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Jun 29, 2020

Essential Life Skill: How to Make Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

perfect stovetop popcorn

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!

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Jun 11, 2020

The Vanilla Wet Dog: The Summer Coffee Drink You Never Knew You Needed

Vanilla Wet Dog recipe

In my post Head Tea: The Greatest Cold Remedy Known to Man, I mentioned a funky little coffee shop on the main street of the historic town where I went to college. As far as shops go, it's definitely part of the pre-hipster wave of hippie shops: you're likely to find ratty couches, a castoff mannequin dressed according to the season, a take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf, and cryptic messages like "Evolution is not bound by recipes" scrawled on the walls.

Speaking of recipes, most of the drinks you can order are on the "underground" menu because rather than having a comprehensive list on display, there are only some house drinks scribbled on small chalkboards suspended above the front counter. By far the best of these official house drinks is the Vanilla Wet Dog, which certainly does not smell like man's best friend after it jumped in the lake.

Here's how to make the summer coffee drink you never knew you needed.        

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Jun 05, 2020

How to: Make the Perfect Homemade Jerky...No Dehydrator Required

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.

How to make the perfect homemade salmon jerky

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

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Jun 04, 2020

How to: The Quickest, Simplest, Tastiest Route to a Great Weeknight Tomato Sauce

best weeknight tomato sauce

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. 

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Jun 02, 2020

A Guide to Grocery Shopping at Local Your Asian Market

Chances are that somewhere in your town––either far away from the big box stores or in some area that is under-visited or out of the way––there is an amazing Asian market nearby. They exist in towns and cities of all sizes, so don't assume there isn't one near you until you actually look into it. Asian grocery stores are an immigrant's lifeboat, and they are one of the few, authentic cross-cultural locations you can find in most of America that isn't a temple or cultural center. They tend to have an array of products that confuse nearly all shoppers due to the sheer diversity of products that fall under the category of "Asian." 

asian market vegetables
Photo:  Edmund Lowe/Shutterstock

While the meat offerings and seafood tends to be absolutely exceptional and exceptionally inexpensive, the thing that routinely blows me away at my local Asian market is the produce. My god, the produce! Where your standard grocery store will have a small range of Asian ingredients, an Asian market will stagger you just in its section of radishes. Its refreshingly overwhelming, especially when you see something familiar––a bunch of cilantro or garlic or something––and recognize their exceptional quality. This is a place you should certainly familiarize yourself with, and return often.

And while you're there, you should use some of the wonderful vegetables that are, unfortunately, out of our Western culinary vocabulary. In an effort to help you navigate, here are some of the tastiest ones to look out for. This list is anywhere near exhaustive (we love you, too, ong choy), but a great way to start to learn to use some of the classic produce you just can't find at you local megamart.    

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Jun 01, 2020

For Better Tasting Grilled Foods, Try the Dual Fuel Technique

Among the true believers, there's a fair consensus that when it comes to grilling: charcoal simply tastes better than propane. No disrespect to the gas grill; it can turn out great results. But when the true taste of summer is the priority, nothing can beat the smoky, open-flame flavor of food grilled over hardwood coals.

Well, except for food cooked over an actual hardwood fire, with coals freshly made from whole logs that you just ember-ed down yourself. This is easy enough to do in a backyard firepit, or even in the same kettle grill you likely use with your charcoal.   

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May 27, 2020

Why Do I Ever Eat Beans from a Can?

 

Canned foods are kind of passé these days. And rightly so. If you've ever eaten a real carrot or a fresh green bean, you would never opt for a canned version of either. Canned vegetables somehow end up tasting like boring and extremely soft...pickles: vaguely salty and quickly turn to mush. Canned food has the virtue of being able to sustain your imperial army for part of the distance to Moscow, but they have the downside of basically preserving food that you'd rather not eat unless you are marching across the frozen countryside. (Except for corn. I don't know why, but canned corn is delicious and nearly impossible to re-create from fresh or frozen corn.)

Prevailing wisdom says there are two exceptions for acceptable use of canned vegetables. The first are tomatoes, which seem to have been grandfathered in because of the long availability of really amazing Italian tomatoes like the San Marzano varietal that was so famously grown in Naples and its environs. I'm a big fan of canned tomatoes, but their use as the basis of a nearly ubiquitous kind of sauce makes their role as a canned ingredient unlike other vegetables. No one thinks a canned tomato tastes like a fresh tomato, and no one wants to eat canned tomatoes without doing something pretty aggressive and involved to them. (Or, maybe you do. But why?) 

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May 14, 2020

A Primer on Pu-ehr: Your New Favorite Morning Beverage

The power of fermentation: instead of fighting off microbes, you invite the right kind to your party. It doesn't take a lot of culinary know-how to acknowledge that certain fermented foods get better the longer they ferment, like wines and cheeses. The more sourdough starter ages, the more complex its flavors become. Then you've got your fermentation standards like pickles, dairy products like kefir, soy-based miso and natto, and even Russia's beet-based kvass.

But did you know that occasionally tea gets invited to the bacillus party? Welcome to the world of pu-ehr!

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May 12, 2020

What the Heck is Apfelschorle? And Here's How to Make It

After I graduated from high school in the early 2000's, I had the privilege of taking a Wanderjahr in Germany before college, spending a year as a foreign exchange student with a host family about an hour's train ride west from Berlin. Two things from that year still stick with me 15 years after packing up my stuff and touching back down on American soil: 1) German, which my firm-but-kind host family helped me learn, and 2) German food. 

I had no idea about German cuisine prior to that year, but I've loved it ever since. Traditional German food is hearty, full of bread, meat, cheese, beer, and hardy vegetables like potatoes. It's the ultimate comfort food. The king of fruit in Germany is the apple, which lends its juice to the delightful, concoction known as Apfelschorle.

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May 11, 2020

Put This on Everything: DIY Sriracha Powder Recipe

We would never want to actually judge this competition, but if you were to pit all the mass market hot sauces against each other in a taste test, the classic green nozzled sriracha sauce with the rooster on the label might very well come out on top. It's extremely versatile stuff, and offers heaps of complexity and flavors other than heat and vinegar tang.   

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Apr 30, 2020

How to: Make Killer Ribs in Three Easy Steps

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.

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Apr 28, 2020

Lazy Food: 7 Weeknight Dinners to Keep in Mind When You Don't Feel Like Cooking

This happens to me way more often than it should––the day has gone longer than expected, I didn't plan carefully enough for what I was going to eat, and now I am home and hungry, without a plan. For much of my life, this has been a recipe to order something, pick up something, or heat up something frozen and in a box. But now I live in a place where few things deliver, the only foods close by are not conducive to living (or sleeping) well, and I have stopped allowing myself to buy things that come in frozen boxes, no matter how lazy I may be feeling.

If I have all the time and money in the world, I love to shop and cook. But my foodie

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Apr 23, 2020

If You Can Only Grow One Thing This Summer, Make it Tomatoes. Or...

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.    

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Apr 21, 2020

How to: Make Your Own Iced Coffee Soda

coffee soda

Now that the days are warming up the thought of a hot latte with milk and cinnamon sure adds a drop of sweat to my brow. It's usually this time of year, I swap my typical addiction to hot coffee to sweet, syrupy iced coffee. I just can't get enough of the stuff!

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Apr 17, 2020

Ten Great Food Moments from Ten Great Books (with Recipes!)

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.

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Apr 07, 2020

Level Up Your Kitchen Game With These Two Simple Supplies

If someone were to ask you what your crucial, go-to, stranded-on-a-desert-island cooking gear includes, how would you reply?

Would you mention a chef's knife and cutting board? How about a large sauté pan and a flat-edged wood spoon, or a large, nonreactive heatproof bowl? (Incidentally, these are Michael Ruhlman's top five in his fantastic comprehensive guide The Elements of Cooking.)

What if I were to add that the addition of two inexpensive pieces of equipment can dramatically level up your cooking game, and that you could actually get these at an office supply store?

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Mar 19, 2020

ManMade Guide: How To Make the Best Cold Brew Coffee at Home

You can buy cold brew coffee at a coffee shop. But, if it happens to be from a certain Seattle-based java-serving monolith named after a Melville character, or an pink and orange East Coast chain known for selling fried rings of dough for, uh, "placing" into your coffee, then what you're actually getting is cold coffee...that is, hot coffee that's been iced down.

How to make the best cold-brew coffee

Cold brew is an entirely different beast altogether. And with the weather warming up, it's time to cool our coffee down. Or, more accurately, never heat it up to begin with. 

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Mar 16, 2020

10 Essential Gin Cocktails You Should Try This Spring

created at: 04/09/2014

Any time of year, gin is a favorite spirit. It mixes well while retaining its character, and its aromatics complement a great range of flavors. But there's something so special, so obvious, about gin and springtime. If flavors had colors, gin's would be green, and it's a perfect chance to start putting ice back in our cocktails because the external temperatures are finally bearable.   

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Mar 06, 2020

The No Bullshit Way to Bake Your Own Bread

Want to make no knead bread in a Dutch oven? It's not nearly as hard as it sounds. 

Simple sourdough! No knead bread in a Dutch oven

Gluten is my homeboy. I don't care what the fad-diets say (and apologies to those of you who are truly gluten-intolerant). Paleo-be-damned, I'm grateful our ancestors developed agriculture, so we could stop foraging and eat mostly bread (and also develop science, art, culture, etc.). 

Great bread is easy to make. This is a no-knead recipe! Meaning, you don't, um... knead it. Duh. It's based on the Jim Lahey no knead bread recipe.

Here's how I do it:    

1. Get a sourdough starter from a friend (or make your own, or order one online).

2. In a

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Feb 25, 2020

Pickle Everything. Or, How to Make All Your Vegetables as Interesting as Possible

I knew I had a problem with pickles when I was a kid and the jar of Claussen's or Batampte's in our fridge wouldn't last a week without me finishing it. Something about the perfection of cucumber plus garlic plus the salty-sour of the brine made for something refreshing, savory and just perfect. I craved pickles as the accompaniment to a sandwich, but I also ate them straight out of the fridge, getting through at least a spear or two before the door closed shut. Pickles are, simply put, one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables.  

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