Inquiring Minds: The Bay Leaf Enigma

Posted in Dinner, Food, Informational, Inquiring Minds, Lunch, Main Dish, Meat, Poultry, Starch, Vegan, Vegetarian on May 5th, 2011 by Audrey – 2 Comments

Join me, friends, as I christen a new addition to Can Do Kitchen. Henceforth, I will be penning occasional informational posts, dubbed the Inquiring Minds feature, in which curious cooks put forth a question, and I provide an answer to the best of my ability, complete with resources and the occasional link.

In today’s inaugural post we reflect on bay leaves. An inquisitive CDK reader asks: “What is the purpose of bay leaves? Don’t really smell, can’t actually eat them, yet they’re in everything…” Here are my answers, as well as a few handy links. read more »

Homemade Yogurt and a Cultural Experience

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Lunch, Recipe, Travel, Vegetarian on April 7th, 2011 by Audrey – 7 Comments

It was a rough winter here in the northeastern US of A. We had snow up to our brains, cold blasting out our ears, and ice-encrusted souls. In the city, we fought for parking spots with pickaxes and guardian garbage cans, and the good people of rural New England chuckled around their woodstoves as they watched coverage of our sorry marooned souls. By and by, April arrived, but spring in these parts, as many-a gentle reader may know, is similarly no bloody joke. My compatriots in the North Country are still chinking frost and snow off their windshields in the morning, and recently endured days of post-April Fool’s Day snow. Jack Frost, does your cruelty know no limits? Here in Boston, the snowbanks have disappeared and the green blades of crocuses are poking timidly through the rotted autumn leaves. Soon we’ll be blessed with mud and biting insects. Ah, sweet poetry of spring.

And yet, there is good to be reaped from this cursed season, this ellipsis of winter. One of the magical products of northeastern springtime: the much-hallowed maple syrup. When the days get warm and the nights stay chilly, the sugar maples start sending the sap up through their tree veins, and enterprising folk hammer their taps into maple trunks, collect this sweet tree water, and transform it into liquid gold. Despite spending my childhood in New England, I had never actually taken part in this process, so DG and I jumped at an invitation from our friends in northern Vermont, Julie and Ben, to join their family for a weekend, take part in the gathering, and learn how the magic happens. They promised a genuine old-school Vermont maple-sugaring experience, complete with bucket-hauling, draft horses, a sugar shack, and meals cooked on a woodstove — with one caveat. read more »

Seriously Supreme: The Über-Cookie

Posted in Book, Dessert, Food, Recipe, Snacks, Sweets, Vegetarian on November 18th, 2010 by Audrey – 3 Comments

Monster CookiesWho loves the classic chocolate chip cookie? Answer: everyone does. What about the chewy goodness of a rich, peanut butter cookie? Admit it — kind of hard to resist. Oatmeal cookies? They can suffer from a granola-leaning reputation, but a well-executed oatmeal cookie is a thing of beauty, with added benefits for heart health. What if you put all of these magical items together? All that AND a handful of M&Ms? And a cherry-colored unicorn on top? Abracadabra, I present you Monster Cookies! Brought to you by the brilliant baking boys of Baked Bakery in Brooklyn. Booya. (Unicorn is optional.) read more »

In Which I Move Across the Country and Make Salmon Cakes

Posted in Dinner, Fish, Food, Main Dish, Recipe, Travel on September 27th, 2010 by Audrey – 3 Comments

saucyHearken, kind reader, and travel with me back to August 25, the date when I originally penned this post and recipe, but for obvious reasons, am only now put-together enough to bring live.


As it stands now, Can Do Kitchen has no kitchen at all. I packed up my little horseshoe of a cook-space back in Portland, loaded it all into a trailer, hopped in a big red truck with DG and the kitty, and hauled it across This Great Nation. Discoveries of the journey include: Utah is beautiful! You can get a decent bagel in Laramie, Wyoming. Nebraska? Actually sort of hilly. Delicious BBQ joint on Main Street, Wyanet, Illinois. Everywhere you look: corn, corn, corn. Endless rolling acres of corn. read more »

Asides: Creamy Cauliflower

Posted in Dinner, Food, Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetarian, Veggies on July 23rd, 2010 by Audrey – 8 Comments

I made some pretty stellar pork chops the other night. I cobbled together a preparation of sorts that I remembered from a cookbook my host family had in France using the ingredients that I had lying around, including a bottle of mediocre homebrewed beer and a jar of lingonberry preserves from Ikea. (Cooking is an excellent use for rejected spirits, by the by. As for dejected spirits, liquor can work, but it’s usually just a temporary fix.) The chops came out smashingly well – tart, savory, perfectly cooked – and I was proud to present them to DG at the dinner table accompanied by a lovely bottle of Washington Riesling and a couple of different vegetable preparations alongside. A little smug, even. As he tasted each dish, I watched his eyebrows rise in approval, and the reaction to the pork chops was sufficiently enthusiastic. Unexpected, however, was the groan of delight upon tasting the creamy cauliflower side dish. This coming from someone who claims he does not care for cauliflower. read more »

Cherry Clafoutis and Another Kitchen Gadget

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Recipe, Sweets, Vegetarian on July 15th, 2010 by Audrey – 3 Comments

I am not really a gadget-y person when it comes to kitchen tools. I like basic tools that have many uses, are well made, and stand the test of time. Normally, I scoff at bagel-slicers (hello, knife?), garlic presses (oh, hi knife), apple peelers (wow, I can do this with a knife!), and cheese spreaders (a fancy name for a fat knife). This may be a result of having operated in very petite kitchens for all of my adult life, where I did not have the space to store unnecessary gadgetry, or a well-internalized yearning for minimalism. But all this fell away when I was faced with a mountain of glorious, crimson cherries that I hauled home from Saturday’s farmer’s market. (This is what happens when you go there without eating breakfast. Oops.)

Oregon is well known for its abundant cherry crops, along with our neighbor Washington, and we even invented that weird scarlet orb that is now commonly accepted as the maraschino cherry, a necessity when the country went through that crazy era of Prohibition and the traditional, alcoholic version was excommunicated. Truth be told, I did not like maraschino cherries as a kid. I abandoned them in Shirley Temples or pawned them off on other kids. Nor did I like anything that was cherry flavored – popsicles, lollipops, medicine, blech! – and so I deduced that I simply did not like cherries. Little did I know, “cherry flavor” bears no relation to the flavor of an actual cherry. Go figure! It took some coaxing and a trip around the world to reintroduce me to the naked beauty of a fresh cherry, and awaken a love for the fruit. Which brings me back to the present day, standing before a mountain of red glories, with a smaller, blushing yellow foothill of Rainier cherries* alongside it. read more »

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Sultry Savannah

Posted in Dessert, Food, Recipe, Sweets, Travel, Vegetarian on June 22nd, 2010 by Audrey – 1 Comment

Strawberry RhubarbSummer has been hesitant in arriving here in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve been blessed (eh?) with a wet spring, and it seems to be lingering, though as I write today the sun is just beginning to fade on this, the longest day of the year. Yeah yeah, I’ll probably be glad sometime in August that we got a nice, moist start to the dry season (yes, Portland has a dry season), but my drowned shell peas and slug-savaged bush beans in the garden do not have that kind of perspective. Innocent victims. Fortunately for our vitamin D-starved souls (and complexions), DG and I were lucky enough to have a chance to escape the chilly spring weather a few weeks ago with a quick jaunt to sultry Savannah, Georgia, where we got in a good dose of sunshine, humidity, and southern cooking. We had a native host who introduced us to family and friends, and showed us the sights and the hidden secrets – we even saw an alligator! Just walking around like he owned the place! Amazing. I’ve included a few culinary highlights of the trip at the end of this post. read more »

Spiced Pulled Pork Shoulder and Barbecue Sauce

Posted in Dinner, Food, Main Dish, Meat, Recipe on June 16th, 2010 by Audrey – 1 Comment

Pulled Pork Taco MealThe time has come for us to get in touch with our carnivorous side. (Sorry, veggies, this one’s for flesh-eaters.) Brontosauruses step aside, it’s T-Rex time.

Meat. It can be confusing, daunting, and contentious. Lots of people like it and eat it, but many avoid cooking it at home because they aren’t sure of how to prepare it, are afraid of “ruining” it, or think it’s too expensive or just too big to commit to. There are a lot of different parts and names that can be confusing, and variations in desired temperatures and cooking times depending on the animal and the cut and the current phase of the moon. Some people just think it feels weird. All legitimate reasons to avoid the stuff, but what a shame to have to steer clear of something so tasty and good for us! Never fear, I’m here with my machete to bushwhack through the tangle of potential hang-ups coming between you and a great preparation of a delicious hunk of pork. read more »