Anything Goes Salad

After my New York Public Library event with Deb Perelman (there were 230 people there!), I’m rethinking my whole blog.

Somehow, through my aggressive questioning, I forced Deb to give up her blogging secrets. And the one that’s really staying with me the most is the fact that she cooks during the day to have daylight for her photos. That’s why her blog pictures always look so good. It doesn’t happen at night. My blog happens at night. Again, I have to rethink everything.

Also? Our entire approaches are different. She dreams up high quality posts and then works works works to execute those posts on the highest level. She tests the recipes multiple times. She takes serious time to edit her posts so the language is just right. Her policy is one of higher quality, lower quantity. My policy is pretty much ANYTHING GOES. Cue Patti Lupone.

Maybe this salad that I made last week is the perfect metaphor for everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong about my blog.

The salad isn’t a recipe that I dreamed up and planned for my audience; I just wanted a lot of raw vegetables for dinner after eating like a pig for a few days in a row. I already had carrots, celery and onions. I bought chickpeas, an English cucumber (which I peeled and seeded), an orange pepper, radishes, and cherry tomatoes. I chopped them all up into tiny pieces (Craig likes his salads cut small) and threw them into a large red bowl and almost stopped myself there, but then I dug up Kalamata olives in the refrigerator, so I chopped those up and added them; then, on a roll, I added chopped up walnuts and some raisins. I sprinkled everything with salt and pepper, poured on a good glug of olive oil and white wine vinegar and tossed everything with a big spoon.

To serve it, I toasted two thin slices of Eli’s Health Bread and spread them with good, softened goat cheese, before drizzling with olive oil. At the very end, I sprinkled everything–salad, bread, goat cheese–with za’atar, which does for salad what MSG used to do for Chinese food (minus all the side effects).


Now imagine if I had taken that picture in daylight. Imagine if I had planned this salad out more properly, if I offered you up a more formal recipe at the end of this post.


But I do like the idea of rethinking my approach: instead of just dumping whatever I have on my camera from the previous week on to the blog and calling it an entry, maybe I need to think more like a magazine editor, asking myself, “What’s something people really want to see?” and then crafting a post that fits that something.

Or… maybe I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing until you get sick of me. I mean, at least 1 of those 230 people had to be there for me on Monday night… right? RIGHT?

50 thoughts on “Anything Goes Salad”

  1. This is my FAVORITE kind of salad (one where everything is small and crunchy and a bite of each fits on a fork). You were such a fun co-host. Please don’t change. :)

  2. I love Patti LuPone. I adore Anything Goes. And sorry to say, your blog isn’t quite on the same level (what could?) but I’m a huge fan all the same! :)

  3. The Dilettantista

    Adam, I love your food blog because you cook in a way that is REAL, and that reflects how most real people cook. I actually stopped going to Smitten Kitchen on a regular basis because so many of the recipes seemed so precious, so planned out. There is a time and a place for planned out cooking, but 90% of the time people are cooking after coming home from work, and they’re making do with whatever is in the fridge and pantry, and they want something that doesn’t involve too much fuss, and that’s what you provide. You are one of the few food blogs that, to me, doesn’t feel planned or contrived, and that appeals to me immensely. Don’t change a thing, your blog is great, and it is also one of the few food blogs with copious Broadway references so, THANK YOU FOR THAT.

  4. Hi Adam, I found you through David’s blog. You’re funny. You don’t need to rethink your blog. But the tip about taking pictures during the day works for me, too. I try to save a bit of dinner for the next day’s photo shoot. But not always. You’d know if you saw my blog. Cheers & Merry Christmas.

  5. You are both fabulous – and I can’t miss a post on either Smitten Kitchen OR Amateur Gourmet — stay the way you are — it’s why we can’t stop reading!

  6. You do what you do well Adam. That’s the way a lot of us cook, especially weeknights. Yes, with the right amount of time and inclination it’s nice to follow a recipe, but one can get just as much inspiration from your style as mentioned above.

  7. If you change your format, you won’t be The Amateur Gourmet anymore; honestly, I’m not ready for that to happen, and I think many would agree. #staythecourse

  8. I think you need to remember that you’re also a writer, and that each writer has his or her individual voice. This–breezy and free–is your voice, and another might not ring true on you. That said, no one ever complained about better lighting.

  9. It never hurts to tweak here and there, change now and then but I think you have found your voice and it works for you. Maybe you could take day photos but I wouldn’t worry about it-if it happens, fine. If not, not a problem. I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now and enjoy it.

  10. Please do not change, Adam. Your style (informal, FUNNY, practical, inspiring) is you! Picture quality hasn’t sent me elsewhere. Keep your wit coming. Sei bravissimo. BTW Just bought your book at Kepler’s in Menlo Park.

  11. How perfect! I’d read about Deb mildly through you and the NY Times, but I love reading your blog so much that I don’t actively seek out new ones to read. I wanted comfort food last night and was searching the bourbon/coconut/butter/chocolate/butter/crack/butter blondie recipe you made a while back, and her blog and its love of bourbon came up in my search as well. I spent a wonderful section of my night reading her blog and craving all that is unholy from yours as well. To finally realize that you two know each other and COOK together, aahhh! I swoon.

  12. I don’t necessarily visit your blog for cooking tips {although you have certainly inspired me to try a few things along the way}. It’s because you’re so darn funny. So don’t worry about being Deb like. I would hate to see you straining to improve your cred and the posting being less frequent as a result.

  13. Hi Adam,
    I read you and Deb regularly to get a mix of both. I like the casualness, I guess, of your cooking posts, much more of the attitude I’m in when I’m starting to think about dinner. There’s a reason you two are so successful in your own ways :)

  14. I’ve been reading your blog for several years now, and I love all your posts. You present cooking and food in a way that makes it seem feasible and easy for the average person! Your “everyday” type posts–whether about easy pumpkin bread or a breakfast frittata–have often inspired me to skip the takeout and check out what’s in my fridge to cook. Please don’t change, we have enough magazine-editor-type blogs!

  15. I like both blogs! But I agree with other commenters – I like your format because it’s informal and some recipes are thrown together. It makes it easier when I look at the fridge and go, “What in the world am I supposed to make with these random things that ended up in my fridge?” and think of the vegetable ragu post you just did, where you not only posted a recipe that looked delicious, but talked about the different choices you had and directions you could have gone, and suddenly I had all the options in the world!

  16. I love to read your blog because you document the PROCESS of cooking so beautifully. While it is nice to see the picture perfect dish from Smitten Kitchen, not everyone has time to achieve that level on a daily basis (nor do we really want to). Instead, your blog continuously teaches me that cooking is not just about following a tried-and-true recipe, but also about looking in the fridge one evening after a busy day and making something delicious from what’s already there. Please don’t change!

    1. This, exactly! I love me some food blogs, but I actually don’t read smitten kitchen as regularly as amateur gourmet for this very reason. Adam, you say you’ll never be Deb…well, neither will I! And that’s OK! I relate to your blog in a REAL way, while I relate to her blog in a “what if my life was a cooking fantasy” way.

  17. I like that your posts are sometimes about your spontaneous creations. That’s how real cooks think! Don’t change a thing, please!

  18. I love your blog just as it is. I love that it’s an assortment of carefully thought out dishes, thrown together meals, restaurant trips, etc. It’s a fun grab bag, and I’d be really sad if efforts to make it more polished meant that you posted less often.

  19. I like the format of the blog where whatever you’ve eaten/made that week is what you write about. It’s a depiction of a real person eating real food, which makes the dishes seem attainable by the rest of us! I think you know your voice and are very comfortable in it, just wanted to be another reminder that we like your blog for your style!

  20. I for one don’t want every blog to look or read like a glossy food magazine–carefully planned, executed, and edited. You offer a lot of useful advice and insight in your own way. Every once in a while, in fact, I revisit your post about whether food blogs are over.

    Prettier photos and neat recipes may attract the eye, but they aren’t necessarily what keep people coming back to your blog! I skim recipe blogs, but I READ and CONSIDER yours. Your blog resonates, which is why I return. What is quality, anyway? I reject the idea that it has to do with superficial appearances, Top Ten roundups, and neatly packaged recipes. Anyway, food is about so much more than the end product, and I think you’ve successfully tapped into whatever that is.

    So please be true to your voice and don’t rub off your corners to follow trodden paths!

  21. To echo what others are saying, please don’t change. Your on-the-fly cooking posts are some of my favourites. Also, I can’t deny that I like blogs with lots of posts. I appreciate well-crafted posts that take time to prepare, but if a blog goes for too long of a period without posting, I’m a lot more likely to stop reading.

  22. The only improvement I would love to see is photos taken with a better camera. The photos here are like pre-digital snapshots – which I’m guessing you prefer for the kitsch factor because with digital, it’s really hard to take photos this “off” nowadays, lol. That said, I find the complete lack of staging one of the more appealing things about your blog’s charm, but the heinous photo quality doesn’t cut it. My little digital will pick up near flawless no-flash photos in the darkest restaurants. Otherwise, your natural, off the cuff blog is why it’s fun – just keep doing whatever you enjoy.

    1. I’m sorry, this is so passive-aggressive I assume my mother finally learned how to use the internet. Sorry I haven’t called you more but I’ve been busy :(

      1. Jesse, you are funny. And I totally disagree about the photos! I am sick of slick-overproduced photos. Keep it real! We don’t all have to be Selby!

  23. As blogs get more and more traction with mainstream media, many old school bloggers are trying to be less bloggy and more magaziney. Which is fine if that’s what you want to do, but there is still something refreshing about a true bloggy no-spellcheck unfiltered approach, and that’s why your blog is different from every other food blog out there.

  24. While the quality of light will enhance your photos the rest is a matter of style. Deb’s blog (and recipes) are great but so is yours. I think you should improve what you want to make yourself happy but don’t try and be like someone else. Keep being you because that’s why we like you :)

  25. Thank you all so much for your thoughtful, encouraging comments. Reading them, I hope you don’t think i was fishing for compliments, though your compliments were nice to read! Going forward, I’d never ever consider changing my voice or post style. I’m just talking about doing more elaborate posts in the same vein; posts that require more work, but continue the spirit of the blog. A good example of that kind of post was when I sought out The Best Doughnuts in L.A.: (Don’t be alarmed by the 0 comments: we’re still importing old comments.) That post took a lot of forethought and planning, but was also fun and consistent with my blog style. So I’m thinking, in 2013, I’d like to do posts that require me to do more than I normally do. That’s all I’m really saying. I admire how much work Deb puts into her posts and I’d like to put an equal amount of work into mine. It’s nice to know that, either way, you’ll keep reading!

  26. I appreciate the frequency of your posts. Though I’m more likely to go to SK for recipes (okay, much more likely), I find the infrequent posts (I mean, ratherr infrequent most of the time) to be a huge detractor. It’s not to say that I don’t get how busy deb is, but a blogger should blog consistently.

  27. I read Smitten Kitchen because i want perfect reliably good recipes (and pictures of cute toddlers) written or modifed by someone who’s a better cook than me. I read Amateur Gourmet because its fun to watch someone who isn’t a trained or natural cook start to figure it out, and i like the restaurant reviews, and you’re funny. You got popular being you, its silly to try and get more popular by imitating someone else.

  28. Brooke @ Foodwoolf

    Adam, great post. Not to say you can’t do great things all the time, but the issue of Quality vs Quantity–an interesting topic for sure. I struggle with this myself, as I spend a lot of time on my posts. I fashion myself to be an essayist more than a blogger nowadays. For a while defining what I wanted to create here in the blogosphere was a hard struggle for me, but I have to say that now that I know who I am as a writer, I’m learning to be okay with my choice!

    PS, You and Molly (Orangette) are my original blog inspirations, so you can do no wrong in my book!!!!

  29. i would like to see more comic style posts! i think that is totally unique for your blog and what drew me here in the first place. keep up the good work!

  30. I love your blog and Deb’s. You fill different niches. If you change anything, I feel confident the essentials will stay the same: your hilarious, honest voice, and your commitment to all things foodie, whether restaurants, home cooking, and food politics, to name several. I do go to Deb a lot for recipes, and I love her writing style as well. But, I do have to admit I check your blog more often, because I know I can count on you to post often. And, I never know what I’m gonna get! Could be a funny cartoon, a restaurant review, an essay on coming out of the closet. It’s a surprise, and it’s great every time.

  31. I just made this for a Christmas meal with family and it went over so well! The crunchy brightness of the salad was so nice against all the cooked dishes. Thanks Adam!

    PS, I was sad not to receive your book for Christmas – but no worries, because I treated myself to it when I got home! ;)

  32. Your salad reminds me of my salad, which I usually call a “rainbow salad” because it is fun to assemble its parts as a rainbow in the bowl before mixing (and for other feel-good vibey reasons), see an example of my version here: I have to say that Deb is hard not to like because she produces such professional results and still managers to be sweet and funny, but I love you for being busy, successful and just putting up a blog that shows great food, humor and a slice of life that is real and seems attainable. You have a great voice, and you come off like a friend we want to hear from, which is what keeps me coming back, and is what most of us are shooting for when we click “post.” keep it up! Meg@

  33. No need to change Adam! Your style is yours, and Deb is Deb’s–and both are great in their ways because you’ve both succeeded in defining your own takes on food blogging. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to try to improve your photography, but only if that’s something you want to do. Frankly, I don’t think trying to instantly conform to someone else’s aesthetic would suit this place very well, and “Anything Goes” is a grand motto to have!

  34. Val from Cape Town

    You had me hooked with your roast chicken home video (together with cartoon comment balloons) years ago! Don’t change. :)

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