Tag Archives: reviews

More Holiday Books 2014

11 Dec

During the next few weeks, I will be cooking from and reviewing some of the year’s best books for gift-giving. They mostly are personal selections from chefs whose work I know well plus a few I don’t know at all. I always am enamored of cookbooks from Phaidon, Artisan, Chronicle and Ten Speed Press, but am impressed this year with the quality and variety of cookbooks published by smaller presses; Monkfish and Interlink among them.

In addition to their more obvious purpose, cookbooks are great sources of inspiration and bedtime reading. They are often the gifts we don’t give ourselves but, like a good box of chocolates, we’re thrilled to be the recipient. Happy Holidays!

2014-12-10-FreshCookingfrontcover.png
Fresh Cooking by Shelley Boris
Monkfish Book Publishing, New York , 2014, ISBN: 978-1-939681-15-7

The subtitle of this compelling book – a year of recipes from the Garrison Institute Kitchen — tells the tale of a talented chef cooking for hundreds of guests in a beautiful monastery on the Hudson. Garrison Institute, created by inspired thinkers, Jonathan and Diana Rose, has served as a beacon for the world’s great spiritual and educational leaders, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has dined there on several occasions. Shelley Boris, the chef at Garrison for more than ten years, has wowed me with her intelligent, countrified sensibility since my first visit a decade ago. There have been many visits since and I was honored when asked to write the foreword to her book. Shelley’s compassionate approach to cooking, deeply rooted in the seasons, is always mindful of the communal table – which is literally how one eats in the Institute’s massive sun-lit dining room. From her large gracious kitchen, Shelley delights in the daily planning of her menus, each a short story revealing something immediate in nature. January brings her comforting Onion Soup with Sprout Creek Cheese and Sour Rye Toast, baked white beans, and crimson quince blanketed in phyllo. May is more spontaneous and carefree – braised lamb and rhubarb chutney, rice with sorrel, garlic chives and mustard greens, and strawberry shortcakes. The book’s recipes range from simple creations – pan-quiche with cauliflower and cheddar, savory chickpea cakes with tahini sauce; winter root vegetable salad with sherry-hazelnut dressing – to dishes that require slow seduction to coalesce their flavors — Thai-style eggplant curry with coconut milk, lemongrass and shiitakes, and braised spicy lamb with apples. Other standouts are Shelley’s breakfast scones – the best I’ve ever had — and her dizzying array of addictive vinaigrettes — carrot-lime, ginger-grapefruit, pear-beet, creamy shallot.

Personal and idealistic, she calls her repertoire friendly-to-meat eaters: rich in vegetables, yet not strictly vegetarian. “We flip the typical equation,” she purports. “Rather than cutting back on meat, these recipes help you think about where you want to add meat and fish to your diet.” Nice. Family-style and deeply practical, she rids her recipes of extra steps and superfluous ingredients in order to focus on the essence of each dish. Working within a limited budget became a driving force of creativity and resulted in recipes that are inexpensive to produce. This is exactly what a home cook desires and why she decided to write the book in the first place. Perhaps it will sit nestled next to like-minded tomes such as the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, Perla Meyers’ The Seasonal Kitchen, and Moosewood cookbooks – older iconic examples serving as game-changers in the way that people think about, and connect to food and cooking in a larger context – where taste and ethics need not be at odds.

2014-12-10-5748539_311781.jpg
Mexico, The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte
Phaidon Press, New York, 2014, ISBN: 978-07148-6752-6

When authors such as Arronte compile cookbooks about a national cuisine as vast as Mexico’s, the goal is to produce a well-rounded exploration that evokes and authenticates, the inherent spirit of a nation’s cultural foodways. Margarita Carrillo Arronte, Mexico’s global ambassador for all things culinary, has certainly accomplished this along with the remarkable design team at Phaidon Press, headquartered in London with offices in New York City. This massive tome, feeling like a work of art or runway fashion statement, is undoubtedly among the most beautiful books this year. Replete with 650 recipes and 200 photos, the book draws inspiration from various sources, some from which have been altered to the author’s own taste by adjusting ingredients, measurements or methods. Ms. Arronte wants the dishes of her homeland, and its many regions, to be cooked and experienced by audiences who have not yet plunged into the depths of mole (mole-lay) making – including an intriguing beet mole – to the more familiar tamales, enchiladas, and fresh fish Veracruz-style, to the less familiar rabbit with prunes and chili, ox tongue in pecan sauce, and birria, a fragrant lamb soup from Jalisco. Much admired in Mexico for the last 35 years, Ms. Arronte has owned restaurants and food companies, hosted television food shows, researched and taught all over the world. She is a formally trained teacher, turned chef and activist, involved in the decade-long effort to have traditional Mexican cuisine recognized with a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation.

Although I wish that head notes were included with each recipe, I understand how daunting a task this would be. The recipes, both classic and traditional, with a swath of contemporary recipes from restaurant chefs, feel mostly accessible – but some ingredients – specific chilies, epazote, avocado leaves — may be hard to find. This does not diminish the book’s pleasures. Part of Ms. Arronte’s research is to delve into other references and oral traditions for inspiration and to re-create recipes that are considered seminal in the development of the cuisine. This is the true nature of recipe transmission and the way that dishes evolve and national cuisines are created. There is an extensive bibliography that includes the important work of Mexican culinary guru, Diana Kennedy. It is a great gift to go hand in hand with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, in bed if not in your kitchen.

Read All About It: Israel’s Emerging Food Scene

9 Oct

cookbooks2Now that Jerusalem has become one of the best selling cookbooks in recent years, it may be time to look at it in context. The recipes are wonderful, the photographs are mouthwatering, the narrative is compelling and democratic. Beyond food, the book has touched something deeper in all of us. Jerusalem, home to more than 60 religious and ethnic communities, is a lodestar for spirituality, sharing and healing, along with a full measure of continuing strife. So beyond the book’s virtues of history combined with recipes, unusual ingredients and flavors, it allows us to hold in our hands a gastronomic overlay to the region’s millennial conflicts, through a universal experience that connotes peace and above all, pleasure.

I had the rare opportunity last year to interview authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, the former is Israeli, the latter Palestinian, when they came to New York on a book tour. We three sat on the bima in a huge Park Slope synagogue, and gazed upon hundreds of fans who came to listen to their stories and then hungered for more. It was clear to all of us assembled there that their Jerusalem penetrated into a realm far deeper than cooking. The cuisine that the authors express speaks to ancient realities and present truths: The kitchen table knows no boundaries; and no wall, however high and long, can ever be so impermeable to prevent the vapors of the collective culinary consciousness waft through.

Just this weekend, I had pleasure of a parallel experience. This time, the talented and ebullient chef, Einat Admony, owner of New York City restaurants Balaboosta, Taim and Bar Bolonat, expressed the food of another diaspora. Vivid dishes — cooked and served in her Brooklyn loft to a handful of journalists and friends – blended the recipes of her native Iran with Arabic verve, and Israeli cunning. Pomegranate mimosas, spicy Yemenite s’chug, brown-boiled eggs, delectable fried eggplant, osovo (an overnight peasant dish with myriad variations – ours included rice and marrow bones), kubaneh (a slow-cooked Yemenite bread), and malabi (a traditional milk custard) with red fruit conserve for dessert made an emphatically evocative case for “new Israeli cuisine.” Best of all, the recipes are easily found in Ms. Admony’s beautiful new book Balaboosta published this week by Artisan.

If asked who I’d have come to a last dinner, Yotam, Sami and Einat would certainly be among my guests. But so too would be the five journalists who graced the stage of the
Museum of Jewish Heritage on October 6th for an event entitled “Frothed Milk and Truffled Honey.” It was a nod to the ebullient creativity that’s fermenting in the kitchens of Israel’s best chefs. Janna Gur, food writer and publisher of Israel’s most prestigious culinary magazine Al Hashulchan, said that the best word to describe the new Israeli cuisine is “fresh.” Fresh referring to the abundance of Israel’s technicolor produce, fresh referring to the culture’s rampant innovation, and fresh also referring to the sassy ingenuity with which chefs there have absorbed culinary influences from the entire region and integrated them into a new, electrifying cuisine.

In 1996, I was one of four “Women Chefs for Peace” on a mission to Israel. Upon my return I wrote an article for the New York Times called “A Region’s Taste Commingles in Israel.” I predicted then that it was the trend to watch. And now, it’s here.

Getting Kids to Read and Cook

24 Sep

It’s back-to-school month with no letup in our country’s interminable decline into child illiteracy and obesity. Each of these epidemics is being addressed by educators, two presidents’ wives, chefs, scholars and scores of other professionals — all of them with competing “solutions.”

Two books may help empower kids in the way they ought to be: Sunday is for the Sun, Monday is for the Moon, written by Sandra Priest Rose and Glen Nelson (2012), tells the story of how the Reading Reform Foundation of New York has, over the past 30 years, touched the lives of more than 20,000 school kids in kindergarten through third grade by helping them learn to read by understanding word meanings. (It is precisely this age that good, or bad, eating habits come into play, but that’s another story.) Deploying multisensory, phonetic techniques, the Foundation trains public school teachers right in their classrooms with some extraordinary results to show for it. And Kids Cook 1-2-3 (written by yours truly in 2006, Bloomsbury) helps empower young children by teaching the foundations of cooking using simple techniques, some ABCs, and 1-2-3s (each recipe uses only three ingredients except for salt, pepper and water.) There is much evidence to support the reality that kids will eat healthy food if they become part of the process of preparing it.

A second-grader asked of Ms. Rose’s project: “Why do they call the reading program ‘reading reform’? It should be called Reading Intelligence,” she went on to say, “because that’s how it makes me feel.” And one kid said of Kids Cook 1-2-3, “I learned how to measure with measuring cups. I also learned that it is good to try foods you don’t know about because you might like them.” What’s essential to both tasks? Reading comprehension = empowerment.

Since its founding in 1979, more than 6,000 teachers have taken the Reading Reform Foundation’s step-by-step course that relies on the simultaneous sounding and writing of syllables and words in order to reinforce the sensory pathways critical in learning. Public schools pay only 20 percent of what is needed for training costs and twice-weekly supervision; the rest is handled by the Foundation. Every Reading Reform consultant visits a school 60 times during the school year. This time-honored approach, built upon a methodology created by Dr. Samuel Orton (a neuropsychiatrist) and Anna Gillingham (a psychologist and educator), begins with letter pairings, or phonograms, which form the basis of the English language. And the rather remarkable news is that the program is replicable in every classroom in America. One needs to wonder why it hasn’t taken hold everywhere.

And while they are teaching reading to eager youngsters, may I also suggest teaching cooking? Then all the kids can eat their words.

Sunday is for the Sun, Monday is for the Moon: Teaching Reading, One Teacher & 30 Children at a Time is a slim academic book full of charts and graphs and good results; it is a book meant to save American education. It is meant primarily for teachers, principals and interested parents everywhere. I am one of those.

Brava to the Reading Reform Foundation and to another inspiring program called “Every Child a Reader” — part of The Children’s Book Council. To that I’d like to add “Every Child a Cook,” and we’ll be on our way to literacy and health in no time.

(info@readingreformny.org 212-307-7320)
(Every Child a Reader — robin.adelson@cbcbooks.org/212-966-1990)

Tastes of the Week

7 May

April 30 through May 7, 2012

Embedded in this week of extraordinary tastes was a “gourmet safari” conceived by my friend and colleague, Rashmi Uday Singh from India. Rashmi writes for The Times of India and the Robb Report and was intent on discovering the newest, coolest, trendiest restaurants in the city to write about. It began one beautiful night when Rashmi met me for the 100th birthday celebration dinner at Benoit NYC (more about that later).  We hightailed it to Salinas to experience the imaginatively delicious food of Chef Luis Bollo, who hails from San Sebastian, Spain, considered by many to be a gastronomic mecca. We drank the essence of spring from the end of our spoons with the chef’s Gazpacho de Temporada, silken from green tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions.  Then on to a signature offering of Rossejat Rapida , crisped noodles cooked like rice, and studded with chicken, fava bans, chorizo, cockles & saffron aioli.  Deep intoxicating flavors and a compelling texture from this unique method of cooking pasta. Dessert was a mesmerizing portrait of white and dark chocolates topped with manchego foam. I want to go back just to eat this!  From there we went to RedFarm to sample most of the menu, including an awesome sampling of the city’s best dumplings — including the first-rate Pan-fried Lamb Dumplings — from chef Joe Ng, and what has to be the world’s most beautiful salad!  Take a look at the RedFarm website!

The 100th Anniversary dinner at Benoit Here is the beautiful menu, linking the past with the present. Duck foie gras terrine with toasted Parisienne brioche (prepared by Alain Ducasse and Philippe Bertineau); Spring vegetable “pot-au-feu” in duck consomme with fleur de sel (by Chef Michael Anthony); Olive-oil poached east coast halibut in brodetto di crostacei (by Chef Michael White); Larded filet of beef with crispy bone marrow (by Chef April Bloomfield), and an amazing Nougat glace of pistachio ice cream and passion fruit (prepared by Alain Ducasse and Jerome Husson.) I will be writing more about this — my past memories at Benoit in Paris and the meaning of the new “French restaurant” today — on the Huffington Post.

A wonderful inexpensive lunch at Aldea:  How do they do it?  A beautiful three-course menu for $24.07. Rustic pork & duck terrine with muscat wine gelee and market greens, skate wing “a la plancha” with slow-roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and caper-butter emulsion, and walnut date cake with mint-infused citrus, vanilla sauce, and lemon sherbet (loved seeing the word sherbet on a menu…so recherche!)

Another beautiful lunch, also reasonably priced at Ciano:  My lunch market menu consisted of a crisp, ultra-fresh Shaved Vegetable Salad with mixed greens, fennel, peppers and ricotta salata, penne with ragu of braised veal, prosciutto and smoked pecorino, and a sorbet of Bosc pear with biscotti.  Perfect.

Lunch today? At my house…with wine expert Carol Berman. We’re having a fanciful salad of ten-spiced yogurt chicken, moroccan carrots, blue cheese, charred red peppers and a garam masala vinaigrette. Homemade wine cake (made with lemon, red wine and rosemary.)   Wonder what we’ll be drinking?  Maybe fresh mint tea with mint pulled from my window box.  (Although I do have a nice bottle of gewurztraminer chilling right now.)

Enjoy your own tastes of the week.  Be mindful and enjoy!

Tastes of the Week

30 Apr

April 23 through April 30, 2012

It’s been a week of excess and pleasure. I often feel that way when we just eat well at home — trying new ingredients, adapting wonderful recipes to fit our needs, developing ideas for magazine articles, or simply opening that rare “convenience” food like the Butter Chicken we bought at Costco! But this week’s tastes came from outside my home and into the kitchens of some of New York’s best chefs and into a neighbor’s home for a bona fide “Afternoon Tea.”  There was lunch at North End Grill (you can read more about it in my blog post “A Chef Among Chefs“), a contemporary new restaurant created by restaurant impresario Danny Meyer and chef Floyd Cardoz. Details of the meal are included there. The restaurant is located on a hidden street where you can peer onto the river across a sweeping grassy knoll — which is a memorial to Irish immigrants. It will be a wonderful area to explore once the weather is sunny and beckoning.

I am still thinking about an impromptu lunch with Max Falkowitz — the new New York editor of Serious Eats.  We “dined” at Taboonette (the downtown offspring of the popular restaurant Taboon) and immensely enjoyed the Kruveet (taboon roasted cauliflower, grilled eggplant, hummus, tahini and cilantro), superb pulled pork with fennel-jicama-apple slaw, spicy cilantro mayo and chicharones, and lemon-cured baked salmon with za’atar oil, yogurt sauce, sumac and arugula. Wonderful coffee.

Dinner at RedFarm, Eddie Schoenfeld’s new wildly imaginative Chinese-esque restaurant in the West Village. We were delighted to take the food editor and publisher of Israel’s most important food magazine, Al Hashulchan, Janna and Ilan Gur. They were enamored by the array of extraordinary dumplings, the Kowloon filet mignon tarts, and Green Thai Curry. 

A beautiful lunch at SD26. It has a very different feel at lunch — lighter and more whimsical — and I look forward to the outdoor seating which should appear shortly. The four of us were thrilled with a first course of freshly-flown in burrata surrounded by excellent San Daniele prosciutto. That, and an espresso, might have been enough for us: It was perfection. But we moved onto the house specialty “Uovo” — soft egg yolk-filled raviolo with truffle butter, homemade fettuccine with coriander-scented lamb ragu, fava beans and fresh mint, and shared a portion of succulent swordfish served with zucchini scapece, eggplant caviar, and fried tomatoes. Great tiramisu with espresso sauce.  And would you believe that a two-course lunch is $28.

Lunch the next day at the Rubin Museum. It is not as good as it used to be but it is still an extraordinary institution (with very exciting programming) and a good place to “hang” if you want to hear your dining companion and sip good “white Earl Grey” tea.

And speaking of tea, it was a lovely surprise to attend a real tea party at the home of a neighbor to hear about the goings-on at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. Tea was poured at 4:00 p.m. and “catered” by Angela who specializes in tea parties! Tiny scones with delicious “raisin butter,” cucumber and mint sandwiches, tiny croutes with curried chicken salad, fig pound cake, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and gorgeous truffles that looked like Christmas ornaments! 

I also cooked dinner for friends, but more about that another time.

New: Beginning Wednesdays and Fridays, I will be sharing recipes from my archives! Stay tuned. Enjoy your week.

We Are What We Cook

14 Nov

I’m appreciative, these days, when anyone takes the time to do anything “other directed!”  Whether it’s a hand-written thank you note, an email from a fan wanting to connect, or an unsolicited book review (especially the positive ones!), I think of the thought and effort proffered.  “Doing onto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a notion that generally informs my life and would probably modulate all of our behavior towards kindness.  Aside from niceties, however, I get a major kick out of learning what recipes people choose to make from my books!  I even enjoy the considered “critical” comments from someone I intuit knows their way around the kitchen.  Now that Radically Simple has been out for not quite three weeks, there are 21 reviews on Amazon and a handful of other reviews on various sites.  Out of 325 recipes contained in the book, those initial recipe choices not only reflect the personal preferences of the cook, but reveal other phenomenon of who we are, where we live, our skill sets, taste preferences, our general curiosity about new things, and our steadfastness for the familiar.

But perhaps other factors are at play.  One’s attraction to a particular photograph or to a title (many people like “The Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake”); a penchant for learning something new and making the effort to find an unfamiliar ingredient like za’atar (an intoxicating spice mixture from the Middle East made from dried hyssop, sumac and sesame seeds. It smells like Jerusalem and looks like marijuana and is available in many spice stores and online), Sriracha hot sauce or smoked paprika.  Maybe it’s the desire to be inventive, try a new combination of flavors, evoke a memory from another time or place, or daring to keep-it-simple, which is, after all, the philosophy of the book.

So here are some of your favorites so far —  beginning with breakfast and marching towards dessert — Homemade Cream Cheese and Carrot Marmalade;
Runny Eggs on Creamy Scallion Bacon Grits; Smoked Salmon, Basil & Lemon Quesadillas; Eggless Caesar Salad with Green Apple “Croutons”; Seared
Salmon on a Moroccan Salad; Golden Fettuccine with Sardines, Fennel & Saffron; A Recipe from 1841: Macaroni & Tomatoes; Silver Packet Flounder with
Miso Mayo; Salmon with Lime Leaves, Poppy Rice & Coconut Sauce; Sauteed Chicken with Roasted Grapes & Grape Demi Glace;  Chicken with Za’atar,
Lemon & Garlic; Big Juicy Sundried Tomato Burgers; Pork Loin in Cream with Tomatoes, Gin & Sage; Creamy Potato Gratin; Sweet Potato Puree with
Fresh Ginger and Orange; and…”The Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake.”

Equally interesting is what the print journalists choose:  Food & Wine Magazine loved the Salmon en chemise (wrapped in smoked salmon) with its fresh
tomatillo sauce;  the Washington Post chose Crunchy Crumbed Cod with Frozen Peas; the Cleveland Plain Dealer selected Sauteed Chicken with Roasted
Grapes; the Oregonian singled out Broccoli Soup with Lemon-Pistachio Butter, Chicken with Chorizo, Peppadews & Fino Sherry; Lamb Chops with
Smoked Paprika Oil, Cumin & Arugula, and French Yogurt Cake with Nutella.  The last recipe was also referenced by Faye Levy in the Jerusalem Post.

Perhaps we are what we cook.

French Yogurt Cake with Nutella
This is very moist thanks to the yogurt and butter, but it is especially delicious thanks to the Nutella!  Serve with raspberries, cherries, or whipped cream, or plain. Or dust the entire cake with confectioners’ sugar pushed through a sieve.

1 stick unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 extra-large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter 9-inch springform pan.  Melt the butter in a saucepan; set aside to cool.  Mix together the flour, baking powder,
and a large pinch of salt.  Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until thick, 3 minutes.  Add the flour mixture, yogurt, and melted butter;
mix until smooth.  Pour two-thirds of the batter into the pan.  Add the Nutella to the remaining batter and beat until smooth.  Pour atop the plain batter.  Run a rubber spatula through the batter to make a marbled pattern.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes until just firm.  Cool on a rack.  Release the side of the pan and serve. Serves 8

%d bloggers like this: