Lamb Meatballs on Ottolenghi’s Hummus with Pomegranate Molasses

March 2, 2015 | By Adam Roberts | 9 Comments

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Laurie Anderson has a song–more of a performance piece–called “Only An Expert Can Deal with a Problem.” It’s a dark, satirical look at the way Americans defer so willingly to experts; whether it’s the talking heads on Fox News, hyper-judgmental celebrities on Fashion Police, or mental health gurus like Dr. Phil. And nowhere is this more evident, really, than the way Americans cook from cookbooks. I know because I’m an American and for the larger bulk of my cooking life, I was such a slave to whatever recipe I was following; if I didn’t have precisely 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda left in the canister, I’d throw everything away. Julia Child wouldn’t approve; on her show, once, I heard her say, “Anyone who doesn’t finish a recipe because they don’t have all the ingredients will never be a cook.” It took me a long time to get there but now I cook much more loosely, much more confidently, and cookbooks function less as sacred texts and more like casual idea-generators. Which is how this terrific dinner came about.

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Recent Posts You Might Have Missed

Kale Pesto Pitza

February 27, 2015 | By Adam Roberts | 17 Comments

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When I went to college at Emory 3,000 years ago, there used to be a spot in Emory Village called Cedar Tree that sold “pitzas.” It was basically a piece of toasted pita bread topped with pizza-like toppings and the surprising thing was that it was really, really good. A dinner at Cedar Tree was always a treat and when I listen to the Indigo Girls–who, incidentally or maybe not so incidentally went to Emory–their song “Cedar Tree” always makes me think about how good a piece of toasted pita bread with pizza-like toppings can be. Yet, weirdly I’d never attempted it at home until I hit upon a technique that makes so much sense for transforming plain-old-pita bread into something that resembles a pizza crust.

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A Response To Ms. Thorisson

February 26, 2015 | By Adam Roberts | 56 Comments

[Yesterday, Mimi Thorisson of the beautiful food blog Manger took issue with my Piglet review of her cookbook A Kitchen in France. You can read her full take here. And now for my reply.]

Dear Ms. Thorisson,

Two years ago, my cookbook Secrets of The Best Chefs lost its Piglet battle because–according to the judge–the pages were too white. Too white? I practically turned white when I read those words. So I know how it feels to have something that you worked so hard on (three years in my case, I’m sure a similar amount of time in yours) criticized in a public forum. You took issue with my review, calling my approach “shallow.” But my approach–a comic book format–allowed me to illustrate, quite literally, the elements of both books that both won me over and turned me off. Cookbooks are very much a visual experience; so the image of a spoon with a lighter underneath it in Brooks Headley’s cookbook is as much worth exploring as the image of you in rubber boots and a white apron holding an armful of artichokes. Both convey a message and the comic book format allowed me to underscore my response to those messages. You found my response sexist, but I disagree: if a male cookbook author posed for similar pictures in his cookbook, I’d have the same reaction. Something about those images felt a little false and stagey to me, which is why I took issue with them. Does that make them objectively bad? Absolutely not; I was asked to judge this round of the Piglet and that was my honest reaction. If Anna Wintour had judged this round, she would have championed your good taste and high style and you would be flying to New York to accept your trophy right now. Which is all to say, I offered up my most authentic reaction to what was put before me; and I was being sincere when I said that the food in your book looked fabulous. It truly does, as does the food on your blog. I wish you all the best and may take you up on your offer to come visit your restaurant in Medoc if you promise not to poison my food.

Sincerely,
Adam

Eating New York in Sub-Zero Weather (Estela, Prune, Del Posto & Russ & Daughters Cafe)

February 25, 2015 | By Adam Roberts | 11 Comments

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Here’s how cold it was in New York: on our last morning there, I left a pair of gloves behind for the person I borrowed them from and rode the elevator down to the street with Craig to catch a cab to the airport. Craig had gone to the trouble to get me a cappuccino from our favorite New York coffee shop, Joe, which he handed to me as we stepped outside. The temperature that day, with wind-chill, was close to negative 10 degrees. NEGATIVE TEN. And no cabs were stopping, so there I was with my bare hand holding on to this warm coffee drink and the feeling was so awful–the cold was searing my hand so fiercely–I had to toss the full cup of coffee into a trash bin so I could shove my hand into my pocket. That’s the coldest I’ve ever been.

And yet, before you call me an L.A. traitor, even in the most miserable weather, New York is still my boo. I actually hadn’t been back in over a year, not because I didn’t want to, but because in the whirlwind of Skeleton Twins stuff, it just didn’t happen. Then, for Christmas, Craig presented me with tickets to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch (one of my favorite musicals) on Broadway starring the show’s creator John Cameron Mitchell the day after my birthday in February. “February?” I asked incredulously. “It’ll be fine!” he promised.

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Food52 Piglet 2015 — Hey gang, guess what? I was asked to judge a round of this year's Food52 Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks. Click those words to see what I came up with (hint: there are speech balloons involved) and share it with your friends, if you're so inclined. Sorry for the radio silence: I promise to get blogging again real soon.

Chickened Vegetable Soup

February 5, 2015 | By Adam Roberts | 10 Comments

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Let us all acknowledge the truth about roast chicken: it’s not about the chicken, it’s about the vegetables. That truth dawned on me long ago when I used to line a roasting pan with red potatoes sliced in half, all surrounding a well-seasoned chicken; the rendered chicken fat would coat the potatoes, they’d get all crispy, and when it was time to eat, the actual roast chicken was an afterthought. It only got better when I discovered Thomas Keller’s roast chicken: in with the potatoes went leeks, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, and suddenly next to that pretty little bird would be vegetables as beautiful as the crown jewels. Now imagine turning those salty, schmaltzy vegetables into soup, a soup that takes about 5 minutes.

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Fun with Garnishes

January 28, 2015 | By Adam Roberts | 7 Comments

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Something that annoys me about the food world is the notion of a dish or an ingredient being dated. “Sun-dried tomatoes are so 1986,” some pretentious food person might say. Really? Well I really love them, especially in Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes which doesn’t taste like 1986 to me, it just tastes good. And I suppose there’s a similar notion that garnishes–big gestural ones–are passé. It’s a shame, though, because–as I’ve discovered recently–garnishes can be a lot of fun, especially when they enhance whatever dish you’re serving. Let me show you what I mean.

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Slow-Roasted Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt and Quick-Preserved Lemons

January 22, 2015 | By Adam Roberts | 9 Comments

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It’s one thing to ask a friend for a recipe, it’s another thing to pilfer their signature dish. For the past few years, my friend Diana has dazzled dinner guests with her take on Suzanne Goin’s Slow-Roasted Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt; a recipe that you won’t find in any of Goin’s cookbooks but, rather weirdly, on the Hollywood Bowl website. It’s such a winning dinner party dish because you get to serve fish to any number of people without having to stress; the slow-cooking in the oven guarantees a moist interior and also ensures that all of the fillets will be done at the same time. Top it with a yogurt sauce amped up with toasted cumin seeds and preserved lemons (more on those in a moment) and you’ve got a dish so good, it’s worth stealing from a friend (sorry Diana).

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