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Adesina's Kitchen

Issue No. 2 | August 2011

This Month's Kitchen

Maybe it’s me giving into the human desire to categorize, but I’ve been toying a lot with naming what it is I do in the kitchen. If I were to label my style, what would it be? Much of it has arisen from chats I’ve had lately with the amazing Tim Ma (Wow, Tim! 2 for 2 with the newsletter mentions!) and collaborations on several recipes. I’ve long been a total polyglot in the kitchen, blending ingredients and techniques from across the globe into a single pot. As Tim is the owner of a restaurant creating “American” food with “Asian, Latin American, French flavors and techniques,” I asked his thoughts on the concept of “fusion” and why it’s a four-letter word to many modern chefs. He offered this insight about his own cooking, “I hate the word fusion, but its the only way to describe what I do.  I call it American, because that’s what it is - America is the melting pot of cuisine, and classic american is non-fusion American cuisine.  Make sense?  Our food is what makes new american NEW.  I’m in a particularly snarky mood.”

I hope he doesn’t mind - I had to leave that last part in, because talking about fusion makes me a little snarky as well. I don’t think there’s a clear cut definition of what is the purest form of a recipe indicative of a culture, and what can be referred to as a blend of cultures. Our entire food culture is like a living being - evolving and changing with each and every iteration of simple ingredients molded into a completed dish. I think there is something inherently wrong with hating on a tuna poke taco for being “fusion” when in actuality, our end game in the kitchen is perfectly marrying flavors to create a tasty bite. The more I analyze my own recipes, this larger and truer point reveals itself - that all we cook is influenced by everything we know and experience.  And being a better cook means trying as many things as possible and seeing how they work together with the infinite permutations available to us.

This month, I find myself creating recipes for crazy amalgamations of flavors that could easily be called fusion. Like a Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme with Horchata Whipped Cream and Plantain Chips, for one. Or even my Pulled Boar Panini with Lemon Aioli and Miner’s Lettuce. And with fusion talk abounding, I think I need to let go of this need to label and just cook what’s good. If I haven’t said it enough, I highly encourage you to do the same. The moment you decide to be fearless in the kitchen is ultimately when you are freed to create goodness without all of the pretension and ego attached to cooking. Let’s be fearless together, okay?

Choice Read of the Month

The Frankie's Sputino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo and Peter Meehan
I cannot tell a lie - I have a foodie crush on the Franks (Castronovo and Falcinelli) of Frankie’s Sputino fame. I still curse the fact that I moved from NYC before stopping by their place, having to live vicariously through their cookbook and the glorious recipes contained within. From shout outs to Hellman’s mayo (in the words of my husband, “That’s right! What the hell is Best Foods?!?” to delicious prose on their parallel experiences watching their grandmothers craft Sunday sauces, I fell head over heels in love. How befitting that as I was reading and dog-earing page after page, I learned that I’d be cooking homemade pasta for an online cooking group I’d joined (see “Menu of the Month” below). I quickly turned to their much-revered recipe for potato gnocchi and took the plunge. You know the feeling of crushing on a celebrity or public figure, and then, when getting the chance to meet them, you find that they are perfectly charming, exceeding all of your expectations. That was their gnocchi for me - a single recipe validating the entire purchase of the book. No hyperbole employed - what Marcella Hazan did for Italian cooking in this country, the Franks are reiterating for a modern generation. Alright, enough gushing or the hubby will ban their recipes from our kitchen. Adore.

Most Popular this Month

Homemade Mac and Cheese
I’ve been reading through Amanda Hesser’s NYT Essential Cookbook, and at one point in the massive thing, she mentions the resurgence of comfort food in modern restaurants as yawn-worthy. Maybe so, but we’ve yet to move away from the classics. It’s like when big-wig chefs prattle on about the pedestrian nature of spaghetti and meatballs - as if there’s no skill involved in crafting a toothsome marinara sauce. I call shenanigans. The people love goodness personified, regardless of how simple. And for anyone who bitches about this, you’ll notice that this month, Homemade Mac and Cheese had the most hits. Ask you whisk your homemade bechamel, feel free to smack anyone who tells you there’s no skill there.

Menu of the Month

Gnocchi Feast
My first foray into The Daring Kitchen, a cooking club of bloggers and foodies from around the globe, began this month with a bang. Steph from Stephfood, our July hostess challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. Deciding to rock my world with not one but four recipes, I crafted a collection of gnocchi with the help of a few friends. It was glorious - well worth your efforts to do the same - and a good reminder that cooking out of your comfort zone once in a while is very necessary. In addition to the Frankie’s Sputino gnocchi, we adored polenta gnocchi, instant potato gnocchi and spinach and ricotta gnocchi. The feast was a winner, and we have Steph and the Daring Kitchen to thank. Let the challenges continue!

Featured Inspiration

Ginger Scallion Sauce
Ginger Scallion Sauce and I are getting married. We’re sending out the invitations in a few weeks - you are all welcome to come to the ceremony. But seriously - if ever I were to compel you to try a single technique, this’d be hit. Minced ginger and scallions are kissed with searingly hot oil for just long enough to take away the sharp bite and leave a fragrant sauce behind. You can put this stuff on anything - when not shamed into using it on actual food by those that might see my behavior as scandalous, I enjoy it best on fingertips. Kidding, but really, it is that incredible. From the classic Ginger Scallion Chicken to Ginger Beef with Snow Peas to Hot and Sour Soup, you have a lot of choices for this cunningly simple condiment.
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