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The Cookstr Weekly: Dumplings Around the World

January 23, 2015

Dumplings, as a concept, transcend cuisine: scraps of dough that are cooked alone, like gnocchi, or wrapped around a filling, like pierogi or ravioli. They can be made with flour or potatoes, boiled, steamed, fried, or baked. But they are always meant to be eaten in a mouthful or maybe two, whether in broth, dipped in sauce, or simply on their own. Dumplings can pack a lot of flavor and components into a single bite, making them a little bit more fun and exciting than a single-bowl meal.

And dumplings aren’t difficult to make, especially with shortcuts like wonton wrappers available. Experiment with a wide range of fillings, herbs, spices, and global influences. In the depths of winter, dumplings are just the kind of comfort food that brighten up a weeknight.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Michael Ruhlman

“Chicken with dumplings is one of the most delicious and comforting meals I know, especially on a cold night. It’s also economical and easy, especially if you have excellent stock on hand. Good stock is key, so if you plan ahead and make some easy chicken stock from the carcass of a roast chicken, this is a meal that can be put together in 30 minutes.”

- Michael Ruhlman

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The Cookstr Weekly: Mac & Cheese, Ten Ways

January 22, 2015
January 15, 2015

I loved making macaroni and cheese from the box as a kid. The careful boiling of the water, the measuring of the butter, the addition of the mysterious packet (even in the organic, less-processed versions of the original that predominantly stocked our pantry, the contents were always some version of bright orange). Even now, there’s a comfort in melding together the contents of that box, although when I do, on a day when the refrigerator is empty or there’s a snowstorm or someone’s home sick, I’m likely to add frozen peas, or fresh basil and spinach, and grate the ends of whatever ‘fancy’ cheeses are languishing in the back of the fridge into the mix.

One of the great joys of mac and cheese is its endless aptitude for customization: even purists must answer the questions of whether to add dry mustard, what cheese blend is best for melting and coating the pasta, and what pasta shape is most apt to snuggle the sauce into all its nooks and crannies. For those of us who are not purists, however, the possibilities for experimentation – with proteins, vegetables, herbs, and spices – are nearly infinite. Here are some ideas, below, but let us know your favorites. Even if the answer is the one from the box.

Warmest regards,
Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by David Burke and Judith Choate

“This is my classic macaroni and cheese with just a bit of a bite from the horseradish to offset the richness. It is, as it has always been, easy to put together. My mom used to do it early in the morning and then throw the casserole in the oven just as we began asking “When’s dinner?” I can still remember the browning cheesy smell that would fill the house.”

- David Burke & Judith Choate

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The Cookstr Weekly: Ten Soups & Stews

January 12, 2015

For some of the country, this was the week that the cold really hit: the combination of blustery wind chill and wintry precipitation that even layers upon layers of clothing can’t quite protect against. In this weather, I turn to a more internal source of warmth. Bowls of steaming curries and piping hot soups are a welcome respite from the cold.

In Korean cuisine, the dish of rice, meat, and vegetables served in a stone bowl too hot to touch is known as dolsot bibimbap. On freezing days, it serves as a luxurious personal space heater seasoned with spicy chili paste and sesame oil. While you might serve the soups and stews below in a more traditional vessel, their warming qualities suit the season. A scarf might not hurt either.

Warmest regards,
Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Aliza Green

 

“A delicious celebration soup made in different versions throughout the Caribbean islands, Callalou gets its name from the greens used in it, such as taro, amaranth, or other island-specific greens. However, a mild tasting cooking green such as spinach, Swiss chard, or Chinese spinach make a good substitute. The soup also contains coconut milk and crabmeat, which are typical of Caribbean cooking. Another ingredient, okra (of African origin), can often be found at farmers’ markets. Fresh, young okra is pleasingly chewy and quite delicious. Frozen sliced okra can be substituted but tends to be slippery and should be added during the last minutes of cooking. For those who don’t want to eat pork, substitute diced smoked turkey leg or thigh for the bacon and cook the vegetables in vegetable oil.” - Aliza Green

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The Cookstr Weekly: Meal Salads for Winter

January 5, 2015

Beyond serving as an excellent way to start a meal, a salad can be the ideal beginning to a new year, especially after the excesses of the holiday season. A good meal salad explores flavors, textures, and even temperatures, with toasted bread and roasted vegetables, sharp cheeses, fruit, and nuts. Leftover roasted chicken, turkey, or beef can happily find its way into these dishes.

I even like salads for a late breakfast, with plenty of blue cheese and balsamic vinegar. With some crusty bread and maybe a bowl of vegetable soup, any of the dishes below would be a welcome way to kick off 2015.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Jamie Oliver

What I like best about this salad is the way that it draws inspiration from several different dishes, so that it seems familiar even if it’s your first time making it. Anchovies, lemon, garlic, and creme fraiche combine to create a dressing that’s a creamy, slightly tart take on the traditional Caesar. The toasted bread soaks up the dressing, as in panzanella. And the rich fried halloumi cheese is just decadent enough beside the crunchy, fresh fennel. Pomegranate seeds add a tangy sweetness and a gorgeous pop of color.

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The Cookstr Weekly: New Year’s Celebrations

January 5, 2015

New Year’s Eve always feels like a mixture of anticipation and nostalgia, with a sizable dash of bubbly poured alongside. If you’re having friends and family over to celebrate the onset of 2015, you’ll want to keep the eats light and festive. There’s no need for fois gras or caviar, but everyone will appreciate a spread that’s fun to nosh on while you celebrate the optimism that comes with the turn of the calendar’s page.

Shoot us an email or find us on Facebook and Twitter, and tell us what you’ve got planned for the new year.
Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Tony Abou-Ganim

This drink was created specifically for a New Year’s tribute to New York City. New York – a city that is uniquely indescribable and entirely American. I wanted the drink to reflect the city’s originality, sophistication, and diversity. Hence, the American Cocktail features ingredients from lands far from Manhattan’s soil but integral to its heritage: rum from Puerto Rico, Maraschino liqueur from Italy, bitters from Trinidad, and champagne from France (birthplace, after all, of the Statue of Liberty).

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The Cookstr Weekly: Christmas Spectacular

January 5, 2015
While Thanksgiving is the holiday of prescribed traditions, Christmas varies wildly from family to family. There’s the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, the English prime rib, the Christmas ham, even roast goose or turkey with oyster stuffing. The requirements are simply a large, festive, edible centerpiece (not necessarily a hunk of meat or a whole bird – I’ve participated in a Christmas dinner anchored by a giant pan of vegan lasagna), some side dishes of vegetables roasted until they’re golden and crispy, and good bread. And, of course, some Christmas cookies.
Shoot us an email or find us on Facebook and Twitter, and tell us all about your Christmas cooking traditions!
Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Caryn Lerner

A version of the classic Mexican wedding cookies were a staple on Christmas cookie platters at my Italian-American aunts’ and uncles’ homes during Christmastime. They were often shaped into crescents, and I loved how the powdered sugar gave way to their crumbly, almond-infused innards. Turning the same cookie recipe into mice for Christmas eve, when they might be the only creatures stirring on Santa’s cookie plate, is an inspired idea worthy of making a new tradition.

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The Cookstr Weekly: Festival of Lights

December 15, 2014
Latkes have been, for me, difficult to master. To achieve the ideal crispy edges, the potatoes have to be drained of their excessive water content. They must be seasoned just so. They can be grated and squeezed and mixed by hand, or food-processed, or thrown into the blender and spooned into hot oil with the brave and rewarding splat method. No matter how you make them, at their best, latkes are addictive, delectable, perfect for sharing and passing around on plates during each of Hanukkah’s eight nights. And with eight nights to celebrate, why not experiment? Apples, sweet potatoes, leeks, and other vegetables make for inventive spins on the classic.
Just add some sour cream, kugel, applesauce, and doughnuts and you’ll be set. Of course, a brisket and some roasted vegetables won’t hurt either, if you need a break from frying.
Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Amy Traverso

Every year, we host a big Hanukkah party for a couple dozen friends, serving up four or five different kinds of latkes (potato pancakes) at a time. These sweeter latkes, accented with the oniony bite of shallots, are always the first to go. And here’s a time-saving bonus: Because sweet potatoes contain less water than regular baking potatoes, you can grate them in the food processor without worrying about their releasing too much liquid.

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