Easy Peanut Sauce

Nothing gets my culinary self as excited as finding a recipe that’s versatile, effortless, and uses ingredients I usually keep on hand at all times. And this peanut sauce, submitted to the Food52 site by Phoebe Lapine, is one such discovery.

It calls for all pantry items, among which I count the fresh ginger and garlic: I always have a chunk of the former in my fridge (where it keeps for weeks and weeks) and a head of the latter (preferably pink) on my counter. Only the lime juice requires a bit of foresight on my part, but it’s optional (it was a commenter’s suggestion, one I absolutely agree with) and lemon juice can also do in a pinch.

It is also the easiest thing to make: all you need is a small mixer or blender to whizz together the ingredients, thin the mixture with a little bit of water, and there you have it, a boldly flavorsome peanut sauce that you can:

  • Toss with some noodles, perhaps adding some minced scallions, grated carrots, and cilantro for color and vitamins,
  • Dollop onto a bowl of brown rice with some mushrooms and sweet potatoes,
  • Use as a dip for crudités (think sticks of carrot, cucumber, or kohlrabi, radishes of any color…),
  • Serve as a sauce alongside grilled skewers of (organic) chicken, (sustainable) fish, or (ethically sourced) shrimp,
  • Drizzle over a plate of steamed or roasted vegetables (think broccoli, green beans, bok choy, any kind of leafy green)…

And the best part is, you can make this sauce ahead of time — say, on the weekend — and keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, ready to roll whenever you need to put together a quickie meal or a satisfying snack.

Join the conversation!

Have I convinced you to adopt peanut sauce into your repertoire, if it isn’t in there already? And how are you most tempted to use it?

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Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffins

Experience has twice shown that I am not the kind of person who, when pregnant, cooks up big batches of soup and lasagna in advance of the birth to stash away in her freezer for times of sleep-deprived need.

For one thing, my freezer is Paris-kitchen-tiny and already packed with chicken carcasses for stock and chopped onions and stalks of lemongrass. But also, it would require more organizational skills than I seem to possess and I was scrambling to prepare our regular dinners as it was, so there wasn’t much time or energy left for post-birth meal planning.

I did have room in that shoebox-sized freezer for a half-dozen chocolate banana muffins that I was overjoyed to find when I returned from the maternité with an infant and a wolf’s appetite.

However, it may tell you something about my priorities to know that Mika’s arrival didn’t catch me completely unprepared: I did have room in that shoebox-sized freezer for a half-dozen chocolate banana muffins that I was overjoyed to find when I returned from the maternité with an infant and a wolf’s appetite.

The recipe for these vegan muffins is based on this winning vegan coconut banana bread, which I modified to skip the grated coconut, add coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, and bake in muffin form, with a sprinkle of unrefined sugar so the top part is extra extra desirable.

The texture of these muffins is astoundingly satisfying, moist and tender and chocolate-chunky, the flavors are big and bold, and they are pretty easy to put together, so they are an ideal baking project if you’re pressed for time and energy but mighty hungry.

Join the conversation!

Are you the sort of cook who would prepare well in advance of big events, such as a birth or a scheduled medical procedure? What sort of dish or treat would you make ahead then?

Banana Chocolate Muffins

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Miso Glazed Flank Steak

I only ever buy meat from Mathieu, my butcher of choice at the organic greenmarket on Saturday mornings. I used to stop by every week and get enough for two meals or so, but the line is so long these days — word must have gotten out that his stuff is good — that I had to change my strategy: I go less frequently, buy a little more, and freeze the extra. (On the weeks that I don’t buy meat, I get eggs directly from Mathieu’s wife, Laure, who stands at the register, thus skipping the line. This is accepted practice and can be done without feeling wrathful gazes flare up your back.)

My favorite items to get are duck breasts, which I rub with spices and roast, pork tenderloin, boudins blancs, and andouillettes (chitterlings sausage), all of which freeze very well. And every once in a while, when I’m in the mood for red meat, I get slices of bavette (flank steak) or merlan (a lesser-known, tender cut from the inner thigh) to have for lunch when I get back from the market.

Because this is very flavorsome meat, I usually cook it in the simplest of ways, by just searing it in a grill pan. But the other day I decided to try something a little different and marinated the meat in a paste-like, miso-based marinade. It was so quickly assembled and yielded such savory results it may well become a Saturday lunch staple around here.

If you take a look at the ingredients’ list for the marinade, you’ll notice that I used fresh turmeric, found at the organic store. The skin was a little wrinkled, but it was the first time I’d seen any for sale, so I jumped at the opportunity anyway. As the young man who rung up my purchases remarked, the rhizomes look like cut fingers (he’s lucky it’s my kind of humor). They can be peeled, grated, and used much like ginger, and just like ginger, the fresh stuff has little to do with its dried and ground persona, which I’ve always thought tasted a bit musty. The one caveat is that fresh turmeric is a powerful tincture that will, if you’re not careful, stain your countertop, hands, sleeves, food processor, left cheek, and favorite napkin with highlighter yellow, near indelible blotches. Just thought you might like to know.

Fresh turmeric

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April 2015 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2015, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

The desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for April is a photo of the gorgeous jumbo walnuts I bought in the Périgord last summer, which gave me an opportunity to learn how to open walnuts without a nutcracker (and prompted you to offer all kinds of alternative tips in the comments).

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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March Favorites

A few reads and finds from the past month:

~ Not sure what to do with goat cheese? My suggestions in FRANCE Magazine.

~ Learn more about my kitchen staples and habits with this Kitchen Encounter in The Guardian.

~ Where to find the world’s best éclairs.

~ My 10 perfect food experiences to have in Paris.

~ Food bloggers name their most anticipated new cookbook. Find out what mine is!

~ 57 tips to be a better cook.

~ What Ira Glass’s work routine looks like.

~ I want to make these cornbread waffles.

~ My top 10 foods to try in Paris.

~ Tempted to make this apple, lime and chia smoothies.

~ These funky chocolates illustrate Japanese words for texture, from poki-poki to zaku-zaku.

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