Biography

Leah Eskin writes the food column "Home on the Range" for the Tribune’s Sunday section.

She grew up baking chocolate-chip cookies in Iowa ...

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Leah Eskin

Leah Eskin

Home on the Range

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Cherry crisp from a surprise crop

Cherry crisp from a surprise crop

July 25, 2014

Cherry is a lovely tree, all pink blossoms, dizzy scent, fat fruit. So last summer, we dug one in.

  • The Smash is a sandwich on a mission

    July 18, 2014

    Reverse engineering sounds all spy-versus-spy. So when my handlers passed along a tip about The Smash, I understood my mission: dismantle, decode, rebuild. Even though I'd never met the sandwich face to open face.

  • Summer blockbuster

    July 12, 2014

    Gardening is slow going. Drop a seed; harvest a carrot. In between there's watering, weeding, waiting. No chase scene, no explosion, no big reveal.

  • Midsummer blooms: Candied flowers recipe

    July 3, 2014

    Ballet runs as regimented as army and kitchen. The three share a hierarchy (steep), a language (French) and a core value (discipline). The conscript battles his way to general, the dishwasher hustles his way to chef. So, too, the bumblebee in pink slippers stares at the soloist. She yearns for the spotlight.

  • Pie in the big sky

    June 27, 2014

    Camp fosters the cowgirl fantasy. Wake early. Brush down and saddle up. Ride the trails, humming. Then break for breakfast: apple pie with cheddar cheese.

  • Egg Special sandwich

    June 20, 2014

    Home called; would I come? Not home to husband and dishes. Home to flowered bedroom and mom in apron. Home home.

  • Steak rub: A Father's Day lawn chair adventure

    June 13, 2014

    My passport flaunts a few tattoos — smudgy proof of a trip here or there. But it also knows many a pristine page of Department of State-grade emptiness.

  • Easier than pie: Raspberry apricot bars

    June 6, 2014

    Pie can be scary. I made this unhappy discovery at age 2, standing unsteady and tear-streaked in the family VW bus. I had pie in hand, fierce resistance on face. No way.

  • A prayer for peas

    May 31, 2014

    Yoga ends with the word "namaste," and though I'm willing to bend into up-dog and sweat through down-dog and collapse into dead-dog, honestly, when it comes to "namaste," I decline. I do bow to the divine in my fellow dogs. But saying so — in another language, in another tradition — feels fraught.

  • Easy and green

    May 24, 2014

    Back in the day, mom and I made creamed spinach. It was both homey (creamed) and wholesome (spinach). I liked whisking the white sauce paste-thick and chopping the spinach checkerboard-neat. Soothing work.

  • Cooking by fire pit

    May 16, 2014

    A campfire sounded friendly, so I bought a fire pit. After I twisted the metal feet onto the metal bowl, I was stumped. Fire doesn't require feet.

  • Rhubarb upside-down cake

    May 9, 2014

    Orchids make me anxious. It's not just the glamorous good looks, the frail stems, the supermodel attitude. It's their habit of dropping dead. Or worse: near dead.

  • Egg poached from online

    May 2, 2014

    Julia Child offered to teach me to poach an egg. And I declined. I had my reasons; I was in labor. But I regret the opportunity missed.

  • Cooking up a classic: Chocolate sauce

    April 26, 2014

    Chocolate sauce appeals to the novice cook. It seems so simple. Just warm chocolate. Right?

  • Counterintuitive cooking with green beans

    April 18, 2014

    Smooth: good. Wrinkled: bad. Standard policy in many a household, especially for linens and skin. Smooth suggests order, freshness, vitality. Wrinkled suggests ruin.

  • Muffuletta: Engineering a sandwich

    April 11, 2014

    My robot is old school: Wind him up and he lurches across the desk, orange tin arms swinging, red tin boots shuffling, black tin eyes deep in concentration. And though he makes excellent company, I'm glad I didn't invite him to the robotics competition. Frankly, things have changed.

  • Lesson from the master: Chicken soup

    April 4, 2014

    Chicken soup is de rigueur at Passover. And with Passover looming, I called Papa. His chicken soup is a lot like my chicken soup, only better.

  • Home on the range: Gaining authority

    March 28, 2014

    At library, which came before lunch on Wednesdays in second grade, we were encouraged to browse the stacks. There I found something shocking.

  • Salute spring with strawberry shortcake

    March 21, 2014

    Salutations, meant to welcome the reader, come in all kinds of dreary.

  • Grapefruit, squared

    March 14, 2014

    Grapefruit, love child of an orange/pomelo hookup, flaunts one parent's sunny nature and the other's thick-skinned, rotund ways. The hybrid is all sunny bright, easy-peel, sweet and sour cheer. That's how it rolls.

  • Salmon cakes recipe: a reminder of mom

    March 7, 2014

    Mom picked up on the first ring. She'd been thinking of me. She had just finished dinner and was thinking about sitting in my chair.

  • Compounding snow: Lemon slush recipe

    February 28, 2014

    Spring has its cliches: birdsong, budswell, blizzard.

  • Muffin genealogy

    February 22, 2014

    I grew up with the English muffin; I know its habits. It comes from the grocery store, lives in the fridge, and has a thing for the toaster. It's quirky: brown spotted, fork split, craggy faced. I didn't pry.

  • Stewing over cold weather with tangine

    February 14, 2014

    Cold demands remedy: itchy sweater, bright fire, steaming stew.

  • Grown-up pudding

    February 7, 2014

    Chocolate pudding is the sort of lunchbox snack that fails to wow. It's cute and sweet. Not, say, engrossing. Kids like its wiggle. Adults like its milk content. Faint praise.

  • Fennel is fine with a little love

    January 31, 2014

    Meh is having its moment, and it's about time. After all, it's February. The weather? Meh. The mood? Meh. Even the food, after the chocolates are gone, is lackluster. What thrives in February? Mittens. Which taste terrible.

  • Hands-free tomato sauce

    January 24, 2014

    Lately I've been leaving things on the stove, which turns out to be a terrible technique. Things on the stove like to be stirred and prodded and tasted. They like to be thickened and spiced and mashed. Frankly, they like attention.

  • Hominy's haunting appeal

    October 27, 2013

    The costume can turn the friendly fearsome. Consider spaghetti: Kind, plain and eager to please. Unless it's huddled in the dark, posing as the haunted-house bowl of brains. Then it's terrifying.

  • Updating the laws of physics and figs

    October 20, 2013

    The fig is familiar to every child in its elemental form: Newton. Not Newton, the physicist, who figured out that fruit + gravity = bonk. Newton, as in Newton, Mass., inspiration to a nearby cookie company.

  • Stockpiling flavors of fall for endurance

    October 13, 2013

    Marathon season has arrived and training is intense in my backyard. The competitors — squirrels — dash through their workouts. Run. Leap. Skitter. Flatten. Peer. Sprint.

  • Farro recipe delivers

    October 6, 2013

    Noah jumped off a mountain. Not jumped, he corrected me. Ran. Noah ran off a mountain. Ran down a slope, ran in the air — cartoon-style — ran as the wing clipped to his back puffed and swept him into the sky.

  • Short-term lamb chops

    September 29, 2013

    Unemployment has reached an alarming level, especially in my kitchen. Full-time workers — the toaster, blender and food processor — routinely quit.

  • Mom teaches daughter how to make French dish

    September 22, 2013

    My girl came home from France. She brought beer for her dad, chocolate for her brother and a cookbook for me.

  • Chocolate Mousse

    September 15, 2013

    I bought a new cookbook. It was full of luscious photos and simple recipes, which were hard to follow. French I could manage. Metric, I couldn't.

  • Honey loaf at sea level

    September 1, 2013

    The mountain makes a fine vacation companion. It offers gaspingly beautiful views and, midhike, gasp-inducing terrain.

  • Fried-egg sandwich

    August 25, 2013

    My new favorite lunch at my new favorite lunch spot is a salad that's built like a sandwich. Or maybe it's a sandwich posing as a salad.

  • Summer spaghetti

    August 18, 2013

    Jonah came for a summer visit. He brought his unicycle, his gardening skills and his plan to feed the world. He brought engineering homework, a taste for YouTube and a teenage appetite.

  • Masala prawns

    August 11, 2013

    The English have a unique way with English. For instance, they pronounce "shrimp" as "prawn."

  • Caramelized pears

    July 21, 2013

    The life coach inspires by way of Henry David Thoreau: "Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams!" he paraphrases. "Live the life you've imagined." For the pear, that life is ripe. Which is why pear seeks counsel of banana.

  • Homemade ginger snap cookies

    July 14, 2013

    Letters come in a small toolbox, room for just 26. One which could be more compact. To wit: Why C?

  • Greek salad to go

    July 7, 2013

    Gravity keeps it all together. Apparently the fundamental force doesn't merely drop heavy things. It keeps the tides heaving, the planets orbiting and the stars smoldering. It can even improve salad.

  • Star-spangled pie

    June 30, 2013

    Squushing a berry is satisfying work; it yields pulp, juice and two consecutive u's. Which are rare.

  • Shopping for free time

    June 23, 2013

    In the middle of the day I drove to the middle of nowhere, where I had to wait until midafternoon.

  • Urban hiking, bahn mi sandwiches

    June 16, 2013

    Hiking requires stamina, both physical and mental. So when Ann suggested an urban hike, I panicked. Ann has hiked the Himalayas; she's trekked the tundra. When Ann says hike, I say run.

  • Chard tart recipe delivers

    June 9, 2013

    Chard has a certain glamour, for a green. It's tall and leggy, teetering on spiky roots. It preens from the kitchen garden, flaunting bold stems and broad leaves.

  • Good meat, good burger

    June 2, 2013

    We bought a cow. OK, not a cow. A boy cow, named Cowboy.

  • Soup sans spoon

    May 26, 2013

    If it's your first visit to Paris, you must take in the opera. It's required. If you elbow along Avenue de l'Opera and mount the steps of the ornate Opera Garnier, you will face ridicule.

  • Homemade pierogi

    April 28, 2013

    Pierogi are portly fellows, solid citizens, full of good humor and potatoes. Like most dumplings, they pal around in packs. Which is a happy thing.

  • Slowly learning to slow cook

    March 2, 2013

    Fast friends swear by their slow cookers, so I bought one.

  • Sweet nostalgia

    July 22, 2012

    The cupcake was once all innocence: a stub of cake, a swirl of frosting. On a dressy day, adorned with a sprinkle.

  • A nutty remake

    May 29, 2011

    I've never escorted the Nutella-toast crowd to Italy. But we did stop at Eataly, the Manhattan eatery owned by Mario Batali (and friends).

  • The pop-up stop

    May 15, 2011

    Out to dinner recently, a popover popped onto my plate.

  • Time to play the piper

    April 10, 2011

    Drop that pen. Hands off the keyboard. Back away from the phone. Don't bother. Do not compose the macaron lament.

  • The golden rule

    April 3, 2011

    Rules rule. The dietitian insists: more fiber, less sugar. The food pyramid instructs: more fruit, less butter. Michael Pollan decrees: more vegetables, less meat.

  • Smash your own

    March 27, 2011

    The chickpea, a hardy perennial, grows in a sturdy pod called a tin. The standard cultivar matures at 15 to 151/2 ounces.

  • First things first

    March 20, 2011

    Recently a tartine smiled at me from a bakery case. I'm ashamed to say I didn't smile back.

  • Bad hat, good cookie

    March 13, 2011

    Haman, legend has it, was a bad guy who wore a bad hat. He is remembered and reviled on the holiday Purim in story, song and snack. Rare is the leader — good or bad — who has a pastry named for his hat.

  • Spoonful of comfort

    March 6, 2011

    Bread gets along well with the knife. A serrated one for slicing and a blunt one to handle the buttering. Perhaps a slotted one for trimming cheese to suit. Bread has no need for fork, or spoon.

  • Rise and shine

    February 27, 2011

    Baking soda and baking powder have a lot in common. The two share the same first name, live on the same shelf and hold the same job: hoisting baked goods.

  • Get a kick out of kik

    February 20, 2011

    The farmers market affords the city dweller a taste of fresh. She can stock up on tatsoi and shallot, in anticipation of the wholesome meal to come.

  • Restoring the luck to potluck dinners

    February 13, 2011

    Potluck is an honest word. It does not promise potdelicious, nor potscorched. Simply potluck. It's remarkably forthright, much like foolproof.

  • Forward and backward

    February 6, 2011

    Rules is rules. And the baker is advised to follow them. Should she care to produce a tender and tasty tart, she will mind the pate sablee rulebook.

  • Sweet success at last

    January 30, 2011

    German chocolate cake is an aggravating cake. It's not German (it's named for Sam German). It's barely chocolate (it relies on the low-wattage "sweet chocolate" German developed). It's filled with a sticky mix of pecan bits and coconut flake, which goes on gloppy and goes down chewy. And it lacks frosting.

  • More than a fish story

    January 23, 2011

    The young scientist submits many an unlikely report. To wit: "Bees' guts come out when they sting." And: "Men get hit by lightning more often than women." And: "A rabbit's teeth never stop growing."

  • Squishy when ripe

    January 16, 2011

    The persimmon caught my eye, just when I was packing up the sweet potatoes and arugula. All cheeky orange, lolling in a basket full of like-minded fruit, it gave me a look that said: "Where have I been all your life?"

  • Worthy of worship

    January 9, 2011

    Salt cod is a Christmas specialty, somewhere. So at Christmastime I bought a brick. I stuck it in the back of the fridge, remembering that it's supposed to keep forever. Sometime after the holiday, actually about a year or so after the Christmas in question, I pulled out the box and read up on salt cod.

  • Warming heart and hearth

    January 2, 2011

    Kitchen and chicken are practically the same thing, at least to the dyslexic and the hungry. Which makes sense. Every kitchen should meet regularly with chicken. It's the dish that scents the air, warm, comforting and homey.

  • Bright and green

    August 28, 2010

    The fried green tomato sounds vile. Not so much the fried. Or the tomato. It's the green that stumps me. Who wants to chomp on a tomato that's green?

  • You have a friend in chicken adobo

    August 14, 2010

    Facebook offers face time, minus the face, plus lots and lots of time. Hours online may — or may not — foster the intimacy implied by "friend."

  • Hot ice

    July 31, 2010

    Ice is nice. Mostly because it's cold. And we're hot. So hot we'd like to plunge headfirst into the iceberg. Or something somewhat softer, like the chopped iceberg. Available in the portable portion known as the snow cone. Or the snowball, shave ice, Hawaiian ice, Japanese ice or Scandinavian ice.

  • Clinging to tradition

    July 24, 2010

    The peach sports two looks: freestone and clingstone. Cleave the freestone to reveal a single seed, as woody, hard and bitter as its cousin, the almond. Pry it out and marvel at the poisonous heart of the seemingly sunny peach.

  • A cool summer fling

    July 17, 2010

    Sarah's a straight arrow. The punctual, opinionated, pennywise type. Though she can let loose. Seat her next to a platter of miniature coconut cupcakes and the girl will munch not one. But two!

  • Revelation at the taco stand

    July 10, 2010

    Corn is complicated. That keyboard of kernels. The layers of leaves. The long hair — a single strand for every kernel, they say. Corn has coined its own vocabulary: What other vegetable grows as an ear, on a cob? What other crop demands detassling in the field, shucking in the kitchen?

  • When eggplant met mint

    July 4, 2010

    The summer vegetable can be cruel. It sticks to its clique. The lettuce, tossing its ruffled leaves. The fat-bellied tomato, laughing. The secretive potato club, whispering. All they do is gossip. About eggplant.

  • On hold and dreaming of rhubarb

    June 13, 2010

    At times the computer does exactly as told. At times it does not. You've seen this tendency in other members of the household: Dog. Child. Spouse. And while dog or child or spouse can be cajoled into compliance, the computer cannot. If it's not of a mind to fetch or file, it doesn't stoop to the eye roll. It simply refuses.

  • An ode to the iconic Greek coffee cup

    June 6, 2010

    The Greek urn may rank as civilization's highest achievement: a curvilinear fusion of form and function. The art historian ponders the ancient Greek urn while sipping coffee from the modern Greek urn: the paper cup.

  • Guilty pleasure

    May 29, 2010

    Should you share a home with a near-teen, you will be conversant in "Glee." Not glee, as in giddy. But "Glee," as in the must-see (or record or Hulu or friend) TV show. You may fancy yourself a gleek. Or would-be gleek. The show skews considerably younger than you do.

  • Wiggle room

    May 23, 2010

    Good food is derived from the good ingredient. Which is why the cook practices prejudice.

  • Watermelon grounds a sculptural salad

    May 16, 2010

    Watermelon rolls in at 92 percent water and, we presume, 8 percent melon. Split clean, it reveals flesh so juicy red that certain meat-abhorring sects refuse to eat it.

  • Between a rock and a hot plate

    May 9, 2010

    The modern mom cares for her children, incessantly. And for her parents, intermittently. Sometimes she tends to both child and parent, at home and abroad, at the same time.

  • Dumpling diplomacy

    May 2, 2010

    Make s'mores, not war. That's the counsel of the T-shirt. Reason enough to boil a batch of the Afghani dumplings called aushak.

  • The case of the disappearing cumin

    April 25, 2010

    The grocery store looms large. And larger. So large that it comes with road map, rest stop and radio station. Which fills the rotisserie-scented air with the chipper pitch for the weekly special and the downbeat rock standard. Generally U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

  • A form of sweet relief

    April 9, 2010

    Tax day is a taxing holiday. Like most, it rolls around once a year — yet always comes as a surprise. Like most, it calls for preparation.

  • The good egg

    April 4, 2010

    Recently I met a chicken. She was the fluffy, pecking, chatty sort of chicken, keen on her afternoon snack of fresh thyme and stale graham cracker. I believe she said her name was Clark. Though, to be honest, I'm not sure I could distinguish her from her 23 compatriot Clarks. I admired her wholesome style, her sturdy coop and her warm nesting box, complete with wholesome, sturdy, warm egg. Which I picked up, admired and stole.

  • The rules of cake engagement

    March 26, 2010

    The rule is a bossy know-it-all. Consider the speed limit, stop sign or recommended daily allowance. Well intentioned. But exasperating. Who wouldn't rather drive 80, unfettered, while singlehandedly dispatching the chocolate cake?

  • Cracking the code of the cracker

    March 18, 2010

    The cracker strikes many a pose. The scallop-edged ersatz elegance of the Ritz. The sea-salt-of-the-earth languor of the Lavash. The trim tension of the Wheat Thin. The pale solicitude of the Saltine. The deep brown, deeply dimpled smile of the Wasa. The dry delivery of the Melba Toast. The whole-grain grit of the Rye Crisp. The flamboyant flair of the Croccantini and Torta.

  • Mix-and-match meal

    February 28, 2010

    Should you find yourself stranded in a cabin, on a mountain, in the snow, with no distraction save one overwrought puzzle, you will be seized by a desire to cook. Knocking around in the kitchen gives you something to do. And, conveniently, something to eat.

  • Dessert by another name

    December 20, 2009

    Sticky toffee pudding isn't. It's not sticky. It harbors no toffee. And it shares none of the soft-bellied, spoon-friendly qualities of a pudding. It's a little cake, studded with dates and served with butterscotch sauce. It's also delicious.

  • Brisket tips to calm any Rosh Hashana panic

    September 13, 2009

    Should you awake to discover that a holiday has been convened, fear not. You can still achieve brisket.

  • Practice improves player and pie

    July 5, 2009

    It was a perfect season. The Shamrocks won every game. And every playoff game. Until the championship game, which they lost.

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