Mussels with Linguica

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Now that I’m camped out in small town America, I’m missing a few of the more, er, worldly ingredients that I took for granted in the UK. I’ve already whined to you about pancetta, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in my mind.

I used to go to Bologna every year and bring back a piece of parmaggiano-reggiano the size of my head, which if I was careful would last me a good six months. Every time I went skiing in France, I brought back little cans of paté de compagne which I’d then pull out on a rainy day (literally!) and devour on a crisp baguette, spreading crusty crumbs all over the house in my wake. I used to live within easy distance of several shops which specialized entirely in locally made cheese.

Re-Use: 3 Rules for Reinventing Leftovers

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My friend Matt in England has an incredible superpower. You wouldn’t know it if you met him—he’s more likely to be quietly releasing dry witticisms into the atmosphere over a glass of Bordeaux and a cigarette than jumping over tall buildings. You may even relax into your chair after one of his dinners, and pat your belly full of roast pork and crackling without even noticing the small but profound stroke of genius he has performed.

Happy Hour: Ginger Brandy

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Amongst a large volume of stuff of all varieties that my grandmother left behind when she died—dishes, pig figurines, family photos, old sweatshirts with puffy paint Christmas motifs, clam shell ‘ashtrays’, yahtzee paraphernalia, family heirlooms, fake flowers, antiques—there is also an awful lot of liquor.

As I have mentioned before, she enjoyed a good drink, usually at least once a day. She came from the old cocktails-and-cigarettes-from-5PM-onward school of relaxation, so throughout her many birthdays and Christmases it was a natural choice for her friends to send her a special bottle of something.

Fool Me Once

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At the end of a good dinner, my kitchen is usually a disaster. It is true that I am not a tidy cook, but then, I’m not a tidy anything.

I just like to sit back and relax with my full belly and my Honey and leave the dishes for tomorrow. Or the next day. Or for my Honey. I mean, I cooked—right? We hash it out, settle in to read or watch TV, and then comes the question:

A Few Things for Spring


Well, two days ago it was cold and miserable in Maine, so I started making a list of rainy-day things to indulge in, but today it is really looking spectacular. Blue sky, daffodils blooming outside the window, and a warm glare against my computer screen. Yay spring!

The road trip has officially ended, but we are still in limbo about where we’re living and what we’re doing. Actually, I kind of like it. I don’t think I’m ready to settle just yet. For now we are still nomads, we’ve just moved into a house for the time being.

Ajumma’s Korean pork bulgogi

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Among many aspects of life in Korea which took some getting used to during the two years I lived there, common restaurant ordering techniques seemed rude to my Western sensibilities.

Ajumma!’ A diner would shout. Ajumma means something like ‘older woman’, or to put an affectionate spin on it, ‘Auntie’.

Ajumma! Bring me two beers!’

This is one of the first things I learned to say in Korean, but after two years it still made me laugh with discomfort to be so commanding to a perfect stranger.

Parsley isn’t garnish

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My family had a thing for eating at diners, especially for breakfast on the weekends. When I was really little there were still a few drug stores in our area with counters wedged in alongside the cough syrups and shampoos. My dad loved this kind of thing. He would sit peering at the Sunday paper through self-tinting aviator glasses while my brother and I spun around on red padded bar stools, and short-order cooks whipped up eggs (over easy) with bacon and grits.

Exciting meals from pantry staples

While I do love to experiment with the best of them, some of my most satisfying kitchen moments come from using the humblest of ingredients well. Over the last five+ months of living out of the back of a Chevy Suburban while my husband and I travel around the US, we have been a little limited in our pantry, not only because of space constraints, but because of lack of refrigeration and funds.

You may think that cooking from cans all the time sounds dismal, but with a few handy tricks up your sleeve, eating from boxes and tins can be a pleasure. Here are a few ideas to keep in your repertoire, so that you’re never stuck when you’re too lazy or broke to go the the grocery store.

Digging for Razor Clams

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It was cold and completely dark. Though only six o’clock, the short December day had passed without any success. We sat defeated at our campsite, clutching cans of Olympia between fingerless gloves, contemplating the coming meal of two clams among four people. Not enough.

‘I’m going back out,’ Jason said bravely.

‘Me too!’ The Husband piped up.

Damn. I guessed that meant Elise and I would have to go as well. Unfortunately, I had already changed out of my wet, sandy jeans, which would be torture to get back into. But I sucked it up, grabbed a flashlight, and followed my friends back out onto the beach.

Massaged Kale Salads

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A few weeks ago while I was in Northern California, I was craving kale. My friend Leslie showed me how to use it raw in salads, by washing and chopping it, sprinkling it with fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt, and then squeezing it over and over again with your hands like you’re giving it a massage. We used it in a thai-style chicken and rice noodle salad with lime, cilantro, fish sauce, and chili—with excellent results.

Why the massage, you ask? By giving the greens a workout you break down the tough leaves a little, tenderizing them and making them easier to eat raw.

Ideas like this always seem to come in waves. You think your West Coast friend was on to something new, and then an East Coast friend does the exact same thing two weeks later. This time, the kale was ‘given the treatment’ and then combined with more lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, pumpkin seeds, and cubes of fresh mango.

For a third take on raw kale salad, try this one by Marcus Samuelsson. He doesn’t get touchy-feely with his greens, but the combination with gruyere and hazelnuts is irresistible.

5 Southern things to eat this weekend

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Spring is—hands down—the best time to visit the South. While New England is enjoying winter storm warnings, Dixie is basking in dogwood blooms and perfumed wisteria. To take advantage of this unabashed pleasantness, I’m headed to Charleston, South Carolina this weekend, and looking forward to some down-home indulgence.

1. Shrimp and grits at the Amen St. Fish and Rawbar.

2. The Charleston Bog—a bourbon drink for non-bourbon-drinkers

3. Kale fritters—a deliciously crunchy variation on the corn fritters from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks. Just substitute roughly chopped kale in place of the corn.

4. Chess Pie from Homesick Texan—don’t skip over the body of her post where she tells about this history of this typically Southern lemon and cornmeal pie.

5. The Flying Biscuit Café’s Egg-ceptional Eggs with Love Cakes and Green Salsa—for a lazy Sunday brunch.

(Photo by Lisa Fain at Homesick Texan)