Gone Apple-Pickin’

7 Jun

For the next several months, as I gear up for the release of my book, I’m going to be doing most of my blogging at the book’s website, as well as on my Yankee blog. Come find me!


Cider: The Other White Wine

12 Apr

I’m just lazily linking over to a post I did for Yankee last week. It’s a quick look at the totally under-appreciated world of hard cider, inspired by a recent trip to Montreal:


In other news, my publisher is really getting behind The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, which now has it’s own Amazon page and ISBN number (0393065995)!! Wow, wow, wow. You work on something for years and then it’s real and it seems unreal. Norton has ordered a very healthy printing run (or, at least, healthy for first-time author), so if you have any inclination to pre-order the book, it would go a long way toward them deciding that they didn’t make a mistake.

Setting aside the usual anxiety, impostor syndrome, and angst about promoting, there are moments when it feels very good.

We are also dealing with some unrelated stressors: a house about to go on the market (will it sell?), a cat with advanced kidney disease (is this the end?). My energy is completely scattered. But having lived through some Much Bigger Problems, at least we have these in perspective.

New Job, New Blog

24 Mar

I got my real start as a food writer back in 2002 when Yankee Magazine miraculously offered me the job of food editor. I had done some writing about food before then, and taken cooking classes here and there. I grew up surrounded by great Italian cooks who made their own ravioli and baked scratch cakes or pies every Sunday. So I wasn’t new to food. But really, when then-editor Michael Carlton offered me the job, it was an act of faith that launched one of the happiest times in my life. Every day was a chance to learn about the things that interested me most. I traveled all over New England, spent one day on a lobster boat, got to visit Marian Burros and Mark Bittman at their homes and watch them cook, got to speak at the Greenbrier symposium. And when I reluctantly left in 2005 to move to California with Scott, I figured I was unlikely to ever find a job that was as good a fit as that one.

I was half-right.

Since then, I’ve had two terrific jobs (three if you count my time as contributing editor at Boston Magazine). But Yankee just holds a special place in my heart. Being back there is a gift.

I’m doing a weekly food blog for them now. Two posts so far: one about the Wenham Tea House and another about South County, Rhode Island and Matunuck oysters.



Me, Me, TV

26 Feb

A few exciting announcements this week. I’m going to be heading back to Yankee Magazine as senior lifestyle editor covering food, home, and garden. This is a really happy development. I was food editor at Yankee from 2002-2005 and it was one of the best work experiences of my life. The people are great, the setting is gorgeous (I’ll be working up in Dublin, NH once a week), and I love that Yankee tells stories that very few magazines tell. I’m also excited to be able to cover all of New England — lots of road trips ahead.

Second, I made my (brief) network TV debut last night. Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares came to town in December to remake Davide restaurant and they asked a group from Boston mag to come and weigh in on the remade menu (verdict: It was very good. Go check out the new Davide). We show up in the last 10 minutes or so.

Funny thing is, that’s not the only show that was in town that week. A few days later, Throwdown! with Bobby Flay came to Boston do a vegetable lasagna cook-off with Christine and Carla Pallotta of Nebo and they needed a couple of local judges. Donna Garlough, BMag’s food editor, wasn’t available so she sent them my way. My fellow judge was Marianne Esposito, host of Ciao Italia. I’ve watched her show for so many years—it was a treat to spend time with her and hear  stories of her travels to Italy and what it’s like to produce a show on PBS for so many years. I think the taping went well, but the producers had us do these staged introductory shots that are probably necessary for television but completely embarrassing. “Try to look intimidating!” they said as they panned the camera up my body like this was some sort of workout video. Oh my god, are you kidding? I tried to be tongue-in-cheek about it, but I’m sure I’ll just look like a complete goofball. So if you watch it, my apologies. This one airs on Wednesday at 8:30 on the Food Network.

And thus ends my one-week splash into the waters of television.

Waldorf Salad

21 Feb

Late in the game—the book has already been designed, laid out, and copy edited once—my editor and I decided that The Apple Lover’s Cookbook really needs a Waldorf Salad recipe. I wanted it to be substantial, though, and not mayonnaise-y like the traditional salad. Adding rotisserie chicken and using a blend of Greek yogurt and mayo in the dressing solved those problems. I also wanted lots of walnuts, some lemon, and tarragon, and halved red grapes instead of raisins. I kept the celery and the apple, but left the fruit out of the creamy dressing so that it still looks pretty.

Waldorf Salad

Apple Notes: You want apple varieties that resist browning. Some examples: Cortland, Ginger Gold, Spigold, and Fuji.

Active time: 30 minutes; Total time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings as a lunch entree, 6 as a side dish
Notes: If you don’t like tarragon, you can substitute parsley, chervil, or chives. A 1 1/2 pound rotisserie chicken will give you enough meat for this salad.

For the dressings:
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/3 cup (about 3 ounces or 100 g) reduced fat Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon (see Notes)
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (about 1/2 ounce or 18 g) minced sweet onion, such as Walla Walla or Vidalia

For the salad:
2/3 cup (75 g) walnut pieces
1/2 pound (226 g) breast and/or thigh meat from a rotisserie chicken (see Notes)
1 1/2 large celery stalks (about 4 ounces or 113 g), very thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup (about 6 ounces or 175 g) halved seedless red grapes
1 medium salad-friendly apple (about 6 ounces or 170 g, see Apple Notes) cored and cut into thin wedges.
6 ounces butter lettuce

Equipment: 8- to 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet

1. First, make the dressings: In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon lemon juice with the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside. In another small bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, tarragon, honey, lemon zest, remaining salt, and pepper. Stir in onion. Set aside while you prepare the salad.

2.  Toast walnuts in skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Pour into a medium bowl and let cool as you prepare the chicken: Remove any skin and tear the chicken into 2- or 3-inch strips. Add to the bowl with the walnuts. Add the celery and the yogurt dressing and stir so that everything is evenly covered.

3. In your serving bowl, toss the lettuce, grapes, and apple slices with the lemon-oil dressing. Spoon the chicken mixture over all. Use your hands to lightly fluff the leaves and grapes, just to make it look pretty. Serve on chilled salad plates.

Cookin’ Cake

21 Feb
I’ve had a set of six vintage aluminum jello molds for about five years now.

I bought them at Cookin‘, a secondhand cookware shop in San Francisco. It’s  fun, if overpriced: rambly, stuffed-to-the-rafters, and organized in a way that isn’t clear to anyone but the owner. It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon if you’re in the Haight. But I think many of its customers find the name vaguely embarrassing. “Hey, do you want to go to, ummm Cookin’ today?” They say it like they’re inserting quotes around the word.

The store has been around for about 30 years. Maybe “Cookin'” seemed jazzy in the early 70s.

Anyway, these molds have been collecting dust on a bookshelf, but on Friday I found myself with some extra cake batter (from the most delicious yellow  cake recipe by Shirley Corriher). I buttered, floured, and filled up a mold, popped it in the oven for 25 minutes, and voila.

I could’ve been gentler with the release, but Max didn’t complain.

When a Recipe Works…

3 Nov

I was thrilled to see that an old recipe I developed for Sunset magazine received kudos on Bay Area food writer Carolyn Jung’s website today. The recipe was included in Sunset‘s excellent new retrospective cookbook, which is what sparked Jung’s interest. It’s a beef and ale stew and I’m pretty partial to it myself. But whenever you send a new recipe out into the world, there’s always the fear that maybe all the retesting you did failed to identify a hidden flaw, or that maybe the recipe worked in your kitchens, but not in a particular reader’s own kitchen.
Here’s the recipe:

Beef-Ale Stew and Green Onion-Buttermilk Dumplings

(Serves 6 to 8 )

4 pounds beef chuck, fat trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

6 tablespoons plus 2 cups flour, divided use

3 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided use

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use

2 bottles (12 ounces each) ale

2 large onions, thinly sliced

1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered

3 large carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch lengths

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions (green part only)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup buttermilk, or more as needed

1 egg

In a large bowl, toss beef with 3 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add enough beef to pot to form a single layer (about a third of beef), being careful not to overcrowd pot. Brown meat on all sides, about 7 minutes total, then transfer meat to a large bowl. Brown remaining beef in two batches and transfer to bowl. If meat or pan juices start to scorch, reduce heat.

Add 1 bottle of ale to pot. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape up any browned bits on bottom. Pour ale from pot over reserved beef and return empty pot to medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot. Add onions and 2 teaspoons salt. cook, stirring often, 2 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have a hint of gold color, about 20 minutes.

Remove lid, raise heat to medium-high, stir in 3 tablespoons flour, and cook, stirring often, 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, reserved beef and ale, remaining bottle of ale, and the carrots. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 3 hours.

About 40 minutes before serving, make dumplings: In a medium bowl, stir together remaining 2 cups flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt, green onions, and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, work cold butter into flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal with some pea-size pieces. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry, mixing until a very shaggy dough forms. If more liquid is needed, add additional buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time. Gently form dough into 12 equal balls and drop into stew. Cover pot and cook until dumplings are fluffy and cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. Let sit 15 minutes before serving; stew will thicken as it cools.

Per serving: 732 cal., 39 percent (288 cal.) from fat; 58 g protein; 32 g fat (13 g sat.); 50 g carbo (4.2 g fiber); 1,675 mg sodium; 220 mg chol.

From “The Sunset Cookbook”

Union Square Farmers Market, 10/23

26 Oct

No matter how many years I’ve lived here, I always think that the growing season begins and ends much sooner than it does.

The Case of the Unrefrigerated Cheese

24 Jun

Am I the only one who has wondered why Formaggio Kitchen—Best Cheese Shop in the Country™—gets to keep its cheeses outside at room temperature, albeit covered by a film of plastic wrap, when most of the other stores have them refrigerated and cryovacked?

I’ve thought about it every time I’ve gone in there, and finally asked Kurt Gurdal why all the other cheese shops can’t do it. “Is it that they can’t do it or that they don’t want to?” he said.

Continue reading

In lieu of a proper post

9 Jun

I’m hopeless this week: partial book deadline and a child with strep throat. How do you explain to a 2-year-old who wakes up at midnight screaming because his throat feels like an open wound that the screaming will only make it worse? And how to do you explain to his mom that frantically repeating “No, no…stop screaming…it only makes it worse!” only makes it worse?


I do have one very very exciting bit of food news, per my friend Jessica Battilana, a food writer and VT native who lives in San Francisco and spent some time working at Chez Panisse. Two of her friends from that famous foodie temple, Amelia O’Reilly and Nico Monday, have just (mere *days* ago!) opened a place in Gloucester called The Market Restaurant on Lobster Cove, and all signs point to this being a very, very exciting development for Massachusetts coastal cuisine. And Massachusetts dining, for that matter.

A Chez Panisse pedigree doesn’t guarantee that a place will be fabulous, of course, But it seriously ups the odds. And a quick look at a recent menu (asparagus salad with farm egg and Romesco sauce; scallop and lobster cakes with herbed aioli and picked carrots, bread pudding with orange and almonds) has all signs pointing to “yes.” More to come…and soon!