Leah Eskin writes the food column "Home on the Range" for the Tribune’s Sunday section.

She grew up baking chocolate-chip cookies in Iowa ...

Read full bio

Leah Eskin

Leah Eskin

Home on the Range

E-mail | Facebook | Twitter
Muffuletta: Engineering a sandwich

Muffuletta: Engineering a sandwich

April 11, 2014

My robot is old school: Wind him up and he lurches across the desk, orange tin arms swinging, red tin boots shuffling, black tin eyes deep in concentration. And though he makes excellent company, I'm glad I didn't invite him to the robotics competition. Frankly, things have changed.

  • Lesson from the master: Chicken soup

    April 4, 2014

    Chicken soup is de rigueur at Passover. And with Passover looming, I called Papa. His chicken soup is a lot like my chicken soup, only better.

  • Home on the range: Gaining authority

    March 28, 2014

    At library, which came before lunch on Wednesdays in second grade, we were encouraged to browse the stacks. There I found something shocking.

  • Salute spring with strawberry shortcake

    March 21, 2014

    Salutations, meant to welcome the reader, come in all kinds of dreary.

  • Grapefruit, squared

    March 14, 2014

    Grapefruit, love child of an orange/pomelo hookup, flaunts one parent's sunny nature and the other's thick-skinned, rotund ways. The hybrid is all sunny bright, easy-peel, sweet and sour cheer. That's how it rolls.

  • Salmon cakes recipe: a reminder of mom

    March 7, 2014

    Mom picked up on the first ring. She'd been thinking of me. She had just finished dinner and was thinking about sitting in my chair.

  • Compounding snow: Lemon slush recipe

    February 28, 2014

    Spring has its cliches: birdsong, budswell, blizzard.

  • Muffin genealogy

    February 22, 2014

    I grew up with the English muffin; I know its habits. It comes from the grocery store, lives in the fridge, and has a thing for the toaster. It's quirky: brown spotted, fork split, craggy faced. I didn't pry.

  • Stewing over cold weather

    February 19, 2014

    Cold demands remedy: itchy sweater, bright fire, steaming stew.

  • Stewing over cold weather with tangine

    February 14, 2014

    Cold demands remedy: itchy sweater, bright fire, steaming stew.

  • Grown-up pudding

    February 7, 2014

    Chocolate pudding is the sort of lunchbox snack that fails to wow. It's cute and sweet. Not, say, engrossing. Kids like its wiggle. Adults like its milk content. Faint praise.

  • Fennel is fine with a little love

    January 31, 2014

    Meh is having its moment, and it's about time. After all, it's February. The weather? Meh. The mood? Meh. Even the food, after the chocolates are gone, is lackluster. What thrives in February? Mittens. Which taste terrible.

  • Hands-free tomato sauce

    January 24, 2014

    Lately I've been leaving things on the stove, which turns out to be a terrible technique. Things on the stove like to be stirred and prodded and tasted. They like to be thickened and spiced and mashed. Frankly, they like attention.

  • Fried plantains are a sweet prescription for gray skies

    January 18, 2014

    My computer's been out of sorts, and though I figured it was the gray skies and icy weather, I made an appointment with the doctor. He took its pulse and temperature, tapped its knees and told me it was fine. The problem, he said, was me.

  • Odd orange salad: The thrill of the surreal

    January 10, 2014

    "Surreal means odd," I explained. Which left a lot unexplained. So I downloaded the paintings of Rene Magritte. Over odd orange salad, we studied the man in the bowler hat, brilliant green apple suspended before his face. We puzzled over the pipe that isn't a pipe. We watched the train chug out of the fireplace. "The precision of reality," I said, "the feeling of a dream." Noah nodded.

  • Click. Print. Eat.

    January 3, 2014

    In the future, the peckish will simply click "print." At least that's what scientists predict. NASA is cooking up a 3-D printer that will spit out a rotating selection of space food.

  • Long, long ago

    December 31, 2013

    My new boyfriend's parents were coming for the weekend, and I wanted to make a good impression.

  • Quick gift: Homemade caramel

    December 22, 2013

    The last minute comes around swiftly, smacking the inattentive. Should you find yourself startled by its arrival, ill-prepared and gift-free, fear not.

  • Well-kept cake

    December 18, 2013

    Jennifer was baking dobos torte, so I stopped by. My job wasn't to help or to coach. It was to egg on.

  • Peas in a pod

    December 11, 2013

    College beckons, so we went to look. There we were, standing on lower Broadway, in front of the school of the arts. We were so close to the rehearsal studios, the costume shop, the undergrads singing in the stairwells that I could see the future. I looked across the street, and saw the past.

  • Many hands, one goal

    December 4, 2013

    Everyone's busy working and studying and practicing and participating. What ever happened to wasting time? What happened to the dish designed to soak up hours?

  • Snow day and pancakes

    November 25, 2013

    Snow comes with winter the way the receipt comes with groceries. Routine. Except in Baltimore. There, snow comes with winter the way Godzilla comes with New York. Unexpected. Terrifying. Disastrous for traffic.

  • Passing the salad bar

    November 20, 2013

    Salad comes from sal, as in salt. Once, salad meant greens seasoned with salt. Which remains a good recipe. Rub salt into a heap of kale or red-leaf, and the result is greater than the sum of its parts.

  • The affable care act

    November 10, 2013

    Pie season approaches, and I've been designing an emergency pie clinic.

  • Frittering away a fall afternoon

    November 3, 2013

    Fritters fritter away so little time. Thirty minutes to prep. Two minutes to crisp. One to munch. Thirty-three minutes isn't frittering. That's practically staying on task.

  • Hominy's haunting appeal

    October 27, 2013

    The costume can turn the friendly fearsome. Consider spaghetti: Kind, plain and eager to please. Unless it's huddled in the dark, posing as the haunted-house bowl of brains. Then it's terrifying.

  • Updating the laws of physics and figs

    October 20, 2013

    The fig is familiar to every child in its elemental form: Newton. Not Newton, the physicist, who figured out that fruit + gravity = bonk. Newton, as in Newton, Mass., inspiration to a nearby cookie company.

  • Stockpiling flavors of fall for endurance

    October 13, 2013

    Marathon season has arrived and training is intense in my backyard. The competitors — squirrels — dash through their workouts. Run. Leap. Skitter. Flatten. Peer. Sprint.

  • Farro recipe delivers

    October 6, 2013

    Noah jumped off a mountain. Not jumped, he corrected me. Ran. Noah ran off a mountain. Ran down a slope, ran in the air — cartoon-style — ran as the wing clipped to his back puffed and swept him into the sky.

  • Short-term lamb chops

    September 29, 2013

    Unemployment has reached an alarming level, especially in my kitchen. Full-time workers — the toaster, blender and food processor — routinely quit.

  • Mom teaches daughter how to make French dish

    September 22, 2013

    My girl came home from France. She brought beer for her dad, chocolate for her brother and a cookbook for me.

  • Chocolate Mousse

    September 15, 2013

    I bought a new cookbook. It was full of luscious photos and simple recipes, which were hard to follow. French I could manage. Metric, I couldn't.

  • Scallion pancakes

    September 8, 2013

    A puzzle seemed like a good idea. We'd all hunch together, stare at cardboard chips and puzzle.

  • Honey loaf at sea level

    September 1, 2013

    The mountain makes a fine vacation companion. It offers gaspingly beautiful views and, midhike, gasp-inducing terrain.

  • Fried-egg sandwich

    August 25, 2013

    My new favorite lunch at my new favorite lunch spot is a salad that's built like a sandwich. Or maybe it's a sandwich posing as a salad.

  • Summer spaghetti

    August 18, 2013

    Jonah came for a summer visit. He brought his unicycle, his gardening skills and his plan to feed the world. He brought engineering homework, a taste for YouTube and a teenage appetite.

  • Masala prawns

    August 11, 2013

    The English have a unique way with English. For instance, they pronounce "shrimp" as "prawn."

  • Roasted turkey drumsticks

    August 4, 2013

    Friends are going paleo, and though I frown on all diets, this one sounds like fun.

  • Morning buns

    July 28, 2013

    Tweets arrive regularly in my garden, via bird.

  • Caramelized pears

    July 21, 2013

    The life coach inspires by way of Henry David Thoreau: "Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams!" he paraphrases. "Live the life you've imagined." For the pear, that life is ripe. Which is why pear seeks counsel of banana.

  • Homemade ginger snap cookies

    July 14, 2013

    Letters come in a small toolbox, room for just 26. One which could be more compact. To wit: Why C?

  • Greek salad to go

    July 7, 2013

    Gravity keeps it all together. Apparently the fundamental force doesn't merely drop heavy things. It keeps the tides heaving, the planets orbiting and the stars smoldering. It can even improve salad.

  • Star-spangled pie

    June 30, 2013

    Squushing a berry is satisfying work; it yields pulp, juice and two consecutive u's. Which are rare.

  • Shopping for free time

    June 23, 2013

    In the middle of the day I drove to the middle of nowhere, where I had to wait until midafternoon.

  • Urban hiking, bahn mi sandwiches

    June 16, 2013

    Hiking requires stamina, both physical and mental. So when Ann suggested an urban hike, I panicked. Ann has hiked the Himalayas; she's trekked the tundra. When Ann says hike, I say run.

  • Chard tart recipe delivers

    June 9, 2013

    Chard has a certain glamour, for a green. It's tall and leggy, teetering on spiky roots. It preens from the kitchen garden, flaunting bold stems and broad leaves.

  • Good meat, good burger

    June 2, 2013

    We bought a cow. OK, not a cow. A boy cow, named Cowboy.

  • Soup sans spoon

    May 26, 2013

    If it's your first visit to Paris, you must take in the opera. It's required. If you elbow along Avenue de l'Opera and mount the steps of the ornate Opera Garnier, you will face ridicule.

  • Thyme marches on

    May 21, 2013

    Thyme is keen on duress. It grows in clay or sand. It tolerates drought, tight quarters and getting trampled.

  • Homemade pierogi

    April 28, 2013

    Pierogi are portly fellows, solid citizens, full of good humor and potatoes. Like most dumplings, they pal around in packs. Which is a happy thing.

  • Reclaim the tea party

    April 21, 2013

    The knitter is tired of nice. She's had it with "keep calm and carry yarn." She's gone guerrilla. Have you seen the attacks? The city bus snuggled, bumper to bumper, into a tight cardigan. The street sign done up in crochet. Best of all: the knit tree.

  • Spring lamb stew

    April 14, 2013

    It's spring; time to plan the extravagant garden. I always go for some English fantasy with pleached hornbeam walls, mazes carved from boxwood and tall topiary sculpted into hound and hare, then neglected, Edward Gorey style. A gothic mystery in green.

  • Here and now

    April 7, 2013

    Broccoli steak is a slab of broccoli, grilled. If it strikes you as ridiculous to call broccoli steak, consider that you are dining in California.

  • A toast to spring

    March 31, 2013

    The weather toaster is pure genius. Drop in a slice of white, wheat or rye, and before you've dripped that first cup of coffee, out pops a golden weather report, burnished right into the bread. Perhaps a radiant sun and 18 (Celsius of course). But even a dripping cloud and 4 degrees Celsius can't dampen the delight of having the weather broadcast in toast.

  • Shaking up spring

    March 24, 2013

    The fledgling bird fixes her eyes on the horizon, draws a beakful of air and jumps.

  • Rise and shine

    March 17, 2013

    The early mom gets a quiet cup of coffee. Which should be reward enough, but it isn't. I usually succumb to the snooze button.

  • Polenta with a backbeat

    March 10, 2013

    Machneyuda, the restaurant, sits outside Mahane Yehuda, the vibrant food market, in Jerusalem. It's small and loud and hip. My niece, an actual DJ at an actual college radio station, claims its pounding backbeat matches her iPod playlist. That hip.

  • Slowly learning to slow cook

    March 2, 2013

    Fast friends swear by their slow cookers, so I bought one.

  • The family recipe

    February 24, 2013

    Cookies have gone soft, complains Uncle Howie. They've got no gumption, no backbone. They're weak, pudgy, tender in the tummy. "That's not a cookie!" he shouts. "That's a cake."

  • Taste of Morocco

    February 17, 2013

    Morocco dropped by. I wasn't expecting a North African kingdom, but company is always welcome. Especially such charming company — those cinnamon-warm spices, those lush stews and that habit of pressing savory against sweet. Intoxicating.

  • The surprise oyster

    February 10, 2013

    New Orleans swings below sea level, a fact we are unable to grasp. Near sea level: nice. At sea level: charming. Below sea level: huh?

  • Finding a pocket of calm

    February 3, 2013

    The sky faded to white, clumped and hurtled toward the windshield in the first fat flakes of winter. Thrilling the back-seat crowd and petrifying the car. It flatly refused to roll. We abandoned it curbside, ran home, and switched to a camel.

  • On the trail of trail mix

    January 27, 2013

    My winter camper returned from the trail with a wide smile, sore feet and a taste for gorp.

  • In praise of fluff

    January 20, 2013

    We were stomping down the steps of New York's Metropolitan Museum, full of art and fashion, when we smacked into a guy wearing a sandwich board. Never a good look.

  • Storybook trip to Paris

    January 13, 2013

    My Madeline and Pepito were ignorant of France. They had been raised in captivity, first in Chicago, then in Baltimore. Pepito had slingshot into his teens; time for an outing.

  • Baking cinnamon bread

    January 6, 2013

    I was roasting vegetable hash when the oven exploded. "What's that?" demanded the noncooking half of our marriage. "What?" I asked, without enthusiasm. Noncooks seem to find the least pop or sizzle worrisome. "That," he said, pointing to an orange fireball.

  • Magic revealed

    December 30, 2012

    Carnitas counts as magic trick: Start with a blob of fatty pork shoulder. Add water. Say the magic word.

  • Limited time offer

    December 23, 2012

    Cash held captive in a foreign bank account emails me daily, begging for release. Deep discounts shout from my mailbox. Low, low rates phone incessantly. None of which tempt me. I know better.

  • A cure for persistent cookies

    December 16, 2012

    Cookies are small bundles of information stored on a computer's hard drive. News to me.

  • Tort reform

    December 9, 2012

    The "torte" works overtime. In the bakery, it's a cake. One that's often low and rich and elegantly dressed on top, if sometimes naked on the sides. Sassy, that torte.

  • A holiday tradition

    December 2, 2012

    Holiday traditions range from silly to sublime. Mine is moving. Furniture. Table from upstairs down, couch from here to there. The heavier the better.

  • Cracking the code of the French omelet

    November 28, 2012

    The omelet seems obvious: eggs cooked flat, filled and folded. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that the simple supper I often serve is not an omelet. It's an American omelet.

  • From the ordinary, extraordinary

    November 18, 2012

    We recently located the "off" switch on the television. Normally I have trouble operating the "on" switch.

  • Drawing the chance card

    November 11, 2012

    Storm prep calls for action: Lug in the herbs, latch the windows, charge the phone. It calls for supplies: candles, batteries, butter and eggs. It calls for bright fire, cold cookie dough, Monopoly.

  • Kitchen safety 101

    November 4, 2012

    Pie in a bag sounds odd, but tastes delightful. My friend Alison served me one imported from Wisconsin, where The Elegant Farmer makes elegant work of apple, pie and brown-paper bag.

  • Finished with a twist

    October 28, 2012

    The culinary scholar recognizes five sauces: bechamel, veloute, espagnole, tomato and hollandaise. No more. All sauce, he insists, flows from one of these "mother sauces." A charmingly compact, if incomplete, worldview, ignoring, as it does, the chutneys and pestos and salsas of the world.

  • Chickpeas a lifesaver

    October 21, 2012

    Girls want to have fun. And yet, they don't. What they have is laundry. And carpool. They have grocery lists, to-do lists, listlessness.

  • Sprinting toward solitude with a salad

    October 14, 2012

    Running is not your thing. There's so much jostling involved. It's the sort of hobby best pursued by the lithe and lively. You are neither, nor.

  • The eww for bread pudding is now mmm

    October 7, 2012

    Bread pudding took no part in my nurture, nor does it figure in my nature.

  • Learning to like liver

    September 30, 2012

    Adults like strange things — smelly cheese, strong drinks, dull movies. They like liver. Despite the obvious: It's awful.

  • Hasty, tasty results for Kate's key lime pie

    September 23, 2012

    Key lime pie is Kate's specialty, though she's the sort who only tiptoes toward the oven if her homework is done, her mom is on hand and her gecko's been fed. She relies on the classic construction: bottle, box and can.

  • Sign of the times

    September 16, 2012

    The horoscope offers a certain charm: Gaze at the dark sky, pick out stars and see the future. Even if science insists that those specks of light have traveled from the past.

  • Fashion forward

    September 9, 2012

    My daughter spent the night in New York and came home with a tattoo. Not a real one. But a real-looking one. I didn't even flinch.

  • Crustless quiche

    August 26, 2012

    Nora Ephron knew good. She celebrated, ever so cleverly, the pleasures of the balanced vinaigrette, key-lime pie, pastrami sandwich and true — if unexpected — love.

  • The quick catch

    August 19, 2012

    Pickles lead mysterious lives, trolling the briny depths. They seem content shoulder-to-shoulder in their tight-packed school, treading their bracken aquarium, perhaps for years on end.

  • Clouds from both sides now

    August 12, 2012

    The cloud is a lovely, puffy companion that lends a friendly feeling to the landscape. Unless it's a dark rain-dense cloud, in which case it casts a menacing shadow. Either way, it never occurred to me to file my recipes in a cloud.

  • Cool relief for a hot mess

    August 5, 2012

    The storm blew over a tree and the tree knocked out the electricity and the electricity — or lack of it — shut down the air conditioning.

  • Night of the living blender

    July 29, 2012

    The zombie apocalypse strikes many with fear, but I'm all for it. I've seen the upside.

  • Sweet nostalgia

    July 22, 2012

    The cupcake was once all innocence: a stub of cake, a swirl of frosting. On a dressy day, adorned with a sprinkle.

  • Know your onions

    July 15, 2012

    The story begins with "Once upon a time;" the recipe begins with "Onions."

  • Pitting cherry against berry

    July 8, 2012

    Clafouti is sprinkled with conflict. That, and powdered sugar.

  • Ice is nice

    July 1, 2012

    At The Aviary, the cocktail kitchen on Fulton Market in Chicago, there's a department devoted to ice.

  • In the limelight

    June 24, 2012

    The margarita was invented by a Mexican bartender with time and lime on hand. He shook up tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur and handed it to a charming patron. Then named the drink after her: Margarita.

  • Sweet and sour

    June 17, 2012

    Sorrel means sour. And it is. Bite the herb's bright-green leaf and squinch.

  • Rockin' salad

    June 10, 2012

    Mrs. Robin moved in last week. I'd seen her around, flitting from tree to telephone wire. I didn't realize she was scouting real estate.

  • Soup with adult edge

    June 3, 2012

    Tomato is a childhood soup. Perfectly smooth, gently warmed, it spreads across the shallow soup plate, a placid orange lake dotted with oyster-cracker buoys. Poured from the thermos or served alongside grilled-cheese triangles, cream of tomato sees the child through school day, sick day or Saturday.

  • Gnaw over gnocchi

    May 27, 2012

    Gnocchi share much with their cousins, the pastas, yet retain a unique heritage: rolled from potatoes; hunched into dumplings; and led by that silent "g" cozied up to the "n."

  • At the backyard barbecue

    May 20, 2012

    Summers, dad would barbecue chicken. Probably also sausage and steak and — later on — veggie burger for the nonconformist teen, but what sticks in memory is chicken. I didn't like it.

  • Spring-loaded bread gives breakfastbounce

    May 13, 2012

    Gluten sounds gluey, and frankly it is. It's the stuff that makes bread dough elastic and baked bread delightful.

  • Going green

    May 6, 2012

    Green garlic makes a brief appearance each spring. An appearance I routinely miss. Leaving me paging the trendy cookbook, sighing over green-garlic souffle and green-garlic soup manque.

  • Over the back fence

    April 29, 2012

    Competition is not your thing. You spent your formative years in a small schoolhouse where teachers fostered tolerance, teamwork and a taste for tie-dye. You earned no grades, trophies or badges. You shared your feelings.

  • The rites of spring

    April 22, 2012

    Rhubarb makes people nervous. Maybe because it's odd looking: pink celery. Maybe because it's a vegetable posing as fruit. Maybe because its dark, craggy leaf harbors poison, while its stringy stalk is stocked with acerbic juice. Startling.

  • The abstract burger

    April 15, 2012

    The veggie burger offers up the idea of the burger — a disk capable of catching ketchup and snuggling into a bun — without any of the actuality of the burger, like tasting good. And while many a backyard barbecueist accepts this arrangement, it seems to me unfortunate. Why can't the burger be both veggie and tasty?

  • American spring is here

    April 8, 2012

    Occupy is a popular theme on many a street corner and park bench.

  • Growing anticipation

    April 1, 2012

    Gardening is one of those basic skills — like changing a tire, tying a bow tie and brewing coffee — that everyone ought to master. Post-deluge, you'd hate to be left decaffeinated with a packet of seeds, a lax tux and four flats.

  • Deviled egg is a better egg

    March 25, 2012

    The deviled egg is a confusing contraption. First the yolk is popped out. Then it's stuffed back in. Raising the question: Why?

  • Around the world in 60 seconds

    March 4, 2012

    Ann has been treating asthmatics in Kenya, caring for orphans in India, curing the sick in Cambodia.

  • Bright lights, big city

    February 26, 2012

    New York was a rough town, dense with debris and muggers. I learned this from young-adult novels in which thugs roamed the island, terrorizing kittens. So I was circumspect about my first visit, at 14.

  • Avoid panic: Make bannock

    February 19, 2012

    The winter camper keen on survival is keen on gear: sleeping bag, long johns, wool socks, pocketknife, flashlight, fleece, parka, warm gloves, big boots. Also bannock, which is bread mix. Add water, stir with a stick, and the camper is prepared to produce any type of bread — pancake to pate en croute.

  • Party on, barley

    February 5, 2012

    Barley gets drunk. That's not cruel locker-room graffiti, but true. Of the vast barley fields of the earth, much of the grain is destined to be harvested, sprouted and dried into malt, which in turn will be turned into beer, Scotch whisky and the occasional malted milkshake.

  • In a word: Delicious

    January 29, 2012

    We like a good sticky word, one with the courage of its convictions. Like cheese, which is straightforward and to the point. Say cheese and hearty cheddar or crumbly Parmesan come to mind. Cheese stands alone. It's not one of those shifty sorts that hold two opposing views, at once.

  • Hot pot for a cold snap

    January 22, 2012

    Pot au feu means pot on the fire. The sort that sits on the back burner all day, bubbling. The French farm wife, puttering around her handsome, rustic kitchen, might toss in the spare turnip, sack of potatoes, marrowbone, pig knuckle, hunk of beef, string of sausages and whole hen.

  • Bread in season

    January 15, 2012

    Waste is bad. I know. It's wasteful, it's bad for the environment and it's bad for the soul. People who waste are bad. I know this because it's a lesson my mom teaches, ceaselessly.

  • The creamy basics

    January 8, 2012

    A friend of a friend recently dined at Le Bernardin in New York. She reported that she'd spooned up creamy milk chocolate pots de creme cooked and served in the eggshell.

  • Umami: It's the bomb

    January 1, 2012

    Food comes in four flavors: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. And now, umami. Which means yummy.

  • Goodnight room

    December 25, 2011

    Boyhood calls for supplies. Rocks, of course. Magnifying glass to study rocks. Stick collection, shell collection, stamp collection.

  • Twinkle envy

    December 18, 2011

    They have Santa and carols and presents under the tree. We have potato pancakes. I'm good with this division of revelry.

  • A trifle decadent

    December 11, 2011

    The massive holiday meal should be followed by a trifle of dessert. Nothing so overbearing as to make the revelers repent, and nothing so trifling as to be mistaken for fruit. It should be pleasing to the eye, pleasing to the palate and pleasingly easy on the hostess. In short: trifle.

  • Download these hot apps

    December 4, 2011

    Downloading apps is a compelling pastime. As soon as you get your Angry Birds and Grocery iQ nicely aligned, it's time to download something new.

  • One big, happy family

    November 27, 2011

    The first time papa brought a babka, it was gone in a flash.

  • A nutty remake

    May 29, 2011

    I've never escorted the Nutella-toast crowd to Italy. But we did stop at Eataly, the Manhattan eatery owned by Mario Batali (and friends).

  • The pop-up stop

    May 15, 2011

    Out to dinner recently, a popover popped onto my plate.

  • Time to play the piper

    April 10, 2011

    Drop that pen. Hands off the keyboard. Back away from the phone. Don't bother. Do not compose the macaron lament.

  • The golden rule

    April 3, 2011

    Rules rule. The dietitian insists: more fiber, less sugar. The food pyramid instructs: more fruit, less butter. Michael Pollan decrees: more vegetables, less meat.

  • Smash your own

    March 27, 2011

    The chickpea, a hardy perennial, grows in a sturdy pod called a tin. The standard cultivar matures at 15 to 151/2 ounces.

  • First things first

    March 20, 2011

    Recently a tartine smiled at me from a bakery case. I'm ashamed to say I didn't smile back.

  • Bad hat, good cookie

    March 13, 2011

    Haman, legend has it, was a bad guy who wore a bad hat. He is remembered and reviled on the holiday Purim in story, song and snack. Rare is the leader — good or bad — who has a pastry named for his hat.

  • Spoonful of comfort

    March 6, 2011

    Bread gets along well with the knife. A serrated one for slicing and a blunt one to handle the buttering. Perhaps a slotted one for trimming cheese to suit. Bread has no need for fork, or spoon.

  • Rise and shine

    February 27, 2011

    Baking soda and baking powder have a lot in common. The two share the same first name, live on the same shelf and hold the same job: hoisting baked goods.

  • Get a kick out of kik

    February 20, 2011

    The farmers market affords the city dweller a taste of fresh. She can stock up on tatsoi and shallot, in anticipation of the wholesome meal to come.

  • Restoring the luck to potluck dinners

    February 13, 2011

    Potluck is an honest word. It does not promise potdelicious, nor potscorched. Simply potluck. It's remarkably forthright, much like foolproof.

  • Forward and backward

    February 6, 2011

    Rules is rules. And the baker is advised to follow them. Should she care to produce a tender and tasty tart, she will mind the pate sablee rulebook.

  • Sweet success at last

    January 30, 2011

    German chocolate cake is an aggravating cake. It's not German (it's named for Sam German). It's barely chocolate (it relies on the low-wattage "sweet chocolate" German developed). It's filled with a sticky mix of pecan bits and coconut flake, which goes on gloppy and goes down chewy. And it lacks frosting.

  • More than a fish story

    January 23, 2011

    The young scientist submits many an unlikely report. To wit: "Bees' guts come out when they sting." And: "Men get hit by lightning more often than women." And: "A rabbit's teeth never stop growing."

  • Squishy when ripe

    January 16, 2011

    The persimmon caught my eye, just when I was packing up the sweet potatoes and arugula. All cheeky orange, lolling in a basket full of like-minded fruit, it gave me a look that said: "Where have I been all your life?"

  • Worthy of worship

    January 9, 2011

    Salt cod is a Christmas specialty, somewhere. So at Christmastime I bought a brick. I stuck it in the back of the fridge, remembering that it's supposed to keep forever. Sometime after the holiday, actually about a year or so after the Christmas in question, I pulled out the box and read up on salt cod.

  • Warming heart and hearth

    January 2, 2011

    Kitchen and chicken are practically the same thing, at least to the dyslexic and the hungry. Which makes sense. Every kitchen should meet regularly with chicken. It's the dish that scents the air, warm, comforting and homey.

  • Bright and green

    August 28, 2010

    The fried green tomato sounds vile. Not so much the fried. Or the tomato. It's the green that stumps me. Who wants to chomp on a tomato that's green?

  • You have a friend in chicken adobo

    August 14, 2010

    Facebook offers face time, minus the face, plus lots and lots of time. Hours online may — or may not — foster the intimacy implied by "friend."

  • Hot ice

    July 31, 2010

    Ice is nice. Mostly because it's cold. And we're hot. So hot we'd like to plunge headfirst into the iceberg. Or something somewhat softer, like the chopped iceberg. Available in the portable portion known as the snow cone. Or the snowball, shave ice, Hawaiian ice, Japanese ice or Scandinavian ice.

  • Clinging to tradition

    July 24, 2010

    The peach sports two looks: freestone and clingstone. Cleave the freestone to reveal a single seed, as woody, hard and bitter as its cousin, the almond. Pry it out and marvel at the poisonous heart of the seemingly sunny peach.

  • A cool summer fling

    July 17, 2010

    Sarah's a straight arrow. The punctual, opinionated, pennywise type. Though she can let loose. Seat her next to a platter of miniature coconut cupcakes and the girl will munch not one. But two!

  • Revelation at the taco stand

    July 10, 2010

    Corn is complicated. That keyboard of kernels. The layers of leaves. The long hair — a single strand for every kernel, they say. Corn has coined its own vocabulary: What other vegetable grows as an ear, on a cob? What other crop demands detassling in the field, shucking in the kitchen?

  • When eggplant met mint

    July 4, 2010

    The summer vegetable can be cruel. It sticks to its clique. The lettuce, tossing its ruffled leaves. The fat-bellied tomato, laughing. The secretive potato club, whispering. All they do is gossip. About eggplant.

  • On hold and dreaming of rhubarb

    June 13, 2010

    At times the computer does exactly as told. At times it does not. You've seen this tendency in other members of the household: Dog. Child. Spouse. And while dog or child or spouse can be cajoled into compliance, the computer cannot. If it's not of a mind to fetch or file, it doesn't stoop to the eye roll. It simply refuses.

  • An ode to the iconic Greek coffee cup

    June 6, 2010

    The Greek urn may rank as civilization's highest achievement: a curvilinear fusion of form and function. The art historian ponders the ancient Greek urn while sipping coffee from the modern Greek urn: the paper cup.

  • Guilty pleasure

    May 29, 2010

    Should you share a home with a near-teen, you will be conversant in "Glee." Not glee, as in giddy. But "Glee," as in the must-see (or record or Hulu or friend) TV show. You may fancy yourself a gleek. Or would-be gleek. The show skews considerably younger than you do.

  • Wiggle room

    May 23, 2010

    Good food is derived from the good ingredient. Which is why the cook practices prejudice.

  • Watermelon grounds a sculptural salad

    May 16, 2010

    Watermelon rolls in at 92 percent water and, we presume, 8 percent melon. Split clean, it reveals flesh so juicy red that certain meat-abhorring sects refuse to eat it.

  • Between a rock and a hot plate

    May 9, 2010

    The modern mom cares for her children, incessantly. And for her parents, intermittently. Sometimes she tends to both child and parent, at home and abroad, at the same time.

  • Dumpling diplomacy

    May 2, 2010

    Make s'mores, not war. That's the counsel of the T-shirt. Reason enough to boil a batch of the Afghani dumplings called aushak.

  • The case of the disappearing cumin

    April 25, 2010

    The grocery store looms large. And larger. So large that it comes with road map, rest stop and radio station. Which fills the rotisserie-scented air with the chipper pitch for the weekly special and the downbeat rock standard. Generally U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

  • A form of sweet relief

    April 9, 2010

    Tax day is a taxing holiday. Like most, it rolls around once a year — yet always comes as a surprise. Like most, it calls for preparation.

  • The good egg

    April 4, 2010

    Recently I met a chicken. She was the fluffy, pecking, chatty sort of chicken, keen on her afternoon snack of fresh thyme and stale graham cracker. I believe she said her name was Clark. Though, to be honest, I'm not sure I could distinguish her from her 23 compatriot Clarks. I admired her wholesome style, her sturdy coop and her warm nesting box, complete with wholesome, sturdy, warm egg. Which I picked up, admired and stole.

  • The rules of cake engagement

    March 26, 2010

    The rule is a bossy know-it-all. Consider the speed limit, stop sign or recommended daily allowance. Well intentioned. But exasperating. Who wouldn't rather drive 80, unfettered, while singlehandedly dispatching the chocolate cake?

  • Cracking the code of the cracker

    March 18, 2010

    The cracker strikes many a pose. The scallop-edged ersatz elegance of the Ritz. The sea-salt-of-the-earth languor of the Lavash. The trim tension of the Wheat Thin. The pale solicitude of the Saltine. The deep brown, deeply dimpled smile of the Wasa. The dry delivery of the Melba Toast. The whole-grain grit of the Rye Crisp. The flamboyant flair of the Croccantini and Torta.

  • Mix-and-match meal

    February 28, 2010

    Should you find yourself stranded in a cabin, on a mountain, in the snow, with no distraction save one overwrought puzzle, you will be seized by a desire to cook. Knocking around in the kitchen gives you something to do. And, conveniently, something to eat.

  • Dessert by another name

    December 20, 2009

    Sticky toffee pudding isn't. It's not sticky. It harbors no toffee. And it shares none of the soft-bellied, spoon-friendly qualities of a pudding. It's a little cake, studded with dates and served with butterscotch sauce. It's also delicious.

  • Brisket tips to calm any Rosh Hashana panic

    September 13, 2009

    Should you awake to discover that a holiday has been convened, fear not. You can still achieve brisket.

  • Practice improves player and pie

    July 5, 2009

    It was a perfect season. The Shamrocks won every game. And every playoff game. Until the championship game, which they lost.

Local & National Video