Thursday, December 18, 2014

Brooke Dojny: Lobster Pasta for Christmas Eve Supper

The author of Lobster! reflects on the evolution of tradition and the roots that still anchor her family’s holiday meal.

Lobster pasta with tomato-caper cream sauce
Photo © Sabra Crock, from Lobster!
My husband’s Polish-American history runs along the same lines as that of many immigrant families. When all four of his grandparents arrived from “the Old Country” to work in mills and factories in New England, they spoke no English and had no knowledge of American culture and customs, so they cooked what they knew and continued to observe holidays as they had in Poland. Their children, on the other hand, became ardent Americans, embracing everything that was new and shedding most of the Old World traditions.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Carleen Madigan: The Quest for the Perfect Panettone

When making your own panettone, it helps to enlist Cooking with Fire author Paula Marcoux.

Spotted everywhere: Panettone!
Since the first time I tasted it, I’ve been obsessed with our local bakery’s panettone, a traditional Italian Christmas bread. Unlike the dry, crumbly imported versions that are stacked like bricks in the aisles of gourmet groceries every December, this panettone was light, flaky, and delicious. 

In an effort to replicate it, I searched online for “authentic Italian panettone” recipes. I came across a video on Martha Stewart’s website, with a real live Italian pastry chef making panettone from a traditional recipe. Bingo! Except...the starter (creatively made from ground-up apples) must be fed every four hours for a solid month. Seriously, Martha?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Colin McCrate: Growing a Farm on the Fringe

Help become a “barnraiser” for the sustainable food movement.

When they’re not busy working on their forthcoming Storey book about how to get the most production out of your vegetable garden (to be published next year), Colin McCrate and Brad Halm are busy running Seattle Urban Farm Company (SUFCo). This year, the SUFCo team’s vision for a thriving world of sustainable urban food production grew to include a 4-acre farm at the city’s edge. Colin McCrate writes about what comes next.
Colin McCrate
When you’re a small-scale vegetable grower, most of your time and energy is spent planning for and tending to your crops. Daily tasks include planting seeds, tending the greenhouse, setting out transplants, irrigating, weeding, and scouting for pests — to say nothing of harvest season. In the midst of this overwhelming scope of work, finding opportunities to communicate with the outside world can be tough. That’s not to say we wouldn’t like to be in touch. I think most growers would agree that sharing their experiences and knowledge with their communities could help tremendously in the effort to change our culture’s perception of farmers and increase awareness of and appreciation for the work they do.

Friday, December 12, 2014

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Curd (and More)

Editor Carleen Madigan demonstrates the art of making the most of what you’ve got.

Candied lemon peel and lemon curd make great holiday gifts or ingredients for winter treats.
While we’re on the subject of citrus, let it be said that birthday parties at Storey are pretty great. It’s not unusual for food and drink offerings to include at least one homemade item from the bevy of talented cooks, bakers, and beverage-makers that work here.

Last week, for example, a few of us gathered on a dreary, wintery day around a Weck jar filled with sunny lemon curd, straight from the home kitchen of editor Carleen Madigan. As we peppered her with questions about her process, she revealed that she’d put every part of her lemons to use as she made her curd — candying the peel, which she plans to use in her holiday panettone (more on that later), and saving the lemony simple syrup from the candying process. Of course, to my mind, it all seemed like the perfect winter blog post: how to make the most of a bag of lemons.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Recipe for Shot of Citrus Punch

Before you hit those long holiday shopping lines, take a shot!

A delicious, good-for-you way to use up that winter citrus
As a kid, I loathed pulp in my orange juice. Whether store-bought or fresh from my Florida grandmother’s juicer, my juice had first to be poured through a fine-mesh sieve so that those little chewy bits that interfered (I believed) with juice’s drinkability never touched my lips.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dora Ohrenstein: Choosing Yarns for Crochet

Taking crochet beyond worsted weight and acrylic yarns will change how you think about the craft’s possibilities.

Mohair yarn
Photo © John Polak, from The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workshop
Many crocheters limit themselves to certain weights of yarn, such as worsted or bulky, and certain fibers, such as superwash wool or acrylic. But the fact is that crocheting with a wider range of fibers and yarn weights will greatly expand the quality and variety of the projects you can make.

Most of the stitch patterns today’s crocheters know and love derive from the nineteenth century, when crochet as we know it came into being. Nineteenth-century needle hobbyists enjoyed not only crochet, but tatting, knitting, and embroidery. They generally used very fine threads, thinner than anything manufactured today. During this period, intricate laces were very much in fashion, and the crochet hook turned out to be an excellent vehicle for making lace. From the middle of that century to its end, the growing popularity of crochet demanded more designs and publishers of patterns, resulting in a gradual accumulation and dissemination of literally thousands of stitch patterns, techniques, motifs, edgings, and designs. This is the vocabulary of crochet handed down by our Victorian ancestors.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Andrew Schloss: A Recipe for Cacao Ancho Liqueur (and the Margarita That Demands It)

One beverage author makes sweet-spicy holiday amends.

Ancho chile and cacao nibs mingle with vodka in this infused liqueur.
I can’t believe I missed it, but in the 200 recipes in my Homemade Liqueurs tome I neglected the obvious: the essential pairing of chiles and chocolate. What was I thinking? I had a dozen or more liqueur recipes for the two ingredients separately, but nary a one that made the kick-ass connection. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity this holiday season to introduce you to my new drinking buddy: Cacao Ancho Liqueur.

Patrick Dawson: Barley Wine for the Beer Geek

Give a gift that gets better with age.

© Lightbox Images Photography, image by Thomas Cooper, from Vintage Beer
I’ve been told I’m not an easy person to buy a gift for. Given my obsession with beer (drinking it, sure, but also researching it, brewing it, chasing around town for it), it should be easy, right? Just buy me an interesting six-pack, I say. But apparently I’ve given folks the impression that I’m a bit particular, and they have a little trepidation about buying me beer. D'oh, foot shot.

To make amends, and to aid my fellow beer geeks, I’m here to help.

Lew Bryson: A Tricky Tray for the Whiskey Drinker

Create a well-crafted gift for grown-ups, even when “crafting” isn’t your thing.

Photo © AA World Travel Library/Alamy, from Tasting Whiskey
When our kids were in elementary school, there were constant fund-raisers: pizza sales, wreath sales, fruit sales, and the dreaded “Tricky Tray.” The school would send home a Styrofoam lunch tray with instructions to build a themed assortment of donated stuff that “fit” on the tray and could be sold: movie passes, crafts, or edible gifts. I’m a word guy: my trays always looked like a 5-year-old had assembled them in the back of a moving dump truck. I hated that event.

I’m great when motivated, though. The next time you have a holiday party to attend and need a gift for your host, here’s how to design a “Drink Up!” Tricky Tray that could also revolutionize school fund-raising.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gwen Steege: Roasted Ginger Pumpkin-Pear Soup

A pumpkin soup sweetened with pear and spiced with fresh ginger is the perfect warm-up for chilly days.

Roasted Ginger Pumpkin-Pear Soup
I love all those richly orange winter squashes, but I hate the idea of trying to pare them. Attacking a whole pumpkin, or even a butternut squash, has always been something I go to lengths to avoid. But recently I discovered two easy ways to wrangle the sweet meat out of two of my favorite fall vegetables.

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