Tag Archives: Cooking

Pekmez Barbecue Sauce

On my journey to Brighton Beach, I bought a jar of pekmez. Pekmez is a molasses made from fruit must, usually grapes. I tried it instead of brown sugar in a bowl of oatmeal. Less viscous than ordinary molasses, it tastes mild, fruity, like a dark corn syrup. Perfect for a special July 4th barbecue sauce. I sautéed pork chops and dressed them with the sauce. We ate spinach and baked potatoes and coconut popsicles, too. Continue reading

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Leftover Transformers: Roasted Chicken to Chicken Pasta to Caribbean Chicken Chili

After my brother roasted our chicken upside down, resulting in crispy legs and butter-sodden breasts, I recycled the white meat in a pasta sauce. When we failed to eat the whole pot, I dreamt a lazy lunch. Five tablespoons of powdered peppers and tomato sauce switches to chili. It’s a quick-change act that relies on illusion: realer, righteous chili requires a more rigorous (though possibly less alliterative) approach. Nevertheless, a close approximation of Texas, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Washington, etc. can be achieved with a passive raffle through the spice cabinet.

We needed beans, so we walked to the corner deli. I have been buying Caribbean groceries with the mania of a bomb shelter visionary; I want to work my way through a goat carcass, sample every brand of ginger beer, and bake my own sweet rolls. Last night, I settled for a simple substitution: peas for beans. Instead of kidneys or pintos, I bought pigeon peas, more commonly found in Caribbean renditions of “rice and peas” than heartland chili recipes. Firmer and chalkier than my usual bean choices, the pigeon peas were a striking contrast to cooked tomato, shredded chicken, and soft garlic. At work, I ate the “chili” out of Tupperware and picked chicken neck bones off my tongue. None of my co-workers looked twice. Continue reading

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Mock Gazpacho and Many Garnishes

After ten days of intensive carnivorous activity—a staged and carnivalesque Atkins diet, pounds and pounds of barbecue, stretching from Kansas City to Lockhart, Texas—I needed my fruits and vegetables. Gazpacho seemed like an appropriately fibrous choice, although my approach is less than traditional: a pile of tomatoes, a blender, a knife, and happenstance chopping lead to cold chunky soup. Served with starchy garnishes and seafood, my gazpacho fakes its way to detox. Continue reading

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Orzo Salad with Olives, Mushrooms, Raisins, and Sunflower Seeds

Despite the muggy weather and relative absence of olive groves, I like cooking with Mediterranean intent when I’m home from school. I’ll spin some Grateful Dead, decompress, and put a yellow onion on mellow simmer. Without the usual time constraints of college cooking, I can tinker with technique and ingredient proportion. For example, I enjoy working with salmon, but have struggled on previous attempts to achieve pork-cracklin-crisp skin. Thursday night, I let the cast iron pan reach truly incendiary temperatures before laying down a fillet. The skin tightened into a sheet of pure crunch. I served the salmon over an orzo salad—I mixed a stew of onion, raisins, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and olives with the warm pasta. If cooking fish is a matter of precision, pasta salad is an issue of instinct. Be careful seasoning the salad, because its individual components already contain salt. I thought about adding anchovies or anchovy paste, too, but alas, the cupboard was lacking any little fishes. No lies: I have no emotional connection or special interest in the following recipe. It just tastes good, which ought to be argument enough. Continue reading

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Filed under College Life, Columbia University, Recipes, St. Louis

Bye Bye Junior Year: Oven-Barbecue Brisket, Collard Greens, Beans, Gluten-Free Cornbread

Freddie Gibbs and Tupac were bumping in the suite. The kitchen was filthy from three months of tough love. My friend Frankie and I were getting ready for an end of the semester blow-out. We wanted to cook a big piece of meat as a parting gift to our trusty oven. After I suggested brisket, collard greens, beans, and cornbread followed in quick succession. Whatever my lack of technical expertise in the kitchen, I do know how to make barbecue. My credentials: a childhood in St. Louis, plenty of meat and threes and pit roasts in the Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. But in the oven? I shall speak no secrets. (No seriously, it’s not that hard to do.)

In the final analysis, it was a very good year. I accused Red Farm and Rouge et Blanc of colonial politics, wrote about two wonderful Caribbean restaurants, Freda’s and Sisters, and decried Epicerie Boulud and Untitled’s sandwich nostalgia. At Poseidon Bakery, I found baklava fit for Homer. At RUB BBQ, the city’s best ribs. I had a chat with Schatzie the Butcher, talked Fuzhou food, and walked to East Harlem for tacos. One Saturday morning, I slurped borscht at Streecha. I looked at Mister Softee thirteen different ways. From a licorice shop in the West Village to Per Se, I enjoyed a thorough education outside of the classroom. I went to Flushing. A lot. In Branson and Nashville, I took the classroom into the restaurant. My academic interests—in New Historicism, postcolonialism, Modernism, and American regional literature—crystallized and inflected my food writing, probably beyond the tolerance of many of my readers. Whether you’re my friend, family, or a stranger, I want to extend a sincere “thank you” (and a recipe or three) for reading. I look forward to another year of criticism. Continue reading


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Mango Chutney Truffles

by The Baker

Mango Chutney Truffle

120 grams cream

25 grams glucose

120 grams milk chocolate, chopped

150 grams dark chocolate, chopped

25 grams butter, room temperature

100 grams mango chutney, chopped

confectioner’s sugar

1. Heat cream and glucose in a small saucepan over medium heat. Put both chocolates into a small bowl. When steam begins to rise from the cream, pour mixture over the chopped chocolate.

2. Let mixture sit for 30 seconds, then stir with a rubber spatula (do not use a whisk–you do not want to incorporate air into the ganache).

3. Add the butter, stir to combine, then fold in the chutney. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight.

4. Form the ganache into balls (easiest method is to use a small ice cream scoop) and roll in confectioner’s sugar.


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Brown Sugar and Chili Braised Pork Shoulder

Having a spare hour or two in the afternoon, I decided to braise a whole pork shoulder for dinner. Although I run a lot, I could count on the help of a few friends—six to be precise—to finish off the beast. Pork shoulder is intrinsically delicious (oh fat, oh crispy skin, so the ode proceeds), cheap ($1.99 a pound!), and extremely easy to cook. In fact, I left the shoulder in the oven for two hours unsupervised during my evening class. No harm done. It does, however, require time, and time’s attendant, patience, for a proper preparation. Do not undertake a pork shoulder roast lightly: it is not a dish to be trifled with. Continue reading


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