Greek Stuffed Peppers

My podcast is having an effect on me. I had Jenni Konner on my second episode and she talked all about letting people into her kitchen during a dinner party, giving people tasks, sharing responsibilities. That’s the total opposite of what I normally do; normally, I get everything done hours ahead then just warm everything up when everyone gets there. It’s a control thing. It’s also an anxiety thing. Basically, it’s a me thing.

Not too long ago, my friend Cary asked if he could cook with me and, with Jenni’s podcast on my mind, I said: “Sure.” I didn’t know what to expect. I went to the market in the morning and bought a bunch of tomatoes, green peppers, and a melon. He texted that he was picking up prune plums from his farmer’s market.

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Meaty Mushrooms on Cheesy Polenta

Seared Mushrooms on Polenta

Mushrooms are scary. Eat the wrong one, and it can kill you or make you think you’re Jesus (luckily, if you think you’re Jesus and it kills you, you can raise yourself from the dead). As a child, I absolutely loathed raw mushrooms in salads at pizza restaurants. That was my first impression of mushrooms: these spongy, weird, white things that ruin a very crisp experience. Blech.

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Last Night’s Dinner: Saucy Chickpeas Over Rice

Hey folks, remember the days when I used to make videos on the fly and post them pretty regularly? Well, those days were long ago (more towards the beginning of my blog) so I’ll forgive you if you don’t know anything about them. Anyway, with Craig still in New York and my iPhone a more sophisticated video camera than anything I used in the past, I figured, “Why not just make a video for the hell of it?” And that’s what you see above: a casual video about the dinner I made Monday night. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys blog videos, you’re in for a treat; if you’re the kind of person who can’t watch them because you’re at work, it’s time for a new job. Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments. Maybe I’ll make more.

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Kumquat Olive Relish

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What is grilling? Does it have to happen outside? Why?

These are questions I often ask myself, especially since I’ve yet to be able to buy my dream grill (a Weber kettle drum charcoal grill) to begin my own grilling education. In the interim, I’ve read–in fact, I’ve written in my own cookbook–that you can replicate the effects of outdoor grilling with a cast iron skillet at home. Problem is, any time I’d ever done this I added oil to the skillet and whatever I was “grilling” ended up tasting like it was fried in oil, not grilled. What would happen if I heated my cast iron skillet until super hot and added food to it without any fat? Would that result in a more “grilled” flavor? I decided to give that a try with cauliflower steaks.

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Eggplant Dirty Rice

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When I declared my pescatarianism last week, I was mostly being tongue-in-cheek because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t stick. I’m still not sure it’ll stick. But so far, it’s stuck, and at the same dinner party when I made that spring pea puree, I needed a vegetarian entree that would impress in a way that didn’t make anyone think: “Vegetarian entree.” Rifling through a recent Food & Wine, I found a recipe for David Kinch’s Eggplant Dirty Rice and thought: “Ooooh.” Once I made it, that “oooh” transformed into a “whoah.” This is powerful stuff, one of the best vegetarian dinners I’ve had in a long time.

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Sweet Potato Curry

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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, a musical can be built around the poetry of Ezra Pound.

Wait, that was a ridiculous line from last week’s Smash (as recapped, hilariously, by Rachel Shukert here). What I meant to say was: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it’s worth knowing how to make a curry. I’ve done it with chickpeas, I’ve done it with cauliflower, and today I’ll show you how to do it with a sweet potato.

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Build Your Own Vegetable Curry

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Healthy dinners don’t fare very well if you refer to them as healthy dinners. You might know in your head that it’s a healthy dinner, but if you call it that, forget about it, everyone at the table’s going to groan.

So do what I do: package a healthy dinner inside a package everyone already knows. For example, make a vegetable curry. When you hear the word “curry” you think “oooh flavor, spice, heat, Tim Curry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, toucha-toucha-toucha-touch me.” The best part is: once you have the basic technique down, you can apply it to a wide variety of vegetables. Let me show you what I mean.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or, to put it another way, I lost my round of The Piglet. Granted, there was no way I could ever have triumphed over Naomi Duguid’s brilliant Burma. She totally deserved her win.

But I have to confess, I took great comfort the next day when Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem joined me on the loser’s bench. It helped me realize how arbitrary this all was. Jerusalem was a clear front-runner for Cookbook of the Year; but Marco Canora, who judged this round (and, incidentally, is one of the chefs featured in my book!), found Jerusalem wanting. Funny enough, he singled out a dish I had made a few days earlier to great fanfare and called it “not particularly exciting.” Again, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

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