The First Review

Before we start singing (Happy Music Week!), here’s something to sing about: the first review of my book, via Publisher’s Weekly!

The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop and Table-Hop Like a Pro (Almost)

Just a typical Jewish law student who returned to New York to study playwriting, Roberts forsook torts and all things dramaturgical for tarts and all things culinary. In order to better share his discoveries and enthusiasms, he eventually launched a Web site—amateurgourmet.com—replete with recipes, marketing and cooking tips, restaurant reviews and overall winsomeness. Here, in 10 short essays, and with the same charming voice, he offers simple (perhaps even simplistic) lessons from his own journey out of fast food and microwave captivity to the Promised Land of Foodiedom. From basic tomato sauce to a feast for 10, he guides the way through a series of culinary adventures and exhorts the kitchen novice toward the same discoveries, surprises and challenges. This is not really a cookbook or a memoir so much as a kitchen travelogue or series of essays on culinary attitude adjustment, and Roberts has such lightness of spirit that even proficient gourmands may be tempted to seek again the stance of a rank beginner in order to experience anew a perfectly cooked tomato sauce or dinner for one in Paris. There are recipes, mostly cribbed from other cookbooks, but the book’s primary feature is its delight in learning something new. (Aug. 28)

Music Week 2007

Next week is MUSIC WEEK at The Amateur Gourmet. Every post will be written as a song! I know, crazy huh? Here’s the thing: I bet many of you are talented musicians too. So over the weekend if you’re inspired to write a song about food, please do so and then videotape yourself (or your friends) singing it and post the video to YouTube or Brightcove. Send it to amateurgourmet AT gmail DOT com and I’ll post it sometime next week! Also: if any of you are friends with any famous musicians like Bono or Dolly Pardon, ask them if they’ll eat dinner with me and co-write a song about it for Music Week 2007. Ya never know!

For The Love of Pavlova

A miracle took place in my oven the other day. Set to 170 degrees, I placed a baking sheet inside with a mound of beaten egg whites and sugar, and out came this:

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That is pavlova. It’s named after the ballerina Anna Pavlova. I’ve seen Julia Child make it, Nigella Lawson and The Barefoot Contessa (whose recipe I used). But I’d never been driven to try. How good could it be? Just egg whites and sugar–no fat? Just a big crispy blob of white?

Oh how wrong I was. This wasn’t just good, it was shockingly good: crispy on the outside and gooey, like a marshmallow, on the inside. And then, to be totally decadent, you top it with whipped cream and berries:

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For the berries, I made Pim’s strawberries in hibiscus and vanilla syrup. That berry mixture on top of the whipped cream on top of the pavlova was like going to the moon with the most beautiful person on Earth, having sex all the way, while listening to your favorite band play live as little puppies lick your toes. You get the idea. Pure bliss. Heaven, thy name is pavlova.

[Note: Craig said it was “too sweet” and made a face.]

[Note 2: Craig said that after eating an entire tub of Swedish fish.]

A Jew and His Pizza

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Wolfgang Puck introduced the Jewish pizza at Spago in the 90s: it’s pizza dough with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and caviar. I didn’t have any caviar tonight, but after a quick jaunt to a high end grocery store in Chelsea (after a movie) I was able to throw together a Jewish pizza in less than 15 minutes. The secret was pre-made pizza dough. Ya, that’s sucky, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I baked the pizza dough in a 450 oven for 10 minutes, after brushing with olive oil and scattering with thinly sliced onions:

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Meanwhile, I combined creme fraiche with dill, salt and pepper. Once the pizza cooled down a bit, out of the oven, I spread the creme fraiche mixture on top, laid on the smoked salmon, and sprinkled chopped onion, capers and more dill over the top. The result? Oy vey, was it good! My son the doctor, he kvelled. So don’t be a meshugana, make a Jewish pizza. Put some meat on your bones. And call me–you never call!

WARNING: Jewish pizza may or may not cause unwanted Jewish mother-like symptoms. These may include nosiness, a tendency to meddle, a love for Barbra Streisand, pushiness, red onion breath and/or shpilkes in the geneckteckessoink. Please consult your son the doctor before baking.

Wednesday Wade-Through (6/6/07)

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This was fun to do last week so I thought I’d do it again. As you all know, Wednesday is food day in the nation’s papers. For your convenience, I will wade through everything (including food blogs too) to find the best for you to read today. Why? Because I like you!

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David Burke on Kathy Griffin

Did anyone catch the season premiere of “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List”? If you did, you saw Kathy go to do dinner with that walking face lift, Joan Rivers, at DavidBurke & Donatella. The priceless moment came when Chef Burke came to the table to chat up his celebrity guests and Kathy asked Joan whether she should date him. “Too fat,” said Joan. That’s like the Emperor in Star Wars advising Leah not to date Jabba. In any case, it was a strange mix of New York restaurant culture, pop culture, and gay culture (well: there were two gay icons at the table.) I wonder if Chef Burke regrets being on the show.

New York in a Box

Remember when Pim did Menu for Hope III and I auctioned off New York in a Box, promising to send the winner a package filled with New York goodies? And also promising to make a video of the goodies I was going to send? Well, it’s been a few months but I finally came through for the winner: Amanda P. in Seattle. Here’s the video I made her and here’s her Flickr page with New York in a Box pictures. Thanks for being so patient, Amanda!