Oil Spill

May 31, 2010

End of the world as we know it? I think so. This spill feels absolutely apocalyptic, an awful event that will impact the earth for as long as it continues to revolve around the sun. For thousands of years we have been asking the oceans to absorb our pollution, and they have patiently accepted our garbage, our carbon dioxide, our noxious poisons. We have trawled their floors, destroyed their coral reefs, plundered their treasure with an appetite that is both greedy and rapacious. But this time we have gone too far.

As people wander around muttering about destroying the gulf, and the poor fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen whose livelihoods have been destroyed I want to jump up and down with rage and frustration. What is happening to the gulf is awful – but this catastrophe will not be contained. No matter where you live, it is coming to a seashore near you. The currents that race around the world will be speeding not only the oil but the dispersants into ever-widening circles. The plants and fish will be the earliest victims, but they will soon be followed by everything that eats them. The scope of this is too big to be imagined.

But we must try. The spill can’t be fixed – but we can. It is time for us to end the way we have been living in this world. It is not only our appetite for oil that needs to change, but our belief that we are the masters of the planet, and it is ours to do what we will with it. If we cannot learn this now, I think there truly is no hope.

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Chocolate Cake

May 30, 2010

It’s a month away, but we’re having a pig roast for Michael’s birthday, and i’ve been thinking about what kind of cake to bake. As if reading my mind, Twitter provided an answer. Somebody said that they’d found the perfect recipe – and it was mine. It’s a cake I developed when I was living in Berkeley, working at the Swallow, and baking wedding cakes on the side. And it’s the one I baked for Michael’s birthday the first year that I knew him, the one in Comfort Me With Apples. And so here, courtesy of Serious Eats, is what I’ll be baking again – all these years later.

Big Chocolate Cake

Serves 20-25. Adapted from Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl. This recipe makes a lot of cake and so would be perfect for a big party, but it also takes very well to freezing, even with the frosting on: after a couple of days I carved up our remaining cake and wrapped individual slices carefully in plastic wrap to freeze. Either warmed in the microwave or simply left out to come up to room temperature, the defrosted cake seemed (to us, at least) to have lost nothing in the way of taste and texture, even, amazingly, after a few months. If you are having a really big party, you can, Reichl says, double or triple the recipe as long as you adjust the baking timefor whatever size pans you are using.


For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs

For the frosting:

  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 13x9x2inch baking pans; line bottoms with waxed or parchment paper and butterthe paper. Flour the pans (you can “flour” pans for chocolate cake with cocoa powder, if you like) and tap out excess.
  2. Whisk together boiling water and cocoa until smooth. Then whisk in the milk and vanilla. Sift together the flour,baking soda, and salt.
  3. If possible in a standing mixer, beat togetherthe butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add one egg at a time,beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in the flourmixture in 3 batches and the cocoa mixture in 2, alternatingflour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour. The batter may look curdled.
  4. Pour half of the batter into each pan and smoothtops. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean andthe cake begins to pull away from the pan, 25-35 minutes. Turn thecakes onto racks to cool completely.
  5. Make frosting: melt the chopped chocolate in adouble boiler or in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Cool toroom temperature. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until lightand fluffy (I could not find whipped cream cheese in the store, so Ijust whipped it at home until it looked a little lighter and fluffierbefore adding the butter). Add the cooled chocolate and the remainingingredients and beat until thoroughly combined.
  6. Assemble cake only when the cake layers have cooled completely.

Speaking Engagements

May 28, 2010

Speaking engagements

  • November 2, Culinary Institute of America with Maggie Gray

  • November 11, Montreal, Canada

  • November 12 Montreal, Canada

Avgolemono Soup

May 17, 2010

Pure comfort in a bowl. I love lemons so much that I included an entire chapter on them in the book. This is the simplest of the recipes – and the most soothing.

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup uncooked rice
  • 4 egg yolks
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring stock to a boil. Pour in the rice and cook about 20 minutes, until it is tender. Reduce to low heat.

In a bowl beat the egg yolks. Add the lemon rind, lemon juice and salt. Pour about 1/2 cup of the broth into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Then pour it back into the broth, stirring. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring, over low heat, until slightly thickened.

Pumpkin Soup

May 17, 2010

This isn’t a soup, actually, it’s more like a gratin baked right inside the pumpkin. I was 21, and I didn’t care that it was incredibly rich. Today I mix the cream with chicken broth (about a cup and a half of cream to about a cup of broth). It’s STILL pretty much of a heart-stopper but it’s irresistible.

Another helpful hint: If you brush the outside of the pumpkin with oil, it will look better when it emerges.

Go out and buy a fairly small pumpkin with a flat bottom. Cut off the top, as if you were going to carve a jack-o-lantern, and hollow it out. Spread the seeds out and dry them to eat later.

Now get a good loaf of French bread, slice it and toast it lightly. Grate a goodly amount of one of the Swiss cheeses – Emmenthaler, Gruyere or Appenzeller (you’ll need about 12 ounces). Layer the toast and cheese inside the pumpkin until it’s almost full (leave a half inch on the top because the filling will expand a bit).

Mix 1 cup of chicken stock into a cup and a half of cream. Add a teaspoon of salt. Grind in some black pepper and grate in some nutmeg. Then fill the pumpkin almost to the top with this mixture, replace the top of the pumpkin and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 2 hours.

Bring the whole pumpkin to the table. When you serve it be sure to scoop out the pumpkin flesh with the cheese and the cream. Serve with a light second course.

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