All posts by Rae M.

I am just a humble lover of food and cooking, but more in the Michael Pollan way than the Martha Stewart way. I'm interested in where food comes from, where it's going, and how it affects us along the way. I believe that taking control of how we consume food is one of the strongest personal, social, and political choices we can make (I'm also a big believer in the Oxford comma). My day job centers around my other passion, the Arts. I have a B.A. in Theatre Production, and an M.A. in Cultural Studies. I happily work in non-profit arts development and read voraciously about food in my spare time. I also like to cook and eat it to. My husband and I started Lust for Cooking with the idea that cooking is sexy and sensual and important, and if we can share that with others, then maybe more people will pick up the spatula.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about garlic (including how to peel it) – and then some.

Do you love garlic? We, at Lust for Cooking, loooooooove garlic – often to the detriment of those standing near us. So why not take a closer look at this absolute kitchen must-have? Here is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about garlic – and then some.

  1. Garlic is a member of the allium family, which includes onions, shallots and leeks.

    garlic-and-onion
    pixabay.com

  2. The use of garlic goes all the way back in recorded history and was considered medicinal in ancient Egypt, China, Greece, Babylon and India. Over the centuries it has been considered a cure for infections, wounds, cancer, leprosy, colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis, fever, ringworm and intestinal worms, liver and gallbladder problems, heart problems, and digestive disorders – basically everything – and is still used to treat many of these issues today.


  3. We do know that garlic is an effective antimicrobial, can help reduce cholesterol levels, and is effective in helping to prevent cancer and heart disease.

  4. While good for humans, everything in the allium family is very bad for dogs. Never feed your dogs anything with onion or garlic, including stock that may have been flavored with onion or garlic.

  5. In the past, garlic has been thought to ward off tigers, the plague, evils spirits, werewolves, and vampires. Turned out not to be so effective against the first two, but the jury is still out on the rest.

  6. Garlic’s potent odor and flavor come from a chemical reaction that occurs when a clove is sliced into or crushed. Within the cells lies an odorless, sulfur-containing amino acid that only comes into contact with an enzyme in the cell walls, called alliinase, when the cell is disturbed. When these two mix, the reaction creates a new enzyme called allicin. This is what causes garlic’s pungent flavor. (A similar reaction occurs in onions when they’re sliced and that’s the reason they make you cry.) Cooking garlic then softens the flavor by converting the enzyme yet again. Science!

  7. Because of the nature of this chemical reaction, the way you prep garlic will affect its potency. Slicing is less disturbing to the cells than crushing, so slicing garlic will produce a milder effect. (We at Lust for Cooking say crush the crap out of it.)

    garlic-with-press
    pixabay.com

  8. Does peeling garlic piss you off? There’s a trick to it. If you crush a clove of garlic with the flat of a knife, the skin will then peel right off. If you need a lot of garlic, say a whole bulb, crush the entire bulb with a frying pan. This will separate the cloves and start loosening the skins. Then place all of the cloves in hard lidded container and shake the crap out of it. That should finish the job. If you want to peel your garlic without crushing it, soak the cloves in hot water for five minutes. That should loosen the skins right up.

    garlic-peeled
    pixabay.com

  9. Garlic plants have different cooking applications throughout their life cycle. You can harvest the leaves and use them like chives. You can eat the scapes, which are the flower buds before they bloom. Scapes are milder in flavor, like a shallot, but can be used to flavor just like garlic. For more on scapes, check out Bon Appétit’s guide. And the bulbs themselves are delicious both young and green and at full maturity.

    garlic-greens
    By Leo Michels (Own work, http://www.imagines-plantarum.de) via Wikimedia Commons

  10. You can grow garlic by planting a clove in well-drained soil. The clove then produces more cloves and eventually become a bulb. Plant in late fall and they will start to shoot up in early spring. Hardneck varieties grow best in cold climates and softneck are better for warm climates.

    garlic-cloves
    pixabay.com

  11. There are many varieties of garlic. The varieties are divided into two categories “softneck” and “hardneck.”

    • Hardneck varieties have a very tough woody stem that grows up the middle and which is not present in softneck varieties. Hardneck varieties include: Porcelain, Rocambole, and Purple Stripe (considered the best for roasting), and they are generally considered more robust in flavor. If you see some, buy it.

      garlic-hardneck
      pixabay.com
    • Softneck garlic is typically what you see in a grocery store because they have a longer shelf life. Softneck varieties include Artichoke and Silverskin. They have a milder, grassy flavor, but are still delicious. Other notable incarnations include:

      garlic-softneck
      pixabay.com
    • Elephant Garlic so named because it’s, well, HUGE. It’s actually a misnomer as it’s more closely related to onions than to garlic. The flavor will be more like a shallot or leek, mild and onion-y.

      ackerknoblauch_allium_ampeloprasum
      wikicommons.com
    • The elusive and highly coveted Black Garlic is actually not it’s own variety, but really regular garlic that has been fermented. Its flavor is supposed to be almost indescribable, though many have tried. Descriptions tend to come out something like, “delicious in a garlicy/vinagary/carmely/plummy/chewy/chocalately/bitter/sweet/umami-y kind of way.” You either love it or hate it.

      garlic-black
      pixabay.com
    • Creole Garlic is actually in a category by itself as it has both softneck and hardneck characteristics. It has a rosy hue and a spicy bite but is rare and can be rather difficult to find.

  12. When shopping for garlic, be sure the bulbs are dry and firm. Garlic, especially softneck garlic has a long shelf life, so don’t worry about it going bad. Avoid garlic that’s starting to sprout green shoots, as it’s past its flavor prime (though it won’t make you sick or anything). Once that happens you may just want to plant it.

    garlic-green-shoot
    pixabay.com

  13. And finally, what to make with garlic? EVERYTHING. There is no way to narrow this down. But if you want a treat in it’s purest form, then roast it whole. Cut off the top quarter of the bulb, drizzle liberally with olive oil so that it gets into the crevices, wrap it in tin foil, and toss it on the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until soft, at 400 degrees (Fahrenheit). Then spread it on whatever you like: bread, vegetables, ice cream – just not the dog.

    roasted_garlic_1
    Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)

    LFC logo 1 copy

     

     

The BEST Beginner’s Cookbook

It happens to the best of us. You really want to learn how to cook, but when you go to the bookstore (assuming there still is one in your town) you’re overwhelmed by the gargantuan selection of cookbooks. Out of pure frustration, you go home empty-handed, or worse, armed with something by Julia Child because you recognize the name, only to find out you don’t understand a word of it. Where the hell to start?? I’m glad you asked.

Our #1 pick for beginner cookbooks here at Lust for Cooking is What to Cook and How to Cook It, by Jane Hornby.

This is where is all began – where Lust for Cooking was born. This cookbook, quite literally, changed our lives. Before What to Cook and How to Cook It, Dijorno was a challenge.

Sound a little melodramatic? Perhaps. But it’s true. This was the first cookbook that really taught us, not just what to cook but how. What makes this cookbook so damn special, you ask? Good question. There are a few reasons, but first and foremost, it’s all about the pictures. Tell me this doesn’t turn you on –wtchtc-sample

Ok, it’s not a naked body. But in the land of cookbooks, this is awesome. All of the ingredients visually laid out and in their measurements. For new cooks, this is the holy grail.

Because, first of all, there’s nothing worse than a cookbook with NO pictures, amiright? If you can’t even see the finished product, then you don’t even know what you’re shooting for. But even with a beautifully photographed, mouth-watering picture of a finished dish, you still may get lost in the ingredients list. As in what the hell is tahini (and, by the way, did you know that coriander and cilantro are the same thing)?

This book will not leave you scratching your head. Everything is pictured for you, so you look like a champ at the grocery store. By the way, can you guess what dish these ingredients will create?

It doesn’t stop there. Each step in the cooking process has its own photograph, as well as the finish line –

wtchtc-steps

You can’t go wrong. Hornby also answers any pesky questions that may come up. So what is tahini? The answer is on page 193.

Make no mistake – this isn’t 101 ways to use Hamburger Helper or how to dress up Cup-O-Noodles. This is legit cooking from scratch, but broken down into an easy-to-follow, accessable way. You will be impressing your friends with delicious meals in no time. We promise. #wevebeenthere

To grab your own copy, click here.

LFC logo 1 copy

Safrito, Saffritto, Saf-what-o?

Hello Lust for Cooking family. We’re back from a very busy summer, and we’re excited to talk about cooking again.

We’re going to start right off with some crucial cooking knowledge. Did you know that most cooking traditions have a standard flavor base? Ok, it sounds obvious, right? Cajun food tastes like Cajun food. Italian food tastes like Italian food. But once you know what these bases are, you can easily tour the globe from your kitchen without having to consult a cookbook. Also, you’ll sound really smart at dinner parties. Here is the breakdown:

Most meals start with the chopping of the veggies and sautéing them in…something, right? Well that part is the flavor base.  It always consists of sautéing aromatics (the chopped veggies) in fat (oils and/or butters).

French

French cooking has been ubiquitously influential on all of Western Cuisine, so this is going to look really familiar. But just think, that means you’ve been cooking like the French all along!

Mirepoix – Celery, carrots, and onion cooked in butter. Typically in a 1/1/2 ratio respectively. You know this one right? Well now you know it has a fancy name too.

Italian

Saffritto – celery, carrots, and onion cooked in olive oil. Wait a minute! That’s like almost the same as the other one! Yes. Yes it is. So when you haven’t been cooking like the French, you’ve probably been cooking like the Italians.

Latin

Safrito – Not to be confused with the above, seriously – garlic, onion, bell pepper, tomato in olive oil. There are a lot of different cooking traditions that fall under this category – from Portuguese to Puerto Rican – so this can vary somewhat from region to region, with the pepper coming and going, or the addition of paprika or saffron.

Cajun

The Holy Trinity – I’m not making this up. I promise – Onion, celery, bell pepper in olive oil AND butter.

German

Suppengrün – Carrot, leek, and celeriac (celery root) in… whatever’s handy. They don’t seem to be to picky on this. This combination is also commonly boiled in water, instead of sautéed, for a soup base.

Japanese

Dashi – Kombu (dried seaweed), bennito flakes (dried, cured fish), shitake mushrooms (optional) boiled as a stock 10-30 minutes. This is the ultimate umami combination and it is the base for everything Japanese, and I mean everything. Once you go dashi you don’t go back.

Chinese Mirepoix

Ok, I’m kind of making that up. But once you leave the realm of French cooking the word “mirepoix” becomes the catch-all word for flavor base. Chinese cuisine also varies widely from region to region, but you’re pretty safe starting off with garlic, green onion, and ginger in vegetable oil.

Curry Paste

There are so many wonderful curries out there, but they will almost always start with onion, garlic, ginger, and chilis finely chopped and sautéed in ghee (clarified butter).

With all flavor bases, it’s important to keep in mind flexibility. There are many additions and substitutions, and you can occasionally just skip an ingredient altogether. To quote a favorite pirate, “They’re really more like guidelines, anyway.” But once you have this down, you’ll be surprised how accessible global recipes become.

For a great infographic on suplements and substitutions for various flavor bases, check out finedininglovers.com.

LFC logo 1 copy

 

Homemade Stock: It’s HEALTHY and it’s FREE. Tips & Tricks for this Essential Ingredient.

Welcome to a new but crucial topic here at Lust for Cooking: Tips & Tricks. Otherwise known as The Basics or “How to Fish.”  You know the old adage, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” This is where we will do our damnedest to show you “how to fish.” NOT literally. This isn’t a sporting blog. But “how to fish” in the kitchen. The real trick to loving cooking is knowing how food works. Then you become the master of your ingredients, and you can cook anything.

Important tip #1. HOMEMADE STOCK.

Why make your own stock? You can go to the grocery store and buy a box that’s exactly 4 cups. You can even get organic. So why bother?

Well, the sodium count for one thing. Holy criminy. The sodium content on some prepackaged stock and broth boxes is extraordinary. And don’t get us started on bullion. They have to add salt as a preservative so it can sit on the un-refrigerated grocery shelf. But you don’t have to add any to homemade stock. And really it doesn’t need it. Salt should only come in while seasoning the final product, such as soup or risotto, but if it’s already in the stock, chances are the final product will be overloaded.

The second reason is bones. Bone broth is soooooo good for you. The nutrients that come out of bones go a long way toward a healthy lifestyle. Chicken soup is known as a cure-all, not because of anything Campbell’s did, but because real bone broth will give a sick body the fortification it needs to fight off a cold. And really, do we trust these food processors to be giving us the most nutrient dense content? No. Not even a little.

And third, and possibly most importantly, it’s FREE. Yeah, you read that right. It’s free. It doesn’t cost anything. $0.00. Really. Why? It’s made completely from scraps. Things you would otherwise be throwing out. We at Lust for Cooking are big on preventing waste, and making your own stock, well, it kills two birds with one stone … or two fish…or whatever. You get the metaphor. So here’s how it works:

Bones

You need bones. Any bones, really. Chicken, pork, beef. Did you have a bone-in pork roast lately? How about some beef ribs for a BBQ? Chicken wings? Any and all roasted bones are what you need. Throw those bad boys in the freezer. They will keep for a very long time. And when you’re ready, they can go right from the freezer to the stock pot. For visual purposes, I’m using a chicken carcass left over from a roast chicken dinner. The meat was picked clean to use in enchiladas, and yes, it still has some garlic and lemon stuffed inside. It’s all good. Through it all in. Stock 4 IMG_0332

Veggie Scraps

Veggie scraps. Here is where you will find nuance. If you google “stock recipe,” it’s the veggies that vary from recipe to recipe. The standard formula is carrots, celery, onion. But honestly the secret is…. it doesn’t matter. What vegetables do you like? What do you eat often?  That’s what will work well in your stock. Here is the awesome hidden secret to stock-making. Freeze all of your veggie scraps.

At Lust for Cooking we keep a large Tupperware in the freezer that is usually overflowing with broccoli, cauliflower, and kale stems, onion scraps, bell pepper tops, carrot and Brussel sprout nubs, fennel fronds, apple cores, asparagus tips, mushroom and cilantro stems, and those obnoxious tiny garlic gloves in the middle of the bulb. These seemingly inedible portions are all still loaded with flavor.

In order to determine what to use, just keep in mind what your final product will be. If you’re going for tortilla soup, then the pepper tops are perfect. If you are looking for a sweet pork base, then apples cores are great. If you want a hearty vegetable broth, then mushrooms are your best friend.

Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong here. We at Lust for Cooking have never made the same stock twice. Just remember, you will almost always want to include those onion scraps and garlic cloves. Everything else is subjective. Experiment. Try different combos. Mushrooms = hearty. Kale stems = dark. Carrots = sweet. And so on.

Timing

For all types of stock, put all your ingredients in a big stock pot, fill it with water, bring it to a boil, then immediately lower the temperature to a gentle simmer. Then walk away. Really, that’s the gist. Any day you think you’ll be home for a few hours, it’s stock making time. (We don’t recommend leaving the house with the stove unattended, however, for safety’s sake.)  It’s especially easy with the frozen veggie scraps. No chopping necessary. How long do you simmer? Here are the basic guidelines for each type. But these are rough guidelines. When it tastes less like watery something-er-rather and more like wholesome deliciousness, it’s done:

Veggie stock- 2 hours

Chicken stock – 4 hours

Pork or beef stock – 6+ hours

Skimming

This is a valuable extra step, especially for bone stock. As your stock simmers, check out the surface. If there is a lot of foam or grease, grab a spoon and skim that off. Those are impurities from the bones. They’re not dangerous or anything, but they will cloudy up your stock and muddle the flavor. Better to remove them.

Stock 11 IMG_0339

Once the stock is done, pour it out through a fine sieve to catch all of your solids. You can even line the sieve with cheese cloth if you wish. Then let your stock cool. If you put it strait in the fridge, it could actually raise the temperature of your fridge and threaten to spoil the food inside. We usually put the bowl in the microwave to get it out of the way. Just don’t accidentally turn it on. Once it gets to  room temp, you can put it in the fridge. Once it is cool, a layer of fat will usually form at the top. This you can skim off once again for clarity. And that’s it! You’re done! You can now boast homemade stock!

Storing

Stock will keep for a very long time in the freezer and for about a about week in the fridge. You can use it at full strength or water it down.

Uses

Stock is so versatile and used in so many recipes that you will be stoked every time you open your fridge or freezer to find your very own homemade batch waiting for you. Use it as a base for soups, rice, risotto, and most sauces!

Keep on the lookout for more Tips & Tricks, or “How to Fish,” from Lust for Cooking.

LFC logo 1 copy

Zombieeeeees and Food: Don’t Be a Zombie. Eat Like a Human.

Entry #2 in our ongoing look at zombies and food: Destroying Civilization, or Why Cooking Makes Us Human

Welcome to our second installment on Zombieeeeeeeees and Food. In our first entry we looked at zombies as “mindless eaters,” or mindless eaters as “zombies,” either way. (To catch-up, mustard, click here.) Now we will look at the next portion of our established definition of zombie and why the heck it’s related to food.

As a reminder, zombies represent everything we at Lust for Cooking are against: mindless eaters who destroy civilization through (cannibalistic) over-consumption. Not sexy.

Zombies Destroy Civilization

Destroying civilization is bad. This statement seems obvious on the surface, but seriously, when you’re stuck in LA traffic or up to your eyeballs in debt, who hasn’t considered that maybe things would be better if someone just hit the reset button? That’s what makes Walking Dead so watchable, isn’t it? The “what if?”

But seriously, without some form of civilization, things go south fast. And no one really wants to spend his or her days fighting to survive. There are those alive today, in the real world, who do have to cope with the breakdown of their civilization either from poverty or war, and I bet they would be the first to tell you, it ain’t pretty.

Love it or hate it, civilization is the process by which we all get along, and food is an integral part of that. The ability for human beings to dine together (and not on each other) is the bedrock of human civilization.

Let us ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let us sum up…

Evolution. The ability to cook is now believed to be the reason humans evolved from primates. The theory is simple: cooking food means less time chewing on fibrous plants and more time thinking and communicating. Our jaw muscles grew smaller as our brains grew bigger. Exactly when humans managed to harness fire is unknown, but every mythology has an origin story about how we acquired fire. It’s that important. The moment we as a species sat down around a charred piece of meat we began to change. We were able to focus on each other, not on devouring enough calories to get by. For a great article on this, check out the Smithsonian.

Zombies can’t cook. They’re basically walking jaw muscles. They chew all day and don’t think at all. They have completely devolved back to their primordial state, well past primates. Eating for the sake of eating neglects what made us human in the first place. Thinking. Speaking. Socializing. It’s about coming to the table, which brings me to…

Violence. The development of table manners led directly to a less violent society. Seriously. Through the Middle Ages in Europe, people would eat with one utensil: a knife. That made the act of communal eating rather dangerous. One misunderstanding would lead to a battle of cutlery. In order to preserve the peace, knives were rounded, forks were invented, and a code of conduct was implemented to prevent misunderstandings. This is the same reason the Chinese use chopsticks, although they figured this out hundreds of years before the Europeans. Steven Pinker brings this up in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

Zombies have no manners. Really, they’re gross. And I’m not saying you’re going to hell for eating ramen on the couch with your hands while a beer balances precariously on your thigh. Hey, we’ve all been there. Sometimes, that’s just how the day rolls. We’re not judging. What matters is taking some time to eat with others, cordially, even joyfully. Breaking bread and finding common ground. Countries and even religions have been founded on such acts.

Gluttony. It is commonly perceived that there is a correlation between gluttony and the fall of the Roman Empire (correlation, not causation, #science). While it is true that in the final age of Rome, Romans took indulgent eating to a whole new level, we’re not here to draw comparisons. Rome had all kinds of problems, and a propensity for overeating alone did not make the walls crumble. But it can certainly be said that when one class of people becomes excessively over-indulgent in feasting, there is probably another class of people going hungry. This kind of class disparity can cause major internal problems. Look at the French Revolution. Gluttony at the expense of the hungry never ends well. Wars are often fought over bread.

Zombies are gluttons. This is categorical. They devour until there is nothing left. As mentioned in our previous installment, preparing one’s own food can radically help control common problems in the American diet such as waste and overeating. But the real issue is that many still go hungry, and finding ways to bring food to those in need is humanity at its finest. For more on this, check out our “Champions” category.

Don’t be a zombie. Eat like a human. Our goal at Lust for Cooking is to invert the definition of a zombie. Destroying Civilization becomes Creating Society.

Remember the zombie isn’t just destructive. It’s also dead. For reals dead. And death is usually the consequence of destroying civilization. Hey, zombies make more zombies.

Featured image provided by pixabay.com

LFC logo 1 copy

Eat Like Shakespeare

On this, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (and interestingly also the 452 anniversary of his baptism), we at Lust for Cooking would like to celebrate the life of the Bard by directing you to a very unusual cook book, Shakespeare’s Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook, by Francine Segan.

Not only will you be shown how to make traditional Renaissance era recipes, likely eaten by the great wordsmith himself, but Segan also goes the extra mile to include the original Elizabethan recipes. Behold:

“Take some cabbedge and pricke & wash then cleane, and perboyle then in faire water, then put them into a collender, and let water run from them cleane, then put them into a faire earthen pot, and as much sweete broth as will cover the cabbadge, and sweete butter, then take your Mallard and rost it halfe enough, and save the drippings of him, then cut him in the side, and put the mallard into the cabbedge, and put in all your drippings, then let it stew an houre, and season it with salt, and serve it upon soppes.:

THE GOOD HUSWIFES JEWELL, 1587

This is from the entry, “Cabbages with Smoked Duck.” Don’t worry, the recipes are also written in plain, contemporary English with periods and all.

And remember, “’tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.” –ROMEO AND JULIET

So lick away.

LFC logo 1 copy