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Korean Chili Sauce Heats up Valentine's Day

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Valentine's Day used to make me nervous. That discomfort began in middle school when we were given sugar hearts with little sayings that we were supposed to give to one another. "Love You." "Cutie." "My Valentine." Fearful of rejection, I didn't give out many hearts. In time, as my confidence grew, candy hearts gave way to fresh flowers and picking romantic restaurants. But I was still nervous.
I embraced Valentine's Day when I learned to cook. By preparing a meal, I could create artful dishes with exciting flavors. By preparing a meal, I could show I cared.

A special meal for a special evening

Google Valentine's Day dishes and the many recipes that pop up for this evening of romance emphasize richly extravagant ingredients or over-the-top sweetness. Kobe steaks with buttery sauces. Truffle rich lobster mac n'cheese. Double-dipped chocolate strawberries. Flourless chocolate cakes dusted with candied pistachios.

All those are great. But …

Go Green for Super Bowl Sunday! Cook Easy-to-Make Roasted or Grilled Artichokes

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We are planning a Super Bowl Sunday party. My plan is to serve "picnic" food. Carrot salad, potato salad, Little Gem green salad, Persian salad, crispy fried chicken, brown sugar salmon and roasted artichokes.

Super Bowl Sunday food should be fun, delicious and healthy.

Spring is happening and artichokes are showing up in our farmers markets. The dark green vegetable, prized by cooks, is healthy and easy-to-prepare.
Looking at an artichoke, with its hard exterior and sharp pointed leaves makes me wonder how anyone figured out they would be good to eat. With a small amount of effort, that tough looking exterior gives up the wonderfully savory flavor bits at the end of the each leaf.
Choosing a good artichoke

Whether you find one that is the size of your hand or a larger one the size of a soft ball, give it a squeeze. If the artichoke feels solid, you've found a good one. An artichoke past its prime will be squishy like a child's squeeze toy. Make sure all the leaves ar…

Cornalin, a Swiss Grape With Big Ambitions

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Which Swiss wines do you love? Hands? Anybody? Nobody? Know why? Only 2% of Switzerland’s wine production is exported. All the rest, 98%, is consumed domestically. The best way -- actually, the only way -- to sample Swiss wines is to visit Switzerland. That’s what I did.
The Valais’ Microclimate
Having grown up with images of Switzerland as a land of snow-covered mountains, when I visited the Valais, a wine-growing, French-speaking canton east of Geneva, I expected cold weather. But the climate was better suited to shorts and T-shirts than to parkas. Neatly trellised vineyards climb up steep hills taking advantage of a hot, dry microclimate. With 300 days of sun a year, the Valais feels like Napa and Sonoma except for the Matterhorn looming in the distance.
In Switzerland, family-owned vineyards and wineries (calledvignerons-encaveurs) are the rule. Even if unprofitable, they stay in the family. During a hosted trip we met one wine maker whose family was regarded as a newcomer. They…

Holiday Baking - Sfogliatella - the Best Italian Pastry You Can’t Pronounce

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Growing up in Los Angeles, and this was many years ago, the closest I got to an Italian meal was opening a can of Chef Boyardee SpaghettiOs. Only when I moved to Providence to teach at Rhode Island College did I experience authentic Italian cuisine. Living close to Federal Hill, the historic center of the city’s Italian community, I had easy access to Italian delis that imported cheeses, pastas and charcuterie directly from Italy. Every block had a small bakery making cakes, pies, cookies, breads and pastries according to recipes handed down for generations.
I discovered cannoli filled with ricotta cheese studded with flakes of bittersweet chocolate. Twice baked biscotti with almonds. Pastry cream filled zeppole, a fat doughnut of sugared dough, baked or deep fried. I loved them all, but my favorite was a seashell shaped pastry, the deliciously crisp sfogliatella. What makes this Tuscan pastry so famous is a crunchy flakiness outside and a sturdy, sweet ricotta cheese filling inside.…

Easy-to-Make Brussels Sprouts for Thanksgiving or Anytime

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Prepping for Thanksgiving reminded me of my mother's kitchen. Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday when my sister and I would join her in the kitchen and friends and family gathered around the table to share a meal.
She grew up in a household with her mom, dad, brother and four step-brothers from her dad's first marriage. Hers was a blended home in New York city with a lot of advantages and many disagreements. I think that's why she enjoyed Thanksgiving in her own home. No sibling rivalries, no mother looking over her shoulder to tell her how to make the turkey.

Brussels sprouts were always on the table for Thanksgiving. She was of the boiling-vegetables-school. She did that with beets, broccoli, carrots and Brussels sprouts. My wife and I are of the roasting-is-better method of cooking vegetables, especially Brussels sprouts.

Shopping for Brussels sprouts this week at the farmers market, I noticed that they were difficult to locate and they were priced at $4.50-5.50 a po…