Science of Taste: Another Great Video from KQED’s QUEST Series

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I love KQED’s excellent QUEST series. Their videos and radio stories present nuggets of science and nature in the most engaging, informative, and watchable way. I’ve already shared their videos on The Science of Cheese and The Science of Sourdough. Today you get to watch their Science of Taste video—a short piece about one of life’s most obvious, but not often analyzed, pleasures.

From the QUEST website: “Did you know that about 95 percent of what we think is taste is actually smell? Or that the way we perceive flavor comes from a complex relationship between our senses, emotions and memories? As scientists decode how our taste and olfactory receptors work, top California chefs are taking that knowledge and creating alchemy in the kitchen.” Enjoy!

On a related note, here are a couple more resources on the science of taste. This article discusses the physiology and psychology of taste, defines the difference between taste and flavor, and explains what a “supertaster” is. (Kind of interesting that more women than men are supertasters—but that there are also more female “non-tasters.“) Salon.com interviews a neuroscientist who explains, among many other things, how a wine expert can be tricked into mistaking white wine for red. And if you’re a sciencey type who likes to cook, you might want to check out Jeff Potter’s Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food—a compendium of food science, interviews, and experiments, with great recipes to tie it all together.

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Beets Brighten Up this White Bean Hummus

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Beets in Hummus

Roasted beets brighten up a white bean hummus like nobody’s business.

If you’ve ever wondered what to do with beets, you’ve come to the right place. Here at Two Lazy Gourmets, we love us some beets. We love them steamed, pickled, roasted, and even raw.

We wouldn’t be lying if we said we love this treasure of a vegetable for its health benefits, which include ridiculously high levels of all kinds of good stuff that we’re told cleanses our organs, purifies our blood, and keeps us healthy. Or that we are drawn to beets for their aphrodisiac qualities (it’s true! We read it on the internet. Beets contain a substance that helps humans create sex hormones!) Or that we appreciate their feel-good qualities (Again, according to the all-knowing internet, a substance in beets causes a brain reaction similar to what happens when you eat chocolate. It can even help to alleviate depression. Who couldn’t use a little of that?) And then there’s the fact that they taste like the vegetable world’s version of candy. I mean really, what’s not to love?

But if we’re being completely honest, we love beets most for the beautiful pop of color they add to a plate. Just look at this gorgeous Roasted Beet Hummus. Can you imagine a more perfectly beautiful food?

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Roasted Carrots with Rosemary

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roasted carrots with rosemary

These came from out of the ground! Just like pointy orange zombies!

I have a garden! And OMG IT MADE CARROTS! After decades of apartment living, last year I finally moved to a sweet little house with a beautiful, sunny backyard. But it’s still San Francisco, after all, so my first season of gardening was hit or miss. The tomatoes were waterlogged (passive voice, even though I was the one who waterlogged them) and my radish foliage got completely chomped by adorable baby cabbage worms. I was about to add another loss to the tally, when suddenly—that is, eight or nine months after planting the seeds—my garden bed burst forth with dozens of carrots! Fatties! Corkscrews! Jumbo albinos! Stumpy reds! My little niece and I harvested six pounds the other day, and that was from only about four square feet of earth.

Sooooo…what am I supposed to do with six pounds of carrots? I decided to adapt The Lazy Gourmet’s recipe for Rosemary Roasted Potatoes (p.137), swapping potatoes for carrots and adjusting the time a bit. It turns out that this was a very, very good idea. Now all I have to do is sow some more seeds, and in less than one year I’ll be able to make this recipe again.

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Spicy Corn Cakes

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Corn Cakes

These delicious spicy corn cakes are perfect for a fancy brunch at home, but easy enough to make at a campsite

Today I am celebrating with spicy corn cakes from my first book, Campfire Cuisine. I can hardly believe that this book, my first “baby,” turned seven years old on May 1. And like any parent, I can’t help but wonder where the time has gone. But the coolest part is that to mark the occasion, Quirk Books released a new, upgraded, updated, spiffed up edition of the book. I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present.

I’m really excited about the new edition. Like the first, it looks adorable and is packed full of helpful tips and recipes for incredibly delicious camping cuisine (if I do say so myself). Plus this new edition has a bunch of great new recipes. I’m especially excited about this recipe for Spicy Corn Cakes spiked with red chiles, cilantro, and cheese. It perfectly illustrates the shared genes between Campfire Cuisine and The Lazy Gourmet: It seems special enough to serve for a fancy brunch, but the recipe is so simple it can easily be made at a campsite.

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Baked Eggs in a Crunchy Potato Crust

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baked eggs

A crispy crust of shredded potatoes holds a perfectly cooked egg and a surpise center of creamy parmesan onions

“Mama, you know what I call you?” my four-year-old asked me today. I shook my head and crossed my fingers, hoping I wasn’t in store for more preschool-style potty humor.

“My insistent,” he said. “Do you know what insistents do? They tell me what to do and then I do it.”

Oh, kid, if you only knew how much I would relish actually having an “inistent’s” power. I would tell you to clean your room, get ready for school without a fuss, and, for pete’s sake, stop whining. Like, forever. I would tell you to let me sleep in on Mother’s Day and bring me breakfast in bed: A tray laden with a cup of hot tea sweetened with honey and fortified with milk, a bowl of perfect spring strawberries, and these beautiful baked eggs in crunchy potato crusts with parmesan-onion cream filling.

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Slow Cooker Tricks To Make Dinner More Delicious

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easy slow cooker recipes duck confit

This golden-delicious duck confit proves gourmet meals can come straight out of the slow cooker.

I’m a sucker for a good gadget, or, well, let’s be honest, any gadget (that’s what “sucker” means, right?) When I got my first slow cooker, it was no doubt thanks to some marketing lackey’s storyboard fiction: Place random boring ingredients in, turn it on, go off and enjoy your day, and a delicious dinner will ensue. Wondrous visions filled my head. I imagined easy slow cooker recipes that would have me throw in a few chicken parts, a whole onion, some random spices, and head off to work for the day only to find, upon my return, a fabulous, fully cooked gourmet meal.

After years of experimentation, there’s one thing I’ve learned: I don’t love the kind of food that involves throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and applying heat. But, not one to give up on the ever-growing army of gadgets that fill my kitchen (or, god forbid, get rid of them as my husband frequently suggests), I have persevered. And it turns out, the slow cooker really can be a magical, wondrous, time-saving gourmet cooking tool that will make dinnertime more delicious. I’ve more or less given up on the casserole-style CrockPot meals I once dreamed of concocting. These days, I mostly rely on easy slow cooker recipes for prepping ingredients that will serve as the foundation for multiple meals.

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Polenta and Sausage with Caramelized Fennel

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polenta and sausage with caramelized cabbage and fennel

Sausage party!

Planning a menu for three male dinner guests last week, I couldn’t help but envision a sausage-based entree. I considered casseroles, pizzas, and even soups before finding myself at the grocery store with a hankering for cooked cabbage and corn. The delicious result of all this envisioning and hankering was a savory layering of cheesy polenta, caramelized cabbage and fennel, herbed turkey sausage, perky white beans, and a sprinkling of Parmesan. The boys dug it!

Since you can use any kind of cooked polenta you like, I’m not including a specific recipe here. You can simply follow the recipe on your polenta package, or even buy a pre-cooked log. It’s up to you whether you want to serve it creamy or firm—the end result will be delicious either way. (I made The Lazy Gourmet’s Baked Polenta with Mascarpone and Corn (p.143) in a round dish, let it set, and sliced it into wedges.) Sausage choice is a personal decision as well; I picked one that didn’t have too many other strong flavors that might compete with the fennel.

Bonus: to minimize pre-dinner stress, I made the polenta earlier in the day, then just warmed it a little in the oven while I was cooking up the other ingredients.

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Brazilian Cheese Bread or Pão de Queijo

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brazilian cheese bread

Delicious Brazillian cheese bread or Pão de Queijo is gluten-free and unbelievably easy to make.

With a blog constantly in need of filling, you can bet that we’re always on the lookout for interesting new recipes. You wouldn’t think that a preschool would be a hotbed of gourmet food, but when my son’s Brazilian preschool teacher, Anna, brought a basket of delicious, crusty, chewy, cheesy bread balls to a school party, I didn’t hesitate to pester her for the recipe. Turns out they were Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread.

Because they’re made with tapioca flour, these beauties, which are similar to a gougeres or cheese popovers, are gluten-free.  The best part is that they are insanely easy to make and loved by grown up food snobs and picky young tykes alike.

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Magical Chawan Mushi (Japanese Savory Egg Custard)

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chawan mushi or savory japanese egg custard with shrimp and mushrooms recipe

Chawan mushi (savory Japanese egg custard) will brighten even the gloomiest day

I was about to start this post talking about how cold and miserable San Francisco can be, but then I remembered that I can’t stand it when people belabor the fact that San Francisco is cold and damp. I mean, yeah, it is. Almost unbearably so at times. But if that’s the biggest thing San Franciscans have to complain about, it only proves that it’s one of the most awesomest places to live. Besides, San Francisco has Japantown, where you can find any number of restaurants that serve steaming hot bowls of chawan mushi. This magical savory Japanese egg custard will brighten any day, no matter how foggy, with its  silky smooth egg layer concealing an assortment of delectable hidden treasures.

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Maple-Glazed Bacon Beignets

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Bacon Beignets

Maple-glazed bacon beignets are perfect for mardi gras (oh, who are we kidding, they’re perfect any time!)

On the heels of my earlier success with homemade sufganiyot and a recent taste of Applewood-Smoked Bacon Beignets with Maple Crème Fraiche at Melissa Perillo’s San Francisco restaurant, Frances, I’ve been obsessing about fried balls of dough. As foodie obsessions so often do, the two dishes—sufganiyot and bacon beignets—collided in my head in totally inappropriate, but exceedingly appetizing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fashion. I simply could not get this thought out of my mind: Maple-glazed bacon… sufganiyot. Surely hoards of Jewish grandmothers are rolling over right now and for that, I apologize. But, come on, admit it. You think I’m onto something, too, don’t you?

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