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. …


Yellow Lentils with Turmeric and Ginger

By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

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For many of us, comfort foods have meaningful childhood associations — perhaps it was grandma’s special Sunday dinner, or dad made it for you when you were sick.

I don’t really have many comfort foods I can trace to my youth. Because I was a finicky eater as a kid, there wasn’t much I was willing to consume — and what I did eat was pretty tasteless. I got past those limitations, which means that nowadays I don’t eat much of l what I ate growing up. …


Lomo Saltado: Soy Stir-Fried Beef with Rice

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By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

After reading Jose Garces’s introduction to his recipe for the Peruvian dish Lomo Saltado I immediately wanted to make it. By that I mean I wanted to eat it. So I had to make it.

I found the recipe in Jose’s book, “The Latin Road Home” published by Lake Isle Press, in which he explores the five Latin food traditions that have influenced him as a chef. In his section on Peruvian food you’ll find his recipe for Lomo Saltado, which he calls one of his family’s favorite “meat and potatoes” dinners. …


SUMMER’S BOUNTY AND OTHER FLEETING JOYS

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For me, corn on the cob has always been one of the hallmarks of summer. I grew up in New Jersey, and overflowing piles of pale green husks would debut at farm stands in August and continue into September, serving as both a reward of the season and a sign of its end.

Now September is almost gone, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to fresh corn, or summer’s bounties, just yet. This year I intend to keep the season going for as long as I can.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fall. Especially in New York City, where I now live. The crispness of the air, that first scent from someone’s fireplace wafting past me as I walk down the street, the vibrant colors of the trees in the parks and across the Hudson along the Palisades. I even like pumpkins. Fall is my favorite season. But that doesn’t make it any easier to leave summer behind. …


Simply Delicious: with Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamom Pods, Cumin, and Mustard Seeds.

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For most of my life, my first impulse when sitting down to a meal was to reach for the salt.

Now I’m shaking my salt habit. Holding back my reflexive reach for the saltshaker is a good place to start. But I’ve also been exploring recipes from various ethnic traditions—including West African, Indian, Syrian, and Latin American—that teach me how to build flavor in other ways.

That’s sent me on some scouting expeditions for ingredients that are off the beaten path, like Scotch bonnet peppers, cardamom pods, or pomegranate molasses. My recent trip to Dual Specialty, an Indian grocer in New York City’s East Village, was an eye-opener. So many foods and spices to explore-but because I was in a hurry, so little time. I had to stick to my list and go, but I could have spent a lot longer scoping out the place. Ashwagandha Powder? Blessed Thistle Herb Powder? Kudzu Root? …

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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