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!

TARTINE AFTERHOURS is back! Wednesday, April 17th

After all of these months of resting and healing and writing, we are SO READY to bring Tartine Afterhours back for all of our Bay Area friends!  I stocked up on the very best mole paste I could find in Mexico on my recent trip, and we are going to have SUCH AN AWESOME PARTY to celebrate our return to these monthly feasts.  Heirloom beans, check.  Tender roast chicken marinated in mole, check.  Warm corn tortillas, check.  Micheladas, check!  It's gonna be so tasty!  We can't wait to see you there!

heirloom beans in puebla, mexico :: january, 2013

WHO: the fab folks at tartine and me
WHAT: a bomb-ass mole poblano feast
WHERE: tartine bakery (600 guerrero st. sf, ca)
WHEN: wednesday, april 17th at 8pm
WHY: to highlight the joy of good food and good company
HOW MUCH: $60 plus drinks and gratuity. cash only, please!
TO RESERVE: please fill out this form to submit your name into the lottery. due to the overwhelming popularity of our dinners, space is extremely limited so we now select guests by performing a lottery. we'll email lottery winners by wednesday, april 10th; if you don't hear back from us, please try again next month!

only in my dreams

i have dreamed of writing a book since i was a little girl and my aunt, who i looked up to more than pretty much anyone, worked in the university library.  i couldn't have been more than six or seven years old when she taught me how to use the microfiche and the card catalog and i'd spend hours upon hours wandering through the stacks.  right then and there, i fell in love with books and wanted to create one of my own one day.

i've wanted to write a book since tom dorman, my high school cross country coach and eleventh grade honors english teacher, introduced me to a magazine called the new yorker, gave me great novel after great novel to devour, read me poetry on a daily basis, and passed on his addiction to keeping a journal.  to him, there was no other life than a literary life, and so the same became true for me.  because of him, i knew i'd enter college as an english major, with ambitions to start writing new york times best sellers immediately upon graduation.

when my uncle got sick and my family went crazy trying to cure him, a family friend came from halfway across the world.  he was a healer, and brought with him his toothless, weathered, hindu guru. it was one of the most emotionally wrought times in my life--there was so much anger, so many tears.  the guru took me gently by hand to a quiet corner and asked to read my palm.  so much good news flowed out from his lips that i assumed he was a total quack.  he told me that the dreams of all of the books i'd write, of having a family and children, of being healthy and wealthy and living a long life would all come true.  i didn't know whether or not to believe him, so i just wrote it all down.

when i was 20 years old, interning in the kitchen at chez panisse and still entertaining dreams of graduating college only to start writing best-selling chapbooks of poetry, i remember being so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that cooks were required to know that i would go home each evening with a headache.  on top of all of the techniques, the fact that the menu changes daily according to the seasons meant that i might be assigned a task one day and not repeat it for weeks, months, or even a year.  the maze of information seemed impenetrable and i felt like i'd never learn everything i needed to know to become a good cook.

but then, one day i began to see the forest through the trees.  i realized that everything we cooked in that kitchen had a few basic things in common: attention was always paid to salt, fat, acid and heat.  it didn't matter where the roots of the dishes we cooked lay.  salt, fat, acid and heat were always the most important elements to attend to.  i decided then and there i'd write a book elucidating these four magical variables for other novices; why didn't anyone ever tell home cooks that understanding how to use salt, fat, acid and heat was enough to get you 90% of the way to deliciousness?  my book would be short--twelve pages at most--and clear.  after reading it, everyone would be a better, more confident cook.

then i remembered i was twenty and that no one would buy my book.  so i shelved that idea.  that was thirteen years ago.

in 2009, i started teaching michael pollan cooking lessons as part of the background research for his forthcoming book, Cooked.  that's its own whole story, and i'll write about that eventually, but michael quickly picked up on my obsession with these four elements and asked me about it.  i explained to him the way i think about them every time i set out to cook, and he encouraged me to turn my philosophy into a four part series of classes, and then a book.

since october of 2011, i have been working on my book proposal.  it's been through not one, but four iterations.  in that time, i have been to china and cuba, torn my meniscus, been doored on my bike, had knee surgery, cried sixty four days in a row, spent months eating mostly dried beans in an effort to save money, and alternately tried to be michael pollan, tamar adler and john mcphee to no avail.  i also drove myself insane trying to find the "perfect" agent.  

i also started stalking, with great intensity, the inimitable wendy macnaughton, and begged her to consider illustrating my book.  i've been a fan of hers for a few years, and just knew in my heart that we could make an AMAZING book together one day.  

and then a series of extraordinary events led me first to the legendary binky urban, who gave me loads of invaluable advice, and then to kari stuart, my magical, brilliant agent from heaven.  i met with her in november (more than a year after i'd started writing) and showed her what i had, what at the time seemed to me to be a complete and utter mess that would never come together in any sort of meaningful way.  kari, like one of those crazy rubik's cube masters, sat down with me at city bakery and drew a few lines on a piece of paper that somehow turned a pile of a hundred pages of blathering into a structured outline and proposal.  she sent me on my way to put on a few finishing touches and continue stalking wendy, and i left with a goal to finish by the end of january.  

so after cuba, i came home, hid underground, and wrote my heart out.  and i continued stalking wendy. finally, she gave in and agreed to illustrate the book.  i'd imagined that an illustrated book about food would be a tough sell, so i really wanted to have the proposal illustrated to give the publishers the same experience i hope to give my readers.  so wendy and i collaborated on a few charts and illustrations, she hand-lettered all of the titles and headings, and my angel-friend sarah adelman (née pulver) designed it all into an amazingly gorgeous document.

three weeks ago today, kari sent it out to the world.  the very same day, we started getting enthusiastic YESes back from publishers asking to meet.  so i used a kajillion points to buy a ticket to nyc for a super secret whirlwind trip, and i got there two monday mornings ago on the red eye.  i went straight to my friends' house, took a shower, and rushed to meet kari at haven's kitchen.  we jumped around for a minute about the fact that there was SO MUCH INTEREST in my book, and then we were off, to meeting after meeting after meeting.  

as someone who has been devoted to books my entire life, the experience of going to all of those meetings at publishing houses was pretty much the most life-affirming thing i have ever done.  for three and a half days, i met with people who love, make, and understand books better than anyone else.  i sat in rooms filled floor to ceiling with books.  i was given stacks and stacks of books as gifts.  and most amazingly, i was addressed by people i have respected my entire career as a person who has many books in me.  they told me i have a way with words, and my heart almost exploded from joy.  they saw me as a WRITER, and i started to believe that it could really be true.  more than once in meetings i teared up from the joy of being seen as what i have wanted to be my entire life.

and as if that wasn't enough, they all loved the proposal.  they all got it.  i'd shown up ready to have to defend many of my unorthodox choices, but never really had to.  not once.  they all got my vision.  for the first time, my ambition wasn't something to be ashamed of, but rather something to be proud of.  it was incredible.  there was just so. much. praise.  if this had happened at another time in my life, i might not have been strong enough to take all of the praise.  one editor emailed my agent to say, "i might die if i don't get the chance to publish this book."  take that and multiply that times 1,000.  that's what was going on for an entire week.

selling a book is like the most insane game of poker you could ever imagine.  there is so much secrecy and strategy.  i could never be in that business for a living, but kari is brilliant at it.  she looks so unassuming, a lovely midwesterner at heart with the best new york style.  she looks so sweet.  but really, she is an evil genius.  offers started to come in, and she was just stone-faced.  i was having meltdowns multiple times a day, and she never faltered.  the whole thing, meetings and all, lasted a week.  my auction was last monday, and luckily i was working 24/7 from the minute i got back to california on thursday night, because otherwise i would have gone insane waiting things out.

i was also lucky to have connected emotionally with so many great editors, but there was one in particular i couldn't stop thinking about.  mike szczerban at simon & schuster.  he's young, hungry, and so very intelligent and thoughtful. i left his meeting feeling like he was the kind of person i'd be stoked to talk about books with for the rest of my life.  i knew we had an amazing intellectual connection, and that we could make a really beautiful book (and more!) together.  all weekend long, i was rife with nerves hoping he'd come back and fight for me.

on saturday, i saw michael p. and he told me to be smart, to not get swept away in all of the amazing stuff they were all telling me they'd do for me, and to make the decision of which editor to go with based on what would benefit me most in the long run.  he also said, somewhat quixotically, that once all of the bids were in, the best choice would become clear.  sunday night, i had an incredible chat with my friend laurel braitman and she gave me similar advice: choose who you can see yourself making the best book with.  the pr, the money, all of that other stuff is secondary.

my whole life, i have made decisions based on who i want to work with and what kind of work i want to do.  i've turned down a lot of six-figure jobs because i knew i'd be unhappy doing the work they involved.  i've consciously entered times of financial struggle in order to do the work i want to do most. neither writing or cooking are financially lucrative, but in both i have careers that fulfill me and bring me into the company of people who inspire me on a daily basis.  and so, i knew that i could never make the decision of which publisher to go with based on money or praise or promised fame.

i went to bed knowing that i'd choose mike. and on monday morning, that's exactly what i did.

i called wendy and we melted with laughter and disbelief.

i had breakfast with alex and she read aloud the four-page letter mike had sent with his offer while i sat in the garden crying.

i went to work and jumped up and down with my writer ladies.

then i went and had a massage.  when i got out, kari said i could finally call mike.

so i called him and we squealed together for ten minutes.  we traded stories of how anxious we'd been over the weekend, and just celebrated that we get to work together.  now, i get to write the book that has been in me for thirteen years.  now, i get to do the thing i have wanted to do more than anything else my entire life.  I GET TO WRITE A BOOK!  and i get to do it with a team of people i couldn't love or respect any more--kari, mike, meg, marie and of course wendy.

i have never been so happy.  i'd thought that this kind of thing would happen only in my dreams.  it turns out, my life has become the very best kind of dream.

Home Ec: Thanksgiving Basics--Working ahead

Planning and prepping ahead--and thinking like a professional cook--is the key to getting the entire Thanksgiving meal on the table at the same time without committing either seppuku or homicide.

photo source: the amazing andrea gentl of

hungry ghost food + travel

The trick is to spread out tasks that take lots of time, lots of oven space, lots of stove space, or make big messes so that you aren't out of space at the last minute.  So choosing dishes that reheat well, or that taste good served at room temperature, is crucial to making Thursday go smoothly.  

Here are a few ways you can work ahead for next week:

Before Tuesday:

  • Make pie dough and freeze
  • If using a frozen turkey, defrost so you can season or brine it on Tuesday
  • Make turkey or chicken stock and freeze for gravy


  • Season or brine turkey
  • Buy bread to use for stuffing, or make cornbread for stuffing


  • Make cranberry sauce
  • Wash herbs, greens and lettuces
  • Roast pumpkin for pie if using fresh squash
  • Measure out ingredients for pecan pie filling, pumpkin pie filling, etc.
  • Tear croutons for stuffing and dry out in oven
  • Clean green beans
  • Make soup, if planning to serve
  • Peel potatoes and keep whole in water
  • Peel onions and carrots that you might use in any dishes, such as creamed corn, creamed spinach, stuffing, etc.
  • Make any caramel sauces or things like that that you might need to garnish desserts
  • If you're insane enough to want to make homemade ice cream, get it in the freezer by tonight.
  • If you are using fresh chestnuts, get them boiled and peeled.


Early morning

  • Pull turkey out of fridge to come up to room temp
  • Blind bake pie doughs
  • Brown sausage or bacon for stuffing
  • Prep vegetables--trim and halve Brussels sprouts, peel squash, peel any root vegetables, clean and trim cauliflower or broccoli, etc.
  • Roast vegetables that might need roasting--these do well at room temperature!
  • Cook off onions or any mirepoix
  • Make creamed spinach--this reheats well.
  • Do anything like seeding pomegranates, peeling persimmons, toasting nuts, or making vinaigrette that might be necessary for the salad

Heading into the afternoon and dinner time

  • Roast the turkey
  • Make the gravy with turkey drippings
  • Bake off pies
  • Make mashed potatoes and keep warm in double boiler
  • Assemble and bake stuffing/dressing

Right before dinner

  • Reheat dishes that need to be reheated, like soups, creamed spinach, or gravy
  • Toss the salad greens
  • Carve the turkey

Before dessert

  • Whip cream
  • Portion pies


did you know there's a disease called favism?  it's quite unrelated to fauvism, and it actually can be sorta serious, but sometimes its symptoms are as mild as itchy hands after touching favas.

if i'd known about it, i might have wished for favism as a child, because it might have been the only excuse palpable enough to get me out of one of my most dreaded chores: popping and peeling piles of raw fava beans.  favas, or baghali, are a favorite ingredient in the persian kitchen, and some of our most classic (and delicious) springtime dishes are made with these epic pains-in-the-butt.  now you know why iranians have big families--so they can force their kids to peel the abundant raw favas necessary for their canonical recipes.  

i love baghali polo, which is fava bean and dill rice, traditionally made on seezdeh-bedar, the thirteeth day of the new year, which usually works out to be april first or second.  i love it most when some of the favas favas fry in a bit of oil and become embedded in the tahdig, the crisp web of rice that forms at the bottom and edges of the pot.  somehow, they caramelize without burning, and they turn soft and creamy on the inside.  it's exquisite.  

but, baghali polo, and baghala ghatogh, a fava bean stew with eggs and dill, like pretty much every other persian dish, are incredibly labor intensive and time-consuming to prepare, so i rarely make them.  instead, i find myself using favas like i learned to at chez panisse, in pastas, salads, or other vegetable dishes, barely cooked or even raw, more often an accent than the focus of the dish.  in french and california cooking, the beans are popped from their soft, accomodating sleeping bags and then plunged into boiling water before being shocked in a bowl of ice.  talk about a rude awakening.  then, they're popped out of their skins and either served as-is, or gently heated and then taken where they're needed to go.  

it must be the brutal grasp of nostalgia that keeps me from truly loving favas served in this way.  i much prefer them cooked long and slow, until they are soft and sweet, drowned with herbs and olive oil.  something inexplicable happens to them (and all vegetables, i think) when they're tended to with heat, time and a gentle hand.  but then my californian tendencies get the best of me and i always end up balancing the depth and sweetness with some bright acidity, good salt, and a handful of fresh herbs.  

balancing labor and remembrance, ancestry and geography, new and old is at the heart of the way i cook. with those things in mind, i've been making this bastardized version of baghala ghatogh with all of the sweet favas popping up at the market: sweet, stewed favas with green garlic and dill smeared generously on toast and topped with a poached egg, good oil and a showering of garden herbs.  

Fava Bean and Dill Crostino with a Poached Egg

  • Four cups shelled and peeled fava beans, or roughly five pounds of pods
  • One big bunch of dill, or two little bunches, chopped finely
  • Two white spring onions
  • One bunch green garlic
  • Good olive oil
  • Salt
  • Lemon
  • Parsley, and cilantro if you like, chopped
  • Four thick slices country bread
  • Four farm eggs
  • A little white vinegar

Pop and peel the favas.  You can either peel them raw or dip them into boiling water for a few seconds until their skins loosen and then chill them in ice water before peeling.

Clean and thinly slice the spring onions and green garlic, then stew with olive oil and a bit of water in a saute pan until tender.  Add a little salt.  It's ok if they start to color a little bit, but don't let them get too brown.

When all of that is soft, add the favas and another splash of water.  A good guzzle of olive oil and three quarters of the chopped dill.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often enough to prevent it from burning.  Use the back of a wooden spoon to smash the beans as they soften and encourage it all to turn into a paste.  Taste and adjust the salt.  Add more olive oil if it starts to look dry and pasty.

Toast the bread and, if you have one, swipe with a clove of garlic.  Smear with generous amounts of fava paste and sprinkle, if you have it, with some light, flaky salt such as Maldon.  Give the whole thing a squeeze of lemon, too.

Bring a small saucepot with at least two inches of water in it to a boil, then turn down to a hard simmer.  Add a few drops of vinegar.  Crack the eggs into coffee cups and poach.  Some people like to create a little whirlpool in the pot with a spoon before laying in the eggs, but it's not required.  I like to poach in pretty hot water, until the whites are just set.  

Remove the eggs from the water and dry the bottoms on a clean kitchen towel, then place on the toast.  Drizzle with a bright olive oil and shower with remaining dill, parsley and cilantro.  Serve immediately.  

recipe: green garlic and herb loaf

on saturday, kinfolk came to town for a little brunch.  while chad and i were brainstorming for a couple of days on a way to collaborate on a little contribution to the meal, he remembered something that margaret at manka's used to make.

when chad and liz were up in point reyes, for a period he baked only every other day, so margaret had to come up with creative ways to serve the bread on the second day.  she started making with this breathtakingly beautiful version of garlic bread, where she scored the entire loaf and then slathered it from the inside with garlic and herb butter.  after she baked it for about twenty minutes, she pulled it from the oven and jammed tons more fresh herbs into the slots before bringing the whole loaf to the table.  can you say yum?

so in an effort to do the memory justice, i got armfuls of green garlic that i stewed and mixed into cultured butter with piles of chopped herbs (including some crumbled fried sage) and lots of crunchy sel gris.  i wrapped the bread in foil, and at the brunch they heated it in the oven before serving.  we had to skip the herb salad part for logistical reasons, but i had prepared parsley leaves, long bits of chives, and chervil to toss with meyer lemon, good oil, a bit of parmesan and salt before stuffing into the bread.  i'd also considered just jamming a ton of fried rosemary and sage in there, but figured that the salad version was a bit more spring-y.

i made way too much of the garlic and herb butter, so i've been spreading it on my morning toast with a poached egg.  so, so, so tasty.

green garlic and herb loaf
  • a loaf of day- or days-old country bread (chad's loaves are about 3 pounds, so this is for a BIG country loaf.  you can make a lesser amount of the herb butter for a smaller loaf)
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter (my favorite butter right now is this vat-cultured butter from the sierra nevada cheese company) at room temperature
  • 6 stalks green garlic
  • 1 bunch parsley, picked
  • few sprigs of thyme, picked
  • handful of sage leaves
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 1 bunch chervil, picked (optional)
  • if you want, you can use arugula or wild arugula instead of herbs for the salad
  • parmesan
  • lemon or meyer lemon
  • good olive oil
  • crunchy salt
preheat oven to 400°F.

first, clean the green garlic by removing the tough outer layer of skin.  then halve it lengthwise and slice thinly.  rinse to remove all grit, then stew with some olive oil, water and a pinch of salt over low heat until tender, about 15 minutes.  let it cool for a few minutes.  

finely chop half of the parsley, half of the chives, and all of the thyme.  if you want to fry the sage, you can do it in a small pan of hot olive oil.  just heat the oil, then drop in the picked sage leaves and let them cook until they stop bubbling.  stir them around so that they cook evenly, then remove them from the oil, let them crisp up, and then crumble into little pieces.  you could also just chop the sage and add it to the other herbs.  

either in a large bowl or in a the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the soft butter, the stewed garlic, and the chopped herbs.  add a generous pinch of sel gris or other crunchy salt and mix until even.  

score the loaf of bread into thickish slices, but don't cut all the way down.  spread the butter evenly on the slices, doing your best to get down into the deepest parts of the loaf.  i just spread on one side of each slot.  wrap with foil.

when you're ready to bake, throw the bread into the oven for about 20 minutes, maybe longer, until the insides of the bread are steamy and hot.  for a little something extra, you can unwrap the loaf a bit and bake unwrapped for another five minutes or so to get a really nice crust on top.  

while the loaf is finishing up, combine the remaining parsley, the remaining chives, cut into one-inch lengths, and the chervil (if using) with some good salt, a squeeze of lemon or meyer lemon, and some good olive oil.  you can also shave some parmesan on there with a rasp or vegetable peeler.  toss to combine.  taste and adjust salt and acid as needed.

pull the bread from the oven and stuff the salad into the crevasses.  serve immediately.  

Tartine Afterhours: Wednesday, April 18th

When I started writing the menu for this month, all I could think about was torta pasqualina, one of my favorite dishes from Liguria.  This traditional Easter dish is a beautiful double-crusted pie filled with spinach, fresh ricotta, and whole hard-cooked eggs, and I've been wanting to make a Tartine-ized version of it for a while now.  I mean, can you even begin to imagine how beautiful it'd be with a gorgeous puff pastry crust?!?

I tried to build a Ligurian springtime menu around the torta, but couldn't make it work.  Then I expanded my territory to Provence, but still couldn't get all of the pieces to fit.  You see, there are just so many things to consider when I put together the menus for these dinners, from stove capacity at the bakery (not much), to which ingredients I can get from my favorite local farmers without blowing the budget, to how much I can realistically get done in the few hours I have after I arrive at Tartine in the afternoon, to which types of dishes hold up to, and even flourish in, a family-style service.  I do my best to cook simple, honest food, but counterintuitively the simplest things can often require a frustratingly immense amount of work and forethought.  

I finally found inspiration at Canal House Cooks Lunch, one of my favorite blogs.  I haven't been able to get this image out of my head for a month, and when I glimpsed back at it this morning, the theme for the dinner became clear: The Chicken and the Egg.  What could be more perfect for celebrating springtime? 

We'll finally have that torta pasqualina, some delicious version of roast chicken, piles of spring vegetables and if the stars align, soufflé for dessert.  Come join us for dinner!

photo credit: the year in food, by kimberley hasselbrink

the details

who: the fab folks at tartine and me

what: The Chicken & The Egg: a three course family-style dinner celebrating the harbingers of spring

where: tartine bakery (600 guerrero st. sf, ca)

when: wednesday, april 18th at 8pm

why: to highlight the joy of good food and good company

how much: $50 plus wine and gratuity. cash only, please!

to reserve: please fill out this form to submit your name into the lottery. due to the overwhelming popularity of our dinners, space is extremely limited so we now select guests by performing a lottery. we'll email lottery winners by wednesday, april 11th; if you don't hear back from us, please try again next month!

Persian New Year at Tartine Afterhours: Wednesday, March 21st

Persian New Year, or No Ruz, has always been the only holiday my family has observed together, and as a child i was steeped in the ancient traditions of this meaningful celebration. From planting sprouts in early March to jumping over fires as the old year draws to an end to cleanse our souls, something about the many symbols and rituals of this special holiday has made it the most important time of year for me. The fact that food plays an prominent role in many of its customs makes it even better.  Come join us at Tartine Afterhours for our second annual Persian New Year dinner, inspired by the foods of spring and the flavors of Iran. 

the details

who: the fab folks at tartine and me
what: a three course family-style Cal-Persian feast celebrating NoRuz
where: tartine bakery (600 guerrero st.  sf, ca)
when: wednesday, march 21st at 8pm
why: to highlight the joy of good food and good company 
how much: $65 plus wine and gratuity.  cash only, please!
to reserve: please fill out this form to submit your name into the lottery.  due to the overwhelming popularity of our dinners, space is extremely limited so we now select guests by performing a lottery.  we'll email lottery winners by friday, march 16th; if you don't hear back from us, please try again next month!

collecting quotes

Part of what I do all day in this office is read.  A lot.  I read something, which leads me to something else, and then I decide that I need to become an expert in some arcane field of research so I ask my grad student friends to order books through the inter-library loan for me, and then I read more and more and more.

I suddenly understand why it takes some people twenty years to finish their Ph.D.s  I mean, I couldn't possibly write even a sentence on how people learn and become proficient in a skill without first consulting The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (only 899 pages), right?  (If you're curious, that's the paper on which Malcolm Gladwell based his 10,000 hour rule.)  Shoot me now.

Anyway, in all of this reading, I'm coming across some really lovely thoughts on food and cooking.  I've been recording them on sheets of butcher paper I've hung on the walls and stuck to my desktop, but I keep wanting to share them with you, and also to type them up and have them somewhere so I can refer to them.  So I think I'm going to start posting them here from time to time.

I hope they inspire and teach you as they have done for me.

Recipes do not make food taste good; people do.
--Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Experience is a good predictor of how you'll need to season and adjust food, but it is no substitute for vigilant tasting.  --Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

This is not a manual of cookery, but a book about enjoying food....Anyone who loves to eat, can soon learn to cook well.
--Jane Grigson, Good Things

No amount of cooking skill in the kitchen can produce a fine meal on the table, unless it is preceded by selective skill in the market.
--Roy Andries de Groot, Feasts for All Seasons

p.s. I actually only have to read two short chapters in the big book.  I'm not that insane.

Resource Guide for Home Ec: Understanding Salt

image source

A list of resources and links I find really informative:

Articles & Blogs
That's So Salty!  It's Not Salty Enough! by Jill Santopietro on
In Salts, a Pinch of Bali or a Dash of Spain by Harold McGee in the New York Times
Salt of the Earth about Judy Rodgers by Russ Parsons in the LA Times
An Introduction to Gourmet Salt by Mark Bitterman (pdf version here)

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Salted by Mark Bitterman
The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

San Francisco
Little Vine
Bi-Rite Market
Boulette's Larder
Rainbow Grocery

East Bay
The Country Cheese Shop
The Pasta Shop
Berkeley Bowl
Monterey Market
The Spanish Table

Purchase Online
The Meadow: the Mecca of Salt, a shop in Portland, Oregon
SaltWorks: pretty much sells every kind of salt, ever
Celtic Sea Salt, aka sel gris: buy the big bag and use it for everything
Bulk Maldon Salt

and finally:

Tartine Afterhours: Wednesday, February 29th

It took me a little longer than usual to figure out this month's menu, but when I got it, I really got it! Inspired by French street food, we'll be making merguez sausage sandwiches on special Tartine buns and for dessert, stacks and stacks of sweet crêpes, served with all sorts of toppings and garnishes for you to choose from at the table. I'm gonna see if we can find an accordionist to come play, too! I. CANNOT. WAIT! Come eat with us!

image source


WHO:  the fab folks at tartine and me
WHAT: a three course family-style feast inspired by French street food
WHERE: tartine bakery (600 guerrero st. sf, ca)
WHEN: wednesday, february 29th at 8pm
WHY: to highlight the joy of good food and good company
HOW MUCH: $45 plus wine and gratuity. cash only, please!
TO RESERVE: please fill out this form to submit your name into the lottery. due to the overwhelming popularity of our dinners, space is extremely limited so we now select guests by performing a lottery. we'll email lottery winners by wednesday, february 22nd; if you don't hear back from us, please try again next month!

something out of nothing: cabbage slaw

Festive Slaw by PeaSoupEats

Festive Slaw

, a photo by 


 on Flickr.

if you've ever been over to my house for dinner, you have probably eaten some version of this slaw. it's a variation of the slaw they make in the chez panisse cafe, and hence, a variation of alison's slaw over at bakesale betty.

at this time of year, when a little brightness on the plate is something we can all use, it's a great addition to anything from a humble dinner of beans and rice, a scrambled egg with tortilla, fish tacos, or even a steak. if you were to use a bit of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and ginger instead of red wine vinegar, and olive oil, you could serve it with any number of asian-inspired dishes.

slaw. so clean. so good. basically made out of nothing.

bright cabbage slaw

serves 4-6 people as a side dish

1 small head of cabbage--red, green, napa, or any combination of the three is fine

1 small red onion

2 jalapeños

1 small bunch cilantro

red wine vinegar

1 lime

1 lemon


good olive oil

Halve the head of cabbage, remove the core from each half with a V-shaped incision, and slice thinly. Place in a big salad bowl and sprinkle generously with salt.

Let the cabbage sit for at least 20 minutes to release some of its water.

In the meantime, peel and halve the onion. Remove the stem end and slice thinly. Macerate with red wine vinegar.

Halve, seed, and slice the peppers.

Roughly chop the cilantro. Both leaves and stems are delicious, but trim any woody ends the stems might have before chopping.

When the cabbage has released a good amount of water, drain it, then add the onion (but not the vinegar), cilantro, and appropriate amount of peppers for your liking.

Dress with olive oil.

Now comes my favorite part: layering the acids. You've already introduced some acid with the macerated red onion, and vinegar is a sort of heavier form of acid, so try to balance it out with lime and lemon juice. Probably the entire lime and half the lemon is a good amount to start with.

Taste, adjust salt and oil if needed. Then, start to tinker with the acids. Does it need more vinegar? More lemon? Taste and adjust, taste and adjust, taste and adjust.

I like my slaw on the acidic side, since I usually serve it with fried or rich foods as a foil. If you're just eating slaw and say, grilled chicken or fish, it might not need quite as much acid. It's all about context, you know?