The Most Sensual Diet

Photo Credit: Elena Paravantes The health benefits of the lusty Mediterranean diet have been touted for years but perhaps never as persuasively as in the recent New York Times article written by Gina Kolata. A regime of olive oil, fish, nuts, beans, vegetables, fruit, and wine (a glass a day), has been proven to reduce heart attacks and strokes among people at high risk for them in a statistically significant way in a study conducted by Dr. Ramon Estruch, a professor of medicine at the University of Barcelona. The magnitude of the findings was so illuminating that the study ended five years earlier than anticipated. The study affirmed that following a Mediterranean diet as described above had enormous benefits while, quite astonishingly, following a low-fat diet "was not shown in any rigorous way to be helpful." In addition to eating fish, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, the 7,447 participants in the study were also advised to reduce their intake of dairy, processed meats, and commercially processed sweets.

The Mediterranean plan is not so much about weight loss as it is a formula for living longer. It is also so much easier and enjoyable to maintain than many other diet plans which eliminate large swaths of fresh food groups. It is "inclusive" rather than extreme and faddish. This cuisine naturally exists in areas whose coastlines hug the Mediterranean, including Spain, Greece, Cyprus, parts of Italy and France, and many Middle Eastern countries. And it would behoove us all to take a look at Nancy Harmon Jenkins seminal book called "The Mediterranean Diet," written almost 20 years ago. It is as valid as ever and the most sensual way I know to take charge of your health every single day.

Interestingly, at the same time the results of this study are circling the globe, we are reading Michael Moss's new book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Mr. Moss is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who implores us to fight back from the pernicious addictiveness of processed food created by big food companies. Moss demonstrates how food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the "bliss point" of sugary drinks or enhance the "mouthfeel" of fat by altering its chemical composition. Personally I find a pile of fat asparagus grilled on rosemary branches and doused with extra-virgin olive oil far more enticing than any bag of chips or doodles. And a sweet ripe pear with a handful of walnuts (also in the news this week) make a pretty alluring alternative to Ring Dings.

One More Pot Roast (with a Secret)

I was prompted by this week's article in the New York Times about the health benefits of fermented foods, and by the timing of the year -- where there's a brisket in almost every pot -- (during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), to share this recipe with you.  It's my Pot Roast with Burnt Onions & Kimchee, first published in Radically Simple two years ago. It is an awesome dish that can be made with brisket, flanken, short ribs, or even beef cheeks.  It may be a bit of a challenge for those of you who keep strictly Kosher (not sure about the availability of Kosher sake and Kosher kimchee) but short of that, this lusty dish fits the requirements of the holiday table very nicely.  It is a gorgeous accompaniment to potato kugel and not at all bad with a tangle of bitter-edge broccoli rabe.  It's a little something "new" under the sun.

But perhaps the gastronomic benefits go way beyond its taste.  According to Sandor Katz (author of "The Art of Fermentation") in Jeff Gordinier's fabulous article "Better Eating, Thanks to Bacteria" -- Mr. Katz believes that bacteria caused by fermentation has not only changed the course of civilization but that "a diverse variety of probiotic bacteria in our guts" go a long way in keeping us very healthy.  Quite honestly, I am not sure what happens to the inherent properties of kimchee when cooked so, if in doubt, eat a little uncooked kimchee as you go along.

Pot Roast with Burnt Onions & Kimchee

Try to find a thick second-cut brisket for the most luscious results, but a first-cut will also do nicely.  Be sure to leave a 1/4-inch layer of fat on top.  Kimchee, a fermented Korean vegetable slaw, is available in the refrigerated section of most Asian food markets.

4-pound brisket 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 pounds onions, very thinly sliced 1-1/4 cups sake 1 cup kimchee 1 fresh bay leaf

Season the brisket with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, brown the meat all over.  Remove from the pot.  Add the onions to the pot and cook over high heat until soft and very dark, about 15 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the sake, scraping up browned bits.  Scatter the kimchee over the onions; place the meat on top.  Add another 1/2 cup of sake and the bay leaf; bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 2-1/2 hours.  Transfer the meat to a cutting board.  Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and boil 5 minutes, adding the remaining 1/4 cup sake and salt and pepper.  Slice the meat 1/4-inch think across the grain and return to the pot.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes until the meat is tender.  Discard the bay leaf.  Serves 6 or more

Culinary Intelligence

Just as I was about to extol the many virtues of Peter Kaminsky's new book, brilliantly titled, Culinary Intelligence:  The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well), I happened upon a dose of Culinary Insanity in the food pages of the New York Times. In an article about an exemplary initiative to teach doctors about nutrition, a recipe appears that is so unhealthy as to render the project questionable. Who's in charge here? Who makes the decisions about what is healthy? And why would anyone choose a drink that contains more sugar than a Coke to illustrate the idea behind healthful food consumption? Not only does the simple recipe for limeade contain 24 grams of refined white sugar per serving (that's 90 calories worth of sugar alone), but it is made with peanuts which may trigger a bout of allergies for some. Really, what were they thinking? It reminds me a bit of the book Why French Women Don't Get Fat -- where the premise is certainly laudable -- eat small portions of delicious things -- but, alas, there was not a nutritional analysis in sight and many of the recipes that looked healthy were not, even in petit portions. As I have written several books on healthy eating, Healthy 1-2-3, Low Carb 1-2-3 (the only book with recipes that are low carb and low cal), and Eat Fresh Food:  Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs, I know the many vicissitudes in creating recipes that are healthy and delicious.  It comes with decades of experience working with nutritionists, clinical herbalists, and creating one of the country's first "spa cuisines" at the Rainbow Room many years ago. The program extolled in the New York Times  -- a joint effort of the Harvard School of Public Health, the Culinary Institute of America, and Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives created by Dr. Eisenberg eight years ago, to teach young medical professionals about healthy cooking -- is certainly worthwhile.  It is a good idea for doctors to know something about the relationship between food and nutrition.  Yet it is incumbent upon anyone who invokes the BRAND of healthy cooking to define its terms and make sure the public gets the right information.

That said, there's a wonderful juncture of ideologies in Peter Kaminsky's Culinary Intelligence (published next month by alfred A. Knopf) and Dr. Eisenberg's approach to healthy food.  It's all about flavor.  Dr. Eisenberg says "flavor is a health issue," and Mr. Kaminsky unfurls a culinary marker called FPC, or flavor per calorie.  If we satisfy our cravings with fresh foods that maximize flavor, then we might be sated with less and enjoy our food more.   Many studies have shown that processed foods, full of unpronounceable additives, do not satisfy us either gastronomically or spiritually, and actually create the desire for more, and more, of the unhealthy stuff. Mr. Kaminsky, a well known food writer and critic, was rejected from a life insurance policy because he was pre-diabetic. And that is what led him to write his treatise. It is not a diet book, but a book about pursuing the pleasures of the table as the path to good health. I think Dr. Eisenberg would agree.  But they depart here:  Mr. Kaminsky says the three most important foods or ingredients to avoid are sugar, refined (white) flour, and trans fats; while Dr. Eisenberg eschews butter (note: butter can be used with culinary intelligence as it is a terrific flavor carrier and a little goes a long way), and seems to be okay with sugary drinks (i.e. today's recipe for Peanut Limeade.)   Culinary Intelligence also pursues the deep complex flavors imparted by umami (a flavor-enhancing glutamate that exists in many foods -- known as the "fifth taste"), and the soul-satisfying approach to healthy food by the simple notion of mindfulness and pleasure and, of course, using great ingredients.

Needless to say, good health is also about good exercise.  I just learned this morning that after 28 days in "Boot Camp" my son lost 10 pounds, 1% of body fat, and 3 inches off his waist line!

The bottom line is that not only should doctors know about healthy recipes, and that nutritionists should know how to cook, but chefs who promote healthy food need to learn something about nutrition.  Kaminsky's "Culinary Intelligence" would be a great place to start.

French Meal as National Treasure

Something's in the air. Perhaps a whiff of French cooking. This month's issue of Food & Wine magazine is devoted to the new French Classics and the New York Times' food section featured the cookbook "La Cuisine de la Republique" with recipes from members of the French National Assembly. The book, authored by deputy Francoise Branget from the center-right of Sarkozy's party, was the finishing touch, or celebration really, of her campaign to unite the Left and Right in a national cause:  the promotion of French gastronomy.  And I quote (from the article by Elaine Sciolino), "Food is so much a part of France's identity that the government led a successful campaign last year to win United Nations recognition of the French meal as a national treasure."  Can Italy be far behind? That said, many years ago I wrote an article called "So What's a French Restaurant, Anyway" for the Daily News.  I will try to locate it but I remember how the semaphores of French cuisine were slowly vaporizing like the molecules of a slowly simmering stock. And yet today, there is a trickle of French-i-ness afoot. The prototypical La Mangeoire, under the direction of 4-star cooking maestro Christian Delouvrier has just received a face lift, as has the four-star Le Bernardin, now designed by Bentel & Bentel. The original look by uber-designer Phil George, certainly stood the test of time and helped create the ambiance that became part of the restaurant's gestalt. I understand Mr. George just dined at Le Bernardin and gave a nod of approval to the new surroundings. He also said the food was very, very good, indeed.

Not long ago, we had the pleasure of dining at La Mangeoire and were greeted by a gentler, happier chef who no longer had to live up the exalted expectations of four-star dining.  We were so pleased to eat mussels, great frites, and calves liver and be enchanted by chocolate mousse. Nowadays, I see the "comeback crepe," and on a bus, just today, passed by the ancient Les Sans Culottes from New York's theatre district, now on the East side. I never imagined the simple French concept could sustain itself all these years.

Although the "La Cuisine de la Republique" features some pretty remote recipes from little-known regions and lesser-known food stuffs (hare, pork head, and potatoes on a slice of pig skin), the sentiment that should unite our countries is sound.  "It is our national responsibility to cook and to eat well."  Viva la France.

To that end, I suggest you try my Almost-Confit Chicken from Radically Simple, or this radically simple cake "Gateau Creusois" from the New York Times.  I will be making it this weekend.  Might be nice with a pile of fresh raspberries or thinly sliced plums or peaches from the farmer's market. Not bad with a glass of cassis. Bon chance and bon appetit.

Gateau Creusois (adapted from Jean Auclais' in "La Cusine de la Republique and from the New York Times, 9/14/11)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring pan 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, plus more as needed pinch of salt 1/3 cup finely ground hazelnuts 3 large egg whites 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled oil for greasing pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil an 8-inch cake pan and dust with flour.  In a medium bowl, sift together 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and salt. Add hazelnuts and mix well. Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. Pour the sifted mixture evenly over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold together once or twice.  Add the butter and continue to fold until just blended.  Scrape into the cake pan and smooth the surface. Bake until light golden, about 18 to 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes, then transfer cake from pan to a rack to finish cooling.  Before serving, sift confectioners sugar on top.  Serves 6

Grilled Fruit and Watermelon Burgers

There is no way that "a watermelon burger" wouldn't grab the attention of, well, almost anyone. That is exactly what happened with the story in the New York Times magazine section this past Sunday (July 10, 2011.) Written by Mark Bittman, it pushed the envelope of what to grill that might tantalize anyone who didn't eat grilled meat, or raw meat, for that matter. I would definitely venture to try any of his alternative protein-ate ideas -- sweet potato planks, jicama rafts, and cabbage steaks, too, but wished that the watermelon slices were round instead of triangular, you know, somehow, more "burger-like."

In truth, I've been grilling fruit for the past 31 years, when in 1980, the Daily News did a feature story about a roof-top meal I cooked for then-restaurant critic, Arthur Schwartz. I made four different kinds of grilled ribs (pork, beef, lamb, and veal) and paired each with a grilled fruit, including nectarines, pears, pineapple and plums. It was special alone that I took my hibachi on the roof on my apartment -- not too many people were doing that, then. Later that year, when I was consultant to the quirky Manhattan restaurant Caliban's -- famous for its wine list and literary, motorcycling owner Harry Martens -- I ventured to put a slice of sweet, chewy, charred pineapple under a juicy rare duck breast and will never forget the dismay of a New York Times reporter who deemed the idea "dangerous." To this day, I'm not sure why (in fact, the enzyme bromelain in pineapple actually helps digest food and the acidity in the fruit acts as a welcome mat for the fatty duck.) Anyway, times have changed, and clearly watermelon is the new tomato.

As much as I enjoy grilling the unexpected, one of the summer recipes I love most is one that I created for Bon Appetit more than ten years ago. My "Grilled Vegetables Salsa Verde" has you marinating thick slices of potato (unexpected), asparagus, scallion, big beefy mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers and red onions, in a marinade of salsa verde, extra-virgin olive oil, cumin and cilantro. The vegetables sit in this mixture, absorb the great flavors, then get grilled to perfection. Now, thanks to Mark, I may slip in some jicama, pineapple, and watermelon, too.

Grilled Vegetables “Salsa Verde”

2 cups prepared salsa verde, mild or medium 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 teaspoons ground cumin 1 large bunch cilantro 3 large Yukon gold potatoes 4 medium zucchini, about 6 ounces each 4 medium red onions 2 red and 2 yellow large bell peppers 8 fat asparagus or scallions 3 large portabello mushrooms

Put salsa verde, olive oil, cumin and ½ packed cup chopped cilantro in bowl of food processor. Process until thoroughly blended.  Wash and dry vegetables. Scrub potatoes and slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and then crosswise. Cut onions in half through the equator. Cut peppers lengthwise into sixths and remove seeds. Trim ends of asparagus or scallions. Quarter mushrooms. Place all vegetables in a large bowl and cover with marinade. Let marinate a minimum of 2 hours. Light the barbecue. When hot, place vegetables on grill and cook on both sides until tender. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn often. Drizzle some of the remaining marinade over top. Garnish with coarsely chopped cilantro.  Serves 8

The Brilliance of George Lang

When I was 19 years old, and a student at Tufts University, I got a phone call from my mother who told me about a fascinating man she’d heard on the radio that day. He was Hungarian (as was my mother), cultured and worldly, who knew much about food and dining, and had an interesting job. "He is a restaurant consultant!" she exclaimed,  "Maybe that's something for you to think about.  He has his own company and creates restaurants all over the world.  And he loves a good dobos torte!" Although at that time I was consumed by my passion for food and restaurants, had already been a bartender at 16 (I was tall for my age), had waitressed at a Viennese pastry shop in Harvard Square, and worked in the kitchens at The Harvest restaurant, I knew nothing about this fascinating career choice.  I was on track, at that time, to become a psychologist (with a double major in psychology and education.)  But as life would have it, I became a restaurant consultant, and also the companion to Jenifer Harvey, the day that George Lang fell in love with her, when he took us on a tour of the Culinary Institute of America, many years ago. On the way back to the city,  I rode in the front seat with Mr. Ryan, the chauffeur, while George and Jennifer talked shop in the back.   What a time it was!  A time of innocence, and confidences. George was one of the most interesting men I would ever know. Brilliant, urbane, cultured, a story-teller, clever, I believed he felt his role in daily life was to amuse and ignite the imagination of others. You never left scratching your head with his worldly references, instead you wanted to scratch his.  He was, for all his might, adorable.  A brilliant musician whose best friend was the cellist Janos Starker, I ran out to buy an album of Starker's, and tried to learn what I could. I was also a cellist and longed to have that connection to George. George's knowledge of food, wine, history, culture, music, the arts, the art of dining, the art of cooking, was legendary (and very well expressed in William Grimes' tribute to George in yesterday's New York Times), but for me he represented, for awhile, the soul of a generation of Hungarians who were lucky enough to flee during the Holocaust (while sadly much of his family, and mine, and thousands of others did not.) I grew up with George's encyclopedic cookbook in my mother's kitchen. It was the benchmark for tastes and flavors my mother had remembered, but more importantly, it was the conduit to a past I would never know. We thought of George every time we ate a bowl of cabbage and noodles, went out to Mrs. Herbst in search of cabbage strudel, or ventured to Cafe des Artistes for a special celebration.  It was one of my parents' favorite places.  I loved going just to eat the hard-boiled eggs at the  bar. It was "so George." In my own small way, I was a bit of a disciple. Whatever George did, I wanted to eat thereof.

I loved his restaurant "Hungaria" in midtown with its whimsical "salami tree." I was ecstatic to celebrate my 40th birthday at the ultra-glamorous Gundel in Budapest on New Year's Eve, eat the food of the women at Bagolyvar next door, and try to find the cafe in the opera house that George had a hand in. Instead we wound up eating, unwittingly, with the cast in their garb, in the employee cafeteria! Once, George asked me a question to which he had forgotten the answer.  I said, "Alkermes, George." That's the answer." (He wanted to be reminded of the red bitter aperitif used in Italy to moisten cake.) It was George who taught me about the wonderful, and esoteric, cheese from Switzerland called "tete de moines" (the monk's head which needed a special apparatus for shaving off shards that looked like fans...or butterflies.)

I learned from George to be curious, open, and take chances. He was always supportive. He came to the opening of The Cafe I created at Lord & Taylor in the early 1980's and told me to read the work of Helen Corbitt (the woman who created the famous Zodiac dining room in Neiman Marcus in Dallas.) He came to Lavin's -- one of the city's culinary hot spots in those days -- to sample the menu I created. He brought James Beard with him to have lunch with me there.  He loved the "Carpaccio Gold" and the new spin I put on familiar dishes.  He also loved that we had an all-women kitchen, I believe, one of the city's first. We drank Bulls Blood together (Egri Bikaver -- one of Hungary's most famous wines) and much later sampled some of the wonderful wines he was producing from his vineyards in Hungary.  And one day, George called and asked me to come work with him. It was the same week I began to work with Joe Baum, George's dear colleague. George said that's where I should stay.

George Lang emanated brilliance.  Whimsy.  A life of the mind and of the senses.  He even invented a few of his own.

I Dream of Cooking with Ferran

Several weeks ago, I went to the premiere of a movie (that is soon to open at the Film Forum) called El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, about the life and times of cooking in the kitchen at El Bulli in northern Spain (in the Catalan province of Girona). El Bulli, and its maestro, Ferran Adrià, have been awarded the best restaurant in the world status five times (by the S. Pellegrino "World's 50 Best Restaurants" award) and as the 2010 "Chef of the Decade," respectively. After seeing the movie, remarkable in some ways as it was (sometimes repetitive in others), I decided that Adrià and I had nothing in common -- that his brilliance as an innovator in the orbit of molecular cuisine was truly part of his psyche and soul. It was a world that I dare not enter. That style of food, for me, sorely missed the swoon factor.  Never did it make me hunger.  Just curious.

Other chefs have also ventured there and have made big names for themselves -- Wylie Dufresne, Grant Achatz, and most spectacularly, Nathan Myhrvold (you must read this amazing article about him, written by the brilliant writer Jerry Adler -- in a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine.)  But an article in the New York Times Magazine two days ago, about the "real Ferran Adrià," in fact, did make me swoon, as did the simple recipes he shared.  According to Mark Bittman, the writer of the story, Ferran's "own preference (for food) lies in the realm of extremely simple fare." And it was surprising (if not heartening) to learn that Ferran's upcoming cookbook explores the realm of "cuisine simple" and "cuisine traditionelle" -- styles he warmly embraces and cooks for his staff. Ferran seems to love authenticity as much as the next guy, wavering between dishes that are radically simple (steamed mussels with garlic, parsley, flour!, and paprika) to others that have only three ingredients!  Those include the dishes of his favorite restaurants in the town of Roses (the next town over from El Bulli), that specialize in nothing more than "impeccable local shellfish, olive oil, (salt), and occasionally lemon. And like me, "he's in love with the transformation you can force on ingredients to make them change shape and form." I want to believe this reference was about simplicity and not the avant-garde cooking for which he has become known.

How I would love to go to Ferran's new "laboratorio" and create three-ingredient recipes side-by-side.  Or merely explore the realm of radical simplicity together. How could you not love a guy who grills bread, grates chocolate on top of it, then drizzles it with olive oil and salt?  Now that's my kind of cooking.

Bread With Chocolate and Olive Oil (From Ferran Adrià)

Time: 15 minutes

6 thick slices country-style bread (about 10 ounces total)

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60 percent cocoa), coarsely grated. (A Microplane is not essential, but it helps.)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

1. Heat the oven to 325. Put the bread on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Spoon the chocolate over the toast in a thin, even layer. Drizzle the toast with the oil and sprinkle with the salt. Serve.

Yield: 6 servings.

Super Tender Lamb R-r-r-riblets

Last weekend in the New York Times Sunday magazine (June 26, 2011), was a nice food story, written by Sam Sifton, featuring glazed lamb ribs. Quite accurately, Sam observes that, heretofore, lamb ribs were rarely offered on restaurant menus and hardly ever in the supermarket. Yet, now, in 2011, restaurants such as DBGB, Casa Mono and Recette are serving them -- slow-cooked, grilled, deep-fried, confit, strewn with exotic spices, Moroccan lemon pickles, glazed, or cooled with a variety of yogurt sauces (including an intriguing sounding one -- smoked yogurt -- from Recette).

Enter Little Meals:  A Great New Way to Eat & Cook, published in 1993, where one of the first recipes for lamb ribs was ever published.  I always loved them and made arrangements with butchers, when possible, to prepare them for me.  Lamb ribs come from the breast plate of the animal and can be simply separated rib by rib.  They are very fatty, but at the same time, they are moist and succulent and very forgiving if you overcook them or even undercook them! They are everything one loves about ribs to begin with, only with a bit of funk and mystery.

My "slow-barbecued" riblets have a pungent sweet-and-sour glaze that turns an inexpensive cut of meat into the ultimate finger food.  Serve with tiny baked sweet potatoes for a very interesting combination and garnish with some mustard cress. Orange-Ginger Lamb Ribs (adapted from Little Meals) Have your butcher cut between the bones of the ribs to make individual ribs.  Dated 1993.  In 2011, I add a splash of Sriracha sauce to the marinade.

1 cup orange juice 1/3 cup hoisin sauce 3 tablespoons honey 1/4 cup soy sauce 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 4 large cloves garlic, finely minced 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger 3 pounds lamb ribs

Combine orange juice, hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, mustard, garlic and ginger and stir well.  Pour over the ribs. Cover and marinate several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Remove ribs from the marinade and transfer marinade to a saucepan.  Place ribs on a broiler pan fitted with a rack. Cover tightly with foil and bake 45 minutes.   Bring marinade to a boil and cook 10 minutes until syrupy.  Remove foil and bake 45 minutes longer, basting the ribs frequently with the marinade (using a pastry brush.)  Serve garnished with cress, wedges of oranges, and remaining marinade.  Serves 4

Drink your favorite beer or a big, fruity tempranillo or syrah. Que syrah, syrah, as they say. Enjoy!

Radically Simple Wins Nomination!

My newest book Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease was nominated for a coveted James Beard Award yesterday.  The book, my 12th, was published by Rodale late October 2010 and has garnered lots of wonderful attention.  It was chosen by People magazine, Food & Wine magazine, Good Morning America, and the New York Times as one of the best cookbooks of the year.  My favorite mention of all, however, was in the New York Times holiday book review, when the writer, Christine Muhlke (now the new editor of Bon Appetit) likened my work to that of Rene Redzepi (this year's #1 chef in the world -- owner of Noma restaurant and author of the Noma Cookbook).   The James Beard Awards are considered the "Oscars" of the food world and I'm honored to have received four of them.  Three for my cookbooks -- Little Meals, Recipes 1-2-3, and Entertaining 1-2-3 (Healthy 1-2-3 was nominated) -- and one award for a recent radio show that I did with Leonard Lopate on WNYC called "The 3-Ingredient Challenge."   This year, Radically Simple was nominated in the general cooking category along with The New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and The Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis.  Both wonderful books.  The Awards ceremony takes place on May 6th.  Stay tuned.  But as they say in Hollywood,"win or not, it's great to be nominated."   Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

Best Cookbooks of 2010

I must say how delighted I am -- and how unexpected it was -- to have Radically Simple reviewed in Sunday's New York Times Book Review and then again in yesterday's New York Times dining section.  It was a rich year for cookbooks and so it was especially rewarding to be recognized.  Julia Moskin was the author of yesterday's review.  On top of a hand-held tray of a stack of ten books, was the story's title:  Inspiration, Anyone?  Subtitle: What the cook ordered -- a fresh batch of recipes.  And I suppose that's what we're all looking for.  I was not familiar with all the books on that tray and appreciated having them pointed out to me.  I am a big fan of chef David Tanis, whose sensibility about food is sometimes as radically simple as mine. His book, "The Heart of the Artichoke" is a lovely sequel to "A Platter of Figs."  I look forward to Madhur Jaffrey's book, I always do; I have had the pleasure of being a guest with Madhur on an NPR radio show not so long ago.  More recently, I have longingly gazed at a book called "India", divinely packaged in a white burlap rice bag.  How nice to know it's worth buying!  I look forward to purchasing "The Book of Tapas" by Simone and Ines Ortega (years ago our company created a tapas bar for the Hotel Arts in Barcelona), and Sarabeth Levine's beautiful book "Sarabeth's Bakery." I already own Dorie Greenspan's wonderfully evocative tome called "Around My French Table," and I am all too happy to read anything by Maya Angelou, especially something called "Great Food, All Day Long."

Here's an excerpt of what Ms. Moskin had to say:  "Rozanne Gold is the personal trainer of food writers: she has been on a strict regime of 1-2-3 cookbooks.  Her new book, Radically Simple (Rodale), has more flexibility, promising 'restaurant-worthy food without a single extraneous motion or ingredient.' She wrings stylish, streamlined, fabulous results with inspired combinations like avocado, lime and smoked paprika, and unexpected techniques, like roasting grapes, that restore drama to chicken breasts."

And I'm pleased that Quentin Bacon's photograph of  "Sauteed Chicken with Roasted Grapes" loomed so large on the page.  It looked really beautiful.  You will find the recipe in a previous blog.

Today I'll share the other recipe cited by Ms. Moskin.  It can be found in the chapter called "10-Minute Salads."

Spooned Avocado, Lime & Smoked Paprika This is a radically simplified version of guacamole that is very impromptu.  Serve it almost as soon as you spoon it.  Nice to serve with "batons" of crunchy jicama. Ripe avocados required!

4 very ripe medium avocados 2 to 4 large limes 20 grape tomatoes 1/4 large red onion, slivered 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, or more to taste 2 handfuls baby arugula 1/4 cup olive oil

Cut the avocados in half; remove the pits.  Using a large spoon, scoop large pieces into a large bowl.  Squeeze the juice of 2 limes over the avocado.  Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise.  Add the tomatoes and slivered onion to the bowl.  Add the smoked paprika and salt to taste.  Add the arugula; drizzle oil over everything.  Toss, adding more lime juice, salt, and smoked paprika to taste.  Serves 4

Holiday Book Review

I was delighted to return from my three-day retreat (I didn’t know it was to be silent!) to the special review of my cookbook in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review. My silence ended then and there. Below is one of the recipes mentioned in the review. Namaste.

ONION SOUP with APPLE CIDER & THYME (from Radically Simple)

This soup is dark and brooding and very reminiscent of the French classic. It tastes great as is, but it's especially pleasing when pureed until smooth.

1-1/2 pound large onions 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1-1/2 cups chicken broth 1-1/4 cups fresh apple cider 5 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more leaves for garnish 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cut the onions in half through the stem end. Cut lengthwise into thin slices. Melt the butter in a 4-quart pot. Add the onions and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened and very dark brown, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, cider and thyme sprigs, scrape the bottom of the pot and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring often, until the onions are very soft, 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Leave as is, or puree in a food processor until smooth. Sprinkle with the cheese and thyme leaves. Serves 6

You will find the recipe for Pork Loin in Cream with Tomatoes, Sage & Gin, referenced by Ms. Muhlke in tomorrow's post.