There was a time, before Pyrex and Oxo, calculators and even cookbooks, when rules of thumb ruled the kitchen. My mother taught me my first one when I was six and still standing on a barstool to reach the kitchen faucet, the infamous and eerily accurate “one-knuckle” rule for cooking rice. Like all good R.O.T., the measures were flexible. It didn’t matter how much rice or what size pot or what kind of stove. It worked.
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The best summer desserts are simple to make, portable for picnics, and highlight the season’s sweet, luscious fruit. Trifle would be at the top of my own list.
While its name might lead you to think that this dish is of little consequence, it belongs in the pantheon of fantastic frugal food, along with panzanella (another wonderful summer dish) and pain perdue (good anytime of the year or day). Back when little bits of bread or cake were far too valuable to toss away, even if stale as a board, cooks invented ingenious ways to use up every last crumb. Dry cake has a way of soaking up endless flavor and, in the process, transforming itself into a silken gift.
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As California’s road trip season begins, it’s time to pull out that list of foods that are worth a detour or two. If you’re passing by or through tribal land, allow time in your day and space in your stomach for a stop at roadside stalls offering fry bread or, even better, Indian tacos. Many of us are all a-twitter about the mash-up of Korean bbq and tortillas. But this much quieter and long established blend of taco toppings on soft, still-hot flatbread is better than anything I’ve tasted from digitally hyped menus.
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Ardent fans of homemade corn tortillas, papusas and pleasantly plump gorditas know that arepas belong in Latin America’s reigning family of corn-based flatbreads. A staple in Venezuela and Colombia, arepas fill the workaday cook’s most important need: foods that are easy to make and easy to use and never boring.
Early recipes required only cornmeal and water. Most cooks now season with a bit of salt, while some lean toward richer versions with milk, lard or butter in the dough. In Venezuela, arepas tend to be split and filled like sandwiches, while the thinner, leaner versions typical of Colombia are often topped with minimalist fillings for breakfast.
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Once upon a time, hens took a break during the winter, waiting for the arrival of longer, warmers days to lay their eggs and hatch their chicks. Although we’ve entrapped them in an endless summer of egg production, it’s good to stop occasionally and remember that so many basic foods, especially the ones we take for granted, are still wonders of nature.
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