A Press Democrat Blog

Proximal Kitchen

Cooking locally, with really sharp knives

Pasta, with a Handful of Herbs

“…with a handful of herbs.” I love that. Even if the dish weren’t so simple and delicious, even if it didn’t leave my wife starry-eyed with carbohydrate lust, I’d cook this pasta just to call it by name; that, and the devil-may-care pleasure of a recipe defined, not by cups or teaspoons, but by the size of one’s hand. Want the recipe?… Read More »

My Favorite Black Bean Soup, in 30 Minutes or Less

Inasmuch as complex events can be said to have their roots in a single moment, I credit my first attempt at this delicious soup – an assignment for my Fundamentals of Stocks, Soups, and Sauces course at the ICE Culinary Institute some 10 years ago – with much of what I’ve produced in the kitchen ever since. I might as well call it my Butterfly Effect Soup.… Read More »

Because it rhymes with ‘orange’

I may have seen a cloud this week, but if I did, I don’t remember it. Really, our weather has been impossibly nice. And really, it ought to worry me – the lack of rain, the risk of budbreak before a frost – but it’s hard not to simply soak in it, the whole of our little wine country valley like some great, tickly bubble bath of pea shoots and sunlight. … Read More »

When Vegetarians Eat Meat

The Dalai Lama eats meat because his doctors tell him to. My wife was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for many years, until she got pregnant and we went to Paris for lunch; now, she’ll eat meat, but only from animals that she would kill with her own hands. My father’s wife will taste meat, but only very rarely, and even then with a whispered apology and a tear. And I’ve already told you how I made my eldest daughter cry over… Read More »

When Life Gives You Lemons, Cook Them

Road Trip: Sunday night red-eye from SFO to JFK; mythical quantities of food and booze; a cumulative loss of sleep bordering on some chapter in FM 34-52, the field manual of interrogation techniques. Many of my best and oldest friends and much personal history remain rooted in the concrete canyons of Manhattan, so normally I’d say I get to go to NYC this week, but instead I’ll limp into this post with I have to be there, because – as… Read More »

“Parker House” Dinner Rolls

Somewhere, in a squat little cardboard tube, lies a row of Pillsbury dinner rolls, mashed into one another as if caught in some evil baker’s version of airline seats… and each of those rolls, as it pays its Karmic debt to the gods of flour and water, thinks of one thing only: Please, please let me come back as a Parker House roll, baked from scratch in somebody’s kitchen, pulled apart by the chubby little fingers of happy little children.… Read More »

The Accidental Vegetarian: Fire-Roasted Peppers

fire roasted peppers on a home stoveI’m not sure what (if anything) this strangely cool, damp year in Northern California says about global warming, but it definitively changed the relationship between the physical calendar on my wall and my erstwhile sense of the natural culinary seasons: I didn’t eat a ripe tomato until well into August, and I’m still picking chili peppers from our garden in mid-December. And, in a proximal vein, I managed to procure a Technicolor Dreamcoat of richly hued, perfectly ripened late-season peppers from Soda Rock Farms at our very last farmer’s market of 2010… Read More »

Cut Your Carrots, Not Your Fingers

Culinary knife cuts / carrotsThere is an unavoidable tension between the desire to manipulate a carrot into uniform, rectangular shapes (including every culinary knife cut in the parallelepiped family, from the batonnet soldier awaiting its Ranch dressing destiny to the microscopically perfect brunoise at the bottom of a bowl of consomme), and the desire to keep one’s digits unbloodied and persistently attached to one’s hand without surgical assistance.… Read More »

Safeway Avocado Alert

Guacamole from perfect California Hass avocadosI could wax excitable and eloquent for pages upon pages about the virtues of the California Hass avocado (and yes, it is “Hass”, not “Haas”, named for Rudolph Hass, the postman who, in the 1920s, planted the one and only Mother Tree of virtually every avocado you’ve ever eaten), but I cannot stomach the poor excuse on offer at my local Safeway.

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