Chef John Foster: Throw a KISS to Thanksgiving — and sit down to a meal all your guests can enjoy

By this time, you’ve probably read a half a dozen articles on how to present the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. You’ve watched countless shows on the best pumpkin pie, or the new improved side dishes to spice up your holiday tables. I don’t need to tell you about basting versus self-basting, the dangers of stuffing the bird or cooking the dressing separately. If you have...

Chef John Foster: Meal planning takes center stage in the kitchen as holiday season approaches

Holiday meals always present the most obvious challenges to cooks. Pre-planning, prep lists that stretch over two or three days. Multiple trips to the grocery store and multiple carts are standard operating procedure this time of year. So many articles on holiday planning, menus and “new” techniques fill the magazines or websites of the cooking world that the rest of the day-to-day planning is...

Chef John Foster: Herbs, an acquired joy of cooking; used fresh or dry, they matter (fresh is best!)

Let’s be honest here, no one expected snow to fall before Halloween. True, there wasn’t much in the way of accumulation, but the fact that it got cold enough to see the flakes fall literally sent shivers up my spine. I’m not ready yet to give up on fall and slog through an early winter, but as is always the case with Mother Nature, it seems she has other plans. Now we may be left with hustling...

Chef John Foster: It’s a good time to turn to the versatile potato — and here are some favorite recipes

Cold and rainy, dark and gloomy, fall has hit the area in the form of chilly temperatures and heavy rain. I liken it to a good wash after a long summer. A little scrubbing, some fresh clothes, and we’re all tidied up for the holidays. Unfortunately, most of us are still in summer mode, cooking away as though the temperatures hadn’t dropped 30 degrees and it wasn’t pitch black at 7 p.m....

Chef John Foster: Try finding a Saturday brunch for a more positive culinary experience

Brunch, one of the most ominous words in a cook’s vocabulary as it conjures up hazy Sunday mornings trying to shake the cobwebs, and produce the same quality of food and service you gave on that busy Saturday night. Eggs, something we rarely cook outside of brunch, sweet rolls and muffins, much better done in house and the pace of brunch service; not lunch rush but certainly much more intensity...

Chef John Foster: A bowl of red, paired with a good beer, is just what the cook orders after a long day

Kitchen conversations between cooks invariably lead to favorite dishes, great combinations and the age-old question: What do you eat when you’re not at work? See my go-to ‘Bowl of Red’ recipe below. Being around food all day – from raw materials to finished plating – numbs the appetite a bit, and the infrequency of an actual sit-down moment precludes any thought of a plated...

Chef John Foster: Gift of food – especially the ‘local’ variety – one of the most heartfelt gestures there is

By the time you read this column, Thanksgiving leftovers will be a distant memory, Black Friday and Cyber Monday a blip, and in place of your comfy living room chair is a sparkly Christmas tree. You are on the long, slippery slope to Christmas Day, a time of reckoning when your very character can be called into question by your choice of gifts to family and friends. I hope you enjoyed the crush of...

Chef John Foster: Waste not, want not when it comes to those Thanksgiving leftovers

Leftovers, or more precisely Thanksgiving leftovers, can be a vexing problem or a pantry boom depending on how you handle the big day and its aftermath. If the day is spent in a tryptophan haze with the cats on the counter tearing apart the carcass, dirty dishes piled in the sink, and endless football on replay then leftovers are a moot point … don’t bother with them. Because in actuality,...

Chef John Foster: Turkey dressed or stuffed? Gravy real or packaged? Hmm … let’s start at the beginning

Is your turkey dressed or stuffed, your gravy real or packaged? With Thanksgiving on the doorstep these questions take on a bigger meaning than just casual conversation. The answer to the first question is complex, the answer to the second should be obvious. But I have seen families fight incessantly about whether to stuff the turkey or prepare the dressing on the side, and don’t get me started...

Chef John Foster: Holiday cooking is not about wowing your guests; it’s about comforting them

The approach of the holiday season, starting of course with Thanksgiving, brings a flurry of self-help, DIY recipes and videos about food. Most center on the main course, the treatment of the Thanksgiving turkey or the ham at Christmas. Some are dedicated to new and improved ways to set up sides, creating new out of old and trendy from traditional. Some have keen insight and strong foundations behind...

Chef John Foster: It’s easy to eat whole, fresh foods – peel a banana, munch some nuts, crunch a carrot

See my “Quick Teenager-Friendly (and Healthy) Sandwich” recipe below: At last we seem to be on the right track when it comes to talking, writing and blogging about changing our eating habits and choices. Articles and debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), diabetes and diet cola, and guiding the food stamp process to provide real food have become much more prevalent. Driven...

Chef John Foster: Winter squash is incredibly versatile – no mini-marshmallows needed

  I’ve started to notice more of the winter, or hard, squash and less of the zucchini and summer squash. This is a sure sign that summer has waned and we need to pay attention to stocking up on the last of the tomatoes and peppers. And re-learn the value of the next group of vegetables.   At Sullivan and The Sage Rabbit we try to approach each new crop as a learning experience for the...

Chef John Foster: In cooking, as in life, it’s better to learn to create from what’s at hand

  I recently celebrated a quarter-century of living and working in Lexington. Twenty-five years of local produce flowing through various kitchens becoming the focal point of my cooking and my career.   I was not alone in this, but at times it seems that as much as we talk, the road to health and community is not always paved by what we grow here and not always populated by many people in...

Chef John Foster: It’s that time of year again; time to adapt and make do in the kitchen

  Sometime in the last few weeks, summer let out a groan and gave up. The light slants differently these mornings, the cicadas are all but silent. The breeze carries with it no signs of growth, only some withering leaves and a faint film of dust. Past the dog days and early into September the world pauses, looks up for a brief moment and then slogs on. It won’t be until the first really crisp...

Chef John Foster: Even in adverse years, we can still get great results out of local produce

  With all the rain we’ve had this summer it should come as no surprise that lawns, bushes, trees and, yes, crops are all growing at alarmingly fast rates. Vast urban and suburban undergrowth is quickly and quietly sneaking up through cracks in the sidewalks and holes in fences. Green never looked so “green,” blooms are the size of softballs, and we are mowing twice a week just to keep...

Chef John Foster: Corn, beans get all dressed up, have plenty of places to go this Fourth

  See my favorite Fourth of July recipes below.   Corn and beans, long considered staples in the daily diet of millions of people, gets dressed up for the Fourth of July in a variety of ways.   Depending on which part of the country you celebrate in, corn can be fresh off the stalk or weeks away. Beans can embrace the slender haricot verte and pole beans found south of us this season...

Chef John Foster: With Lexington’s exploding food scene, be thankful for freedom of choice

  “When in doubt, go with your gut” – or emotion, intuition, even sometimes a vague notion.   Faced with an ever-increasing array of food choices, there may at some point be a need to take time out. Expand that idea to encompass the types of food at restaurants, and diving into uncharted waters could sink you real fast.   There was story recently touting the number and diversity...

Chef John Foster: Practice moderation, not abstinence, in the use of convenience foods

  See my “Good ole chicken salad” recipe below.   One of my students, in preparation for a speech to be given in her public speaking class, asked me several questions about scratch, or home, cooking. She wanted to know if I thought it was beneficial to engage in, and why.   It set me to thinking about convenience vs. scratch, and when in the last generation did feeding ourselves...

Chef John Foster: Don’t be afraid to push your culinary boundaries between seasons

  First, here are the answers to last week’s quiz; Did you score a one hundred?   Chayote Prosciutto Fennel Fruit Artichoke Pancetta Balsamic vinegar Morel Garlic   Caught in the waning days of local asparagus and creeping up on the boom of the summer what is a poor cook to do? Although there is an abundance of greens in many forms including wonderful green garlic, the heavy hitters...

Chef John Foster: Test your food knowledge, then hit the road to gustatory enlightenment

  Red spinach, arugula, asparagus and Swiss chard all rolled into our culinary labs this week, purchased expressly for my Advanced Techniques students. I was like a kid at Christmas nibbling on slender stalks of succulent asparagus, tender and bursting with flavor. As they say in show business: cricket … meaning of course that my students and those in most of the other labs were mystified...