Three years ago on this date, a Saturday, Donna, my mom, I, the kids, our dear friend Stu, and the dog spent the morning standing vigil as my father succumbed to the lung cancer. Mom had gone to the farmer’s market and gotten corn and she and I stood at the kitchen island plowing through a dozen and a half ears, butter dripping off our chins. My dad, Rip, hadn’t been conscious since very early in the morning, 3 am, Donna and I on the bedside, holding his hand. Realizing the end was truly near, he wanted our assurance that I had indeed returned his library books. I had.  “We love you, Dad, we’re going to be fine, don’t worry, everything’s going to be OK.” By eleven a.m., he breathed sporadically. I hoped he could Read On »

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The herb garden has gone wild from the heat and rain showers. It’s bursting with more herbs than I can handle or possibly use.  It’s like an herb party with too many rowdy guest showing up.  So now is exactly the time to start cutting them back and letting them dry for winter cooking.  This will both begin the supply of dried herbs and also encourage more growth during the next weeks of summer.  Herbs are roughly divided into two categories, “hard” and “soft.”  The soft herbs are herbs with soft stems, such as parsley and tarragon. The soft herbs are best used fresh; they’re fine dried, but they lose their magic, all the beguiling qualities that make them so powerful a la minute. The hard herbs, those herbs that when allowed to grow develop Read On »

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Bob del Grosso sent me the link to this article in Scientific American on salt by Melinda Wenner Moyer and I read it with a sense of finally.  Increasing evidence that nobody really knows what they’re talking about when they’re talking about salt, except that it has different effects on different people. Given that its fundamental to our existence (without it we literally die) and that it helped to create both stable stationary societies and world travel (food preservation and therefore surplus in a community or on a ship), our main failure would be to undervalue its importance and power.  It is powerfully good and useful; but also, anything so powerful can be used harmfully (as in our processed foods). Since there is so much uncertainty (read Ms. Wenner Moyer’s husbands interview with food authority Read On »

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During a recent phone call with the excellent Elise of simplyrecipes, Elise wished aloud that I would address the nitrite issue directly.  “Trader Joe’s carries it!  Go look.  Is there one near you?” Indeed there is, and indeed they sell at least two products pitching themselves as a “healthier” bacon because they don’t add sodium nitrite. This is as odious as those sugar laden granola bars trumpeting “No Fat!” on their label—food marketers preying on a confused consumer who has been taught to fear food because of harmful additives (such as the recent, apparently genuine, Red Dye 40 warnings). Full disclosure if you don’t already know: I am a vocal bacon advocate, and one of my books, Charcuterie, relies on sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate for many of its recipes to cure foods such as Read On »

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Veal stock is an amazing elixir because it enhances the flavors around it without imposing its own flavor. It adds depth and body to food, but only to liquids, soups, stocks and sauces. My call for innovative uses of veal stock changed that with Josh Kantor’s veal salt (see the other winners here). Josh Kantor is a 21-year-old senior economics major at Occidental College in Los Angeles and part-time garde manger at Hatfield’s Restaurant. I’ll let him elucidate. by Josh Kantor The inspiration behind the veal salt was the many  foods I love crisp that I couldn’t enhance with veal stock: fried chicken, popcorn, or the original motivation: french fries.  I am a sucker for the double fried super crispy fries and wanted to add a new seasoning to them.  Salt was the only vehicle I Read On »

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