Dip into the archives of my blog, go way back, and you’ll see that at the very beginning one of my very first gastronomical spirit guides was Amanda Hesser. I read her book, “Cooking For Mr. Latte,” while studying for the bar exam (here’s my 2004 post about it) and then proceeded to cook my way through the book. I’ve made her vanilla bean loaves, carrot fennel soup, chicken roasted with sour cream and mango chutney, salt and pepper shrimp, and, of course, the almond cake that is my go-to dessert when I’m entertaining distinguished guests.
My friend Clotilde Dusoulier, of the legendary food blog Chocolate & Zucchini and author of several notable food books (including her own cookbook, a guide to Paris and the book she recently translated, the French Joy of Cooking, “I Know How To Cook”) was coming to dinner.
I’ve spent lots of time with Clotilde, we’ve dined together several times in New York (at Babbo and the Corner Bistro and Dirt Candy) and in Paris (at Ze Kitchen Galerie) but we’d never cooked for each other. And considering that she grew up in France, where dining and food are such a deep part of the culture children aren’t just born with silver spoons in their mouths but an entire set of flatware, and I grew up on Long Island and in Boca Raton, Florida where fine dining is limited to the salad bar at the golf club, I knew I was in serious trouble. How could I impress Clotilde? What if she spit her food out into her napkin in disgust? How would I live this down? Would she ever want to see me again? This was the most terrifying dinner guest of all time.
Nobody likes moving. It’s a daunting process: first you have to find boxes, then you have to find packing tape, then you have to put all your stuff in the boxes and then you run out of packing tape and then you find you have more stuff and you need more boxes, etc, etc. It sucks.
Which is why, a few days ago, I found myself staring at my cookbook collection. I was on the couch and there it was, across the room. Six giant Ikea shelves of cookbooks, collected from five and a half years of food blogging. And like a bolt of lightning, a thought singed the inside of my brain: “Do I really need all of these cookbooks? How many do I really use, really?”
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Amanda Hesser’s. I’ve been cooking her recipes–from her vanilla bean loaves to her carrot fennel soup–for as long as I’ve been cooking, really. Which is why I’m so delighted that Amanda and her friend Merrill Stubbs have joined our ranks here on the world wide web. Check out their new site Food52: a fun, interactive recipe resource that allows you to submit recipes, vote for recipes and help shape an actual cookbook that’ll be published at the end of a year. I really love the videos of Amanda and Merrill cooking together (like this one of them cooking fish): it’s refreshing to discover that the authoritative voice behind the New York Times Magazine food section is just a normal person like you and me. With an incredibly nice kitchen.
A round of applause, please, to my followers on Twitter who wrote most of the text for the candy hearts in this month’s banner–brilliantly illustrated, as usual, by Lindy. (Can’t see the banner? Clear your cache and re-load the site.) A special shout-out to my friend Katy who contributed THOUSANDS of ideas and to Amanda Hesser who came up with “You Had Me At Jello.” Make sure to subscribe to my Twitter feed (just go to www.twitter.com/amateurgourmet) and maybe you’ll see your ideas in next month’s banner.
And special thanks, as usual, to Leah & Justin for doing all the dirty technical work to make this banner possible. The A.G. Team is the best.
You know the author photos you see on the back flap of cookbooks? Imagine if one of them started talking to you.
That’s how I felt last week when I announced on Twitter that I was making Amanda Hesser’s almond cake (one of my all-time favorite desserts, recipe here) and Amanda Hesser herself, who’s a prolific Twitterer, Tweeted back: “I have a new way of doing the almond cake: mix butter, sugar, almond paste, eggs, sour cream & extract in a food processor.”
Amanda Hesser e-mailed me recently to tell me about the new project she’s working on called Plodt: “It gives you a way, using Twitter, to keep track of things in your life. I’ve been keeping track of (and rating) the food I cook and eat, and there are a handful of other people doing the same.”
Plodt plots a graph of various elements which you create and score by putting a word and number at the end of your Twitter post framed by two asterisks. For example, “I just had the best sandwich of my life! *food 10*.”
It makes much more sense when you follow other people who are doing it; so, to that end, here are the links to both my Twitter page and my Plodt page as well as Amanda Hesser’s.
Why don’t you join us? Leave the links to your Plodt page in the comments.
I am a nectarine tart and I am easy to make. I am adapted from Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking For Mr. Latte” (her recipe is for a peach tart) but, if you ask me, I’m much prettier than a peach tart. A peach tart would be a homogeneous glop of orangey yellow fruit; I, on the other hand, am a homogeneous glop of orangey yellow fruit with hints of red. Those hints of red make me magnificent.
The most shocking thing about me (besides my time served at Sing Sing) is how easy I am to make. Most tarts intimidate with the dough assembly, the refrigeration, the rolling it out, the getting it into the pan. Not so with me: to make a tart like me, all you do is dump a bunch of stuff into a tart pan (or, if you don’t have a tart pan, an 8 X 8 square pan will work too), stir it together, press it into the corners and cut off the excess. To be more specific: in the pan, stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil (I’m made from olive oil and it makes my taste elusive!), 2 Tbs milk, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Pour the wet stuff over the dry stuff, mix gently with a fork, and when it comes together push it out so it comes to a height of about 3/4 inch (or, if using a tart pan, til it comes up the sides of the tart.)