Last summer when Donna and I traveled to Italy, our first meal happened to be at a lovely hotel and home of a great wine maker and his wife, who prepared us a feast that began with zucchini soup. It was zucchini season and so they featured it in three courses without apology, just an explanation. “It’s zucchini season.” The soup was so simple it inspired. Onion, water, and zucchini, seasoned with good oil and salt. This week, while I work in Key West, I’ll be posting some of my wife Donna’s favorite pix from last year. She likes this one for the way it shows off the power of back lighting. I like it because it brings our first meal in Italy back to me in its entirety. Other links you may like: My Read On »

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I first read about a new self-published iBook, 25 Classic Cocktails, published to iTunes, when Tampa journalist Jeff Houck wrote about entrepreneurial food people turning to digital devices. Donna and I recently published The Book of Schmaltz to the iTunes app store, a short cookbook on making and cooking with rendered chicken fat, an underappreciated cooking technique. Meanwhile, ingenious folks in Tampa came together to publish a book whose title requires no explanation. But the book does warrant explanation. Each recipe, some common, some I hadn’t heard of (one per screen), includes the recipe, a very brief history, one instructional video of the drink made and one quick montage video. At the bottom of the screen is a fat bar that, when tapped, displays all ingredients and, with a tap, their definition and description and helpful Read On »

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  Dull knives. It’s the single biggest problem in home kitchens. The. Single. Biggest. Problem. It’s the main reason cooking seems more difficult than it should be. And I’ll say this again, too. Guys and girls, the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give your lover/cook, get his/her knives professionally sharpened or buy a good sharpener. Again: Nothing says “I love you” like a really sharp knife. I get mine—I use Wusthof, btw—professionally sharpened at a wet-grind sharpening place, and OpenSky found this astonishingly effective and easy-to-use sharpening “stone,” called the DMT Sharpening Stone. (It’s not really a stone, but rather a patented diamond-dust coated perforated steel sheet on rubber; see video below.) If you have to saw on a lemon rind to get the cut started, your knife is dull. Dull knives force you to Read On »

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I first saw a grill pan used in 1996 at the Monkey Bar when John Schenk was its chef and I was trailing Adam Shepard while reporting The Making of a Chef. I was surprised and thought it was kind of cheating, implying to the diner with those grill marks that some smoky goodness was sure to come with it. But I saw it again and again in kitchens and when I finally was sent one as a gift, a rank second-bester compared with A-1 Le Creuset (which I still don’t actually own), well, I kind of liked it. If I cooked a tri-tip sirloin sous vide from Under Pressure, I could mark it off after in a grill pan and not only did it look great (a matter of no small consequence), but also the Read On »

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I’m an audible memoir junkie. Love to listen to them read by the author. Some are great readers (Mary Karr), some woeful (James Atlas), some as depressing as their subject (Andre Dubus III), some every bit as hilarious as you hoped they would be (Ellen Degeneres, Tina Fey). I recommend every one of these memoirs. The author and NYTimes reporter Alex Witchel this fall published a second memoir subtitled “A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments.” A memoir of struggle and sorrow and deep grief. With recipes. Witchel reads the recipes. After the first chapter, I honestly didn’t want to listen to the recipe for meatloaf (though I was intrigued by the addition of Corn Flakes). I thought it, like the subtitle, was a gimmicky sales ploy to convince buyers that, yes, it’s a Read On »

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