Flew out to southern California last week to be with one of Donna’s oldest and dearest, almost entirely beaching it, but found time for one great restaurant meal and one day exploring little Saigon south of LA with the extraordinary White On Rice Couple, Todd Porter and Diane Cu. Diane, born in Vietnam two years before the family fled in 1975, and Todd, a native of Oregon, are photographers, videographers, writers, cooks and gardeners.  I met them in Ixtapa last January and was immediately impressed with their energy and work, but I didn’t quite appreciate how fine these two souls were until they invited me and Donna and the kids into their home, gave us a tour of their truly remarkable garden, then took us on a culinary tour of Little Saigon, including a bahn Read On »

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Photos by Donna [I’m on a blog break from 5/17 through 5/31, so I’m putting up favorite food posts from the archives.] It began with pickles. I’d bought a quart of small cukes to pickle with tarragon but I wasn’t thinking as I made the brine.  I wanted some spice in there so I added black peppercorns.  Then, here is the not thinking part, I put in a load of coriander seed, then the tarragon, but as I smelled the brine coming up to heat, it was clear that pepper and coriander would completely overpower the tarragon, and simply don’t belong together.  So I removed the tarragon.  Donna arrived just then and said, “Mmm, smells good in here. Like corned beef.” Having ruined the brine for the pickles (using the standard 5% brine ratio from Read On »

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[I’m taking a blogging break until 5/31, so am putting up favorite food posts from the archives in the interim] Can we call this national make-pizza-at-home week?  That would make me really happy.  Why?  Because pizza at home is so good, so easy, and so so affordable.  But what I want to focus on here is the EASY part.  This is why I really loved Sam Sifton’s NYTimes mag article on pizza (except for that truly shameless plug of Jay McInerny’s new book—are they pals? Really had to stretch even to make sense).  But: Pizza at home IS so easy it got me wanting to make pizza for breakfast: bacon and eggs pizza?  Why not?! I loved his stressing the fact that you don’t have to have a stone oven that goes to 800 degrees Read On »

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I needed a dinner that was easy and delicious, would please everyone, one that also reheated well in case my daughter’s track meet ran late, and I had to be able to make it long before serving so it would be just a matter of reheating come dinnertime.  There are of course a thousand options that fit these criteria, but last week, I was in a nostalgic mood and thought back to school lunches, one of my favorites, macaroni and beef.  We were always famished by lunchtime and this dish was dependable and impossible to screw up by a 1970’s school kitchen. For a midweek meal I went as simple as could be.  The only way I’d change it, I decided would be to pile a monstrous amount of cheddar and mozzarella on top at Read On »

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This was dinner last night, moments before it was consumed.  Donna said, “This is the best cabbage I’ve ever had,” and, back at the stove, looking for thirds on the corned beef, “This is all you made?” All in all, a success.  I’ve used this particular preparation several times and it can’t be beat, a really smart strategy for cooking and serving and making use of all the flavors and juices and soft textures. First cook your corned beef (simmered for a few hours, braised, wrapped in foil with sliced onions for 4 hours at 250—how I did it—or even cooked sous vide). Only way not to cook this is slow roasting (a perfectly fine strategy but won’t give you the liquid you need to finish the cabbage here). To complete the meal.  Saute 4 Read On »

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