Dinner Answer Man

Roger Ebert used to have a column called “Movie Answer Man” where he’d answer reader questions about movies. I know because I once submitted a question that he published concerning The Royal Tenenbaums when I noticed someone in the credits with the last name Tenenbaum who I thought might have inspired the story (Ebert reached out to Wes Anderson who said there was no correlation). Seeing as I’m on a blogging kick, I thought I’d try out a Dinner Answer Man in which you can ask any food or blog related questions you want to in the comments and I’ll try to answer them all. So have at it! In the meantime, if your question is: “What’s that dish in the picture?” It’s the cauliflower gratin I made for Easter Brunch before everyone devoured it.

42 thoughts on “Dinner Answer Man”

    1. Hi Nichole, thanks for your question. The secret is that I take lots of pictures of anything and everything having to do with food. On Monday morning, I edit them and upload them to Flickr and then I open a sticky note and type up all the possible posts I can write from those pictures. So this week there was the Amaro, the kohlrabi, the cauliflower soup, the flowers, etc. It’s easier than you think!

  1. What have you learned about cooking from living in CA, that you didn’t know in NY?

    (I too made a similar move a decade ago, although from CT to the Bay Area….)

    1. Hi J,
      That’s tough! I’d say I learned a lot going to eat at places like Forage and Cortez which spruce up traditionally healthy foods, making them far more sexy and appealing. Forage, in particular, has gotten me excited about faro and quinoa in ways that no place in New York ever came close to.

    1. Hi Brooklynite,
      It depends a lot on what I’m working on at the moment. When I was writing my cookbook, my schedule was jam-packed; up early to travel, to cook with chefs, to test recipes, etc. Up until two weeks ago, I spent my mornings writing the blog and the afternoons working on larger projects (most recently a musical). Now I’m trying to blog all day to reinvigorate things a bit. It’s actually been a lot of fun.

        1. Hi Laura,
          Very seriously! Unfortunately, most of these things don’t get off the ground. This one I’m hoping does. Fingers crossed!

    1. Hey Kat,
      It’s funny you point that out because my food writing hero is Calvin Trillin, perhaps the funniest food writer of all. I love how unpretentious he is with his writing and how he doesn’t condescend to the reader on his epicurean adventures. Everything I learned, really, about tone I learned from him.

  2. I too am third year law and wanting to cook all the time.. tips? Ideas? Did you finish your degree? How did you balance it all?

    1. Hey Jessie, I was a terrible law student but somehow I scraped by and graduated. Cooking just came very naturally to me during the time I was in law school. I always found time for it, maybe because I wasn’t writing for the law journal or striving to be at the top of my class. By my third year, I knew I really didn’t want to practice law so I started the blog as a much-needed outlet. It took precedence ever since.

  3. Kimberly Wydeen

    You often speak about how, when you were growing up, most of your meals were eaten in restaurants. How do you think this shaped you as a food writer? Do your parents and brother delight in food as much as you do? Are they getting more interested in food since your writing career, or is it pretty much the same?

    1. Hey Kim, well my family absolutely, 100% loves food. They structure their whole lives around it! In fact, when my parents visit me in L.A., 90% of the conversations leading up to it have to do with where we’re going to eat when they’re here. That’s always been true (and pretty common in Jewish families). It’s just that they’re not interested in cooking; never have been, never will be. So in terms of how it shaped me, it created a real fascination for me in what happens in the kitchen. It also taught me to feed myself in a way that empowered me not to have to go out for every meal, which is really nice. My family is slightly more interested in food because of me, but they stick to the places they like and occasionally will branch out because of something I say. Mostly, though, they’re as baffled by my chosen career as I am.

  4. Can you post the recipe to that cheesecake you showed us earlier this week (the “two extra cream cheese packets” one)? It reminds me of my grandmother’s cheesecake from childhood, and THAT was divine.

  5. I am what you might have been if you hadn’t hung your hat on blogging and writing way back when. I am 6.5 years into a legal career. It is going well, I made partner, blah blah blah, but I really feel fueled by my blog though I find it difficult to post regularly. I would love to make it more a focus of my life’s work. Do you think there is room for another in the blog-o-sphere / cookbook writing world? Also, do you think it hurts to have a food focus with a sideline of life and travel, or is focus key?

    Love your blog! It has been great to see multiple posts daily, it turns into my little breaks!

      1. Yes! I forgot wheat berries in my recent farro post but they’d work with all those ingredients too. (If you search wheat berries in my search box you’ll see a recipe or two.)

        1. When you didn’t mention wheat berries, I wondered if they weren’t up to snuff. I guess I’ll give ’em a go. I loved the recent farro post, such a great base to riff on. :)

    1. Hi Meghanssj, these are good questions you ask. I think it’s easiest to stand out/make a career of it if you have a singular voice and vision that clearly stands out from the pack. The best way to know that is to just keep putting stuff out there and see what sticks. If nothing sticks, you may have to rethink things. My food blog didn’t become my real career until I sold my first book (about a year in)… So build towards something like that and then you can think about switching careers. As far as focus, the more narrow the focus, the easier your job will be and the more clear your audience will be. That said some of the best bloggers (kottke.org being one of them) write about all kinds of things. Lots of luck!

      1. Great thoughts Adam. It makes a person feel special getting a thoughtful, helpful, personal reply. When I get my book deal, I’m going to let you know, because good advice and encouragement along the way helps. It is actually what I want anyway, before I diverted myself into the seduction of a blog post’s instant gratification. I won’t quit blogging, but what I really need to do is get up earlier and just write something other than wills and trusts!

  6. Adam, I accidentally invited 12 people to dinner on Saturday (we didn’t think everyone would accept) what can I serve 12 people that doesn’t require me to be slaving away in the kitchen while our guests are here? I thought short ribs, but I don’t have a dutch oven that big…

    1. I would buy a big pot–like a stock pot–and make The Best Chili of Your Life from my archives. Just serve that (lots of it; maybe even double the recipe and freeze any leftovers?) with all the fixings: chopped onion, cilantro, shredded cheese, etc. People will love it. Then you could do ice cream sundaes for dessert. Buy the ice cream and make a big pot of hot fudge sauce to put on top. Easy!

  7. I am entering a Chili cook-off and will be using the “best chili of your life” as the base.I have used the recipe before this way and it really is excellent! Have you made adjustments that you would share?

    1. No adjustments at all. I really love it! Though be careful as some chili purists don’t believe in beans in the chili (or, in this case, black-eyed peas.) If you’re nervous, try another chili from my archives: Lisa Fain’s 7-Chile Chili. That’s terrific too though the ingredients are harder to find.

  8. What’s the impetus behind the additional blog posts? I’m enjoying and appreciating it because It seems like there’s a disappointing trend in the other direction, especially amongst certain published bloggers.

    1. Hi AG, Glad you’re enjoying the more frequent posts. I was feeling a bit bored with my own blog and I think it was because each post felt like it had to be significant in some way; so I wouldn’t allow myself just to post about casual things like Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook or a funny cooking video I found on YouTube. I realized if I updated more often, I could take more risks, try new things, see what worked and what didn’t more easily. Plus: I’m having a lot more fun and I’m not at all bored doing it this way. The real question is: Can I keep it up? We shall see!

  9. Wow, also just noticed a pretty significant trend in commenters who are law students and lawyers, and I’m amongst them. Can we do a study on the correlation (despite the small sample size)?

  10. Hope I’m in time for an answer. I’d like to know if you have read Bob Spitz’s “Dearie”- I’m reading it now and find it sooo fascinating. Since you often post what you read, I just wondered. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it.

    1. Hi Carrie, I haven’t read that and, to be honest, I hadn’t even heard of it…but I will check it out. Thanks!

      1. It’s Julia Child’s biography- absolutely fabulous! I think you’d enjoy it-She was kind of an “accidental gourmet”- (like you) And it has great insight into the cookbook publishing world of the 60’s and 70’s.

  11. It’s still Lent for the Eastern Orthodox and my family is getting sick of Indian food. What can I make that’s vegan and olive oil free? Bonus points for being either quick and easy or being able to do most of the prep ahead of time during the baby’s nap.

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      Hi NJMKW, vegan and olive oil free? Can you use other fats (like vegetable oil, butter, etc.?) I’m thinking stir-fries would be a natural next choice. Or salads like the ones I posted this week in my Farro Salad post; only instead of olive oil, make a dressing using any other kind of oil you like (walnut oil, etc). Hope that helps.

  12. Hi Adam, not sure if you’re still answering questions, but I thought I’d give it a shot! I am a cheese-hater. I used to be able to tolerate mozzarella on pizza and cheddar, but I seem to have gotten even fussier as I get older. I was just wondering if you, as a former cheese-hater yourself, had any advice for learning to like it. I’ve tried some super-mild Saint-Andre, but even that is tough for me to get down. Was there something in particular that helped to change your tastes?

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for many years – thanks!

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      Hi Sarah, sorry for the delayed response… It’s a great question. I think it happened gradually. Eating nicer cheese at restaurants with good pairings (if you ever get to go to Cassellula in NY, they create fascinating plates of cheese) and also enjoying cheese with bread and wine made me open my mind more? I think nice cheese makes a difference. So eat the best you can and keep at it!

Let's dish!

Scroll to Top