q&a vol. III

Ah, NaBlo… It wasn’t enough for me to fail you once (friends over into the wee hours), twice (came home to heat not working, cannot blog while burrowed under ten blankets) or three times (I had already blown it twice, what’s one more?)–I have to go for a nice even number like four. Why no new recipe on Wednesday? Well, if you skip to question six, your answer awaits!

Until that situation rightens itself, I will have to bore you with one more Q&A, this one still leftovers from questions asked a few weeks ago. Hey, I promised I’d get to them, wouldn’t I?

A lot more cooking will follow this post, as I literally have more excuses to cook in the coming weeks than I have actual days in those weeks. I couldn’t be happier.

Shall we begin again? [Q&A Vol. I] [Q&A Vol. II]

measuring spoons

Mary asked are there any on-line sources for food or cooking paraphernalia that I would recommend.

Since I’m spoiled living in New York City, land of a thousand restaurant supply stores and dozens of kitchen specialty boutiques, I don’t do a lot of online shopping for cooking supplies. Even when Amazon can beat a price (it often does) the cost advantage is lost in shipping charges, oh, and my impatience. Beyond Amazon, Sur La Table is wonderful as well.

Mary also wants me to show you our cookbook collection, but I of course forgot to take a picture.

So, I have spent most my adult life trying to avoid buying every cookbook I want–there are too many, so many are just okay, and my space is too limited. I looked to buy tomes, tour de forces only–Joy of Cooking, How to Cook Everything, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and the Gourmet Cookbook (probably my least-used cookbook of all). Needless to say, having a food blog has gotten me over largely over my purchasing conservatism, but I like only like to get a new one only once in a while, or it gets lost in the shuffle. Some of my current favorites on the shelf are David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours and my two newest, Molly Stevens All About Braising and The Silver Spoon, which Alex surprised me with a few weeks ago but I haven’t started into–yet. My list of coveted cookbooks is endless.

Tara wants to know what my favorite “common” food is. She thinks I cook such “beautiful and sophisticated food” all the time, but she has a feeling deep down that “you could put away a few buffalo wings if no one was looking.” Is she right?

I love good French fries. I would happily have a plate of them with a glass of white wine and a small green salad for dinner any night of the week. I eat them with an inordinate amount of ketchup. Oh, and the smell of McDonalds fries always sends me swooning, though so often the taste doesn’t match up. Iceberg wedge “salads” with blue cheese and crumbled bacon are also a favorite of mine, and the shredded rib sandwich at R.U.B. I only had it once (before my heart gave out) but hot damn. Can’t get into buffalo wings (messy, spicy, nothing to really eat), but I did have some Korean fried chicken a couple months ago that blew my mind–crisp, non-greasy and served with pickled… gah, I forget what it is called. White, cubed. I was in heaven.

quick saute

Sara wants to know more about my day job, and she’d also like to hear some of my tips/tricks/routine for a balancing a full day job and my blog.

Well, seeing as Blogging Rule Number One is to not blog about work, even though a good chunk of my coworkers read this site, I still like to keep some separation. The short of it is: I’m a reporter. I write about geeky stuff and the daily grind. As for balancing, it helps that I don’t really have a life–ha. But really, it is my drive to “get to” my endless wish list of recipes gets me in the kitchen more often than not. Basically, when I have time to cook, I make sure I have a recipe and ingredients on the ready, either by picking them up on my way home from work or, more often, begging Alex too since he gets out of work earlier than me. When I can, like on a weekend or a day off, I try to make more than one recipe at a time, so content doesn’t dry up just because I get busy.


Dancer who Eats asks if I could name my favorite quick recipes, items I always have in the pantry, or prep work you can do over the weekend to make cooking on a weekday feasible?

When I am itching for something home-cooked but lack the time, we do a lot of sauteed whatever vegetables we have around cooked into a frittata or tossed with pasta. I also love cubing up vegetables, tossing them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting the heck out of them. We’ll eat those over couscous, which cannot be beat when you’re short on time.

I’ve only just discovered my freezer and its infinite usefulness in the last year, but if you are trying to get cooking done in advance, it can be your best friend. Some of my favorite things to keep in there, because they reheat/bake up very well from the freezer are soups, uncooked pie/tart doughs, unbaked cookies, uncooked dumplings, sausages, homemade stock, bread and, heck, even homemade barbeque sauce for long-term storage, plus classic prep-and-freeze items like lasagna or pizza dough. On the OCD side, if I know I’m going to be short on time (and having guests over) but don’t think a dish will keep well overnight, I might even pre-chop all of the vegetables the night before, and store them in a container or baggies in the fridge so they’re ready when I need them. This saves a surprising amount of time. My rule is that anything that can be done in advance, should be, or you’ll have no fun hosting.

The pantry is sporadically stocked with a multitude of varieties of dried lentils, grains, flours, sugars and, in all likelihood, not a single thing I need for the recipe I have in mind. It likes to mess with me like that.

fennel seeds

Julie wants some kitchen disaster stories.

Last night, I tried to make fennel ice cream from the October issue of Gourmet, which came highly recommended by a friend who is a pastry chef and served it where she works, and therefore should always be listened to. Oh wait, I can’t tell this story because it’s gross. Let’s just say that I realized after I was simmering the ingredients on the stove that the fennel seeds were not… usable. And while I was throwing them away, the cream boiled over and spilled all over the stove and under the burners. And the cleaning lady had just come a few hours earlier. Oh, and we’d forgotten to leave the bolt lock undone for her so I had to take a cab home from work at 11:30 a.m. to let her in, totally throwing my day off, but that’s not really a cooking disaster anymore, is it?

I hope to revisit the ice cream tonight.

Emily says that since Alex and I are always making such great recipes, don’t we end up with a ton of food for two people? Do we trim down larger recipes or do you have a refrigerator full of leftovers (which we know you’re not into)?

The general rule is that desserts are cooked for other people, and dinner is cooked for us. A good lot of the recipes I make for the site have been halved or even quartered, because unless it’s a curry, soup or quiche, odds are not good that we’ll eat it again. I am a master subdivider. I should add that to my resume, huh?

Sally asks if I have ever seriously considered a reality show.

Unfortunately, I am petrified of the camera, or at least the end of it that I can’t look through.


Tatiana asks if I had to cook with only five ingredients for the rest of my life (excluding water, salt, and pepper), what would they be?

A true baker, I’d pick flour, eggs, cream (I could make butter and buttermilk!), lemon and artichokes. Sure, the last one isn’t the most functional, but I’d be sad to be without them.

Colleen asks: Do you have a good method of filing, tracking, rating all the recipes you clip, print, come across in cookbooks, etc.?

I don’t, unless you consider Web bookmarks “in order” though I can assure you that they are neither sorted, tagged, alphabetized or grouped in any way.

Because I am a techie-nerd, I tend to find the vast majority of my recipes online, when I am procrastinating have scheduled downtime from my job, and I have a file of bookmarks over 200-long –ooh! Braised Belgian Endive Gratin! — make that 201.

On a day when I get out of work at 5 p.m. and there are no dishes from the day before waiting for us or a fridge so filled so prohibitively filled with god-knows-what that I can’t fathom going grocery shopping, I love this file. Should I make Ravioli with Radicchio and Speck or Roasted Stuffed Onions? Leek and Swiss Chard Galette or Buckwheat Crepes with Cauliflower? Roasted Parsnip and Red Lentil Soup? The kitchen is my oyster! But most days, when I’m at work until 6:30 or 7 p.m. and I resign myself to takeout when I get home it’s I hate you stupid recipe bookmarks, as it incessantly reminds of all that I will never achieve.

Whoa–didn’t mean to get carried away there! So, yes, there are bookmarks upon bookmarks and also a document saved with original recipe ideas plus a binder in the living room from when I used to have dead-tree recipe clippings from newspapers and magazines. That, btw, is the height of organization, color-coded and tabbed but almost completely useless to me because what I wanted to cook 5 years ago–wild boar, boiled rabbit, fromage de tete–and what I want to cook today are pretty different. And so it goes.

And, I think that’s enough Q&A for today, don’t you think? Seriously, I think this is longer than my last cover article!

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41 comments on q&a vol. III

  1. Thanks for answering my question! I think the reporter comes through a bit in your blogging – you are probably used to looking for interesting angles and things to talk about. :)

    I got The Silver Spoon recently, too (English version, I wanted to see how it was different from the Italian one) but I haven’t delved into it too much – let me know if you want to try something together! :)

  2. you’re going to love the molly stevens book. i had forgotten about it since this spring (unseasonably warm weather here until recently) and made the cabbage recipe last night. out of about 20-25 recipes i’ve cooked from there, we’ve loved almost everything (the rest were not bad), and many have become repeats. my favorite is probably the chicken with star anise, soy and orange (i forget the name): so good with white rice and an awesome lunch the next day.

  3. jael

    OMG the braising book is the best. And that recipe renata mentioned is to die for — I think it’s really just called Chicken Thighs With Star Anise, Soy, and Orange. The Braised Chicken With Pears and Rosemary is pretty awesome too. You’re going to love it. Perfect winter book.

  4. Ooh, I like your Q&A, I’m always fascinated by other people’s kitchen inspirations and foibles.
    Although, I have to say, it drives me crazy when you won’t say what exactly went wrong with something… was the fennel dried out? or maybe filled with bugs? Or when you tried to make flan, what went so horribly wrong? I want pictures and gruesome details! I make kitchen flops too sometimes and it’s so great to know I’m not the only one!
    Thanks Deb, keep up the good work.

  5. Abi

    Please, please start on the Silver Spoon soon. Mine has been gathering dust since last Christmas. It’s been outshone by The Best New Recipes (compiled recipes from Cook’s Illustrated, which has also convinced me that cream is a basic food group).

    Here’s another question if you’re still taking them. How do you manage the grocery shopping thing in New York? Fresh Direct perhaps? I live in an apartment and my pantry’s overflowing. How’s yours?

  6. deb

    Janna — The flan never set–even after well over an hour baking–and ended up sloshing all over the place in the cab. It was really gross in the end, even though it smelled heavenly. There were some things in the fennel which I still cringe to think about, and hoped to spare you. If you look really, really carefully–and I seriously recommend that you do not–you might see one, but please don’t. No good will come of it.

    Abi — Will do! I try to buy just what we need as we need it from whatever stores we pass on the way home from work, but we still have an over-stuffed pantry due to my flour/sugar/dried legume/vinegar/oils habit.

  7. Connie

    is it a wormy thing? dried up maggot? what? you have my curiousity peaked and i must know! otherwise i’m going to continue staring into that picture and hallucinating tiny creatures.

  8. Q&A is fun! I have a question…. Have you ever considered getting a portable dishwasher? I think I’m going to give myself the gift of one for Christmas because the dishes I pile up from testing blog recipes are driving me (and D) nuts! My kitchen’s so tiny but I’ve seen ones that have butcher blocks on top…

  9. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers is pretty nice. It calls itself a “compendium of recipes and cooking lessons” and has some lovely photos, as well. I just got it via a publishing friend, and it’s got lovely prose, too.

  10. Now you have us all curious – it’s like the trainwreck effect! (i vote it was bugs)… but sorry for the disaster. I’m sad it’s the end of the month, I’ve really enjoyed your NaBloPoMo posts!

  11. Dancer who eats

    Thanks for the answers. Funny thing that for a party I will pre-chop but it never occurred to me to do that for weekly cooking. I’m very silly. Thanks for the ideas and they will be very helpful in the kitchen.

  12. Susie

    I’ve just about made myself blind with eyestrain trying to see a bug in the fennel seeds. I even asked my teenage son if he could enlarge the picture for me. No luck. But rest assured, living in the tropics here in South Florida brings us lots of little varmints too. I too will miss your (almost) daily blogs. It’s been so much fun to read something new (almost) everyday. I still don’t understand how you can come home from work and just whip up Ravioli with Radicchio & Speck. And, uh, what’s speck? I think I may have known at one point, but those brain cells were obviously destroyed last weekend – washed out to sea in a flood of pinot grigio.

  13. deb

    Aw, you guys have been terrifically sweet about the daily posting, and entirely forgiving of my lapses. Can I come work for you?

    In an ideal world, I’d post five times each week. In reality, it is usually three. (In fact, it has only been less than three one or two weeks ever–go me!)

    If I could find me a great WordPress developer for hire–shoot me an email if you know of one!–I’ve got some new features I’d like to add to the site that will allow at least something new each day. Hopefully in the new year…

    In the meanwhile, one of the things that has been slowing me down this month is actually something I have up my sleeve for next month, so even with an imperfect NaBlo, it will hopefully be a win-win for readers.

  14. French fries are one of the most wonderful foods ever. In 2005, my motto was “no meal without fries in ’05!” Then that appeared to carry over into ’06, and ’07… Have you been to South America? THAT is where the perfect French fry lives. I’m going to stop myself before I take over the comment section, but oh. Oh man.

    And if you ever find someone who can figure out WordPress, I’d love to know who they are too! I flung myself on the mercy of friends and looked at sites I love, trying to piece something together…

    Looking forward to more great posts and beautiful photos.

  15. Sue

    Fun stuff. I second the fries. For me in NY, Les Halles always was my fave for perfect fries, every time. Throw in some good french onion soup and I am there.

    And if you liked the shredded rib sandwich at R.U.B., let me turn you on to the pulled pork sandwich at Wilson if you are ever in LA. It is astoundingly good, probably worth the eventual heart attack. (

  16. sally struthers

    I lived next door to this guy in college. Not sure if you have ever heard of him — I bought Apple Pie and Fried Chicken. Great reads, with recipes included. I kept Fried Chicken but gave Apple Pie to my former roomate (when we lived nextdoor to John). Not sure if it would help you on the quest to the perfect pie.

  17. Somehow I picked up your blog on my webstats–I don’t know why, perhaps divine intervention, as since I checked on the route, I can’t miss stopping by…My first blog addiction. How modern. Thank you for a delightful, tasty interlude. How do you take these gorgeous pictures? The light is especially wondrous. Thanks.

  18. Deb,

    Thank you for all of your wonderful November posts. Your blog has inspired me in so many ways–mainly to break out of my same-old-recipe routine. But also to start my own blog (where I recently wrote about your pizza dough and tomato sauce recipe).

    Also, I second the recommendation for the Zuni Cafe cookbook. The recipe for the Roasted Chicken alone makes the book worth the purchase.

  19. I second the recommendation of chopping things up in advance. When I bring home the groceries I immediately take out all the vegetables I plan on using for meals that week, and peel/slice/chop them all up at once. It’s kind of relaxing and you work up a rhythm that way. Some things can’t be cut up in advance, but most can, and cooking dinner on a weekday night is a lot less intimidating when the tedious chopping part has already been done.

  20. Nikki

    I know you’ve been working on the perfect apple pie. The recipe in our family that wins hands down over all others includes a crumb topping, a specific variety of apples, and a few hard learned tricks. If you’re interested, I’m happy to share it – but I know double crust vs. crumb topping is an intensely personal decision and I won’t be offended.

    And, fries are one thing, but I’d run into traffic for some sweet potato fries. You?

  21. irish

    Loved the Q & A. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You are ……. I don’t know how to say this……..I’ll just go with wonderful in the Q & A.

    I enjoy your blog always but there is something magical about this form of writing for you. Thanks ……’s great.

  22. Kathryn

    Have to admit, I’m another person killing my eyes trying to figure out what the heck is in the fennel. I’m almost waiting for something to jump out at me like those ridiculous trick photos, haha. (Also, you can enlarge the picture on Flickr — enlarge any page, actually — by pressing “Ctrl” + “+” onyour keyboard.)

    Also, I know I’m not a regular commenter, but I’m an avid reader, and I’m especially loving the Q&A! I feel like such a slacker not making every single thing you post about, since you make it look so easy. =)

  23. French fries could be a major food group for me if I let them. Posting a picture like that is evil for those of us stuck at work!

    I always have a wish list of cookbooks a mile long. They’re the one thing I consider I can never have too many of (I say now…)

  24. Lisa

    Oh, golly, I think we have your fennel problem too. Pulled out some rice last night to go alongside some yummy Basque-style shrimp my fella makes, but the bag was a little, errr, cobwebby. We decided on quinoa instead — in a sealed jar, that one! — but noticed as we began to saute it in a little butter that it was really no better off. Sigh. We go through grains like this fast, so they hadn’t been sitting around for very long — I really think there’s no conquering the little beasties, at least not in our kitchen. At this point in the dinner prep we were just so hungry, and other parts of the meal were done … we decided some extra protein would be just fine.

  25. April

    Had to do this! The best noodle kugel ever! My daughter wants this for the holiday…

    1/2 lb. wide egg noodles
    1 8oz. cream cheese
    1/2 cup butter
    2 cups milk – heated, but not boiling
    4 eggs – beaten
    6 tblsp sugar
    Pinch Salt
    Raisns (optional)

    2 cups crushed corn flakes
    1/4 cup sugar mixed with tsp. cinnamon/pats butter

    Blend eggs into cooked noodles.
    Add milk, cream cheese, butter and mix.
    Add sugar
    Add salt
    Put into buttered 9X13 pyrex
    Sprinkle Corn Flakes and sugar/cinammon mixture over top. Put pats of butter on top.
    Bake for 45 minutes @ 375 degrees.


  26. I’m guessing that there are bugs in the fennel, but I’ve been staring at the picture for long it’s starting to look like a magic-eye picture, so I’m giving up.

    I love gross stories so I feel sad about this mystery! :D

  27. Grace

    the Epicurious recipe seems very interesting……you need the natural liquid daikons release. Haha I guess i’m just used to the”pungent” smell everyone complains about.
    Anyways, I LOVE you blog!!!!! I’ve tried too many things to count!:)

  28. Linda Sapp

    Many, many years ago my parents and I visited some people and had an appetizer that is really bothering me because I can’t recall the ingredient. It’s some sort of chopped liver dish and has dates in it. I believe it also has hard-boiled eggs in it but I’m not positive about that. Have you ever heard of or tasted something like that?
    Thank you so very much and I really love your emails.