Category Archives: Cookware

We Have an Herbivoracious Cookbook Giveaway Winner!!!

Congratulations to Valerie Mabrey whom the Randomizer selected as the winner for this prize!!!!

Thank you to everyone who entered this giveaway!  I think that potato salad, in one version or another might have won over the other entries.  It’s one of my favorite things to bring to a picnic or cookout as well, but as I know that things with mayonnaise and other dairy sit out for hours at those events, I try to find versions of the dish that won’t become gloppy or toxic.  That’s why I really loved the recipe I made from this cookbook for Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto.  The vibrant colors are also seasonal and appealing.

Thank you, too, to the wonderful folks at the Harvard Common Press for the opportunity to have this giveaway and for the invitation to meet Michael Natkin in person when he was in New York promoting his book.

Buon appetito!

It’s My Blog’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my Blog!!!  It turns 6 years old today, which is kind of milestone in blog-land, as my friends keep pointing out to me.  What an interesting trip it has been from that very first post in 2005.  I’ve met so many super people along the way and have eaten a vast array of great food items, many of them Local Products found in the markets here in New York.  I really enjoy getting out to meet the folks whose passion has inspired them to create something edible and to develop a business around it.  I’m also completely in awe of the great cooks who show up at every Food Event with delectable treats in hand.  For me, finding out about and trying all of these things is the essence of the Experimental and the Gourmand part of my website name.

My files are much better organized than this, I promise!

Another other key component of the website is a feature that has been there since it began. My Recipe collection continues to grow with no end in site although it is more organized that it was when I started this project, which was one of the reasons for taking up writing this in the first place.  I’ve also migrated from testing recipes to developing a lot of my own original ones, more than 100 of them to date if my numbers are correct.  I’ve definitely broadened my knowledge base as far as technique and cuisine are concerned, but I also really enjoy the basics and making revamped versions of some of the dishes with which I grew up, as tackled in my Recipe Box Project.  The blog has helped me to put on “paper” some of the incredible Italian meals that I ate when I lived in Bologna, as well as new discoveries from my more recent travels.

Last year’s Christmas Dinner from my mom’s recipe card file

I’ve often been amazed and delighted with the fabulous bounty that comes into the local Markets; it inspires me in my cooking projects and gives me so much great material with which to work.  This has helped me to frame my site around trying harder to eat locally and seasonally.  I’ve realized, too, that I learned so much of what I know from hanging around my mother as she cooked, giving me those tiny, random Kitchen Witch Tips that I enjoy sharing and which just make a recipe turn out that extra bit better.

Happy Blog-A-Versary to me! (courtesy a sale at Williams-Sonoma)

The past six years have had their ups and downs, as followers can see from my posting cycle.  There are times when I thought about closing down the blog or putting it on a long hiatus while things in my personal and/or professional life were swirling around chaotically, but what has kept me going is having a place where I can be part of a community that immerses itself in a love of food, something about which I remain incredibly passionate, as have the kind comments I’ve received from readers and friends.  I look forward to many more posts where I get to indulge in the Experimental and Gourmand sides of culinary exploration and hope that you’ll be around to share this journey with me.

Buon appetito!

2011 Holiday Gifts for Food Lovers

Aahhh, the peaceful bliss of a radiator decorated for the holidays.  What could be more in spirit with the keeping of the season?  Actually, I didn’t want to fiddle with the whole tree thing this year and was able to pick up the branch trimmings from one of the street tree vendors, so I decided on more of a free form display than the traditional set-up with tree and ornaments.  This gave me plenty of time to go through my notes of all the amazing things that I tasted this year and to create this 2011 Holiday Gift List to give you some ideas for the food lovers and cooks among your loved ones.  Many of these items would also make wonderful hostess/host gifts throughout the year as well, so you might want to keep it handy for those last-minute treats to pick up at any time.


After purging my collection a number of years ago, I’m really careful to introduce new volumes to my bookshelves.  This year, however, there were several I wanted to pick up even before they hit the stores.  One of these was Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I’ve also had the pleasure of eating his food when I’ve had the opportunity to visit London and have been able to stop in at one of his restaurants.  There you can choose among all the gorgeous, delicious salads and sweets that are freshly made each day to build your meal, as I did in the photo above.

A cooking and food history book I was delighted to purchase this year was The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, who is one of my culinary heros.  In conjunction with the book, she gave a talk at the Culinary Historians of New York about her research, the people whom she met the course of her travels, and the recipes that they were willing to share with her to keep their cultural history alive.

The Food of Morocco is an incredible recipe and culinary resource that I also added to my collection this year.  Paula Wolfert created a beautiful work that captures the range and bounty of the cuisine of this fascinating country.  She also spoke at the Culinary Historians of New York this year where we were treated to some the dishes she mentions (click on the link to see those photos).

For a trip to the other side of the world complete with mouth-watering photos and recipes designed for the American kitchen, pick up a copy of Marja Vongerichten‘s The Kimchi Chronicles.  I had the pleasure of meeting Marja and of trying her food at a couple of different promotional events for the book.  The accompanying PBS series is one of the most gorgeously shot shows I have ever watched and makes you just want to jump through the screen to join them in their eating adventure.


Hands down, some of the most fun and lively handcrafted linens that I’ve seen in a while come from Claudia Pearson.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her at the Brooklyn Flea.  Each of her designs, whether in tea towel, calendar, or tote bag form would brighten up anyone’s home.

I splurged a bit and treated myself to one of these display boards by Brooklyn Slate.  The reclaimed materials make ideal platforms for cheese, hors d’oeuvres or whatever you would like.  They are attractive enough to be artworks in their own right.  For one of my family members, I also picked up their Cheese Survival Kit, which I think will make a perfectly appropriate gift for the person who keeps a separate all-cheese section in her refrigerator.

My dream gift (well, one of them anyway), would be one of these fabulous cutting boards from Brooklyn Butcher Blocks.  Built from reclaimed wood, each one is handmade and unique.  Maybe if I’m very, very, very, very good next year, Santa will bring me one of them.

Food Items

Honestly, I ate so many terrific things this year that it is hard to narrow this list down to just a few items.  After consuming mounds of sweets, piles of chocolates, meats, pickles, sauces, jams, preserves, syrups, and lots of other things in between, I don’t even know where to start.  Check out my Product Spotlight and Local Products tabs for posts about many of these things.  Not by way of biasing anyone, but here are the items that made the cut to get crammed into my luggage to go to traveling for the holidays plus the items that I’d squeeze in there if I could.

I have really enjoyed consuming all of P & H Soda Co.s soda creations during the course of this year, but Anton completely wowed me with the Chocolate Soda he made at the Grub Street/Hester Street event this fall.  He also create special, seasonal flavors like the Spicebrite with the aromas of the holidays.

As a fan of both the delicate meaty cashews of Nuts Plus Nuts and the crunchy sweet toffee of Lush Candy, it was a pleasure to introduce Cyrilla and Laurie, the respective company owners, to each other.  I sort of thought that there might be a collaboration that could develop, but I had no idea how incredible it would be.  The cashews, sugar, butter, and spices all blended perfectly together in Lush Candy‘s Indonesian Brittle which debuted at Smorgasburg this summer and made this one of the most delicious things that I ate all year.

If you had looked in my fridge at any point this year, you would have seen several flavors of Anarchy in A Jar‘s delicious and unique jams.  My favorites have been the summertime Blackberry & Lavender and the current contender for shelf space, the Wild Blueberry, but I’m leaving myself open to her new seasonal combinations.  These spreads with their deep fruit profiles blended with spices, herbs, and other seasonings make it worth it to get out of bed in the morning to tackle a new day, toast and jam in hand.

Many years ago, I was introduced to Stroopwafels by a Dutch friend.  It was love at first sight.  Only years after that did I discover that I have a strong Dutch lineage that I had never known about, so that might explain it.  Whatever the reason, The Good Batch‘s version in plain or cocoa flavor are close to my heart.  I picked up a package of each to take with me on my travels.  Check them out for other sweet treats as well, especially their big chewy, fragrant Ginger-Molasses cookies.

One of the other delicious delicacies that is going on my holiday voyage are the addictive spiced, candied orange peels from La Newyorkina.  Their sweet, tangy taste with a little kick of heat led me to devour the first pack I bought in record time.  Her summertime paletas (Mexican ice pops) are refreshing and make your tastebuds dance up and down for joy with their bright flavors.  She has released pumpkin seed brittle, chocolate truffles, and other goodies in time for the holiday season.

It was love at first bite when I tried Danny Macaroons earlier this year.  One taste of the Salted Caramel with its soft, moist, chewy mound of coconut drizzled with sweet, buttery caramel and a pop of salt, and I was hooked.  He has other creations that are delicious as well, but the original version remains my favorite.

Macaron Parlour makes the other kind of macarons which are also wonderful edible gifts.  These colorful 3-bite treats come in a range of flavors, not all of them traditional.  I introduced a fellow food blogger to their Candied Bacon with Maple Cream Cheese one, and she raved about it.  What is there not to enjoy about biting into a sweet that has a pillowy interior with a smooth filling filled with amazing flavors.

Hopefully, this list will help you find something for the food lovers on your holiday gift list.  There’s no way this short post can do justice to all the wonderful artisans and vendors out there who have created amazing products and delicious treats.  For additional items that would also make great presents, please check out my posts about the Brooklyn Flea, the Union Square Holiday Market, and the Columbus Circle Holiday Market or pop on by the Bryant Park Market (photo above).  You can also see my gift list from last year, as those items also remain on my “to have” list.  I have pictures from the Bust Craftacular last weekend, as well.  Many of the vendors I’ve mentioned sell on-line and in markets in the area, so please consult their websites to find out where to find them and for ordering information.  With gifts like these, it is sure to be a very happy holiday season, no matter how you celebrate it!

Buon appetito!

Special Discount Offer from Calphalon

Just to clarify, this is not a post sponsored by Calphalon.  It is, rather, an exclusive special offer for 10% off of the purchase of their products that they are sharing with me and readers of this site as a followup to their sponsorship of Eat, Write, Retreat, which took place this past weekend in Washington, DC.* I’ve been a long-time user of their pots and pans and was really excited at this chance to introduce you to their cookware, if you aren’t familiar with it.  The promotional code for is: C95926 (click to link to the site where you can use the code).  Thank you so much to them for sharing this opportunity with all of us!

(Clearance Items and Gift Certificates do not qualify. Excludes John Boos & Co. Cannot be combined with other special offers or applied to previous purchases. Terms subject to change. Offer valid through June 6th, 2011.)

In our goodie bags for the conference I attended this past weekend was a 12″ round non-stick griddle from the Unison line (above).  Just when I didn’t think that I needed anything else to add to my cookware collection, I decided to give this a try.  One of the most appealing points is that it can go in the dishwasher.  This means that I could have left it in the hands of my parents.  It also means that I can safely let other folks cook with it without having to give the care instructions that I always have to impart.  For those of you who have used their products in the past, you can recall that grey film that is instantly recognizable on the slate-colored surface of their pans when someone has washed them in the dishwasher.

When I was at my folks’ house after the conference, I took the opportunity to test-drive this pan.  Truthfully, I was too intrigued to wait to get back to New York to try it out.  One of the dishes I’ve always wanted to attempt is a potato-wrapped fish dish.  I could have cooked it in a regular non-stick skillet, but I thought that this might just be the perfect pan in which to make it.  I took a recipe that I’d seen Ann Burrell do on The Food Network and adapted it a bit.  Instead of the halibut, I used sockeye salmon.  Pretty much every other step was exactly the same.  So, it probably isn’t completely perfect in the placement of the potatoes, which is more my skill level, but I thought that the gorgeous crispiness of the exterior and the richness of the salmon went together perfectly.  Look at how beautifully it came out:

The pan was so easy to work with and cleaned up without any fuss at all.  I can see it being useful for all sorts of cooking projects.  The high sides  would make it ideal for cooking sauces. The nature of the technology is to conduct heat efficiently, so that you can cook at lower heats but still get the same lovely crusts and browning that you might have to work harder at with other pans.  At the 12″ size, it is roomy enough to hold several pieces of fish (like below) or meat or even cheese sandwiches to heat up.

As I mentioned, I’ve been using Calphalon for many, many years.  Their pans were the first high-quality cookware that I purchased when I was putting together my kitchen battery when I was living on my own after college. I’m not all that kind to my pots and pans (although I do religiously wash them by hand), and these have stood the test of time. You’ve seen the 10″ non-stick pan holding a Greenmarket Fritatta.  The stovetop grill pan is perfect for the Curried Lamb Burgers with Grilled Veggies, and the 8″ non-stick pan is just the right size for whipping up the Eggs with Sauteed Mushrooms, Spinach, and Taleggio for a special-treat breakfast (or even dinner).

Recently, I’ve also used some of their bakeware.  Buying their muffin tin for my Spiced Pumpkin-Pecan Muffins was a great step up from the battered non-stick one I’d had for years.  Brownies and Magic Cookie Bars have been baked in their 9×13″ cake pan, making lots and lots of people very happy.  Countless batches of cookies have reached that perfect crispy exterior/chewy, warm interior combination tickling the tastebuds and brightening even the most gloomy of days after being cooked on their non-stick jelly roll pan.  So, if you have been thinking about an upgrade to some of your baking materials, I can also attest to how well those work.

I haven’t really talked much in the past on this site about my favorite cookware, but I have to say that I’ve always found Calphalon products to work well and to be incredibly reliable. I also like that they are designed, if cared for properly, to last pretty much forever, unless you have a roommate who destroys them, as one of my former ones did.  This is why I am so happy to share with you this opportunity to add some of their products to your kitchen.  They are definitely worth the investment, as I discovered many years ago.

Buon appetito!

*By way of disclosure, I would like to add that Calphalon has also entered the participants in the Eat, Write, Retreat conference into a drawing for a dream kitchen giveaway.  If I win this, I will definitely share this result with you, my readers.

Ramp Butter Hamburger with Zucchini Ribbon Salad

The cooking magazines have been putting out their best summer recipes lately. I’ve been pulling lots of them to keep to try, as is my bad habit. Now that I’m not employed full time, I have been cracking down and making them instead of grabbing the occasional dinner at one of my neighborhood places.  So, yesterday, when I was craving a burger, I pulled out a page from Bon Appetit’s July issue. In it, they had a tip for filling the meat with a slab of compound butter, or butter mixed with herbs and seasonings. Serving steak with a melting pat of butter mixed with flavorings is not unusual in a restaurant but to make this at home seemed to me to be an interesting twist.
Then I recalled the few times my mother had done the same thing when I was a child. She’d fill the inside of a hamburger with a caper-dotted round of butter.  I loved that briny taste when I bit into the meat. I guess the other siblings didn’t like it because I don’t remember it being served except for a few times.  I decided that I wanted to try to make these myself. Fortunately, Whole Foods had had hamburger on special a week or so ago, and in my new economy, I had picked up some. I also had some garlic ramp butter in the freezer that I’d made a few months back when those items were in season. It was an experiment to see if these two things would go together. I followed the instructions on the page and proceeded to cook the burger as I would normally.  The end result was nothing short of wonderful.
As I chewed my first bite, the most luscious flavors coated my tastebuds. This was burger luxury. There was a deepness to the meet that wasn’t normally there. I think this must be because the butter (which had the ramps, salt, and pepper in it) seasoned the meat from the inside out so that there was a sort of basting going on while it was cooking. It sounds a bit weird and complicated, but you really need to try this. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat a burger cooked anyway else from now on.  The juices themselves were amazing, too. I kept sopping them up with the bun so as not to lose any of the meaty-buttery flavors. Something like this, however, needs a good counterpart to stand up to its luxuriousness. I found what I wanted in the most recent issue of Bon Appetit, which also enabled me to use up some other ingredients lingering in my fridge.
The Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts let me use up the last of the zucchini hanging around in my crisper drawer. I know that, as we are just at the start of the season, there will be more of those vegetables coming into my home so I’m always looking for new ways to prepare them. Instead of getting fresh basil, I decided to chuck in a cube of last season’s pesto that I had saved in ice cube trays. That way, I can clear out space for some from this year’s crops.
The salad was a crunchy, tangy, tasty counterpart to the richness of the burger.  It was also kind of fun to eat the long ribbons, and it was very different from the usual potato salad or coleslaw accompaniment. I had to grate the parmesan over it, using my handy Alessi grater, as I couldn’t manage to shave the cheese. That will be something to try for next time in addition to putting the recipe together the way the instructions actually say to do it. This was a great new summer lunchtime meal to add to my collection.

Buon appetito!

Iced Coffee Weather

While the temperatures have gone down from steamy and suffocating to merely hot and muggy, the number of articles about making iced coffee seem to have gone up. Being one of those who can’t pull herself together in the morning without my a.m. jolt of caffeine, I recently had to mothball my beloved Bialetti cappuccino maker for the season (best houseguest gift ever, by the way). I can’t even think about tossing down a hot beverage in this weather.

Last year, I started experimenting with making iced coffee to fill the caffeine gap. Opinions on the best way to brew this beverage seem to differ quite a bit. My method, created simply because I had a small Bodum French press that I’d brought back with me from living in Europe, is to make a slightly-stronger version what I’d make to drink the coffee hot, let it cool to room temperature on the counter, and then put in in the refrigerator overnight (without pushing down on the grounds) to be drunk in the morning.
The next day, I get up, pour in a bit of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated up until the sugar has dissolved) and some milk and then add the (now plunger-pressed) coffee to make a caramel-colored beverage that is cool, silky-smooth, and sweet. Just one sip sliding down my parched throat makes it worth it to get up and face another brutally hot day in the city.
Buon appetito!