The other night I found myself sitting at my computer thinking about ghee. Several years ago I had a habit of regularly making it, and I’d use it in all manner of curries and sautés—it was fun to keep on hand, and it would last for forever. It’d been a while since I’d made a batch. As I was sitting there, I had the realization that ghee is nothing more than—get this—strained browned butter. It’s not that I ever thought ghee was a complicated thing to wrap your head around—surely others have conceptualized it this way before. But in any case, it was revelation enough that it catapulted me into the kitchen.
To make ghee, melt a stick—or two or three or fifteen—of butter over medium heat in a saucepan or small skillet that’s not black (it’ll be hard to gauge the ghee’s color if you use a dark pan, such as a cast-iron skillet). As it cooks, sizzling away as the water evaporates, the solids will separate, clinging to the sides and dropping to the bottom of the pan, and they’ll begin to take on color. You’ll want to watch closely, because once the solids start to color, they can go from blond to black in a matter of seconds. Look for them to turn reddish-brown—which is when you have browned butter! Remove the pan from the heat and immediately, carefully pour the butter through a cheesecloth-lined sieve to strain out the solids. (The purpose of separating the solids is to allow the ghee to have a high smoke point.) Once it cools, you can keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks. Continue reading
At some point last year, my friend and 61 Local colleague Laura and I were at work, whiling away a slow shift by discussing dinner clubs. We came up with the idea for one that focuses on a curated selection of ingredients, where each 6-course dinner would have an ingredient spotlight, and then each course would have to use it in some interesting way. As we explored the possibilities, we decided that we needed to see this dinner club realized. Laura and I picked the ingredients—olive oil, honey, ginger, miso, mint, and orange—and I assembled our cooks and diners: Camila, Colin, Matthew, Laura, Nozlee, and me.
Dinner clubs are always fun for someone who likes to cook, eat, and linger over a dining table talking about food. But this one has been so much fun—so exciting, due in part to getting a great balance of food-curious people who are largely new to each other, but also because of all of the creative and delicious dishes that we’ve tasted. A few highlights: For our olive oil dinner, Nozlee made martinis that featured olive oil-infused vermouth. For her ginger appetizer, Laura made ginger-scented meringues stuffed with gingery, curried blue cheese. And at this most recent dinner Colin made a miso-banana ice cream, flavored with kecap manis, the sweet, thick Indonesian soy sauce. Continue reading
A green salad seems so easy, so boring, but it’s one of those essential dishes like pasta, scrambled eggs, or a pot of beans, where the magic is in the details. I make one with pretty much every dinner I serve, and it ranks high in my list of favorite foods—salad with dinner is how I grew up, though I’ve come a ways from the Thousand Island dressing-ed and bagged Caesar salad-ed days of my youth. Nothing is quite as reliably refreshing. A pile of perfectly dressed greens, speckled with few or many adornments, and glistening with some bright zing and rich fruitiness in the form of a vinaigrette, is just what I want to round out a meal.
Good lettuce is a no-brainer. Save rubbery or wilted lettuce for . . . well, you might sauté it if it’s a hearty green like spinach or arugula or throw it into a smoothie, but for the most part you’ll probably just want to compost it. Some lettuces, if it looks like there’s some life left in them, can be revitalized by soaking them in ice water for 10 to 15 minutes. There are lots of good-quality pre-washed organic baby lettuces and lettuce blends out there, and I’m certainly not embarrassed to buy them. But lately, I’ve been most often drawn to the heads of green- and red-leaf lettuce sold still attached to its roots, from one of the stands at the farmer’s market near my apartment. It’s incredible how long these lettuces last—the one pictured, I bought it over a week and a half ago. I just pluck off leaves as I need them. Continue reading
If you want a show-stopping vegetarian dish for an upcoming holiday party, this is it. Vegetarian pâté is new to me—I might not be old enough to have experienced it in its heyday, which I’m guessing was the eighties, and I admit I’ve never thought to look up a recipe—but I now understand the appeal. It’s such a striking addition to a feast, such a validating reward for some hard work in the kitchen, and it’s delicious, too, sliced up into thick, cold slabs and smeared on crackers or bread.
Jeanne Lemlin’s Simply Satisfying is a book I’ve had in my kitchen for a while now. My friend and editor, Matthew Lore, loaned me his copy of the first edition, which was titled Vegetarian Pleasures, published in 1986, and one of the recipes I found there inspired the corn soufflé in Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry. Then I had the pleasure of working on the photo shoot for this recent reissue (with photographer Cara Howe and stylist Maria del mar Sacasa), in which the title changed to Simply Satisfying, and sampled many of the recipes firsthand.
I don’t have a recipe today, but I’m still sharing some Instagram shots some of my lunches—on the days I work from home and when, most importantly, the natural light is good—over on the Facebook page, which you can follow if you’d like to. My Instagram is @LukasVolger if you care to follow there.
Hopefully one or two of these will inspire you in the kitchen, give you something new to try, particularly as far as summer food goes. Let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions. Happy July—almost August. I hope you’re enjoying vacations and hikes and summer produce and the steamy outdoors as much as I am.
Up top is a garbanzo salad with upland cress, roasted bell peppers and tomatoes, and a smoked paprika vinaigrette.
Here’s a sandwich with sharp cheddar, avocado, and a spicy corn salad on a toasted baguette. Continue reading