A Guide to Spice Blending

The status of spice knowledge in the Western world has been entirely flabbergasting. The fact that no one in the West—in print or in person—has yet provided anyone else with so much as a theoretical framework around which to base a rigorous spice blending technique is shameful. It is, after all, not just important which spices you add to a dish, but also in what proportions. To date, everything where spices are concerned is entirely ad hoc; literally, chefs standing around, tasting their dishes and thinking, “I guess this could use a bit of clove.” I’ve searched and there is literally not much more available than lone chefs guided by vague tradition and his or her own subjective taste.

The Cheap Tricks of Delicious Cooking

Although cooking great food is really about science, art and intuition, cooking really good food often isn’t much more than collecting a handful of what I call cheap tricks. A cheap trick is generally some sort of exceptionally useful cooking technique or rule of thumb that I’ve uncovered during my culinary journey. It’s cheap because…

A Brief Introduction to Tacos

Tacos are a complicated game and what separates the bad from the good from the truly exceptional is going to basically turn on three things, by my view: The tortilla itself, the overall balance of tastes and what I call “mindful contrasts” within the taco filling and between the filling and the tortilla. What I…

Three Soup Recipes: A Practical Education on Balance

Soups from across East Asia are universally delightful treats and what I miss the most from my travels there. Although they often differ in the specifics of how they’re prepared, they generally start with animal bone broth; share the same base aromatics of onion, garlic and ginger; include a bit of picante and some form of umami. Really, this breaks down to making a bone broth (below, I use chicken but virtually any livestock bones will do), infusing the base aromatics and then finishing the broth for nuance.

Wu Xing: Your Guide to Balanced Taste

The traditional Chinese conceptual framework of Wu Xing (五行), which roughly translates as “Five Elements” and is rooted in Taoist philosophy, has not only influenced East Asian cultures across China, Japan, Korea and throughout Southeast Asia, but has been applied to seemingly disparate fields of study including, but not limited to, traditional forms of medicine,…

Getting to Know Your Gut Or: How to Eat Better So You Don’t Die Early

To some extent, you could be forgiven for not knowing more about your microbiota, which has been best defined by researchers writing for the journal, Scientist, as “the ecological community of… microorganisms that literally share our body space.” In total, an adult human has roughly 100 trillion microorganism cells making up his or her microbiota. That…

The Modest Potato: Our Forgotten Friend

The appeal of potatoes has seemingly eroded over the last few decades. Once considered a savior of the working class, today the potato is credited with their undoing. With obesity and diabetes rates soaring, especially among working class people, the potato in all its processed forms is seen as a villain. To some extent, this…

A Simple Guide to the Potluck

From the holidays to summer parties, potlucks are a common practice to easing the burden of hosting large groups of people. Given that so many people are either incompetent cooks, thoughtless jerks or just plain lazy, often potlucks end up with too many chips, dessert and cheap beer and not enough genuinely delicious food. Be…

Everything You Need to Know About Garlic

Long ago, my mom used to tell me that you could make just about anything taste good with enough garlic. As with many things, my mother was exactly right. Today, when my friends come to me for cooking advice, I often tell them not to cook with garlic entirely. After all, you can’t really be…

10 Things To Improve Your Roasted Turkey

I don’t do lists. They go against everything I believe about reading and writing. But in this case, I want to be helpful and cognizant of the schedule of my readers during this very busy week (and holiday season). So here we are and without further ado. Don’t make a turkey.They’re the least delicious and…

On Miso, Briefly

Everyone is talking about miso these days—the Japanese salty fermented paste usually made from soybeans. Although the purported health benefits alone are headline grabbing on a weekly basis, I don’t wish to discuss or debate that here. At best, it appears medical science has a lot more to study before we can be certain of…

Galician-Style Grilled Octopus (With Easy and Vegetarian Preparation Options)!

The first time I had this Galician-style dish was many years ago in Sevilla. There, it was served with boiled potatoes and braised octopus. Although delicious, it was a bit too traditional. One problem that traditional cuisines often face is that they’re too rooted in tradition. That is to say, they could use some modern cooking techniques, informed by our contemporary understanding of food science. I’ve done that here.