July 2011

Why Pasta Sauce From Scratch is Better

There are a lot of reasons why pasta sauce from a bottle or can is inferior to sauce made from fresh ingredients. Aside from the usual processed vs. fresh complaints about metallic flavors, preservatives and high sodium levels, the fact is that a lot of things that make fresh sauce good just aren't possible or practical in mass production. Certain chemical reactions either can't happen reliably in a giant vat or won't survive long after the lid gets sealed. There are a few key players in the surprisingly nuanced science of red sauce. Namely, they are tomatoes, wine, herbs and time.

Weekend Dinner Party: Vegan Menu

Cooking for those who consume neither meat nor dairy can be a challenge, but it's far from impossible to produce a gourmet menu under these restrictions. Vegan cuisine has the benefit of relying on flavorful produce and a number of culinary categories that tend to get neglected in traditional cooking. The following dinner party menu is designed with such a diet in mind and it's just as delicious and creative as a menu based around foods sourced from animals. Get your veggie teeth primed and dig in.

The Disgruntled Food Critic: Frozen Pizza Roundup


Frozen pizza is the province of the world's lazy bachelors, exhausted parents and college kids. Economically, it makes more sense than just about anything else in the frozen food section of the grocery store. For less than the price of a proper meal, an individual can get enough sustenance for around two meals, three if supplemented with something like salad. Though most frozen pizza is as grease-soaked and salty as the delivery analog, there are still several food groups represented in the average Supreme slice. Some vegetable matter is better than none, and when a Supreme costs as much as a Pepperoni, why not go for the loaded pie? Naturally, not all frozen pizzas are alike in quality. Here's a quick run-down of the best, the worst and the crowded middle.

Too Hot to Cook

A Refreshing Dinner Idea

My wife and I love to cook but sometimes in the summer it is just WAY too hot to turn on the oven, let alone the grill. On days as hot as this (today it is supposed to get up to 99 degrees!) I REALLY refuse to grill since I am the one who will have to stand out in the heat over smoking hot charcoal.

On days like this my wife makes this bread salad. It fills us up, but its not too heavy and a bonus--it takes about 10 minutes to make!

Tomato Bread Salad

1 loaf of day old baguette or italian bread, cut into cubes

2 Ripe, garden fresh tomatoes, diced

1 seedles cucumber, diced

2 T. Exra-Virgin Olive Oil

1 T. Red Wine Vinegar

2 Fresh Basil Leaves, torn

1/2 Tsp. Kosher salt

Pepper to taste

You can also add: Mozzarella cheese (we like to use REAL buffalo mozzarella, torn into bite size chunks) shredded rotisserie chicken (Go buy it from the supermarket--remember its too hot to cook!)

Directions:Combine bread, tomato, cucumber in a large bowl. Drizzle with Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, and Basil. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper and stir again. Add Chicken and Mozzarella cheese if desired.

This salad keeps only for about a day, but as the bread has more time to soak up all the olive oil, vinegar and juices it gets even better!

We have also made a Greek version of this salad by adding green pepper, feta cheese, oregano and Lemon Juice. Also great to add chicken to this too!

Guilty Pleasures: Gas Station Nachos

I think we can all agree that gas station nachos are disgusting. And yet! Sometimes you just gotta try them.
I usually get lured into buying gas station nachos when I'm driving home from visiting friends in Seattle late at night. You're on the road, it's late, you're exhausted, and starving. Maybe you have to stop and get gas. Maybe you pop inside to buy a Coke and use the bathroom. And there they are, the little cardboard tray, the mysteriously round chips, and the formidable pump dispenser.
Nothing says "delicious cuisine" like a pump dispenser!

Perfect Party Food

The Cookbook that keeps on giving...

  Tis the season for summer barbecues and I dont' know about you, but    after July 4th I'm already tired of potato salad. So when we got invited to what seemed like our 75th outdoor party/barbecue/4th of July bash, my wife declared "That's it. I cannot make another pan of boring brownies or one more bowl of potato salad. I have to try something new." So she went digging thorough the millions of cookbooks and cooking magazines we have stored in every free space in our kitchen and found this amazing cookbook that my mom gave to her like 4 Christmases ago: "Perfect Party Food: All the Recipes and Tips You'll Ever Need for Stress-Free Entertaining" by Diane Phillips (a.k.a. The Diva of Do-Ahead...whatever that means).

So after drooling over all the recipies in the book (and there are over 500) from drinks to appetizers to desserts, we came across an AMAZING salad that was the HIT of the party--the Black Bean and Chicken Tostada Salad. I can describe it in 2 words: FREAKING AWESOME.

Weekend Dinner Party: Making The Most of Pizza

At its best, cooking is interactive art. That means a proper meal is like a premiere gala at a gallery. Putting together the menu of a dinner party should take that concept into consideration. The art of the meal should be of a single, coherent tone but with enough variety to stay interesting. In the Weekend Dinner Party column, we'll be previewing a menu based around a centerpiece dish with appropriate but inventive pairings. Today, we'll be examining pizza, a culinary superstar that all too often gets treated like low-brow fare. We're here to give that famous Italian pie the full menu treatment it deserves.