Monday, March 28, 2011

Online Bake Sale to Help Japan

UPDATE: This auction ended and raised $ 8269. All proceeds will go to Second Harvest, the first Japanese food bank. Thank you for biding and promoting.


Drop your forks, put down your books, and get ready to click and do some good. If you wondered what you can do to contribute to the Japan disaster relief, query no more. I've got you covered. The lovely Sabrina from The Tomato Tart gathered the talents of over 90 bakers from across the United States and 8 other countries, spread across four continents. These people will bake and auction together in an effort to raise $2500 for disaster relief in Japan. Proceeds from the auction will go to Second Harvest, Japan's first food bank- an organization in dire need of help in the face of very limited daily food supplies.

Wednesday March 30 - starts the Bake Sale for Japan. You can access it by going to

I am proud to participate and contribute the item I bake best - granola. Nearly a year to the date, I explained in this post that I cannot bring myself to share my granola recipe. If you don't remember that story, refresh your recollection by clicking - here.

The granola is still killer and I still cannot give you the recipe. But 6 bags of addicting French Press Memos granola are up for auction. Bid and make me proud. You will love it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Read Now: Blood, Bones, and Butter

After a late night, at 11:17 sharp on an excruciatingly hot Sunday morning in NYC, the bartender at Prune informed us that on Sundays, restaurants were not permitted to serve alcohol until noon. I was crushed but managed not to stab the bartender with my now-indignant glare. That is when I saw her close to the door - blonde, with braided pigtails, and a wickedly confident presence. She looked like she owned the place. Because she did. She didn't get us a drink, but seeing her almost made me forget about it.

Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef and owner of Prune. She is also the author of Blood, Bones, and Butter, a sharp, fiery, and luring memoir recounting an enchanted food-centric childhood, a mad self-search that ended in owning Prune, and a less-than-conventional approach to relationships, marriage, and family.

[This is not the released book, just an advance copy]

The youngest of five, Hamilton's family set the stage for her later career. She was introduced to from-scratch foods by a charming French mother who inspired a deep respect for food and an undying love of making it. The sensory experience of eating was instilled in her by her father, an artist and free spirit who created magical stories, unforgettable parties, and romanticized memories all revolving around food.

The young Hamilton recounting her childhood is innocent, mesmerized. When her parents announce a sudden divorce, Gabrielle reacts by going into a tailspin of adolescent behavior that eventually takes her to New York City working in questionable bars, using drugs, and barely escaping a criminal prosecution for grand larceny and possession of stolen property.

Woken up to reality, Hamilton goes to college, on and off - searching her calling, working nauseating catering jobs, cooking at a kids' summer camp for Mark Bittman's daughter (the world is so small), and taking a long and enlightening (if not miserable and excruciating) trip to Europe. It is this trip that inspires and tips Hamilton's will into wanting to do food her own way.

The trials and tribulations of opening a restaurant in a non-conventional way are described in detail and so is the emotional roller-coaster and romance and pragmatism that leads to her marriage. She leaves her long time girlfriend to marry an Italian doctor who sweeps her off her feet but who also needs paperwork to stay in the United States. This couple - a pair that never really lives as a couple in one residence - has two children and travels every summer to Italy for extended stays. Intriguing, unusual- to say the least.

During these Italian breaks from reality, Hamilton seems to dream up the scenery of dinners her father used to stage when she was just a girl. She wants to create her own feasts only to encounter her husband's harsh and adamant resistance. This, if nothing else, is a sign of the decline of their union.

Hamilton shares much of herself in this book- honestly and openly. Her stories are engaging. Her writing is sharp and surprising- only one sentence can swing the language and mood from 'fuck' to 'insouciant' - seamlessly and gracefully in a three line span. It's impossible not to fall for her writing, not to be enthralled by her story.

So buy the book and take a couple of days off work. Or plan to barricade yourself in the house for a weekend with enough food to survive. I got my advance copy 3 months ago and read it with the eagerness of a teenager getting her hands on the Justin Bieber memoir. I loved it and I am sure you will too.

A recipe is in order - one that Hamilton uses- a Chickpea Salad.

Chickpea Salad (an adapted version of a recipe published in Food and Wine)

Ingredients: one 19 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed; 2/3 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and torn into chunky bits; 10 small red radishes, cleaned and quartered; 5 scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped finely; 1 cup flat-leaf parsley chopped;
5 tablespoons olive oil; 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar; salt and pepper to taste. Plus 4 soft poached eggs.

Lightly crush half of the chickpeas. I did by pressing a cutting board on top of the chickpeas. Mix in the rest of the chickpeas.

Make the dressing by mixing together the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil along with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the chickpeas with the dressing and add the olives, radishes, scallions, and parsley.

Poach the eggs by bringing a deep pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar per quart of water.

Reduce to a simmer and crack the shell of the egg on the edge of your pan gently lowering the egg into the water. With a spoon, nudge the egg whites closer to their yolk. The eggs cook for approximately 3 to 5 minutes depending on the desired firmness. Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon.

Serve the salad topped with a warm poached egg, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and hopefully a few hours snuggled somewhere with this book.

Photography by Jennifer Olson.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Feeding the Toddler: Orzo & Zucchini

There is no shortage of theories on what makes a picky eater. I don't have a magic cure for picky eaters. What I do have is a non-picky eater- not a ravenous eater, just a kid who will try and likely eat most things. Always sitting down, with a napkin on her lap, and trying to coordinate enough to use her utensils. Somewhat naturally and somewhat purposefully, we focused on three things: developing taste, involving her in cooking, and leading by example.

A kid’s taste is an empty canvas- an amazing opportunity. Those tastes should have a chance to grow with real food made fresh with real ingredients - not frozen, not from a box, not made with ingredients you can’t pronounce, and not ‘cooked’ in the microwave. This does not have to be complicated. A perfectly ripe avocado has been the greatest lunch in a pinch for us- cut into slices with salt, lime, and paprika (Lulu says it makes it look pretty) – this is the easiest meal you will ever prepare. Glazed carrots and sautéed peas will take 10 minutes to cook and involve a total of 5 ingredients even if you count butter, sugar, and salt as ingredients. Rice with any vegetable will always be a quick meal that will work for the kid and perhaps the rest of the family and so does replacing the rice with faster-cooking orzo. The list goes on and it can be easy.

Ask for their help while cooking. Share part of your ingredients and let them pretend-cook along side you. Or let them actually add the ingredients to your dish as you go. An apron (we have matching ones- cheesy, I know), a butter knife, a cutting board, and an onion will make her feel like she’s making you dinner! Lulu’s kitchen tower (a god-sent Kidcraft creation) safely allows my little girl to be at counter-height, stirring and mixing and adding ingredients just as I do. She feels like she is part of the process and she loves it.

Show them what you eat and how you eat. They watch you constantly and want to see you try different things. They also watch your manners. Show them that broccoli tastes good- mmmm. Show them how you chew a tougher piece of meat – on your back teeth with more jaw strength. Show them that you eat with your utensils, that when you sit down to eat you place your napkin on your lap. Show them that sushi is a treat and a pleasure. They mimic so much. When we eat out, I always smirk when after we order my toddler hands the menu back to a waiter while simultaneously saying Thank You. They remember so much of what we do and repeat it.

10 Minute Toddler Lunch: Zucchini and Orzo

Ingredients: ½ cup orzo; half of a zucchini, diced small; half of an onion, diced very small; 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt.

Rinse the orzo under cold water. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Put the orzo in and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it boil for about 8-9 minutes or until the orzo is cooked through.

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and let it sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini and coat it with the oil. Add a pinch of salt. Let it cook, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes.

Drain the orzo and add it to the vegetable pan. Mix well and serve.

Photography by Jennifer Olson.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Speechless: Fennel Salad

Fennel Salad, an original recipe in photo-essay format.

Photography by Jennifer Olson.