If you grow herbs in a garden or window box, you know late spring is their moment. No other season finds herbs quite so succulent and sweet, or free of the vegetal notes that develop with the heat and stress of summer. A June pesto can be a near religious experience.
But our recipe today focusses on tarragon, an herb that gets less attention than it deserves. While less adaptable than say basil or cilantro, it has the benefit of standing up beautifully to heat, conveying a subtle yet distinct note of anise to sauces and braises.
Our tarragon chicken recipe complements the distinct flavor of tarragon with lemon zest and a splash of cream, creating a sauce that lightly envelopes the chicken and can be spooned over mashed potatoes or daubed with crusty French bread. Give it a try before the season lets out, and let us know what you think.
How to Make Kimchi
No frying pan this week and no splatter either. Instead, we're sharing our tightly-held recipe for kimchi, the Korean fermented cabbage condiment that serves with equal brilliance as tapas, snack food, or stir fry super fuel.
Once barely known outside the Korean community, kimchi's popularity has soared of late. And no wonder. Spicy, tangy, and brimming with umami, it's a culinary MacGyver in a jar. A pickle to your sandwich. A salsa to your taco. A pre-chopped veggie and spice packet for your instant fried rice. To boot, it's actually good for you, providing a rich source of both fiber and gut-fortifying probiotics.
Kimchi's growing popularity means it can now be found in many regular grocery stores and bodegas. We even know a Costco that carries two different brands, one of which is actually pretty good. Still, there's nothing like the homemade variety, in which you've used the finest ingredients and fermented the concoction to your exact taste.
Yes, fermentation can be intimidating at first, and goodness knows we had a few hiccups zeroing in on the master recipe below. But at this point, it's pretty much foolproof. The key, as we underscore, is in the salting, brining, and rinsing. Get that part right, and you can tweak the flavorings to your heart's content.
Give it a try, and feel free to email us with your kimchi questions and photos.
Kimchi Fried Rice
If there's one knock on stir-fry recipes, it's the chopping. The never-ending chopping. Today, we offer the antidote. A scrumptious, umami-laden and slightly spicy fried rice dish that takes no more than 10 minutes and required neither knife nor chopping block: kimchi fried rice.
Kimchi, the once obscure Korean condiment of spicy fermented cabbage, is having a moment. Celebrated as much for its rich flavor as its vaunted contribution to gut health, kimchi can now be found in many ordinary grocery stores and even many Costcos. Get a jar and you'll wonder how you ever lived without this culinary Swiss Army knife, which depending on the moment, can serve as condiment, snack food, or stir fry super fuel. (If you want to make kimchi at home, keep your eyes peeled for our next episode of Frywall Fridays, when we'll share our home brew formula.)
Apart from the kimchi, all you'll need for this week's recipe is some leftover rice, a couple of eggs, and few peas. And heck, if you had to, you can even skip those last two ingredients and add some more kimchi. Enjoy!
Frywall Fridays are back and we're kicking thing off again with one of our favorite brunch foods, huevos ahogados, or drowned eggs. The idea here is simple: pour salsa into a smoking hot pan, crack in a few eggs, let cook.
The trick, as you might have guessed, is finding the salsa that makes your heart sing. If that's Tostitos, or you simply haven't got the time to make a fresh salsa, that's fine. There's no shame. Eggs and salsa marry so well, a salsa of convenience won't spoil the fireworks.
Still, if you've got fifteen minutes to spare, you can take things to a whole other level. And if you've been tempted but never quite had the courage to approach those dried peppers in the Mexican section of your supermarket this is your chance.
Our pepper of choice here is the guajillo, a deep, beautifully red chile with a rich, earthy flavor and only a hint of heat. Blitz it with fresh cilantro and charred tomatoes, onion, and garlic, and you'll have a salsa that both satisfies and transports. Drown a few eggs in that elixir and you might find yourself asking, where have you been all my life.
Give it a try and let us know what you think.
We'll see you in a few weeks with our next recipe.
Bengali Chickpea Vegetable FrittersThis week's recipe comes from the most amazing cookbook writer you might not know, Najmieh Batmanglij. Her classic Food of Life is my bible when it comes to Persian food, her recipe for ghormeh sabzi having once caused an Iranian dinner guest to start weeping in remembrance of his departed grandmother and her kitchen back home. True story; it doesn't only happen to the French.
This recipe for chickpea battered vegetable fritters comes from a different book, Silk Road Cooking, a vegetarian cookbook that traces the communication and exchange of culinary tropes along the centuries old byway from Asia to Europe. Like so many of Batmanglij's recipes, the whole here is more than the sum of its parts. Chickpea flour, a light-handed mix of a few spices, and zap, you're in Kansas no more. Earthiness, pungency, a hint of spice, all in harmonic balance. It's impossible, yet Batmanglij makes it easy.
For the vegetables themselves, let the produce aisle be your guide. That's what we've done below, adapting Batmanglij's list to what looked good at our local co-op. Whichever veggies you choose, get ready for a party size yield. Is it finally time to have a dozen friends over? Here's the appetizer to help toast old memories and inaugurate new ones.
Chicken TagineOnce you're in the groove, cooking delicious food isn't that hard. Fry up some onions or garlic or both, sear some decent meat, and you're well on your way, with or without a recipe. The difficulty is that, without an occasional infusion of new recipes or key ingredients, the flavors emerging from your kitchen tend to converge. Everything tastes great, but also kinda the same. Our taste buds, like the rest of us, need an occasional vacation, not so much to rest as to experience the world anew and hit the reset button.
That's where this week's recipe comes in. While easy to make, this classic Moroccan braise features a transporting combination of two key ingredients, olives and preserved lemons. The latter are typically purchased jarred and swimming in a bright, zesty brine spiked with black caraway seeds. Finding them might take some leg work, but they're worth it. Their flavor is recognizably lemony, but also transformed, almost like a candied orange peel, only in reverse, with salt instead of sugar.
Tagines are typically cooked in cone-topped terra cotta dishes that can withstand direct heat as well as oven baking. If you have one, great. If not, browning the chicken in a good skillet and finishing the dish in grandma's casserole will work almost as well.
So no excuses – go find those lemons!
Tofu and Green Beans, Garlic, and SesameThe earliest English-language documentation of the word towfu appeared in a 1770 letter from an English merchant to Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was apparently too pre-occupied with his own inventions – bifocals, the Franklin stove, America – to pay the soybean curd proper attention, or we might not have had to wait two more centuries for tofu to enter our national diet.
Yet, a dearth of celebrity endorsements might not be tofu's sole setback. The whitish block, usually a pound in weight and marked ready to eat, is inscrutable at first approach. Bland and sometimes jiggly, it can present as a medium striving to become matter, or matter yearning, Buddha-like, to find perfection in freedom from flavor. But that's not fair. Tofu, like life, is what you make of it. Marinated, it absorbs; fried, it crisps; enrobed it in a righteous sauce, it high steps like a chorus dancer.
In today's recipe we arranged a playdate of tofu, green beans, garlic, and sesame seeds, with an à la minute teriyaki sauce playing the dance music. I hope you'll give it a try and let it serve as inspiration for further experiments with an underused ingredient that's also a powerhouse of cheap, sustainable protein.
Turkey BurgersThe reputation of the turkey burger is not the finest. To most, it's an also-ran, a compromise, a substitute for the true love of the genuine article. Today's recipe is a plea to let a turkey burger be a turkey burger, not a simulacrum of the beefy ideal, but a thing in itself, touting its charms without reference to the gifts of others. Properly topped and wrapped, preferable in lettuce as we've done here, it offers up a perfect balance of meaty umami, unctuous Thousand Island tang, and light, herbaceous crunch. Consumed midday, it delivers the immediate, gut soothing satisfaction of fast food, but without the enduring ballast or the yawning, post-prandial descent into lethargy, biliousness, and self-hate.
As recipes go, it doesn't get much easier. Ground turkey, minced onion, bread crumps, salt, pepper, a squirt of ketchup and heat. The trick, if there is one, is temperature regulation. It's important to start with a smoking hot pan, so the burger sears shut from the start. If the pan isn't hot enough, the meat will turn out grey in color and taste, and never develop that beloved layer of crisp caramelization. Once the initial sear is done, the heat needs to be dialed back a touch, so the turkey has time to cook thoroughly without burning. The trick is keeping the pan hot enough to prevent the burger from sweating out, but not so hot that the oil in the pan and the burger smoke and burn. But it's not brain surgery. Eight to ten minutes of semi-focussed attention is all it takes. Give it a try, and let us know what you think.
Lemongrass ChickenToday's theme: what a difference a new ingredient makes. Our home dinner menu is pretty diverse, but it still hits the occasional rut, especially now, when it's less often leavened by a visit to the kitchen of friends and restaurants. Cracking open a cookbook is one antidote. Another: introducing a fresh key ingredient to your tried and true arsenal of flavor. That's our approach today, with this super-easy, super-quick lemongrass chicken.
Lemongrass, a tropical herb used extensively in southeast Asian cuisine, has a powerful aroma of citrus fruit, but with little of its acidity, and unlike lemon, it keeps much more of its brightness after cooking. In this recipe, the lemongrass infuses the chicken via a long marinade, while adding crunch in the final cooking. You'll be hard pressed to find a recipe that delivers more flavor and easy novelty in the 20 minutes it takes to whip this up.
Potato Leek LatkesLatkes are fried potato pancakes and a quintessential Hanukkah food for Eastern European Jews. I've rarely met a latke I didn't like. As long as it's fresh and not too laden with oil (the result, typically, of under-heated oil), it's almost always delicious. Some prefer their latke eggy, thick and substantial, with the specific gravity of seat cushions. Others esteem latkes that are light, billowy, and full of crunch. We're neutral on this issue, but this week's recipe for leek latkes is decidedly in the camp of crisp. The leeks, holding less water than traditional onions, help in this regard, while also lending a more refined flavor and a bit of visual variety. Bring them to your next holiday party, and let this year's latke debate begin!
Squid With Cannellini Beans And ChimichurriBuilding complex, interesting flavors usually requires a bit of time and patience. But not always. This elegant pan-seared squid is done in way under 30 minutes, including the preparation of our bright, slightly spicy chimichurri sauce, the herbaceous condiment that Argentinians use on grilled meet but that also marries beautifully with seafood.
If you typically eat squid as fried calamari, you may be surprised by how much flavor these critters attain when cooked quickly over high heat and coated in a vinegar reduction. We love deep fried calamari rings but squid have a whole other side to their flavor personality, and it's worth exploring. One other bonus with this recipe: you'll have plenty of left over chimichurri sauce for any grilled or roasted meats you might be having later in the week.
Chicken AdoboFilipino food has yet to hit it big in the U.S. the way, say, Chinese, Thai, or Japanese food has. When it does, chicken adobo may be the breakout dish. It's bold, intense, easy to love, and like nothing else you've ever tasted. The recipe's secret weapon is a simple one: conviction. The key flavoring agents – soy sauce, white vinegar, garlic – can't get more common. The trick is to use them like you mean it: a whole head of garlic and almost a cup each of soy sauce and white vinegar. That's more than most cooks use in a week's worth of dinners.
The result is magical, a concentrated flavor potion in which individual ingredients announce themselves clearly yet combine into a whole that's both more and distinct from the sum of the parts. We love, love, love this dish.
One word of caution. The sauce is on the salty side. So don't add any salt to the accompanying rice. The sodium level will be just right when you ladle the adobo sauce on top.
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