It's All Good

I am at a point in my life where I simply cannot live without certain items in the kitchen. Fish sauce. This condiment has changed the landscape of my cooking. While on the topic if friends of the sea, let’s go ahead and add anchovies to this mix. I use them with gusto on regular occasion. Pasta sauce, chili, braises. Just recently, a very dear friend informed me that she has graduated from those packed in oil to salt packed ones. She said that the flavor differential is off the charts. Apparently they also keep in the fridge and when in a well sealed bag, can last a year. Talk about shelf life; we will take it. This friend also regaled me of her fondness for baked potatoes, which are best enjoyed with half a stick of butter. It should be noted that she only eats this when feeling decadent or deserving of a special treat. Sounds like great grub after a night on the town to me. Food for thought. Is it Friday yet?

Back to goodies I love. My microplane. Such a basic but crucial tool. It took me a while to get used to it but after a few weeks of braised knuckles and grazed fingers, I got the hang of it. This little grater has added zest and panache to almost every dish I churn out. I simply find reasons to use it. Lemons or limes nearing their sell by date? How about blood oranges or those of the navel sort? Transform the skins into flavor in any of your dishes. My beautiful red Le Creuset Dutch oven. This single cast iron piece has revolutionized the way I run my kitchen. I am continuously looking for recipes and ways by which to use the thing. One pot wonders. In fact I recently bought a cookbook that outlines ways by which to abuse it. I roast my chickens in it now. If I had a Vitamix I would insert it here but it is still on my laundry list of items to procure. I don’t think I can live much longer without one. I see that they are on sale at Costco. Not the red one but beggars cannot be choosers. Stay tuned.

I love our bar cart. It is not exactly a bar cart really. I think it was meant for something else but as soon as I saw it, I envisioned it serving as the perfect spot for my fine glasses and assorted bottles. I asked the woman in the shop if I could use it to house my liquor. She stared at me quizzically but after a pregnant pause gave me confidence in saying yes that will most certainly do. In fact she said she would market it as said. The bar cart has lent ample space to our growing collection of spirits, many of which were procured in the days after my sister’s wedding. Danke schoen Theodore. I have since added to the bounty. We are not regular liquor drinkers but we do our fair share of entertaining so important to have on hand. We found a corner for it and given the space, it was meant to be. Above the piece of furniture hang two pictures I purchased from a street market in Amsterdam back in 2002. Dear family friends of ours have an art gallery in Wiesbaden and the wife gave life to them with beautiful framing. So there you go.

I also have things in my kitchen of which I have grown to rely on. My South African mother always has beautiful tea towels on hand. I suppose this practice has rubbed off on me. How practical they are for drying dishes and hands alike. The best ones can be found at Anthropologie.  My All-Clad stainless steel roasting pan, which is perfect for pork loins. How I ever used traditional dishes for roasting is beyond me. Archaic. My cookbooks are very important to me as well. It seems that I am regularly buying them. Amazon Prime lends beautifully to this exercise. My most recent purchase is The Frankies Sputino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. Did somebody say homemade meatballs? My favorite kitchen guides are those that tell a story. More on this later. A few years ago I picked up Gwyneth Paltrow's first cookbook. It was a nod to her father, filled with old photographs and narratives behind the recipes. I recall at the time of launch she was all over the place preparing duck ragu. It is unlikely that I will attempt this in my kitchen as the only duck I eat is that of the Peking dish but it what a gallant recipe for launch. I love her chutzpah. 

The second book she launched I preordered. I was tickled pink and over the moon when it arrived. I remember sitting down and pouring over the pages, earmarking those that I would definitely try. What I like about the book is that almost all of the recipes are manageable. Granted there are a few goodies that are tough to procure in my city but thanks to specialty grocers, not the case any longer. Many of the recipes we have adopted and put into regular rotation. I love her Frankie’s inspired salad comprised of roasted beets, avocado and mustard vinaigrette. One of her recipes for a cashew condiment motivated us to eat at Taqueria Empellon in the West Village on our last visit to NYC. Her salads and homemade dressings are the jam. She taught me how to incorporate tahini. She breaks her recipes down into health categories. If you are going for protein, wanting to eliminate, watching calories. One of the recipes we adore is that of Thai chicken burgers. The ingredients are easy to procure (or have on hand even) and the combination packs a punch in the flavor department. To borrow a term from Gwyneth, they are the jam. What can I say, so is she. 

Chicken Burgers, Thai Style

Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's It’s All Good 

You Need

1 lb of ground chicken – I buy the lower fat variation at our grocer
2 garlic cloves – chopped
1 cup of cilantro – chopped
2 shallots – chopped
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tsp fish sauce

Let’s Do This Thing

1. Throw the garlic, cilantro and shallots in a food processor and finely chop. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Add your fish sauce, red pepper flakes and chicken to the bounty.

3. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Generously mix everything together like you are a world famous butcher.

4. Create four balls of equal size. Push your thumb in the middle to make a small indentation. This will ensure that your burgers don’t resemble baseballs once cooked

5. Grill them up and enjoy!

I usually serve ours with a big, chopped salad - the crunchier, the better. When grilling, it is nice to maximize the platform so throw on veggies including bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini and the likes. When peaches or nectarines are in season, we like to brush them with olive oil, grill them up and serve alongside. I like a dollop of Vegenaise with mine. Matthew opts for barbecue sauce. The flavor combination is also superb enough that they can stand alone. If you are a burger fiend, put yours on a bun or collard wrap and build it the way you know best.

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