You’ll enjoy more of your asparagus stems by peeling them. I’ve always loved asparagus and artichokes. They remind me that spring is coming. But they also bring back so many great food memories because there are so many ways to enjoy them. And, they also tell beautiful stories about our culinary past – which is great for kicking off dinner party conversations. We’ve been cultivating and eating asparagus since before the ancient Egyptians. A recipe for cooking asparagus was found in a book called the Apicius, a collection of Roman recipes written in the first century AD, which makes it one of the oldest surviving cookbooks in history. Leave it to the Romans to write a cookbook that lasted more than 2,000 years. Now there’s a great bit of trivia for my next dinner. Oddly, when the Roman Empire fell, our appetite for the veggie also fell and it disappeared…

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The iron skillet is one of the most valuable tools in your kitchen and probably the one you take most for granted. After a lovely dinner at the home of a friend, a few of us walked into his kitchen to freshen our wine and talk a little shop. One of the dishes that stuck in everyone’s mind was the fabulous gnocchi that he prepared in his favorite cast iron skillet. Read: An easy recipe for gnocchi sausage, tomatoes in a skillet I’ve cooked with skillets before, but this dish – so simple and tasty – was really something else. I was also impressed by the way he so matter-of-factly talked about how skillets were great for cooking anything where an oven and proper distribution of heat was needed.  But, of course, some are better suited than others to go from stove top to oven. I’m talking about the good…

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My three most favorite types of citrus zest: curly, sliced, and fine grated. I’m sure most of you have already run into “citrus zest” as an ingredient in a recipe. I can think of several mixed drinks that call for it as a garnish. You will find it in everything from appetizers to desserts. The zest of citrus fruit (mostly oranges, limes, and lemons) is the outermost colored part of the rind. This is what contains the oils that give the flavor. When preparing zest, you want to stay away from the bitter pith or white inner layer. What does zesting do for dishes? The best way I can describe it is that it adds a wonderful flavor dimension to just about any recipe. Citrus is one of the acid flavors in the four fundamental elements of good cooking- Salt/Fat/Acid/Heat – by Samin Nosrat chef and James Beard Award winning…

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How to make your morning more beautiful with the perfect way to serve coffee. I’d love to share a food memory with you. It was several years ago on one of my many trips to Italy and I was staying in a really lovely hotel in Palermo. Early in the morning, my room steward would appear at my door with a beautiful pewter coffee service. I would open the window and let the morning breeze mix with the smell of fresh coffee.  The morning view from my window, the amazing cup of Italian coffee, and the special feeling of enjoying my first cup from the beautiful coffee service was nothing short of heavenly.  The feeling was so warm and happy that I decided I’d take that feeling home. Today, one of my favorite morning rituals is that first cup of coffee in the morning. Sometimes with the windows open overlooking…

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White, Red, and Yellow Onions are the three that you need in your kitchen, indeed! A friend of mine told me about this 7-onion soup that she had the other day. She said it was so good and so tasty that she wanted to figure out how she might make it at home. Then she paused and admitted, “I had no idea there were seven onions!” There are a lot more than that and here are my top 11: Ramps – also known as “wild onions” are really great for roasting and in soups. They add a sweet garlic flavor. Cipollini onions are the little fat disc-shaped onions that are fabulous to caramelize or sauté with other veggies. They’re incredibly versatile and mild and will go with just about any dish. Shallots are a member of the allium family (like garlic) and not really onions but are used like them…

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Let’s decode the myths and labels around this favorite dairy product. Eggs are the most complete food – nutritious, affordable and can be served in more ways than you can imagine. Personally, I could eat them for any meal – they’re one of my favorite foods. And, they’re really a staple in almost every household – used in everything from meal entrées, to salads, to baking and of course all by themselves as a perfect snack. As easy as they are to use and as important as they are for daily meal planning, there are so many myths and labels to decode. Figuring it all out can make finding the best tasting eggs a bit confusing. First, let’s dispel one bit of egg mythology. The color of the shell means nothing. The color of the shell, although pretty, is just an indication of different breeds. They merely produce different color…

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An easy recipe for shrimp cocktail that’s tasty and lovely to look at. I have never met a “starter” I didn’t love. There are so many great ways kick-off an evening of fun with your friends or family but, for me, there’s just something about a great shrimp cocktail before dinner that sounds perfect. It’s one of the reasons that you’ll find it on every appetizer menu for the big steak houses around the neighborhood. Some restaurants serve them simply prepared and some serve them fancier (like when they serve the shrimp on top of dry ice so that it comes to the table ‘smoking’) but in the end it’s all about the perfectly poached shrimp and the flavors of the sauces the shrimp are served with. It’s actually much easier than you think to create the absolutely perfect shrimp cocktail every time.  One of the significant advantages of poached…

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It’s the small things that count: frozen strawberries that will make your guests gush! A friend of mine admitted the other day that she’s sometimes uncomfortable visiting a mutual friend. And you know the one thing that makes her so nervous? Our mutual friend is like a clock, calendar, and seasonal directory—all rolled into one. Her home is always decorated with just the right colors and the perfect seasonal and holiday tone. I have to admit, she is a bit intimidating. “How does she do that?” says my friend. So many of us find that the holidays are upon us before we’ve had time to plan anything much less decorate and figure out special meals or even gifts.  Not everyone is as well organized and ‘ready’ like my “mutual friend”.  She’s planning year-round to get it all done.  I don’t plan year-round but I do collect ideas that can help…

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My list of handy ‘next level’ kitchen tools so you’re not caught without “the right tool for the right job.” There’s an old saying about using “the right tool for the right job.” It isn’t just about odd jobs around the house – it’s about EVERY job – the right tool makes whatever the job is so much easier and that includes the tools in your kitchen.  When it comes to making sure you have the right tools, there’s no difference between fixing a leaky faucet and cooking up a lovely dinner for guests. This is my list of handy ‘next level’ kitchen tools. None of these ideas are expensive – almost all are under $35. But having these tools around the kitchen could make all the difference between a fun cooking adventure or enduring what could become an unnecessarily difficult kitchen experience. Read: The 10 Essential Tools for Beginner…

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Delicious ‘basic recipe’ for vegetables that NEEDS to be in your bag of tricks. Nobody has all the ‘basic recipes’ down. We all have our favorites that we return to again and again but I’ve found that there’s always room for ‘just one more’ to add to my repertoire.  And, when that ‘one more’ can be the basis for any number of variations – it’s a good one to add. This is the easiest way to put just about any vegetable on the table – and it’s soo delicious. I’ve tried a number of twists on this one for years, but to be honest, the best idea is to keep it very simple.  It’s also such an essential preparation that it can (and is often) adjusted or grouped together with just about any main. Read: How to pick olive oil.  This is perfect if you love beautifully caramelized veggies. It…

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It’s a shame to take the olive for granted when there’s so much variety! I love olives. Green, black, stuffed, unstuffed, in salads, or plain. I only thought about the history of this fabulous fruit after a small gathering at a friend’s home not long ago. My friend, the historian, told us that the reason we use olive branches as a sign of peace is that it takes so long to grow olive trees that can bear edible fruit.  For a couple of varieties (Arbequina and Koroneiki) it takes 3 years but for most varieties it takes 5-12 years!  The tree itself has been around for millions of years. Ancient written records left in tombs and on stone tablets suggest that we’ve been harvesting olives for about 7,000 years – that’s before the Bronze Age! Today, there are enough varieties of olives to match just about any palate—even those that…

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Turn them all into wine spritzers and keep your party going! Gift wines. There. I said it. A bottle quickly picked up at the market, thoughtfully bought, but random nevertheless. Guests can’t help it. Buying a random bottle of wine for a house party is like bringing a bouquet of flowers not knowing the home décor or gifting a box of candy to someone who can’t eat sweets (I grieve for them, wherever they may be). A random bottle of wine is just that—it’s random. It isn’t necessarily bad, and you’re not being elitist for liking only certain kinds of wine. But there it sits. Those bottles of Merlot and over-oaked Chardonnay, all sitting there in the back of your collection, gathering dust. Now, if you’re a real elitist, you toss the bottles out unopened. And that’s a shame unless of course, the bottle is spoiled. But there is such…

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