What you can do to help public broadcasting

I don’t have a recipe for you today. I have a request for your time.

You could say Lynne Rossetto Kasper is my hero. She’s the host of American Public Media’s “The Splendid Table,” and her program has nurtured my love of food and cooking for years. Every week, “The Splendid Table” reminds me why I cook, and why it has such an important place in my life.

That’s just one of the ways I use public broadcasting every day. From investigative journalism to unparalleled cultural programming, it informs me and entertains me, and it’s helped shape my life.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to eliminate federal funding for public broadcasting. Soon, the Senate will begin work on its version of the bill.

Public broadcasting has played a big role in my life. The prospect of communities losing public media frightens me, and I know I’m not alone. I urge you to go to 170millionamericans.org to see how you can take action.

Update: I was absolutely thrilled to receive a short note from a producer at “The Splendid Table” saying they loved the video. It made my year.

Happy National Margarita Day!

Tequila Fresca

Tequila Fresca!

It’s a big day. I hope you’re celebrating and honoring the margarita properly. I did. Twice.

You probably know that there are a shocking number of calories in margaritas made with sweet and sour. I’ve had a cheap and easy solution for years: Tequila Fresca.

Are you ready?

Go buy some Peach Fresca, tequila, sea salt and straws. I’m assuming you have ice and a glass at home. If you don’t, get those too. I apologize for making assumptions about you.

Put the Fresca and tequila (however much you like — I won’t judge you) on the rocks. You can rim the glass with salt if you like, but I often just throw a pinch right in. Stir it. Drink it. Enjoy.

You can also buy the cheapest tequila you can find. Again, I won’t judge you. But please be warned: There is something called tequila-flavored liqueur out there. Satan made it. Avoid it. I fell for it. Once.

Why do this? Well, like  I said, it’s cheap and easy. Plus:

A margarita has 740 calories. Seven. Hundred. And. Forty.

My Tequila Fresca? There are roughly 104 calories for every 1.5 oz. of tequila you use. Fresca has zero calories. And for some reason, it’s marketed as an “adult soda,” so that just adds to the … magic. We’ll call that magic.

Now we have 636 extra calories to play with. You’re welcome.

Thai-Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

Hey, everyone. I have my first cooking video ready for you! Not in the market to learn to make a new dish today? How about a front-row seat to hear about how to eat as many Cheetos as you want by pretending you’re making butternut squash dishes?

Yeah. You’re sold.

I started things off with a take on butternut squash soup because that was the dish that first made me realize I should spend some time in the kitchen. When I was a teenager, I decided I should learn how to cook by being a grand old help to my mom on Thanksgiving Day. I suggested she help me make butternut squash soup.

She and I labored over it, while she was also trying to cook the rest of the meal, and, friends, it was a big moment in the kitchen for me. The taste, the texture, the smell of my very first dish … they were just all godawful.

It was truly a disgusting mess.

So why did it keep me in the kitchen? Because I think kitchen blunders are to be embraced. If we all gave up after one botched dish, where would we be? Sure, Recipes Gone Wild can sometimes turn out to be on the inedible side. But they also help you learn about your own palate and skills.

In the spirit of embracing our mistakes, I’ll confess this to you. I completely forgot to tell you about using ginger root in the video, but it’s in the recipe below.

And that brings us to a new segment we’ll call Kitchen Confessionals. Since I’m doing these videos without a script or anybody to tell me when to filter myself, my most fun moments will be my intimate moments talking to the camera. Enjoy:

Oh, and you probably want the recipe in written form, too. I’m doing a lot for you today. You’re welcome.

Thai-Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

Hands-on Time: It’s just prep work, dear. You can handle it.
Total Time: 2.5 hours. Calm down.

Ingredients

  • 2 butternut squashes
  • 2 apples
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 carrots
  • ginger root (a piece that is about an inch and a half long)
  • red curry paste
  • 4 cans of vegetarian vegetable broth (I won’t be mad at you if you use chicken stock, but some chickens are gonna be pissed)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • chile sesame oil
  • cilantro

Thai-Inspired Butternut Squash SoupPreheat the oven to 375. Slice the butternut squashes in half and remove seeds. Brush them with olive oil, then place cut-side down in two baking dishes. Bake for one hour.

Meanwhile, chop the apples, onion and carrots into small chunks. They don’t need to look pretty. Chop the ginger root into five pieces.

You’ll probably have a little break here. Pat yourself on the back. Or it took you an hour to cut up that stuff. No pat on the back in that case. Take the squash out of the oven. I prefer to give it 15 minutes to harden up and not severely damage my hands, but you could also give peeling the skin off right away a shot. Best of luck. If you wait, like I do, then you can grab the squash and scrape the insides into a bowl. Easy stuff.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Throw the apples, onion and carrots in, then kick it up to medium-high. Give it five minutes.

Throw in the red curry paste. I say two tablespoons, but you can adjust this to your own taste. (But, come on. Use a lot.) Give it two minutes.

Throw in the broth and squash. Stir a little. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.OK, now everybody gets a pat on the back. Go on. Do it.

After an hour, remove the five pieces of ginger root with a slotted spoon.

Then, working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Or, if you have a Magic Soup Wand/immersion blender, save loads of time and praise yourself for your smart purchase. (No pat on the back this time. You’ve had enough.)

Now let’s make this thing purty. Ladle the soup into a bowl, then drizzle the chile sesame oil over the top, then drizzle the coconut milk over it, then throw on some cilantro.

Celebrate. With soup.

What are your must-haves in the kitchen?

This is last night's meal, Chorizo Seitan Soft Tacos, not what I whipped together with limited time today ... but also not that all that different. The seitan is from Upton's Naturals.

I’m meeting a friend for a bite to eat and a few glasses of happy at Spill the Wine for a late-night catch-up, so I don’t have grand plans in the kitchen tonight. But here’s the thing: I’m hungry now. What’s a guy to do?

You’re familiar with Second Breakfast, right? You grab some yogurt and fresh fruit and chow down in the morning, you’re oh-so-proud, and suddenly you’re at work checking to see when it’s time for lunch. And it’s 9 a.m. It’s time for Second Breakfast. Plan wisely, and you’ll have granola, nuts or oatmeal in your desk. Plan poorly, and you fall victim to scrounging for office doughnuts.*

So what do I do tonight? Have Dinner Round 1 immediately upon getting home from work, then Dinner Round 2 four hours later? This got me thinking about the staples in my kitchen. The absolutely-must-haves. There are the cooking essentials, of course — olive oil, balsamic, spices — but I really thought about my I-get-sad-when-I-run-out-of-them items, and was surprised how short the list was.

For the last few months, my must-haves have been:

  • black beans
  • tortillas
  • quinoa
  • dried cherries and cranberries
  • plain yogurt
  • eggs
  • spinach
  • tomatoes

If I have those on hand, I can whip together breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course, I generally have a few other ingredients handy as co-stars, but these are the foundation for many whipped-together, running-late meals for me.

So how did I solve my dinner dilemma? Black beans, mashed into a paste, spread on a tortilla, with a sliced Roma tomato. And, as the just-happened-to-have-it, cilantro. A heavy snack, or a light meal … perfect for Dinner Round 1. Which brings me to last night’s meal, the Chorizo Seitan Soft Tacos pictured above, as well as the fact that I really have no problem having reruns in the kitchen.

OK, friends — I want to get to know you, too. What are your must-haves in the kitchen? What staples do you go to when you need to make a meal quickly? Tell me! It’s OK if it’s cereal. Or caviar. But if it’s caviar cereal, I think you might be a little weird.

*Confession: I hate doughnuts. I hate them so much. It’s OK if you like them. We can still be friends. But please don’t bring them to any dinner parties. It will get awkward.

Aperitif … from a jug.

Oh, hey. Thanks so much for all of your kind words and support so far. I’m so glad you’re here in my kitchen. Stay for a while.

I thought for your first real glimpse into my kitchen, I’d offer an aperitif of sorts before a full-on cooking demo. But I believe in generous portions. So this aperitif comes in two jugs.

Last week, I infused two types of vodka — a blood orange vodka and a cucumber vodka. I’ll show you how to do that quite soon so you can start experimenting with your own flavors.

But let’s cut to the chase: The fun part about infusing your own vodka is the taste-testing. In the spirit of really having you in my kitchen, I offer you my first video — unscripted, off-the-cuff chit-chat with you as I prepare food and drinks.

Oh, hello!

Making pasta from scratch for my family. The key ingredient for hosting your first Thanksgiving? All those bottles of champagne behind me.


If I had my druthers, I’d spend my day as your personal chef and bartender, working behind a large countertop in a well-lit kitchen. Well, it turns out I’ve found the large countertop and well-lit kitchen, but not quite a way to get the food from there to wherever you happen to be. With humble apologies to you and your appetite, I instead offer you this blog as your constant invitation into my kitchen.

As a lover of food and multimedia, I promise to provide you with both photos and videos from my kitchen to give you ideas to bring to your own kitchens, from the delightfully gourmet  (there will be truffle oil) to the deliciously tacky (there will also be jugs of liquor).

I like to cook. You, I imagine, have eaten food. We’re a match made in heaven. Let’s be friends. Take a seat in my kitchen and let’s eat, drink, chat and grow old together.

Remember, friends: There’s nothing in life that can’t be fixed or improved upon with a French fry or a bottle of vodka. Either way, keep potatoes handy.

So. My name’s Cavan and you’re in my kitchen. What’s your name?