Recipe: Niloufer's Everydal Dal

by Samin

In my opinion, Niloufer Ichaporia King is one of our terribly undervalued culinary greats.  And her book, My Bombay Kitchen, is my subcontinental reference manual.  Part memoir, part cookbook, part history lesson, it's just one of those books that never goes out of style.

This is my go-to dal, or Indian red lentil, recipe, and it couldn't be easier to make.  Plus, it's DELICIOUS.  Served with plain rice, yogurt, and mango chutney, it makes a totally respectable and comforting dinner.  Add vegetables, chicken, lamb or seafood and call it a feast.

The beauty of lentils is that they require no soaking, and they cook up so quickly.  Keep red lentils on hand for legume emergencies--I do.

photo by Emily Nathan

photo by Emily Nathan

Everyday Dal from My Bombay Kitchen

1 cup red lentils (masur dal), husked split pigeon peas (tuvar dal), or mung beans (mung dal)

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt

1 onion, quartered (optional)

1 green chile (optional)

4 cups (or more) water

1 to 2 tablespoons ghee or butter

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot (optional)

Pick over the dal to remove stones and chaff. Rinse the dal and transfer to a pot; add the turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt, quartered onion, and chile, if using, along with at least 4 cups water. Bring to boil; reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, until the dal is tender. (

Masur and mung dals soften in about half the time it takes to cook tuvar dal, which needs a good 45 minutes to 1 hour.) Watch out for overboiling, even with the heat down.

When the dal is soft and mushy, pass through a sieve or a food mill or liquefy in a food processor or with an immersion blender, which saves you the trouble of pouring and transferring. The texture of the dal should be thick, smooth, and pourable. Taste for salt.

To finish, heat the ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Sizzle the seeds, garlic, and onion, if using, until the garlic begins to brown around the edges and the seeds start to crackle. These sizzling seeds and garlic are known as vaghar in Gujarati,tarka in Hindi. Tip the vaghar into the dal and stir.

Dal Soup:

Dal without vaghar makes an excellent cold soup. I've served it with a blob of yogurt and chive blossoms, or snipped chives or green onion tops.

Note: In my mother's house, it was considered good practice to send dal to the table in a tureen with the vaghar floating on top, a last-minute affair, although the flavors have a better chance to combine if you stir in the toasted spices ahead of time. If you're having dal as a first-course soup, you can serve individual portions with a little vaghar poured over each one.

Serves 6

Tamar Adler on BEANS

by Samin

image source

Every January, I think of this article about Tamar's beautiful book, An Everlasting Meal. Tara Parker Pope was right--there's no better way to start the year than to commit to cooking more, and better, at home.  And for that, there is no better muse than Tamar.

When I asked Tamar recently if she had anything new to say about beans, she responded, "Re-reading what I wrote about beans a few years ago I don't have much to add but a bold underline and affirmation that I still do everything I did then, and still feel grateful I know how to. I continue, too, to collect bean anecdote and trivia, feeling every time I do like I am collecting information about my roots, though they are not Tuscan or anthropological or agricultural, but human, and as far as I can tell, humans are meant to eat beans."

Here's an excerpt, from the chapter entitled, "How to Live Well:"

Tuscans, though, make the best beans.  They are known in Italy as mangiafagioli, or "bean eaters."  Tuscans believe that frugality is next to godliness and give the humblest ingredients their finest treatment.  Tuscan cooks are extravagant with good olive oil, pressed from dark trees, and with vegetable scraps and Parmesan rinds, which, along with salt and more of that fine oil, make transcendent pots of beans.

Those odds and ends are as crucial to pots of beans as fresh water.  Your pot will benefit from a piece of carrot, whatever is left of a stalk of celery, half an onion or its skin, a clove of garlic, fibrous leek tops.  If you must decide what to save for your chicken pot and what for stock and what for beans, save your fennel scraps with pots of beans in mind.  I make notes to myself after meals, and there are enough torn pieces of paper attesting that "The best bean broth has fennel in it!" for it to have become axiomatic.

Your pot also wants parsley stems, whole sprigs of thyme, and a bay leaf.  It can all be tied into a neat bundle in cheesecloth or with kitchen twine, or it can be left bobbing around, as everything in my bean pot always is.

Beans need salt.  There is a myth that adding salt to beans keeps them crunchy and unlovable.  Not cooking beans for long enough keeps them crunchy, and undersalting them is a leading culprit in their being unlovable.  They also need an immoderate, Tuscan amount of olive oil....

The liquid in a bean pot becomes broth as beans cook in it just as the water in which you boil a piece of meat does.  No ounce of the water that goes into a bean pot should be discarded.  Tuscan food is based as much on the broth made by the beans on which Tuscans lavish their affection as on the beans themselves.  Harold McGee, who writes about the chemistry of food simply, writes that beans make their own sauce.  He is right.  Their sauce must be well made and it must be kept.

Cooking beans is like boiling a chicken or boiling an egg: only their water boils, and only for a brief second.  The rest of their cooking is slow and steady.  Light the burner under your beans, and as soon as the pot has come to a boil, turn the heat down to just below a simmer.  Gray scum will rise to the top of the pot and gather around the edges.  Skin it off and discard it.  

The best instruction I've read for how long to cook beans comes from a collection of recipes called The Best in American Cooking by Clementine Paddleford.  The book instructs to "simmer until beans have gorged themselves with fat and water and swelled like the fat boy in his prime."  The description is so perfectly illustrative I don't think anyone should write another word on the subject.  I don't know who the fat boy is, but I feel I understand his prime perfectly, and it is what I want for my bean.

As they cook, beans should look like they're bathing.  Their tops should stay under the surface of the liquid, or they will get cracked and leathery, and they shouldn't ever be in so much water that they're swimming.  Taste their broth as they cook to make sure it is well seasoned.  It should not taste like the pleasant seawater of the pasta pot, but like a sauce or soup.  

The second good piece of advice from the same book is in one of its recipes for black beans: "Soak beans overnight; drain.  Put in pot, cover with water.  Add onion, celery, carrot, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Simmer until bean skins burst when blown upon, about three hours." This is the only recipe I've ever read that takes the doneness of beans as seriously as it should be taken: a cooked bean is so tender that the mere flutter of your breath should disturb its skin right off.

Beans are done when they are velvety to their absolute middles.  You should feel, as soon as you taste one, as though you want to eat another.  The whole pot is only ready when five beans meet that description.  If one doesn't, let the beans keep cooking....

Cool and store your beans in their broth.  The exchange of goodness between bean and broth will continue as long as the two are left together, and the broth helps the beans stay tender through chilling, freezing, and warming up again.

Those are instructions for cooking all beans.

P.S. If you want more Tamar (and I'm not sure why one wouldn't), check out her column in the New York Times Magazine.

Bean Month, So Far

by Samin

#Beanmonth is off to an incredible start!  Here are a bunch of posts from the far flung corners of the internet:

In classic style, The Joy of Cooking tells you everything you need to know about Cooking Dried Beans

Russ Parsons stirs up an age-old debate: To Soak or Not To Soak

Phyllis made some Good Old Bean Soup to get her through her last cold over at Dash and Bella

Heidi's recipe for Pan-Fried Giant White Beans with Kale is no-fail via Food52

Julia Nishimura made some insanely beautiful Tuscan Pork and White Beans (a major achievement considering it's a dish not typically known for its beauty)

Adam at Amateur Gourmet lists the Things You Can Do With A Big Pot Of Beans

Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome makes it easy, listing all of her bean recipes for you, here

Learn how to turn one pot of beans into five meals from the Canal House ladies via Food52

Learn about Leather Britches from Sean Brock on Food Republic

Food52 also tells you The Best Ways to Use Canned Beans

How to Cook Beans in the Oven at The Kitchn

Learn how to can your own beans from Punk Domestics

Make feijoada, like the good folks at Good Eggs NYC

Kim O'Donnel shares a recipe for Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili

Heidi's recipe for a beautiful Ayocote Bean and Mushroom Salad

Sarah posted her take on Melissa Clark's Beans Braised with Bacon and Red Wine

Judy Witts Francini shares the ribollita recipe from Trattoria Mario, one of my favorite lunch spots in Florence

Olivia at The Coast Kitchen shares her recipe for Lemon Lentil Soup

And, right here: 
Cal Peternell's Fagioli all'Amatriciana
Mary Oliver's Beans
Cooking (beans) with Italian Grandmothers
Bean Resources

Instagram Photos
@sansculottes made these beautiful beans all'Amatriciana

@andreagentl did right by these beautiful chestnut beans with this moody photo, then she turned them into soup

@dominicarice's corona beans with pork adobo

@fieldsofplenty's beautiful pozole with black-eyed peas and smoked brisket

@juliaostro's Tuscan pork and Beans

@danalouisevelden's La Chamba bean pot took the internet by storm

@tifamade cooked up some mung beans

@claraygray turned these black badger beans into curry

@heyk8 cooked dried beans for the first time!

@goodeggsnyc turned these black beans into an occasion for tacos

@dashandbella went above and beyond with this navy bean gratin baked with bacon and bread crumbs

@melinahammer's lentils with watermelon radish and avocado sure brighten things up!

Post your own photos with the #beanmonth hashtag so I can see and repost them!

Spotify Playlist


The Best Bean Cookbooks, According to Omnivore

Heirloom Bean Sources:
Rancho Gordo
Rancho Llano Seco
Good Eggs: SF, NYC, NOLA, LA
Jalama Valley
CUESA: Tierra Vegetables, Lonely Mountain Farm, Dirty Girl Produce, and Iacopi Farms

(Know of any other great sources for heirloom beans?  Let me know and I'll add them to the list!  And keep posting with the tag!  I'll do another round-up next week!)

Recipe: Cal Peternell's Fagioli all'Amatriciana

by Samin

Cal Peternell is one of my mentors and dearest friends.  Eating dinner once or twice a week at his house over the years has been as invaluable to my education as a cook--and as a human--as working in any kitchen.  His beautiful new book, Twelve Recipes, is my favorite kind of cookbook--one that guides, inspires, and delights at the same time.  Much like Cal himself.  

This is Cal's recipe for Amatriciana, combined with beans by the inimitable Michelle Fuerst.  Both are accomplished cooks, and great friends.   If you like, serve the sauce with spaghetti or bucatini instead.  

Fagioli all'Amatriciana by Michelle Fuerst
Fagioli all'Amatriciana
adapted from Twelve Recipes 

1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound sliced bacon, cut across into short sticks, or pancetta, or most authentically, guanciale
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved separately
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
4 cups cooked white beans, drained, cooking liquid reserved separately
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil and the onion.  Cook over until tender and golden brown, then add the bacon.  Cook until the bacon starts to brown around the edges, less than 5 minutes.  If there's too much fat in the pan, take some out, but save it.  Add the garlic and the pepper flakes, cook for just a moment, and add the tomatoes.

Raise the heat and bring to a simmer.  As the skillet gets to looking (and sounding) too dry and sizzly, add doses of the reserved tomato juice.  Let it all cook down for several minutes, until the tinny taste of the tomatoes has cooked off.

Add the beans to the skillet, and stir.  Bring everything back to a simmer.  Taste and adjust for salt and spiciness.  If it's too thick, add some of the reserved cooking liquid.  Taste and adjust seasoning a final time, then garnish with parsley and grated cheese.

Serve with crusty toasts, poached eggs, or roasted pork or chicken.  Or, just eat straight out of the pan.

Serves 6-8 people

The Best Bean Cookbooks, According to Omnivore

by Samin

I asked my friends at my favorite bookstore, Omnivore Books, for some bean book recommendations, and here's what they suggested:



Clockwise, from top left:
Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington
Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon
Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

Other Books Omnivore Carries That I Highly Recommend for #beanmonth, and Life in General:


Clockwise, from top left: 
Heritage by Sean Brock
The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry
An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page
The Cooking of Southwest France by Paula Wolfert

Omnivore has loads of these books, signed copies, and rare and antiquarian cookbooks and will ship anywhere in the world.  To purchase, call the store between the hours of 11am and 6pm, Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-5pm Sunday at 415.282.4712.

p.s. I am purposely refraining from linking to Amazon in this post, so if you don't want to support Omnivore, then go support your own local brick & mortar independent bookstore this time!

"Beans" by Mary Oliver

by Samin



They’re not like peaches or squash.
Plumpness isn’t for them.They like
being lean, as if for the narrow
path. The beans themselves sit qui-
etly inside their green pods. In-
stinctively one picks with care,
never tearing down the fine vine,
never not noticing their crisp bod-
ies, or feeling their willingness for
the pot, for the fire.

I have thought sometimes that
something―I can’t name it―
watches as I walk the rows, accept-
ing the gift of their lives to assist

I know what you think: this is fool-
ishness. They’re only vegetables.
Even the blossoms with which they
begin are small and pale, hardly sig-
nificant. Our hands, or minds, our
feet hold more intelligence. With
this I have no quarrel.

But, what about virtue?

--Mary Oliver


by Samin

photo source
Growing up, I didn't really feel one way or another about beans.  Here and there, I'd eat a few chickpeas, fava beans, or kidney beans, and lots of pinto beans alongside burritos.  They were fine.

But during the first summer I worked in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, I fell in love with beans.  Every Monday we received a shipment of vegetables from Chino Ranch, and it was my job to unpack it and put everything away.  That summer, I saw true cranberry beans for the first time--as red and round as their namesake fruit--and peeled fresh giant lima beans we simmered and serve alongside braised pork.  I was still in college, still planning to head to graduate school for poetry upon graduation, and I reveled in the names of the varietals--Dragon's Tongue, Painted Pony, Lina Sisco's Bird Egg, Coco Bianco and Coco Nero, Tiger's Eye, Snow Cap, and Jacob's Cattle.

And then, I tasted them.  I'd never known a bean could be so satisfyingly creamy or so sweet.  I was a goner.

I've loved beans ever since.  The first article I pitched to a magazine was about shelling beans.  They were the first seeds I planted when I started to garden.  I buy beans at the market in every country I visit.

But what cemented my interest in beans as a cooking teacher, and why I want to dedicate this month to celebrating beans is this: a couple of years ago, I heard Mark Bittman say was that he'd consider his career a success if he could get every family in America to make rice and beans once a week. I couldn't agree more.  Besides being beautiful and labeled with playful names, beans are accessible, cheap, nutritious and delicious.  They are easy to cook, and lend themselves to a thousand different uses in the kitchen.

And since beans are for everyone, I'm declaring January #beanmonth.  I'll be posting all sorts of links, recipes, resources, photos, poems, and more here, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  I've started a board on Pinterest dedicated to BEANS, and I've invited friends all around the internet to join me.  Wendy MacNaughton and I are even planning a very special giveaway at the end of the month.    

Come, follow along!  Share your own recipes, links and photos with the #beanmonth hashtag.  I'd love to see everyone's favorite ways to cook and eat beans!

p.s. Lentils and chickpeas count!

Recipe: Alice Medrich's Dried Fruit & Nut Cake

by Samin

Christmas.  It's a tough time for me.  My family doesn't celebrate a winter holiday, which in and of itself isn't a problem.  But there is something really poignant about waking up on Christmas morning feeling like the entire rest of the country (or world!) is celebrating together.  Definitely amplifies a sense of loneliness that's already stronger in the winter.  (Plus, I have always wanted a Christmas stocking.)

But, there are so many things I do love about the season, too.  Mostly, coziness.  And baking for other people.  I try really hard not to make anything just to have around the house, because I have little (if any) self control and can eat an entire batch of cookies without even noticing.  But I love baking for others.

This fruit and nut loaf has been one of my favorites for years.  It's insanely simple to make, lasts for a long time, freezes well, and makes for a really elegant gift.  This year I even made a batch with Cup4Cup for a gluten-free friend and it turned out GREAT.

You probably have everything you need to make this in your pantry, so if you're hankering for a last minute gift, get it in the oven tonight.

Happy holidays, friends.

Alice Medrich's Dried Fruit and Nut Cake
adapted from the incredible book, Pure Dessert

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or Cup4Cup flour for a gluten-free loaf)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (or 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 cups mixed dried fruit (I like to use any combination of figs, dates, apricots, prunes, peaches, nectarines, and cherries) halve large fruits such as figs or peaches)
3 cups nuts (I like to use walnuts and pecans)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack on the lowest rung in the oven and preheat to 300°F.

Prepare either one large (9 x 5 inch) or two small (8 x 4 inch) loaf pan by greasing it and lining with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, soda, powder, and salt to combine.  Add sugar, fruit and nuts and mix thoroughly with your fingers.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla.  Pour egg mixture into fruit and nut mixture and combine with your hands until everything is coated with batter.  Scrape into prepared pan(s).

Bake on lower rack of oven until an inserted toothpick comes out crumb-free.  This can take anywhere from 90-120 minutes in my experience, depending on the size of the loaf.  If the cake gets too dark, loosely cover with a piece of foil.

Cool completely on a wire rack.  Keep the cake wrapped airtight.  I leave mine out on the counter for about a week and eat a slice here and there, but you can extend the shelf life by keeping it in the fridge.  The loaf also freezes beautifully.

To serve, slice with a sharp, heavy knife.

I love serving it with cheese, or just eating it on its own.


summer paella

by Samin

Paella isn't that hard to make; it's just a bit of a time commitment.

The key to tasty paella is tasty stock.  Bomba rice, the traditional rice used in paella, is somewhat miraculous because it absorbs three times its weight in liquid.  Hence, the more flavorful your liquid, the more flavorful your paella.

Some other time, I'll talk you through making a simple, delicious fish stock.  But since most of us have chicken stock on hand, or know how to make it, let's start with a chicken and chorizo paella.

This paella served 12 people with abundant leftovers, and took 15 cups (just shy of a gallon) of chicken stock.  I made a stock the night before with chicken wings, bones, vegetables and herbs.  I added some canned tomatoes, two cups of white wine, a couple of dried chilies, and a pinch of saffron because I knew I'd be adding those flavors into the paella anyway.

I cannot overstate the importance of using homemade chicken stock here.  If homemade is simply not an option for you, buy some of the good stuff from your local butcher shop.  Frozen is fine.  Just do your best to avoid the stuff from a can or box.  It just doesn't taste as good, and here, the flavor of the stock is paramount.

I also made a chile paste by rehydrating about 8 dried chilies (any kind that is not too spicy is fine--espelette, ancho, New Mexico).  First, I seeded and stemmed them, then covered them with boiling water and let them sit for about 20 minutes.  Then I strained the chiles and pureed them with a few spoonfuls of the chile water and some olive oil.

I cooked mine over a live fire.  If you have a grill or firepit, build a fire using charcoal or wood at least an hour before you plan to start.  The paella should go onto a fire at its peak, and then cook over a dying flame.  You could also cook it over a gas grill, or even inside over a gas burner on the stove.

Summer Chicken & Chorizo Paella
serves 6

For the chicken & chorizo:
6 chicken thighs, skin on
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted lightly
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (or any dried chile powder)
1 tablespoon smoky paprika
1 pound fresh chorizo, sliced into 1-inch pieces

For the stock:
5 cups homemade chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
1 head garlic, halved
4 ounces canned tomatoes
2 dried chiles
3 bay leaves
pinch saffron

For the sofrito:
1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
8 ounces canned tomatoes
pinch saffron
Olive oil

Pepper paste, as described above (or just use some store-bought harissa from the tube)
2 cups arroz bomba, or in a pinch, arborio rice
1 pound romano or green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

To garnish,
abundant chopped parsley
homemade aïoli

The night before (or as early as possible), marinate the chicken:
Combine chicken, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, ancho chile, and paprika.  Season with salt.  Make sure everything is evenly coated and refrigerate overnight.

To make the paella: 
If you're going to cook the rice over a live fire, go build it now.

First, gussy up the chicken stock.  Combine in a large pot with the wine, garlic, tomatoes, chiles, bay leaves and saffron, and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 30 minutes to let the flavors come together.  Strain, season with salt, and set aside.  You should have six cups of stock.

While the stock is cooking, make the sofrito.  Saute the onions and garlic with the bay leaves until tender.  Squish in the tomatoes and cook down until jammy, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and set aside.

About an hour before you start cooking the rice, roast the thighs: lay them skin-side up on a cookie sheet in an oven set to 500°F for about 30 minutes, to brown the skin and give them a head start.

To cook the paella:
If cooking over a live fire, you'll want to set the grill at least 8 inches from the coal bed.  Use some bricks or cinder blocks to achieve this if you don't have a way to raise and lower the grill.

You can also just as easily cook it over a gas grill or indoors on the stove.  And you don't need a special paella pan, though it makes for a good show and they aren't very costly.  I made a back up at the same time as the one in the photo, in a ten-inch cast iron pan, on my stove, using the proportions in this recipe, and it turned out beautifully.  

First, preheat the pan.  Get it really hot, and then drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the sofrito and a heaping spoonful of the pepper paste.  Add in 6 cups of the stock, and let it come to a boil in the pan.  Taste the liquid.  It should be very highly seasoned--this is your only chance to get the rice salted properly from within, so season it a little more highly than you might be comfortable with.  Add more chile paste to taste.  

Add the rice, give it a stir, and let everything return to a boil.  Carefully lay in the chicken pieces, chorizo, and romano or green beans.  Let the pan boil for about five minutes, and then turn it down to medium high heat.  After ten more minutes, turn it down to medium.  Cook it over medium heat for 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to low for 15 more minutes.  The idea with paella is that it's cooked over a dying fire, so you're trying to simulate that on the stove here.  

After about 40 minutes, check the rice for doneness.  When you're satisfied that it's cooked, pull it from the stove and let it rest for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with abundant chopped parsley and serve with aïoli.  

Don't forget to scrape the bottom.  The soccarat, or burnt crust, is the best part.

All I Want to Eat

by Samin

is cold things.

Mostly cold noodles.  And cold chicken.  And coleslaw.  And cold coffee.  And smoothies.  Watermelon.  Cucumbers.  Ice.

Here are a couple of sauces for cold things that have been making my life a little nicer lately.

Miso-Mustard Dressing
2 tablespoons yellow or white miso paste
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Put it all in a jar.  Shake it up.  Taste.  Adjust.  Pour over anything, or everything.  Notice I wrote it all out in tablespoons, so use the same ratio for teaspoons or cups to adjust amounts as desired.

Yesterday I put this on a slaw with cabbage, onions, carrots, peanuts, toasted black sesame seeds, ginger and garlic.  Today I will put it on lettuce.  Tomorrow, maybe cucumbers.  Or chicken.  Or soba noodles.  Put it on whatever you want.  Save the rest in the fridge.  It'll be good for a few days.  It'll be gone before that, though.

Peanut-Cilantro Sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 jalapeño pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Put it all in the blender.  Blend the bejeesus out of it.  Taste.  Adjust as needed with salt, lime, and jalapeño.  Serve with grilled chicken.  Smear on a hot ear of corn.  Or raw vegetables, like carrots, cucumbers, broccoli.  It can be a dip!  It can be a sauce!  It can be whatever you want it to be.

Happy summer, friends.  I am finally on my way out of the pit of despair.


by Samin

image source

I'm still working on the book.  Various friends who've walked this path before me have referred to this point in the process as "the black hole of despair," "why crystal meth was invented," and "the point at which you lay in bed at night wondering if you should just give back the money."  All of those characterizations seem about right.

Writing a book is hard.  Really, really hard.  Don't let anyone tell you differently.

On the upside, I've been writing and thinking a lot these days about how I came to be a cook, and what I learned in my first years in the kitchen, and I thought of this courtyard.

I was on my junior year abroad, living in London, the first time I went to Italy.  Everyone told me I had to go to Florence, so I managed to get there and stay in a hostel for a couple of nights. I was totally stunned by the beauty of the town.  Just up the road from my hostel was this stunning courtyard, behind a cast iron gate, and each time I passed by I imagined the kinds of people who must live in a place like that, in a town like Florence, in a country like Italy.  I was about twenty years old, and had never imagined that life could be lived in a place where beauty like that was so quotidian.

I remember hoping that perhaps one day I could live in a place as beautiful as the building locked behind that gate.

A few years later, I returned to Florence, to apprentice myself to Benedetta Vitali at Trattoria Zibibbo.  For the first couple of months, she put me up in a convent in the hills above Florence, from which I could walk to work.  I ate my meals with nuns, stumbling through conversations with them in my pidgin Italian, washed my clothes on a washboard in the courtyard, and slept beneath a giant crucifix in my sterile dorm room.  It was amazing, but secluded and lonely.

Eventually, Benedetta moved me into town, onto Via dei Serragli, which is still one of my favorite streets in the world.  I packed up my bags, was dropped off in front of the apartment and handed a key.  I was so excited to be moving into the center of town, near museums and bookstores and cafes and non-nun-people that I hardly noticed where I was being moved into.  It took a couple of days of exploration before I realized that my new apartment was in the exact same building I'd spent all of that time day-dreaming about when I'd first come to Italy.  "Perhaps one day" had come a lot sooner than I'd ever imagined.

There's been a lot of this kind of serendipity in my life, and it helps to remember that.  Especially when I'm deep in the black hole of despair.

For Posterity

by Samin

Just want to remember that this is the view from my commute every single day. 

And that, as much as I like to complain about it, I sort of love the ritual of heating up my studio in the Headlands, and the wool booties and socks, the hot water bottle, the down vest and comforter, the endless cups of tea, and the space heaters I need to keep warm and stay alive out here.  

And, as stressed out and paralyzed with doubt, and in my head, and anti-social as I feel right now, there is this sort of luxurious level of self-indulgence involved in making a creative work on this scale and that soon, when I am done, I will actually miss this.  A friend said I'm in a love affair with this book.  It's sort of like that, I think, a torturous, highest-highs, lowest-lows kind of love affair.  

I just want to say, for the record, that every single day, I still can't believe I get to write a book.  That my job is coming out to this National Recreation Area, sitting down at my desk with a view of Bolinas, and writing down every story I have ever wanted to tell about cooking, and life, and beauty and pain. That I get to walk down to the beach in the afternoon, fiery light bleeding through the iceplant down the hillside, to collect tiny, perfect sand dollars and watch dolphins pups play with their mamas on their way to warmer waters.  And that I get to collaborate with some of the most excellent people I have ever met in the making of this thing.  

I haven't lost sight of that.  

Van Morrison, Into the Mystic
James Vincent McMorrow, Higher Love
Bonnie Raitt, Bluebird
Joni Mitchell, Blue

C U R R E N T (L Y): Holiday Gift Guide

by Samin


Penguin Clothbound Classics, about $20 each
Penguin Drop Caps, about $18 each
Tartine Book No. 3, $26
Saving the Season, $25
Wild Ones, $20
Gulp, $19
Cooked, $18
The Art of Simple Food II, $22
The A.O.C. Cookbook, $22
One Good Dish, $16
The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert, $13
Lost Cat, $14
Antiquarian Cookbooks from Omnivore Books, prices vary
Short Stack Editions, $12 each
The Telling Room, $17


Sheepskin Slippers from Johnstons of Elgin, $79
Cashmere Bed Socks from Johnstons of Elgin, $90
Herringbone Wool Blanket from Faribault Woolen Mills, from $190
HARRY Blanket from Area Linen, from $200
Baby Alpaca Blankets from Pilar + Keiko, $229
Bellocq Tea Signature Blends Collection, $32
Imperial Pu-erh from In Pursuit of Tea, $18
Drinking Chocolate from Theo, $13
Anything from The Anou.  Particularly the gorgeous handwoven rugs, starting at around $100 including shipping from Morocco


Sarpaneva Cast Iron Pot by Iitala, $236
As always, a Cast Iron Pan, $24, or find one at a flea market or garage sale and reseason it lovingly
Teak Measuring Spoons, $20
Box of Maldon Salt, or for the true Maldon fiend, an entire bucket $6/28
Spices from Oaktown Spice Shop, $13 and up
Sandwich Spreading Knife, $6
Dansk Kobenstyle Casserole, $70
Soma Water Filter, beautiful, 100% compostable, and user-friendly, $49
Incomparably delicious Raw Hawaiian Honey, $35
A jar of Calabrian Chile Paste, $10
Set of Basque Wine Glasses, $28
Stollen from Big Sur Bakery, $28
Barrel of 16-Year Aged Balsamic, $400
Warren Pear Gift Box from Frog Hollow Farm, $58
Christmas Cake from June Taylor Jams, $55
Sampler Gift Pack from Double Dutch Sweets, $22
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, or Ossau Iraty Veille from Murray's Cheese, $25/25/34
And, as always, a Gift Certificate to Good Eggs, available on the site starting 12/9, Special Link Coming Soon!


Saipua Limited Edition Soap Sampler, $125
Frost River Bazaar Tote, $90
Small Braid Ring from Katrina LaPenne, $33 and up
Record Player, $90
Borsalino Hat, $200 and up
Red Wings Heritage Boots, $250 and up
Clark's Wallabees, $90 and up
Santa Maria Novella Pot Pourri Cologne, $125
Home Gardener's Collection of Seeds from Baker Creek, $40
Warby Parker Glasses, $95 and up
Kashmiri Saffron Perfume from In Fiore, $75
Senna Round Ring from Bario-Neal, $285
Boulevard Wallet from Il Bisonte, $355
Cotton Fisherman Sweater from L.L. Bean, $99
Rio Lapis from Marisa Haskell, $88
Peppe from Studio Deseo, $168 (she also has wish bracelets for around $30 that are gorgeous!)


Gorgeous Handmade Knives by Moriah Cowles, $250 and up
Opinel Kitchen Set in Color and Natural, $34/31
Handmade Knives by Michael Hemmer, prices vary
Black Ceramic Steel by MAC, $55
All-Purpose Knife from Hida Tool.  I give this knife as a gift all of the time. $101
Best Peelers Ever, $10 for 3


Handmade Fermentation Crock from Counter Culture Pottery $200
Colombian Bean Pot from Bram, $88
Ombré Bud Vase Set from Heath, $130


Color Study Class at Little Flower School, $500
Flower Class with Studio Choo, $275
Gift Certificate to The Pantry at Delancey, $50 and up
Cooking Class with Viola Buitoni, $65 and up
One Day Studio Retreat at Alabama Chanin, $475
Membership to Headlands Center for the Arts, $50 and up
Membership to 18 Reasons, $40 and up
Introduction to Letterpress Printing at San Francisco Center for the Book, $65
A Subscription to Quarterly (I'd pick Tina Roth Eisenberg, Amanda & Merrill, or Pharell Williams), $50


Lake Michigan, Chicago  by Daniel Seung Lee

20x200 is back!  Some of my favorites are here, here, here and here.  So much amazing art, starting at $24.
Creative Growth Art Sale, $5 and up
Archival Prints by Emily Nathan, Aya Brackett, Jen Siska and more for Tiny Atlas Quarterly, $75 pledge to their Kickstarter Campaign


Citrus Salt
Apple Cider Caramels
Mary's Caramel Corn
Spoon Butter
Gaz: Persian Nougat
Olive Oil and Sea Salt Granola
Chocolate-Caramel Truffles
Homemade Vanilla Extract

Thanksgiving Round Up

by Samin

Last year I went on a Thanksgiving binge, with all sorts of classes and blog posts.  This year, I am in relative hibernation.

But, the information is all still useful!  So, let me compile it all here for ease of use.

Working Ahead for Thanksgiving

On Ordering a Bird, and Other Basics

Spatchcocked Turkey with Herbs and Butter
Charlie's Prune and Sausage Stuffing
Roasted Vegetables in Agrodolce
Cranberry Sauce Two Ways
Fried Sage Salsa Verde
Aaron's Pie Crust
Skillet Cornbread

And, a handful of Thanksgiving goodies from some of my favorite sources:
Thanksgiving Condiments at Food52
Sam Sifton's Thanksgiving Book
A Canal House Thanksgiving from The Splendid Table
Essential Thanksgiving at NYT Dining
David Tanis's Thanksgiving on the Ranch from Food & Wine
Suzanne Goin's Thanksgiving Menu at Bon Appétit
Sweet and Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds by Dash and Bella at Food52
Chunky Cranberry Jam from Saving the Season

Also, I just want to say that I had the best pumpkin pie I've ever tasted from Black Jet Baking Co. last week.  If you're not up for baking, then order one from Gillian.  You won't be disappointed.

Recipe: Saffron-Cardamom Carrot Cake

by Samin

My friend Kathleen's birthday fell on Diwali this year, so we cooked a big Indian feast for her and I wanted to make a cake that fit in with the flavors.

Carrots and saffron are a natural pair, so I made a carrot cake spiced with cardamom and saffron, and then I grated a bunch of fresh ginger into the cream cheese frosting and used up all the gold leaf I had on top.  

Saffron-Cardamom Carrot Cake

4 ounces (1 stick) butter, plus more for the cake pan
1 big pinch saffron threads
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
4 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup oil (I used grapeseed)
1 cup crushed pineapple
3 cups grated carrots, loosely packed (about 1 pound carrots before peeling)
Optional: 1/2 cup raisins
Optional: 1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Adjust a baking rack to the center of the oven.  

Melt the butter in a small pan over low heat.  Add the saffron and let it steep for at least ten minutes.  

Butter and flour two straight-sided 9-inch cake pans, then line with parchment and butter again.  You can also make this cake in a single 9 x 13-inch pan and skip the butter/flour/parchment and just frost and eat it in the pan. 

Sift together the flour, powder, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt into a bowl and set aside.  

In a larger bowl, combine the eggs, white and brown sugars, oil, pineapple, carrots, and if using, raisins and/or walnuts.  Add the butter-saffron mixture.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture in two or three batches.  Make sure that all of the flour is incorporated.

Divide into the cake pans and bake until the cakes are golden brown and just set, springing back to the touch and pulling away from the side of the pan, about 24-28 minutes (But don't blindly trust me! Check often!  Ovens are all different!)

Cool on a baking rack for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan.  Allow to cool completely before removing parchment and frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting with Fresh Ginger

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
1 1/2 cups sugar

Using the paddle attachment on an electric mixer, whip together the cream cheese and butter, then grate in the ginger using a microplane grater.  Add the sugar and whip to combine.  Frost the cake and lick your fingers!

I don't like really sweet cakes or frostings, so both the cake and frosting recipes use less sugar than their traditional counterparts.  Taste the cake batter and frosting after you've added the sugar, and if you feel they need to be sweeter, then add more!

C U R R E N T (L Y)

by Samin

photo credit: Jessica Anton

Aletha Soulé's Studio Sale is coming up

An Island of Need in a Sea of Prosperity

Gorgeous infographics

Sarah Kersten's got a new website.  Order now for the holidays.

Moriah Cowles has a new site, too.  Total Swoonology.

Love this story about paying it forward

The Girards POP-UP

Here's my roundup of Thanksgiving tips and recipes from last year

My friends at Good Eggs have got you covered for Thanksgiving

Should you take that job?

Love in the Gardens, by Zadie Smith

Elle Luna: intelligent, inspiring

The Mast Brothers have mastered the art of the book trailer

Thinking about volunteering on Thanksgiving?
Glide Memorial
Meals on Wheels
Alameda County Food Bank
San Francisco Food Bank
Little Brothers
One Brick
St. Anthony's

Now We Are Five, by David Sedaris

I've been cooking this, over and over, using legs, thighs, wings, whatever.  It is just so good, and so easy.

C U R R E N T (L Y)

by Samin

Protect SNAP

The Third Thing

Civil Eats is Kickstartin'

Debts of Pleasure

Zio Ziegler.  I'm Obsessed.

Josey Builds A Bakery

Five Poetic Essentials for the Home Cook

What do London's Tube Stations Taste Like?

Food is the most shareable currency we have

Wendy illustrated The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert

Once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme. 

My editor, Mike Szczerban, interviewed Jordan Pavlin at Knopf for Poets & Writers.  Of course it made me cry.

I really wanna watch this.  Newly obsessed with Wayne White.

I almost died of laughter reading this.  via Heidi

The Coal and Feed

You Are What You Read

I'm dreaming of having a Murphy dining table built in my living room, with a big slab of bay or acacia with a live edge.  Have any ideas about any builders I can ask to help make this happen?  I also need some bookshelves installed. Any handyman recs?

Some Books I'm Looking Forward to This Fall:
The Art of Simple Food II
The A.O.C. Cookbook
Notes from the Larder
Tartine Book No. 3
One Good Dish
The Lowland
The Circle