Food writer and editor Dana Cowin tackles her personal culinary shortcomings in her new cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen. With more than 100 recipes—like this simple and fabulous one for Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso Vinaigrette—you too can learn from the best chefs around and move past common blunders.
A sports coach for my son, William, once told me that the sign of a great player is consistency. If a kid could hit the ball the same way time and again, he said, he could be a star. The same goes for cooking. Great restaurant chefs make the same dish the exact same way night after night. I now aspire to this in my cooking. In winter, I get a lot of practice making roasted vegetables.
My daughter and I routinely go “bin diving”—we open the fridge’s produce bin and take out all the wounded vegetables, dice them, toss them with olive oil and roast them. Sometimes they come out perfectly—the flavors intensified and delicious. But sometimes they burn on the bottom and are still raw on the top. Determined to become more consistent, I asked April Bloomfield to be my vegetable-roasting coach. She had two excellent recommendations: Be sure to cut the vegetables into the right size so they cook at the same time. For example, carrots and sweet potatoes won’t cook at the same rate, so carrots need to be cut smaller to cook in the same amount of time or similar as the less-dense Brussels sprouts. And stir the vegetables occasionally as they roast, for even cooking.
Active Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
1. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Put the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt. Divide the vegetables evenly between the two baking sheets, spread them out and roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and very browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Switch and rotate the baking sheets halfway through cooking.
3. Meanwhile, put the sesame oil, rice vinegar, miso, soy sauce and honey in a small bowl and whisk together.
4. Remove the vegetables from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Immediately toss with the miso vinaigrette. Scatter the sesame seeds and scallions on top and serve.
The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before tossing with the vegetables.
Why Didn’t I Think of That? More Recipe Ideas from April Bloomfield
Chef Tips from April Bloomfield
ON HOW TO CUT THE VEGETABLES
If you are roasting different kinds of vegetables on the same tray at the same time, cut them according to their cooking times. For example, a thinly sliced onion will roast much faster than a large wedge of sweet potato. So, if you’re doing them together, cut the sweet potato into smaller pieces and the onion into slightly larger ones.
ON PREPPING THE VEGETABLES
Always toss vegetables with olive oil before roasting. This is especially important for tougher vegetables like pumpkin, fennel and celery root.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed's death. Victor Bockris, best known for his biographies of William S. Burroughs and—perhaps Reed's most influential patron and collaborator—Andy Warhol, has updated his 1995 biography, Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story with new interviews from Reed's innermost circle (most notably with his wife, Laurie Andersen) along with an array of previously unseen photographs.
Beginning with Reed's childhood in Long Island, New York, and the harrowing details of his electroshock therapy that was meant to "cure" him of his bisexuality, Bockris goes on to chronicle the artistic and personal milestones in his life. From The Velvet Underground's initial conception in the mid '60s and Warhol's enthusiastic mentorship to his thriving, multifaceted solo career—Bockris digs deep, past Reed's intentionally difficult public persona, and reveals the layers behind the incredibly complicated and deeply conflicted icon.
For the big-time music nerds, this is a must-read biography of "the godfather of punk," as very few musicians can be accredited with the deep and far-reaching influence that Reed's career inspired, and still continues to inspire today.
Our October Top Pick in Cookbooks is Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More! This collection of vegetarian recipes is inventive and indulgent, and this recipe for Sweet Potatoes with Orange Bitters comes just in time for your roster of holiday side dishes.
Sweet Potatoes with Orange Bitters
Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC.
Place the orange juice in a saucepan with the sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat to medium-high and simmer fairly rapidly for about 20 minutes, until the liquid has thickened and reduced to scant 1 cup/200 ml (about the amount in a large glass of wine). Add the bitters, olive oil, and 1½ teaspoons salt.
Place the potatoes in a large bowl, add the chiles, sage, thyme, and garlic, and then pour in the reduced sauce. Toss well so that everything is coated and then spread the mixture out in a single layer on a baking sheet on which it fits snugly, about 12 by 16 inches/30 by 40 cm.
Place in the oven and roast for 50 to 60 minutes, turning and basting the potatoes every 15 minutes or so. They need to remain coated in the liquid in order to caramelize, so add more orange juice if the pan is drying out.
At the end, the potatoes should be dark and sticky. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before arranging on a platter and dotting with the goat cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Looking for a darker story, but not into over-the-top horror? Try Stephen Collins' subtly menacing graphic novel, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.
A too-perfect suburbia ("Here") and its creepily-regimented group of inhabitants attempt to live their lives free of the threat of the unknown, unseen and untidy world known as "There."
Dave—a quiet fellow with a boring office job— is happy with his routine . . . until he experiences something very strange. An ominous, rapidly-growing beard suddenly sprouts from his face: an untidy, evil beard from There.
Panic quickly spreads, and the government decides that the only way to remove the threat of untidiness and anarchy is to get rid of Dave completely.
Check out an excerpt below:
Any of you readers interested in checking out this Tim Burton-esque tale for Halloween?
As a renowned food critic and editor-in-chief at Food and Wine magazine, Dana Cowin can definitely tell you what tastes good. But she had a dirty secret: She had no culinary skills of her own. Thankfully, a few of her chef friends stepped in to help, and her new cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen, is an ultra-accessible guide to becoming a more than passable home cook.
The three most important men in my life have one very unexpected connection: crepes. My father, whom I adored, passed away more than twenty years ago. He was a businessman, an art collector, an architecture buff—one thing he was not was a cook. But on Sunday mornings, he’d sometimes make crepes for us, an act of love. (My mother tells me he fell for crepes on their honeymoon in Nassau, where they ate them almost every day.) It was a very special family ritual.
Fast-forward to today: My husband rarely cooks, but on Sunday mornings, he’ll sometimes make crepes, because our son is a picky eater and it’s one of the only things he likes for breakfast. Three generations of love united by batter swirled in a pan.
When Barclay isn’t around or in the mood to make crepes, I’ll step in. Unfortunately, mine don’t live up to the legacy of my father’s. They are often pocked with flour and a little too thick. So I asked Joanne Chang, of Flour Bakery in Boston, to show me how to avoid these mistakes, and she revealed the secret to making the most miraculously smooth batter ever: Mix the warm milk, melted butter and the rest of the ingredients in the blender.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes 18 crepes
1. Stir together the chocolate, cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Put the butter, milk, eggs and sugar in a blender and blend until just smooth. Add the flour and salt and blend until the batter is completely smooth.
3. Heat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat and brush it lightly with melted butter. Pour in ¼ cup batter and, holding the pan by the handle, swirl the pan so that the batter coats the bottom evenly. Cook the crepe until the bottom is just lightly browned, about a minute. Loosen the edges with a spatula, carefully flip the crepe and cook until lightly browned on the other side, about 1 more minute. Transfer the crepe to a platter and roll it up like a loose cigar. Continue cooking and rolling crepes until you’ve used up all of the batter, brushing the pan with more butter as necessary.
4. Scatter the chocolate mixture over the crepes and serve warm.
The batter can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Stir well before cooking the crepes.
Chef Tips from Joanne Chang
ON SUGAR AND EGGS
Once you’ve poured sugar onto eggs, whisk them together immediately. If you leave sugar on top of eggs without whisking them, the sugar will basically cook the egg yolks and cause them to create lumps.
ON PREVENTING CREPES FROM STICKING
A nonstick pan is good here! Even so, add butter to the pan every third or fourth crepe.
ON MAKING THIN CREPES
Add the batter while holding your pan up on an angle, ladling in just a bit of batter and immediately swirling your pan.
ON CREATING EVEN CREPES
Your pan shouldn’t be too hot, or the batter will start cooking instantly when it hits the pan and not spread evenly.
From Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin. Copyright 2014 Dana Cowin. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Read our review of this book.
Yotam Ottolenghi's sublime second collection of vegetarian recipes, Plenty More, is our Top Pick in Cookbooks for October! The Middle Eastern magic abounds in his 120 recipes, which are organized by cooking method over 12 chapters.
Apricot, Walnut and Lavender Cake
The combination of walnuts, apricots and lavender is as French as a good baguette with butter and ripe Brie, and it is every bit as invincible. I seriously urge you to try this cake, and not just as a French classic. It has a moist and soft crumb and a delicate fruity topping, and it will keep well, covered, for a few days
Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC.
Place the butter, oil, superfine sugar and almonds in a stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in small additions and continue to beat until well incorporated. Fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of the lavender and ⅛ teaspoon salt.
Line the base and sides of a 9-inch/23-cm cake pan with parchment paper. Pour in cake batter and level the top. Arrange the apricot halves, skin side down and slightly overlapping, over the top, right to the edge. Bake in the oven for 70 to 80 minutes, covering with aluminum foil if the top starts to brown too much.
While the cake is baking, make the icing. Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice to get a light, pourable icing, adjusting the amount of sugar or juice if needed. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush the icing on top. Sprinkle the remaining ½ teaspoon lavender over the top and leave the cake to cool before serving.
Mark Bittman—restaurateur and longtime food writer for the New York Times—ramps up the efficiency of some of his favorite recipes in How to Cook Everything Fast. Feeling the crunch to get a decent dinner on the table from week to week? Bittman merges prep and cooking with 2,000 speedy, tasty recipes that will leave you full and happy—regardless of how busy your schedule is.
Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Bacon
Time: Faster (30 minutes or less)
Makes: 4 servings
This soup has it all: It’s sweet, colorful and creamy and even features the smoky crunch of bacon on top. The most time-consuming thing about preparing squash is peeling and seeding it.
1. Put a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add the bacon to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. When the bacon is crisp, transfer it to the paper towels with a slotted spoon. Turn the heat to low.
4. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add 1 teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon cayenne and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about a minute.
5. Add 5 cups stock or water and 1 cup cream. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so that it bubbles gently but steadily, and cook until the squash is fully tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat under the soup and run an immersion blender through the pot or, working in batches, transfer it to an upright blender and carefully purée.
7. Reheat the soup for 1 or 2 minutes if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Divide the soup among 4 bowls, garnish with the bacon, and serve.
Sweet Potato Soup with Pears and Bacon: Substitute sweet potatoes for the squash and pears for the apples.
Pumpkin Soup with Apples and Pumpkin Seeds: A lovely Thanksgiving starter: Substitute pumpkin for the squash. In Step 2, instead of the bacon, cook ½ cup hulled pumpkin seeds in 3 tablespoons olive oil until golden and popping, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove them from the pot and remove the pot from the heat until you grate the vegetables and fruit, then proceed with Step 4.
Does you really need to be convinced to try Banana Split No-Bake Yogurt Cheesecake? Jessica Merchant's Seriously Delish has this and so many more ridiculously fun and tasty recipes that you can't go wrong. You won't find these on her blog any time soon, so go ahead and grab a copy!
Banana Split No-Bake Greek Yogurt Cheesecake
SERVES 4 • TIME: 20 minutes + overnight to set
If I ever had to answer one of the big questions—you know, the really big questions—like what would your ultimate last meal be or what is your all-time favorite dessert, my response would not be cookies or chocolate or brownies or ice cream.
It would be cheesecake.
I have always, always, always been a cheesecake fanatic, since my very first bite. It’s no surprise, because it takes a lot to satisfy these sweet teeth. And the truth is that thick and creamy, often too-rich cheesecake fills the bill every single time.
And it’s not like I even discriminate in flavor. I’ll never forget eating at the Cheesecake Factory for the first time with my grandma and her horror at the array of choices—she claimed that nothing was better than a slice of New York–style cheesecake with strawberries. Nothing? Really? Nothing?
I dunno. I can come up with a few things. I love every and all kind of cheesecake. And my life improved tenfold when I discovered no-bake cheesecakes. Because let’s be real: Baking cheesecake is a royal pain in the ass. It’s super high maintenance, often requires a water bath (whatever that is), then after you’ve poured all your tears into one springform pan, the darn thing cracks down the center and looks like the biggest geographic fault on Earth. It’s stressful.
Greek yogurt cheesecake is my solution to eating cheesecake weekly. The banana split topping is simply that: a topping. The cheesecake is a plain, traditional base that can be served however you’d like. And while we’re on that topic, my favorite way to serve no-bakes are in little mason jars or cute shot glasses so everyone gets their own portion. It’s perfect for this, too, since the Greek yogurt yields a softer, not-quite-as-forgiving cake.
Also: sprinkles for life.
1. In a bowl, mix together the coconut oil and graham crumbs until moistened. Press them into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and set it in the fridge.
2. Add the Greek yogurt and cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the sweetened condensed milk. Mix until combined. Add the vanilla extract and salt, beating for another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the fridge and pour the batter on top of the crust, spreading the top evenly with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight.
3. When you’re ready to serve the cheesecake, set up a toppings bar with the bananas, strawberries, cherries, almonds and sprinkles in small bowls and a jar of chocolate syrup. Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and use a sharp knife to immediately cut it into servings. Top the cheesecake with whatever toppings you wish.
Best-selling British author Amanda Prowse, who often draws comparisons to the beloved Jodi Picoult, is making her U.S. debut this fall. After her self-published debut, Poppy Day, took off in 2011, Prowse was picked up by Head of Zeus and has become a household name across the pond.
What Have I Done? is the second novel in Prowse's No Greater Love series, and it hits American shelves for the first time next week. The story follows Kathryn Booker, the wife of the beloved headmaster of Mountbriers Academy, a posh private school. To the average onlooker, Kathryn lives a life of domestic bliss: She lives in a charming cottage with a perfectly manicured garden; she has a doting husband and two precocious children. But Kathryn knows it's all a lie, and every day she endures abuse from her astonishingly cruel husband, until one day, she decides to break free.
Kathryn Booker watched the life slip from him, convinced she saw the black spirit snake out of his body and disappear immediately through the floor, spiraling down and down. She sat back in her chair and breathed deeply. She had expected euphoria or at the very least relief. What she couldn't have predicted was the numbness that now enveloped her. Picturing her children sleeping next door, she closed her eyes and wished for them a deep and peaceful rest, knowing it would be the last they would enjoy for some time. As ever, consideration of what was best for her son and daughter was only a thought away.
The room felt quite empty beside the blood-soaked body lying centrally on the bed. The atmosphere was peaceful, the temperature just right.
Kathryn registered the smallest flicker of disappointment; she had expected to feel more . . .
"Emergency, which service do you require?"
"Oh, hello, yes, I'm not too sure which service I require."
"You are not sure?"
"I think I probably need the police or ambulance, maybe both. Sorry. As I said, I'm not too sure . . ."
"Can I ask you what it is in connection with, madam?"
"Oh, right, yes, of course. I have just murdered my husband."
What are you reading?
Lauren Beukes made waves last year with The Shining Girls, and she's back with another deliciously twisted and spine-tingling crime novel, Broken Monsters, which opens with a bizarre and disturbing crime scene in inner-city Detroit: a dead 11-year-old boy whose lower half has been replaced by that of a deer.
Detective Gabriella Versado is assigned to head up the investigation, and happenings around the city begin to get stranger and more surreal by the minute.
Our reviewer Adam Morgan is absolutely in awe of Beukes' "immense talent and unwavering authority with words," and mystery fans will not want to sleep on this one, as it belongs "among the very best books of its kind."
Watch one of the creepiest book trailers I've seen so far below. (Anyone else picking up on some serious David Lynch vibes?)
What do you think, readers?