‘Tis the Season

We’re past Christmas, and the days leading up to jolly St. Nick’s arrival have come and gone. Now we’re just about to jump into a new year. It’s a beautiful thing. The holidays are closing shop, but we can still say ’tis the season–the season for soup. The season for soup actually started once fall hit, but now we’re well into winter. There’s no better time than now. Depending on where you are, it’s most likely quite chilly. Maybe you have snow or freezing rain. Here in LA, we do get our share of ‘winter’. It’s a strange type of winter for anyone who hails from the East coast, but it is possible for this ‘cold’ to set in your bones. Rather than hiding under your Snuggie, there are ways to warm your spirit. Soup does that. Make one big vat of soup, and you’ll never pick up the canned version again.
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Poultry & Pork

Two Meals in One

Butternut squash risotto-Duo Dishes

Have you ever made a meal whose sole existence was dependent on being re-purposed for something else? This bowl of flavor-packed risotto met that exact fate. It was a successful first attempt at risotto, but making arancini was the highly anticipated end result. When a friend announced her theme for a monthly dinner party would be Italian, arancini was the first thing that came to mind. Whenever you have an excuse to try a new dish, make sure to take advantage of it. You’d be surprised how many different meals you can make out of one recipe.
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You Say Potato

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.  You can interpret the lyrics of this old song as literally or figuratively as you like, but today, we’ll go with the latter.  What makes guacamole guacamole?  This dip was taken to a potluck dinner party during the dead of fall.  If someone asked what it was, one could easily have said ‘Avocado dip’.  And that is what was said.  Funny enough, someone said ‘You make a good guacamole for someone from the East coast.’  The fact that East coasters may or may not be able to make guacamole is a side issue, and if anyone wants to chime in on that one, they are welcome.  The funny part was that he called this guacamole.  This is in no way to call him out, but it does raise an interesting question about how people classify what a dish is and what it definitely is not.  In our opinion, this is a dip all the way, but what if it had been chunkier and studded with tomatoes (tomahtoes, if you prefer) and onions?  What would you call it then?

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Beef & Lamb

Meg’s Test Kitchen

Let’s face it. We’re getting older! Almost every other month, a friend is newly wed, just engaged or announcing a pregnancy. Although neither one of us is nowhere close to those milestones, it’s exciting to watch our friends celebrate these moments of ‘grown folks’ life. We don’t know what it’s like to cook for a family, but we will one day. In the meantime, we can see how our pals navigate those waters. Take, for instance, Meg. She’s one of Chrystal’s high school friends from New Jersey. Thanks to Facebook, they’ve been able to reconnect and keep tally on a few of the things that have happened over the years. Meg is the home-owning, married mother of four cute girls and three pets, and she’s in school. If she’s not busy, who is! She’s been living the family life for a while now, and we thought it’d be fun to have her share one of her family favorites. It’s one of those dishes that you can make once and use the leftovers for a completely revamped meal a few days later. Leave it to a mom to come up with the best ways to cut corners, save time and remain sane. Here she goes!
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Poultry & Pork

There’s No Fear Here

Poulet yassa, couscous, flatbread-Duo Dishes

The best part of trying new ethnic dishes is the unknown.  Most of the time, when we want to recreate a new cuisine, it’s based on a version we’ve had before or at least something close to it.  Of course, there are those times when you don’t have the opportunity to do a taste test, and you run on the idea that if all of the ingredients taste good on their own, there’s no reason why they won’t work well together.  That’s usually all you need to know when you’re cooking.  The rest will fall into place.  There can also be a desire to steer away from ethnic dishes that require what seem like one-time use ingredients. (There’s still a full bottle of pomegranate molasses in the fridge from a late summer recipe, but it will be used again very soon! Just you wait and see.) We like to either choose dishes with ingredients we can use again or with ingredients we already have. It makes the venture much easier.

The time had come again for another dinner party with old coworkers, and the theme was food of East or West Africa.  The continent is a very large one, and food varies from coast to coast and tip to tip.  To that end, the options were plentiful, and there was room to bend the rules and adapt traditional recipes to our own tastes. The main dish chosen is one of the most popular Senegalese meals–poulet yassa–and it fit all of our criteria for an easy ethnic dish to reproduce.
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More Cheese Please

Baked spinach tomato goat cheese-Duo Dishes

Cheese is up there in our top ten list of foods.  Gouda, cheddar, brie, mascarpone, manchego, asiago, halloumi, havarti, swiss, cotija, paneer–doesn’t matter.  We don’t care if it came from a down home Wisconsin farmer or monks in the French Pyrenees.  If it’s cheese, we’ll eat it.  One of the favorites is chèvre.  Although chèvre literally translates to ‘goat’, when applied to the cheese, it typically refers to the soft version that can be spread or dolloped on anything.  Feta cheese is the semi-hard form of goat’s milk cheese that a lot of us love in Greek dishes.  Goat’s milk has less fat, calories and cholesterol than cow’s milk, which means that cheeses from goat’s milk are naturally leaner.  That gives us a weak excuse to use it as much as possible.  The same goes for you.  Let’s enjoy it together, shall we?
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The Fusion Confusion

Orzo with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Queso Fresco-Duo Dishes

Do you like fusion cuisine?  Merriam-Webster has two applicable definitions for the word fusion as it applies to food.  The first: a merging of diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole.  The second: food prepared using techniques and ingredients of two or more ethnic or regional cuisines.  Some fusion dishes are premeditated.  There is an obvious desire to mix and match ingredients and flavors, which leads to Mexitalian, Euro-Asian, Tex-Mex, Euro-African, Pan-Mediterranean, etc.  There are some who would argue that California cuisine is actually the first of the fusion fares, which is an interesting way to position the combination of the area’s many cultures with fresh, local ingredients.  On the other hand, if fusion is not premeditated, It is a result precipitated by innovation and plain ‘ol ‘What would happen if…?’.  If there happens to be a variety of elements on hand that you choose to eat in combination, you can create your own fusion.  The question is, where is the line between fusion and culinary confusion?
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