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Gift Guide 2019: We All Need Another Cookbook.

December 11, 2019

Sea Urchin Lumpias. Takoyaki Hush Puppies. Coffee-Braised Brisket. Shrimp and Okra Pancakes. Cilantro Rice Chicken Congee.

What do these recipe have in common? They’re all featured in a wonderful new cookbook put out by the Vilcek Foundation, A Place at the Table.

If you don’t know about the Vilcek Foundation, you should. Their mission is to honor the contributions made by immigrants in all fields. In 2010 they gave their first culinary award to Jose Andres. (Full disclosure: I was on the jury.) Jose wrote the foreword to this book; Padma Lakshmi wrote the introduction.

“The forty immigrant chefs profiled in this cookbook,” writes Jose, “and the hundreds of thousand of immigrants who work in the restaurant industry around the country are key to making America – and American food – great.”

The chefs hail from everywhere; you’ll meet Corey Lee, Alon Shaya, Pichet Ong, Daniela Soto-Innes, Dominque Crenn and Emma Bengtsson. And many others. As for the recipes- they all sound really wonderful.

And did I mention that the book is beautiful?

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A Few Recipes That are Not in the Book

April 2, 2019

In the original manuscript of Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir, there was a recipe in almost every chapter.  My wonderful editor thought they slowed the narrative, and in the end we left in only a handful of recipes that were really important to the story.  This week I’ll be posting a few of the recipes that were left on the cutting room floor. So check back tomorrow.

To begin, the recipe for the Ian Knauer’s goat tacos.  If you’ve read the excerpt on Eater, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  This is from the chapter called:

Dot Com

Ian and Alan returned from Queens toting two enormous plastic bags. From halfway across the building you could smell them coming; the goat was still warm, the reek of the abattoir so intense it was as if they were carrying the entire contents of the butcher shop. The primal barnyard scent grew stronger as they approached, and by the time they reached the kitchen door the animal funk was overwhelming. Up close they were engulfed in the sharp metallic scent of freshly spilled blood; the hair rose on the nape of my neck and every instinct urged me to run. Despite my strong desire not to, I put my hand over my mouth. For a moment I  stopped breathing.

“I’m amazed the guards let you in.” I cautiously lowered my hand.

“They didn’t seem happy,” Ian admitted.  “But we flashed our passes and ran for an elevator before they could stop us. The doors were just closing.”

“I hope it was empty.”

Ian and Alan exchanged a glance.  Ian heaved his plastic bag onto the counter. “Anna Wintour was in there.”

I stared at him, fascinated and appalled.  “What did she do?”

“What could she do?  She just kept backing into the corner until she couldn’t go any farther.”

Goat Tacos for Eight

(adapted from Ian Knauer and Alan Sytsma, who adapted the recipe from Alexandro Garcia, Blue Agave Club, Pleasanton, Ca.)

Wipe 3 dried guajillo chiles and 2 dried anchos clean (they tend to be very dusty), slit them open and remove the seeds and stems.  Toast them in a hot, heavy dry skillet, turning them with tongs, until they change color (about 30 seconds each).

Soak the chiles in hot water for half an hour.

Peel a pound of tomatoes and chop them, carefully reserving the juice.

Drain the chiles and put them in a blender with the tomatoes, the tomato juice, a teaspoon of salt and 4 cloves of peeled garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano, a teaspoon of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 5 whole peppercorns, 3 whole cloves and a bay leaf. Puree until very smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sprinkle 3 1/2 pounds bone- in goat (neck, shoulder, leg), that you’ve cut into pieces at the joints with a teaspoon of salt and put it into a shallow baking dish.  Pour the sauce over the meat, turning it about so that the meat is coated to on all sides.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil, put it into the oven and leave it for about 3 hours, until it is very tender.

Uncover the dish and let the goat cook for another half an hour, uncovered, in the sauce. Remove from the oven, coarsely shred the meat and mix it into the sauce.

Return the dish to the oven and cook, about another half hour.

Serve on corn tortillas with these toppings: crumbled queso fresco or feta, salsa, cilantro, chopped onions, sliced radishes, julienned lettuces, pickled jalapenos, limes.





Book Tour

March 29, 2019

Will be posted in early 2024

Gift Guide 2018: Why Not a Book?

December 22, 2018

Too late to order by mail?  You can still support your local bookstore.  Lots of possibilities there. For an  Italian food lover, for example, you might put together a selection of regional recipe books, covering Tuscany, Rome, Puglia, Venice.  For those who are enamored of the food of the middle east there are a number of great new books on the market (there’s always Ottolenghi, and I’m especially fond of Anissa Helou’s new Feast) .

They can, of course, buy these books for themselves.  This book, however, is one that seems meant to be a gift.

I’m generally suspicious of coffee table gift books, but there’s something so appealing about Let’s Eat France!: 1,250 specialty foods, 375 iconic recipes, 350 topics, 260 personalities, plus hundreds of maps, charts, tricks, tips, and everything else you want to know about the food of France,  that I find myself unable to put it down.  I’m pretty sure that anyone who loves the food of France will feel the same way about this quirky compilation.  Weighing in at 6 pounds, it covers  everything from famous chefs to glassware, pasta, historical menus, writers

cheese, fruit, tripe

The book, in short, is everything a gift book should be: big, bold, unusual, fun – and not the sort of thing a person is likely to buy for herself.

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Gift Guide 2017: Unusual Books for Cooks

December 19, 2017

Everybody offers book suggestions in their gift guides. I’m generally more inclined to remind you about vintage books, which are a welcome addition to any library. This year however, a few new food books flew mostly under the radar, and every one of them would make a great gift.

There is, for instance, the wonderful Julia Turshen’s Feed the Resistance, which is the perfect present for people who understand that cooking is a political act. The little book is not only inspiring, but also filled with easy and unusual recipes you really want to make. An extra incentive?  The proceeds go to the ACLU.

History?  There’s never been a book quite like Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene. It’s high time African-American cooks began to set the record straight. History belongs to those who choose to write it – and much of our own food history has been written right out of the record. Here Twitty chronicles his own ancestral food journey with remarkable results.

Setting the record straight is also the mission of Unforgettable.  Paula Wolfert is one of America’s most influential cooks, and until now she has never received the attention she deserves.  Her greatest recipes are here, along with a lovely biography of one of our most fearless, adventurous and intrepid cooks.

I’m not generally a fan of chef’s books; I don’t think home cooks should feel they need to cook like professionals. But here are two books written straight from the heart that would make perfect presents for the right people.

Chris Cosentino has always been a fan of the fifth quarter – the unloved, and mostly unused parts of animals.  His Offal Good is a great guide for cooking heart, tripe, oxtails, tongue, kidneys and the like. This would be a great gift for an adventurous cook.

And for people who are sincerely interested in the seasonal, local, nose to tail ethic, Zac Pelacio has written Project 258: Making Dinner at Fish and Game.  Pelacio is not only living the chef’s dream – he’s also putting everything on the line here, living with the land. His allegiance to the notion means that when he uses fish sauce at his restaurant, he’s actually made it himself. This isn’t just recipes: it’s passion on the page.

And finally, a shout out to the farmers.  If you want a beautifully written ode to the hardest way of American life, you can’t do better than Ted Genoway’s This Blessed Earth.  Eye-opening.

Wait – one last thing. I couldn’t resist this. If you’re really stumped, you might consider giving a vintage manual.  Surely you know someone who’s longing to learn to paint dead trout?

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