gluten-free

Hi everyone. It’s been a bit since I posted a recipe. Someone wrote me the other day and asked whether I had a Chicken Tagine recipe. I did (and do), and it reminded me that I have many tasty recipes that didn’t make the final cut into The Heritage Cookbook. So instead of letting them waste away in some random Google Doc, I’ll try my best to post a recipe here and there.

Things are fine. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. I thought that all this telework and social distancing would give me an opportunity to return to my more prolific days here on the blog, but I’ve found that since I’m sitting in front of a computer so much doing work-related tasks, I haven’t been interested in returning to my computer in the evenings. So perhaps once things eventually normalize I will get back to my old blogging routine, but for now, let’s just enjoy some Chicken Tagine and figure all that other stuff out later.

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Memorial Day is right around the corner. It’s often considered the first grilling weekend of the season across the United States, although it might feel a bit different this year without friends coming over. Either way, this recipe is tasty enough that it will hopefully compensate for the lack of Memorial Day parties we’ll all be attending in 2020.

While Tandoori Chicken recipes are found in my first two books, this beloved dish is making its blog debut today. It gets its name from the traditional clay oven found in South Asia, known as a tandoor in Hindi/Urdu. This dish as we know it today was likely developed in the 19th century, but evidence of similar grilled poultry dishes can be traced back to the Harappan Civilization, which existed in the Indus River Valley over 5,000 years ago. Given that most of these spices are native to the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, it’s no stretch to believe that these flavors have existed for thousands of years.

For this recipe, we’re going to go as economical as possible – we’ll break down a whole chicken and grill its individual parts. If that doesn’t seem to be up your alley, no worries, you can use any combination of chicken parts on their own (more details below the recipe). Bear in mind that bone-in chicken imparts the most flavor, and you’ll want to remove the skin so that you can get as much flavor into the meat as possible.

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Nearly seven years ago, I developed my recipe for Sukuma Wiki, a Kenyan braised collard greens and ground beef recipe, and it’s been a favorite ever since. I put it in my first book, The Ancestral Table, and it’s often the dish I point to in the book when someone asks where they should start cooking. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and uses very affordable ingredients — and tastes great, too.

When writing The Heritage Cookbook, I knew that I wanted to include this dish to represent Eastern African cookery, but wanted to go back to the drawing board in terms of honoring the traditional preparation of this dish. What I came up with is a flavor provide very similar to my original recipe, but meat-free, and with nice meaty hunks of tomatoes to replicate those missing chunks of ground beef. Red onion also mellowed out the dish some compared to a white or yellow onion, which helped to balance everything just right.

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Yesterday was my 40th birthday. I’ve spent many years thinking about this specific trip around the sun, and this milestone is important to me for several reasons. But perhaps most meaningfully, I clearly remember when my parents reached 40, and I felt that it was a significant time for each of them: a time to reflect on that transition from young-ish adult to middle age. It feels like by 40, most of your life’s decisions have lined up in a way that is relatively hard to break away from. And in that sense, I’m proud of the direction my life has taken, and those who have shared this journey with me.

So to celebrate, I’m sharing one of my most celebratory recipes. This is the recipe I usually take to potlucks, parties, and other gatherings. I shared a down-and-dirty version of this dish about five years ago (which you can find here, along with some history of the dish). I’ve made some fundamental changes over the years, and I’m positive that this is the definitive version. To give you some context: for Christmas this past year, I vaccuum-sealed, froze, and gifted this dish to my close friends and co-workers. If I was to ever open a restaurant, this dish would not only be on the menu, but it’d have an asterix by its title to indicate that it’s something special, something worth pausing and enjoying.

The dish requires a good amount of preparation up front: the day before you make it, you’ll want to make your stock, prep the meats, and chop the vegetables. That way, you can whip up the rest in the morning with minimal effort. Don’t let the planning intimidate you–it’s worth the effort.

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The signature flavor of Aji de Gallina (“hen chili”) comes from aji amarillo peppers (Capsicum baccatum), which are prevalent in Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine. Fiercely spicy and naturally yellow, this pepper is eaten fresh (or in paste form) in Peru, like in today’s recipe, but they are often dried in Bolivia. Aji amarillo pastes can be found online or in your local Latin grocery, but can also be (somewhat) replicated using more conventional ingredients (more on that in the notes below).

This dish uses a unique mixture of New World and Old World ingredients. The aji amarillo paste and potatoes are native to the Americas, while the others — chicken, walnuts (to thicken the sauce), olives, milk, and parmesan cheese are all Old World staples introduced after the 15th century.

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Does butter really make everything better? I think so. Julia Child also once said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” This week’s recipe proves her right.

Often, I will buy a small head of cabbage at the grocery store, with no concrete plans for it. They’re just so dang cheap, and they keep in the vegetable bin for a long time. Typically I will just sauté the cabbage in some butter, seasoned plainly with salt and pepper (a splash of apple cider vinegar also adds a bit of depth). But when I’m feeling very fancy, I’ll throw in some complementary flavors, like in this recipe, which includes radish and woodsy mushrooms. The trick is to pull the cabbage from the heat right as it starts to soften, or maybe a bit before — it’s always better to be undercooked than overcooked.

Other uses for cabbage:
Fårikål (Norwegian Lamb and Cabbage Stew)
Roasted Cabbage Steaks
Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad
Lazy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Pressure-Cooked Corned Beef and Cabbage

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To me, cold-smoked salmon (that is, the salmon you often find thinly sliced at your local market) is a relatively recent phenomenon. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and firm, meaty, hot-smoked salmon was the only type of smoked fish I had ever experienced until moving away about 20 years ago. Hot-smoked salmon is typically cooked through, and has a flaky texture compared to the soft cold-smoked salmon that most people know.

Traditionally, the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest would smoke their salmon for an extended period, up to two weeks. This staple food would keep indefinitely at room temperature, and had a texture like jerky. You can still find this salmon around, but thanks to refrigeration, many smokehouses in the PNW have adopted a hot smoke method to save time and create a more delicate (albeit perishable) product. My Dad often makes smoked salmon in his little chimney smoker, modeled after this more modern method, and he also sends it to me most years as a Christmas gift. Today I’m sharing a recipe that is similar to his.

There are a few tricks associated with my recipe. First, we’re going to coat the salmon in a dry, sweet-and-salty cure, which will liquefy as the fish marinates for a couple of hours. We’ll then use the liquefied cure to brush onto the salmon as it finishes smoking. This allows us to cure and glaze the salmon with the same concoction, minimizing waste. Additionally, we’ll dry out the salmon before putting it in the smoker, which will form a pellicle (protein coating) that allows more smoke to stick to the fish, resulting in better flavor.

One note: lox and gravlax are often confused with cold-smoked salmon, but they are cured in salt, sugar, and dill, with no smoke added.

For this recipe, I used salmon from my friends at ButcherBox. Their sockeye salmon (a recent addition to their staple offerings of high quality beef, chicken and pork) is wild-caught and sustainable–you can read more about it here. As a bonus, this week they are offering a sweet “Wings for Life” deal with any new signup (which means you’ll get 3 lbs of chicken wings in every box for free, for the lifetime of your subscription). We took advantage of this offer a few years ago and every time the wings arrive in our box I feel like I’m winning the lottery. Check out the promotion here to sign up, but don’t delay, as the offer expires on 2/3/2020 (or while supplies last).

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This dish is from Liguria, the coastal region in northwest Italy. This area is known for its abundant pine nuts, which make an appearance in this dish (fun fact: pesto, which relies heavily on pine nuts, is also from this region). Liguria also borders with the eastern side of France, and this dish shares French culinary staple — namely slow-braised meat in a wine sauce.

Cooking with rabbit can be intimidating to Westerners, but it’s actually quite simple. Just think of it like an oddly-shaped chicken, that’s made with all white meat. The hardest part is finding a whole rabbit, which you can often find at specialty butchers or Asian markets. They’re also available online, and my friends at US Wellness Meats regularly carry whole rabbits — just throw it in your box the next time you get an order of their incredible 75% lean grass-fed ground beef.

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Everybody loves Pupusas. These corn cakes can be found in most cities across the US today, at locations known as Pupuserías. They’re one of the best street foods around, warming the belly with its signature combination of hearty corn/beans/cheese, tangy Curtido slaw, and spicy tomato salsa.

The story of this dish is surprisingly complex. Pupusas were first developed in El Salvador or Honduras as far back as 2,000 years ago, and traditionally stuffed with squash blossoms or herbs. The introduction of Old World foods (mainly beef, chicken, and dairy) resulted in more elaborate preparations of this humble dish. By the mid 20th century, pupusas had spread throughout El Salvador and neighboring Honduras and Guatemala. When civil war in the 1980s displaced huge portions of the population, many Salvadorans relocated to the US, and pupusas followed.

The type of corn flour used to make this dish is masa harina — ground nixtamalized corn. This is the same process that creates hominy, and masa harina can be used to make tamales, tortillas, and gorditas. Bear in mind that this is not the same as cornmeal, which is ground dried maize (i.e. hasn’t undergone the nixtamalization process) — cornmeal is what you would use to make cornbread or fried fish. Finally, masa harina is often confused with masarepa, which is the pre-cooked cornmeal that is used in making Arepas.

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Shrimp recipes generally fall into one of two categories: dead simple and fast, or elaborate and slow (with the shrimp thrown in at the end). This dish falls into both categories – you can whip it up in just a few minutes, or you could marinate it up to overnight for more flavor. Sky’s the limit. Not to be undone, there are also two variations of this dish you can prepare (Camarones a la Criollo and Mexican-style Camarones al Ajillo) if you’re up for the challenge — both variations add even more fun to this weeknight dish.

Clarified butter (or its toastier-tasting cousin, ghee) will allow you to cook the shrimp at a high heat without burning the butter. To make clarified butter, warm 3 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan over low heat for 15 minutes, skimming off any milk solids that accumulate at the surface. Alternatively, combine 2 tbsp butter with 1 tbsp olive oil to increase the butter’s smoke point.

Some of my other favorite shrimp recipes:
Bobó de Camarão (Brazilian Shrimp Stew)
Carolina Shrimp Bog
Bam Bam Shrimp
New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp
Pad Priew Wan Goong (Thai Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry with Shrimp)
Hawaii-Style Garlic Shrimp

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