In most cases, I’m a terribly traditional cook. If there is a longer, slower, more manual way to do something, almost invariably I will prefer it. But even I push tradition aside when I find an alternative that is not only easier but also tastes as good or better.
After a long day, who hasn’t stumbled into the grocery store without the faintest idea of what to put on the table, when suddenly the tempting whiff of a freshly roasted chicken puts everything into perspective?
Pho (say: fuh), that mesmerizing Vietnamese beef soup, takes time. Even Nancie McDermott’s superb recipe in her “Quick & Easy Vietnamese” (Chronicle) — itself an express version — requires first making a broth with a pound of round steak.
Early last September, when the smoke was so thick that it was inadvisable to go outdoors without a gas mask, the Master Gardeners got together on my patio to make plans for the spring plant sale. The air was slightly clearer at our elevation, and the patio, surrounded by tall evergreens, seemed to be filtering the air.
When local tomatoes are at their peak, as they are right now, my favorite dishes to make with them are gazpacho and panzanella, the latter being an Italian bread and tomato salad studded with crisp onion and cooling cucumber.