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.

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

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

Ping’s Lemon Cookies; my contribution to Will Bake For Food

If you had an ear to the food blogging streets of Seattle, you may have heard about Will Bake For Food this past weekend; a benevolent event brought to us by the Two Jennys (Jenny Richards and Jenny Miller)  to support Northwest Harvest. If you were there, you were able to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of a room full of delicious baked goods. All created by your friendly neighborhood food bloggers. On behalf of all of us, thank you for your support and I hope you enjoyed your treats. As promised during this weekend’s Will Bake For Food, here is my recipe for the Meyer Lemon Cookies that I brought. Continue reading

Pouding Chômeur ice cream

A few weeks ago we went over to our friend Viv‘s ‘dorm commons’ for a good ol’ fashion ice cream social. What made this decadent dessert party unique was that the other guests of the day were local foodies with equally unique perspective on food; all ready to bring their A game with their ice creams. So I needed to step up and bring something clever, fun, and most importantly delicious. Enter Pouding Chômeur ice cream.

What is Pouding Chômeur you ask? It’s a rich, sweet dessert native to Quebec. It takes a simple cake that is baked along with a sauce that uses a hefty amount of heavy cream and maple syrup. Translated it means ‘poor man’s pudding’ and the humble ingredients reflect that moniker. We had pouding chômeur during our trip to Montreal and our dinner at Martin Picard’s famed Au Pied du Cochon. Prior to the trip I knew nothing about this dish. After an epic dinner, our server recommended the pouding chômeur. Out came this amber-hued dessert that sat with a scoop of ice cream. It was delicious; endlessly sweet, highlighted by the distinctive notes of the maple syrup.

So when the invite to the ice cream social went out, I wanted to do something with pouding chômeur. After scouring the Internet, I never found a recipe for pouding chômeur ice cream. Lots of recipes with interpretations of the dish served it a la mode, but nothing combined the two. So from necessity comes innovation; I decided to make one up myself. Besides, it’s just a twist on a bread pudding ice cream.

As for the ice cream base, I ended up using a mascarpone ice cream. My thoughts were that the cheesy tang of this ice cream would provide a nice contrast with the sweetness of the pouding chômeur. And the mascarpone ice cream recipe is ridiculously easy to make.

In the end, the pouding chômeur ice cream came out really well; dense chunks of the cake, swirls of the maple cream throughout. It made for a clever take on two things I’ve enjoyed and a delicious and unique dessert to boot.

So you want to take a stab at making your own? Follow along after the jump: Continue reading

Thanksgiving leftovers, courtesy of David Chang

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A holiday that is centered around food. And this is the reason why I feel that Thanksgiving is pretty awesome. It’s the start of the holiday season, you’re around friends and family, and you can stuff yourself silly with food; all together it’s a winning combination. But amongst the volume of eating you’ll find yourself with a mountain of leftovers. Unless you can go through a 14 lb turkey, several side dishes, and pumpkin pie, chances are you’ll need to find something to do with them. Have no fear, David Chang has ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers. And they sound amazing.

David Chang is the brightest culinary star of the moment. An opinionated and supremely talented chef who has been a game changer in the restaurant world. His Momofuku restaurants are considered some of the best in New York and his style of food is utterly unique and blow-your-mind delicious. Recently, he and Peter Meehan released an amazing cookbook, Momofuku, that tells the story of Chef Chang and his restaurants. Needless to say, David Chang knows how to make enticingly tasty food.

Last year, I wrote a couple of short posts about Thanksgiving; one was about what wine to have with the dinner, the other was what to do with the leftovers. Chef Chang has taken what to do with those leftovers to another level. In a recent article in Food & Wine magazine, Peter Meehan did a short feature on what David Chang would do with Thanksgiving leftovers. And the results sound amazing. For example:

What’s really cool about some of these recipes is that they aren’t too ‘chefy,’ – recipes that are crazy complicated with obscure ingredients and technique most home cooks don’t have. Most of these recipes are straightforward and use the leftovers that stick around from Thanksgiving. I’m already looking forward to trying some of them.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving! Take in the moment, exhale, eat up, and most of all have fun!

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

On food magazines…

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A thought that has been bouncing around my head has been on the subject of food magazines. I admit that I love the idea of them. Some are excellent. Some have ‘opportunities’. But after going through one recently, I reminded myself that there isn’t a perfect food magazine.

I’ll admit there are plenty out there that are very good. Food & Wine leaps to mind. Saveur is also excellent. Cook’s Illustrated is outstanding for information. And with the demise of Gourmet, our world of food writing becomes a bit darker. But none of these magazines are perfect.

One of my favorites, though, was Chow. But to my disappointment, the magazine stopped printing and moved to a web presence exclusively. Chow was the closest to my views and perspectives on the world of food. RIP Chow. Ultimately, I’m a sucker for food mags and grab them at the ready on impulse. And given the number of magazines in the market, it seems that publishers think that there is a niche worth filling too.

Why is it that there isn’t one that completely gets it? (Although to be fair, there isn’t really a perfect magazine for any industry, I just wish there was one for food). Some magazines hit it too heavy with recipes that aren’t realistic or empowering. Some have very poor levels of editing and photography (I really want to out the one mag that inspired this post, but I’m taking the high road, but trust me, they sucked). Others just don’t really get it. The world of food and wine is deep and organic. It moves naturally with a skittish flow. Trends come and go. The ultimate point for any great magazine is to tell a story that can inspire. A lot of today’s current magazines aim for this but don’t always hit the bullseye.

What my expectations are for the perfect food magazine is this; great writing, interesting recipes, innovative ideas, a good mix of irreverence, and all of it wrapped into one beautifully designed package that screams to be read. I don’t think this is too much to ask.

I suppose that in today’s gloomy print publishing world, the thought of a perfect food magazine is fleeting. I may be alone as this recent article by the LA Times Russ Parsons points out; magazines are becoming more niche and focused in their goals. Which is fine, but within those defined goals, I still want the right mix that speaks to me. In the end, I have hopes for that ideal mag and will continue to read and dip my toe into what the newsstand has in store for me.

The easiest way to eat your veggies: Kale

One of the chief takeaways when I read The Amateur Gourmet‘s book was in the section about shopping for groceries. The biggest tip was to buy what looks good to you, especially when it comes to produce. Buy what looks good – it can be seasonal or a bit curious looking or something that you’ve heard about and really want to try. This was the case with our last visit to the store when we saw the array of kale. Inspired by a write-up in a recent issue of Bon Appetit, we bought a bunch and were ready to roll.

What’s kale? In a nutshell it’s a hearty green that rolls around during wintertime. It’s full of vitamins and nutrients, which makes it really good for you. Kale has a flavor that is not like most other greens, so it’s a great change of pace to your cooking routine. Try it in salads, saute it with butter or bacon fat and garlic, or throw it in with pasta. Sometimes kale can be chewy and hearty, just be careful to cut the stems off and slice the leaves into thin strips, especially if you’re making salad – put on a vinaigrette and some Parmesan cheese and you’re done!

You can also make chips out of kale! It’s a really fun and easy way to incorporate healthy food to your plate. The February 2009 issue of Bon Appetit’s feature on kale offered some great recipes, but my favorite was the one for Tuscan Kale chips. Tuscan Kale is a tall flat leaf version of kale that is a rich deep green. To create this recipe, fire the oven up to 250, cut off the stems, toss them into a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and salt & pepper. Lay them flat on to a baking sheet, throw them in the oven until crisp (about 30 minutes) and you’ll have the easiest, tastiest way of getting one of the healthiest vegetables into your diet. Isn’t that easy? The recipe comes to us from Dan Barber of New York’s Blue Hill and it’s definitely a winner.

Give the recipe a shot, you won’t be disappointed. I like to freestyle on the recipe a bit by using Grains of Paradise in lieu of pepper; the floral kick provides a nice counterpoint to the chips. Enjoy kale and go out and eat your greens! The Tuscan Chip recipe is so easy you’ll find yourself doing it often and it’s a good show-off dish for when you have dinner parties.

Photo by Jamie Chung for Bon Appetit

Kale Chips on Foodista