Making it Yours

29th January, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Method

A couple nights ago, I had the sort of daydream experience that often accompanies the wondering over what I’m going to cook tonight. Thanks to often hectic schedules, as often as not, menus around here are not planned in advance, but are rather more improvised affairs based on what inspires me in the pantry, the cupboards, the drawers, the cooler. Unless the kitchen is empty, there’s always something that can be brought together into a tasty meal. In this case, it was a pot of what I sometimes call Minute MInestrone, for the ease by which it comes together. (I’ll try to write something down and post it to the recipe pages.) It’s a great, quick soup, and the family loves it.

But, I needed to run out for a couple of items, the most important being a loaf of crusty bread and some fresh parsley. While I was at the store, I spied a bin of beautiful orange Habaneros beckoning. When the supermarket is bold enough to put Habaneros out, I buy them. I want the produce managers to know that at least one person in town appreciates their stretching beyond the conventional Jalapeños and Pasillas. I filled a bag with the little fireballs, grabbed a bunch of parsley, some cilantro, some lovely red chard, a loaf of bread, and went to check out. Read more…»

Too Hot to Handle

26th January, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, Editorial

It’s no secret that I love spicy, fiery hot foods. I enjoy the virtues of the hell-borne Habanero, the potent Pequin, the artful Ancho, the raucous Red Savina. But, even to the most dedicated hothead, it’s possible to go overboard; too much really can be too much! Ben Franklin suggested things be enjoyed in moderation. An experience with the infamous “Habanero Hamburger,” a few years ago, painfully proved his rule true, at least for me.

Some friends and I, dedicated chilephiles, had been talking for weeks about experiencing “The Hottest Habanero Hamburger in the World” at the now unfortunately shuttered Prince of Wales Pub in Menlo Park, California. Talk is cheap, we figured. Anyone can make audacious claims, but could they back this one up? Could they challenge the champions of Capsaicin (the chemical responsible for the “heat” in hot peppers)? There was only one way we were going to find out. We went. We ate. We were conquered. Read more…»

It Doesn’t Always Work Out

21st January, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Editorial

Exploration is one of the great joys of cooking for me. Trying new things. Playing in the culinary sandbox. Getting an idea into your head that won’t let go until you make it real. It’s almost constant in my kitchen, and fortunately for those I feed, things generally work out more often than they don’t. Mostly. Sometimes, though,  even well conceived plans fall just a little flat, and don’t deliver what we expect.

Monday, I had it in mind to make manicotti with a pumpkin creme sauce. Family was coming, it was cold and raining, and was the perfect night for a hearty, delicious dish to satisfy hearty appetites. A big pot of minestrone and a loaf of crusty bread would fill in any gaps. Manicotti ai crema di zucca it would be. Read more…»

Now, That’s a Spicy Pizza

12th January, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, easy

An Essential Ingredient

I’d intended to go out for dinner one night, having been planning for it all day. At about 5pm, I was made aware that plans were changing, and that, though I hadn’t planned dinner, I would be cooking at home. Okay. Not a problem. Grumble.

There was still some nice grilled squash from the previous night, which, sliced thin, would make a lovely addition to a field greens salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. There was a frozen pizza Quattro Formaggi from Trader Joe’s. With a little doctoring, these things are quite nice. There was a jar of Mezzetta’s fabulous pickled Habaneros. (Actually, there was a six pack of the things that had recently arrived. They’re fantastic, and I always keep a few jars in the pantry. While I prefer fresh or frozen, they’re not always around. I’d used up all the Habanero paste I made up earlier in the summer, and the frozen stock was also depleted, so pickled it would have to be. If you like Habaneros, give the Mezzettas a try.) There are always some nice Parmigiano, salt-packed anchovies, jars of green olives, and plenty of fresh garlic. Sounds like dinner. Top that pizza with some spicy goodness, and it would be great. Read more…»


9th January, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Tools

A confession: I am something of a cheapskate. I used to attempt to hide this fact behind a masque of frugality, but the simple truth is that I’m just cheap when it comes to some things. I won’t skimp on ingredients or knives or sautée pans or things like that, but once in a while, I really blow it by just being cheap.

I’ve never owned a fat separator. Being a little old-skool, I always figured there are dozens of ways, or at least two, to rid the stock of that layer of grease without resorting to a single-purpose tool. (Alton Brown – I know if you’re reading this, you know who he is – is one of my heroes, and he despises single-purpose tools even more than I do.) So, I’ve never bought a fat separator. Until sometime this last year. (That’s 2009. It’s still hard to believe it’s already behind us.) Read more…»