I’d have thought that an article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Eat Your Heart Out by Gretchen Reynolds, would have made me happy. I’ve long argued that America’s terror of fat and salt is misguided and blown grossly out of proportion. But all the piece did was make me mad. It notes a study that found that men with heart disease who reduced their intake of meat and saturated fats and increased the polyunsaturated fats in their diet were more likely to die of a heart attack than the control group who maintained their customary diet. It noted the existence of a “small but unsettling body of data suggesting that consuming polyunsaturated oils … may … increase your risk of heart disease.” (There’s lots of hemming and hawing in the piece due to the contrarian Read On »

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Tomorrow night at Playhouse Square, I’ll be hosting Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, the brain and heart behind what has become an adored brand. And such is the subject of our talk, business and brands, as well as food and cooking. She, like me, is something of an accident—that is, Garten never set out to do what she is doing. She knew by age thirty that she didn’t want to be entombed as a policy wonk in D.C., so she put a low-bid offer on a prepared foods store in the Hamptons and got it. It had a felicitous name, which she kept, and with absolutely no training, she built it into a solid business, eventually branching out into catering. In 1996, after 18 years, she was ready to move on. More or less as Read On »

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I’ve written before in the depths of winter that now is grapefruit season and grapefruits were my first realization that food was in fact seasonal. It was 1989 and I’d grown up in a country where I could buy pretty much anything I knew about all year long and this was the natural way of the world. I’d fallen in love with Donna, who was a photographer for the Palm Beach Daily News, but I kept long-held plans and left her to travel Africa and Asia, only to find myself 10 weeks later on the porch of an American expatriate living in Ouagadougou. A monkey jumped onto my lap, and I thought What the hell am I doing in Ouagadougou when I’m in love with this beautiful photographer in southern Florida? I couldn’t answer the question. I caught Read On »

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Cleveland weather today is mild, uncommon for this time. We’re not in the throes of the current blizzard, but I’m still sick of this cold and gray. The kids are weary of school. I’m morose in my work, dulled by routine, longing for spring’s renewal. These carrots Donna shot long ago jumped out at me when I was going through some of her work and intensified the longing. I’m in the final stages of finishing a draft of a new book about cooking (notice I avoid the term “cookbook”), the inevitable headache stage where I just need to get it done in order to leave it alone so that I can return to it and see it clearly. As spring does approach and I long for maple leaves and vegetables, flowers, soft grass and humid Read On »

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  Donna wanted to change the banner photo on my Facebook page and it got so many likes and comments that I knew it clearly struck a wintery warmth chord in dreary March. I’ve posted this before and here it is again from, Ruhlman’s Twenty, which looks at 20 key concepts that underlie all of cooking. This key concept is water. This onion soup requires nothing but onions and water for the soup part. Plan ahead when making the soup because the onions take a long time to cook down, from a few hours to as many as five if you keep the heat very low, though you need to pay attention only at the beginning and the end. Before the onions caramelize, they’ll release copious amounts of water (be sure to taste this liquid!), which Read On »

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