Even if you aren’t on the keto diet, you’ll enjoy this coconut veggie, cauliflower rice stir-fry

The keto diet is similar to the Atkins diet, but its roots go back even farther into dietetics history.

Coconut Veggie Stir Fry

Cauliflower rice, broccoli and squash fill this coconut stir-fry with flavor. The recipe is from a new cookbook called, “Ketotarian.” Contributed by Tamara Muth-King

In the 1920s, scientists theorized that a high-fat, low-carb diet might help children with epilepsy, but now the no-bread, no-potatoes, no-beans diet has has a renaissance with people hoping to find a mix of foods that work well with their body’s metabolism.

Keto cookbooks, including Will Cole’s “Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings and Calm Inflammation” (Avery, $20), often feature a how-to section followed by recipes that show you how to pack nutrients and flavor into non-starchy vegetables. Because grains are one of the restricted foods, many people on the keto diet eat cauliflower rice, which you can make at home or buy in the frozen or fresh section of many grocery stores. If you’re using store-bought veggie rice, you’ll need about 3 cups.

This stir-fry also includes pattypan squash, although you could use regular yellow squash or zucchini. The coconut milk, coconut flakes and liquid aminos, such as Bragg, lend lots of umami to this dish, so you don’t miss the meat.

You can use any number of vegetables in this stir-fry, but don’t skip the coconut milk and coconut flakes, which add umami and sweetness. Contributed by Tamara Muth-King

Coconut Veggie Stir-Fry with Cauliflower Rice

3 cups fresh cauliflower florets
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
5 small pattypan squash, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup thin slivers red onion
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon liquid aminos
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened large coconut flakes, toasted
2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro

Place the cauliflower in the container of a food processor. Cover and pulse until the cauliflower is finely chopped (about the size of rice). Set aside.

In a large wok, stir-fry the broccoli and squash in the sesame oil over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Reduce the heat to medium if the vegetables brown too quickly. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes more. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl; cover to keep warm.

To the same wok, add the ginger and garlic. Cook and stir over medium-low heat for 30 seconds. Carefully add the coconut milk, liquid aminos, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower rice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is just tender and starting to brown.

Return the vegetables to the wok. Cook and stir for 1 minute to heat through. Spoon the cauliflower rice evenly onto two serving plates. Top with the broccoli mixture and sauce. Sprinkle with the coconut and cilantro. Serves 2.

— From “Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings and Calm Inflammation” by Will Cole (Avery, $20)

How to make risotto in less time than it takes to walk the dog

Risotto isn’t a dish you think to make at the last minute, unless you have a multicooker.

Before electric pressure cookers (in the form of Instant Pots) started taking over American kitchens, you had to stand by a stove for 30 or 40 minutes to make risotto, slowly stirring liquid into the rice.

Last night, thanks to this new multicooker I’ve been using for the last few weeks, I made risotto while I walked my dog. It really was that fast.

To recap, I bought an Instant Pot, the brand whose name is more familiar to us than the term “multicooker,” and over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that the feature that makes these multicookers so useful is the pressure cooker.

Stove-top and electric pressure cookers — and pressure cooker risotto (and cheesecakes, for that matter) — have been around forever, but none has been as useful as the ones that also allow you to saute, steam and slow cook in the same appliance. Most models allow you to program it to start at a certain time, and some you can turn off or adjust from your phone.

I haven’t used the yogurt function yet, but I can tell you that the multicooker has been handy to make hard-cooked eggs, corn on the cob, broccoli, curried lentils and rice, chicken curry, quinoa, cauliflower mac and cheese, pork ribs, refried beans, chorizo potato salad, rotisserie chicken (and tortilla soup), corn chowder and, finally, risotto.

This creamy Italian rice might already be the dish that sold you on buying a multicooker — it’s certainly the most mentioned dish when I’ve talked with readers online about what they love cooking in their Instant Pots. (It seems like cooks who have a different brand of multicooker still call it an Instant Pot, but maybe parlance will evolve as our cooking habits do.)

Risotto recipes are in every single multicooker cookbook in my house, and they are similar in quantity and method, calling for 1 1/2 cups arborio rice and 3 or 4 cups stock. I found that packages of arborio rice often contain 2 cups of rice, so I adjusted the recipe to fit that quantity. I also preferred to add more liquid at the end to make a slightly creamier risotto, but the consistency of your risotto will depend greatly on the exact heating specifications of your multicooker and how much liquid evaporates during the heating and steam release process.

RELATED: Fresh corn adds a summer spin to this (Instant Pot-friendly) clam chowder

Instant Pot Basics: How to make refried beans and New York-style cheesecake

If you want to add spinach and feta cheese, stir them into the risotto as soon as it has finished cooking and the steam has been released. The spinach will cook in the residual heat. You can freeze leftover risotto and, because the texture won’t be the same as when it was freshly made, you can use it to make a cheesy mashed potato-style side dish or to add as a thickener to a creamy potato soup.

Parmesan Risotto

This risotto cooks for 6 minutes under pressure, but it takes about 12 to 15 minutes for the multicooker to heat up. All in all, you can make this risotto in less time than it takes to walk the dog, which I found out the other night. When the pressure cooker timer is up, the primary heat turns off, but there is still a “warming” function that it defaults to as the steam starts to release naturally. Ideally, you’ll be nearby to manually release — or quick release — the pressure, which will give the risotto an ideal texture and get dinner on the table even faster. With this risotto, I served steamed broccoli and a bacon-wrapped steak cooked in a cast iron skillet.

— Addie Broyles

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
2 cups arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch dried thyme (optional)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter

Press the saute button on the multicooker. Turn heat to medium, if you can adjust it. Heat the olive oil and then add the diced onion. Stir and cook until the onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rice and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, if using, to deglaze the bottom of the pot. (If not using wine, use a little of the chicken stock at this step.) Add the rest of the liquid, salt, pepper and thyme, if using.

Turn off the saute function. Place the lid on the multicooker and use the manual program to cook under pressure for 6 minutes. Quick release the pressure and then remove the lid of the multicooker. Remove the pot from the cooker so you can hold onto the edge of it while you stir in the Parmesan cheese and butter. (Removing the pot from the cooker will also keep the rice from continuing to cook as it thickens.)

The rice will thicken as it cools, but you can add a little more stock or Parmesan cheese to thin or thicken the dish before serving.

— Addie Broyles

For Hanukkah, get Gail Simmons’ recipe for latke reubens with apple slaw

Hanukkah starts this week, so it’s time to break out the potato shredder.

These latke reubens are a dish from Gail Simmons’ new cookbook, “Bringing it Home.” Contributed by Johnny Miller

Gail Simmons, who was at the Texas Book Festival last month for her new book “Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating” (Grand Central Life & Style, $30), uses a food processor to make short work of what can be an arduous task, but the most important step is the one that follows: straining and squeezing the water out of the shredded potatoes. The latkes won’t stay together if you don’t.

RELATED: Get wax off the menorah before Hanukkah

8 days of sweet: We love doughnuts for Hanukkah

Kids curious about Hanukkah? Read my guide

Latke Reubens

In Simmons’ new book, the “Top Chef” judge shares this recipe for latke reubens. Combining two Jewish staples is an apple slaw that goes on top of the pastrami. It’s tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette, a tangy complement to the old school Russian dressing that she seasons with hot sauce and horseradish.

For the slaw:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons light or dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage (about a quarter of a small head)
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into matchsticks
3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (about half small onion)
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
For the Russian dressing:
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish
1 teaspoon hot sauce
For the latkes:
3 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Kosher salt
Canola oil, for frying
1/2 pound thinly sliced pastrami, slices cut in half crosswise
Chopped fresh dill

For the slaw: In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and a generous pinch of pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil until well combined.

Add the cabbage, apple, onion, celery, and dill to the dressing; toss thoroughly to combine. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Let the slaw stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

For the dressing: In a medium bowl, stir together all of the ingredients. Adjust the hot sauce to taste. The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

For the latkes: Set a large strainer over a bowl. In a food processor fitted with the shredding disk, shred the potatoes and onion in batches. Add each batch to the strainer and let stand for 5 minutes, then squeeze dry. Pour off the liquid and rinse the bowl, then add the shredded potato mixture. Stir in the flour, eggs, dill, baking powder and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Scrape the mixture back into the strainer and set it over the bowl again; let stand for another 5 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat ¼ inch of canola oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working in batches, spoon a scant ¼ cup of the potato mixture into the hot oil for each latke, pressing slightly to flatten. Fry over moderate heat, turning once, until the latkes are golden and crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Drain the latkes on a paper towel–lined baking sheet. Season well with salt.

To assemble: Spread about 1 teaspoon of the dressing on each latke. Top with a folded slice of pastrami and a heaping tablespoon of the slaw. Garnish with dill and serve. Makes 3 dozen.

— From “Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating” by Gail Simmons (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)

 

How to eat that decorative squash on your table with Parmesan, brown butter

This time of year, you can find all kinds of squash and gourds at local grocery stores, far more than the variety found just 10 or 15 years ago.

Butternut, hubbard, delicata, acorn and spaghetti squash are among the varieties of squash you can buy right now. Contributed by Phil Skinner.

Some of those squash might be sitting on your kitchen table right now.

In last week’s food section, we shared a handful of squash recipes that you could use with pumpkins or other edible gourds, and this recipe from “David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient” by David Tanis (Artisan, $40) is similarly versatile. You could use butternut or acorn squash instead of Hubbard; all of them pair well with the Parmesan and brown butter.

You could use any kind of winter squash in this dish from Davis Tanis’ new book, “Davis Tanis Market Cooking.” Contributed by Evan Sung

Hubbard Squash with Parmesan and Brown Butter

I can’t think of much that wouldn’t be good with Parmesan and brown butter, actually, but the combination is especially good with roasted winter squash. Use leftovers for a baked pasta — layer the squash with rigatoni or penne cooked firmly al dente, and then shower with grated cheese and bread crumbs.

— David Tanis

2 pounds peeled Hubbard or other winter squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices or a bit thinner
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
Pinch of crushed red pepper
12 large sage leaves, roughly chopped, or a handful of smaller sage leaves
Arugula or chopped parsley for garnish
A chunk of Parmesan for shaving
Lemon wedges

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the squash slices in a large bowl, season with salt and black pepper, and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat. Toss the squash with your hands to distribute the seasoning, then transfer to two baking sheets and spread out the slices. Roast until the squash is cooked through and the edges are browned here and there, about 15 minutes. (You can roast the squash up to 3 hours in advance and hold it at room temperature.)

Arrange the squash on a warm platter or on individual plates, then quickly make the brown butter sauce: Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crushed red pepper and sage, season with a little salt and black pepper, and whisk the butter and aromatics as the butter begins to bubble and brown. When the butter is foamy and nutty-smelling, in a minute or so, spoon it over the squash. Garnish with a few arugula leaves or chopped parsley and use a sharp vegetable peeler to shave Parmesan over the squash. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 6 to 8 servings as a main course, 10 servings as an appetizer.

— From “David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient” by David Tanis (Artisan, $40)

Sam’s Club drops membership requirement for Hurricane Harvey shoppers

As water flies off shelves across the state, Sam’s Club announced that they would be waiving membership fees in some Texas cities for people to buy emergency supplies.

MORE: The latest Hurricane Harvey news from the Austin American-Statesman
PHOTOS: Texans share pictures of stockpiles, empty shelves ahead of Hurricane Harvey

Usually, memberships cost between $45-$100, and the Arkansas-based store announced this week that people can shop without a membership in McAllen, San Antonio, Harlingen, Brownsville, Laredo and Corpus Christi.

Some Sam’s Clubs in Austin are allowing people to shop for emergency supplies even without a membership. This photo is from a 2015 shopping spree at a Sam’s Club in Austin that allowed the Austin Police Department to give gifts to local families in need.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Even though Austin isn’t technically on the list, a manager at the location on Ben White said that they would be happy to help hurricane shoppers stock up on supplies if they need it.

As the city fills up with evacuees, I imagine that all three Austin locations will also allow you to grab emergency supplies over the next few days. There are lots of folks coming to Austin who might not have many grocery options when they head back home, so don’t take more than you need.

MORE ON HURRICANE HARVEY:

10 things to do indoors with kids this rainy weekend
Hurricane Harvey prep plan: Stuck inside? Here’s what to order from Uber Eats
Hurricane Harvey plan: Here’s what to order at the Alamo Drafthouse
Traveling this weekend and worried about Harvey? What you need to know
Want to see Harvey for yourself? Here are 8 Texas webcams to watch

13 ways to entertain yourself if your power goes out this weekend

 

These smart cooks watched the eclipse through colanders, saltine cracker

Did you get your solar eclipse pics?

I’ve been in Missouri today, tracking the eclipse on my phone and through the shadows in several pinhole viewing boxes we made.

The shadows formed by the trees were probably the most delightful surprise in this 95 percent totality zone, but I’m enjoying seeing all the Instagram photos that you took using other devices capture this moment in history.

You can use a colander to see the solar eclipse on the ground. Contributed by @mullet_baby

Despite all the coverage ahead of time, I hadn’t heard about the trick to use a colander — you know, that strainer you use to drain pasta — to make a bunch of small eclipses, but now I’m seeing lots of photos from people who used them earlier this afternoon.

RELATED: Here’s what the eclipse looked like in Austin at its peak viewing point

Disappointed in Monday’s eclipse? 2024 view from Austin will be better

 

 

But the best pinhole eclipse shadow photo I’ve seen all day came from Twitter, where Sara Kate W posted her discovery: Saltine crackers work even better than the pinhole camera you might build from the box.

The tiny holes in the crackers are just big enough to allow the shape of the sun to come through so you can see the eclipse action.

Apparently Ritz crackers worked, too.

 

Want to see more colander eclipse pics? Check out the hashtag #colandereclipse.

 

Saturday’s Bespoke food summit unites foodies who want to go back to school, too

All this back-to-school excitement can be fun for adults, too.

On Saturday, the folks who run Cochon 555, a nose-to-tail pig competition taking place the following day, are hosting “Bespoke: An Exploration of Taste & Thought,” a food summit exploring the theme of food and movement.

Cochon 555 returns to Austin this weekend, but this year, the event is adding a food summit the day before to encourage education and dialogue around how food moves and why it matters. Contributed by Cochon 555

Cochon 555 will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Four Seasons, but the day before at Contigo, 2027 Anchor Lane, you can hear presentations from some of Austin’s leading food thought leaders, including keynote speaker Rachel Laudan.

Laudan, the food historian and author of “Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History,” has lived and worked on five continents and now resides in Austin, and she’ll be talking about how food movement has affected the development of not only cuisine, but also politics, war and society.

Author and food historian Rachel Laudan, who lives in Austin, will give the keynote at this year’s Bespoke.

The second keynote will come from Robert McKeown, a former Gourmet magazine Asia correspondent and Oxford Food symposiast, who will talk about what he called “culinary worlding” and Filipino food.

Following McKeown’s presentation, Fiore Tedesco of L’Oca D’Oro, Sam Hellman-Mass of the upcoming restaurant Suerte and Farmhouse Delivery owner Stephanie Scherzer will sit on a panel about to talk about issues of diversity, labor and power in the food industry. Attendees will get a chance to then rotate through small roundtable discussions with each of the guests, which is meant to foster engagement and discourse beyond ordinary Q&A format.

All of the profits from Bespoke go will go to two charities: Piggy Bank, which supports family farms raising heritage breed animals, and the American Friends of the Oxford Food Symposium, a student scholarships fund.

The summit will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets to Bespoke cost $55 for students with an ID or $75 for general admission, and they include a ramen lunch bar from Peached Tortillas. You can find them here.

Cochon 555 is a nationally touring event that started in 2008 to educate consumers about heritage pigs, the agricultural importance of utilizing Old World livestock and how they can support family farmers raising these specialty breeds.

Get your queso on at the Quesoff on August 26

The Quesoff, Austin’s biggest queso celebration, returns on August 26 at the Mohawk, 912 Red River. From 2 to 5 p.m., more than 30 local business and competitive cooking teams will compete with their best cheese dips.

[cmg_anvato video=”4149536″]

Last year’s reining winners, Frank, will face entries from teams including Chicon, Bullfight, LeRoy and Lewis, Burro Cheese Kitchen, Kesos Taco House, JuiceLand, Freebirds World Burrito, Mama Fu’s Asian House, BuzzFeed Austin, Red Mango, Vegan Nom, Willigan’s Island, Project ATX6, Pop That Chalupa, The Shady Grove, Javelina Bar and Waterloo Ice House.

RELATED: Check out other events happening this month in Austin
Work your way through this list of great Austin date ideas this summer

The judges are James Beard winner Aaron Franklin, Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s executive director Mariam Parker, Statesman restaurant critic Matthew Odam, Mike Thelin of Feast Portland and Hot Luck, Austin Food & Wine Festival director Shelley Phillips and Wendy Cummings of SXSW. Mayor Steve Adler will be on hand to proclaim Quesoff Day in the capital of queso.

More than 30 teams will compete for the prestigious Quesoff title. Contributed by Jessica Alexander

At this seventh annual event, entry is free with a donation of two canned goods or a $2 donation per person, and the proceeds benefit the Central Texas Food Bank. Note that bags of chips will be available for purchase for $5, and you cannot bring your own.

Organizer Adi Anand says that for the first time this year, they’ll also have a Say Queso photo-booth as well as the mariacheese band Mariachi Relámpago, along with returning resident DJ Johnny Hottub.

RELATED:
Where to get frozen drinks, from frosé to margaritas, in Austin
The best swimming holes in Central Texas

How Purple Carrot changed this food writer’s perspective on meal kits

I’ve been more than a little incredulous about meal kits.

My biggest complaints have been that they are expensive and not environmentally friendly. I’m not paying $8 or $12 per serving for a meal unless someone else is cooking it, and those bulky boxes weighed down with ice packs are so heavy to deliver to my doorstep.

These ingredients for sweet potato bao buns came in a recent Purple Carrot delivery. It’s a dish I never would have made for myself, but the meal kit introduced me to different flavor combinations and techniques. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

When I opened a recent delivery from Purple Carrot, the vegan meal kit company that recently expanded to Austin, I saw even more of the little bottles and jars and bags that are a convenience weighing on my conscious. The ingredients looked fresh, except for the spring greens (above) for one of the meals that I could see hadn’t fared well during the long journey to my office.

Purple Carrot is a vegan meal kit delivery company that recently expanded to Austin. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

This kit contained the recipes for three two-serving meals: Sweet potato bao buns with kimchi, peaches, spring greens and lemon aioli; miso tofu with soba noodles, shishito peppers and beans; and cauliflower steaks with zucchini-poblano sauce and pistachio dukkah. Twenty years ago, I probably wouldn’t have known what half of those ingredients were, but they certainly meet today’s food standards.

I made the meal that looked the most interesting first, that sweet potato tempura served on those soft bao buns. As with all the meals, the cooking time took longer than the card stated, but I didn’t mind because I was frying batch after batch of thinly sliced sweet potatoes, a vegetable I had not yet cooked in a tempera batter. With the weird but delicious smell of kimchi and peaches behind me, I stood at the stove in awe of my abilities. (I forget that I’m a food writer sometimes.)

I’d made tempura shrimp and fish before, but I hadn’t cooked sweet potato tempura until this Purple Carrot meal kit. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

I was gaining a new skill as I turned each orange round, learning little lessons about how much batter should be on each slice, how hot the oil should be, when is the perfect time to flip. Even though I like them, I never buy those steamed bao buns, and I’d certainly never thought to combine kimchi and peaches. The spring greens that came with the kit went into the trash, and I replaced them with a handful of arugula. By the time I was ready to eat, I felt like I could open a food truck serving these sandwiches.

That meal left me feeling virtuous. I’d added a new dish to my roster. I could recreate this recipe another time, and my culinary life is better for it.

The same is true of the zucchini-poblano sauce I made a few nights later. After sauteeing the zucchini and pepper in a skillet, you add it to a blender and make this thick, nutrient dense sauce that added so much flavor to the cauliflower steaks. (The leftover sauce complemented the chicken tostadas we made later in the week.) You could follow that similar technique with so many vegetables to create a bright, healthy sauce to toss with pasta or serve alongside a seared piece of meat.

The ingredients for a miso soba noodle dish came in lot of small bottles, jars and plastic bags. Meal kit companies are trying to cut down on their packaging, but it still feels wasteful. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

My doubts returned, however, by the time I got to the final meal. I love tofu and was surprised to see a slightly different cooking technique than the one I use, where you sear the tofu first and then toss with the sauce. (I almost always marinade mine first.) But that excitement waned as I started to get bogged down in the steps to make the two (very similar) sauces and instructions that called for making the soba noodles long before you actually needed to.

The recipe was also vague in several key places, including how much of the soba noodles to cook — the package they sent included four-and-a-half servings, but the recipe is only supposed to serve two — and what to do with the shishitos after they steamed. This dish also yielded too much trash. Three little plastic bottles and three plastic jars doesn’t seem like much, but when I start to think about millions’ of meals worth of these plastic bottles, I cringe. I’d prefer one bottle with an already mixed miso, vinegar and sesame sauce, but maybe I’m in the minority here.

UPDATE: The company responded with a comment about my comment on waste:

Since they are a plant-based meal kit company (and plant-based eating is actually the fastest way to reduce your carbon footprint), Purple Carrot consistently works to make their packaging reusable, recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable. For example, they recently reduced their box size by 38%, and all of the materials used in their packaging are made from post-consumer waste.

This miso soba noodle dish turned out well, but it took a little longer than expected and the directions could use a little editing. In general, however, I enjoyed Purple Carrot, and it helped me realize that meal kits can help infuse your cooking with new creativity. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

What I did learn from cooking these meals is that meal kits really are a path toward culinary discovery. The companies try to sell them as an easy fix to get dinner on the table, but I haven’t found them to be 30 minutes or less or, to be frank, anything my kids would eat.

But now I understand that you’re not supposed to order meals you already know how to cook or dishes that include ingredients you’re already familiar with. The hundreds, if not thousands, of meals available through these companies, including Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated, are almost like a try-it-before-you-buy-it program for new ingredients or new meals that you might one day cook on a regular basis.

At $10 per serving, that’s a pretty expensive experiment, but if you have a wide palate and deep curiosity, the once-a-quarter meal kit is an excellent way to plant some new seeds for the next time you’re in the grocery store. You can’t debate the convenience of having pre-measured ingredients show up at your door, but I still have reservations about ordering these kits on a weekly basis. When grocery stores get the hang of developing the recipes and marketing the kits (and bringing down the price), I will absolutely be buying them more.

 

Use up the last of those spring strawberries with this pound cake

A few weeks ago, my colleague Liz Balmaseda at our sister paper Palm Beach Post interviewed Jimmy Buffett’s sister, Lucy, about her new book,  “Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life” (Grand Central Life & Style, $30), which is full of Southern coastal recipes.

This pound cake is a recipe most bakers will want to have in their collections. She pairs it with strawberries, a classic combination that’s hard to beat, but you could try with peaches, raspberries or blackberries.

This pound cake is a classic Southern dessert that you can serve with all kinds of berries, but especially strawberries. Contributed by Angie Mosier

Classic Southern Pound Cake with Strawberries

“Southern pound cake — it’s the first thing I learned to cook,” author Lucy Buffett told us in a recent interview. “Anybody in the South who went to their grandmother’s house knows, there was always a cake, some kind of cake, and something on the stove. With this cake, you almost want to undercook it a little bit. It’s buttery and hot and when it comes out of the oven. When anyone takes a bite of it, they just groan.”

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or use almond or any other flavored extract)
Fresh whipped cream, for garnish

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan (a tube pan is preferred, but if you use a Bundt pan instead, you’ll need to make sure to leave 1 inch of space at the top of the pan, so you may end up with a small amount of leftover batter).

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the sliced strawberries. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve the cake.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the remaining 3 cups sugar, ½ cup at a time, and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk, starting and finishing with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. Serve each piece with a spoonful of the chilled strawberries and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Serves 12 to 16.

Fresh whipped cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar

Place a medium metal bowl in the freezer to chill.

When ready to prepare the whipped cream, place the cream and vanilla in the chilled bowl. With an electric mixer, whip the cream on medium speed, gradually adding the sugar. The cream will begin to thicken.

Whip the cream until it begins to form stiff peaks. Be careful not to overwhip or the cream will separate.

— Recipes from “Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life” by Lucy Buffett (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)