28 November 2014

The Taste of Black

What better way to celebrate that most American of inventions, Black Friday, than with a black cookbook.

Björn Lindberg had an idea to take photos of black food.  He loved color; he loved food so why not combine the two.  But he needed a partner in crime, so he explained his idea to Jonas Borssén.  Borssén began developing recipes and Lindberg photographed them.  In 1997 they published The Taste of Black.  It is the artistic of food porn.  

Now, I do love black food, but I must confess that most of "black" creations come from my love of charcoal as an ingredient.  There is no charcoal in these recipes, no dyes, no inedible combos of squid and bananas (though there are recipes for squid and also a banana chutney) so don't be tempted to dismiss this book are an aberration.  The recipes are solid and reasonably easy to add to your cooking repertoire.  Some are very familiar like this one.

Black Bean Soup

1 1/4 cup black beans, soaked overnight
1-2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3-4 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1/2 lb. spicy sausage, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons jalapeño, finely chopped 1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon oregano or savory
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Begin by lightly frying the vegetables and sausage in a large casserole with a little oil. Drain the soaked beans and add them with the stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and skim thoroughly. Add all the spices except the oregano. Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the beans are completely soft. Add the oregano, salt and black pepper to taste. Serve in deep soup plates.

Once you see Lindberg's photographs of the food, you will never look at plating the same way again.   The utilitarian black bean soup has never been more radiant.  So enjoy your black Friday.

26 November 2014

Thanksgiving Classics

Thanksgiving by Sam Sifton

Giving Thanks by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver, and The Plimoth Plantation.
A Southern Thanksgiving by Robb Forman Dew

18 November 2014


Cormac McCarthy wrote a handful of serious, literary novels that were largely unread.  Several thousand books were printed, several hundred sold, and the rest were pulped or remaindered.  Nearly 27 years after his first novel was published, he gained widespread fame with the publication of All the Pretty Horses.  After years of toiling in obscurity, McCarthy found himself reading to packed houses.  Everywhere he went, people came up to him and told him they had been reading him for years and loved his work.  He was polite but in interviews he was honest.  He would say there is no way in the world that all the people who swore they read his book for years, actually read them.  If they had, McCarthy correctly surmised, he would have sold more books.

I was a rabid fan of Sean Brock before he was mentioned in the New Yorker, before Lucky Peach was a magazine, before he went to Scandinavia, before Husk, before PBS, before James Beard Awards. Like Cormac McCarthy, I am sure many people say that to him, but it is true. 

Brock is the father, brother, son I never had.  He know not to put sugar in cornbread, he can spot a crowder pea at forty yards, and he has thick Southern dirt under his fingernails and he is proud of it.  Needless to say, I have been waiting for this book for a long time, years....
Frankly, I often wished he would keep his butt home and write the damn cookbook instead of traveling the world being the culinary star he has become.  Finally, his book was published.

In it, he pays homage to the producer who provide him with the raw materials of the kitchen.  It is beautiful, but it is a tad chefy. (I lied, it is a lot chefy.)  Still, the boy can make some cornbread.

Cracklin' Cornbread

4 ounces bacon, preferably Benton's
2 cups cornmeal, preferably Anson Mill's Antebellum Coarse Yellow Cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups whole-milk buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes.

Run the bacon through a meat grinder or very finely mince it. Put the bacon in a skillet large enough to hold it in one layer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t burn, until the fat is rendered and the bits of bacon are crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the bits of bacon to a paper towel to drain, reserving the fat. You need 5 tablespoons bacon fat for this recipe.

Combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda, baking powder and bits of bacon in a medium bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and combine the remaining 4 tablespoons fat, the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just to combine; do not overmix.

Move the skillet from the oven to the stove, placing it over high heat. Add the reserved tablespoon of bacon fat and swirl to coat the skillet. Pour in the batter, distributing it evenly. It should sizzle.

Bake the cornbread for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm from the skillet.

I was overjoyed that this book was finally published.  It is his rock star chef opus. But I am glad it is out of the way.  I long for that other cookbook in Sean Brock, the one that his grandmother would pick up and move to the shelf because she had the recipes memorized.

12 November 2014

Baked Occasions

We love those "Baked" boys, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito!  We loved Baked.  We loved Baked Explorations. We loved Baked Elements, though we never wrote about it.  We were wondering why we didn't write about it, and whether we should write about it before we wrote about about Baked Occasions, but we couldn't decide and we couldn't wait, so here is Baked Occasions.

We usually don't go all in on baking books.  We don't like a lot of sweet, we don't like anything that doesn't contain chocolate, we don't like to read we need glucose, or meringue powder, or orange water, or sheet gelatin and on and on.  (We do love having to buy a speciality pan of some sort to bake in, but I digress....)

We are not going to lie to you -- these recipes are quite long and involved.  Don't panic.  As with much baking, you need several leaveners, so there is baking powder, baking soda and salt; then a mix of white and brown sugar, plus confectioner's sugar for glazes, whole eggs and an occasional extra white or yolk, and flavorings -- these things add up to long recipes, but not unmanageable.  Read the recipes -- basically, most baking boils down to dry stuff, sweet stuff, oily stuff and wet stuff.  Those four things in a myriad of combinations is baking.  

Lewis and Poliafito specialize in making desserts that harken back to childhood, retaining that wonder and elevating the baking with a modern spin on flavor.  Every cookie, cake, and tart is, indeed, an occasion. Each year the pair celebrates Dolly Parton's birthday by making this special cake. 
"It would be easy, almost lazy, to categorize our yearly birthday tribute to Dolly Parton (forever known far and wide as just “Dolly”) as mere kitsch. While we are partially attracted to Dolly’s camp factor (who isn’t?), we are equally, if not more, fascinated by her business acumen and all-around talent. She is Martha Stewart with a banjo. She is Oprah with a country heart. Her musical accolades are well known and well deserved"
They have done Dolly well.  This recipe was featured in Sweet Paul a while back.  Yes, it is long, but you can do it.  Do it for Dolly!  Just divide and conquer!  The cake has four parts.  The cake, the filling, the glaze and the sprinkles.  

Dolly's Doughnut

For the Coconut Bundt Cake:

3 cups (385 g) all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces (2 sticks/225 g) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan

21/2 cups (500 g) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons coconut extract

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

11⁄3 cups (315 ml) unsweetened coconut milk

For the Dark Chocolate Coconut Filling:

5 ounces (140 g) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup (40 g) lightly packed unsweetened shredded coconut

6 ounces (170 g) dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), melted and cooled

1 large egg

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Simple Coconut Glaze:

4 to 6 tablespoons (60 to 90 ml) coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups (225 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

6 ounces (170 g) good quality white chocolate, melted but still warm

Red or pink food dye or gel

For Décor:

Pink or rainbow sprinkles (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Butter the inside of a 10- or 12-cup (2.4- or 2.8-L) Bundt pan, dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour. Alternatively, spray the pan with cooking spray. Either way, make sure the pan’s nooks and crannies are all thoroughly coated.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again, add the coconut and vanilla extracts, and beat until just incorporated.

4. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the coconut milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, mixing after each addition until just combined, about 10 seconds; do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the standing mixer, transfer the batter to a large bowl, and clean and dry the mixing bowl.


1. In the now-clean bowl of the standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the unsweetened coconut, melted dark chocolate, egg, and granulated sugar and beat again until completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again for a few more seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the cake batter to the filling batter and fold until incorporated.


1. Spoon half of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the filling on top of the batter, keeping it in the center of the batter and away from the sides of the pan. Then pour the remaining half of the batter over the filling. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until a small sharp knife or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

2. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack. Place a baking sheet (lined with parchment if you like, for easy cleanup) underneath the wire rack.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of the coconut milk, the coconut extract, and vanilla extract. Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until incorporated and smooth. Slowly stir in the warm white chocolate. We prefer a thick yet pourable glaze; if the glaze appears too thick, thin it out with additional coconut milk, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. Stir in the food dye, a few drops at a time, until the desired color is reached.

2. Pour the glaze in large, thick ribbons over the crown of the Bundt, allowing the glaze to spread and drip down the sides of the cake. Top with sprinkles, if using. Allow the glaze to set before serving, about 5 minutes.


The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

We are thoroughly enamored of the ribbon of chocolate running throughout this cake—it is a tasty and fun surprise. However, if you are not a chocolate fan (the horror!), you can turn Dolly’s Doughnut into a straight-up (and quite tasty) coconut-y Bundt. Simply omit the dark chocolate filling in its entirety, pour all of the coconut batter directly into the pan, and bake per the recipe. We leave it up to you whether you want to omit the white chocolate glaze (and whether you consider white chocolate to be chocolate, anyway).

Yes, making this cake an occasion fit for a Dolly, or anyone else you might adore!

07 November 2014

A Kitchen In France

A Kitchen in France is one of those "aspirational" cookbooks.  One aspires to be in this kitchen...actually one aspires to be author Mimi Thorisson.

Here's the deal, Mimi marries gorgeous photographer Oddur Thorisson and they settle in Paris and have lots of kids.  Then, they move to farm in Médoc where they have more kids, dogs and she cooks while he takes photos.  She starts a blog, writes a cookbook, has a baby, all looking way better than you ever will!  Lets rehash, farm in France, 5 kids, 2 step kids,  a bunch of dogs, blog, cookbook, television show, hot photographer husband...it's like the Brady Bunch with Michelin stars.

I am sure she is a wonderful women, but feel free to hate her.  I won't tell.  Aspire till the cows come home, but you will not be in that kitchen...unless she invites you to dinner.  As for her blog, Manger, I would advise anyone looking to start a blog to marry a photographer.  Think of the money you will save when you don't have take those "Photos For The Internet" courses!

So, let's aspire!  If you never cook a single recipe from this book, you will want to spend hours just thumbing through it.  Now here is the rub (if you didn't hate her before, you will now) the recipes are quite wonderful.  OK, you probably don't have foie gras, Guinea hen, nor escargots at the local 7-11, but there are dozens of great recipes in this cookbook.  Here is a lovely potato dish that you can make in your tiny kitchen.

Potatoes  à la Lyonnaise

2 pounds/900 grams new potatoes, peeled

About 11 tablespoons/150 grams unsalted butter

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 onions, thinly sliced

A bunch of fresh parsley, leaves removed and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Put the potatoes in a large pot, add enough salted cold water to cover, bring to a boil, and cook until parboiled, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cool running water. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice the potatoes into 1/8- inch /3- to 4-mm-thick slices.

In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add about one-quarter of the potatoes and fry, seasoning them with salt and pepper, until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Continue frying the potatoes, adding more butter each time (you should use about 8 tablespoons/120 g in total), until all of them are cooked.

Meanwhile, in another sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons/30 g butter over medium heat. Cook the onions until golden, about 5 minutes.

Return all of the potatoes to the pan, add the onions, and mix gently. Cook for 5 more minutes for the flavors to combine.

Transfer the potatoes and onions to a large baking dish. Bake until gently sizzling, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the parsley over the potatoes and serve.
This is the stuff of Francophile's dreams.  Read it and weep.

04 November 2014

Midnight Feasts

May Southworth  wrote a series of cookbooks at the turn of the last century for a small publishing house in San Francisco called Paul Elder.  Most of the tall, thin cookbooks have titles like 101 whatever, like cake or Mexican dishes or sandwiches.  The 1914 Midnight Feasts broke that mold, featuring a collection of different types of recipes in a larger selection of 202 recipes.

In her introduction Southworth writes:
" There are few social relaxations that are pleasanter than midnight suppers, and they have always had a certain secret fascination, as of forbidden temptations."
Now days, a midnight feast might be cold pizza or peanut butter, but May Southworth had other ideas. She was looking for recipes that would be easy, mostly salads and lightly cooked fare from that miracle of culinary devices, the chafing-dish.

The recipes are rather cryptic with simple titles that bear no resemblance to the dish that they describe.  Salads are called Devonshire, Daisy, Old Virginia, Grotto, and Sing Lee. 
Just as the titles give little idea what we will be making, the directions, too, carry that vague quality of early 20th century cookbooks.  Here is one salad option:


Wash shell-mussels clean, using a brush.  Place them in a wire basket, and set in boiling water.  When the shells open, lift the basket, remove from the shells and drop them into hot melted butter, seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon-juice. Set on the ice, and when ready to serve mix with shredded lettuce and French dressing.  With it serve thin buttered sandwiches of Boston brown bread.

While these recipes don't offer a lot of direction, on can see that a salad of cold mussels and bit of bread would make a fine midnight snack.  Like many an early cookbook, these little gems are a fine place to glean ideas if not actual recipes. 

Blog Widget by LinkWithin