Umami in a Bottle

Here it is, the real deal! Amber-colored culinary gold! The first results from last summer’s backyard garum making! As some of you may remember, back in June of last year I started making garum in my backyard with fresh mackerel and lots of sea salt. I also wrote the “garum diaries” until mid-September which described the first 90 days or so of the initial enzymatic … Read more

Sage, Rosemary and Thyme – Not Wine!

With the help of DNA analysis, scientists are getting a present-day look at centuries-old trade in the Mediterranean. Such studies may help debunk some long-held assumptions, namely that the bulk of Greek commerce revolved around wine. During the fifth through third centuries BCE, the Mediterranean and Black seas were major thoroughfares for ships loaded with thousands of amphorae, thought from their shape to contain wine. … Read more

Autumn Means . . . A Bounty of Pumpkins and Squash!

I love this time of year! I love the blustery days and the chilly evenings and snuggling under blankets to keep warm. I love the cacophony of colors offered up by the deciduous trees, and of course, I love the panoply of fall produce – my favorite of which are pumpkins and squash. They are just so beautiful – all the shapes: round, oval, flattened, … Read more

Patterns of Asian Spice Mixes

Many chefs and cookbook authors spend their careers touting the unique aspects of the cuisines they cook and write about. I’m different from most. I look around and see nothing but commonalities and connections between the major Asian cuisines. In The Silk Road Gourmet Cookbook, I write a lot about how ingredients and dishes swirl in patterns across Asia and tell us a lot about … Read more

Making Garum – The Traditional Way

I said we were going to do it in the original post on garum. And so we have. Our attempt to make garum the traditional, slow way has officially begun. Fifteen pounds of fresh, whole Norwegian mackerel, and 12 pounds of sea salt have been combined in a clean, sturdy, sealable, 5-gallon painter’s bucket. And now we wait, and let the heat and humidity turn … Read more

Salt – Part 1: Introduction and Prehistory

Salt – our oldest flavoring. Integral to plant and animal physiology, we need it to live. Vast empires have been built on its tax or on its trade. Protests have been lodged, wars have been fought over the means of its production, and men have died for the control of salt sources. In addition, we have many ritual uses for salt. Many religions use it … Read more

Take Two Curries and Call Me in the Morning #2

Once again, its time to look at some of the health benefits of Asian ingredients. Like the previous post that extolled the medicinal virtues of turmeric, marigold, coriander, black onion seed and bay leaves, this post will look at the uses of cumin, black cumin, cardamom, black cardamon and fenugreek both in the kitchen and in the armamentarium of treatments used by doctors and pharmacists … Read more

1001 Tales from the Spice Trade: Cinnamon

We take so much for granted these days.  Almost every household cupboard has ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks in them.  Mass produced cinnamon is cheap and readily available at almost every market and even higher quality cinnamon sticks from the far reaches of the globe are accessible and relatively affordable via the internet.   In times past, however, spices were rare and expensive and significant portions … Read more

From Fruits to Nuts

Biologists do things differently – sometimes very differently – from most people. Case in point is that most of the “nuts” that we cook with are actually fruits. To a biologist, a nut is defined as a one-seeded fruit with a hard, ripened ovary wall (pericarp). Of the many culinary nuts used in Asian cooking, only hazelnuts and chestnuts are true nuts. Most everything else … Read more