Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Gastrognome! Congratulations – you have won a free copy of Blood, Bones & Butter. I will contact you by email shortly to  arrange shipment.

Thank you to everyone for entering and sharing your favorite food-related books. I have only read few of the ones you recommended, but am looking forward to diving into several of your suggestions. Below is the list of all your favorites. Several people listed Kitchen Confidential, Tender at the Bone and the Food Lover’s Companion in their Top 3. Also, two different Michael Ruhlman titles made the list.

More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

Greens, Beans & Sweet Georgia Peaches by Damon Lee Fowler.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuschia Dunlop

The Man who Ate Everything by Jeffery Steingarten

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

How I learned to Cook: Culinary Educations from the World’s Greatest Chefs

Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

Food Lover’s Companion

Bento Box in the Heartland by Linda Furiya

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The Reach of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman

Life is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days by James and Kay Salter

The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman

On Rue Tatin by Susan Hermann Loomis

Read Full Post »

From the opening pages of Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones & Butter, you are quickly transported into her childhood world of rope swings, lamb roasts, and small town life in rural Pennsylvania. You can almost hear the clanging of pots and pans as her mother, “who knew how to get anything comestible from a shin or neck of some animal,” cooks for the family of seven on her six-burner Garland stove. Or as her father – a set designer – worked on shows like the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the kids were allowed to join him on the job and “run up and down mountains of rolled black and blue velour” and “dip our hands into oil drums full of glitter.”

Hamilton’s debut is subtitled, The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. From her early days at her mother’s side in the kitchen, through numerous jobs cooking for Manhattan catering companies, and a couple of years spent traveling her way around the world, working in cafes and bars, her education was perhaps inadvertent, but an education nonetheless. She ultimately opened Prune – a small, yet exceedingly popular restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village.

Blood, Bones & Butter is a deeply personal memoir spanning Hamilton’s childhood, through her tumultuous teenage years – when her parents divorce and she is more or less left to fend for herself – to the time she opens Prune and marries an Italian man with whom she’ll ultimately have two children, through annual vacations to Italy where she, in some respects, finds herself.

At times however, Hamilton holds back just enough information for readers to fill in the gaps themselves. It’s much like an experienced chef that never tells you exactly how their signature dish is made. Do you blanch the vegetables first? Was that sherry vinegar I tasted? Other moments are painfully or poignantly vivid, like, “…the oppressive heavy wet burden of snow slides off the roof of my soul in one giant thawing chunk and suddenly I feel clear, light, and permissive,” written when Hamilton reconciles with her mother after 20-some years.

Much like her father, who said, “Everybody else does the bones and makes sure the thing doesn’t fall down. I do the romance,” Hamilton has woven her life’s story and passion for food into an entertaining, engaging, and romantic book. Yes, there are ups and downs. But even when writing about killing rats, scrubbing floors, and discovering human shit on the back stoop of the crumbling space she will ultimately transform into a restaurant, her striking prose draws you in, even if it sometimes leaves you yearning for more. If I could have it my way, Blood, Bones & Butter would not be just one volume, but a trilogy, where Hamilton writes more in depth and fills in some of the gaps for me.


That’s right, dear readers – I’m giving away a copy of Blood, Bones & Butter. Please leave a comment below listing your Top 3 favorite food books. They can be non-fiction, fiction, memoirs, classics, beach reads, cookbooks, whatever. Just leave your comment by  Thursday, March 10th. A winner will be announced on March 11th by noon, PST.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of  Blood, Bones & Butter prior to its release from Random House Publishing. I read it and reviewed it for my column in the Seattle Weekly. Then, they sent me another (complimentary) copy upon its release. Two copies! Of a book I’ve already read. That’s good news for you, because one of them can now be yours.

Read Full Post »

Potlucks. I love to hate them. About the only time I find them tolerable is when it’s a dessert or appetizer potluck. A little haphazardness never hurt an appetizer or dessert buffet. So, when I was invited to a gathering recently and asked to contribute an appetizer, I cringed only slightly.

As much as I like to cook and can pull out a recipe for almost any occasion, this time I was short on both ideas and time. Surveying the contents of my fridge yielded little inspiration. There was cheese, more cheese, some sauces and other condiments, Vermouth, eggs, peanut butter. Tick, tick, tick. I needed to come up with something quick. Ding ding ding ding ding! CHEESE BALL.

OK, so a cheese ball is a decidedly lowbrow option. But, in this age of DIY, recycling and retro comfort food (are corn dogs really the new pork belly?) I knew I could pull it off. It helped that I had a recipe on hand from the talented and sassy Amy Sedaris.

You may have seen Amy Sedaris on Martha Stewart or Dave Letterman. Or perhaps you have even seen her book I Like You. Hospitality Under the Influence. I first fell in love with Amy when she played Jerry Blank on Strangers with Candy, but many people know her because she has a more famous brother.

Her book is a riot. The photos are styled to look like they are from the 1970’s and there are chapters like “The Rich Uncle Comes to Visit,” “Lumberjack Lunch” and “Cooking Under the Influence,” which includes a list of “Munchies.”

I haven’t cooked much from this book but have read it cover to cover. So when I needed an easy, last minute appetizer I was able to recall Amy’s cheese balls. My favorite part of this recipe is that she specifically calls for Ritz crackers. Because really, does any other cracker say “cheese ball” better than Ritz?

Captain’s Mouthwatering Bite-Size Blue Cheese Balls, by Amy Sedaris

1 cup grated cheddar
4 oz cream cheese
2 oz crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped green onions (optional)
½ tsp Worstershire sauce
1 Tbsp white wine or milk
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Ritz crackers

Bring all the cheeses to room temperature. Beat with mixer. Add butter, onions (optional), Worstershire sauce, and milk or wine, and continue beating. Chill overnight. Shape mixture into a ball (or as Amy suggests “tumor-sized balls”). Roll in chopped nuts. Let stand 15 minutes. Spread on Ritz.

Read Full Post »

Fresh-picked, red, ripe strawberries are one of my fondest memories of summers. They are also probably one of my most vivid childhood memories.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I come from a long line of berrry pickers. It’s a Scandinavian thing. My parents would take us up to the Snohomish River Valley in June to pick strawberries, for my mom to make jam. My brother was eight years older than me, so he was probably more helpful. I would basically sit in the field and stuff my face full of berries. My parents have always joked that the farmers wanted to weigh me when we arrived and weigh me when I left. I ate that many berries.

We’ve had the driest and warmest June in Seattle that I can remember. The conditions have been perfect for strawberries.

Last weekend, my dad and I went for a drive up to Arlington to visit a strawberry farm. My mom still makes jam, and I sometimes do too. This year though, I’ve had my sights set on strawberry ice cream, strawberry fruit leather and fresh strawberries on poundcake. I needed a lot of berries.

Strawberries are tough little buggers to pick. I wasn’t about to plop myself down in the field, like I did as a child, so we just bought two flats of berries.

Nothing really compares to just-picked strawberries on a sunny, summer afternoon. The heady smell, deep red flesh and incredible juiciness are such a treat. In the long, dark days of winter I am often tempted by the strawberries at the supermarket that have been trucked in from thousands of miles away. They are like the empty shell of themselves though – tough flesh that is still white around the core. Bland flavor. I always regret the purchase.

The last couple of days have been a blur of strawberry-stained cooking. Ice cream – check. Fruit leather – check. Poundcake with berries and cream – check. I probably should have weighed myself going. I’ve eaten THAT many berries.

Read Full Post »

I owe you a report about Sonjapalooza and it has taken me a week to get to it! I have to admit, it kind of kicked my butt this year.

I am leaving in about 10 minutes for the annual Girls’ Weekend at Crescent Bar, so I have to make it short. This may give you an idea of why this year’s Sonjapalooza wiped me out.

Tuesday: I kicked off my birthday week on Cinco de Mayo – as I normally do. Gavin and I went to see The Shins at the Showbox. Great show – kind of mellow, but good sound.

Wednesday: Barb brought over a bottle of our favorite Bourbon – Basil Hayden. Need I say more?

Thursday: Yay! My actual birthday. I met Kathy for lunch (burgers and beers at Buckleys), then went to my parents after work for “appetizers.” It ended up being a feast of crab, baked potatoes, grilled chicken, angels on horseback (see below) and cake.

Friday: Gavin and I met Robin at Sambar for cocktails. This is such an adorable bar and they have great drinks (and food)
After Sambar, we continued on to The Copper Gate for some Akvavit cocktails and Swedish meatballs. On the way home, we stopped by Jens and Jami’s house for a beer and to hang out by the firepit.

Saturday: The home stretch. I had a hair and nail appointment and then went shopping. They were giving free makeovers at Nordstrom (aren’t they always though?), so I got my make-up done too. Gavin and I had reservations at Spring Hill in West Seattle. It was a divine meal, topped only by the view we had into the kitchen. It was fascinating to watch them work. In short, I had oysters, lamb and ice cream. I really need to just write a separate post about that restaurant. It was divine.

Read Full Post »

Just Saying!

Read Full Post »

Give it a Rest

Chocolate chip cookies are probably the #1 reason I learned how to bake. The double whammy of tasty dough and tasty cookies was added incentive. I remember being about 10 years old and making chocolate chip cookie dough (yeah, just the dough) with my childhood friend Kristi. We ate nearly the entire bowl and made ourselves so sick we couldn’t eat the dough again for…well, probably only days.

The thing is, even with all the great cookies I love to bake there is something special about chocolate chip cookies. The standby recipe on the bag of Nestle chips is fine, but every few months or years someone tries to make chocolate chip cookies even more perfect than they already are.

This past summer The New York Times had a great piece on the CCC. I’ll be honest – I don’t read the NYT daily. I read it religiously on Wednesdays though – along with many other daily newspapers – because that is the day the food section runs.

The conclusion they came to – along with using half AP and half cake flour – was to rest the dough overnight. At least 24 hours. They also made large cookies – 3 1/2 ounces – which makes them particularly decadent. Then, they gilded the lily by sprinkling sea salt on the tops of the cookies. Welcome to flavor country.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can make the dough one night and then bake them off the next night. It spreads the work over two nights and you can serve your guests (or yourself) warm cookies out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)

Sea salt (Try Fleur de Sel, you won’t regret it)
  1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.