Breakaway Cook

Commonwealth Club Talk, November 30

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And a quick reminder: I’m VERY excited about my upcoming talk at the Commonwealth Club in SF, next Tuesday (November 30). Details on the event are here. I’m going to be talking all about the elusive concept of authenticity, and about how important it is to be a beginner in cooking. Many of us have cooked for decades, and have quite fixed opinions  on our likes and dislikes, and have largely closed our minds to new taste experiences. We’re going to do some blind tasting, too. It’s limited to 40 people — I’m not sure how many have sold so far, but if there are any seats left and you can be in downtown SF that day at 5:30 pm, please try to make it — it will be a talk unlike any I’ve given before. Hope to see you there!

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The Global Thanksgiving

Hard to believe Thanksgiving is here in a few days. I haven’t given it much thought this year, but for anyone tempted to do a country-themed one, here are a few ideas that might be intriguing:

  • Italian: brined turkey, stuffed with hazelnuts, grappa-laced dried apricots, sweet Italian sausages, and fennel. Serve it with a raw Tuscan kale salad, a sweet potato quiche made with La Tur and plenty of egg, Pumpkin panna cotta, persimmon ice cream.
  • Indian: spatchcocked turkey rubbed hard with fennel seed, turmeric, coriander, and fenugreek, baked alongside a ghee-laced dish of spinach, diced potatoes cooked with mustard seeds
  • Middle Eastern: marinate turkey in pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, and walnut oil, and stuff it with couscous flecked with dates and pistachios. Serve with tahini-infused mashed potatoes with sumac on top, along with some green beans wokked with harissa.
  • Japanese: yuzu and miso under the skin of the turkey, stuff with yet more fresh yuzu, mashed sweet potatoes with baby ginger and yogurt, a huge salad  with umeboshi dressing.

I suspect that the number of families that would go along for such a ride is exceeding small, but if you live with such a family, consider yourself very lucky!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone — be sure to let us know what breakaway dishes you came up with.

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Three-minute Supersalad: Salmon, Edamame, Avocado, and Pomegranate

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Sometimes it seems like cooking is really all about BEING READY to cook. To me, that means having stuff around — not only the basics like yogurt, pasta, eggs, oils, rice, etc., but also stuff that’s just ready to eat. I put cooked edamame in this category —  I try to have a tupperware full of edamame in the fridge at all times so that I don’t have to bother with the five-minute task of actually boiling them (an arduous task, I know) when I’m feeling superlazy or just don’t have time to do even that.

When they’re in season, as they are now, fresh pomegranates fill this bill as well.  When I’m in cooking mode I’ll split open a few and gently pluck the seeds out, put them in a bowl and into the fridge, where they’ll live, waiting for my inspiration. Roasted chicken and salmon, too, are favorites in a well-stocked fridge, and I always have a supply of avocados.

Cooking sessions at my house often involve cooking that’s not directly related to the dishes I’m preparing. Meaning: once I’ve got the dishes I’m making on any given evening underway, I’ll often use the “passive” time involved in cooking (waiting for something to roast, bake, braise, whatever) to restock the fridge for those days when I know it’s unlikely I’ll be cooking much. So I’ll boil some edamame, prep some poms, shred some cabbage, make some quick pickles, make some syrups for bubbly water, make some garlic confit, salad dressing, stock,  or flavored salts. Or refill my spice jars. Or make some food for Daphne. There’s always something that can be done to make cooking a little easier FOR THE NEXT TIME.

So this simple salad is presented in that spirit. It’s just pieces of salmon, combined with cooked edamame, pomegranate arils, and avocado, lightly dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, pom vinegar, and citrus salt. It was made in well under three minutes, simply by reaching in and grabbing stuff that I had previously taken the trouble to prep and have on hand. So much good, wholesome food can be made this way, in far less time than it takes to get take-out, or, for that matter, to order in.

So is this wonderful meal considered “cooking?” Who knows/cares? It’s a fantastic supper, bursting with flavor and health. AND I had the whole evening to read a book and watch a movie!

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