This is not just a guacamole recipe and preparation, it’s a broader lesson about aromatics and acid and using seasonal foods.  It’s avocado season, so they’re really good now!  And they will be all summer long.  Avocados are one of my favorite fruits; they’re kind of like butter, a ready made sauce—all you have to do is adjust texture and add flavors. I recently offered this mortar and pestle to followers on OpenSky (more on OpenSky here), and it makes a gorgeous service piece in addition to being a practical cooking tool.  I mash garlic and salt to a paste, then add minced shallot (yes shallots!). Then I add lime juice. This is one of those great all-purpose techniques I use in many preparations, from mayo to vinaigrettes. First, the juice dissolves the salt so Read On »

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Cinco de Mayo is Sunday. How many of you know what it celebrates or why? Shaw Lash is one of the key cooks and brains in the Rick Bayless Chicago operations, places I really admire. Last year she wrote why, having grown up in Texas and later lived in Mexico, the Cinco de Mayo madness drives her mad. She wants you to know what it means and asks should we celebrate it at all. Her short answer: It’s a celebration of being Mexican. And it’s a brilliant American marketing gimmick. Shaw Lash is one of those aware people I admire, so when my able cohort Emilia suggested a tequila cocktail, I emailed Shaw. Shaw suggested a Margarita primer. There’s an extensive discussion of all drink issues in Rick and wife Deann’s book Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles Read On »

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Some cocktails are spontaneous given what’s at hand. I happened to be making nougat, the French confection created by pouring cooked sugar and honey into whipped egg whites, then folding in nuts and dried fruits. The pix were so stunning in the Bouchon Bakery book, I simply had to give it a go and attempt a paired down version for the home cook. I considered adding rum-soaked dried cherries and so prepared these. But by the time the eggs whites and sugar had cooled to glossy perfection, I worried that the red-tinted rum, attracted by the sugar, would leach into the stunning whiteness of the nougat. When the shooting was done for the day, I had a bowlful of rum soaked cherries. Hmmm. How to put to use? “Donna! Don’t put your camera away!” I shouted, Read On »

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  I get sent so many cookbooks we had to build more shelves. So while I don’t get deluged the way the NYTBR does, I do see a good deal of what’s being published. The stuff I get seems to be what publishers are most hopeful about (and therefore worth the price of the book and postage). I will note below the books that I actually purchased (because I already have more cookbooks than I need or even want, that’s saying something), as well as my pick for favorite book of the season (it’s not my own, btw). I was sent the above Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold with chef Maxime Bilet, a pared-down version of the incredible multi-volume version published last year. Myhrvold was peeved by my 90% positive and awe-struck review in the NYTimes (that’s an Read On »

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  Kitchen tools need not be expensive to be valuable. The above Benriner mandoline is one of my most valued kitchen tools for uniform slicing, julienning, and making brunoise (a julienne turned into a dice). By far my most valuable electric device in my kitchen is the hand blender—I use Braun that seems to be unavailable, but I bought this Cuisinart version for my mom  ($47) and it works well—these devices all do the job of pureeing soups and sauces, easy whisking, quick mayonnaise, and I make vinaigrettes in the cup attachment, which will even emulsify a great Caesar dressing will pureeing the garlic. Every kitchen needs a scale, the most reliable way of measuring, especially if you’re baking (which is why more cookbooks are including, if not leading with, metric weights, as does the ground-breaking Bouchon Bakery cookbook—another Read On »

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