Wish you could create a rooftop vegetable garden like Chef J.W. Foster of the Fairmont Hotel, in San Francisco? Get yourself a copy of Lauren Mandel’s EAT UP: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture. read more…
resources books + zines
This weekend when we go to the farmer’s market, we will have Tubetti Pasta with Asparagus, Morels and Fava Beans from Sally’s award-winning cookbook A New Way to Cook in mind. It the perfect spring-into-summer pasta recipe because it lends itself to endless improvisation, depending on what look’s best in the market, or how much energy we have.
It plays on an essential principle of improvisational cooking: most foods harvested in the same season — in this case asparagus, morel mushrooms, and various members of the pea family— have an affinity for one another.
The recipe is built on a basic technique: braising the vegetables in a flavorful fat and a little water, then tossing them together with small tubetti pasta and fresh herbs. If you’re pressed for time, use the essential method as a foundation and use only one or two of the vegetables or whatever else looks good in the market. Or swap out like vegetables: use other firm mushrooms like maitake instead of morels.
Shucking fava beans or peas can be a delight when done with friends, but if you’re pressed for time, frozen peas are a fine stand-in.
For those who want to improvise, here’s the basic approach: read more…
Keith Stewart is a writer despite himself. Even with the massive responsibilities and demands of his organic farm with it’s hundred or so varieties of produce, he has written regularly and wonderfully about the inside of farming and living a rural life, from numerous magazine articles to It’s a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quit the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life.
A couple of years ago, Keith embarked on summing-up the essentials he’d learned over decades of farming, having started from-scratch as an escapee from the city. It was a massive undertaking on top of the ever-changing, improvisational, exhausting, gratifying realities of farming. Storey’s Guide to Growing Organic Vegetables & Herbs for Market is the 500+ page result, a curiously compelling read for anyone with farm fantasies (realistic or not).
Reading Keith’s book, I find myself an avid armchair farmer, as much from happily learning about Seed Germination and Potable Water Tests as by the more general life principles scattered throughout the book (the hallmark of all of Keith’s writing), like Surprise, Excesses of Youth, Competing Forces and Looking After Number One. The honest, methodical thinking behind Twenty Points to Ponder before becoming a farmer, which include Deal Makers and Deal Breakers, could be applied to just about any business. I especially like Question Marks, which make for illuminating self-analysis. Here are a few: read more…
We are smitten with Lawrence E. Pierce‘s The Art of Fixing Things, principles of machines, and how to repair them: 150 tips and tricks to make things last longer, and save you money. The title and its very long blurb are not quite accurate however. The book is also a manual about MAKING things, tinkering, and the realities of the creative process. Beyond really smart, practical, concrete tips about restoring a stripped bolt, the virtues of aluminum, and how to keep paint from dripping down the can, Pierce, who has been a farmer, mechanic, handyman and litigation lawyer, also addresses mindset and process. Take Tip 68, for example:
Tip 68: Practice Breaking Things
When a difficult problem arises, set up a test on a similar part.
Let your destructive instincts run wild with spare parts. Then you will know how far you can go. read more…
Autoprogettazione, roughly translated “self design,” was a project and book by the modernist artist and designer Enzo Mari that gives instructions for building easy-to-assemble furniture — tables, chairs, bookshelves, wardrobe – using rough boards and nails. Originally published in 1974, it has been reprinted many times. Mari created the project because he thought
…if people were encouraged to build a table with their own hands…they would be able to understand the thinking behind it.
And if they understand the thinking behind it, just imagine what they could do…
Just leafing through Autoprogettazione makes us feel empowered to pick up a hammer. And we can’t help but think the rough boards Mari envisioned his readers using resemble – indeed could be culled from — the wood from shipping pallets.
Taking Mari’s basic approach and inspiration, many artist’s and designers have made their own iterations. We love Justin Beal‘s bed with a fab hot pink mattress, above. And we WANT Kueng Caputo’s Lampada lamp: read more…
Having an increasingly difficult time remembering things (and SO much to remember), we were very interested to read the Guardian’s How I learned a language in 22 hours about Joshua Foer‘s successfully learning an obscure language using a learning website called Memrise. Memrise bases their language courses on three essential principles, excerpted here from the very long and interesing piece:
The first is what’s known as elaborative encoding. The more context and meaning you can attach to a piece of information, the likelier it is that you’ll be able to fish it out of your memory at some point in the future. And the more effort you put into creating the memory, the more durable it will be. One of the best ways to elaborate a memory is to try visually to imagine it in your mind’s eye. If you can link the sound of a word to a picture representing its meaning, it’ll be far more memorable than simply learning the word by rote.
One of the best-demonstrated principles of memory read more…
(Video link here.) The first 20 seconds of this wacky video illustrates an essential tenet of improvisation – especially in cooking: the associations of ideas in your field of vision. Here, a classic breakfast next to a frozen pizza sparks the brilliant idea of a breakfast pizza. For us, it’s lead to the discovery that vanilla bean scrapings are delicious on avocados (with a little sugar), that a chunk of chocolate smeared with peanut butter = a peanut butter cup, that amaretti cookies and creme fraiche make a delightful cake for one; the peanut butter and dulce de leche make a stupendous “truffle” or cake filling; that bacon is a great substitute for some of the butter in a cake; that herb salt makes a great dusting for butter cookings. We’ve also found figs to be divine with salami, sugar to be great on olive-oil brushed toast, among about a million other revelations (many of which are in Sally’s The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook).
All it takes is TRYING out the combos you see before you and seeing if they work.
via Epic Meal Time
Related posts: midnight snack: peanut butter cups
recipe: dark chocolate cakelets with aromatic pepper and…….
late night forager: seven layer cake for one
brown sugar butter cookies with thyme-rosemary-lavender salt
fried egg formula for a satisfying breakfast (or lunch or dinner)
Some time ago, Michael Druzinsky, an acquaintance of mine who is a composer, emailed his friend Mark Bernstein, who created the idea-mapping softwear Tinderbox, to ask if he’d mind talking to me about his very interesting software. Michael forwarded Mark’s reply: “Sally Schneider’s book, A New Way to Cook, changed my life. I’ve given it to lots of people. I’d be delighted to meet her.” Wow. There is NOTHING like a good unsolicited compliment. Then I discovered that Mark had devoted a blog post to the A New Way to Cook, unsolicited. Mark GOT the book so well, I’ve excerpted his post.
I happened across Sally Schneider’s A New Way to Cookin a chain bookstore one day, just about three years ago. It’s very big and very broad, and The Joy of Cooking is clearly not far from its mind.
But while Joy of Cooking is a vast collection of recipes, A New Way to Cook is trying to explain a much smaller core of ideas, expressed in the form of recipes with variations. We have, for example, a core recipe for “braising small fish” or “rustic fruit tart”, and then examine a host of ingredients that we can add or subtract — and the changes that these additions and subtractions will require. In the fruit tart, for example, we might use apples or pears or strawberries (less water, more flour, add rhubarb) or blueberries (try a little thyme) or raspberries (even frozen — add more flour because they’re wet) or reconstituted dried apricots. It’s all the same idea.
And that’s a powerful idea, read more…
Tomorrow, December 5th, at midnight is the absolute final deadline for entering our giveaway of the great Canal House Cooks Every Day, Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s inspiring, user-friendly cookbook. It’s a beaut, a cookbook definitely to have and definitely to give.
And if you want to get MORE of a sense about Canal House Cooking, read more…
Since we first got our copy of Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s Canal House Cooks Every Day, we’ve been inspired by its simple, straightforward, delicious and REAL recipes (we made their dry-brined roast turkey for Thanksgiving.) Right now, their Apple Tart recipe (below) is calling us.
With Thanksgiving soon upon us, the debate about whether to brine or not-to-brine the turkey before roasting rages on. We’ve long been a fan of brining, having found it the foolproof method for insuring a moist, well-seasoned bird. Until recently, when two things made us question our belief.
Yesterday, on Serious Eats’ Food Lab we read a very long post documenting the wonderfully-obsessive J. Kenji López-Alt exploring and testing our brining works like a scientist. AND in Canal House Cooks Every Day, the swell prize in our current book giveaway, we read Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s use of the dry-brine technique — simply salting the bird 3 days ahead — pioneered by chef Judy Rogers in her great Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
We trust Christopher and Melissa’s sensibility SO much that we’re publishing the recipe below. read more…
We’ve long been fans of Canal House Cooking, the groundbreaking cookbook series created and published by Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton. We are totally smitten with their latest effort: Canal House Cooks Every Day, a bright red, 385-page tome documenting a year of cooking from Canal House, based on their popular daily lunch blog. The book offers many levels of pleasure: great REAL do-able recipes by two women who cook for themselves daily, evocative photographs and illustrations AND a no-nonsense, simplepleasure-centric philosophy of cooking. Perfect. Check out a preview here.
We’ll be giving away a copy to the lucky winner of a random drawing (see details below). read more…
A couple of days ago I found a raptor perched on my terrace rail, right in the middle of Harlem in New York City. I took it to be an owl and posted it on ‘the improvised life’s Facebook page. Since then, a small controversy has been raging, as to whether it is a Hawk Owl or a Kestrel, which is a kind of falcon; I had no idea there are so many bird-o-philes out there, and suddenly find myself poking around The Cornell Lab or Ornithology and Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America.
The little bird looked pretty weary and I’m wondering if it got blown off course or uprooted from the hurricane. Though there are plenty of hawks in the area, it looked like an owl to me, which is possible, though rarer. One reader wrote:
“… he looks like he’s had it with all this shaking and blowing in the actual trees and is considering a roost of a more durable build. Put an “Avian Roommate Wanted” or “Free Terrace Parking” sign in the window and see what happens….
Whatever he is, even in his weariness he’s very beautiful…”
Want to take a guess (and take your mind off Sandy and the election)? Kestrel or Hawk Owl? read more…
We got SO many good ideas from reader’s entering our giveaway of Salads: Beyond the Bowl: Extraordinary Recipes for Everyday Eating that we could put together our own potent little pamphlet of salad ideas. The randomly chosen winner’s idea proved to be an especially charming one:
There is not much I won’t put in a salad, I love to add nasturtiums if I’m having company or the need to eat flowers.
And here are a few more favorites, including an idea we never thought of:
recently discovered the incredible delicousness of grilling heads of Romaine, including melting a little grated parmesan on one side. I would never have thought of grilling salad, but it’s now my favorite!!!!
and a saladic sort of poem: read more…