What’s a Vegetable?

rhubarb

 

Even the most hapless of cooks can take comfort in their ability to distinguish vegetables from fruits. Or can they? Maybe they already know about the tomato, the most famous crossover produce item. But we’re not sure if they’d correctly label eggplant (botanically classified as a fruit), rhubarb (a vegetable), or corn (every individual kernel, a fruit!). Even in this kale-cultivar-fluent era, our basic crisper-drawer taxonomy is still pretty out of whack.

 

What makes a vegetable a vegetable? There’s no hard and fast rule, but fruits are easier to define. The giveaway is seeds: botanists say that seeds are ripened ovules (i.e., eggs), which nest in ovaries that ripen into fruit. Cucumbers, bell peppers, avocados—all fruit.

 

Of course, the field guide should never dictate the fate of flavor. (Salty rhubarb? No thanks.) In the kitchen, good taste always rules.

 

 

About the author: Anna Mowry is senior editor at the James... Read more >

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Valuing Vegetables

The James Beard Foundation reports on the rise of vegetable cookery


No longer sidelined, produce is having its moment.

 

“Pretty disheartening” is how Amanda Cohen described the limp, bland roasted vegetables placed in front of her at some of New York City’s top tables in the early aughts. Though at the time farmers’ markets and Whole Foods were busy making kohlrabi and rainbow chard mainstream, most restaurants had yet to embrace plant-centered cooking.

 

“If someone was a vegetarian,” recalls New York–based food critic Ryan Sutton, who was a waiter during this same period, “you either gave them pasta or the chef put together a couple of side dishes, called it a main course, and charged $18.”

 

Fast-forward directly to 2014 and vegetable menus aren’t just for vegetarians anymore. Among adventurous epicures, cauliflower steaks are as much in demand as aged rib-eyes, and you can blow your paycheck on a vegetable tasting menu at any number of the country’s top... Read more >

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Up Your ’Gram Game

seafood stew

 

When pondering how to live better in 2014, we couldn’t help but think about improving our food photos—so we consulted an expert. Few people in the industry have greater knowledge of successful food photography than Bon Appétit’s creative director, Alex Grossman. The nominee for a 2012 JBF Award in Visual Storytelling (who also happens to have an enviable Instagram account of his own) sat down with us to share his expertise on capturing beautiful food images. Want to improve your skills? Read on! 

 

JBF: Why do you think Instagram has exploded with food photography? 

 

AG: Food revolves around the culture of sharing, so it's perfectly suited for social media. We... Read more >

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Better Weeknight Dinners

shakshuka

 

Just because you worked late doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a satisfying, home-cooked dinner. So put away the cereal bowls and take-out menus: JBF staffers have some quick dinner tips that will have you sitting down to the table in a snap.

 

 

Put an Egg on It

“For Israelis, shakshuka is a breakfast mainstay. For me, it’s a reliably easy and satisfying weeknight dish. You can make a basic version with pantry items: olive oil; a medium onion, chopped; 2 or 3 crushed garlic cloves; a 28-ounce can of peeled whole tomatoes; and eggs. Sauté the onion and garlic in oil, then add the tomatoes. Season with salt, black pepper, and your preferred ground hot pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Use the spoon to make 1 or 2 dimples in the stew. Crack an egg into each dimple.... Read more >

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Edward Behr on How to Eat Better in 2014

Edward Behr on How to Eat Better in 2014

 

In his new cookbook, 50 Foods: The Essentials of Good Taste, noted culinary expert Edward Behr guides readers on how to select, prepare, and most importantly, enjoy, some of the world’s best foods. To help us get the new year started off right, here are Behr’s top ten tips for a delicious 2014. — JBF Editors

 

1. Eat better apples.

Most of the apples in supermarkets have been picked too soon, and even if they were stored well, they’ve spent too long in the distribution pipeline and then sat too long in displays without refrigeration. They’re not at their best. Instead go to a farmers’ market or a store that cares about fruit and offers great varieties with real flavor, such as Ashmead’s Kernel, Duchess of Oldenburg, Esopus Spitzenburg, Newtown Pippin, Wickson Crab, Pink Pearl, and Macoun (the best of the McIntosh family). Any of those are good for eating out of hand and are also excellent for cooking.

 

2. Eat fresher,

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Raising the Bar: How to Make Better Cocktails at Home with Audrey Saunders

Audrey Saunders of New York City's Pegu Club

 

We tapped the Pegu Club owner and 2013 JBF Gala mixologist to share her tips for better at-home mixology.

 

Simple Syrup, Simply Put

When it comes to cocktails, we don’t want to cook simple syrup; that increases its viscosity. There are exceptions, but we generally don’t want heaviness in a cocktail. Fill a bottle halfway with superfine sugar, which is gritless and dissolves instantly. (I like to repurpose 10-ounce glass soda bottles. They’re ideal for home use and a speed pourer fits perfectly into them.) Fill the other half with filtered, room-temperature water. Cap and shake well. The mixture will appear cloudy at first but will quickly settle. Top off with more water. When it’s transparent, it’s ready for use.

 

Vermouth: Smaller Is Better

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Our Favorite Dishes (and Drinks!) of 2013

 

Recaps of trends and memes are all well and good, but we like to define a year of eating in more satisfying terms: the food that really delivered. Herewith, our favorite dishes of 2013. And, for the first time ever, we’re including a handful of drinks that wowed us, too.

—Anna Mowry, Senior Editor

 

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FOOD

 

Bacalhau with Olives, Chilies, and Mint from Fat Rice in Chicago

 

Bacalhau with Olives, Chilies, and Mint

Fat Rice, Chicago

 

At Logan Square’s Fat Rice, owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo recast Macanese cuisine as “Euro-Asian comfort food,” cherry-picking the larders of Portugal, India, China, and Southeast Asia to craft a menu that feels at once novel and familiar. Some dishes, like braised sweet-and-sour pork belly with tamarind, pineapple, and... Read more >

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The 2013 JBF Leadership Awards Dinner: A Menu in Three Acts

James Beard Award–winning chef Maria Hines

 

Are you voting with your fork? We did last night! For our 2013 JBF Leadership Awards, which celebrate visionaries responsible for creating a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world, we asked JBF Award–winning chef Maria Hines to come to New York City and create a menu to honor these inspiring individuals. For the occasion, the esteemed chef of Seattle's Tilth and Golden Beetle created a menu in which each dish represents a different facet of food policy. Read on to see the menu and learn about chef Maria’s inspiration behind each course:

 

The 2013 JBF Leadership Awards Dinner: A Menu in Three Acts
Created by JBF Award winner Maria Hines

 

Inspiration: The annual JBF Food Conference has a sustainability focus. When they invited me to be the chef for the corresponding JBF Leadership Awards this year, I... Read more >

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Eating the Big Apple: New York City's Cuisine Is Emerging

Savory black-and-white cookies at Eleven Madison Park (photo by Thomas Krakowiak)

 

Savory black-and-white cookies iced with Périgord truffle. Smoked sturgeon–wrapped gnocchi fritti cigarettes schmeared with cream cheese and dipped in poppy seeds. Fiery kung pao pastrami. These are signs of a New York City cuisine emerging in the minds and on the menus of chefs around town. It’s a new cuisine based on old flavors, local ingredients, nostalgic resonances, and the culinary culture clash of ethnicities that call New York home.

 

Feeling the pressure, perhaps, from cutting-edge chefs in Denmark who are foraging their wilderness for a true taste of terroir and cooks in Charleston who have heirloom grains growing in their backyards, some New York chefs appear to be on the search for an authentic cuisine they can call their own. “We were drinking Manhattans in a Paris hotel bar when Daniel first told me that he wanted to write a book about New York cuisine,” begins Will Guidara’s introduction... Read more >

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12 Dishes We Loved in 2012


Between attending guest-chef dinners at the Beard House and our travels to other cities for various fundraisers and programs, the JBF team collectively feasts on a broad swath of American food every year. After another rush of meals in 2012, we’re confident that this country’s cuisine is more exciting than ever. We wish we could give a shout-out to every dish that wowed us, but we’re going to keep this salute to a tidy, stellar dozen.

 

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Cucumber-cured Arctic char with melon, mint, and kasha from Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine

Cucumber-Cured Arctic Char with Melon, Mint, and Kasha

Eventide Oyster Co. / Portland, Maine

 

We had high hopes for this brisk and sunny oyster bar: it’s run by the same people who inherited Hugo’s from JBF Award winner Rob Evans. We weren’t disappointed. Our favorite dish... Read more >

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