A year ago, my neighbor, Lois Baron, said she had to leave a party early to make schmaltz, as the High Holy days of the Jewish year approached and she was the cook in the family. Long having wanted to explore this oft-maligned fat, I asked for Lois’s help in understanding its history and use. (Almost everyone refers to it as “heart attack food,” but it’s not. It’s good for you! In moderation. Lois is in her 70s and cooks like a banshee, her husband Russell is in his 80s and still practices law, and Lois’s mom cooked schmaltz well into her 90s, though she wouldn’t admit it.) Schmaltz, rendered chicken fat flavored with onion, was such an odd topic, and so focused, it didn’t seem like a big-book idea, so Donna encouraged me to Read On »

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My dear old pal Blake, author of two superlative biographies of American authors, Richard Yates and John Cheever, and currently the authorized biography of Philip Roth, ended a recent email with “and send me that damned curry recipe.” Blake works very hard, both as a writer (he has not one, but two new books coming out, a memoir and a biography of Charles Jackson), and as a teacher at Old Dominion University. His wife, a psychologist, works as well. They have a young daughter, and provided they aren’t flooded out of their home in Virginia and their generator is working (weather tends to follow him—read his Slate stories on being a Katrina victim), one of them will be charged with putting dinner on the table tonight. Both he and Mary want their meal to be Read On »

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One of my missions in writing about food is to encourage more people to cook for their friends and families. Many, many people tell me, “I want to cook healthy affordable meals for my family, but I’m just so busy.” So, I did a post on staple meals, since staple meals, the ones you return to on a weekly basis, are defined by ease, speed, goodness of flavor, and economy. (Another of ours is tomato basil pasta—see the iPhone video of a cool tomato water technique.) The first thing you need to do to make it easy for your busy schedule is to plan! Have a plan. The above is one of our summer favorites, the same staple meal I posted about before, only on the grill. Especially great on hot nights when you don’t want Read On »

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Ivy Manning examines the history of this Szechuan dish which was names for a 19th century bureaucrat, via Oregonlive.com

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Lydia Walshin of the Perfect pantry shares her recipe for grilled honey lime chicken, via The Perfect Pantry.

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