Shortcuts

I’m one of those fancy chefs who serves small portions, treats the plate like a canvas and uses flowers and ingredients you’ve never heard of. But I’m also a fan of shortcuts.

Many of the world’s best chefs will readily admit to resorting to shortcuts when they’re cooking.

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While we were staying at the Casa Tres Coronitas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last October, I asked the house chef, Marilu, to show me how to make her famous salsa. She was giving me a lesson and it was nothing out of the ordinary — tomatillos, onion, garlic, chiles de arbol, salt. And then she reached into the cupboard to pull out her “secret ingredient” — Knorr powdered chicken bouillon. Sure enough, when I tried it at home (with the bag of Knorr powdered chicken bouillon Marilu picked up for me at the supermercado), it contributed a salty umami depth that was missing before I added it. Couldn’t have been the MSG, could it?? More

The Rut

Even the best cooks get into ruts.

Tomato saffron scampi with polenta and sautéed Tuscan kale

Tomato saffron scampi with polenta and sautéed Tuscan kale

For all the diversity in my weekly menus, I often find myself bored with my cooking. What sounds like an unimaginably exciting and exotic week of dinners to most — for example:  Venetian cecchiti with hand-tossed pizza on Monday, sushi and tempura on Tuesday, Wednesday queso fundido and Mexico City-style tacos, Thursday tea-smoked duck and lo mien, and so on — can seem like “same old, same old” to me. More

It’s Not Easy Being Green

My wife recently asked me to pick up some wasabi peas for her. Or more precisely, she said, “Put wasabi peas on your list.”

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

My list, of course, is the running grocery list I have going at all times. It’s a square post-it note that sits on my desk and which everyone knows not to touch lest the provisions and dining schedule be thrown into chaos. My list will usually have several categories: “Japanese market,” “TJs” (Trader Joe’s), “Grocery” (general), “Sprouts,” and sometimes the odd addition such as “Persian market” or “99 Ranch”. Lacking specificity, I put my wife’s request under “TJs”. More

People of the Wolf Fish

Here’s what happened:

I was strolling through the aisles at Trader Joe’s, thinking about a meal I was making for some clients of ours. Being that they were vaguely yogic people and I didn’t want to send them into a premature savasana pose by serving them something that had once been living — other than fish, that is, which somehow doesn’t count as having lived in those circles — I decided to do an all seafood dinner.

Norwegian wolf fish

Norwegian wolf fish

So as I browsed the frozen fish aisle look for something inspiring, dark spots caught my eye — Norwegian wolf fish, a species I had never seen nor even heard of before. And I’m a sucker for new stuff. More

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When the holidays arrive, beginning with Thanksgiving and its obscene American sister-tradition — Black Friday — right up through New Year’s Day, most people look forward to twinkling Christmas lights, festive holiday songs, workplace potlucks and Secret Santas, eggnog and elves.

While I’ll admit I am not immune to these seasonal pleasures, it is another arrival that I look the most forward to — the sudden and magical appearance of stacks of red and white boxes in the refrigerated section of my favorite stores. More

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