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20 Dollar Dinner


Cookbook/The $20 Dinner


Article

Thursday July 7, 2005 12:04 am EDT
For a long time, I avoided making real-deal lemonade because I didn't want to be bothered making a simple syrup, the glue that holds lemonade together. Simple syrup, as its name implies, is not difficult to make - a cooked solution of equal parts water and sugar that's gotta cool, unfortunately, before it can be used. And who has the time to wait when you're hankering for immediate lemonade... | more...

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Wednesday June 29, 2005 12:04 am EDT

Cherries are here. Put on your sneakers and run to the market. Then run like a dog in heat because these sultry summer mamas lose their sheen almost by the time you get them home.

Phew. Now you've got a cartoon moment to decide what to do with them. When it comes to cherries, my first instinct is always cherry pie. But when I don't feel like I have time for playing with dough, the close...

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Wednesday June 22, 2005 12:04 am EDT

It's hotter than a kitchen witch's tit, and the thought of turning on the stove is melting your brain. You've got no energy to cook, so don't. Uncook dinner instead.

This does not mean to head for the cereal box. All you need is a melon, a lime, some fresh mint and a blender (plus a few spices and aromatics to perk things up) and uncooked dinner can be yours in 10 minutes.

After work, you can...

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Wednesday June 15, 2005 12:04 am EDT
Tips to take the intimidation out of fried chicken | more...

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Wednesday June 8, 2005 12:04 am EDT

I'm the kind of cook who cooks. Baking bread is better done by others - or until I have the time to learn to be patient. I even had pizza lessons in Italy, but all I got was a misshapen dough Frisbee mixed in with bad-mouthing from Sergio, my chef instructor.

At some point, the pizza patience arrived - in my overheated apartment in northern Virginia. The recipe below is written with the...

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Thursday June 2, 2005 12:04 am EDT

A good hamburger is hard to find but shouldn't be. It's one of the easiest things to make, but most cooks want to make it complicated. All a burger needs to taste lip-smacking is salt, pepper, olive oil and mindful restraint.

A few notes on those four ingredients:

Salt and Pepper:Use Kosher salt and use liberally. For every pound of meat, use one teaspoon of salt. Although less critical,...

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Wednesday May 25, 2005 12:04 am EDT

The biggest grilling weekend of the year is here - have you checked on the basics? Forget the charcoal and the buns for a moment. I'm wondering about your sauce.

First of all, do you have any? Don't lie to me. You gotta have some sauce, baby, whether it's a marinade, a dipper or a condiment. Humor me, and try something new that I'm confident will blow the roof off this year's festivities. When...

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Thursday May 12, 2005 12:04 am EDT

In the vegetable world, spring means the arrival of two high-maintenance divas: the artichoke and the fava bean.

At first glance, the artichoke is a real looker. But perhaps like a beauty contest queen, she makes it difficult for admirers to get closer, with her weaponry of prickly thorns studded all over her torso. Courageous cooks in pursuit of the artichoke's heart must not only wear gloves...

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Wednesday May 4, 2005 12:04 am EDT
The house of my childhood was a bit like the set of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse." An upright piano, painted in a shade of Pepto pink, took center stage in the dining room. The kitchen counters, instead of being used for chopping vegetables, were taken up by a vintage milkshake maker and a glass jar of Christmas ornaments circa 1940. The walls were covered with clocks of all varieties, all set to... | more...

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Wednesday April 27, 2005 12:04 am EDT

From the summer of 1999 to the summer of 2001, I traveled to Barbados eight times. The farthest east of all islands in the Caribbean, Barbados was my growing-up classroom in my early 30s. There was plenty of romance, rum and swimming in the sea. But most importantly, there were mangoes.

Before I spent so much time in the Caribbean, my experience with the mango was supermarket-peripheral,...

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Wednesday April 20, 2005 12:04 am EDT

In this country, we have lemon furniture polish, dish detergent, tile cleaner and air freshener. We love how the lemon cleans our house and our bathrooms. But somehow, we forgot that the lemon, the fruit of citrus medica, is good for our bodies and helpful in our cooking.

Although ghettoized to the dregs of cleaning product world, the little ol' lemon is quite the culinary powerhouse. First,...

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Wednesday April 13, 2005 12:04 am EDT

Oh, Dios mio, what is this? asked the cashier at my local Whole Foods. She did have reason to wonder about the gnarly, hairy root dirtying up her grocery scanner.

"It looks like elephant foot," she said, grimacing.

"No, it doesn't," I whispered. "It looks like a penis."

Indeed, fresh horseradish can look shockingly phallic, but that's not the reason to give it a try. If the only horseradish...

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Wednesday April 6, 2005 12:04 am EDT

Raise your hand if the following applies: It's the end of a hellish workday, and you're starved and can't bear to eat another bowl of cereal for dinner. But how can you enjoy a glass of wine with cereal milk?

It's time to dust off your sorry self and leave those Oaties behind; you can upgrade your evening breakfast into a respectable supper, even if all you have are various vegetable scraps in...

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Wednesday March 30, 2005 12:04 am EST

There's nothing like spring to make you simultaneously giddy and depressed. Just as I take an excited whiff of crocuses popping their pretty little boobies through the soil, it seems that an enormous gust of chilly wind blows right through my panties, reminding me that it ain't time for sandals just yet, dear.

Inevitably, I think of an Ella Fitzgerald tune, "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the...

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Wednesday March 16, 2005 12:04 am EST

Spring means the arrival of green things, like asparagus and peas and leeks, but it also means the debut of Miss Scarlet, aka rhubarb. Her ruby-red stalks are too sour to be eaten alone - and please, don't eat them raw. The gentle sweetness of strawberries mellows out the rhub's tart swipe, yet allows room to express her individuality.

The logistics of this pairing, however, are not as...

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Wednesday March 9, 2005 12:04 am EST
On the eve of the deadline of this column, it was snowing in the Washington, D.C., area, where I have made my home for several years. It was just after 9 in the morning, before the flakes began to fall, and I was strolling through the aisles of my local Whole Foods, trying to decide what to make for dinner. Although snowfall amounts were unknown, one thing was certain: That night, I would need... | more...

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Thursday March 3, 2005 12:04 am EST
Stuffed grape leaves are heady little treats, but we rarely think about making them ourselves. They seem too exotic and complicated for home chow, but what they really need is braun, not brains. There's not much to the homey meat filling, but you need lots of warm bodies to man the grape leaf assembly line. Get a group of pals together and you can whip up a batch of 50 goodies within 2 hours.... | more...

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Wednesday February 23, 2005 12:04 am EST

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from aspiring cooks goes something like this: "I'm in a cooking rut. At the end of the day, I can't get excited to make more than a bowl of cereal. What should I do to get unstuck?"

At some point, we all get stuck in the kitchen. Even the most accomplished and diligent of cooks goes through an occasional bout of the culinary doldrums.

The good...

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Thursday February 17, 2005 12:04 am EST
In spite of my culinary background, I do, on occasion, dream of a genie who's focused only on my needs as I trudge home on the bus after a cranky day at the office. As the bus dodges potholes, I can see, through the winter-crusted windows, my genderless genie shimmying away in the kitchen. He/she is fixing me a post-work cocktail, followed by a perfectly timed, bubbly hot meal, just like in the... | more...

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Thursday February 10, 2005 12:04 am EST

Tea for two needs cake. So do Grandma, your pals from work, and all the other lonely hearts sticking out their tongues on this lovers-only holiday.

With or without an admirer this weekend, one needs an antidote for the irrepressibly goopy love stuff on center stage at the local CVS. Walk on by those bags of cupid-themed M&Ms and pick up a few bottles of red food coloring instead. No, we're not...

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Thursday February 3, 2005 12:04 am EST

Legend has it that the African marula fruit drives a pachyderm mad. Of course, that is after it is allowed to fall on the ground and ferment for a short time. I'll let you do the math.

Light yellow, marula berries have a sweet and citrusy flavor that also drives humans wild. Though the plant is impossible to cultivate, Americans can experience the taste through Amarula cream, a liquor that is...

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Thursday February 3, 2005 12:04 am EST

Sun., Feb. 6, is a busy day. After several long months, the football season comes to a climactic denouement, with the ultimate testosterone showdown of the year, the Super Bowl. With all the drinking, chortling and caveman dancing that ensues, one works up a healthy appetite - for something along the lines of a brontosaurus burger, perhaps?

I tested the recipe below primarily for its (lack of)...

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Thursday January 27, 2005 12:04 am EST
I had countless "aha" culinary moments five years ago when I was at cooking school in Italy. The earliest one arrived on the first day of class. We were a group of 15 who had traveled from many countries to attend, bleary-eyed and disheveled in our newly unpacked chef's whites at 7 in the morning. At that hour, all I really cared about was coffee. But I remember being intrigued by the pitcher... | more...

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Thursday January 20, 2005 12:04 am EST

Ever realize there's never a countdown to winter like there is for summer? Me, I can't stand shorter days, colder nights, dreary skies and endless wind. The only consolation for this miserable, seemingly never-ending phenomenon is the arrival of citrus fruit.

And I'm not just talking navel oranges and ruby grapefruits. There's a groovy world out there behind that rainbow of rind. This week, I...

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Thursday January 13, 2005 12:04 am EST

It's January. It might be cold. It might be gray. There's an inauguration on the way.

Let's play make-believe and escape to our magic cabin in the woods, where there are no worries, no gray skies and no inauguration on the way.

Let's make the most excellent winter-in-the woods breakfast. Let's make granola.

We'll take nuts and fruit and sunflower seeds from this summer's magic garden,...

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