Scared you, didn’t I? Well I didn’t mean to. It’s funny how many people read my last post and assumed I was ending my blog. That’s not what I said! I just said that my blog was no longer my primary source of income; in many ways, it’s a liberating state of affairs. It means that if I post on here (as I’m doing now) it’s because I have something I’m really eager to share with the world, not just something to fill up space on the internet (like that time I told you that my cake stand is really a punch bowl; though, weirdly, that post really caught on). In any case: chicken under a brick. Have you tried it? If not, why not? I bet I can guess: you’re afraid. I was afraid too. Then, this past Tuesday, I tried it and–I mean this seriously–I don’t think I’ll ever make chicken any other way again.
There was this time, long ago, when I was writing my first book and talking on the phone to Amanda Hesser who I revered and who kindly agreed to give me tips about shopping at the farmer’s market. I was trying to get a grasp on how to know which ingredients were in season, which were good, which were bad, etc. At some point I said, “Well I guess garlic is one of those things that’s always the same no matter where you get it?” No, actually I said: “Well I guess garlic can’t be fresh can it?” And Amanda Hesser set me straight: “Of course garlic can be fresh…”
Little by little, bit by bit, L.A. is chipping away at me. First: I joined a gym. Then I started cooking quinoa. Most recently, I met my friend Isaac (pictured above) in Silverlake for coffee; only Intelligentsia was so packed, we agreed to a change of venue and journeyed down the street to a juice bar. Isaac ordered the green concoction that you see him holding and I bought myself a coconut water.
It’s that time of year again. First comes the “What To Do With Leftover Candy?” and the blood-tinted Halloween punch; then we’re in turkey month—just look at those glossies at your supermarket checkout—and, faster than you can say “hot buttered rum,” there’ll be the Bûche de Noëls, the potato latkes, and glasses of champagne to ring in the New Year.
Most mainstream food outlets—from blogs to magazines to cooking shows on T.V.—will follow the formula with precision. They’ve been plotting this since summer, when holiday strategy meetings took place: “What can we do this year that we didn’t do 50 times already?”
Amanda Hesser has lived in my kitchen for as long as I’ve been cooking. Well, in cookbook form: her “Cooking For Mr. Latte” (which I refer to as a cookbook even though it’s really a memoir (with recipes) about her courtship with New Yorker writer Tad Friend) is a constant go-to resource for me. The almond cake in it? It’s one of my all-time favorite recipes. So it was a big deal to have her and her Food52 co-creator and collaborator Merrill Stubbs here in my kitchen today for this latest installment of “Someone’s In The Kitchen With.” We chat about The New York Times Cookbook (Merrill assisted Amanda in writing it), the creation of Food52, and–later on in the conversation–what it’s like being women in a male dominated internet start-up world. Plus, I served them this coffee cake and Amanda already Tweeted that she’s coming back for more tomorrow. I cooked for a cookbook hero and she wants to come back for more (that’s a good feeling).
You may know this about me already but there was a time, over six years ago, when I was a law student working in a law firm. And this law firm had a little coffee room and the coffee room had a machine that made individual cups of coffee; you chose your flavor–often the highlight of my day, in that dreary place–and once you selected your pod, you slid it into a slot, pushed a button and voila! There was your very own personalized cup of coffee.
I’m trying not to be dramatic here, but I can’t avoid the second half of this sentence: if you haven’t had a Meyer lemon, you haven’t lived!
Yes, that was a pretty dramatic thing to say, but let’s look at the facts: (1) A regular lemon isn’t very subtle, it’s an acidic attack on your taste buds. A Meyer lemon? It’s a subtly perfumed orangey lemony hybrid—it makes a regular lemon look like a punk; (2) regular lemons are around all year long, they pile up in their sad bins at the grocery store, and you grab them more out of pity than anything resembling delight. But Meyer lemons? They’re only here for a short time–the winter months up through the start of Spring (i.e. right now!)–and discovering a bin of Meyer lemons at the store is, for a food lover, like a baseball card collector stumbling upon a (insert rare baseball card here) at a garage sale. It’s cause for celebration.
Dip into the archives of my blog, go way back, and you’ll see that at the very beginning one of my very first gastronomical spirit guides was Amanda Hesser. I read her book, “Cooking For Mr. Latte,” while studying for the bar exam (here’s my 2004 post about it) and then proceeded to cook my way through the book. I’ve made her vanilla bean loaves, carrot fennel soup, chicken roasted with sour cream and mango chutney, salt and pepper shrimp, and, of course, the almond cake that is my go-to dessert when I’m entertaining distinguished guests.