When I'm just cooking for myself (i.e. if my special someone is out of town), I can certainly fend for myself nutritionally, but, I'm probably not going to get too culinarily ambitious. I find I either want to cook for lots and lots of folks (hence my two dinner parties over the weekend), or not really mess with it. I mean, who I am gonna impress and treat? Myself? Nah. Plus, I gotta do all the cleanup myself.
So, while I don't like to get take out every night, I'm prolly not gonna make a big mess in the kitchen with fancy fixings. And, probably at least once, when spending an evening huddled away in the basement working on a project, I'll resort to that single-guy staple: the frozen pizza.
Not that I like frozen pizza, of course. But, it does do in a pinch, requires little effort and clean-up, and sorta feels like a treat. But that bland blagh from a box doesn't have to be all bad. Especially if you take it up a notch with some fresh ingredients and clever techniques.
A kitchen knife is an unusual tool, in that the point of contact between the tool and the medium upon which it works is actually extremely delicate. Imagine if a wrench were as delicate as an X-acto blade that had to be replaced regularly, or if bar clamps would routinely stop holding things in place because they became all wonky with use. Most non-cutting tools are blunt, hearty and reliable. But blades have to be cared for, stored carefully, and sharpened (somewhat) regularly.
But if there is an abused and neglected blade in your home that is used frequently but cared for rarely (okay, maybe not YOUR home, Mr./Ms. Attention-to-Detail––but the average home), it is the knives in your kitchen. Unless you are a professional ice sculptor or sword swallower, it is likely that the knives in your kitchen are the ones that get the most daily use. And if you are anything like me, it is way too easy to just grab one, use it, and put it back without special care for these knives. Despite my best intentions, it is easy for me to leave a dirty one on a cutting board, haphazardly toss one into the sink, clean in the dishwasher and store them in less-than-ideal ways (i.e., cluttered together in a drawer. I know. I'm an animal.)
In the summer, it's easy to get those deep, blackened and charred flavors in your weeknight meals. During grill season, you simply head outside, and cook your meal over an open flame.
And then comes January, where the produce is poor, and everything lacks that certain zing that the warm sun and fire-seared foods provide.
A few months ago, in the midst of a day full of projects, I had a bit of an a-ha moment. I was in my workshop, using the table saw to slice up some Baltic birch plywood, when a timer on my phone went off, reminding me to take a break and go chop a bunch of vegetables to add to the slow cooked stock I was simmering in the kitchen.
There are plenty of times when a small wooden board is all you need to set out or serve something when entertaining. And it's even better when they look awesome and make whatever you're sharing look that much tastier. If you have a few scraps of hardwood (like walnut) lying around after a project, this is exactly what you should do with them: make a walnut cutting board!
How did this not occur to me sooner? Take one of my favorite beverages, mix it with my other favorite beverage, add in some extra flavor and bit of time, and, well, the results speak for themselves.
Of course, there are coffee-flavored liqueurs out there. Kahlua is the most famous; it's based on rum, and tastes nice and sweet. But I like whiskey better than rum, and I want the complexity of a coffee liqueur, but not the inherent sweetness. By making your own, you can control quality of coffee, the amount of sugar, and the whole experience and overall flavor profile is totally a step up. And, it takes, like, five minutes.
In my house, football season coincides with Bloody Mary season. Really, you say? Fair enough: the two are not necessarily synonymous with each other, but I’ve always felt that Bloody Marys are better enjoyed in the fall or winter months. Similar to the complex, tomato-y flavors of a bowl of chili, it just feels right to have a hearty Bloody Mary when the weather starts to turn a little cooler.
Most bars have their ultimate Bloody Mary that they load with bacon, chicken wings, pizza, etc. that look great through a filter on Instagram, but how the Bloody Mary tastes is not the focal point in that situation. When I’m at home and I want
I did not grow up in a "crock pot" family. We had one, an old avocado green job my parents got from their wedding registry. And, though I'm sure it got used, it wasn't something that characterized the food in our house. My wife's parents, on the other hand, were both doctors working day shifts, and according to her, nearly every thing her mom cooked came from the slow cooker. And, says my wife, protein + a mix of canned foods = dinners, all which tasted basically the same... like "crock pot food."
Dirty dishes in the sink. Putting your clean socks away. Replying to that one email that's been sitting at the top of your inbox for longer than you'd be willing to admit out loud.
We all have that small handful of tasks and chores that weigh the heaviest on our souls and our to-do lists. Most often, they're the things that occur multiple times a week, so that when you look at them, you think, "Didn't I just do that? And doesn't it take forever?"
And that's where our brains lead us astray. Because, although, yes, you did probably just do that – no, it doesn't take forever.
I've got favorite foods, in every category imaginable. In my head, I write little Pablo Neruda-style odes to each one of my cravings.
And in the snack world, popcorn reigns supreme. As long as it's still crunchy, I'll eat just about every form of burst corn kernel—air popped, microwaved, butter/cheese/caramel split into a holiday tin, warmed under a heat lamp at the movie theater concession stand and drenched in butter "topping." (OK, so I actually skip the butter.)
But the Great Emperor of the Popcorn Realm is now, and will always be, freshly oil-popped stovetop popcorn. As early 90's kid, I grew up on the microwaveable stuff, but I got the entrance to the backstage party from my cooking wizard mother-in-law, and I've never looked back. Nothing can cook the starch in popcorn kernels quite like hot oil, and it's so convenient to be able to salt it perfectly when the thin sheen of oil is still glisten atop each little puff.
Read on for the time-honored technique of making the best stovetop popcorn you've ever had!
Now, tomatoes are no stranger to canning; homemade pasta sauce is one of the handmade life's greatest joys, and pickled green tomatoes are delicious in that check-out-the-awesome-secret-restaurant-in-the-hidden-alley kind of way. But I've barely seen pickled cherry tomatoes register on the pickle scene, and it's a rotten shame.
Salt of the earth. Worth his salt. Take it with a grain of salt...
It doesn't take much digging into English idioms to recognize a pattern here: salt is valuable. As an essential mineral? Sure. As a time-honored method of food preservation? Yep. But most importantly? It makes your food tasty. I quote Michael Ruhlman in The Elements of Cooking, distilling a conversation with award-winning chef Thomas Keller: "It is true not just for cooks in professional kitchens, but for all cooks in all kitchens, everywhere: learning to salt food properly is the most important skill you can possess." It doesn't get any more definitive than that.
The pursuit of properly seasoned food calls for action beyond just salting at the table. See, in my home, salt shakers are mostly for 1) decoration and 2) the occasional ear of corn in July. The reason is that my wife and I salt our food while cooking it. We caution guests to taste their food before they reach for the shaker because if they try to season it at the table, it'll taste oversalted.
In fact, when we're cooking, we actually dispense with a shaker entirely... and by the way, forget about the 1/4 teaspoon measure. We use an even simpler set of fundamental tools:
Grilling season is in full swing. You're slinging burgers and dogs off the fire into the waiting hands of hungry family and friends. ManMade has been, and will continue, to keep your grilling skills sharp, so let's focus on what's going on your food. I'd take a bet you have some store-bought relish sitting next to that plate of hotdogs, right? It's time to ditch that generic stuff, get your hands dirty, and let your guests relish in the best relish they will ever have! (forgive me).
For real though, those of you who are looking for a fantastic gift, a chance to create something from scratch, and, in my honest opinion, the best relish to grace your taste buds, take this summer to make this sweet zucchini relish...
This October marks my wife's and my 10th wedding anniversary, which means I've managed to keep our cast iron skillets in good working condition for an entire decade (I'm a recovering flake, so our trio of pans definitely had some rough times due to the slow-drip brutality of negligence). Through much trial and error, I've developed a solid method of caring for cast iron that will keep these babies cooking for generations to come.
A food dehydrator is on my list of kitchen appliances I should probably never buy myself. Like its brother, the deep fat fryer, I know I'd just get carried away, dehydratin' and frying stuff left and right.
But, that doesn't mean I don't wanna create my own tasty and natural dried foods every once in a while...particularly: jerky. Of all kinds. So, I figured out a way to make some without any specialized tools.
Making jerky at home can seem quite complicated, and it can be if you don't follow the right steps. But, here's the ManMade guide to making your own salmon jerky, complete with everything you need to know. Grab some meat and
At home, I am the cook of our family. I love to make meals, and… let's be honest, I really just love food in general. I also do all the grocery shopping. Typically, I’ll take one big shopping day at the grocery store during the week and maybe a couple short trips if I need specific items. But, whenever I announce I’m taking a trip to the Asian market, my entire family eagerly jumps in the car with me.
If you're not in the habit of shopping at your Asian grocery store, 1) you’re missing out on an entire hemisphere of goods, 2) it’ll open a new world of food and sundries that’ll keep you coming back, and 3) food, kitchen supplies – everything – is extremely affordable.
In short, tons of flavor. Great value. Win. Win.
Hey, ManMade. My name is Stephen Cusato (you can call me Steve), and I'm the host of Not Another Cooking Show. I'm excited to collaborate with the ManMadeDIY.com team to show you how to step your game up in the kitchen. And we're going to start with this specialty of mine right here: the easiest, most practical, most delicious way to make fresh tomato sauce in less than 30 minutes any night of the week. This is my Weekday Sauce.
Making great tasting ribs is certainly a little more involved than grilling a great tasting steak or burger, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. The concern for most people is that this is a task better left to professional pitmasters or your local paper-towel-on-the-table BBQ joint. So many of us are just afraid of messing it up.
But here's the good news: you won't. As long as you understand that ribs are a working muscle and become their best selves with the use of low and slow heat. You can do this with any grill. Literally - any. grill. You don't need a dedicated smoker, and you can even finish the project in your oven if you'd like.
The best kind of writing, fiction or otherwise, is the kind that produces a strong mental image of what you're reading about. It's vivid and concrete; it's why metaphors and parables exist. To quote Strunk & White: "The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures."
One of my favorite ways that writers bring their stories closer to reality is when they plop descriptions onto my mental dinner table. Maybe it's because I just love eating, so I don't need a lot of arm-twisting to think about food; maybe it's that I like it when the lines between fiction and reality blur, like Mac Barnett waxes about in his TED talk "Why a good book is like a secret door." Regardless, I'm fascinated with collecting moments of characters interacting with their victuals.
Here are some of my favorite food mentions in books, linked up with recipes.
So I have a friend named Dan. I met him through work. Dan is in his early 70's. For the past––I'm not EXACTLY sure on the time here––30+ years, Dan has grown tomato plants from seed beginning in the very early Spring. And when he hears that you have even a passing interest in the garden, he comes by with three plants––one of each of the varietals he grows––along with a laminated sheet of paper with information about each of the plants. Dan is the definition of good people. And I love my three little tomato plants.