Free Book Churros

One of the perks of my job as The Amateur Gourmet is that people sometimes send me free stuff. When someone e-mails me and says that they want to send me something for me to write about on my site, I tell them my official policy. My official policy is this: “You can send me free stuff and if I like it, I’ll write about it, but if I don’t like it I won’t write about it.” It’s a very good policy.

Recently, someone who works in publishing wanted to send me a book that you see advertised in my blogads. That book is “The Seasoning of a Chef” by Doug Psaltis. This book is a highly controversial insider look at some of the top kitchens in New York. I told my contact person that he could send it but that I probably wouldn’t be able to read it because of school. And sure enough he sent it and sure enough I was too busy to read it. But every time I look at it I say, “My that looks like a good book. Maybe one day I will read it.”

But this write-up isn’t about that book. The next week, that same someone who works in publishing asked me if I’d like a copy of Mark Bittman’s new cookbook: “The Best Recipes in the World.” I leaped at the opportunity. But because leaping isn’t a clear communication when it comes to the internet, I e-mailed him and told him to send one my way. Here it is!

So first of all, this book is like an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia of world food with recipes. And it’s by Mark Bittman. I’m a latecomer to the Mark Bittman party: he’s been doing The Minimalist for years, but because I only got into food fairly recently I have to nudge my way over to his corner of the room and sniff around before I make my approach. I like his show on TV where he cooks alongside great chefs and tries to simplify their recipes. I think it’s safe to say he’s a man after my own heart. We’re both food populists.

As you can see by the above picture, my approach to this book involved mini-post-it notes. That’s because I knew flipping through it would be a time-consuming endeavor and that it would be wise to mark the recipes I want to make in the future. Otherwise, I may be intimidated to go back. Among the recipes I marked are:

– Chicken Adobo

– Pissaladiere

– Fish Tacos

– Arroz Con Pollo

– Black Risotto with Seafood

– Pad Thai

– Naan

– And, of course, churros.

Now those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while won’t be surprised that of all those recipes to try first the one that woke me into action was the desserty one. Here’s why I went for churros: I had all the ingredients, I could make an individual portion, and it was late at night (this was last night) and I craved something sweet and fried. Plus I’d get to use the pastry bag tips I bought at Williams Sonoma a few months ago.

To make churros (as per this recipe) you need:

– olive, corn, or grapeseed oil for frying [I used vegetable oil and it was fine]

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs sugar

– 8 Tbs (1 stick) butter

– 1/4 tsp salt

– 1 cup flour

– 3 eggs

To start [and I hope my publisher guy doesn’t mind that I’m giving away this recipe!**] do the following:

[**The publisher has asked me to insert the following:

“Excerpted from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman Copyright (c)

2005 by Mark Bittman. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of

Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be

reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.”]

1. Put at least 2 inches of oil into a large saucepan or deep skillet and heat to about 350F. mix the cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar together on a large plate.

2. Combine the remaining sugar, butter, salt and 1 cup water in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.


Turn the heat to low and add the flour all at once.


Stir constantly until the mixture forms a ball, about 30 seconds.


Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition.

Note: I felt that the finished churros, while delicious, were a tad bit too eggy. I wonder if one could get away with only 2 eggs? It’s worth exploring.

3. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag with a large star tip (or you can simply drop spoonfuls of the batter into the oil.)


Press strips of dough about 4 inches long into the hot oil.


Cook as many as will fit comfortably at once, turning as they brown, for a total of 5 to 10 minutes each.

4. Remove the churros from the oil and drain them on paper towels, then immediately roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve hot or at least warm.

Now before I show you the glorious finished product, a brief note on my ghetto pastry bag. I used the Alton Brown technique of a Freezer Bag with the corner cut out. This worked very well until, with the second set of churros, the tip shot out of the corner of the bag into the hot oil!

[This is the tip after being resurrected from the oil.

IMG_10.JPGinspire a musical!]

Ahhhh, and now for the finished product. Who’s ready for some churros?


Great writers make themselves vulnerable and so I will lay myself bare and admit that I ate many many of those churros you see above. In fact, I ate almost all of them. And this was at 1 in the morning. I am a nutritionist’s nightmare. In fact, it’s a good thing Yom Kippur’s here: I have churros to atone for!

In conclusion, I hope you can see by my candidness about getting free stuff that I’m not shilling for anyone. But this Bittman book has great stuff in it. So if you’re into world cuisine and you’re inspired by churros, go check it out! Just don’t spray yourself with oil. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Pasta Is A Dish Best Served Cold. And with Sun-Dried Tomatoes.

Food pictures can be erotic, can’t they? See if this picture makes your mouth horny:

Is that the first time I used the word “horny” in a post? I apologize. Did you know my 5th Grade teacher Mrs. White was fired mid-year because she let one of my classmates play that rap song that goes “Me So Horny” during an after class party and one of the mothers was offended. The Monday after that party we came to class and instead of Mrs. White, there was our principal sitting there telling us we’d have a new teacher. We were heartbroken. Ok, not really. We liked our new teacher better. But I wonder where Mrs. White is today. Is she dead? Does her tombstone say: “Me So Horny.” Ok, that was horrible. But maybe a teensy bit funny?

Let’s talk about pasta salad. Pasta salad is incredibly easy to make and incredibly rewarding. All you need is pasta, stuff for dressing, and other stuff to throw in. It’s all very casual. Very cazh. Wear your sandals.

We get this recipe from—come on now, say it collectively: THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA! But it’s from a book one of my readers’ bought me: Barefoot Contessa Family Style which completes my collection. All I need now is Ina’s BMW and her Hamptons home and I’m set.

Here’s what you need:

1/2 pound fusilli (spirals) pasta

OH NO! I thought it said a pound and I used the whole box! That’s why my pasta’s not terribly coated with dressing. But ya know what? It still tasted great. How come it’s not until I type out these recipes that I realize I made mistakes? That tells you something about recipes. Or maybe it tells you something about me.


Kosher salt

Olive oil

1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium diced

1/4 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced

1 pound fresh mozzarella, medium diced

6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

For the dressing:

5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained

2 Tbs red wine vinegar

6 Tbs good olive oil

1 garlic clove, diced

1 tsp capers, drained

2 tsps kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup packed basil leaves, julienned (Or Julianned, if Julianne Moore is present)

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking. Boil 12 minutes or according to directions on package. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.


Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and basil and toss well.


So just imagine: I made this wrong and I loved it, how great will this taste when you make it right? And then you can take dirty pictures of it like I did and put it in your wallet. Just don’t let it get you fired like Mrs. White got fired. You need your job to pay for the olives. Unless you don’t like olives. In which case, take all the pictures you like.

Sloth Make Rocky Road

Hey you guys!!

Me Sloth!

You Chunk!


I love you Chunk!

Me Sloth like Rocky Road. You like Rocky Road? Me make it!

Me make Rocky Road with book from Chocolate Man. Buy book here. It good book.


Make Rocky Road: buy chocolate. 1 1/4 lbs [565 grams] [20 oz.] bittersweet or semisweet. Chop chocolate. Knife scary so ask mama….


Mama! You been bad!

Put 16 oz chocolate in heatproof bowl. Put on simmery water. Melt and stir until smooth.


Take off heat. Stir in other 4 oz. Take temperature—not like Mama take temperature! When it fall to low 80 F, put back on heat and “flash” 3 to 5 seconds. Take off. Watch temp. Do again. You want between 88 to 91, but to quote book: “You’ll need to flash several times to get it to the correct temperature. Don’t be tempted to keep the chocolate over the heat until it reaches the proper temperature; it will continue to rise after you remove the bowl from the heat. (If the temperature rises over 91 F, you’ll need to begin the process all over again.)”

It scary!

When right temperature, add 4 cups mini marshmallows and 1 1/2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts. Spread on wax-lined cookie sheet.


Put in fridge and chill.

I take nap. Rockabye baby on treetop, when wind blows cradle will rock, when bow breaks the cradle will fall… falll… FALLL!!!!!!!

When firm, take out and break in pieces. Look!


Mmm! Sloth like Rocky Road! Look close!


Me eat whole thing! None for you, Chunk! I sorry Chunk! What you have to say?

Chunk say.

Haha. I love you, Chunk!

I May Not Watch Rome, But I Make A Mean Caesar

There was a time I carried a Palm Pilot—back when I went to law school and I wanted my life mapped out for me. I had my schedule, I had my phone numbers: it was all very formal. I hated it. I have friends and people in my life who must schedule everything, who map their lives out to the tiniest detail and find that very rewarding. Not me. I like chaos. [For reference: see messy apartment, messy desk, messy brain.] [Actually: messy website! (but that’s being remedied)]

But if there’s one thing I wish I had a Palm Pilot for it’s recipes. I’d love to carry a million recipes in my pocket so that when I go to the grocery store, like I did tonight, I could see what looks good and find a recipe to match it. Alas: I have no Palm Pilot, I have no million recipes, and so I have to rely on that most ancient form of Palm Pilot: my brain.

Standing in Citarella tonight I had a revelation: “I want a Caesar salad,” said a voice in my head. Suddenly The Barefoot Contessa’s recipe, which I’ve never made, came into my head. I knew what i needed. The most basic things to buy when making Caesar are simple: garlic, anchovies, and Romaine lettuce. Everything else you probably have at home. And then there’s the extra Contessa stuff: sliced pancetta [4 thick slices] and cherry tomatoes. Check and check.

At home, preheat your oven to 400. Put the cherry tomatoes (about 1 carton) on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes until soft.

Then deal with the pancetta. Cut it up into 1/2 inch cubes and cook in a skillet on medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Now for the salad. This is the fun part. It involves a raw egg. I separated the egg first and put the yolk in a bowl and left it out for a while to come to room temperature.

When it’s at room temperature, put it into a food processor with 2 tsps Dijon mustard, 2 cloves of garlic chopped (I used 3, I like it garlicky), 8 to 10 anchovy fillets, 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons) [I only had 1 lemon and it was fine], 2 tsps kosher salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.


You blend that until smooth then down the feed tube slowly pour 1 1/2 cups good mild olive oil. It’ll make a dressing. Then add 1/2 cup freshly grated Paremsan and pulse 3 times.

Ok, so in a bowl add sliced Romaine lettuce [she likes them cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch slices] and enough dressing to “moisten well.” Whoah. She says to add 1 cup of grated Paremsan and toss. I forgot to do that. I wish I would’ve seen that, I had a lot of leftover Parmesan. Anyway. Divide lettuce between plates and sprinkle with the Pancetta and roasted tomatoes. Or put it in the bowl like this. I also added croutons.

Tell me this doesn’t make you swoon:


It’s an awesome Caesar. I recommend it. And if you watch “Rome” (which I don’t, though I hear I should) it’s probably a great thing to make for a “Rome” party. You can wear a toga. And then kill a lot of people. Enjoy!

The Bowl That Comes With A Recipe (Summer Nectarine and Arugula Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette)

On a pre-lunch walk the other day, I passed Fishs Eddy. According to their website, Fishs Eddy “specializes in American flatware.” That’s a very formal way of saying they sell funky and fun dishes and plates and spoons and bowls. Some are cheap, some are expensive, but it’s always a treat to go browse around. I already have three bowls from there and one large charger type plate that I usually use to showcase the food I make for this site. Anyway, in the window of Fishs Eddy was this bowl:

Isn’t this a fun bowl? As you can see I bought it. But I didn’t just buy it because it’s funky and blue and ceramic. I bought it because above the bowl in the window was a recipe. A recipe for a summer salad of (you already know but I’ll repeat it): arugula, nectarines, raspberries and walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette.

I had an index card in my pocket (don’t ask) and I copied down the recipe from the window. Then I purchased the bowl. It was $15 but I plan to get a lot of use out of it.

Then I made my way to the Union Square Farmer’s Market and bought all the ingredients that I didn’t already have. That amounted to: 1 2/3 cups arugula (or torn assorted greens), 1 nectarine (I bought two) and raspberries.

At home, I followed the recipe’s advice and made dressing in a jar. Only I didn’t have raspberry vinegar so I subbed balsamic vinegar. It worked fine. I also doubled the recipe because I like lots of dressing.

So here’s what goes in the jar (this is the not doubled version):

4 tsps olive oil

1 Tbs raspberry vinegar

1/4 tsp mustard

1/8 tsp sugar, salt & pepper

Here it is pre-shaking:


And here it is post-shaking: (sorry, it’s blurry)


I really like this method: the dressing gets emulsified and there’s no mess. Get yourself a dressing jar today.

As for the salad assembly, it’s real easy. Wash and tear up the arugula. Add sliced nectarine. Toss with some dressing. Toast some walnuts, sprinkle on top. (2 Tbs of walnuts.) And then sprinkle on raspberries. Here’s the finished product:


Isn’t it cute in my new bowl? Oh new bowl, you are my new favorite bowl. Imagine all the salads we’ll have together. We’re going to be best friends.

Everybody Ought To Have A Scone

If there was a betting pool and the bet was: “Is Adam pregnant?” you may do well to put aside preconceived notions about gender and childbirth and take seriously the following fact. I have strange cravings for scones in the middle of the night. Not only do I have these cravings, I listen to them and answer them by making scones very very late at night. Biology be damned—either I’m pregnant or I really really like scones. Or maybe both?

This scone recipe comes from (where else?) The Barefoot Contessa cookbook. These are the lightest scones I’ve ever had. Light as a feather and stiff as a board. You can throw them together really quickly. [Here’s the finished product photo, to get you excited.]

The recipe calls for dried strawberries but I subbed raisins and that was fine. Here’s what you’ll need: (I halved the recipe, but here’s the full recipe in case you’re really really REALLY pregnant). Makes 14 to 16 large scones.

4 cups plus 1 Tbs all-purpose flour

2 Tbs sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

2 Tbs baking powder

2 tsps salt

3/4 lb cold unsalted butter, diced

4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup cold heavy cream

3/4 cup small-diced dried strawberries

1 egg beaten with 2 Tbs water or milk, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 4 cups of flour, 2 Tbs sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the cold butter at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour and butter mixture. Combine until just blended. Toss the strawberries with 1 Tbs of flour, and add them to the dough, and mix quickly. The dough may be a bit sticky.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is well combined.


Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4 inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into squares with a 4 inch plain or fluted cutter and then cut them in half diagonally to make triangles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.


Brush the tops with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outsides are crisp and the insides are fully baked.

That’s it! I will say: (1) these are best right out of the oven, slathered with butter or–in my case–raspberry jam (confiture?) from Le Pain Quotidien; and (2) they were a tiny bit salty for my taste. So maybe less salt? But all in all, me and my baby are glad I made them. They really hit the spot.

Call Me Corny But I Love Corn Soup with Salsa

The nicest thing about Alice Waters’ Vegetable book (which I’ve been raving about for a few posts now; and which, as I’ve mentioned before, was a gift from one of my readers) is that it helps you become a seasonal cook without having to make too many changes to your life. To really understand seasonal cooking, you’d really have to know a bit about the land, the climate, your part of the country. With this book, you really just need to know what looks fresh in the supermarket and the farmer’s market. Corn’s still in season and so I put two and two together, flipped to Alice’s corn section (that sounded dirty) and made this wonderful corn soup with salsa.

To start out, you should make the salsa. The salsa here isn’t really the kind of salsa you associate with “salsa.” It’s basically roasted tomatoes with sage, olive oil and corn. You’ll need:

1 large ripe tomato

1 sprig thyme

2 sage leaves

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbs fresh corn kernels

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Peel and seed the tomato…

Here I got to use my brand new paring knife that came with the knife set I bought through Elise’s site a few weeks ago!


It’s my new favorite knife, mostly because it’s really sharp. Where were we?

and cut into 1/2 inch dice. In a small baking dish, toss the tomato with the thyme and sage and 1 Tbs of the olive oil. (I couldn’t find any thyme at Whole Foods which made me sad because thyme’s my favorite herb.)


Put the dish in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove from the oven, allow to cool


and remove the thyme sprig and the sage leaves. Toss together with the remaining Tbs of olive oil and the corn, and season to taste.


As you can see, I added cilantro because I’m a big cilantro fan. I should also say here that this salsa is optional. Alice writes: “Other garnishes to consider [for the soup] are roasted red peppers, pureed or chopped; or chopped hot chiles and cilantro, with or without creme fraiche.”

Now then: the soup. I halved the recipe for myself but I’ll give you the full recipe here in case you want to make this for your family. You will need:

1 medium onion

1/4 small carrot

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1 small piece prosciutto or smoked bacon (I used bacon)

3 cups fresh corn kernels**

4 cups chicken stock

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs half-and-half

1 cup corn and roasted tomato salsa (which you’ve already made)

**To get the kernels off the corn without having the corn fly all over the place, I tried a technique I saw on Alton Brown. I may have totally misremembered this, but as it occurred to me you take a small bowl and put it in a pie pan and the walls of the pie pan catch the bits of corn as you cut down.


As you can see, I made a mess, but not as big a mess as I did the last time I cut corn.

Now then, the recipe.

Peel and finely dice the onion, carrot and garlic, and stew slowly in the butter with a little water, covered, until the onion is translucent. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and prosciutto or bacon, and stew for 3 or 4 minutes more. Add the corn and cook for another minute or so.

Pour in the stock, add the salt, bring the soup to a boil and shut off the heat. Cover and let stand for 3 minutes.

I should point out here that I used the Sarah Moulton technique of putting the cobs* in with the corn to add flavor. Since you’ll be pureeing everything in a moment, it’s very easy to take the cobs out afterwards. And even if it doesn’t do much, it feels like it does. [*NOTE: originally I wrote “husks.” That was wrong! Don’t put husks in your soup!]


Remove the thyme, bay leaf, pork (and the cobs!) and puree the soup in a blender for 3 minutes.

I used my food processor:


And encountered some trouble when liquid came pouring out of every hole:


But for the most part, the soup got blended the way it needed to be blended. Here it is, post-puree:


After that, it’s easy.

Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, add the half-and-half, reheat the soup to just below a boil, and serve, garnishing each bowl with a spoonful of the corn and roasted tomato salsa.

It’s cool because the salsa really acts as the soup’s–umm–“stuff.” You know like the stuff that’s in clam chowder? It’s the stuff you fish for when you eat. And it really makes the dish more colorful and vibrant. I served it with a simple salad and extra salsa on the side.


It’s a great recipe to make with the last of the summer corn. And if you’re not a seasonal shopper, what a great way to start. You can wear your seasonal shopper t-shirt.

Cooking, Art and Magic: Summer Squash and Corn Pasta

There is a link, methinks, between cooking, art and magic. The best evidence I can give to support this theory is from Act 4.1 of Macbeth. Enter the witches.

First Witch: Round about the cauldron go,

In the poisoned entrails throw

Toad that under cold stone

Days and nights has thirty-one

sweltered venom sleeping got

boil thou first i’th’ charmed pot.

A “charmed pot.” That’s what cooking’s all about, is it not? Transformation. A mish-mosh of random ingredients and bang wham pow something new. Which is what I experienced tonight with Alice Waters. I did her recipe for “Summer Squash and Corn Pasta” from her Vegetables book, which a reader so kindly bought me. You need summer squash and corn, to start:

You cut the squash into tiny pieces (“small dice,” says Alice) and you saute it in 1.5 Tbs of olive oil until tender and a bit brown.


Season with salt and pepper. Then you add corn from 3 ears (I halved the recipe, by the way), 2 cloves of garlic cut up and 1/2 a jalapeno cut up too.


You cook that for a bit. It’s all very casual here in Alice-land.

Then add 2 Tbs of butter, a handful of chopped cilantro and 3 or 4 Tbs of water. That’s it! Your sauce! Taste and season accordingly. (Alice says to add lemon juice if the corn is too sweet. I wonder if lime would be good too?)

In the meantime, you’ve prepared some fettucine. Half a pound. Add to the corn and squash mixture, toss about with tongs, and there’s your dinner: [add more cilantro to garnish]


Those noodles all get coated with the browned, sweetened squash; the corn adds texture and more sweetness and then there’s the heat of the jalapeno, the old Jewish grandma-ness of the garlic, and the brightness of the cilantro. It’s the sort of thing that you read and say: “Hmm, but I really wonder what that tastes like?”

Exactly! Back to the beginning: cooking, art and magic. The cooking is the manual labor; the art is what gets added (the recipe) and the magic is what it becomes. Transformation: a charmed pot. And I think the child in me who watched witches on TV throw random things into large cauldrons only to have doves or children or Oprah emerge finds himself in love with cooking most when the resulting product is something that could never have existed but for the enchanted spell (ie: the recipe). Try this recipe and experience some late summer magic before it’s too late! Corn and summer squash don’t last forever.

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