Tag Archives: cookbooks

Root Down

10 Nov

When I’m stressed out, I buy books.

And so, on the day before my surgery, I found myself in the cookbook section of the Strand.

I was looking for a copy of Nigel Slater’s Appetite to give as a going away present to an aspiring home cook, but what I was finding was a mountain of books I wanted.  There was I Know How to Cook, Momofuku and Ad Hoc at Home; Jim Lahey‘s new bread book, Judith Jones‘ treatise on the pleasures of cooking for one, the surreal world of Heston Blumenthal and no Nigel.

So, I grabbed a classic Jamie Oliver tome for my co-worker, and, just for good measure, The Veselka Cookbook (complete with a recipe for my beloved Christmas borscht!) and for absolutely no reason (other than I’m a sucker for puffy book covers), Stephane Reynaud’s French Feasts for me.

On Friday, Isaac made us a beautiful pureed cauliflower soup while I lazed on the couch, trying to purge the anesthesia from my body as quickly as possible.  By Saturday morning, I was ready to get up and go again (I think they give you something when you have surgery to make you feel energetic and happy the day after), so we wandered down to the Tucker Square greenmarket.

The plan was to roast the last of the wee tiny beets and bitty little carrots from the garden, but we needed to supplement them with something.  So I grabbed a butternut squash, an acorn squash, a bouquet of sage, rosemary and thyme and a smoked duck breast.

Here’s where I divulge to you an embarrassing secret:

Want to know what it is? Head below the fold.

Bean There, Done That

16 Oct

Last night, I was in the same room as Martha Stewart, Daniel Boulud and a Beastie Boy.

And yes, Carol, it was MCA.

There were other famous people in the room too, but I’m terrible at identifying famous people. I’ll stand and stare and think to myself, I know that person… But can never figure out how, until weeks or months later when I see them in a movie or on TV and blurt out, Oooooh! I talked to that guy at a party once!  The person I most wanted to talk to was Michael Colameco, the über-mensch of New York City public television food shows, but, by the time the speeches were over, I turned around and he was gone.  I was bummed.

So where was I?  At Chanterelle.  It was a launch party for David Waltuck‘s new cookbook.  The book is beautiful and the party was swish and the food delicious, but $54 was too rich for my blood. I think I’ll be putting it on my Christmas wish list. And even though I was having a blast, I decided to leave early, so I would be home in time to watch last night’s debate.

As I was walking up Thomas Street to catch the bus, I heard that unmistakable whine and stutter that New York City’s buses make.  I looked up, and there it was, the X27 passing by.  I broke into a full run, blasted around the corner onto Broadway, only to see the bus pulling away from the stop.

I slowed down, but then the bus stopped, so I took off again at a full gallop.  And then the bus pulled away again, but I was already running, so I kept going, and after about five blocks, I finally caught up to it.  But let me tell you something… After a handful of hors d’œuvre and three glasses of Pol Roger, five blocks at a full tilt is tantamount to the New York City Marathon.  Thank god I wasn’t wearing heels!

I made it home in time to catch the debate (I swear if McCain said Joe the Plumber one more time I was about to lose the very cute, incredibly delicious deviled quail eggs I had gorged on earlier in the evening) and to peek at the winner of Project Runway (I won’t spoil it, but I will say that I’m very pleased).

But you know what? This wasn’t my favorite cookbook event of the week, not in any way.  Nope.  Last Wednesday, I was able to sneak away from my desk for 30 minutes, to finally meet my bean-guru, Steve from Rancho Gordo.  He was in town spreading the bean gospel, signing copies of his cookbook at the Union Square greenmarket.  We chatted while he signed my book, a bargain at only $20, discussing beans and cooking and gardening and business.  It was the most pleasant break I’ve taken from work in months.  And when I walked away, I was inspired.

On Saturday, I made a loaf of Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s basic hearth bread, roasted a chicken (the rest of which is waiting patiently in the freezer for stock making next weekend), and boiled up some beans.  Earlier in the summer I went absolutely nuts at the greenmarket buying up, in bulk, every kind of shell bean I could find.  I bought pink ones, and blue ones, black ones and red ones, fat ones and skinny ones and one sort that are so beautiful, they look like the night sky.  Issac and I spent hours shelling them and then gently tucked them into the freezer.

A few weekends ago I made Tuscan Magic Beans with fresh cannellinis from my stash (I also made the world’s most glorious lasagna entirely from scratch and never told you about it).  The beans were a revelation.  People always say that dried beans and canned beans are just fine, that nothing is lost in the processing.  To them I now must say, malarkey.  Fresh cannellini beans have as much in common with canned cannellinis as canned artichoke hearts have in common with spring’s first, tenderest, most beautiful tiny purple artichokes served shaved as a salad in a Florentine trattoria.

The beans I made over the weekend were a mix of Steve’s fool-proof method and my version of the Tuscan magic way.  I sauteed onions, boiled beans, and then at the last minute added some raw onion, lemon zest and chopped olives.  The beans had an alluring, attractive, secretive aroma that traveled all the way down.  They were delicious with the bread and chicken for dinner, but definitely were better the next morning as breakfast, refried, on toast with poached eggs.

And while I enjoyed my rub with real celebrity; I mean, let’s be honest, if someone had walked over to me and said, “Ann, allow me to introduce you to Martha Stewart,” I would have lit up like a Christmas tree.  But in reality I found my little chat with a bean celebrity far more fulfilling and inspirational.  I just never know what to say to celebrities. I know I would hate having people walk up and babble at me, but isn’t that what being a celebrity is all about?  What do you think?  Should I have tried to meet Martha?

Head below the jump for the recipe for Perfumed Dinner (or Breakfast) Beans.

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Cause Celeb

7 Jan

I was in SoHo yesterday.

SoHo Sign

Isaac was off shopping for books and wine while I was, theoretically, returning something, buying sweet things and foraging for dinner provisions. In reality I was wandering around looking for pictures to take with my new toy.

I took pictures of buildings, of architectural details, of old signs, the usual things. I was wandering, thinking. Perhaps I should start taking pictures of people, I thought. I found myself on the corner of Broadway and Spring, and there, just across Broadway was a family, striking the most perfect tableau. I prepared to shoot. Then something registered in my brain, I looked again. Something looked familiar about the father. I looked one more time.

Sacrebleu. It was Eric Ripert.

SoHo Detail

We New Yorkers have a problem with celebrities, real, personal or imagined. We’re New Yorkers. We walk amongst some of the richest, most famous, most talented people on the face of the earth every minute of every day. We’re supposed to be cool, unruffled and unfazed when rubbing shoulders with Lloyd Blankfein, Maggie Gyllenhaal or Mario Batali.

But sometimes we run into someone that gets us excited. It’s a very personal thing.

Parker Posey always seems to be at the Kmart in Astor Place when I’m there. I think its funny, but I would never walk up to her and say, “Ohmigod! I loved you in Party Girl and you were so ridiculously, neurotically perfect in Best In Show.” I just couldn’t.

But running into Eric Ripert? It made me pause.

The Mirror at Balthazar

A few years ago when my office was on another street in another neighborhood, I was leaving work very late one night when I found an uncorrected proof of A Return To Cooking (written with the estimable Ruhlman I might add) in the lobby. This was odd for two reasons: 1. There were no book publishers in that building and 2. The lobby of this building was not a “free” space.

“Free” spaces are one of the more magical spots a building can have. For no discernible reason they pop up in dorms, offices and apartment buildings around the world. Bits of counter become the place to leave the detritus that one no longer wants or needs. My office has one, hidden waaaay back by the printers that no one uses, where I once found a $190 bottle of sunscreen and a collection of “Classics In Half The Time” books. I took the cream, I left the books (and I am proud to say that 6 months on, the books are all still there).

The roof at Savoy

I took Chef Ripert’s book home and leafed through it. There’s a few simple recipes, but on the whole, as one would expect from a three-Michelin starred chef, the bulk of the book is made up of complicated, daunting and futzy recipes. But, they are also tasty.

Each New Year’s Eve for the past four, Isaac and I have passed the evening cooking, drinking, eating, talking and laughing with the same couple. The first three years were at their place in Brooklyn, this year it was my turn to host. And so I turned to Chef Ripert for inspiration. And he provided amply.

SoHo Water Tanks

Isaac made Chef Ripert’s cauliflower soup as our starter. It was utterly perfect. Sweet, creamy, silky, buttery, rustic yet sophisticated, it is wonderful. We couldn’t find smoked scallops so we used bacon instead, and decided to substitute goat’s milk for heavy cream. Tinkering with a celebrity chef’s recipe is fun! And so I did a doozie on the main course.

It was to be Pan-Seared Muscovy Duck with Cherries and Rhubarb Purée, but come on people! It’s winter! There’s no way the fresh cherries were going to be good, and even though I found frozen rhubarb, I decided not to use it. So we ended up with Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Mixed Berry, Dried Cherry and Cognac Sauce.

Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? And it was. Partly because of my inventions, but a lot because of Chef Ripert’s exquisite techniques.

Happy New Year!

So it was all these things I was mulling as I stood on the corner of Broadway and Spring yesterday, asking myself, should I walk up to this man who’s just trying to enjoy a day out with his family and thank him for helping to make my New Year’s Eve dinner so spectacular and memorable?

The light changed, my heart beat a little faster. I started walking towards him. And then he ran into a friend and they all stopped in the middle of Broadway for hugs and kisses. My decision was made for me. As I passed them I smiled, and carried on.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Ann’s Berry Sauce for Duck, a la Ripert.

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Have You Met Ms. Jones?

25 Oct

I was supposed to meet Judith Jones last night.

Empire State Building

It was dark and blustering as I trotted up the slick sidewalks of Fifth Avenue, ducking and weaving around tourists and construction sheds. It was only four blocks, and I covered them in an odd half run, half trot, holding my breath the whole time, checking my watch every few strides. I turned the corner onto 19th Street and my hope faded. I could tell that the event was over. I checked my watch again, 8:01pm. I had missed her.

I burst into the store and asked the proprietor, “Is she still here?” “No,” he said, “the event ended at 8.” “But it’s only just 8:01 now,” I pleaded. “I’m sorry, but you missed her, you should have gotten here earlier,” he snapped peevishly. “I couldn’t,” I blubbered, “work.” “Well, I’ve got a few signed books left I’d be happy to sell you,” he added in a kinder tone. “No, thank you, that’s not the point. I wanted to meet her.” And then I turned and walked away, thoroughly depressed.

Empire State Building

It’d been a truly cruddy day, and meeting Judith Jones was the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I had a two hour window, I knew she was only four blocks away, and yet all the servers of creation kept me from her. Sometimes I hate computers.

So, who is this woman that I hold in such high regard? Judith Jones was (and still is) an editor at Alfred Knopf. As a young woman living in Paris she found and helped get published The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. She brought us Julia Child as an author and TV personality. She’s also worked with James Beard, Madhur Jaffrey, Lidia Bastianich, Marcella Hazan, Edna Lewis, Marion Cunningham, Joan Nathan and many, many others.

Empire State Building

But most importantly to me she discovered and edited two of my favorite cookbooks of all time: Roy Andries de Groot‘s Feasts For All Seasons and Claudia Roden‘s A Book Of Middle Eastern Food. I discovered all this a few months ago after I took a galley of Ms. Jones’ memoir, The Tenth Muse, that had been sent to someone in my office and set aside to be thrown out with the trash. The girly lavender cover threw me off, but I decided to take a closer look and there on the back was this quote:

Food is one of the greatest gifts of life… You should derive enormous pleasure from making it, eating it, enjoying it with family, and it should be honored.

Each chapter was a revelation, how she made her choices, the women she met, the lessons she learned. The Boy quickly grew tired of me coming home, bursting through the door and starting our conversation with, “Do you know what else Judith Jones did?” Finally he suggested I contact Knopf’s press office to let them know that I really wanted to meet Ms. Jones, to sit down with her and talk to her. I did, and all I got back was a terse email inviting me to the reading she did last night. But alas, I missed it.

Empire State Building

As I sit here typing at my desk, next to my bookshelf, I’m scanning the titles. So many of the cookbooks I love and trust were published by Knopf. Did she have a hand in all of them? Could one woman have shaped the way I cook so anonymously? It’s a delicious question, and one I’m afraid I’ll never get to ask.

When I finally made it home last night I was exhausted and famished, but too tired to cook. I tore off a hunk of focaccia and poured myself a glass of good red wine. I sat and munched and thought. Ms. Jones still cooks dinner for herself every night and all I could manage was a hunk of bread. It’s humbling and inspiring.

My Books

If I had had the energy I would have loved to have eaten my favorite quick and easy dinner last night. I didn’t have the energy then, but I’d love to give you the recipe now. The slaw (known around here as slawpy) is made a day in advance and goes much faster if you have a “chou chef” to help with the prep (the Boy’s term, not mine!).

Slawpy

All that is required upon arriving home is the caramelizing of onions and garlic and boiling the pierogis. It’s fast, healthy and delicious.

Pierogies with Caramelized Purple & Yellow Onions

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, if you’ve got the time to make it.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Fluffy Dilly Slaw.

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