Stephanie Stiavetti (@sstiavetti) writes The Culinary Life blog. Her first book, Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, will be available October 22 from Little, Brown, and it’s superb, the best one I’ve seen, in fact, accept no imitations! I’m always game for a rant, especially first thing in Monday morning. Take it away, Steph! —M.R. You’ve heard Michael’s spiel on Americans being trained to believe they’re too stupid to cook. It’s an unfortunate reality that people in this country place a higher priority on time than they do nearly everything else, which greatly affects what we eat. Which affects our health. Which, in the end, affects EVERYTHING. When you eat poorly, guess what? You feel poorly too. You don’t have the energy to do the things you want to do: hitting the gym, playing ball with the kids, actually getting Read On »

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I am normally straight at you like a knife, cocktailwise. A martini is gin with vermouth you can taste, and a twist. Period. Either there is no other martini or the name doesn’t mean anything. (I refuse to back down on this one, sorry. I like vodka, I own vodka, I drink vodka, but vodka and vermouth is a stupid drink with an appropriately stupid name.) I want plenty of bitters in my Manhattan. After the martini, there’s no better drink than an old-fashioned. So you’d think I’d pooh-pooh infusing decent spirits with shit from my herb garden. And I did. Until a new pal made Donna a gimlet with basil-infused gin. And he made a delicious summer cocktail with cantaloupe and basil-infused tequila. Basil is in full growth now, and it takes only a Read On »

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We’re back again with another valuable technique, the water bath, essential for gentle cooking. The water bath uses the miracle tool, water. Water makes life as we know it possible. It’s one of the only substances that expands when it freezes rather than contracts (if it didn’t, ice would sink, not simply ruining your gin and tonic, but rendering the gin and tonic moot, as most of habitable earth would be flooded). Water cannot go above 212°F in normal circumstances (it can if you heat it under pressure or, with less pressure, specifically at high altitudes, it turns to gas at lower temperatures). And importantly, it cools as it evaporates (which is why sweating cools our body). In this video we use it to gently cook emulsified shrimp and cream, mixed with whole chunks of Read On »

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The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat is available today. And while I love the impact of schmaltz on classic Jewish dishes such at kreplach and helzel, I also love the new uses I’ve found for the much maligned fat—these Parisienne gnocchi, for instance, pâte à choux made with schmaltz instead of butter, boiled, then sautéed in schmaltz. Here’s a post on pâte à choux, or use this ratio to make as much or as little as you want. Schmaltz, rendered chicken fat flavored with onion, is one of the great flavors and fats to use in cooking. It’s too good to be relegated to Jewish cuisine alone, though, I have to admit, there’s not a lot that can beat pure schmaltz spread on warm rye toast. L’chaim!

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  When Donna and I published The Book of Schmaltz as an app for iPads, I never expected it to be published as a book book. (Yes, even though it’s called “The Book of.”) And yet, I always knew that would be its most valuable form. The book’s muse, for instance, my neighbor Lois Baron, had never even held an iPad, and she’s the ideal customer. And I’m lucky my editor at Little, Brown thought publishing an actual book was a good idea, too. Tomorrow, The Book of Schmaltz is officially released as a book book. David Leite wrote this about the app when it came out. Max Gross wrote about the book in this weekend’s New York Post. (Though I must take issue with the use of “grease” in the headline. Schmaltz is a Read On »

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