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June 2011

May 2011

I'm Hungry After Dinner: A Mango Lassi Recipe

After working like mad on the launch of "Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for Their Families," Santa Maria and I decided to take it easy over the holiday weekend. We stuck around town and did little more than rest up and eat well.

On Saturday we went to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket and bought clams and flounder from Blue Moon Fish. That night I cooked Nina's favorite dinner, linguini alle vongole, and finished off a bottle of Jean-Marc Brocard Saint-Bris Sauvignon 2009, a perfectly good, rather inexpensive, crisp and refreshing white that I had picked up at Smith & Vine a week before because I was having company over.

In one of the interviews I did recently to promote "Man with a Pan," I was asked about my earliest food memory. What came to mind immediately was not a recollection of what I once ate, but of what it felt like to be young: I was always hungry. As one of five children, I never got enough to eat. I was fed well by my mother, but I was a growing boy who ended up 6' 2" and 155 pounds in high school. I would eat two deli-size sandwiches and a glass of milk every night before going to bed. No matter how much I ate, it seemed, the hungrier I felt.

My metabolism has slowed a bit since those days. I'm up about ten pounds since high-school and for the first time can no longer fit into the suit I got married in. I'm happy about these changes. I used to think about food all the time. Now I only think about it most of the time. Someday, I imagine, I'll be able to think about it like a normal person, and not really think about it at all.

But things haven't changed that much.  On Saturday night, after finishing off the pasta, doing the dishes, and putting the kids to bed, I was hit with that old-school hunger, the one that starts in my toes and turns into a demon by the time it hits my belly. I don't think this is what Wordsworth had in mind when he wrote "The Child is father of the Man," but I can see the connection.

I looked around the clean kitchen and tried to find something to eat. I spotted a mango, but it turned out to be overripe. I said to Santa Maria, "I wish I could have a mango lassi," the popular Indian yogurt drink. She replied, "they're easy to make."

I don't have a proper recipe for you. I simply cubed and peeled the mango, threw it in a blender, added a bunch of plain non-fat yogurt and blended it. I thinned it with a bit of milk, and then added a touch of honey.

It was a bit gross, with stringy bits of mango in it until Santa Maria came to the rescue and put it through a simple mesh strainer. I didn't think it was going to work, but it did. It was smooth and delicious, and I encourage you to experiment with making one yourself. Try a dash of cardamon. You'll be glad you did.

The Best Grilling Advice I Can Give You

As regular readers know, I'm not much of one for grilling. Yet, I recognize its appeal (and am, in fact, organizing a firemen's charity goat roast for early June in Brooklyn, using a La Caja China; more details soon), and I don't want to let down anyone looking for grilling advice, especially on this weekend, the start of summer. Get-Your-Grill-Fire-Under-Control_full_article_vertical

The best thing I can tell you, is to call Janet Olsen. Who is that? Janet is a fourteen-year veteran of  the Weber Grill Hot Line (1-800-GRILLOUT), a fantastic resource for desperate backyard home cooks across America. Today's New York Times has a great little profile of her, and the other women who handle calls from the flustered. The hot line center "fields about 500,000 calls a year and 75,000 e-mails," according to the article. "Most of the time, Ms. Olsen said, the answer is an easy one. People sometimes simply forget to turn up heat. 'You’ll tell the man the answer, and in the background you can hear his wife say, ‘See, I told you so.’"

For the full article, click here, and for another interesting place for advice about grilling, visit Girls at the, which is kind of an outdoor, inverse of Stay at Stove Dad.




NYC Reading from "Man with a Pan" on June 2 at Housing Works

Last night I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen, and I felt like an old prize fighter returning to the ring. I sweated over Bolognese, did the rope-a-dope with Quinoa Salad, and otherwise went to the mat cooking.

In other words, I didn't spend anytime writing about food. Rather than fall into the "I'm Sorry I didn't Post" mindset (which is cleverly documented by the artist Cory Archangel, the subject of a brilliant profile by my colleague Andrea K. Scott in the current New Yorker, on his Sorry I Haven't Posted blog), I'll tell you about an upcoming reading from "Man with a Pan."

On June 2, at 7 p.m. at Housing Works Used Books Café, Tom Beller, Mark Kurlansky, and Sean Wilsey will join me in reading from their contributions to "Man with a Pan." The café is at 126 Crosby Street, and the reading is free. Details here. If you're in town, I hope you can make it. Stop by and say hello.

Andre Soltner on How to Crack an Egg

The other morning, Pinta wanted to help Santa Maria make scrambled eggs, so she pulled a chair into the kitchen and stood on it in order to reach the counter. As her mother taught her how to crack an egg, I thought of a passage I had read recently in Gabrielle Hamilton’s captivating memoir, “Blood, Bones & Butter.”

At one point, Hamilton’s sister, Melissa who was then an editor at Saveur magazine, had a chance to cook an omelet with the legendary chef Andre Soltner. She described the scene:

“With two hands, he split the egg open and deposited its contents into a bowl. With each thumb, he reached into each half of the shell and scraped out the remaining albumen that tends to cling to the membrane until he had thoroughly cleaned out the egg. He said, ‘When I was growing up, this is how my mother got thirteen eggs out of the dozen.’”

By the way, I have a soft spot for Gabrielle Hamilton: it was at her restaurant, Prune, that I ate what I have termed the Fly Sky High Kale Salad. Or more accurately, what Santa Maria labeled as such. If you like making that dish at home, do yourself a favor and go to Prune and order it there at least once. They, obviously, are pros.

Talking about Cooking is Keeping Me Out of the Kitchen

Life has been a bit crazy this week with the launch of “Man With a Pan,” which, aside from a celebratory dinner with Santa Maria on Tuesday night at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, al di la, (we thought about trying Brooklyn Fare, but it is booked for the next six weeks) has meant that I’ve been working longer hours than usual. 

T4_jack_rudd_502b_dsc_gen_bradley_normandy_lg As a result, I haven’t been at home cooking as much as I like, but the irony is that I’ve been talking more about home cooking now than ever before. Early this week I taped an interview about the book with Al Vuona, of "The Public Eye,” on the NPR affiliate WICN 90.5 FM, in Worcester, Massachusetts. 

Al, who said he doesn’t cook as much as his wife does, let slip that he does the shopping. I had to stop him and point out that this is nearly as important as the cooking itself. If you don’t have the ingredients, good luck making the meal.

There’s an old saying in the military, often attributed to the U. S. Second World War field commander Omar Bradley, that “amateurs talk strategy and professionals talk logistics.” I think it applies to parenting as well, and certainly to running a home kitchen. I keep a detailed shopping list and put all my faith in a fully stocked larder. How do you do it? If you have any tips about food shopping, I'd love to hear them.

The interview with Al is set to air on Sunday night at 10:30, if you happen to be wandering around Worcester, or the Internet.

The Big Day: Man With a Pan Goes on Sale Today!

"Man with a Pan," the book I've spent the past three or four years working on goes on sale today. I hope you'll consider picking up a copy. It's full of insightful stories about what it means to be a man in the kitchen. One of my goals in writing the book is to inspire more men to start cooking, more often. I think the world will be a better place when that is the case.

For those readers who live in or near New York City, there will be a reading from the book on June 2 at 7 p.m. at Housing Works Used Books Cafe, at 126 Crosby Street, in lower Manhattan, featuring Tom Beller, Mark Kurlansky, and Sean Wilsey. It's free, and I hope you can make it. Say hello if you can.

Stephen King Helps Me Cook Dinner, Sort Of

On Friday, Santa Maria and I had plans to have guests for dinner, twice. Let me explain. Early in the evening, about five p.m. or so, our friend, C., who lives in the building, and her son were set to come over. C.’s husband has been travelling for work, and Santa Maria thought it would be nice to give them a home cooked meal.

Later that night, my sister and her husband and their son, who was to be playing soccer nearby, wanted to come and see our new place. They would be hungry and I wanted to feed them.

So the stage was set for an evening of entertaining.

While I was at work, Santa Maria served C. and her son the homemade Bolognese sauce I make a point keeping in the freezer. They all loved it, but there was a problem.

I wanted to come home in time to catch the tail end of dinner with them, and then put Nina and Pinta to bed before our second set of guests stopped by. Two things conspired to complicate those plans, though.

First, I left the office late. Second, Nina and Pinta are head-over-heels about their cousin, so there was little chance they would be going to bed before he arrived.

When I walked into the apartment that evening, everyone was in full revel mode. The girls had toys all over the living room. Santa Maria was drinking Prosecco with C.. Bedtime for anyone was about as far away as Bourbon Street is from Broadway.

I was hungry, tired, and faced with a choice—freak the !@#&*@#*!! out; or try to relax. I’m not sure exactly why it is the case, but the transition from work to home can, to put it mildly, be a bit taxing. It’s especially hard for me if I’m hungry, which I often am. When my blood sugar is low, tying my shoes is challenge.

I looked around, took a deep breath, and opted to just chill. I’d like to take credit for this mature decision, but I can’t. There’s one reason I kept my cool—we had guests over. And I’m so glad that we did. Santa Maria and C. had saved a glass of Prosecco for me, as well as just enough Bolognese for me to slay my hunger.

The kids played, my sister’s family arrived, C. departed to put her son to bed, and we rolled into the second half of the evening without incident. I whipped up a batch of Puttanesca, cracked open a beer for my brother-in-law, and we had a delightful time.  

The way the whole evening unfolded brought to mind what Stephen King writes about in his essay in “Man with a Pan” (which is officially on sale tomorrow!). He says, “in both cooking and life my motto is KISS: keep it simple, stupid.” Bolognese? Puttanesca? Not losing my temper? What could be simpler?

Action! Book Trailer for MAN WITH A PAN is finished

With the release of "Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families" set for next Tuesday, I'm delighted to announce that the first of three trailers for the book is finished. Hats off to my partners on the project with Parent Earth and at Algonquin Books for making this happen. I hope you like it, and share it with those you love. Here's a link to it, and the full video itself:


Jacques Pépin Visits the White House

Jacques_pepin On Tuesday night, at the Museum of Arts & Design, Robert Rosenthal, aka the "Short Order Dad," brought together the great French chef Jacques Pépin, the wine-and-Internet wizard Gary Vaynerchuck, and the esteemed restaurateur Danny Meyer to talk about food, fatherhood, and their work. The occasion was a benefit for a pediatric charity and the conversation was fast paced and fascinating.

Pépin talked about starting his life in the kitchen of his mother's restaurant outside of Lyon during the Second World War. Vaynerchuck revealed the breakthrough moment behind the counter of his parents' liquor store that led to his turning the family business into a multimillion dollar empire. Meyer, who once almost became a lawyer, discussed transforming his dismay over taking the LSATs into opening the Union Square Café.

Towards the end of the evening, Pépin described a trip to visit the President last month. He was cooking crepes and otherwise entertaining and enlightening the crowd on the lawn during the White House's annual Easter Egg Roll. At one point during the day he was in the White House itself, and a Marine stopped him. "We have a situation here," he said to Pépin.

Suddenly, the doors locked and Pépin was told to stay where he was. A radioactive sensor had gone off, and the source of the questionable material had to be located. One member of the team asked Pépin and his group if anyone had had medical procedure recently.

Pépin spoke up. "I had a stress test," he said. An officer checked him with special detector and determined that was the source. "Whatever it is they gave me," Pépin said, "had set things off. They had been tracking my movements through the White House."

"The doctors told me it would be out of my system in a matter of hours. They had cautioned me not to kiss a pregnant lady, but this was three days later. The White House must have had very sensitive equipment."

Neat Little Grilled Onion Trick: No More Tears

My amazing barbecue tutorial courtesy of John Rando also included a surprise feature—a short course on how to make fantastic grilled onions. He sliced up a bunch of red onions, and put them in a little basket of foil. I didn't believe that they would cook up well. But they did, and all he had to do was shuffle the onions around in the foil packet every so often. They sat there from near the start of the fire, through the cooking of the steaks. Occasionally he closed up the foil so they would steam a bit. That's it. Nothing more, and no more tears—over onions falling into the ashes, and being lost forever.