Monthly Archives: February 2011

Dinner at Alinea

As we headed for the unassuming front door of Alinea, my friends worried that it might not live up to their expectations. After all, there had been so much press, so many people talking about it. Were there any surprises left? Would they be disappointed? I just smiled and encouraged them to notice the fanciful, diminishing hallway and automatic door, the view into the kitchen from the entryway, and the spare but stunning décor. I figured I didn’t have to convince them. Alinea would do that for me.

I’ve been a fan of Achatz’s cooking for some time. I fell in love with his culinary inventions when he was at Trio. This would be only my second trip to Alinea, but I knew from the first visit that Achatz was just getting better. Granted, Alinea’s food is not for everyone, just as not everyone can imagine a destination that justifies a 12-hour plane ride. But these friends were open to new experiences, so I had no doubt this would be love. Continue reading

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Peruvian Pumpkin Stew

While squash was consumed by indigenous peoples pretty much throughout North and South America, chilies and potatoes were strictly southern delicacies. South American Indians in the area of Brazil and Peru were eating wild chilies as early as 6500 B.C. Potatoes have their roots in the high Andes, and were possibly domesticated in Peru as early as 3000 B.C. The recipe below is from the region where potatoes and chilies got their start. It is a delicate yet flavorful dish. Though it is traditionally served with rice, the potatoes may be enough starch for you, in which case, other indigenous American fruits, like tomatoes and avocados, could be served on the side.

When preparing this dish, I find that squash is sometimes easier to work with than pumpkin, since it’s generally smaller. The last time I made it, I used half butternut and half acorn squash, and that yielded a wonderfully sweet, mellow stew. The chunks of squash and potato should be about 1-2 inches in whatever direction you choose (I love recipes that tell you to cube something that has no flat sides—bite-sized chunks are your goal here, and a vague sense of uniformity, so things cook at the same rate.) If you don’t have a kitchen scale, two pounds of pumpkin/squash chunks comes to about 8 cups. Continue reading

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