After seasoning a lamb dish spectacularly, my leftover ras el hanout had been languishing forlornly in my pantry.
Remnants of this aromatic and punchy Moroccan spice blend were badly in need of a purpose and home.
Thankfully, the ideal one arrived in the form of “Chewy Ginger Spice Cookies with Ras El Hanout.”
Ras El Hanout is Arabic for “top shelf.” Like liquor at a bar, it connotes the best a mixologist or spice shop owner has to offer.
It’s a blend that can consist of more than a dozen spices, including cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, coriander, peppercorns, paprika, fenugreek, turmeric, fennel seeds, aniseed, and galangal.
I’ve always associated it with savory cooking. But this clever cookie recipe demonstrates just how well it takes to sweet preparations, as well.
Betty Liu makes the rest of us look like slackers.
Not only is she a doctor training to be a surgeon in Boston, but she’s a home-cook so gifted that she created an award-winning food blog, bettysliu.com. Her writing, recipes and photos have appeared in Bon Appetit and Saveurmagazines. She’s also taught food photography classes around the world.
It’s even more impressive when you realize that Liu didn’t even learn to cook until she was in college, and missing her mother’s cooking. Back then, whenever she visited her parents, she cajoled her mother into teaching her how to make her favorite dishes. After college, she worked in Shanghai for a spell, which only deepened her passion for that regional cuisine.
Her cookbook honors her heritage and her family’s cooking, spotlighting the Jiangnan region, which encompasses the lower Yangtzee area, including the city of Shanghai. Not surprisingly, Jiangnan cuisine is all about seasonal fresh ingredients and elevating the natural, pure flavors of the food.
This beautifully illustrated book is complete with lavish photos that bring this region of China to life, as well as useful images that take you step-by-step through specific techniques, including making “Suzhou-Style Mooncakes,” “Scallion Flower Buns,” and “Shanghai Big Wontons.”
Anyone who knows me knows I am an absolute, unabashed, crazed ginger fiend. I’m the one sitting at the sushi bar, who’s always nagging the chef for seconds — even thirds — of pickled ginger. Yup, I am that person.
Yet surprisingly, I’d never made my own pickled ginger.
And what a fool I’ve been, now that I know how embarrassingly easy and fast it is to make at home.
My impetus for making my own pickled ginger came about when I saw that it was a garnish for a dish of “Gingery Ground Beef with Peas Over Rice” that I intended to make.
When I scanned the ingredients list of various jarred pickled gingers sold online, I was aghast. Quite a few of them contained the artificial sweetener, aspartame. Why? Oh, why?! That was such an immediate turnoff, that I decided to make my own instead.
Andreas Winsberg is used to growing things. The son of a farmer — David Winsberg of East Palo Alto’s Happy Quail Farms that started the craze for pimientos de Padron in California — he’s been helping his dad plant those prized Spanish peppers and sell them at the San Francisco Ferry Building farmers market since he can remember.
Now, it’s this 25-year-old’s turn to germinate something special of his own.
In late-March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit full bore in the Bay Area and shelter-in-place restrictions took hold, he created Farm Box, a weekly curated farmers market box that customers can get delivered to their door or pick up at the Ferry Plaza farmers market on Saturdays or the Menlo Park farmers market on Sundays.
Farm Box was developed by 409 + Co, a design agency that Andreas founded with fellow 20-something alums of Pennsylvania’s Haverford College, Stephen Davis and Jessie Lamworth.
They didn’t set out to do this. But realizing just how complicated buying groceries and food was about to become for people, they rose to the challenge to build out a new web-delivery business to help small-scale, local farmers, whose goods are so perishable, reach more customers.
“Seeing what my dad was going through, and fearing that the farmers market might shut down, was the impetus,’’ Andreas says. “We’re not in it to get rich, but to help farmers and others who need the boost now.’’
The book is by Colorado recipe developer Tieghan Gerard, creator of the blog, Half Baked Harvest.
Included are more than 125 recipes, most of which take 30 minutes or less to make. As the title implies, these are dishes that make use of organized prepping, streamlined techniques, a well-stocked pantry, and helpful gadgets at times.