Food 52’s 2012 Piglet

Photo courtesy of food 52

We’re through the first week of the Piglet – Tournament of Cookbooks; Food52’s annual cookbook battle royale. For cookbook nerds like yours truly, the Piglet is great fun. It’s a tournament where the folks at the food community website Food52 take 16 cookbooks published over the last year, pit them against one another bracket-style and have the books judged by various food-loving celebrities. It could be someone like Mario Batali or Nora Ephron weighing in on a winner. Like anything involving a bracket and a chance to place your bets to a winner, The Piglet is a fun read into the biggest, baddest, and boldest cookbook in the land.

This is the third year of the Piglet. The first year’s winner was Seven Fires by Francis Mallman with Peter Kaminsky. I have this book and yes, it is awesome. I particularly like the recipe for cooking an entire cow. But my personal favorite that year was David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku. Year Two’s winner was Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood. We’re now into the 2012 edition and I’m looking forward to seeing how this Piglet shakes down.

If the first two days of this Piglet is any indication, we’re in for a fun ride. Day One had the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson seducing us with her words. Day two had the delightful Celia Sack of San Francisco’s Omnivore Books weighing in. The third review by James and Caitlin Freemand of SF’s Blue Bottle Coffee, didn’t quite have the lushness of Lawson’s review or the perspective of Sack’s review. Conversely, the Freeman’s felt a bit stilted in my mind, and I couldn’t identify with their viewpoint. Reading these editorials often provides as much perspective about the cookbooks as the critics.

Which is one of the fun things about the Piglet. Because they have reviewers from various disciplines and industries; there will be unique and divergent opinions on cookbooks. Some might love the photographs, some might enjoy the clarity and detail in the recipes. One of my favorite reviews was from the 2010 Piglet when Grant Achatz’ review pitted Canal House Cooking Vol. 1 vs Real Cajun. What I enjoyed about the review was that Chef Achatz’ critiqued two books, each with recipes and styles radically different from his restaurants. His voice made for a great read. I loved it.

There are a few more weeks left in the Piglet, a bunch more reviews, and plenty of opportunities for some upsets. Like the glory of March Madness, we should be in for some surprises. Until then, visit Food52’s Piglet and stock up on those cookbooks. I’m at 336 and I’m getting a bit of an itch to go shopping.

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How to make what I made at Will Bake for Food

Another great Will Bake for Food is in the books. With a donation total of over $2500 and a wagon full of donated goods, the two Jennys have created another fun community undertaking. From the army of food bloggers that showcased their wares to the throngs of giddy customers, we had a great time and enjoyed being involved with it. Thankfully, all of the festivities were to benefit the noble efforts of the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King Country. And here is how to make the baked goods I brought to the hoedown.

  • Frank’s Granola

I’ve already shared my recipe on how to make my version of granola, so please visit the post. The key takeaway; granola is easy to make and your imagination can create any combination that you like. Feel free to add nuts, dried fruit, candy, or anything else to your mix. The important part is knowing the ratios and not adding too much bulk that it won’t brown. And keep an eye on the granola after 60 minutes; this is the moment where it’ll start turning golden brown, feel free to stir to distribute the granola.

  • Brown Butter Nordy Bars

Growing up in Seattle, shopping at Nordstrom is a rite of passage. As a kid, the opportunity of having a Nordy Bar from the Nordstrom Cafe was a highlight of these trips. It was a perfectly dense, slightly rich, and delicious sweet treat. A hybrid between a blondie and a cookie, this was one of my favorite things about Nordstrom visits.

A recent twitter chat with some friends brought the Nordy Bar back into my mindshare. Naturally, it was to be made for Will Bake for Food. I did a bit of research and landed on this recipe that seemed close. Wanting to elevate it a bit, I thought of browning the butter to add that distinct nuttiness that brown butter gives.

The Brown Butter Nordy Bars were excellent. But they weren’t exactly a Nordy Bar as I remember it. I think I’ll spend some time researching the Nordy Bar and tweaking the recipe to see if I can create that perfect snack that I had growing up. And maybe start a grassroots campaign to have Nordstrom bring it back. Stay tuned.

  • Compost Cookies

These cookies have been written ad nauseum on the blogosphere and I wanted to include my take on these delicious cookies for Will Bake for Food. Made famous by New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar, the chief baker, Christina Tosi used the notion of clearing out your pantry of various sweets and savory snacks to use in a cookie. It is awesome.

I’ve had the benefit of having the original cookie at the Upper East Side Milk Bar and through their online ordering system. But the recipe for making them at home hasn’t been crystal clear. Before the recipe was released in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, plenty of bloggers offered their take on how to make it. Some were close, but weren’t quite there. Then, the Amateur Gourmet found the recipe on the Live! With Regis and Kelly website, which is oddly random in its own right. So the recipe was available for all. Still, they weren’t quite right; they were close, but they weren’t the perfect compost cookie. I made a few different batches after reading the comments in the Amateur Gourmet posts and noticed that others shared my issue; the cookies ran, the ratios were a bit off, etc.

Then the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook came out this fall. Bakers rejoiced. I was able to see Christina Tosi recently at Seattle’s Book Larder to talk about the book and her history at Milk Bar. One of the chief takeaways that I had was her use of glucose in baked goods. This bit of food science was something she picked up from kitchen experience and cooking school and something I’ve never considered in baking (she’s a pro for a reason, folks). Glucose is an invert sugar syrup that aids in keeping the cookie crisper longer and add body and texture. I wouldn’t have known this without hearing Chef Tosi talk about her baking techniques. I now think I’ll work glucose into more of my baking.

Without further ado, here is how to make the version of Compost Cookies that I made for Will Bake For Food:

Continue reading

Will Bake for Food this weekend

The 2nd Annual Will Bake for Food is this weekend. After having a great (and successful) time last year, the two Jennys, along with their food blogging friends, are back at it again to support the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King County. Put on by the Jennys (Jenny Miller of Rainy Day Gal and Jenny Richards of Purple House Dirt), Will Bake for Food is an epic bake sale featuring a platoon of talented local food bloggers. It goes from 11am-2pm on Saturday, November 12 at the University Heights Center in the U-District neighborhood.

I’ll be helping out again and look forward to this year’s event. I have an idea of what to make and it should be tasty. Last year, I made Meyer Lemon Cookies from a recipe that my mom wanted to keep a secret. Until I posted it to the internet. Good food should be shared!

Be sure to join myself, the Jennys, and our blogging friends as we do our part to benefit the Emergency Feeding Program. Please bring non-perishable goods or monetary donations. And bring an appetite, I have a feeling my food-writing brethren will step up their game.

Food Network’s daliance with Seattle

The Best Thing I Ever Ate photo courtesy of Hulu

This post originally appeared on Seattlest

In case you missed it, last Monday featured the Food Network crushing on Fremont’s Revel for the ‘Messy‘ episode of their series, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The premise of this show is the Food Network featuring various culinary dignitaries waxing poetic on what they think is the best thing they’ve ever ate. And this past Monday was Revel’s turn to be celebrated. But this restaurant gem isn’t the only place in Seattle that they’ve considered for the best thing ever eaten; there are a solid group of restaurants famously noted by people talking about their food, famously talking about our city’s food.

  • Revel’s Asparagus Pistachio Olive Chutney Radicchio Rice Bowl – This Fremont hotspot has packed the house since their opening last winter. That likely won’t change with the New York Times‘ Frank Bruni expressing his love for Revel’s Rice Bowl. If you recall, last summer, Bruni shared his recap of his time in the area and one of those loves was for Revel’s Rice Bowl, so much so, he thinks it’s one of the best things he ever ate.
  • Toulouse Petit’s Cured Pork Cheek Confit Hash – This episode featured Toulouse Petit’s breakfast happy hour by Melissa d’Arabian; Season Five winner of The Next Food Network Star. She particularly likes the ‘Bang for the Buck‘ that one gets from Toulouse Petit’s Pork Cheek Hash.
  • Dahlia Lounge’s Lemon Scallion Dungeness Crab Cakes – Once again, the Food Network gives some love to Tom Douglas for his crab cakes at Dahlia Lounge on the ‘Obsessions‘ episode. Giada De Laurentiis was smitten with these glorious hockey pucks of crab meat created by the TDR group. This Seattlest agrees; these crab cakes are delicious.
  • Cafe Juanita’s Fruit Sorbet – Another Eastside  entrant, this time they give kudos to Chef Holly Smith’s Poco Caretto Fruit Sorbet at Cafe Juanita. In this ‘With Fruit‘ episode, Melissa d’Arabian sings the praises of the Beard award-winning chef’s sorbetto.

Eight different dishes from Seattle-area restaurants that the folks at the Food Network consider some of the best food they’ve ever eaten. Always good for the area to get culinary street cred. Now I’m hungry.

*Note – Give the restaurant a call if you want any of these dishes specifically. Menus are subject to change and just because it was on television doesn’t mean it will be there when you go. 

My Fall 2011 cookbook wish list

Photo: Raphael Brion/Eater NY

The good folks at Eater recently posted a robust list of buzzy cookbooks coming out this fall and holiday season. It’s not just cookbooks; tomes on cocktails, food history, memoirs, miscellany and more dot the field. And this food nerd is particularly excited for most of them. With the rundown of cookbooks, Eater took a wide angle glance at the season’s books that dabble in the world of food and wine. I’m selfishly narrowing the list to the books that I want. Here they are:

Eleven Madison Park the Cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara

In my trips to the Big Apple, three restaurants stood out to me; Fatty Crab, Le Bernardin, and Eleven Madison Park. Each had a uniquely wonderful experience. Particularly for Eleven Madison Park. Going there, I had high expectations, but I wasn’t prepared to be blown away by our meal. It was amazing. And knowing how Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Danny Meyer have evolved the restaurant, I’m anxiously awaiting this book.

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts by David McMillan, Frederic Morin, and Meredith Erickson

When we visited Montreal last year we partook in some great meals. Au Pied du Cochon and Kitchen Galerie amongst those. However, the neglect of going to Joe Beef continues to eat away at me. So this new book from the folks in the Sud Ouest neighborhood will allow me to get a feel for the restaurant. And then I can plan another visit to Montreal to indulge in more of the city’s food. With Joe Beef atop the list.

-The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria by Ferran Adrià

Continuing Adria’s culinary domination is this latest book. Built on the notion of Family Meal; the dinner made by a restaurant’s staff before service starts. And when the inspiration and ideas come from his El Bulli, even more exciting. Another in the line of great Phaidon books that delve into Ferran Adria’s world.

Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

The march towards Momofuku world dominance continues. This time in the form of Chef Christina Tosi’s irreverent, creative, and tasty sweets and baked goods. If one ever goes to NYC’s Momofuku Milk Bar, one will find things like Crack Pie, Compost Cookies, Cereal Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream; hopefully all of these things make it to the book. I can’t wait to find out.

CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life by Jessie Oleson

Head Spy Jessie Oleson and her valiant Cuppie the Cupcake arrive via book form to share recipes and whimsy in this book. You should dabble into the world of CakeSpy for the subversively light-hearted look at baked goods. Plus, Jessie is rather awesome.

The Seasonal Cocktail Companion: Recipes and Projects for Four Seasons of Drinking by Maggie Savarino

If you’ve had a drink at Madison Park Conservatory or read her column in Seattle Weekly, you know that Maggie Savarino knows her way around liquor and spirits. This book adds a seasonal component to cocktails; taking a look at what’s fresh and applying them to libations.

There you have it; a half-dozen new cookbooks that I’m looking forward to. And if there are some others that make their way to me (Mario Batali’s new book, the cookbook from the Voltaggio brothers, Jacques Pepin’s latest), I won’t say no to them either.

Where should you get these new cookbooks? Amazon is of course the option, but why not support your local independent book store? Even better, go visit Seattle’s own Book Larder when it opens this October. It’ll be Seattle’s first culinary bookstore and all sorts of great events will happen there. See you around the reading room. And then the kitchen.

How to make your own granola

Some advice; don’t ever buy granola. Ever. Just make your own. It’s easy to make and you can cater the flavor to how you want. Au revoir, crappy nuts. Peace out, bits of old, tired fruit. Once you start making your own granola, feel free to laugh at those that put it in their shopping basket.

This recipe for granola is adapted from David Lebovitz. Who adapted it from Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook. Following along? It started with a British food goddess, who inspired an American in Paris, which further inspired a Filipino-American food nerd in Seattle.

We love granola in our cupboard. It’s a great snack throughout the day and a perfect addition to breakfast. Added to yogurt with a dollop of honey or as a cereal, it’s a great way to kickstart the morning.

As I started making it more and more, I took the recipe that Lebovitz/Lawson started with and added my own tweaks to it. The key is knowing the ratio of the dry goods to the wet; As long as you have 10 cups of the dried goods, you’re good to go. Because we are a nut-free kitchen, I would omit the nuts and start adding other stuff to balance out the volume. Like pumpkin seeds or shredded coconut. I also bumped up the volume of wet ingredients to create more chunky clumps that are so welcome in granola. Finally, we’ve landed at a good medium and now have granola on demand.

Without further ado, here’s how to do it: Continue reading

Shashlik – my take on Russian Lamb Kebabs


We often think of bands, athletes, and movies as underrated, we could also put some foods in this grouping. I’d say that most offal is underrated. Pudding definitely. It’s so underrated, restaurants are calling it budino to gussy it up. Lamb is undoubtedly underrated. In the US, it only gets mentioned after the Big Three of beef, pork, and chicken. Lamb should get a lot more meat-centric love than it does. It’s not one of the first animal proteins the average eater goes for, but they should. For lamb’s flavor is uniquely its own; rich, bold, and with a gaminess that is alluring and distinctive. Lamb is awesome.

Imagine my surprise and appreciation when the American Lamb Board came calling. They asked me if I’d like to have at a big hunk of lamb for a challenge to food bloggers. Sign me up. The challenge was this; take five pounds of leg of lamb, make kebabs of it, and tell the story. At stake; a whole lotta lamb. Next up for me; what recipe to make with it.

Kebabs. This was the mandate. Skewered meat with piercing flavor. My inspiration for preparations weren’t firing, so I asked around for ideas. The answer came from my SO’s family; ‘That’s easy. Why don’t you do shashlik?’ Sure! What’s shashlik? Their background is Russian, so they went into family dinners growing up and how shashlik was one of their favorite things. I’m intrigued, tell me more. They went into their Baba’s version of the recipe; how it could feed a crowd, that it’s a simple recipe that yields great results, so good that there are no leftovers. Sold. Shashlik it is.

Here are three cool things about Shashlik and how to make it: Continue reading