Newspaper recipes don’t excite me.
With their perfect margins, their definitive type, their antiseptic language, I very rarely open the Wednesday Food Section of The New York Times, read a recipe, and run home to make it. Perhaps it’s a function of old media vs. new media, in that the old media feels creaky and irrelevant whereas the new media–by which I mean food blogs–are fresh and accessible and offer real recipes by real people with real personas that aren’t whitewashed or edited, but vivid and alive.
Take Luisa, The Wednesday Chef, who you met in last week’s FN Dish. Her site is a simple conceit. She takes newspaper recipes–dry, humorless newspaper recipes–and tweaks them in her own way, writing about her adventures (and misadventures) and keeping a steady online journal so that we, her fans, can know whether Luisa recommends a recipe or not. Her results are often complex; for example, this week she celebrates Rancho Gordon’s giant white lima beans but laments the environmental impact of shipping them across the United States. Her pictures, though, are so luscious you almost think it’d be worth destroying the earth for one bite of that dish.
All of which is to say, a few weeks ago I had a hankering for something I vividly remembered reading about on Luisa’s site: potato focaccia or “Focaccia di Patate.” (See her post here). The beautiful puffed dough, the galaxy of cherry tomatoes on top, a veil of gently scattered oregano: it was a work of art and I had to have it.
And had it I did. After returning from the farmer’s market with broccoli rabe, I decided to serve the focaccia with a side of sauteed broccoli rabe and garlic. It was all very simple. The focaccia dough took a few minutes to assemble (though a few hours to rise); the broccoli rabe I quickly blanched in water and then sauteed with a ton of garlic. The end result was stupendous–look at the focaccia as it came out of the oven:
And for that we have Luisa, and new media, to thank.
And for this chocolate granola, we have to thank my friend Molly, Orangette:
Again, because I know and trust Molly, when I read one of her recipes it pops in a way that a newspaper recipe doesn’t. Here, in this post, she tells of the chocolate granola Brandon (her husband) used to eat in Paris and how she attempted to recreate it at home. I’m not really a granola guy, but for some reason Molly’s storytelling skills, recipe-writing skills and picture-taking skills compelled me to the corner store at 11 at night to buy oats and honey and almonds and coconut to make a late night snack. And boy am I glad I did. Chocolate granola makes normal granola look like, well…granola.
In conclusion, when it comes to reviewing restaurants and writing about food politics and the machinations of the food world in general, I think newspaper food sections still have a place. But when it comes to recipes, I prefer food blogs. It’s the difference between having dinner in a conference room vs. having dinner at the table of a trusted friend. In that battle, food blogs take the cake.