Vagabond Cookbook

The best you ate on vacation? Make it at home tonight.

Image of carrot soup

‘I want to make food I’d stab a baby to try’

Thank god that’s over! Maybe it’s just me, but there’s only so much holiday merriment I can handle. By the time week two of egg nog and Burl Ives settles in, I’m ready to break Rudolph’s Bambi legs and get back to my usual routine. For me, that means eating better. We all treat our guts like landfills during Christmas. That’s part of the fun. But, as we kick off this 11-month reprieve from Elf on the Shelf, chances are you’ve set a resolution or two. Why not make eating well one of them? That was my thinking a few years ago, when I started cooking for real. The way I saw it, I had to eat anyway. Shouldn’t I eat something good? I was tired of sitting in the lunchroom at work jabbing my half-frozen Pizza Pops with a fork. I couldn’t take another overpriced, underflavoured salad from the […]

Mushroom-lentil pâté

The most controversial snack around (and a wicked alternative if you need it)

Take a seat and put down your coffee, ‘cause this one’s a doozy. I’m drawing a line in the sand here and, with it, I fear I’m entering a world of pain. There’s a dirty little secret ingredient out there, hated by everyone (except chefs). It’s bold. It’s controversial. It’s the root of legislation across Europe and the U.S.But, can we all put aside our differences for a second and agree on one thing? Foie gras is unspeakably delicious. “#$%@#^! ASSHOLE! YOU’RE WORSE THAN A KLANSMAN! FEEL MY TWITTER WRATH!” See what I mean? Short of certain customs in foreign lands, no other foodstuff fans the flames of hatred like a bit of fatty duck liver. People have their reasons, I suppose. At this point, foie has become a byword for animal cruelty (whether or not those claims are justified). Plus, there’s precious little sympathy for a delicacy so strongly […]

Grilled lamb with ratatouille

The Rest of Summer #4: Deadly is the nightshade

Don your thinking caps, nerds, ‘cause it’s time for a botany lesson. Pop quiz: What do these things have in common?     That’s right! They’re all nightshades, the classic witches’ weeds known to cause madness, hallucinations, and even death. Find them growing wild throughout South America or stored behind posters for The Craft in goth girls’ bedrooms worldwide. Double Bubble, toil and trouble. Like that movie’s cast of ‘90s up-and-comers, some are toxic while others aretempting and delicious. Along with belladonna and tobacco, farmer’s market favourites eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers all join their creepy uncles at the nightshade family reunion. “Fascinating. What is this, dude, Grow Somethin’? I’m outta here.” Hold your horses. A little plant knowledge goes a long way when fixing dinner. For instance, plant families go well together. Think about it: peaches and plums, strawberries and raspberries, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables. It’s true — just […]

Fig and prosciutto salad

The Rest of Summer #3: Salad days

It’s your mother’s fault, really. Remember dinners as a kid on a hot summer night? You happily munch hot dogs. Your father bites into a big, juicy burger. And your mom seethes with envy as she nibbles a dry lettuce leaf, calling it “salad”. “I’m watching my weight,” she moans. The real message rings out loud and clear: Salad is for girls and it sucks like Drusilla. Sunnydale would have been way better off if she did salads once in a while. This Tumblr says it all. Salads are food of the desperate (or deranged). They’re for rabbits and contestants on The Biggest Loser. They’re fine if you need to drop a few pounds fast, but no one actually wants to eat one (and certainly no men do). As Homer Simpson said: “Praise Odin! Finally, D, you say something I can get behind! Now, tell me about cheesesteaks!” Sorry to […]

Tropical coleslaw

The Rest of Summer #2: The Coleslaw Variations

Did coleslaw sick you out too? Growing up, I always thought the stuff brought Janet Jackson levels of nasty. Maybe it was me, but I suspect my revulsion lay in the tragic mess of “salad” dealt from the KFC drive-thru. Welcome to the Atrocity Exhibition. Sweet Jesus! It looks like someone ran a tennis ball through a wood chipper! And that’s the promo shot! Gak, Silly Putty, mutagen, ectoplasm — my childhood was full of wonderful green slime, but coleslaw had nothing to do with it. This green slime I can get behind. I thought all sorts of slaw disgusting until I first encountered the smoky siren’s song of pulled pork. There’s a reason coleslaw tops a pulled pork sandwich: the crunchy, tangy cabbage balances out the sweet and succulent meat, a near-perfect marriage of flavours like a big porky yin yang. (See also: The Rachel.) Since then, my slaw […]

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Bum rush the show with Flavor bouncin’

Need a showstopping dish for a hot date this summer? Clueless where to begin? No worries — Cook Somethin’ has you covered. Now, there’s a sunny summer dish that’ll drive your she-bear wild. Here we’ve got some coffee-crusted scallops, carrot-orange puree, pickled fennel, and some coffee-roasted carrots. Bonan apetiton! “Dude, your Esperanto is outstanding. But coffee and scallops? Sounds grody to the max!” You’d think that, wouldn’t you? But, it’s not. This dish works. It works really, really well. And there’s a reason behind it. Welcome to the magic world of flavour bouncing. Did somebody say Flava? It’s a simple idea, really. Pick an ingredient. Pick another one that goes with it. Then a third flavour that matches them both. Then a fourth, and so on. (Don’t trust me, though. Watch one of the world’s greatest chefs explain the concept here.) Flavour bouncing is the foundation of everything* that tastes good. Pizza margherita? […]

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Adorable raccoons and the joys of pickling

It always starts out right. You buy a ribeye from your butcher. You follow the Yummly recipe to a T. You stuff a potato in the oven and pour another mojito. Like the Evil Plotting Raccoon, you think everything is OK. AND IT IS! You’re just cooking dinner, not negotiating a hostage handover. Still, it’s a downer when your hard work in the kitchen tastes blah. What can you do? There are only a few things you can do to make your shitty food taste better. Add salt. Add acid (that means lemon juice or vinegar, not the Jimi Hendrix kind). Or, add a condiment full of salt and acid that turns the whole thing up to 11.* That’s right, I’m talking pickles. At the risk of sounding like a hipster stereotype, pickles are rad. They keep food fresh. They last damn near forever. And, they make otherwise whatever food […]