T. Susan Chang

T. Susan Chang regularly writes about food and reviews cookbooks for The Boston Globe, NPR.org and the cookbook-indexing website Eat Your Books. She's the author of A Spoonful of Promises: Recipes and Stories From a Well-Tempered Table (Lyons Press, 2011). Her app, CookShelf, features reviews and recommendations for the latest cookbooks, and is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Visit her blog, Cookbooks for Dinner, to find out more.

Sous vide. Not that long ago, it sounded so exotic — or, at least, so French. It was a phrase that belonged in restaurants, amid white tablecloths and flower arrangements and hushed conversations. Alternatively, it was a word that belonged to the modernist kitchens just beyond the swinging doors — kitchens filled with gleaming dehydrators and transglutaminase "meat glues" and spherification siphons and more.

For me, the citrus fruits of winter have been bright spots in a long, frost-bound season. The lemons, the oranges, the sweet little clementines, the tart, brawny grapefruits — they glow like miniature suns on the grayest afternoons. As we — finally — turn the long, slow corner in the spring, I love them all the more for knowing they will soon be gone.

As a young woman, I had an attack of nostalgia for a possibly imaginary cookie. It was prompted by a walk up New York's Third Avenue, where I saw in the bakery case of a local delicatessen a stack of small round cookies, covered in the tiny rainbow sprinkles known as nonpareils. Instantly, I was ambushed by a flashback to the tiny Italian pastry shop of the small riverside town just north of Manhattan where I grew up, and where, I felt sure, I had been given star-shaped sprinkle cookies of a similar kind as a reward for my excellent behavior.

Imagine how celery root feels at the vegetable beauty pageant. Everyone's falling over the tomato, that smug beauty queen. The cameras love elegant long carrots and parsnips, and the radishes blush in the spotlight. People coo over the potatoes even though they're not much to look at, because they're in it for the fries.

But homely celery root hovers by the concessions table with big, unremarkable rutabaga and antennaed kohlrabi.

When the late, great Marcella Hazan passed away a few weeks ago, many people recalled with fondness her recipe for roast chicken with two lemons, and so did I. It was one of the first recipes I ever learned. I loved it at every time of year, but never more than in fall. Did it even count as cooking? It was nothing more than a small chicken, seasoned and roasted with two pierced lemons in the cavity, but it had a way of warming people from the inside out. The juices deceived the senses, suggesting hours of care and attention. The pleasure, though, was undeniably real.

At this time of year, we all love tomatoes. Many of us claim we'll "take a big juicy tomato and bite into it like it's an apple," although you won't often see that happen in actual fact.

On the Noodle Road is one attempt to answer an old chestnut: Did Marco Polo really bring noodles from China to Italy? If not, where did they really come from? Or — to put it another way — from what point along the storied byways of the Silk Road did that humble paste of flour and water first spring into its multifarious existence?

It started happening about 15 years ago. I'd be paging through a new cookbook or browsing through recipes online, and I'd suddenly stop. "Mmm, buttermilk biscuits. Doesn't that sound good?" I'd bookmark the site or dog-ear the page. The next week I'd see a recipe for waffles — buttermilk waffles, as it happened. What a splendid idea. Out came the yellow stickies.

If you've never grown garlic, here's how you do it: On a bright cool fall afternoon, before the ground has frozen, you pry an ordinary, unpeeled clove of garlic off the bulb. You plant it in the ground, about 4 inches down and pointy side up. Maybe you cover the soil with some straw to protect it from extremes of heat, cold and drought.

My mother didn't plant a great many spring bulbs. But over by the pachysandra patch, there was a single lovely pink tulip, and I kept my eye on it for two weeks before Mother's Day. When that Sunday morning arrived, I rushed out, snipped it and ran inside to where she lay sleeping to present it to her. "Did you pick that outside?" she inquired, her expression shifting from sleepy surprise to something more complicated. I nodded proudly. "Oh ... thank you, sweetie."

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