A Bold New Vision For My Cookbook Collection

Since you last knew me, I’ve developed a few food-related obsessions. The first one is plates. I collect vintage plates now on Ebay and Etsy and I have quite a collection (OK, here’s a peek on Instagram). I’m also obsessed with old cookbooks, usually ones that have historic value (The Lutece Cookbook, for example) but sometimes I purchase cookbooks that are pretty campy and semi-historic (The Uta Hagen Cookbook, The Liberace Cookbook, The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Cookbook). Those collectible cookbooks held the highest position on my old cookbook shelf, a shelf that was beginning to look like a real mess. Here’s what I’m talking about…

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Watching Suzanne Goin Cook (With Special Appearances By Jackie Collins, Hugh Acheson, Scott Conant and Carla Hall)

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This past weekend, I emceed the cooking tent at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. It was a pretty exhilarating experience: after the jump you’ll see pictures of me and Jackie Collins, Hugh Acheson and Carla Hall. But the highlight for me, personally, was getting to stand next to one of my food heroes–the author of one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Sunday Suppers at Lucques–while she made two extraordinary dishes in front of a crowd of adoring fans (myself included). That would be Chef Suzanne Goin and this post is about that experience.

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Mac and Cheese with Chorizo, Cotija and Aged English Cheddar

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Every time I make a mac and cheese I declare it the best I’ve ever made. There’s a reason for that. I grew up hating mac and cheese (also lasagna) because my dad hated cheese. So if a friend’s mom made it for dinner, I’d move it around on my plate and feign a sudden bout of appendicitis. It wasn’t until I got older and started eating cheese with my cheese-loving friends that I came back around to mac. As I started making it myself, and understood what it really was–a white sauce with lots of cheese melted into it, spread over noodles and baked–I could appreciate it as a way to put obscene amounts of cheese on a plate and call it dinner. I’ve made many an obscene mac and cheese since then (one with three cups of cream, one with blue cheese, Gruyere and cheddar) but the most obscene–and delicious–of all may be the one I just made from my friend Garrett McCord’s new cookbook Melt. It’s a mac and cheese for the ages.

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Cookbook Giveaway

Sometime in the next two hours, I’m going to give away five signed copies of SECRETS OF THE BEST CHEFS on Twitter. All you have to do is follow me over there, and you may win the perfect holiday gift for friends or loved ones or frenemies who are tired of drab, boring, repetitive recipes and want to step up their kitchen game. 150 exciting dishes! Gorgeous full-color photography! Sidebars full of helpful information! Just think of how happy they’ll be to find this under the tree this year. Or screw those loved ones and win a copy for yourself. Or just buy one by clicking right here. I mean, you deserve it, right? [UPDATE: Contest is now closed!]

My 2013 Holiday Gift Buying Guide

Growing up, I never really made a Hanukkah list. My mom said to me early on, “We can get you one nice gift or eight crappy gifts,” so obviously I’d pick the nice gift and each year beg for something very specific, like a Nintendo or a Super Nintendo or a Nintendo Gameboy or basically anything Nintendo made. Now that I’m adult, I make a very different sort of list when I go with Craig to Bellingham, Washington for Christmas. This is something known as a “Christmas list” and I’m supposed to put lots of things on it that I’d be happy to find under a giant green structure known as a “Christmas tree.” Actually, I really enjoy doing this and in figuring out what food things I want for myself I end up making a list that works very well as a gift-buying guide for all of you. So without further ado, here’s my Holiday Gift Buying Guide 2013.

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Spicy Chicken Meatballs with Fusilli

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My life in New York was all about the newest and latest cookbooks, poring through them at The Strand and carefully calculating which ones were worth the price of purchase. In L.A., though, I’m all about finding old, tattered cookbooks at used book stores, both at Counterpoint Records in Franklin Village and Alias Books East in Atwater Village. At the latter, recently, I came upon The Campanile Cookbook which was written by two of America’s greatest chefs back when they were married: Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton. The recipe that sold me instantly is the one I’m about to share with you now.

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The Used Cookbook Sale at The Hollywood Farmer’s Market

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On Sunday, my friend Ben Mandelker of The B-Side Blog invited me to the used cookbook sale at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. As many of you know, I’m kind of a cookbook junkie (see here) so this was a no-brainer. When I got there, I found mostly generic cookbooks (many, many diet books) and old copies of Bon Appetit anthologies. But then Ben started to dig up some treasures, which I’ll share with you here….

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My New Cookbook Shelf

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Let’s pretend that I have a boyfriend (or partner or whatever it is you prefer I call him, you touchy readers you) named Craig and let’s pretend that Craig, one day last year, bought a designer bookshelf from H.D. Buttercup in Culver City. The bookshelf, in this story, was so heavy you couldn’t lift it and so important to Craig that it remained in our bedroom, virtually empty, for a year. We’d talk about the things we might put on it (“What about a vase?” “No, I hate vases,” Craig might reply) but never actually put anything on it except the one time I put a bunch of my favorite paperbacks on the top shelf and they looked incredibly feeble and minuscule in this giant bookcase. “You know,” I may have said, if this story were real, which–to be honest–it is, “what would look really good on it?” “What?” “Cookbooks.”

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