Clotilde’s Carpaccio

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I’ve been sleeping with Clotilde. Since Craig’s left for Seattle to shoot his first feature (I’ll be there in a week to join him for two weeks), I had no choice but to find a substitute. And that substitute is everyone’s favorite Parisian food blogger. Well. Ok. Not her. Her cookbook. I’ve been reading it in bed and when I wake up the next morning it’s right there next to me smiling “hello.” Is it weird that I talk to it at breakfast? Help it to the bathroom? Take it out to lunch? That’s the normal way to treat a cookbook, right?

Well can I help it if I’m smitten? The book is adorable and smart and filled with good ideas, just like its creator. And even though I’ve had the book for a few weeks, I’ve found it very difficult to choose a first recipe to try from it: they all look so good. The mustard chicken is the one that makes my lips smack the loudest, but I think it’s too hot for mustard chicken. Plus I made chicken last night for dinner. And it’s called “Chocolate & Zucchini,” shouldn’t I make something with zucchini in it?

The picture you see above, then, was my solution. I was at the farmer’s market today and saw, for the first time this season, piles of gorgeous, bright green zucchini. I chose two large ones (even though Clotilde says to choose three small ones–I didn’t have the book with me, I had taken it to the park where it wanted some private time) and brought them home and proceeded to make her “Carpaccio De Courgette Au Vinaigre De Framboise.” Only I didn’t use Vinaigre De Framboise (raspberry vinegar): I had Balsamic. But that was ok: Clotilde mentions Balsamic as a variation.

This recipe is so simple you can just memorize it. You slice the zucchini very thin (I need better knife skills, as you can tell by that photo), put them in a circular pattern on the plate, scatter goat cheese over the top (I bought fresh chevre at the farmer’s market too). Then you make a vinagirette with olive oil and the vinegar, though I just drizzled the olive oil over the top, along with a few drops of the Balsamic. I spinkled on some nice sea salt and a few grindings of pepper and did as Clotilde commanded: covered it with plastic and let it sit, at room temperature, for ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, I sat down and consumed this strange and delightful dish. It’s hard to explain why it’s so good: maybe because the zucchini is so good right now, and this dish highlights its vegetal brightness? Or is it the way the cheese gives it body and the oil a slickness and the vinegar a zippy punch? I don’t know, but I loved it. Along with some fresh bread, this was my dinner. And I was happy.

Only the book hasn’t come home yet. Maybe I shouldn’t have left it at the park? Who will I sleep with tonight? Any takers?

Easy Tiramisu

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Tiramisu is a dessert I’ve only eaten at restaurants–usually with my family. For some reason, the alchemy of its components always eluded me. It seemed like it might be very tricky to make. And then, for the Sopranos finale, I decided to give it a go. I pushed aside all the more complex recipes that involved egg yolks and heat, and used one right out of the Sopranos cookbook. It took less than ten minutes and the results were pretty dynamite. Here’s how to do it.

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In Defense of Food Blogging

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A noted food journalist–one of my first mentors–got on the phone with me earlier this year to talk about my future. I told him that I wanted to get a regular job for a newspaper food section. What should I do? “Adam,” he said, “you’ve got to be kidding. What you’re doing right now is what most newspapers are desperate to do for themselves. Old media is on its way out. Your blog is the future!”

Since that conversation, the evidence to support his claim is overwhelming: food critics, food writers, magazine editors, seasoned journalists, cookbook authors, and even cab drivers are all getting into the game, and with fervor. Newspaper food sections are becoming less and less relevant as food blogs are becoming more and more popular. And to that I say: woohoo!

Woo-hoo because I love food blogs. I love reading them. I have about 30 food blogs bookmarked in my browser and many more that I click on throughout the day. Whereas traditional food media (The New York Times food section, for example) often feels fussy and strained, like a college roundtable discussion of “Beowulf,” food blogs feel fresh and exciting–like hanging out with a new group of friends or an old group of friends, depending on how long you’ve been reading food blogs.

And yet, Mario Batali slammed food blogs last week on Eater. In his essay Why I Hate Food Bloggers, Mario wrote: “Many of the anonymous authors who vent on blogs rant their snarky vituperatives from behind the smoky curtain of the web. This allows them a peculiar and nasty vocabulary that seems to be taken as truth by virtue of the fact that it has been printed somewhere.”

As many have noted in the comments of that post, what Mario seems to be ranting about isn’t so much food blogs as restaurant industry blogs that give false reports about his comings and goings (notably, the very site where his rant appears). I find his rant funny because when I met him a few months ago he said the same thing to me: that he hates food bloggers and anonymous people posting nasty reviews all over the web. “It’s the worst thing to happen to food journalism in a long time,” he told me, apparently unaware that he was speaking to the enemy.

But am I the enemy? I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that food bloggers like me, who write about food and cooking and the occasional meal out, are allies of good, honest, hard-working chefs who have quality food to share and, perhaps, very few outlets in which to promote that food. David Chang, of Momofuku and Ssam Bar, is the darling of the food blog world (even Jason Kottke, not a food blogger, used his blog to rave) and I would guess that it’s a big boon to Chang’s business. Chang himself is friendly with food bloggers (check out his stuff on Eater) and his young age–he’s only 29–suggests a familiarity and comfort level with the internet that, perhaps, Mario lacks.

What food blogs offer, ultimately, is the democratization of food criticism. In Arthur Miller’s autobiography “Timebends,” the famous playwright recalls the period in 1967 when the Herald Tribune vanished and The New York Times became the sole critical force in New York theater. Miller writes:

Monopoly in anything is not only an evil but an insidious one, and there was actually a moment, in 1967, soon after the Herald Tribune vanished, when Clifton Daniel, then the Times managing editor, convoked a meeting of some hundred authors, newspeople, producers, and actors in a midtown restaurant to discuss what might be done to mitigate the paper’s awesome new power and its unhealthy, undemocratic potentialities. The Times, Daniel declared, did not create this monopoly and did not wish to hold the power it had been handed by history. After some wayward discussion, I suggested that since the nub of the issue was the danger of injustice in a single critic carrying all the immense prestige of the Times, perhaps the solution was to send two or three critics to write independent notices, maybe even on occasion asking an informed theatergoer to write his impressions of a show in a paragraph or two…. Daniel thought for a moment and said that my idea was impossible, and when I asked him his reasons, he replied, “But who would be speaking for The New York Times?”

Miller’s dream of an egalitarian system for criticism–a system that “would broaden the public’s awareness of how fictional, rather than a matter of plain fact, all criticism really is, which is to say, how subjective”–is being realized today, at least in the food world, with food blogs. Because of our varying voices, our palpable passions, and–most importantly–our lack of editorial control, we are the distant drums in the distance growing closer and closer, our torches waving, our laptops poised for posting. Mario will disagree, but I think food blogs are the best thing to happen to food journalism in a long time. To quote a friend and mentor: we are the future.

Music Week Wrap-Up

Thanks everyone for indulging me/us this Music Week. In case you weren’t able to watch the videos–or, in case you loved them so much you want to put those songs on your iPod (please let me know if you do: I know a good therapist)–here are all four tracks in mp3 form. Have a great weekend!

The Malted Milk Ice-Cream Song

The Lasagna Song

Falafel Love

Fro-Yo (A Mini-Musical)

[Click to listen to the songs online. Right-click to download to your desktop, import to your iTunes, and enjoy these songs on repeat every day for the rest of your life…]

Öko & The Fro-Yo Song

One of the joys of living New York is that you can be reading Florence Fabricant’s column in the New York Times about a new frozen yogurt place in Park Slope and then realize that to get there you need only walk out your door and over a few blocks. And that’s exactly what I did after reading about Öko which, apparently, means “eco” in Hungarian. What does “eco” mean in English? Regardless, here’s what I brought back:

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That’s just plain frozen yogurt (there was only plain or wild berry) with kiwi and a gooseberry on top. I’d never had a gooseberry and I immediately heard Veruca Salt’s voice: “The gooseberries taste like gooseberries, the snozberries taste like snozberries!” In fact, this gooseberry was like nature’s version of one of those gummy sour balls, except not gummy. It had a wonderful surprising squirt of sour.

And as for the yogurt, the richness and complex flavors took me by surprise. This is some serious frozen yogurt–the Harvard graduate to TCBY’s community college drop-out–and I couldn’t get enough. And with the kiwi it felt like a healthy snack, but was it? Lisa tells me that unless it says low fat, it’s probably still fattening. So I guess I can’t eat it three times a day. Perhaps this video, the last video of music week, will set the record straight.

Falafel Love (A Song)

Music week continues today with falafel! Not only does falafel have three bouncy, musical syllables but it’s also a food I’ve never attempted to make at home. I recruited my friends Lisa and Ricky who are not only game falafel makers but also wonderful musicians and singers (they sing the song at the end of the post). We used Joan Nathan’s recipe which you can read here on Epicurious. Here are Lisa and Ricky rolling our falafel in flour:

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The Lasagna Song

News flash: The Sopranos had its last episode Sunday night. Did you see it? We did. In fact, we were all so engrossed that when this lasagna (from “Molto Italiano”) came out of the oven–a lasagna that I spent a few hours making, and spent a good amount of money on–we decided to wait until the episode was over before we ate it:

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And as everyone bit in, instead of singing its praises everyone said: “What kind of ending was that?” Or: “Did the cable cut out?” Or: “Worst series finale ever!” (However, after much discussion half of us came around and decided we liked it. The ending, that is.)

Meanwhile, the merits of my lasagna remained unsung. So today I present to you this lasagna song which pays homage to a lasagna that, in my opinion, was worth singing about. You can find the recipe online here, though I cheated and used dry pasta. (I was going to make the lasagna from scratch, but didn’t have enough time.) The results were still tremendous. Harmonicas, however, are optional.

David Lebovitz’s Malted Milk Ice Cream: The Song

Welcome to Music Week! Every post this week (except for the one below) will feature a song penned and performed by yours truly (and maybe a few special guests). To start out the week, I thought long and hard about what would inspire me musically. And then I remembered this:

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That is the tub of David Lebovitz’s malted milk ice cream that I made two weeks ago from his book The Perfect Scoop. It vanished in two days. I caught Diana eating it for breakfast, and Craig eating it in the middle of the afternoon. I told David I wanted to write a song about it and he confessed that it’s his favorite recipe in his cookbook. I agree (and I’ve only tried three!) What follows, then, is the song that it inspired and, after the jump, the lyrics and the recipe. Enjoy!

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