Musings of a Chinese Gourmet by Graham Earnshaw, pdf, 9881732603

  • Full Title : Musings of a Chinese Gourmet
  • Autor: Graham Earnshaw
  • Print Length: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Earnshaw Books
  • Publication Date: 
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9881732603
  • ISBN-13: 978-9881732606
  • Download File Format: pdf


This book, written in the early 1950s by a former Chinese ambassador to London, is a cultured and entertaining view of the gastronomic side of Chinese life. F.T. Cheng sets out to show Westerners that there was a lot more to Chinese food culture than chop suey. It is a wonderful reminder of the richness and depth of Chinese culture from a man who also completely understood the West.



“Watching the ferocious scramble for lunch in China’s cities, his words are as true today as they were half a century ago.”  —Malcolm Moore, Daily Telegraph

About the Author

F.T. Cheng, the author of this book, was a member of the old Chinese elite. He was the Chinese ambassador to London and an intellectual who spoke English with the same old world charm as he no doubt did Chinese. He was also a gourmet, and in the early 1950s, he decided to write his “musings” on the theme of Chinese food and drink to educate Westerners about his homeland and its colorful cuisine. “Musings of A Chinese Gourmet” was first published in 1954.



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Mushroom, Zucchini and Black Bean Burgers

Curried Potato, Cauliflower and Pea Turnovers

Asparagus, Mushroom and Cheese Soufflés


Steak Fries

Seasoning Salt

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Salt and Pepper Baked Potatoes

Mini Hasselback Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Lemon

Parsnip Fries with Romesco Sauce

Roasted Herbed Shiitake Mushrooms

Roasted Ratatouille Vegetables

Florentine Stuffed Tomatoes

Sesame Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas

Spicy Fried Green Beans

Fried Cauliflower with Parmesan Lemon Dressing

Fried Eggplant Balls

Fried Pearl Onions with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil

Roasted Garlic and Thyme Tomatoes


Chocolate Soufflés

Boston Cream Donut Holes

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

Caramel Apple Crumble

Puff Pastry Apples

Molten Chocolate Almond Cakes

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Fried Banana S’mores

Glazed Cherry Turnovers

Orange Gooey Butter Cake

Nutella® Torte

A Little More…


Roasted Onions

Roasted Bell Pepper

Roasted Garlic

Fried Tofu

Toasted Nuts

Blue Jean Chef Pizza Dough

Corn Tortilla Chips

Cooking Time Charts

About the Author

Blue Jean Chef Favorites

Super Easy Recipes




David Venable

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new and creative ways to get delicious food on the table. Food that is simple to prepare, family-friendly, and better for the ones we love. My friend Meredith Laurence, aka The Blue Jean Chef, has done just that with her new cookbook titled Air Fry Everything! It’s a new collection of recipes featuring the air fryer to deliver crispy, mouthwatering results in a fraction of the time and with less fat and oil.

For 15 years on QVC, Meredith has been our teacher in the kitchen and her new cookbook delivers what we love to eat in record time. Having sold over 100,000 air fryers on QVC, I hear first-hand from our Foodies who are clamoring for more recipes for this unique appliance. In Air Fry Everything!, Meredith delivers what you’ve been asking for, with tasty favorites such as Buffalo Wings, Bacon Wrapped Filets, Fried Banana S’mores, and a special recipe I requested—Philly Chicken Cheesesteak Stromboli. It makes me want to do the “Happy Dance” just thinking about it.

Every page in the book and each one of the over 130 recipes will inspire you to think about your air fryer in a brand new way. More of my favorites include Puff Pastry Apples, Honey Mesquite Pork Chops, and Beer Battered Onion Rings. Meredith’s energetic style is contagious and shines through in every delicious dish. As always, she makes you feel comfortable in the kitchen with her easy, confident approach to cooking and in this case, air frying!

Air Fry Everything! will become your go-to recipe collection for family dinners, parties, and everyday snacks. I know you’ll enjoy every lip-smacking bite.

Keep it flavorful,

David Venable

Host, In The Kitchen with David®



I’ve been getting older these last few years. And as I get older, I find myself more resistant to new gadgets and gizmos, new devices and crazes. I guess many of us find ourselves changing in this way, but that is why it is astonishing that I have become absolutely besotted and enamored with air fryers. Air fryers are the latest greatest addition to the world of kitchen electronics, but they do sound a little gimmicky, and it is rather in the nature of a gimmick to be a passing fad without purpose. I’m not drawn to passing fads, so when I first heard about an air fryer, I doubted that it would be a useful tool for me in my kitchen. I had survived for so many years without one.

Then, I tried it. I made steak frites. The frites were pretty good (good enough to motivate me to tweak my technique to perfect them) and made with so little oil that I felt perfectly guilt-free. The steak, however, was outrageously good. Nicely browned and seared on the outside and so very juicy inside. It was so good that I was convinced that if only for cooking steaks, an air fryer would be a worthwhile investment. The air fryer had planted its hook in me.

So, I tried more things. The more I tried, the more I liked this new appliance – no longer a gimmick in my mind, but a useful, efficient and multi-purpose tool. Now, I can’t imagine the inconvenience of being without one. It sits on my counter, next to my neglected and disgruntled oven, and is used daily, whether it’s to make a full meal, or just to heat leftovers, or toast some bread or make quick croutons. It’s quick, efficient and effective. If it were applying for a job in my kitchen, it would be hired on the spot!

As the Blue Jean Chef, I share most of what I do in the kitchen with people because I am passionate about helping people be successful and comfortable in their kitchens – as comfortable as they’d be in their blue jeans. And so, I am sharing my new passion with you again – this time in the form of air-frying. It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s quick and it gives great results. What sort of person would I be if I held that from you?

If You are Brand New to Air Frying…

Air Frying Basics

In the simplest of terms, an air-fryer is a compact cylindrical countertop convection oven. It’s a kitchen appliance that uses superheated air to cook foods, giving results very similar to deep-frying or high-temperature roasting. Many of us have convection ovens in our kitchens. In a standard oven, air is heated and the hot air cooks the food. In a convection oven, air is heated and then blown around by a fan. This creates more energy and consequently cooks foods faster and more evenly. Air fryers use the same technology as convection ovens, but instead of blowing the air around a large rectangular box, it is blown around in a compact cylinder and the food sits in a perforated basket. This is much more efficient and creates an intense environment of heat from which the food cannot escape. The result is food with a crispy brown exterior and moist tender interior – results similar to deep-frying, but without all the oil and fat needed to deep-fry. In fact, when you are air-frying, you usually use no more than one tablespoon of oil!

Better still, an air fryer doesn’t just cook foods that you would usually deep-fry. It can cook any foods that you would normally cook in your oven or microwave as well. It is a great tool for re-heating foods without making them rubbery, and is a perfect and quick way to prepare ingredients as well as make meals. To me, it is the best new kitchen appliance that has been introduced in recent years.

Health Benefits

Obviously, because it can produce results similar to deep-frying using a tiny fraction of the oil needed to deep-fry, the health benefits are apparent. When deep-frying, you submerge the food in oil and oil is inevitably absorbed by the food. In an air fryer, you still use oil because oil is what helps crisp and brown many foods, but you really don’t need more than one tablespoon at a time. Instead of putting the tablespoon of oil in the air fryer, you simply toss foods with oil and then place them in the air fryer basket. In fact, spraying the foods lightly with oil is an even easier way to get foods evenly coated with the least amount of oil. Investing in a kitchen spray bottle is a great idea if you have an air fryer.

Quick and Energy Efficient

We all know that sometimes it can take fifteen to twenty minutes to pre-heat our standard ovens. Because the air fryer is so compact, that pre-heat time is cut down to two or three minutes! That’s a huge savings in time as well as energy. In the summer, you can pre-heat your air fryer and not heat up the whole kitchen. In addition, the intense heat created in the air fryer cooks foods quickly, about 20% faster than in an oven, so you’re saving time and energy there as well. No one these days seems to have time to spare, so this should please everyone!

Safe and Easy to Use

Air-frying is safer and easier than deep-frying. Most air fryers have settings for time and temperature. You simply enter both and press start. It doesn’t get much easier than that! When deep-frying, you have to heat a large pot of oil on the stovetop, use a deep-frying thermometer to register the temperature and then monitor the heat below the pot to maintain that temperature. On top of it all, you are dealing with a lot of oil, which can be heavy to move, dangerous if it gets too hot, and is cumbersome and annoying to drain and dispose of. Why bother if you can get the same results so much more easily with an air fryer?

Clean and Tidy

I didn’t earn the “Miss Tidy Bed” badge in brownies for no reason! I love keeping the kitchen clean and tidy when I’m cooking and after I’ve been cooking. The air fryer fits into my world perfectly. It cooks foods in a contained space and that keeps the food from splattering anywhere. Period. It is simple and straightforward to clean and keep clean, and you know what they say about cleanliness…

Using Air Fryers to Prepare Ingredients

So often, I find myself turning to the air fryer to cook ingredients for meals that might not even call for an air fryer. Don’t underestimate the convenience of quickly toasting some nuts for a salad, or roasting a pepper for pasta, or quickly cooking bacon for an egg sandwich. Ingredients in recipes often come with a qualifier – “walnuts, toasted”, or “bread cubes, toasted” – and the air fryer comes to the rescue, once again saving precious time.

Converting Recipes

Converting From Traditional Recipes

You can use your air fryer to cook recipes that have instructions for cooking in the oven. Because the heat in the air fryer is more intense than a standard oven, reduce the suggested temperature by 25°F – 50°F and cut the time by roughly 20%. So, if a recipe calls for cooking at 400°F for 20 minutes, air-fry at 370°F for about 16 minutes. You can also refer to the cooking charts in this book on page 238 to help determine the right cooking time for foods. Remember to turn foods over halfway through the cooking time (as you would in a skillet or on the grill) and check the foods for your desired degree of doneness as you approach the finish line.

Converting From Packaged Foods Instructions

The same rule applies to prepared foods that you might buy at the grocery store. If a bag of frozen French fries suggests cooking in the oven at 450°F for 18 minutes, air fry the fries at 400°F and start checking them at 15 minutes, remembering to shake the basket once or twice during the cooking process to help the fries brown evenly.

Converting to Different Sized Air-Fryers

Larger air fryers can make life a little easier, especially if you’re cooking for 4 or more people. Because the baskets in these air fryers are larger, you can cook more food at one time and do not have to cook the food in batches as specified in many of these recipes. Just remember not to over-fill the air fryer basket, since that will just slow down the overall cooking time and result in foods that are not as crispy as you’d like them to be.

In addition, some larger air fryers with more power might cook foods slightly faster than smaller, lower wattage air fryers. This will not be a significant difference, but might save you a couple of minutes on some recipes. As with all things you cook in the air fryer, it makes sense to pull open the air fryer drawer and check the foods as they cook. That way, you’ll avoid over-cooking anything.

General Tips for Air-Frying

Preparing to air-fry

•Find the right place for your air fryer in your kitchen. Always keep your air fryer on a level, heat-resistant countertop and make sure there are at least five inches of space behind the air fryer where the exhaust vent is located.

•Pre-heat your air fryer before adding your food. This is easy – just turn the air fryer on to the temperature that you need and set the timer for 2 or 3 minutes. When the timer goes off, the air fryer has pre-heated and is ready for food.

•Invest in a kitchen spray bottle. Spraying oil on the food is easier than drizzling or brushing, and allows you to use less oil overall. While you can buy oil sprays in cans, sometimes there are aerosol agents in those cans that can break down the non-stick surface on your air fryer basket. So, if you want to spray foods directly in the basket, invest in a hand-pumped kitchen spray bottle. It will be worth it!

•Use the proper breading technique. Breading is an important step in many air fryer recipes. Don’t skip a step! It is important to coat foods with flour first, then egg and then the breadcrumbs. Be diligent about the breadcrumbs and press them onto the food with your hands. Because the air fryer has a powerful fan as part of its mechanism, breading can sometimes blow off the food. Pressing those crumbs on firmly will help the breading adhere.

•Get the right accessories. Once you start air frying, you may want to invest in some accessories for your new favorite appliance. Truth is, you may already have some! Any baking dishes or cake pans that are oven-safe should be air fryer-safe as well, as long as they don’t come in contact with the heating element. The only stipulation, of course, is that the accessory pan has to be able to fit inside the air fryer basket.

•Use an aluminum foil sling. Getting accessory pieces into and out of the air fryer basket can be tricky. To make it easier, fold a piece of aluminum foil into a strip about 2-inches wide by 24-inches long. Place the cake pan or baking dish on the foil and by holding the ends of the foil, you’ll be able to lift the pan or dish and lower it into the air fryer basket. Fold or tuck the ends of the aluminum foil into the air fryer basket, and then return the basket to the air fryer. When you’re ready to remove the pan, unfold and hold onto the ends of the aluminum foil to lift the pan out of the air fryer basket.

While you are air-frying

•Add water to the air fryer drawer when cooking fatty foods. Adding water to the drawer underneath the basket helps prevent grease from getting too hot and smoking. Do this when cooking bacon, sausage, even burgers if they are particularly fatty.

•Use toothpicks to hold foods down. Every once in a while, the fan from the air fryer will pick up light foods and blow them around. So, secure foods (like the top slice of bread on a sandwich) with toothpicks.

•Don’t overcrowd the basket. I can’t stress this enough. It’s tempting to try to cook more at one time, but over-crowding the basket will prevent foods from crisping and browning evenly and take more time over all.

•Flip foods over halfway through the cooking time. Just as you would if you were cooking on a grill or in a skillet, you need to turn foods over so that they brown evenly.

•Open the air fryer as often as you like to check for doneness. This is one of the best parts of air fryers – you can open that drawer as often as you like (within reason) to check to see how the cooking process is coming along. This will not interrupt the timing of most air fryers – the fryer will either continue heating and timing as you pull the basket out, or pick up where it left off when you return the basket to the fryer.

•Shake the basket. Shaking the basket a couple of times during the cooking process will re-distribute the ingredients and help them to brown and crisp more evenly.

•Spray with oil part way through. If you are trying to get the food to brown and crisp more, try spritzing it with oil part way through the cooking process. This will also help the food to brown more evenly.

After you air-fry

•Remove the air fryer basket from the drawer before turning out foods. This is very important and it’s a mistake you’ll only make once. If you invert the basket while it is still lock
simple chicken recipes, pressure cooker recipes, east indian food, time health, cooking pork loin, Over the years, I’ve also come to depend upon her as my right hand at dozens of parties at my homes in Los Angeles and in Umbria. I don’t need to look over Carolynn’s shoulder to see if she’s doing something right. I know she is.

Carolynn can be very chatty, in a sweet way, like a kid so eager to tell you about something they learned at school. And this enthusiasm comes through in the small stories that proceed the recipes in Bowls. Check out “Grandmother Birdie’s Oatmeal Cocktail” and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

In days of yore, whole grains were thought of almost like vitamins, something that was good for you, but dull and without pleasure. Carolynn Carreño’s Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole-Grain Meals destroys that notion. This book proves that in the right hands, whole-grain bowls can be absolutely delicious, full of texture, vibrant, fun, colorful, and imaginative. Oh yeah, and healthy. She did me proud.


About a dozen years ago, I was dining at a Boston seafood restaurant owned by a renowned New England chef, when the server asked me, “How do you stay so skinny eating like this?” (Not that I am so skinny, but I do try to be so healthy.) The server was setting down several plastic baskets of fried food as she said it—it was that kind of seafood place. I was with my then editor at Saveur magazine, Colman Andrews, and he answered for me: “When she’s not out, eating like this, she’s home eating brown rice and broccoli.”

It was true.

Colman said it with not a little bit of scorn, playfully trying to shame me. At the time, eating healthy was still frowned upon in the “gourmet” world. Eating everything, a hard-and-fast policy of not holding back, was the sign of a true epicurean warrior. Who would have thought that just a decade later we would be an entire nation of health-conscious foodies, and that bowls like those I was enjoying within the walls of my New York City apartment, wherein whole grains provides the virtuous base to tastier stuff piled on top, would be served everywhere, from national fast food chains to the most precious farm-to-table restaurants? This book is a collection of recipes for just such bowls, from the most humble and easy to prepare, to some that are a little more involved, and more decadent.

I like to think I come to the world of whole grains honestly. I grew up in the 1970s in Southern California, with a pseudo-hippie mother who drove a van with wall-to-wall shag carpet and made macramé plant hangers and stained glass windows in her spare time. Although she wasn’t much for cooking, she billed herself as a “health nut,” and wouldn’t let us eat anything white. We would sooner have found a monkey in the house than a loaf of Wonder Bread. “It’s just white flour and water,” she would say. “No nutritional value!” Instead, she stocked the pantry with Oroweat Honey Wheat Berry bread, which was packed with chewy wheat berries and sunflower seeds (and is to this day my favorite base for avocado toast or to make French toast), and when my sister, Christy, and I would lobby for Froot Loops or Cap’n Crunch cereal, she would tell us, “You might as well eat a Hershey’s bar for breakfast!” Well, okay… But except during s’mores season, those were off-limits, too. Instead, into the cart would go boxes of Quaker 100% Natural Granola, Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, and jars of wheat germ, all of which, despite their hefty sugar content, made the cut because they looked natural. Venturing out into the world, when I was sixteen, I got my first job, filling the bulk bins at a natural food store. So although Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, complete with the cook’s crutch of that era, “the flavor packet,” was the only grain found in my house, and about as “whole grain” as that Hershey’s bar, I was aware at an early age of the existence of foods like amaranth, barley, millet, and quinoa.

I started cooking whole grains myself about fifteen years ago, around the same time I started writing about food, which was long before words and phrases like “detox” and “eating clean” became part of our national culinary vocabulary. I did it for one simple reason: I wanted to feel good. Magazine assignments for Saveur, Bon Appétit, and Gourmet had me wandering the markets of Mexico City eating all manner of braised meats stuffed into corn tortillas and bound by melted cheese; or traveling through the Mississippi Delta subsisting on such local staples as lard-fried fruit hand pies, fried chicken livers, and lemon icebox pie. Back home in New York City, I was out several nights a week at the hottest new restaurants or food industry events, where I might sit down to a dinner that consisted of a series of rich, intricate morsels, each seeming harmless as I lifted a Chinese soup spoon to my lips, or popped a bite into my mouth, but lethal when there were twenty more such bites after that one. Even the freshest farmers’ market vegetables were cooked in such a way as to absorb as much butterfat as the laws of physics would allow. After these nights, I would wake up with a food hangover. I felt tired. My mind was foggy. My stomach was bloated. And so it was that I retreated to a private life of brown rice and cruciferous vegetables, until the next night of foie gras this and truffled that. This was my style of yo-yo dieting.

Today, even though I can be found steaming brown rice or quinoa at least three times a week, I am a flavor-first cook. I come from a “gourmet” point of view, not a “health food” point of view. (In a nutshell, I eat blueberries because they taste good, not for the antioxidants they contain.) I’ve written cookbooks with and cooked in the kitchens of some of the most esteemed chefs in the country. And I have had the great privilege of eating in great restaurants, from barbecue joints in Alabama, Memphis, and Texas to the best restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Italy, Mexico, and beyond. These experiences have informed my expectations. When I prepare a meal, I know how good that thing has the potential to taste and that’s how I want mine to taste. I want my food to be so good that someone might actually write home about it. Which is all to say that I am not a “health food nut.” I am a food nut. Granted, I am a food nut who wants to take care of my one and only body, and big bowls piled with grains, vegetables, beans, and small portions of animal protein are the way I have learned to do that. This book is a collection of those bowls, recipes that reflect the balance that I’ve learned to strike between wanting delicious food, and wanting to feel good—on a daily basis.

Although I never would have believed that my personal mechanism for coping with overly rich food would become a national phenomenon, now that it has, it seems almost obvious, or at least inevitable. The grain bowl is a reflection of our current attitude toward food. Yes, we’re a nation of pork belly–obsessed food snobs, but we are also a nation that worships at the altar of healthy, and that believes there is virtue, salvation, eternal youth, and maybe even everlasting life in eating nutritious foods.

The grain bowl manages to straddle both that near religious passion we have for eating well and the great American desire to have it all—particularly if what we’re having tastes terrific. In the grain bowl, and in the recipes in this book, we are literally able to have our cake and eat healthy, too.


This book is broken up into four chapters. Breakfast Bowls includes sweet and savory grain bowls and whole-grain porridges; Salad Bowls are big bowls of grain salads loaded with vegetables and tossed with dressing; Main Bowls are meant to be main dishes; and Dessert Bowls are grains in sugary incarnations.

I thought about breaking up the Main Bowls into those with meat and those without, but decided against it, because bowls, being assembled of various components, are flexible. That’s the beauty of bowls. With few—and I mean few—exceptions, you can make any bowl in this book vegetarian, and of course you can add animal protein to any vegetarian bowl—although the vegetarian bowls are so flavorful and substantial, you may not even want to. Many of the bowls are vegan, but they’re also so full of flavor that even a die-hard meat eater won’t notice the missing meat until they’re halfway through the bowl.

Mix ’n’ Match

In addition to the composed bowls that make up the Main Bowls chapter, I also encourage you to create your own custom bowls by mixing-and-matching from the various components—grains, proteins, vegetables, and condiments—in that chapter. But keep in mind that making a bowl is like going to a salad bar; if you put some thought into it and show some restraint, you’ll end up with a better-tasting (and probably better-looking) bowl. To help you create the best combinations of ingredients, I’ve included four build-your-own spreads: Build Your Own Asian Bowl, Build Your Own Farmers’ Market–Inspired Bowl, Build Your Own Middle Eastern Bowl, and Build Your Own Mexican Bowl. Choose any combination within each list and you’re guaranteed a delicious result.

Entertaining with Grain Bowls

Having a dinner party? Construct a grain bowl buffet from among the build-your-own spreads. Choose one or two grains (make one gluten-free), one animal protein and one vegetarian option, a couple (or more) vegetables, and a few condiments. This way, you’ll be catering to all your friends’ and family’s dietary needs and peculiarities, which is awfully nice of you, without actually having to hear about it, which, let’s face it, is not that interesting.

The Recipes

When people ask me if I’m a chef, my usual response is, “I am a professional home cook.” My recipes aren’t chef recipes. Chef recipes often have ingredients lists so long it’s as if they thought you lived in the grocery store, and they have so many steps that you’d need a battalion of prep cooks to get to the finish line. My recipes apply everything I’ve learned from chefs about how to make food as delicious as absolutely possible, but when I cook, I try to make things as easy as humanly possible.

What’s more, the majority of people I spend time with on a regular basis are not in the food business. They’re just regular people wanting to put healthy food on the table for themselves and their families on an ordinary weeknight, trying to figure out what foods to take to work to stay healthy and not break the bank, and hosting the occasional dinner party. I get texts nearly every day from friends and family members asking me what to make that night for dinner, what to substitute when they can’t find an ingredient, what to serve for a party, or what kind of side dish to serve with whatever they’re planning to cook. I wrote these recipes with those friends and family and their needs in mind.


Mario Batali said it best when he said that the quality and deliciousness of your meal is already decided when you get home from shopping for that meal. What he means by that is, you can’t make delicious food with less-than-delicious ingredients. So with Mario’s words in mind, here are my thoughts on shopping:

Produce: I am a big proponent of buying local, seasonal produce, which means produce sold at farmers’ markets. In-season produce is infinitely tastier than out-of-season produce because foods that are out of season are most often grown in faraway places, picked before they ripen, and shipped to their final destinations. Farmers’ markets only sell seasonal fruit and vegetables because the farmers in the area grew those things, picked them or plucked them or pulled them from the ground at the time they are the most flavorful, packed them in crates, put them in a truck, drove them to the city, and set them out on a table to sell, like a kid with a lemonade stand. Old school, I know. Isn’t it great?

Also, produce grown by small farmers is generally grown with flavor in mind. Farmers grow the tomatoes and green beans and lettuces and strawberries that have existed throughout time, and that taste like themselves. Industrially grown stuff, the stuff trucked and flown in from afar, is grown for money. These farmers manipulate crops so they can produce as much as possible, for as little money as possible, which they can sell for as much as possible. If these companies could make dead leaves look like a peach and sell it for $2 a pound, they would. But they can’t. So instead they sell something that looks like a peach but tastes like dead leaves. Add to those reasons, you’ll probably have a nice time shopping for the produce because farmers’ markets are pleasant places to be. You never regret going. It’s like taking an ocean swim or an evening walk. It sometimes takes some self-prodding, but you’re always glad you did.

Even though I think that buying local and seasonal is the way to go, I’m not going to insist that there is no substitution—I’ve tried to lead that particular horse to water before and I know it doesn’t work. Still, I do hope you’ll start thinking the way the best cooks—home cooks and professionals—do: “Oh! It’s asparagus season. Let me make something with asparagus!” I know that quality produce can sometimes be more expensive than shopping at most grocery stores, but you can also find good deals at farmers’ markets, and here’s why: Have you ever planted a tomato plant? You get about two thousand tomatoes, and they all ripen in the same week. You have to make friends with your entire zip code to get rid of them. Well, the same holds true for farmers. My friend Andy Arons, who owns a chain of gourmet grocery stores in Manhattan called Gourmet Garage, put it simply: “There’s an inverse relationship between price and flavor.” When blueberries are the most flavorful for a few weeks at the beginning of summer, he explains, they’re at their lowest price. Why? Because blueberry farmers have tons of them, and they want to get rid of them. In the winter, blueberries are more expensive because they’re being flown in from South America. And they don’t taste like blueberries because in order to survive the journey from another continent, the berries have to be picked before they ripen, which means before the sugars and flavors in the fruit develop. No amount of time in a box or on a plane or sitting on your kitchen counter will ever change this fact. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that the particular item you want is more expensive at the farmers’ market than at the grocery store. Ask yourself this: Do you spend more money on what you put on your body, or in your body? And which do you think you should spend more money on? My point exactly.

Seafood: These days, when you go to the grocery store, you can be confronted with as many as four or five types of salmon alone. It’s hard, I know. So how to know what to choose? My friend, the chef Jonathan Waxman, told me, “Never eat flying fish. If you’re in California,” he said, “eat fish from the Pacific. If you’re in New York, eat fish from the Atlantic. It’s so simple.” If you have a seafood market near you, or a fishmonger at your farmers’ market, shop there. Ask the people who work there about the fish they’re selling or what might be the best substitute for a fish called for in a recipe. And if you really want to know more, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s very informative, user-friendly “seafood watch” page.

Pork: I have never seen the logic in saying that eating the meat of fish and chicken is good and eating the meat of steer, lamb, and pigs is, in that order bad to worse, so I consider the current pork- (and in particular, bacon-) embracing movement a step forward for the American culinary point of view. I especially believe that eating pork is a good thing when the pork you eat comes from heritage breeds of pigs, the most widely available of which is Kurobuta (aka Berkshire). In the 1970s, the commercial pork industry, as part of its “other white meat” campaign, which is one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time, began breeding the fat out of pork until eventually, and to this day, a conventionally raised pork loin had the same fat content as a skinless, boneless chicken breast. (Can we please pause to take a moment to imagine a pig with the same fat content as a small, feathery, walking bird?) Unfortunately, that pork also has the same amount of flavor as a chicken breast, which is somewhere near none. Heritage breeds, on the other hand, refer to original, heirloom breeds of pigs, meaning they were not genetically altered to be chicken-like; they grow up to be as they always were and as pigs are meant to be: fatty and flavorful. These pigs are also humanely raised on small farms; industrial farms don’t go in for these less profitable breeds. When you cook heritage pork, you’ll notice a difference in the color: it’s darker and pinker and definitely not the other white meat. It’s also considerably moister and more flavorful. You can find Kurobuta (and sometimes other heritage breeds) at quality butcher shops, high-end grocery stores with a good meat selection, and from online sources. It’s more expensive than conventionally raised pork, but if you’re going to eat animals, eat animals that had a happy, healthy life.

Lamb: I was not lamb’s biggest fan until I wrote a book with celebrity butcher Pat LaFrieda and discovered that the reason I didn’t like lamb was that I was eating the wrong lamb. I needed to eat American lamb, which he told me with no lack of confidence or national pride, is the best lamb in the world. Some is labeled “Sonoma lamb,” some “Colorado lamb,” but as long as the lamb is flying the stars and stripes, you’re pretty much guaranteed it’ll be tender with a mild, appealing flavor. The lamb that has the strong, gamey, goat-like flavor that I (and a lot of you) associate with lamb (and with our dislike of it), is imported from Australia and New Zealand. It’s the lamb you find at standard grocery stores, discount grocery stores, and club stores. The inferior quality explains why it’s half the price of American lamb, even though it traveled halfway around the planet. Since I am closer on the financial spectrum to a not-quite-starving artist than a free-spending mogul, I, too, have to worry about the price of groceries. My solution, where lamb is concerned, is to buy lamb less frequently and serve smaller portions. Half the lamb, half the price. Foodie math.

Beef: I don’t love the taste of grass-fed beef; it’s too bland and dry for me and I’d rather not eat beef than eat beef that I don’t love. If you do love it, rock on. Proponents of grass-fed beef claim it’s better for the planet and for you. But I love the great, bloody steak flavor of good ol’ juicy, marbled American beef. How to justify eating this on a planet in distress? First, it’s my understanding (again, per butcher Pat LaFrieda—I mean, what do I know about meat?) that even conventionally raised cattle are not fed grains their entire life. They eat grass for the first 85 percent of their life and are switched to grains in the last 15 percent, or four to five months. With that in mind, grass-fed beef is not oh so holier. So I eat the beef that tastes good to me. Also, I only, and I mean exclusively, buy beef from a good source. I’m lucky to have a wonderful butcher near where I live; not a modern butcher, hatched from the young butchering craze, but an old-school take-a-number shop serviced by a bunch of friendly guys who know my name and everything, it seems, there is to know about meat. They sell the highest quality prime meat, and they don’t sell any meat containing hormones or antibiotics. I also buy my bacon there, and, if you must know, ground chicken, bones and all, for my adorable, GMO- and a
caribbean food, beer brewing kit, mongolian barbeque, quick chicken recipes, healthy snack recipes, ffice break at the java-spot-du-jour for a four-dollar calorie-rich mocha-choka-loca and a cardboard pastry and you begin to realize that for many of us, home cooking truly has been supplanted by distant food-service machines.

We’ve reached an imbalanced situation where we spend more money to eat inferior food out, and in the process, we not only jeopardize our health but also deprive ourselves of less expensive, tastier, and healthier home-cooked meals. And there is no healthier diet than fresh food—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meat, poultry, and seafood—eaten in moderation.

cook what you crave

Roll up your sleeves and get into the kitchen and you can produce anything you want to eat right now! Lose the middleman who stands between you and enjoying the food you crave at home. This book shows how you can make all those dishes you enjoy eating out of the house—at home. Anything can be made better at home—tastier, healthier, more affordable—plus you get the rich rewards of sitting around a home table with family and friends in a less rushed manner—communicating, savoring, and sharing stories around your table rather than scarfing down dinner at a fast-food joint or forking it out from a white cardboard container in front of the television.

Try this experiment: Call to order in a plain pizza, and as soon as you put down the phone, make Classic Tomato Soup (page 61) and grilled cheese sandwiches. Set the timer and see which is faster. It’s the same foods—bread, tomatoes, and cheese—but when it’s cooked with fresh, flavorful, healthy ingredients, it can be knock-it-out-of-the-park delicious.

Shopping is half the hike to cooking. If there is something—anything—in the pantry, you can feed yourself. There’s always something to cook that’s at least half as good as the best takeout or twice as good as the worst (see, for example, Mac ’n’ Cheese, page 194).

Even the crappiest fast food adds up to more money spent than the same amount for good homemade meals. With few exceptions (and I don’t mean Jamba Juice), this is unhealthy “shortcut” food with the potential to lead to a host of ills. In order to avoid the telephone, you need to shop weekly and make sure your pantry, freezer, and fridge are well stocked. Just knowing you can do this is a revelation. That favorite pad thai (see page 196) or beef satay (see page 140) is a mere equipped-kitchen and prep-cook-job away from your lips.

This book includes recipes for the foods we’ve usually handed over to others to make, the ones we like to order in or take out, from ethnic spots serving Italian, Greek, Chinese, or Japanese; from old-fashioned soda fountains, street carts, and burger joints; from chicken shacks, roadhouses, grills, concession stands, and ice cream trucks. Eat them out now and then, but ease a few handmade versions into your own repertoire. Sideline the prepackaged meals from the commercial grocery shelf or freezer while you create a few of those recipes from scratch yourself, like Brined and Fried Chicken (page 170), just as Grandma did. The recipes here draw from the wealth of inspiration in the outside world and will bring it into your own cooking and eating experience at home. Connected to the stories and the sources they spring from, these dishes teach us about people and places.

So leave the sandy, bruised lettuce, sugary-sweet dressings, and preservative-laden croutons of the salad buffet behind for the salads on pages 92–113. Capture the alluring flavors of your favorite Indian restaurant with a simplified Chicken Tikka Masala (page 171) or pull a handmade sweet and tangy Lemon Icey from your own freezer (page 289). Maybe you just make your mama’s meat loaf and mashed potatoes (see pages 152 and 215) or simmer a big pot of childhood chili (see page 156). But cook what you crave at home! Excavate your own taste memories and assemble that personal recipe box. Restore your food traditions and make new ones. Reclaim your home kitchen!

Mad Hungry Maxims

how and why to cook the food you crave at home

you’ve got to want to do it

Like any commitment, cooking regularly requires discipline and will. It has to become a priority. It is a challenge to take on, but the rewards are immeasurable. When you learn to produce a meal at home similar to one you’d buy out, it’s totally satisfying. We are not too busy to cook! If you can carve out time to landscape your yard, decorate your home, work out at a gym, or practice an instrument, you can cook interesting, healthy food at home on a regular basis.

know you will be healthier when you start cooking from scratch with good, fresh ingredients

I’d put the Baked Potato Poppers (page 214) up against any deep-fried fast-food potato puffs out there. And there is no calorie or cholesterol comparison between a fast-food deep-fry and a home-cooked oven-fry. Done well, crispy faux-fried food tastes delicious and is more nutritious. That’s the equation I look for. The minute you start with fresh, natural ingredients, you’ve avoided multiple layers and steps in the processing of the food that you eat. Care about what goes into your body, as you care about what goes into your car’s gas tank. This is one of the main areas of your well-being that you can control. Feed your body, mind, and soul with the thoughtful nourishment it deserves. You’ll be happier and stronger.

shopping is half the job of cooking

Plan and shop routinely, and you will always be able to make the food you crave. Keep your spices stocked and check them for freshness. Put the freezer, the most underutilized appliance in the kitchen, to good use: you will never run out of bread, butter, or milk. They’ll sit patiently frozen until called up for fresh duty. Buy premium meats and poultry, as well as fish of known origin. Onions, garlic, and shallots are your savory saviors for flavor building—keep a full basket in a cool, dark place. Prep fresh vegetables ahead for convenient use: wash, dry, and store salad greens; trim and blanch green beans. Shop weekly, and supplement daily only as needed.

don’t bite off more than you can chew

A big bowl of hearty soup, like Beefy Black Bean Soup (page 73), and a simple salad make for a great lunch or dinner. Don’t tackle too many recipes at once. Start simple. Choose one that engages your interest—for instance, something that you love to order when you go out, like Pulled Pork (page 165) or Malaysian-Style Mussels (page 182). Then fill out the meal with familiar sides, ones you are used to making. Even the most accomplished cooks I know stick with adding only one or two new things at a time to a routine repertoire.

think strategy

Chunk out your time and stay one step ahead of the game. Rather than feel pressured to make dinner in thirty minutes, strategize. Doing some prep the night before or the morning of leaves less to do at dinnertime. Think down the road to a couple of meals. If you’re turning your oven on to roast a chicken, roast two: one for dinner and one for sandwiches and soup the next day. Firing up the grill? Make a steak for dinner and grill the vegetables for tomorrow’s pasta. Thoughtful meal planning is easier, cheaper, and more wholesome than winging it!

enlist family members or roommates to tag-team tasks

Engage your household in the pleasures of cooking and eating good food. First learn to cook what you love to eat and make it part of your daily routine. Next, involve the folks you live with in the process. Make it enjoyable. A shopping trip can be a learning experience for little ones—especially if they’re given the opportunity to choose a favorite cereal or ice cream—and revelatory for older ones. As soon as they are old enough, give your kids tasks in the kitchen and dining room. Make these part of the family chores. Teach your family to love what they eat so much that they want to learn it themselves. When they succeed, which they will, they will want to share their food with others.

there is pleasure in gathering at the table

Once you’ve gathered—whether you are two or ten—important interactions begin. The dinner table is the first place where our kids gather in a small “community” to express themselves. Around-the-table talk starts with dinner and progresses to sharing thoughts, events, and musings of the day. To listen to your dining companions is a skill needed for everything we engage in outside the home. Regard eating together as one-stop shopping for wellness. While your body is being fed, your mind and sensory awareness are too. As a regular activity, it sure beats pulling the plastic containers out of the bag (the detritus of which could build a small home in a third world village) and mindlessly chowing down in front of the television. Sure, that can feel liberating now and then—but the next time you do it, ask yourself: Who made this food? Where did it come from? What does the kitchen look like? I guarantee you will not know the answers to any of these questions!

learn from the world around you

Identify your skills in the kitchen—what are your strengths and weaknesses? Then set out to teach yourself what you need to feel comfortable cooking. Start by equipping your kitchen with the basics, or replacing worn tools and appliances. Be on the lookout for such items in newspaper advertisements, at online stores, or on casual shopping excursions. There are deals to be had everywhere. If you aren’t too swift with a knife, pick up a book or DVD, or take a class. Investigate ingredients, new and old (see the pantry sections on pages 11–27). Learn where your food comes from—not only will it be culturally interesting, but it will be empowering as well. Discover food traditions in different regions of the country, ethnic neighborhoods, and countries around the world. If you can’t travel, just let your mind go: television, films, books, magazines, and newspapers offer worlds within reach.

have fun

Eating food you cook yourself will give you countless gifts in return. People love to gather around food. When you’re shopping, folks at the market chat, converse, and share ideas with you. Stand in the kitchen, chopping an onion for dinner, and listen to some music—make it active meditation. Start sautéing those spices, and someone is sure to walk through and say, “Wow, that smells good. What are you making?” I have an armchair in the kitchen, where I can sit and read a newspaper or cookbook while waiting for the water to boil, and maybe enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine. But most of the time, it’s a family member or friend who sits there and hangs out with me while I cook. Sometimes we cook together. When my extended family gets together, three generations gather in the kitchen. That is where the party is! Make the necessity of nourishing yourselves a daily privilege and pleasure.

Broaden Your Horizons

Of course, when we’re traveling for work or pleasure, cooking is not an option. Make that an opportunity. Sample the regional dishes—chowder in the northeast, barbecue in the South—or ethnic specialties in neighborhoods known for their Italian, Chinese, Greek, or Latin food. There’s no greater thrill for me than seeking out new foods in faraway countries. Explore an unfamiliar culture through the local foods. Watch a noodle maker hand-pull noodles, an expert pat out a homemade tortilla, a master cooking spicy chicken in a tandoor oven, or a sausage maker forming links. The experience of seeing how food is made will spark ideas for your own repertoire and engage your family in the process.

Resist the temptation to eat at chain restaurants that offer the same formula regardless of what city you’re in. The allure of familiar foods, made exactly the same way every time, is undeniable, but eating them is a soulless experience. There is so much more to life! Trying new foods in a new place is a great way to expand your child’s palate. Use it as inspiration for feeding your family. Expose them to new foods out in the world, then cook it healthier, cheaper, and tastier at home.

look for teachable moments

The foods eaten by family members outside your home, without coaxing or cajoling, can be a window into their untapped appetites. An unadventurous eater may surprise you with his or her choices on unfamiliar ground. My own children illustrate this phenomenon perfectly.

When he was young, my middle son, Miles, was not a fan of any types of beans. However, he couldn’t get enough of the “doubles” from a Brooklyn take-out purveyor of West Indian foods. A “double” stuffs spicy chickpeas inside a soft, saucy dough wrap. Who knew?

It’s hard to believe now, but my firstborn, Calder, hated burgers, and he wouldn’t eat the ones I made at home. It mystified me, given that every red-blooded American meat eater loves a good burger. But Calder had to discover them himself when he went with friends to McDonald’s, a place I didn’t allow him to frequent. That prompted me to learn how to make a spot-on fast-food burger (thin patties, butter-toasted bun, special sauce, shredded lettuce), and he started requesting them for dinner. Now he slathers them up with mayonnaise—a condiment he wouldn’t eat at home up to that point either.

My youngest, Luca, was absolutely sure he hated two things: mushrooms and shrimp. Yet he thought nothing of gobbling up a moo-shu pork pancake filled with an array of vegetables, including unfamiliar wood ear mushrooms. And the shumai dumplings he always ordered (shrimp-stuffed), although he hated shrimp.

When you do eat out or order in, everyone gets his or her own choice. Notice who orders what when they get the chance to choose for themselves; then you can begin to slip a few favorites into your own cooking repertoire. An Indian meal ordered out might include chicken tikka masala. Morph that into an Indian-themed dinner at home with a simplified version of the chicken (see page 171) and a vegetable biryani (see page 203). Add some yogurt, store-bought naan bread, and grocery-store mango chutney for an authentic experience easily assembled at home.

If your child gets a muffin when you get your coffee to go from the local coffee shop, make a better one at home for a grab-and-go breakfast—for example, a Date Walnut Muffin (page 48). Observe the mas-terly ways vegetables are employed in delicious restaurant items. For some reason, spinach isn’t as feared by kids if it’s tucked into the flaky layers of phyllo dough (see page 87). Fried chicken (see page 170) keeping company with collard greens (see page 225) seems a lot more appetizing than when just plopped onto a dinner plate with no contextual partner.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one dinner for everyone. No exceptions. If you haven’t had such a policy before, your family will probably object. Try to incorporate each person’s favorites throughout the week and emphasize the fairness of this approach. For instance, when I was growing up, creamy pork tenderloin was my brother’s favorite, not mine. I ate it, knowing my beloved meat loaf night was coming up soon. Just know that it is impossible to please everyone, every time.

The Larder

if you stock it, you will make it

If you love to eat food from any corner of the globe, it’s helpful to think of the array of dishes in this book as drawn from the supply cabinet of four basic pantries: American, Asian, Mediterranean, and Latin. If you keep yourself well supplied with the ingredients commonly used in those cuisines, the likelihood of jumping into the kitchen to cook a favorite food you crave—rather than taking out or ordering in—is much greater. Keep a running list taped on the inside of a cabinet, adding to it as items need to be replaced.

This is especially true if you live in a location where specialty grocery items are hard to come by. Nowadays online ordering makes virtually anything available at your fingertips—as long as you plan ahead. Even the multitude of ethnic shops in New York City, where I live, counts for nothing if I haven’t stocked the pantry to cook my favorite foods when I have a hankering for them: if the cupboard is bare, I’m still a grocery trip away from my meal. Cooking and shopping are two entirely different activities, yet the former is dependent on the latter. If you have to shop every time you want to cook, the experience is a much more lengthy and exhausting one. However, most of the recipes in this book do not require anything too esoteric. And frequently one ingredient can be subbed for another. For example, fish sauce, which brings a particular savory saltiness to a dish, can often be replaced by soy sauce. It mightn’t be the perfect choice, but it will do the job.

When you’re trying to put a couple of dishes together to create a menu, peruse all your recipes first and get organized before cooking. Gang up th


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