Eat consciously. Eat joyously. Eat well.
September 29th
6:18 AM EST

Spicy Northern-Style Tofu | Guo Ta Dou Fu (鍋塌豆腐)

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Spicy Northern Style Tofu (鍋塌豆腐, guo ta dou fu) is second only to Korean Yangnyom Dobu (양념 두부; our recipe here) as the test kitchen’s favorite tofu dish. The tofu’s delicate golden exterior wonderfully contrasts with its silken interior. But what we really love is the sauce. The sauce! At its base is Pixian doubanjiang (郫县豆瓣酱), a special fermented chili and broad bean paste from China’s Sichuan region which provides the sauce with its layers of complex savory, earthy and spicy flavors along with a subtle sweetness. We add a bit of Sichuan pepper (花椒)for its characteristic numbing heat known as málà (麻辣) and sesame oil for warmth and richness. The only thing that prevents us from making this dish more often is the fact that it is fried and therefore a bit messy.

• 1 block of extra firm tofu (approximately 16 oz / 454 g)
• Peanut oil for frying
• 1/2 cup cornstarch
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 1 tablespoon minced ginger
• 1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper (花椒), dry roasted and ground
• 1½ cups chicken stock (our recipe here)
• 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
• 2 tablespoons Sichuan chili bean paste (doubanjiang)
• 1/2 teaspoon white sugar or pulverized Chinese rock sugar (冰糖)
• 1 teaspoon sesame oil
• 2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
• Special equipment: candy/fry thermometer

Prepare the Tofu
For best results, remove as much moisture from the tofu before frying. Wrap the entire block in paper towel and place between two plates. Stack a heavy book on top of the plate and allow the tofu to drain for 20 minutes. Unwrap and slice into rectangles approximately 1½” long, 1/2” wide and 1/2” thick (4 cm x 1.25 cm x 1.25).

Fry the Tofu
Get organized for frying: have at the ready separate bowls filled with cornstarch and egg. Separately, bring a pot of oil (we prefer using a smaller pot – less oil – which requires, however, working in batches) to 375°F / 190°C. When the oil’s temperature is stable, gently toss the tofu in the cornstarch, dip into the egg and drop into the oil. Only prepare the tofu immediately before you fry it. Once the tofu is golden remove with a slotted spoon or kitchen spider (pictured) and transfer to paper towel to absorb excess oil. Pierce each piece of fried tofu with a fork.

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The Sauce
In a separate pan fry the ginger and Sichuan pepper in a bit of oil until fragrant, just a few seconds. Next, add the stock and whisk in the Shaoxing wine, chili bean paste and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a vigorous simmer. Fold in the tofu and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, remove the pan from the heat, drizzle the sesame oil over the tofu and give it a final stir. Transfer the tofu to a serving dish and garnish with scallion. Serve with steamed rice.

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September 26th
9:20 AM EST
Title: Kitchen force which operated S.A.T.C. mess hall in home economics cafeteriaDate: 1918Item Number: Collection #23-2-749, Item DD-C-15Source: Human Ecology Historical Photographs, Cornell University Library

Title: Kitchen force which operated S.A.T.C. mess hall in home economics cafeteria

Date: 1918

Item Number: Collection #23-2-749, Item DD-C-15

Source: Human Ecology Historical Photographs, Cornell University Library

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September 24th
6:23 AM EST

Steak au Poivre Blend

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The French Steak au Poivre – also known as pepper steak – is one of the most classic preparations of beef in the Western repertoire. Steaks are crusted with coarsely crushed peppercorns and salt and then cooked (pan seared and broiled or grilled) to preferred doneness. The piquant pepper brings out the delicious savory and slightly sweet flavors of the beef. Traditionally the steak is served with a cream-based sauce. For detailed instructions on preparing the perfect steak au poivre we recommend Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats.

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Our pepper blend includes a few less common ingredients, each with their own unique flavor profile:

  • Allspice: notes of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg
  • Black Pepper: classic sharp and earthy flavor
  • Cubeb (Tailed Pepper): piney aroma with notes of nutmeg
  • Fennel: sweet and herbal with nice licorice flavor
  • Grains of Paradise: bright ginger and citrus spiciness
  • Indian Long Pepper: exotic spicy sweetness, very aromatic
  • White Pepper: less complex than black pepper but hotter (spicier)


We coarsely crush the mix (a mortar and pestle works best), using varying proportions each time but with black pepper predominating, before preparing steaks (figure a scant tablespoon of pepper per steak). We then add coarse smoked salt (two generous pinches per steak) and pour the mixture onto a plate. Next, we pat the steaks dry, brush them with just a touch of olive oil and then press them into the salt and pepper mixture before cooking them.

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September 23rd
1:42 PM EST
Are you a Pinterest pinner? Be sure to follow our three boards: Tasty Finds (interesting kitchen gadgets, gear and garb), Tasty Recipes (our favorite dishes) and Tasty Books (the test kitchen’s food-related reads).

Are you a Pinterest pinner? Be sure to follow our three boards: Tasty Finds (interesting kitchen gadgets, gear and garb), Tasty Recipes (our favorite dishes) and Tasty Books (the test kitchen’s food-related reads).

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September 22nd
10:05 PM EST
This is just some of the food we’ve canned this growing season and it is only September. What have you put up this year?

This is just some of the food we’ve canned this growing season and it is only September. What have you put up this year?

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10:00 AM EST

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Inspired by a recipe in Andy Ricker’s excellent Pok Pok cookbook, our Yam Thuna (สลัดทูน่า), an entrée salad of mango and, yes, canned tuna, is healthy and full of bright, fresh flavors. Save for possibly procuring fresh lemongrass, it is also quite easy to prepare, making it a fantastic weeknight dinner option. A big difference between our recipe and Pok Pok’s is that we substitute mango for papaya. Papaya is the only ingredient the test kitchen can’t stand! We also add orzo (rice-shaped) pasta to make the dish a more filling meal.

As we have, feel free to substitute ingredients and experiment with quantities to suit your taste.

• 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla, น้ำปลา)
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 1 tablespoon simple syrup or agave nectar
• 2 tablespoons very thin matchstick slices of fresh ginger
Roasted Thai chili pepper flakes, to taste (phrik khi nu, พริกขี้หนู)
• 1 (5-6 oz) can of tuna (in water, not oil)
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
• 1 tablespoon very thinly sliced fresh lemongrass (takrai, ตะไคร้)
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
• 1 tablespoon very thinly sliced green onion
• 1 mango, sliced or cubed
• 4 oz (100 g) orzo, cooked, rinsed, and allowed to cool
• 1 teaspoon toasted rice powder (khao khua, ข้าวคั่ว)

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Whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, simple syrup, ginger and pepper flakes to create a dressing. Separately, fold together the tuna, tomatoes, lemongrass, cilantro, green onions, mango, orzo and toasted rice powder. Pour the dressing over the tuna mixture, stir to combine, and allow the yam to stand for 5-10 minutes for the flavors to marry. Serve as an entrée or as a side dish to a larger Thai meal.

image *The toasted rice powder is optional but it does give a nice roasted flavor and textural contrast to the dish. It can be purchased at Southeast Asian groceries but it can easily be made at home (click here to learn how).

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September 19th
8:57 AM EST

Title: Sorting the Tea, Ceylon
Date: between ca. 1870 and ca. 1890
Source: Museum of Photographic Arts
Call Number: 1996.023.005

Title: Small boy and girl at ‘tea party’
Date: 1904
Location: Oxford, Ohio
Source: Miami University Archives, Oxford, Ohio
Call Number: 6140

Title: African seamen drawn from four different inland tribes foregather over a mug of tea
Date: 1945
Location: Kenya
Source: The National Archives (UK), Colonial Office photographic collection
Call Number: CO 1069-139-41

Title: Tea Time
Caption: Members of either the Sheridan or O’Brien families enjoying a meal at their camp site at Loughrea, CO. Galway
Date: May 1954
Source: National Library of Ireland
Call Number: WIL k4[54]

Title: Boiling cookers of tea for our wounded just behind the line
Description: The odd contraptions along the front of the picture are for boiling water. Mass production was required to deal with the volume of men. The soldiers dealing with the boilers are wearing ordinary uniforms, but with aprons over the top. The whole station is hidden behind a ditch, along the edge of which there is a collection of trees and weapons. It is thought that this moment was caught by the photographer John Warwick Brooke. This photograph in conjunction with the caption makes for reassuring propaganda. Although the men are wounded, which is only to be expected, they are being looked after with cosy cups of tea. It is also suggested that if the wounded are drinking tea then their injuries are not so bad. This unfortunately was a far cry from the truth.
Date: ca. 1918
Source: National Library of Scotland
Call Number: Acc.3155

Title: Fancy a Cuppa?
Description: Bustling market scene at Ballybricken Green in Waterford [Ireland]. Would imagine this refreshment van did a brisk trade in tea and coffee that day. And what a beautiful milk jug!
Date: May 4, 1910
Source: National Library of Ireland
Call Number: P_WP_2103

Title: Tea-Yard at Uzi, Yamashiro
Date: between ca. 1890 and ca. 1899
Source: New York Public Library Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs
Call Number: MFY+ 93-6336

Title: (Untitled)
Description: Thomas Smillie was the Smithsonian’s first photographer and curator of photography. He and his studio staff re-shot many of the photographs collected by the institution’s scientists, including documentation of Smithsonian-sponsored expeditions as well as images of scientific phenomena.
Date: 1890 
Source: Smithsonian Institution Archives
Call Number: RU95_Box78_0006

Title: Elephant’s tea party (Bussell Bros. Grocers, Ro-Tayt Pty. Ltd.)
Date: March 24, 1939
Source: State Library of New South Wales
Call Number: Home and Away – 19020

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September 18th
10:00 AM EST
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September 17th
6:23 AM EST

Indian Curd (Yoghurt) Rice

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Think of Curd Rice as a savory rice pudding. Made with overcooked rice and yogurt (in India yogurt is referred to as curd) and seasoned with oil tempered with mustard seeds and other spices, it is especially popular in South India where it provides contrast to spicy curries and fiery pickles.

Each kitchen will have its own method for preparing curd rice. We slowly add water to a pot of leftover basmati rice set over low heat until the rice can no longer absorb any liquid. Next, we combine rice with yogurt, making the mixture as smooth as possible. Separately we temper a bit of oil with mustard seeds, curry leaves, finely minced jalapeño and asafetida which we then combine with the rice and yogurt mixture.

Consider our recipe as merely a template. Full fat yogurt will produce a sumptuous, rich curd rice but 2% or fat-free yogurt will also taste good. Other kitchens might add ingredients such as fresh ginger, cumin seeds, cilantro, pomegranate seeds or nuts. Use what’s fresh and on hand.

• 1½ -2 cups cooked basmati rice*
• Water, preferably filtered
• 1½ -2 cups Greek/Indian-style (i.e., thick) yogurt
• 2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil (e.g., grapeseed, canola or peanut oil)
• 1 teaspoon whole brown/black mustard seeds
• 4 fresh curry leaves
• 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
• 1 pinch of asafetida
• Salt, to taste

*We prefer day-old rice that has been refrigerated.

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Prepare the Rice & Yogurt
Add the rice to a saucepan set over medium-low heat, breaking apart any clumps. Add 1 cup of water and stir. When the water is absorbed add another quarter cup of water and stir. Continue adding small amounts of water and stirring until the rice becomes very soft and bloated and the long grains begin to crumble. When the rice seems unable to absorb any more water, transfer it to a bowl. Fold the yogurt into the soft rice, making the mixture as smooth as possible.

Temper the Oil
Pour the oil into a pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (test by adding a single mustard seed – it should pop) add the mustard seeds, giving them a quick stir. Ten seconds later add the curry leaves and jalapeño. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then add the asafetida. Reduce the heat to low and cook for another minute.

Finishing the Dish
Some folks completely fold the tempered oil into the rice-yogurt mixture but we like to add it as a sort of garnish. Your call!

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