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photos by gluttonforlife

12.12.13 Cookie Monsters (& a Sizzling Giveaway)

It's really, really hard not to get sucked into the vortex of holiday madness, isn't? Not that you would want to go all Ebenezer and shun celebration entirely but it can be challenging to maintain an even keel when all around you is glitter and tinsel and shopping and champagne. I want to spoil and surprise all my loved ones but I'd rather not buy into the commercialism, and I've found that gifts that come from my own hand feel like a good happy medium. Of course it's a lot of work, and not everyone has the luxury of time, but a little tin of cookies, jar of jam or bag of caramels goes a long way—and think of all the time saved by avoiding crowded malls and freeways! Speaking of caramels, the winner chosen at random to receive the much coveted jar of sea salt caramels is ERICA. Please send your mailing address to me at gluttonforlife@gmail.com, Erica! And now, read on for more holiday treats, including today's giveaway...
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photos by gluttonforlife

4.15.13 Sweet, Salty, Spicy

It's a holy trinity. A tempting trifecta. To me there's nothing better than an exquisite balance of sweet and salty with a stealthy infusion of heat to kick it up just enough. It's why I love fresh summer fruit—mango, melon, pineapple, strawberries—macerated with jalapeño or sprinkled with chile salt. And it's the magic behind my all-time favorite caramels, made with chocolate, chile and Maldon salt. That same combination infuses a stellar treat dreamed up by baking maven Dorie Greenspan. Her new business, Beurre & Sel, run by son Josh and staffed in part by my very own sister-in-law (a talented baker in her own right), has been tantalizing tastebuds with cookies both classic and creative. My favorite are the ones that play savory elements (sesame, parmesan, rosemary, cayenne) off sweet ones. Dorie has dubbed these "cocktail cookies" because of how well they complement a drink. I've tweaked her recipe for the cocoa-cayenne cocktail cookies slightly, using gluten-free flour and incoporating the earthy crunch of cocoa nibs, but I think it still it does justice to the original.
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photos by gluttonforlife

11.26.12 Spice of Life

I'm always lecturing you about cutting out sugar and eating more greens, right? There are so many blogs you could be reading instead, blogs that give you recipes for cheese-laden pastas and bacon-studded scones and chocolate tortes. And yet here you are, learning about whey and sunchokes and making your own pickles. And I love you for that, you sexy thing. While I don't think it's smart to consider food as a reward, I do believe that into every life a little sweet must fall. Especially with the holidays upon us, it's best to have some pragmatic treats on hand that can shield us from the cheese twists and peppermint bark and pecan rolls that will soon materialize at every turn. So here's a recipe for a tasty little biscut that is sugar-free and gluten-free, yes, but also rich and crunchy and packed with flavor. Trust me, that's not the taste of deprivation.
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photos by gluttonforlife

7.2.12 The Mix Master

I visited Lior Lev Seracarz in his studio a few months ago, but I haven't written about it until now because I wanted to spend time really getting to know some of his spice blends. You may remember me mentioning this chef-turned-spice-wizard and his gallery/store, La Boîte à Epice, in Hell's Kitchen, or perhaps you read Susan Choi's profile of him in Food & Wine; it won the James Beard Foundation journalism award this year. A quick bit of background on Lior: he's Israeli (yep, he did his military service), but his family has roots in Belgium, Germany, Transylvania and Tunisia. He trained as a chef in France and apprenticed with Olivier Roellinger, the Michelin-starred chef who also has a spice business now. In 2006, after 4 years working at Daniel in New York (where they built him his own spice shelf), Lior decided to go out on his own. But he wasn't sure exactly what that would entail. Unlike many chefs who have a laser-like focus on the usual trajectory that ends with their own empire of restaurants, Lior dreams of immersing himself in everything from classical music to finance. In a world of specialists, he's something of a Renaissance man. Lucky for us, then, that his love of spices rose to the fore.
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photos by gluttonforlife

12.27.11 Sweet & Salty

Like other legendary odd couples—Harold & Maude, Oscar & Felix—sweet and salty rub up against each other and achieve a sort of sublime friction. Not exactly opposites, they speak the same language but with very different accents. It's now well-known that the trifecta of sweet-salty-fatty proves virtually irresistible to the human palate, making things like Doritos and kettle corn the equivalent of edible crack. A decidedly much more highbrow—and indeed healthier—precursor that plays with that same equation is the delectable scourtin. A close cousin of shortbread, these crisp, buttery biscuits studded with briny black olives were originally made at Les Vieux Moulins in Nyons, France, an ancient Provençal olive mill. The owner, Jean-Pierre Autrand, shared his family's recipe with Susan Herrmann Loomis, an ex-pat expert on French cuisine. And I'm sharing it with you. For very little effort, you get a truly great cookie whose pitch-perfect sweet-salty flavor goes just as well with a dry martini or a glass of prosecco as it does with a cup of chamomile tea. (Much like these inspired cookies.) Make a batch immediately.
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what's not to love?

2.5.11 Weekend Update

A very quick post to urge you to treat yourself to a viewing of the grossly underrated 2008 movie, The Love Guru, starring the incomparable Mike Meyers as "the second best guru" (after Deepak, of course). I have watched this at least 6 times now and never fail to laugh at Meyers' hilarious Peter-Sellers-worthy performance: his accent, the gleam in his eye, the sheer delight he takes in his performance, the fabulous musical numbers, not to mention all the infantile scatalogical jokes. And Ben Kingsley as the cross-eyed Guru Tugginmapudha is absolutely priceless.
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sir ben, doing what he does best

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shawn askinosie (all photos courtesy of askinosie)

2.1.11 The Ask: Shawn Askinosie

You may remember a post from a couple of months ago about a fantastic chocolate company, Askinosie. Not only do I love their chocolate, but I love what they stand for and how they give back. The Candy Man is a cultural icon—a jolly, twinkly-eyed fellow with a big heart and a fondness for children—and while Shawn Askinosie is nowhere near as eccentric as Willy Wonka, I do think he delights in the power of chocolate.About 10 years ago, Shawn's career as a criminal defense attorney began to exact too high a toll. He was arguing back-to-back murder cases, and you only have to watch so much Law & Order to know how stressful that would be. But he couldn't really see any way clear of it, so he began to pray that an alternative would reveal itself. At the same time, he tried distracting himself with cooking, which led to baking, which led to an obsession with cupcakes (which even led to a pilgrimage to New York's Magnolia Bakery). After about 5 years of this, he up and decided he was going to try his hand at making his own chocolate, from scratch. At the time, he had no concept of what this even meant, but within 2 months he was up to his elbows in cocoa beans in the Amazon. We should all be so bold.
 

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12.7.10 Get Baked

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photo by george billard
Have you been to Peels yet? It's the new restaurant from the people behind Freemans, that early proponent of old-timey-taxidermy-comfort-foody hipness, where downtowners still go for their mac 'n' cheese and hot artichoke dip. Owner Tavo Somer has described his new venture as "kind of supposed to be Freemans' girlfriend. He's all old New England, and she's like a feminine, Southern girl.” Hmmm. Not sure if that really comes across since I haven't had a proper meal there, but I did pop in early one morning for a cup of tea and really liked the cozy atmosphere downstairs in this 2-story restaurant. Nowness, LVMH's über-coolness blog, featured the place on Thanksgiving; check out their photos. It turns out that pastry chef Shuna Lydon, whose blog rants are as amusing as her desserts are divine, has taken up residency here and is overseeing a baking extravaganza of homey treats that elevates Peels way above your average downtown cafe. I had a buckwheat muffin flavored with rosemary and lemon marmalade that was truly delicious.
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4.18.10 Share a Spread, Spread the Word

Have you see the movie Food Inc. yet? The film takes a good hard look at the state of industrial agriculture and factory farming in this country. Everybody really needs to see it. It is very consciousness-raising and may radically change the way you eat. (At least I hope it will.) This Wednesday, April 21st, at 9pm, PBS will be broadcasting Food, Inc. and is encouraging viewers to throw a potluck and watch the film together. You can get more information, including a huge listing of crowd-friendly recipes,  by clicking here. I think it would be wise to eat before watching the film, as it won't exactly enhance your appetite. Even better, throw a vegetarian potluck! I've posted a few more recipes below.
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all photos by george billard

4.13.10 Shop Talk: Bouchon Bakery

G did a bad thing. He went to Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center and came home with all these goodies. I mean baddies! He claimed they were for our guests but a few crumbs fell into our mouths as well. Do you love Thomas Keller? (If you don't know who I'm talking about, Rip Van Winkle, you can read his bio on the Bouchon Bakery website.) I had an incredible lunch at the French Laundry in the spring of 2001 and even went into the kitchen to have Thomas sign a copy of his recently published cookbook of the same name. It was immaculate in there and quiet as a tomb. But the food that came out was hardly demure. For such a serious chef, he loves his little food puns: oysters and pearls (tapioca); coffee and doughnuts (cappuccino semifreddo), etc. He opened Bouchon Bakery right outside Per Se—his magnum opus where I have dined in splendor overlooking Central Park—so that it could provide bread for the restaurant and also "add an additional layer of cafe life to the surrounding area." So thoughtful. There, you can grab and go, perch on a stool, or get a real table at which to enjoy light fare, including soups and sandwiches, quiche, wonderful breads and all manner of sweets. I once had a huge coconut-dusted doughnut stuffed with passionfruit curd that nearly did me in. They even bake dog treats for New York's most pampered canines. My personal favorite from the selection shown above happens to be the frisbee-sized Nutter Butter. It's unwise to eat more than a quarter of this creamy, peanutty travesty at a time. I've even posted the bakery's recipe for it should you be reckless enough to want to try this at home.
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