Show Some Love

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Come early November I start cleaning out my freezer. No more cooking big batches of chili and freezing the leftovers. No more buying pork tenderloins on sale and stashing them for later or roasting a chicken then making and freezing the stock. I plan menus around what I already have frozen.

It’s not about a clean slate for a new year. It’s about making room for my holiday bake-fest.

Come December each year I bake scores of batches of cookies and holiday cakes to bring to parties and give as gifts; if I don’t bake ahead and freeze some I’d never keep up. I didn’t have to do that this time around. No parties to attend. Most of my gift exchanges suspended. …


In Praise of a Classic

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By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

The sight of a deviled egg transports me to the backyard barbecues of my childhood. This could be any barbecue on any occasion in any year, because whenever my dad put match to charcoal it meant just one thing: hamburgers and hot dogs, accompanied by baked beans and macaroni salad. Potato chips and deviled eggs were our appetizers.

It took me a while to try my mom’s deviled eggs because they had mayonnaise in them, and if you know anything about my history with food, you know that the list of things I would not eat when I was little is longer than Trump’s tax return. …


Ghee 101: The Basics

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I just made my first batch of ghee.

To those who aren’t quite sure what ghee is, which would have included me not too long ago, it’s butter without milk solids (whey). When you remove the whey you also remove water, so ghee has a higher smoke point than butter and most oils. Removing the whey also makes it lactose-free. You can spread it like butter and use it like you use oil.

You make ghee by heating unsalted butter for about twenty minutes or thereabouts. Some of the whey will foam on the surface, and you skim it off; some will eventually sink to the bottom of the pot and become browned. You then strain the liquified butter, leaving out the browned remains from the bottom of the pot. …


AN ANCIENT GRAIN THAT’S GOOD FOR YOU, GOOD FOR THE EARTH

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To eat breakfast or not to eat breakfast.

Sure you’ll grab a bite at some point in the day, but what’s best: breaking your fast with a hearty meal or maybe a piece of avocado toast or a banana? And when should you eat it: soon after rising, or later in the day so you can restrict your calorie consumption to, say, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.? Should you eat three meals a day or just two? Or maybe five small ones?

These kinds of questions make my head hurt.

Nevertheless, I’ve come to some decisions. I’m concentrating my eating to an eight-to-ten-hour span to allow my body more time to digest and burn fat. Pandemic restrictions make that easier to do: Fewer options to consider, like meeting friends at a restaurant. …


Feed Yourself, Body and Soul

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Don’t you find that there are nights when you don’t feel like cooking? When you just don’t want to make the time--even when you are home for days on end in the midst of a pandemic? Sometimes cooking is a chore for everyone, including those who usually enjoy it.

That goes double for many city dwellers, whose kitchens are so often small and utilitarian. Your average New York City kitchen isn’t necessarily very relaxing; most feel more like workstations. …


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I’m not what you would call a vegetable lover.

It’s not that I don’t like veggies. I do. But build my entire diet around them? That’s a stretch. Protein is a centerpiece of so many of my meals, starting with eggs for breakfast. Even when I reduce the size of the meat portion to just a fraction of the full dish, it still gets top billing. Protein is the star of the show.

On the other hand, I am persuaded by the ethics of vegetarianism and veganism, and I find the endless variety a vegan diet can offer truly inspiring. It’s just that I don’t like to eat a good many of the ingredients that constitute that variety. Mushrooms? Blech. Tofu? Hell, no. Kale? Cucumbers? Kelp? Uh-uh, nope, not for me. …


America’s Sweetheart

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By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

Just when I thought there was not one single thing most Americans could agree on I stumbled onto something.

It started when I told a friend I was trying out this new cake recipe, and she said, “When are you inviting me over?” Then I offered some of that said cake (made with butter and eggs) to a (mostly) vegan friend, and she ate a large piece with gusto. Next I brought half of the cake to a small pandemic-pod dinner party, and the next day my hosts texted me three times with their compliments. …


A DELICATELY FLAVORFUL SPICED CHICKEN WITH RICE

By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

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I’ve traveled quite a bit over the past six months. Senegal… Mexico… the Middle East… India… Peru. A heady array of encounters with other cultures — and I never left my kitchen.

My experience of these places has been through their cuisines. My guides were cookbooks published by the company I work for, Lake Isle Press.

I’ve been cooking a new recipe from one of our books at least once a week. Most of these books are written by immigrants or descendants of immigrants and are rooted in distinctive regional cuisines. The writers share their recipes along with the visceral connection to home these dishes hold for them. …


Time for Stew

By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

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I attempted my first beef stew some years ago. I vaguely recall that its salient features were chewy beef and disintegrating potatoes.

I never tried to make it again and that’s a shame, don’t you think? Whipping up a fortifying stew sounds pretty good to me right about now. There’s a long, isolated winter coming; I need all the fortifying I can get.

Stew awaits.

I’ve read that one of the secrets to making a good beef stew is patience. The meat cooks for hours, not minutes. It may seem counterintuitive to cook beef for a long time and expect it to become increasingly tender. Overcooked meat is supposed to be dry. …


A Fassoulia Odyssey

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By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

For years I held onto a green bean recipe that a colleague gave to me. I saved that scrap of paper before I ever created recipe files, and should have moved it into one of them, but I didn’t. I saved it through multiple waves of moving, decluttering, and re-organizing. I saved it for so long, I was surprised that I couldn’t find it when I looked for it today.

I had jotted it down when I was in Greece. The magazine I was working for at the time had sent me on a press tour of the Greek mainland. We visited olive groves and olive oil processing plants and learned about their products. I have a vivid memory of visiting a big warehouse that was empty except for one long table along a wall where ten hair-netted women were seated. They were sorting and stuffing big loose piles of olives with what I think were garlic cloves. They reminded me of Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory, but without the conveyor belt. …

About

Dara O'Brien

Dara O’Brien is the Creative Director of Lake Isle Press. When she isn’t cooking or writing about cookbooks, she writes plays and sometimes acts in them.

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