Roasted asparagus spears are topped with sautéed bacon and shallots and a poached egg for a light lunch. Recipe below.

Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg and Lardons

Asparagus season is upon us again, a promising sign of the reluctant spring. (Yes, asparagus is available pretty much year-round, but now is when it’s at its best.) First, the pencil-thin spears started showing up in the produce department, requiring little more than a quick blanch to render them bright green, crisp and delicious.

Next come thicker, “standard” spears, also good for a quick dip in boiling water, but equally wonderful—and perhaps more intensely flavored—when roasted or grilled. During these two stages, we greedily eat as much asparagus as many different ways as we can. Because next come the cigar-fat spears, so tough that you have to shave them. No, thanks. We’re done for the season. [click to continue…]

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Lamb Shoulder Chop

For many home cooks, meat takes the biggest bite out of the food budget. There are plenty of cheap cuts, though. Some require a little extra care to tenderize them (or acceptance of the fact that their extra fat is what makes them delicious as well as affordable), but all will reward you with big flavor while saving you money. Here are five cheap cuts we love.

Lamb Shoulder Chops

Lamb’s wonderfully rich flavor is often matched by its price tag. Not these guys. Lamb shoulder chops (like the one pictured above) deliver as much or more lamby goodness as pricier (and tinier) lamb rib or loin chops. And their sometimes chewy texture can be tenderized quickly with a citrus marinade or dry brining. They also respond well to braising. [click to continue…]

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A lemon juice/olive oil/tarragon marinade quickly tenderizes lamb shoulder chops and adds a lively citrus note. Recipe below.

Lemon Tarragon Lamb Chops

Editor’s note: Blue Kitchen is now publishing twice weekly. Wednesdays, you’ll find fresh recipes. On Sundays, we share stories about food—new tools for the kitchen, cookbooks we like, interviews and more. Subscribe to our RSS Feed or sign up for email updates, so you don’t miss a thing.

Lamb is one of our favorite carnivorous pleasures. And shoulder lamb chops are one of our go-tos for scratching our occasional lamby itch. They’re typically one of the cheaper cuts, they cook quickly and they’re big on flavor. Unfortunately, they can also be chewy. The good news is there are simple techniques to tenderize these delicious chops. [click to continue…]

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April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Cheese cookbook author Laura Werlin shares her thoughts on the iconic comfort sandwich as well as tips for making great grilled cheese. And yes, she shares a recipe too.

Laura Werlin: National Grilled Cheese Month

Editor’s note: Blue Kitchen is now publishing twice weekly. Wednesdays, you’ll find fresh recipes. On Sundays, we share stories about food—new tools for the kitchen, cookbooks we like, interviews (like this one) and more. Subscribe to our RSS Feed or sign up for email updates, so you don’t miss a thing.

Laura Werlin is an ambassador for American cheeses and author of six cookbooks on the subject. She won the prestigious James Beard award for The All American Cheese and Wine Book, published in 2003. To celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month, we caught up with the San Francisco-based Werlin to talk about her favorite subject. [click to continue…]

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Juniper berries add a subtle, light freshness to pork meatballs. Wine, sherry and sour cream create a simple sauce. Recipes below.

Pork Recipes: Pork Meatballs with Juniper

Editor’s note: Blue Kitchen is now publishing twice weekly. As always, you’ll find fresh recipes on Wednesdays. On Sundays, we share stories about food—new tools for the kitchen, favorite seasonal ingredients, cookbooks we like, interviews with food professionals and more. Subscribe to our RSS Feed or sign up for email updates, so you don’t miss a thing.

This weird and messy winter just won’t quit us. Today it is a pleasant 50 degrees, and sunny, and all our windows are open. But  Saturday was cheerless and frigid, and not that far in our future is “damp and raw,” “periods of rain” and even a  nasty “wintry mix.”

The term wintry mix always sounds so dull and industrial. And it always makes me remember Sonny Eliot, a “weathercaster” in the Detroit of my youth, who brought the spirit of playfulness to TV reporting. [click to continue…]

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Opinel introduces Le Petit Chef Set, kid-friendly cooking tools that help teach proper kitchen skills. And Michelle Obama hosts a cooking contest for children. The prize is a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House.

Cooking tools for kids: Opinel Le Petit Chef Set

Editor’s note: Starting this week, Blue Kitchen will be publishing twice weekly. Wednesdays will still be our recipe days, where you’ll find ideas for things to cook in your kitchen. On Sundays, we’ll be sharing stories about food—new tools for the kitchen, favorite seasonal ingredients, cookbooks we like, interviews with food professionals and more. Subscribe to our RSS Feed or sign up for email updates, so you don’t miss a thing.

As a nation, we need to be eating better. What am I saying? As a planet, we need to be eating better. Obesity and diet-related diseases are becoming worldwide health issues. In fact, obesity is second only to smoking as the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

The best way to eat healthier, it turns out, is to cook at home. When we cook, we can control how much fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar we’re consuming, especially if we use fresh ingredients as much as possible. And the best way to set our kids on the path to a lifetime of eating healthier is to get them cooking in the kitchen with us. [click to continue…]

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Farfalle—butterflies in Italian—is tossed with peas, bacon, butter, sage, lemon juice and zest and Parmesan. Recipe below.

Pasta recipes: Farfalle with Peas, Bacon and Sage

Circumstances converge, synapses fire. And sometimes, recipes happen. Recently, we were at the International Home + Housewares Show here in Chicago. We try to go every year, looking for new kitchen tools and trends. (In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing various finds from this year’s show.)

There are always big, exciting discoveries and great conversations at the show. But there are also little asides, quiet incidental moments that we almost miss. One happened at Eataly’s booth. The giant purveyor of all things food and Italian opened a Chicago outpost this winter, as Marion reported here. At their Housewares Show booth, they were showcasing some of their wares and brewing up cups of amazing espresso. As Marion chatted with the barista, I picked up a recipe card. It was for squash-filled ravioli in a sage butter sauce. I ignored the ravioli and stowed the simple sauce (sage leaves browned in butter and mixed with reserved pasta water) away in my head for a future pasta dish idea. [click to continue…]

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Chicken Piccata, buttery and lemon bright

by Terry B on March 19, 2014

Based on the classic Italian dish veal piccata. Chicken breast fillets, pounded thin and sautéed in butter and oil, are topped with a piquant sauce of butter, wine, lemons, capers and parsley. Recipe below.

Chicken recipes: Chicken Piccata

It’s week three of Butterfest at Blue Kitchen. Last week, my Hake with Lentils and Sage Mustard Butter had five and a half tablespoons of butter. And while Marion’s Chevre Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust two weeks ago only used two tablespoons, dairy was otherwise well represented, with cream cheese, goat cheese and sour cream.

Based on the classic Italian dish veal piccata, this chicken piccata recipe requires a rather modest half stick of butter, four tablespoons. And requires is the operative term here—the buttery richness plays beautifully against the tart brightness of the capers and lemons. [click to continue…]

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In this take on the classic French recipe Saumon aux Lentilles, mild white-fleshed fish and sage stand in for salmon and tarragon. Recipe below.

hake with lentils mustard butter

Julia Child famously said, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” We’re not afraid of butter. We use an impressive amount, especially given how little we bake. But when I started researching the classic French dish of salmon with lentils and mustard-herb butter, I was still taken aback by how much butter was called for.

Strictly speaking, it wasn’t just the volume of butter—eight tablespoons, a stick of butter, divided among the various components. It’s that this dish was fish. And lentils. These are not foods one generally associates with such exuberant use of butter. [click to continue…]

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Chevre—mild goat cheese—and lemon juice give this cheesecake a tangy flavor note. The hazelnut adds a rich, nutty crunch, and the fruit compote a lively tart finish. Recipes—and substitutions—below.

chevre cheesecake and compote

Cheesecake was not a part of my life as a child. The first time I had it was as a teenager, at some party or another, and everything single thing about that event has fallen away except that it was the first time I tasted cheesecake—this time-stopping moment in which the dull clouds parted to reveal this sweet, rich, suave, glowing nexus of perfection. [click to continue…]

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