A Tasty Frittata

The tastiest, super adaptable frittata recipe. Made with potatoes, onions, and eggs drizzled with a cilantro chile sauce.

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I make a lot of frittatas. They fill your belly, allow you to put neglected ingredients in your refrigerator to good use, and deliver a one-pan meal that is nutritious and filling. Breakfast, lunch, dinner – if you’ve got a six-pack of eggs on hand, a simple, satisfying meal is never more than a few minutes away.
“Frittata Recipe

Frittata Inspiration

This particular frittata recipe was inspired by a few things – a small bag of little potatoes I picked up at the market, and some delicious vegetables that came courtesy of a nutrient-packed mystery box I picked up regularly from Mariquita Farm when I lived in San Francisco. That’s what great about knowing how to cook a great frittata. You can switch it up using all sorts of different ingredients. And they’re great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. 

The Special Sauce

I’ll let you in on a little secret, the magic touch in this particular frittata is the vibrant cilantro chile sauce I drizzle over the top of it. Drizzle the sauce over the eggs just before the frittata goes into the oven, then layer the potatoes and onions on top of the sauce – everything melds together into a color-flecked pan of deliciousness. The pumpkin seeds add just the right amount of crust – playing off the creaminess of the eggs and goat cheese. The cilantro sauce would also be delicious on Lori’s Skillet Smashed Potatoes or these oven fries.
“Frittata in a Cast Iron Pan

What is the Best Frittata Pan?

The main thing to think about when choosing a frittata pan is making sure it is oven-safe. I always reach for my well-seasoned cast iron pan. A lot of people like to use non-stick pans any time they cook eggs, and that is fine. For this recipe just be sure whatever you choose can handle a few minutes in a very hot oven. I love finishing my frittatas in the oven because they puff up, the eggs set up nicely, and the whole frittata comes together beautifully.

“Favorite Frittata Recipe with a Wedge Cut Out

Favorite Frittata Variations

I switch up my frittatas a thousand different ways. Some favorite ways: add a big dollop of green or red curry paste to the whisked eggs. Sriracha is also fair game. You can switch up the cheese, or nuts, or top them with just about any pre-cooked vegetables. I love broccoli, or asparagus, or mix chopped kale into the egg mixture.

Give this a try! Other favorite egg recipes include: deviled eggs, egg salad sandwich, this skinny omelette, and pickled turmeric eggs. If you’re looking for more brunchy breakfast recipes don’t miss this healthy granola, or the best waffle recipe, these homemade cinnamon rolls, classic pancakes, tofu scramble, Herb Cream Cheese Scrambled Eggs, and the baked oatmeal is always popular!

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Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

If you’ve ever been frustrated by making homemade popcorn, this post is for you! It’s my technique for perfect stovetop popcorn every time.

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I often half-jokingly tell people one of the hardest things to cook consistently is perfect stovetop popcorn. Keyword: consistently. If you’ve ever burned a batch, or ended up with dozens of un-popped kernels, you know what I’m saying. Pull up a seat. This is where I’ve netted out after hundreds of batches of homemade popcorn.
Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

Homemade Popcorn: Why Bother?

It’s a quick, fantastic, inexpensive, healthful snack. Everyone delights in popcorn. And, everyone loves to get involved in experimenting with different flavors. You can make perfect stovetop popcorn in a flash, so ditch those bags of pre-popped kernels. When you make homemade popcorn you also know exactly what ingredients are going in the bowl. Also, microwave popcorn? Just no.

Popcorn Pro-tip: Skip the Oil

Let’s get this out of the way first. Pop your popcorn in a dry pan or skillet, no oil. Controversial, I know, but I find that popping popcorn in hot oil increases the likelihood of burnt popcorn and dead kernels. Dry pan popping results in beautiful light popcorn that provides the perfect blank canvas for all your favorite seasonings.
Yellow Popcorn Kernels

Best Pan for Making Perfect Stovetop Popcorn?

The two pans I use most for making popcorn are a deep pasta pot (big batch), and a wide, deep skillet (small batch). You’re going for wide, with a lot of surface area. In either case a fitted lid is needed, although in a pinch you might try placing a baking sheet over your pot. Careful though, it gets hot. 

A lot of people will recommend using thick bottom pots or Dutch ovens to make popcorn. It’s decent advice, especially if you’re not the most attentive cook. If you can hit the right steady temperature, thick pots are more forgiving. That said, I love using my copper pans to pop popcorn. They’re relatively thin and very responsive. That makes it easy to dial back the heat and adjust quickly of you sense your pan is hot. A long way of saying, keeping an eye on your temps is probably more important than obsessing about the perfect pot to use.
Homemade Popcorn in a Bowl after Popping

Cover but Crack

A good lid is important when making popcorn, but there’s a bit of a strategy here. For the best results, and lowest number of un-popped kernels leave the lid  open just a hairline amount. It allows any steam or moisture to get out as well, resulting in fluffy kernels.
Homemade Popcorn

Popcorn Seasoning Ideas

Once you have a perfect bowl of fluffy, crisp kernels the seasoning game is on. Here are a few ideas. And please, if you have other favorite popcorn seasonings, drop a comment.

Turmeric Popcorn: A long time fave. Kernels tossed with a short list of power ingredients – ghee, clarified butter, or coconut oil plus turmeric, saffron, nutritional yeast, sesame, and toasted coconut.

Use Compound Butters: Gently melt any of these for flavor-packed drizzles. Lemon Miso Butter is great here, as is Scallion Dill Butter.

Bloody Mary Popcorn:  It’s what happens when popcorn meets the flavors of a Bloody Mary cocktail.

Chile Lime Tequila: Fresh popcorn is tossed with melted butter, lime juice, jalapeno peppers, red pepper flakes, cumin and a splash of tequila.

Classic Buttered Popcorn: This is built into the recipe below, but I’ll mention an alternative here. Ghee is a great swap for melted butter on popcorn. It has wonderful brown butter notes from the toasted milk solids, and less water content. This means no soggy kernels.

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How To Cook Quinoa

How to cook quinoa perfectly, every time. You can use it in everything from salads and bowls, stews and sourdough, or any of my 20 favorite quinoa recipes highlighted below.

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If you know how to cook quinoa perfectly, you’re on your way to a wide range of amazing meals. It’s a fantastic adventure to cook your way through the world’s wonderful heirloom grains (and grain-like seeds), and quinoa is one of them. The trick to nailing the perfect fluffy pot of quinoa is using the right ratio of water to quinoa and knowing a few little tricks. While I initially purchased quinoa for its nutritional perks (of which there are many) I kept purchasing it for its grassy taste and fluffed up, creamy-while-crunchy texture.
Favorite Quinoa Recipe

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa [Keen-wah] is a fantastic grain to utilize in year-round cooking. It has long been celebrated as a nutritional powerhouse – protein-rich, delicious, and charmingly versatile. Technically not a true grain, it is related botanically to Swiss chard and beets, but it is grain-like in spirit when it comes to cooking.

Which Color Quinoa is Best?

Quinoa grows in a wide range of colors. The most commonly available in the U.S. are red, brown, black, and ivory. You can also buy tri-color blends of quinoas. Most quinoa tastes very similar to me. White often cooks up fluffiest. The colors have very similar nutritional profiles, although I suspect red and black quinoa have increased phytonutrients. Black can also take a few extra minutes to cook. The biggest difference to me is visual impact. I tend to go with the ivory quinoa if making a meal for someone who might not be a very adventurous eater, or picky kids. The light colored quinoa tends to blend or bake right into things seamlessly. That said, I love the visual punch colored quinoa delivers to pizza crusts, muffins, grain bowls, and the like. So that’s usually my choice.

Why Do I Need to Rinse Quinoa?

This is a thing. Always rinse quinoa before using to remove bitter saponin coating (which the plant produces to deter  birds and insects).

Quinoa Cooking Basics

  • What kind of quinoa should I buy? Consider sourcing fair-trade and organic quinoa. This supports local farm communities, and helps preserve the health and integrity of the land and farming communities.
  • Can I use a rice cooker to cook quinoa? Yes, absolutely. Use the following water (or broth) to quinoa ratio and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Can I use a donabe to cook quinoa? Yes! I use my clay pot donabe to cook quinoa often. Use gentle heat, the ratio below, and the same technique you would use to cook rice.
  • How much water to quinoa should I use? This has been an ever-evolving issue for me over the years. And I’ve landed on 1 cup quinoa to 1 2/3 cups liquid. A steady, gentle simmer for about 20 minutes, covered, will result in a beautiful pot of quinoa. Just fluff with a fork and enjoy.

Get Creative! Cook Your Quinoa with Flavor

Nearly every basic quinoa recipe will instruct you to use water to cook your quinoa. I think this is great advice your first few times through. You can get a real sense of the flavor of quinoa by keeping it simple. Just know, there is a world of flavor to explore beyond that! I love to cook my quinoa with strong broths. A dollop of curry paste is always welcome for a jolt of flavor. Or you can experiment with spices like turmeric, powdered chiles, or seaweeds, or mushroom powders. Chopped garlic? Yes! Miso? So good. The realm of possibilities is endless. 

How Can I Add Quinoa to My Baking?

Stir leftover quinoa into all your favorite baked goods for more interesting flavor, texture, and nutritional punch. The key here is experimenting. Stir a cup of cooked, room-temperature quinoa into your favorite muffin mix. Or cut it into your best pie crust, or biscuit dough. This amount is usually a good place to start until you get a feel for things. Make notes! Then, add more or less quinoa the next time through. This is one of my favorite baking pro-tips. Once you start adding things like quinoa or millet to your baking, all-white flour baking gets less and less interesting. 

How to Store Cooked Quinoa

Store leftover quinoa in the refrigerator for up to a few days, beyond that, transfer it to the freezer. It freezes beautifully. When you’re ready to use it, bring to room temperature and then transfer to a bowl. Use a fork to break up clumps and make uniform. My motto here is: Fridge, freeze, fluff.

Twenty Favorite Quinoa Recipes

If you’re looking for great quinoa recipes, you’re in the right place! 

  1. Double Broccoli Quinoa

    Broccoli lovers delight, with a broccoli pesto, quinoa, sliced avocado and a drizzle of feisty chile pepper oil. Double Broccoli Quinoa

  2. Mung Quinoa Power Bowl Recipe

    Simply mung beans and quinoa with deeply sautéed and spiced celery.
    Mung Quinoa Power Bowl Recipe

  3. Spicy Instant Pot Taco Soup Recipe

    A hearty melding of beans, and corn, and taco spices, and quinoa.
    Spicy Instant Pot Taco Soup Recipe

  4. Super Green Vegan Quinoa Burritos

    Vegan burritos packed with all the good stuff – quinoa, mung beans, and lots of kale. Super Green Vegan Quinoa Burritos

  5. Vegan Double Broccoli Buddha Bowl

    Double up on broccoli through a coconut green curry pesto and florets, then toss with a quinoa base. Vegan Double Broccoli Buddha Bowl

  6. Kale Quinoa Bites

    The perfect on-the-go snack or mini meal.
    Kale Quinoa Bites

  7. Life Changing Green Rice Porridge

    A one pot, effortless, green, nutrient-packed twist on one of my favorite things to eat. Life Changing Green Rice Porridge

  8. Super Natural Vegan Sushi

    Vegan sushi made with sweet potato fries, seasoned tofu, avocado, kale chips, and a quinoa-sushi rice blend. Super Natural Vegan Sushi

  9. Rustic Tomato Tart

    The crust of this tart deploys a favorite baking trinity of mine – rye, cooked quinoa, and all-purpose (or bread) flour. Rustic Tomato Tart

  10. Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa

    A berry-studded breakfast quinoa with pecans and blackberries, sweetened with agave nectar or honey. Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa Recipe

  11. Coconut Quinoa Bowl

    The next time you have leftover quinoa (other other favorite grain) give it a try – coconut, garlic, almonds, kale, topped with salted yogurt and avocado. Coconut Quinoa Bowl Recipe

  12. Quinoa Skillet Bread

    A rustic, minimally structured, custard-topped, crusty-edged, herb-scented corn-quinoa skillet bread. Quinoa Skillet Bread Recipe

  13. Heather’s Quinoa

    A one-skillet quinoa recipe – quinoa, corn, chopped kale and pan-toasted tofu tossed with a big dollop of pesto and finished off with a few roasted cherry tomatoes. Heather’s Quinoa Recipe

  14. Quinoa Hemp Snack Balls

    A quick way to get quinoa, hemp seeds, chia, and coconut into one naturally sweetened, no-bake snack. 

  15. Perfect Healthy Granola

    Deeply chocolate-flavored with dark black cocoa and cocoa nibs, this granola is packed with heart-healthy oats, quinoa crispies and seeds. 

  16. Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad

    An impromptu quinoa salad recipe made by tossing a quick tahini dressing with chickpeas, red onion, and cilantro.

  17. Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad

    This quinoa and grilled zucchini recipe is tossed with a pretty, pale green cilantro-flecked avocado dressing.

  18. Quinoa Cloud Cookies

    Cookies made from toasted quinoa and wheat flours, flecked with chocolate shavings, rolled and stamped into cloud shapes. 

  19. Quinoa with Currants, Dill, and Zucchini

    A quinoa salad made from a quirky combination of quinoa, dill, shredded zucchini, and currants. 

  20. Tokyo Five Grain

    A colorful grain blend inspired by a trip to Japan. 

Have fun cooking with quinoa! Use it in soups, on salads, as a base for all sorts of quinoa bowls, and as a nutrient-packed alternative to white rice or pasta. Stir it into your batters and fold it into your bread and pizza doughs. If you find you enjoy recipes featuring whole quinoa, there are also other forms of quinoa available. Keep an eye out for quinoa flakes, popped/puffed quinoa as well as quinoa flour. All are delicious, interesting, and easy to incorporate into your cooking. Have fun!

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Sunny Citrus Recipes + How to Use Lots of Citrus

Favorite citrus recipes and all the ways I put a big box of citrus to use this week. Oranges, Meyer and Eureka lemons, mandarins, and grapefruits are all in the mix.

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The abundance of homegrown citrus this time of year in Los Angeles is a peak reason I love being a Californian. You see front yard Meyer lemon trees groaning with yellow orbs. Pomelos and grapefruits frame driveways, and trees impossibly heavy with oranges regularly warrant a double-take. Being surround with this much citrus is happy-making. Especially if you can get your hands on it. And did I ever. My dad’s neighbors generously dropped off a huge crate of Meyers, mandarins, oranges, and Eureka lemons the other day – a legit “bend with your knees” box. So here I am jotting down the ways I’ve been using it, saving it, and the citrus recipes I’ve been making all week.

Ginger Grapefruit Curd

A Week in Citrus

I thought I’d start by talking through everything I’ve done with citrus in the past week. It has been a mix! I’ll include recipes down below for the pastes and syrups.

  • Kosho: I started a batch of Meyer lemon kosho. Kosho is traditionally a spicy, fermented Japanese Yuzu paste, but because lemons are more plentiful here, I tend to use them.
  • Citrus Peel Pastes: I also blended Meyer lemon, Eureka, and orange peels into a number of quick (unfermented) pastes, and froze them in single use quantities. I’ll write up the recipes down below. I use them to season and boost everything! From pastas and soups to rice bowls and roasted vegetable tacos.
  • Most of the mandarins were simply peeled and popped into mouths, but a few have made it into my favorite citrus salad (I’ll highlight that down below).
  • Meyer Lemon & Rose Geranium No-heat Syrup: I love the intensity of no-heat syrups, and made a thick, intensely flavored Meyer lemon syrup by massaging lots of lemon peel with sugar and rose geranium leaves.
  • Orange No-heat Syrup: Same process as the lemon syrup, but kept it to orange peel here. See the recipe below.
  • Citrus Ice Cubes: After peeling citrus and making pastes or syrups, all of the juice was frozen in ice cube trays for future use in drinks, granitas, soups, etc.

Favorite Citrus Salad from Super Natural Simple Cookbook

My Favorite Citrus Salad

I love this salad. It has a mix of citrus segments, peanuts, red onions, a few saffron threads and almond extract along with good olive oil. The recipe is in Super Natural Simple which will be out next month. There’s more information (and so many good soups & salads) here.

Oranges Being Peeled

How To Efficiently Peel Citrus

Ok, let’s talk about peeling citrus. There was a lot of it going on this week. Peeling citrus isn’t a quick task. Know that going in, and you’ll enjoy the process much more. I basically have three moves (see below). 1. Start with clean, dry citrus, and slice citrus from top to bottom in wide slabs. 2. Trim all the bitter pith away. To do this, keep the peel flat agains the cutting board, and trim away from yourself. 3. Scrape any remaining pith from peel with the dull or “flip-side” of a knife.
How To Peel Citrus

What about the Juice?

Lots of peel means lots of juice. Sometimes we just drink it, or use it over the coming days. But, if you freeze the juice in ice cube trays you end up with easy to thaw portions for use in dressing, granitas, soups, curries – basically any place where you can imagine a sunny citrus boost!

Meyer Lemon Ice Cubes

So Many Ways To Use Citrus Peel Pastes

Citrus peel pastes are fragrant flavor blasts. You can make them as simple or complex as you want. I tend to keep mine pretty straightforward, but love the addition of garlic – quite a lot of it. You might add spice blends, mix citruses, you could use other oils in place of olive oil, etc. Here’s how I put them to use after making them:

Orange & Garlic Citrus Paste (recipe below) is super garlicky and was amazing combined with a healthy amount of cayenne pepper, water, and coconut milk to make a beautiful broth for soba noodles – season with more salt to taste to make it just right. I also put a dollop on my lunchtime chana masala and loved the way it brightened everything up. It was also incredibly good dolloped on top of a bowl of this Fire Broth Noodle Soup. And lastly, I used it as a finishing accent on roasted vegetable tacos (cauliflower & mushroom) on homemade corn tortillas. Orange & Garlic Citrus Paste is pictured below.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Citrus Paste (recipe below) was perfect tossed with a bowl of pan-fried golden artichoke hearts. The next day I tossed a generous amount  of the citrus paste with hot noodles, extra olive oil, pasta water, lots of scallions, a bit of torn mozzarella, herbs and broccoli – so good! And it was the perfect slather across the top of a simple buckwheat and gruyere crepe the other night. 
Orange Peel and Garlic Paste in a Blender

No-Heat Citrus Peel Syrups

Heating fruit changes the flavor profile. As I mentioned up above,  I love the intensity, and uncooked clarity that rings through citrus peel syrups. Made by patiently massaging citrus peels with sugar and leaving to macerate, you strain and end up with an intense, full-bodied syrup to use in countless ways. A favorite this week was an easy drinking dark rum cocktail made with a splash of orange syrup, a shot of dark rum, shaken with tons of ice and topped off with pampelmousse La Croix, and a kiss of lime juice.

Bottle of Homemade Meyer Lemon Syrup
Making Homemade Orange Syrup

Cookbooks Focused on Citrus Recipes

Citri – I love this little 60-ish page cookbook zine by Loria Stern. I’ve encountered Loria and her beautiful creations a number of times since moving to Los Angeles (thanks to Jessica & Joanna), and she made sure I had Citri at the perfect time – peak citrus season. It’s a love letter to citrus with 25 bright and brilliant recipes.
Citri Cookbook with Pink Cover and Yellow Spiral Binding 

Also, have a look at Citrus : Sweet and Savory Sun-Kissed Recipes by Valerie Aikman-Smith and Victoria Pearson, Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers by Gwendolyn Richards, and also Citrus: 150 Recipes Celebrating the Sweet and the Sour by Catherine Phipps. 

More Citrus Recipes from the Archives

There are a lot of citrus-centric recipes in the 101 archives, and I’ll put them in the related searches below, but these two recipes have been exceptionally popular over the years. A few years back, I also linked out to a bunch of great winter citrus recipes here.
Candied Citrus Pops
Candied Citrus Lollipops: Two-ingredient magic. Plump, juicy, citrus segments coated in thin, crunchy, sugar shells. They’re the perfect, delightful sweet treat.
Citrus Salt
A Spectrum of Citrus Salts: Citrus salts made from all sorts of winter citrus zest – clementines, wild lime, Meyer lemon, kalamansi oranges, and mandarinquats. Couldn’t be simpler.

Let me know your favorite ultra citrus centric recipes and resources. And in the meantime, I hope you find a bit of inspiration here, especially with the citrus peel pastes. Enjoy! -h

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How to Make Ghee

This is how to make ghee. It’s wonderful and simple! It’s a process I enjoy, and it yields one of my favorite cooking mediums. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, ghee is an unsalted butter that has had the milk solids removed after separating from the butterfat, resulting in beautiful, golden, pure fat with an unusually high smoking point.

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I make homemade ghee from good butter every few weeks. Making ghee is a process I enjoy, and it yields a wonderful cooking mediums. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, ghee is an unsalted butter that has had the milk solids removed after separating from the butterfat, resulting in beautiful, golden, pure fat with an unusually high smoking point. In short, this post is all about how to make ghee. And, yes! You should absolutely do it.

This means ghee (and its cousin, clarified butter) is remarkably stable, even at higher temperatures. The process for making clarified butter is similar to that of making ghee, ghee is simply cooked longer and has more contact with the browning milk solids, in turn lending a different flavor profile. So(!), there you have a basic description, but ghee is so much more than this.

How to Make Ghee - Start with Good Butter

What is Ghee?

Ghee is an ingredient deeply revered in India, most often made from the milk of the sacred cow. There are few ingredients that have been as culturally significant for as long. Although, as I think about it, in the Arab world, there is smen, another ancient dairy-based fat made, traditionally, from the milk of sheep and/or goat. I encountered it in Morocco. Both butters are clarified, and both have been used in ceremonial, healing, and culinary ways for millennia. Smen is funky, technically rotten, and distinctive – accurately titled beurre ranci in French. It is sometimes buried for months to develop its prized flavor. I don’t think there is a culture of celebrating rancid ghee in India (maybe someone can correct me?), but if your ghee does go rancid – which I have had happen on occasion when the kitchen is unusually warm, or if I wasn’t quite careful enough straining solids – you can simply think of it as Indian smen? A distinctive finishing flavor, no question.Butter in a Saucepan

Use in Ayurveda

If you set a glowing jar of ghee next to a cube of shortening, you just know, one of these supports life and vitality, and the other doesn’t. It’s the sort of thing you can just sense. In India, Ayurvedic physicians know ghee to be the good stuff, the liquid gold. It is considered vital for health and well-being, and is used to balance and support the body from the inside and the outside – eyes, memory, strength. It’s a fat that helps fat-soluble nutrients become available to the body. It is recommended for expectant mothers. And it is beautiful. Correspondingly, it can also be quite expensive to buy, particularly if it is from a good producer. The good news is, making it yourself is a simple, satisfying process.
Melted Butter in a Saucepan
Hot Ghee in a Saucepan

Tips to Cooking with Ghee

– Use less. If you’ve never cooked with ghee before, just go easy to start. I’ve found that I typically need less throughout the process compared with, say, olive oil.

– It loves a wok. Wok cooking or stir-fry is an exercise in high-temperature intensity. Which can be hard on oils, and you end up having the oils break down, and not in a good way. I don’t like using highly refined oils, the ones that are highly-processed, even though they advertise high smoke points. So, ghee is a good option, as long as it works for the flavors you are cooking. I don’t think it works alongside soy sauce, for example, but I’ll often use my wok to knock out a quick vegetable stir-fry, that is more California in spirit – a little oil, salt, lemon zest, vegetables – and ghee works great. Another alternative is extra-virgin coconut oil. It likes the wok too.

– Lastly, one for the die-hards. Some say the best ghee comes from homemade butter. Meaning, you first make butter from fresh cream, and then you set sights on turning that butter into delicious ghee. The extra step certainly turns a relatively easy endeavor into something more ambitious, but I thought I’d mention it for those of you who are up for a more extensive challenge. That doesn’t phase you? There are also examples of ghee made from water buffalo milk, and sheep’s milk. I’m not sure I could cite a goat’s milk example, but I’m sure that exists as well. A cook I spoke with in Rajasthan told me ghee tastes different in India, in part, because they use butter that has been cultured before proceeding, also the diet of the livestock there varies, and in turn the milk reflects this. Cultured butter is relatively easy to come by, so you can experiment with cultured vs. uncultured if you like.

Beautiful Ghee in a Jar

Other Uses for Ghee

Although I’ve made it a practice to prepare homemade ghee for some time now, I feel like there is so much I don’t know about its culture, ceremonial use, historical relevance, or simply the way it has been used in daily life. I know it is used to treat infection, to anoint gods and idols, and to power lamps that are thought to ward off evil and negativity. I’m sure there is much insight you can share from your own lives and experiences, and I’d love to hear whatever you’re compelled to share! -h

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Steaming Vegetables

A reminder of what a great cooking technique steaming vegetables is. Fast and flexible for the win.

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Steaming vegetables is an underutilized cooking technique in my kitchen. After my last trip to Japan, I pledged to remedy the issue. This simple, direct method of cooking is one of the reasons I love eating in Japan. I mean, let’s be honest, I probably like steamed vegetables more than most, but I enjoy them exponentially more there. Somehow, many of the things I love about traveling there are summed up in this simple preparation.
Steaming Vegetables - assortment of colorful vegetables
I’d often receive a sampling of seasonal produce as part of a combination lunch. The vegetables arrived at the table beautifully arranged in the bamboo basket they were steamed in. I’d work my way through a rainbow of vibrant, tender potatoes, squash, mushrooms, broccoli rabe, and the like, sometimes adding a pinch of zesty shichimi togarashi, but more often than not, a casual toss of a few grains of salt would be all. Each meal was a vibrant, satisfying reminder of just how good vegetables can be when prepared simply with care and intent. Their natural flavors coming through direct and perfect.

Break out the Steamer!

After this past trip, my inexpensive, tri-level bamboo steamer was promptly dusted upon my arrival home, and put into proper rotation. The thing that never ceases to surprise me is the speed even the most hearty chunks of root vegetables or squash become tender – ten minutes, often less.Bamboo Steamer

Choosing a Steamer

Bamboo steamers are easy to come by, and relatively inexpensive. Go this route if you aren’t sure how often you’ll use your steamer. The one downside is they take up a good amount of storage space, not much more than a big pot, but still. These steamers are available in a range of diameters, and are made of interlocking trays intended for stacking on atop of the other. Placed above simmering water, the steam from the water rises through the trays and cooks the food. It’s a simple premise that works astoundingly well. I use three trays, but you can certainly go up or down a level.
Steaming Vegetables in Bamboo Steamer
I eventually graduated to a ceramic steamer, and also picked up this Mushi Nabe, donabe steamer. Both are nice because you can make a broth or curry in the base, and then use steam the ingredients up above at the same time. Any of the steamers make a nice jump from cooking to table. If you want to expand beyond steaming vegetables, you can also steam everything from dumplings and tofu to eggs, tamales and certain rices.

Colorful Vegetables in a Bamboo Steamer Basket

Some Tips on Steaming Vegetables:

  • While steaming with water is most common, I’ve also played around using miso broth, vegetable broth, vegetable dashi, or tea in place of water. Each imparts a different scent and flavor to the vegetables. More times than not though, I use water.
  • Arrange your slowest cooking vegetables in the bottom basket, working up to the quickest. Another time saver is to get your densest, slowest cooking vegetables started in in the bottom tray, while you prep the quicker cooking vegetables for the mid and top baskets. Place the lid on whatever basket is on top at the time.
  • Some people line their steamers with cabbage leaves or parchment. I don’t bother, placing the vegetables directly on the steamer instead. I like how it seems to keep the steam circulating. A quick scrub with hot water and the rough side of a sponge makes clean-up simple.
  • When using the bamboo steamer, you can use a wok (steamer sits above the simmering water) or wide skillet (I set the steamer directly in a shallow skillet of simmering water)…A wok is more traditional, and easier on your steamer, but both techniques work well.

Plate of Assorted Vegetables to be Steamed

So, less of a recipe, and more of a reminder today of how good the most basic preparations can be. A few years after I initially posted this, I did another deeper dive into Using your Underutilized Steamer. Have fun! -h

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Homemade Bouillon

You can absolutely make homemade bouillon. Use it in all sorts of soups, stews, and noodle bowls. It’s so much better than any canned broth I’ve tasted.

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You can absolutely make homemade bouillon. And I know you can thanks to Pam Corbin. Pam wrote the lovely River Cottage Preserves Handbook.* In the very back of this exquisite little book, long past the rhubarb relish, and well beyond the piccalilli and winter fruit compote, she proposes a simple idea: make your own bouillon. I’m not sure why this never occurred to me, but until I reached page 207, it hadn’t. She outlines a list of ingredients that are pureed into a concentrated paste of vegetables and herbs, preserved with salt. I’ve been cooking with a version of it all week, and it is infinitely better than any canned vegetable stock I’ve tasted. And the best part about it? You can build on the general idea and tweak it based on what is in season and my own personal preferences – which is what I did.
Homemade Bouillon

What is Bouillon?

Technically, a bouillon cube is a dehydrated cube or powder used to create an instant vegetable stock. Pam calls her version “souper mix”….but you use it in a way similar to bouillon cubes. It is used to make quick, flavorful broth. For example, when cooking soups, risottos, curries, whatever really. Homemade Bouillon

A Few Tips

The main thing? Keep in mind bouillon is quite salty and very concentrated. I mention in the recipe I’ve been using 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of water/liquid to start. You can adjust from there based on what you’re making and personal preference. And as far as variations go, this first batch was made primarily with ingredients from my refrigerator, but I’m really excited to try other versions using different herbs and ratios of the base ingredients. In fact, if you have any suggestions or ideas give a shout in the comments – I’d love to hear them!

More Bouillon Variations

A number of your variations caught my attention, so I thought I’d highlight a couple here. Love these!

  • Karen “tried a variation with local ingredients: carrot, long onion (like a leek), daikon radish, japanese wild parsley, salt, and 7 pepper blend. added a bit of soy sauce for more salt and flavor, too. then i used it to make red lentil soup. WOW! the soup never tasted so good!!!”
  • Dominican Foodie liked the texture of the version she made noting, “I made a couple of changes to your recipe. I doubled the ingredients (except salt and tomatoes) Added extra garlic and white onions, juiced the first half (set aside), tossed the second half in olive oil and roasted for two hours, then tossed everything into a large deep pot, added bay leaves and simmered until liquid was reduced by half. Took out bay leaves, stuck an immersion blender in the pot and smoothed everything out into a paste. Perfection!”

*The U.S. edition of the River Cottage Preserves Handbook is now available.

There is a whole directory of great soup recipes where you can put your bouillon to use!

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How to Dry Herbs

Some of the things I’ve learned about how to dry herbs in the spring and summer. I love seeking out unusual varietals like caraway thyme, pineapple sage, fresh coriander. At the market, some will appear for a week or two, then aren’t seen again for another year.

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This is the time of year I find myself drying herbs. In part, it’s because I tend to come across special, unusual varietals in the spring and late into summer – caraway thyme, pineapple sage, fresh coriander. Some will appear for a week or two, then aren’t seen again for another year. Other times, it is the herb flowers that get me – I like to use them throughout the year, and the one way to guarantee a supply is to dry them. It couldn’t be simpler, so I thought I’d share my method for those of you who may have missed it the last time I wrote about it.

How to dry herbs

Group Herbs into Small Bunches

I tend to group any herbs I’m going to dry into small bunches. Leaves are stripped from the bottom few inches of each stem, and a bit of twine secures each bundle. A push pin or strip of washi tape is typically enough to secure the herbs anywhere high and dry – walls, bookcases, fireplace mantles, cabinet knobs, and the like are all fair game around here.

How to dry herbs
A Pro-tip

Leave a few inches of extra string when you tie the herbs to dry them. The stems will become dehydrated, and lose a bit of volume. The extra string will allow you to re-tie the herbs more snuggly if needed without starting over. Kelly left a comment below that caught my attention, “I use rubber bands (recycled from foods like asparagus or carrots that come banded together) instead of twine. That was the rubber band contracts as the herbs dry and i don’t have to adjust the twine or clean herbs off the floor!” I haven’t tested it yet, but it sounds like a winner.

How to dry herbsHow to dry herbs
To dry chive flowers, you’ll want to trim them from their stems and place on a flat surface for a week or so. Toss every couple of days so that all sides are exposed to air.How to dry herbs

How to Store Dried Herbs

Be sure your herbs are completely dried before transferring them to a sealed container. Any moisture can result in mold. Store in a cool dark place. Also, after a few days of drying, your herb bundles will contract a bit from dehydration. Per the tip above, you may need to tighten the twine a bit.

Let me know if you have favorite herbs I should try to seek out. I love the offbeat, slightly unexpected thymes, sages, and lavenders. I’m sure there there are others I should know about as well!

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Spoon Butter

A spoon butter that doesn’t use mineral oil as an ingredient. It will keep your cutting boards, wooden spoons, and wood-handled knives in good shape.

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I have a good number of wood cutting boards, wood-handled knives, and wooden spoons in my kitchen, as I’m sure most of you do. One of the things that bothers me most about caring for them is nearly all the products related to this task are mineral oil based. For example, spoon butter. It’s typically a blend of beeswax and mineral oil. You rub it into cutting boards and spoons to moisturize them, prevent cracking, and repel water. The wood soaks it up beautifully. I’ve been thinking, for years, that there must be an alternative to the mineral oil based spoon butter. It’s a by-product of petroleum production, and not something I want to ingest.
Beeswax to Use in Spoon ButterBeeswax to use in Spoon Butter

Thinking Through an Alternative

So, the way spoon butter works is quite simple. You rub it all over your wood-based spoons, handles, tools, and food preparation surfaces as a moisturizer and conditioner of sorts. Figuring out an alternative solution is a bit tricky. You need something to cut the beeswax, which is solid, snappy, and dense. Mineral oil brings a fluidity to the blend, and it allows you to slather. Swapping in another oil is the logical thing to do, but it’s not that simple because a lot of those oils go rancid quickly. Lately, I’ve been making a spoon butter with a blend of organic beeswax and extra-virgin coconut oil, and I like it! The coconut oil is quite stable, and won’t go bad quickly, and the wood laps it up. A coconut scent lingers, just a hint – actually quite nice.How to Make Spoon Butter

Buying Beeswax

You can typically buy beeswax in bars, or little pearls. The pearls are great because they melt quickly. The bars (above) are rough to cut. I typically cut partially through, and then snap a break on the cut line. That seems to be easiest.
How to Make Spoon ButterSpoon Butter

Before & After Spoon Butter

Here’s the before and after – parched spoons on top. And then below, just a few minutes later, after applying the spoon butter. Because, like beeswax, coconut oil is solid at room temperature, getting the ratio of oil to beeswax right is important. If you have too much beeswax, it’s impossible to get the spoon butter out of the jar. Coconut oil melts at 76F degrees, so with a high ratio of it, you scoop a chunk onto the surface your working on, and it quickly becomes spreadable.

Alternative Ideas: Let me know if you have other ideas on this topic – I’m all ears. A friend, who makes beautiful all-natural body products recommended I try broccoli seed oil. And as I was poking around, I noticed watermelon seed oil as well. Also, a number of people in the comments have enthusiastic suggestions, including a number for walnut oil. In the meantime, I’m pretty happy with this version & hope some of you give it a try! xo -h

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A Few Words on How to Cook Artichokes

A primer on how to cook artichokes, particularly the baby ones. A lot of people are intimidated by the process, or they think it’s not worth the effort. But with a little patience, salt, and fat – you can absolutely cook some of the best artichokes of your life.

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This is a primer on how to cook artichokes – if you’re going to invest the time into cooking artichokes, you want them to be fantastic. Spring is the time I tend to cook them once or twice a week. And, although the process takes time and attention, I can’t help myself. When artichokes are good, there are few things I’d rather be eating. 
How to Cook Artichokes
Straight up, I think a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of cooking artichokes, or they think it’s not worth the effort. My friends confirm this. The topic has come up a few times lately, and the conversations are typically punctuated by a confession that they never cook artichokes at home.
How to Cook Artichokes
So(!) I thought I’d do a quick outline of how I handle these armored spring ambassadors. Eight times out of ten I use the cooking method I’m going to outlined in the recipe section below. It requires nothing more than good (baby) artichokes, olive oil or clarified butter, and sea salt. If you can pair those ingredients, with a bit of practice, a hint of patience, and a window of time, you can absolutely cook some of the best artichokes. Not kidding. Once you hit your groove with these wondrous thistles, few of you will look back.

A Case for Cooking Artichokes

Nutritionists celebrate artichokes for a long list of reasons. They’re packed with fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, and have long been known to support the liver. They don’t get as much of the limelight as other ingredients – for example pomegranate, turmeric, acai, etc. – but they bring quite a lot to the table. It’s worth incorporating them into your meals, particularly when they’re in season.
How to Cook Artichokes

A Worthwhile Shortcut

Update(!): I recently discovered frozen bags of artichokes at a local Trader Joes, and started experimenting to see if using them would be a worthwhile substitute to using fresh artichokes. At the very least, this could be a way to extend artichoke season. I don’t love canned or jarred artichokes, and it turns out, the frozen option is pretty great. You can cook them in a covered skillet in a bit of olive oil, straight from the freezer, until they’re cooked through, and then remove the cover and dial up the heat to get some nice, golden color on them. Season and serve. So good!
How to Cook Artichokes
How to Cook Artichokes

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