime, online or offline. It’s the ultimate app companion to the ultimate vegetarian cookbook.

Written by Mark Bittman, the longtime New York Times writer, television personality, author, and blogger, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian promotes a simple and accessible approach to meatless and even vegan, home cooking. Cooks rely on this indispensable reference to make crowd-pleasing food using fresh, natural ingredients; simple techniques; and basic equipment.


Features of the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian app include:

·         Intuitive filters that pinpoint searches by multiple ingredients, techniques, or styles

·         Access to how-to illustrations and detailed reference information

·         Customizable shopping lists and personalized favorites lists

·         Built-in timers and a settings option for integrated metric display

·         Cooking inspiration with Bittman’s Picks, Menu Ideas, and weekly new Featured Recipes

·         Printing and emailing option for recipes and shopping lists



The Los Angeles Times and Food & Wine will launched The Taste, an annual gastronomic event, in L.A. Sept. 2 to 5.

The Taste combines two previous culinary festivals -- Food & Wine presents: Taste of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles Times Celebration of Food & Wine.

The Taste will span up to nine events across Los Angeles, featuring the nation’s foremost culinary talent, a carefully curated list of L.A.’s best restaurants, and notable personalities, all converging for a festival expected to attract more than 20,000 guests throughout the course of Labor Day weekend.

Rustic Mulberry Tart Recipe

Almost everyone has sung (or at least heard of) the nursery ryhme, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.

I have a real live mulberry bush (actually, it's more like a mulberry tree) in my backyard.

In the past month, it's been raining down plump, ripe black and crimson berries onto my patio and, unfortunately, the hood of my car. 

My birds delight in them.

Yesterday I watched a russet-breasted robin, jaw propped wide with a berry treat, as she sat feasting in the limbs of the cedar, which with a shortleaf pine, forms a strange triumvirate with my mulberry.  

Whoever planted these three trees together had an interestiong perspective.  Ditto for the bamboo stand opposite.  Somehow, it works to create an oasis of calm in my hectic life.

As for the mulberries, they're fragrant and messy.  They plop down onto the patio with a satisfying thump and I sweep them off into the grass twice daily.  Minutes after sweeping, I see them magically reappear.  

My man, whose greatest charm is that he thinks everything I cook is wonderful, said he thought he'd seen them in the market. Nope, he was thinking about blackberries, I said.

My a-ha moment arrived just as the words left my mouth.

If the birds could eat them, so could we.  I googled mulberries and found a few recipes for pies, but decided I'd make a rustic tart, what we in the South call a Buckle.

The mulberries, unlike blackberries or raspberries, had surprisingly few seeds.  They are more difficult to clean since they have pesky little stems that need to be removed.  And if they don't fall onto your patio, you might need a ladder to pick them.  I balanced precariously on lawn furniture to get the few extra berries I needed for my tart.  

A pie crust is laid gently in a baking dish (or on a cooking sheet), mounded with 1-2 cups of fresh berries, usually blueberries or blackberries, but in this instance, mulberries, that have been mixed with 1/2 sugar and a little flour (about a tablespoon).  Dot with butter (1/4 stick, cut into slices).  Fold the edges of the pie crust over the berry mixture, pinch a little at the corners and the tart or buckle goes into the oven for about 40-45 minutes.

Serve warm either plain or with a nice dollop of fresh whipped cream or ice cream.  Delicious!

This is the kind of recipe we make without a cookbook or a recipe card, one we adjust according to how many berries we have on hand.  It's intuitive, but really easy.

I had just enough mulberries for a small tart (four servings). 

Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive This Saturday

Help Stamp Out Hunger with the US Postal Service this Saturday.

It's easy to participate.  Just leave a grocery bag of non-perishable food for your mail carrier to pick up when he or she makes the mail delievry.

All food will be delivered to your ,local food bank for distribution to the needy.

What a great love letter!