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Growing up, my dad did quite a bit of work travel so my mom, sister and I ate out frequently. Nothing fancy, Taco Bell was a regular stop but Chinese, good ‘ol American Cantonese Chinese food, was a particular favorite. You know the place … Chinese calendar placemats, plastic chopsticks and a menu filled with dishes like chop suey, sweet and sour pork and egg rolls. Our particular favorite in our little corner of Phoenix was Ho-Wah, a small family restaurant across the street from my future high school where the owners would warmly greet us and knew our order by heart. We probably went once a week and I loved it. Though sadly long gone, it is the standard against which I still judge all Chinese food.

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I am an unabashed condiment queen. It used to be that the extent of most of America’s condiment repertoire was the trinity of ketchup-mustard-relish with maybe mayonnaise and horseradish thrown in for good measure. But go take a look at the inside of your refrigerator door right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. I bet you have a much wider variety than that. My refrigerator door is so packed with jars and bottles it actually groans in protest every time I open it. Sure, I have the basics but also: ginger paste, oyster sauce, two kinds of thai curry pastes, a few kinds of nut butters, fish sauce, kimchi, teriyaki, hoisin, sriracha, sambal, tubes of tomato and anchovy pastes, chutneys, key lime juice and various hot sauces. It’s a very Asian influenced assortment and reflects my eating/cooking style rather accurately. This doesn’t even take into consideration the large tub full of jars of pickles, jams and even more chutneys that lives on one of the shelves. And let’s not discuss the tower of miso containers residing in one corner. I have a lot of condiment type things. An ungodly amount.

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It’s Chicken Wing Friday! Time for something new though looking back on my last two chicken wing posts, they’ve been Asian of some sort. Chinese, Japanese and now Thai. Huh. It makes sense, as these are flavors that I love, and they do say to cook what you love. One of these days I’ll choose a different part of the world for inspiration but for now, this is what you get. This idea sort of came together over the last two weeks. You see, it’s been a bit crazy in Chicago with a certain sports team. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time in bars eating some pretty mediocre bar food and some especially forgettable chicken wings. Mediocre hot wing after mediocre hot wing, I longed for something different, something to mix it up. Then I came home from a particularly stressful game, opened my refrigerator and a tub of green curry paste with a fondness for flinging itself off the shelf with great force made its presence known. Ok, I got the message. A green curry chicken wing was in the works. Hot wings with a Thai twist.

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The season is winding down for my little community garden plot, yet it still continues to surprise me. I still get a nice handful of tomatoes every week and the basil, giant and bushy all summer, is still showing a little life. The massive kale, surprisingly productive peppers and chilies and other hearty herbs will go strong for a few more weeks at least. To my delight, the beans I quickly planted in late August are doing quite well with a few nice bunches of green, yellow and purple beans just in time for the close of the garden. Typical. Over the weekend I looked at the bowl of tomatoes I’ve been collecting, bright orange cherries and slightly larger golf ball size red ones, and thought pasta. I probably let them sit a little too long so this had to happen fast. It was time for an end of the season sauce.

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This is the time of year, over here anyway, when the shelling beans start appearing at the farmers markets. Brightly colored, striped and speckled pods filled with fat beans ready for the cooking pot. This weekend, a favorite vendor had big piles of deep purple crowder peas and the ones I really wait for, red and white striped borlotti beans. Sometimes called tongues of fire or cranberry beans, they cook up nice and creamy yet slightly firm. I love them but for some reason, my work schedule always kicks into high gear in September, just as they make an appearance on market tables. If there’s one thing I have a problem with it’s buying too much food at the exact moment when I have zero time to cook it. This has happened more times than I care to admit with these beans.

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I felt the need for some BBQ the other day, but in a new and different way. No burgers or hot dogs, no chicken or ribs. Instead I started thinking about Korean BBQ, one of my favorites. Korean food is fantastic – delicious, fully flavored and a little spicy at times. I headed to my favorite Korean market, steadying my nerves for the inevitable Tetris parking lot situation, white knuckeling my car into an oddly shaped spot. I grabbed a cart and looked around to put together some ideas. Korean BBQ was now definitely on the menu; it was just a question of how I was going to pull it off.

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Unless it’s crispy and fried, chicken sandwiches bore me to death. Maybe I’ve eaten too many of them in my life but they’re typically tough, bland and incredibly boring. Slapping on a few strips of bacon and avocado does not save a sad sandwich and I’ve simply moved on to more delicious things. But something funny happened the other day as I was flipping through my recipe files. I came across a recipe from a trip I took many years ago for a grilled chicken sandwich I ate poolside at a Four Seasons in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It wasn’t even a Thai recipe but it peaked my curiosity.

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