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November 2013
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January 2014

The Invisible Child Trust


Dearest readers and bidders,

Woah. WOAH.

It is my profound honor to announce that we raised a whopping $3,565 for the Invisible Child Trust at the Legal Aid Society.



Thank you for all your bids and your tweets and your spreading the news. A big, big thanks also to Ruth Reichl and Russ Parsons for unexpectedly stepping in with their wonderful books to add to the offerings and to Ten Speed Press and Sarah Copeland who jumped in as well. I'm totally humbled by their enthusiasm and generosity - and by yours. The auction exceeded my wildest expectations.

I'll be in touch with the winners by email - invoices will be sent via Paypal - and once all the payments are in, I'll write the check and send it off to New York (you can also donate online). And in the meantime, I'm going to just about burst with pride at what we did this week together. Thank you for that.

Thank you also for making me realize yet again that nothing ventured is nothing gained. I worried that no one would care about this auction. I worried that I was putting myself out there and that it'd be embarrassing to raise nothing and fail. Instead, you all rose up and made this thing explode in such a wonderful and hugely gratifying way. Lesson learned, universe!

Elsewhere, because it's been too long,

Gesine Bullock-Prado recalls the smell of her mother (I dare you not to cry).

A week in the life of Nigel Slater.

A movie on food waste.

Great interview with Yotam Ottolenghi.

These quick videos on five iconic holiday roasts are so inspiring.

Will this finally be the year I make my own vanilla extract? No time like the present.

Salted. Rye. Chocolate. Cookies. All you need to know.

Loved reading more about Caroline Campion while I covet her new book.

Catherine never fails to make me laugh, even when talking about crock-pot pork.

Darling people, I hope you have warm and cozy and happy holidays. May your travels be safe. I'm thinking of you and am, as ever, so grateful to have you in my life! Much love, Luisa

A Cookbook Auction for The Invisible Child


Last week, hurrying about my errands and to-do lists, in between work and answering emails, I clicked on a link on Twitter that led me to this article, this epic piece really, a 5-part series about a homeless family in New York City. The article focused on one of the family's daughters, a little girl named Dasani. Dasani, born into a different kind of life, would have the regular bright things ahead of her that we all, most of us at least, take for granted. Home-cooked dinners, new clothing and the ability to go to the bathroom alone and without fear to start, followed by regular school attendance, a high school diploma probably, college and a life - stable, regular, quotidian - thereafter. Instead, Dasani lives a life that would crush most of us. If you haven't already read about Dasani and her family, I urge you to. It will take some time, but it is worth it.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the family - and the thousands like it - since. When I take a shower alone and unmolested, when I watch Hugo eating his dinner that I have no trouble putting on the table, when I lie back in my clean, quiet bed at night to read, I think about all these silly little things that make up my everyday life and how completely out of reach they are for a girl, and a family, that has simply had the bad luck to be born into different circumstances than I have.


I've also been thinking about how to help, which is where you come in. I've decided to auction off a good portion (about half!) of my cookbook collection and will be donating all proceeds to the Invisible Child Fund at the Legal Aid Society of New York. There are a lot of great books in the collection, like the much-coveted and out-of-print The Last Course by Claudia Fleming, a signed copy of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, M.F.K. Fisher's The Cooking of Provincial France set that she did for Time-Life, and Alice Medrich's cult favorite, also out-of-print, Chocolate and the Art of Lowfat Desserts (one of the first books I scored on eBay way back when because of a food blog).


After much thought, I decided not to use eBay for the auction - I don't want anyone to hesitate to bid because they don't have an account. Instead, I'm going to auction the books off right here. I think it should go relatively smoothly. Here's how it'll work: I'm going to list the books up for auction below, with author name, title, condition of the book, and a bidding price. If you want to bid on a book, just leave a comment or send me an email or a tweet with the amount and I'll update the bidding price. The auction will end on Friday.

Please help by spreading the word far and wide. While I can't guarantee that the books will arrive in time for Christmas, depending on where you live, I do promise to ship them into the postal system the weekend before Christmas. The books are all in new or almost-new condition, with the exception of the few vintage ones among them. Bonus: Ruth Reichl and Deb Perelman, the authors of Mmmmm: A Feastiary and The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, respectively, will be matching the winning bid for their books, no matter how high they go. And the winning bidder for Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy will received an accompanying limited edition letterpress poster from the publisher. 

And: If you spend over $50 on any book, you'll also receive a copy of My Berlin Kitchen as a gift.

Thank you, sweet readers, for reading and for participating.



1. Susan Herrmann Loomis's French Farmhouse Cookbook - paperback, like new. $50 (ruth fecych via email)

2. Barbara Kafka's Roasting: A Simple Art - hardcover, gently used. $60 (Elizabeth Van Pelt)

3. Deborah Krasner's Good Meat - hardcover, new. $65 (Eleanor)

4. Alice Medrich's Chocolate and The Art of Low-Fat Desserts - hardcover, gently used. $115 (Thomas Marzahl via email)

5. Suvir Saran's Indian Home Cooking - hardcover, like new. $150 (Tanya)

6. Claudia Fleming's The Last Course - hardcover, new. $250 (Theresa Vaskovic. via email)

7. Sara Forte's The Sprouted Kitchen - hardcover, new. $100 (amanda)

8. Gourmet's Cookie Cookbook - hardcover, like new. $50 (Deb)

9. Jamie's 15-Minute Meals - hardcover, new. $50 (Chlo-star.)

10. Jamie's Great Britain - hardcover, new. $55 (Jennifer)

11. Lisa Fain's Homesick Texan Cookbook - hardcover, like new. $120 (Sara)

12. The Nepenthe Cookbook - hardcover, new. $20 (Luann Wierdsma via email)

13. Alton Brown's Good Eats 1 & 2 - hardcover, new. $100 (Dana)

14. Food52 Cookbook, Volume II - hardcover, like new. $60 (Mary Nodine via email)

15. Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarborough's Ham - hardcover, new. $30 (Edgardo via Twitter)

16. Clotilde Dusoulier's French Market Cookbook - paperback, like new. $50 (Karey)

17. Liana Krissoff's Grains for a New Generation - paperback, like new. $80 (Sara)

18. MFK Fisher's Cooking from Provincial France - hardcover with spiral bound recipe booklet in slipcase, vintage. Good, clean, unused condition. $260 (Brettne Bloom)

19. Deb Perelman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook - hardcover, new. Winning bid will be matched by Deb. $130 (Em)

20. Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, dedicated and signed - hardcover, new. $160 (Bec via email)


Russ Parsons, Ruth Reichl, Ten Speed Press and Sarah Copeland caught wind of the auction and generously asked to donate the following incredible items. Thank you to them!!

21. Russ Parsons's How to Pick a Peach, signed - hardcover, new. $70 (Suzy)

22. Ruth Reichl's Mmmmm: A Feastiary (her very last personal copy!). Winning bid will be matched by Ruth. $525 (John Atchue)

23. Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy, signed - hardcover, new. Winning bid will receive an accompanying limited edition letterpress poster. $250 (Sarah Chamberlain via email)

24. Sarah Copeland's Feast, signed - hardcover, new. $55 (Katherine)

25. Sarah Copeland's The Newlywed Cookbook, signed - hardcover, new. $55 (Cayleigh)

Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Squash Toast

Squash toast

A little update on the state of affairs over here: I am sick, felled by the flu. Hugo is in the full throes of cranky, screamy toddlerhood (so soon? help!). It is my birthday, but because of the aforementioned germs I had to cancel every fun thing I had planned for the day. And I am up to my eyeballs in unanswered emails and stacks of work and to-do lists and backlogged posts and every time I think about all that stuff, my stomach does this ugly little flip, it's very disconcerting, and then to make it stop I have to burrow my face into my sick bed and breathe deep and tell myself to stop worrying, which of course does absolutely nothing to stop me from worrying, and anyway, it's all rather unpleasant.

And yet!

Despite this pathetic litany of complaints, I am in pretty good spirits. It is December, which is one of my favorite months. I just bought How The Grinch Stole Christmas to give Hugo on Christmas. Our Christmas Eve menu is coming together in my head. (Salt-baked whole fish? Chocolate soufflé? What do you think?) We have a roof over our heads and food in the pantry and I have a mother who drops everything to take care of my kid while I recuperate, even at 6:00 in the morning. Honestly, the only thing I wish I had right now were a few more hours in each day - say, three? I'm not greedy! - to get things done. Who's with me?

(Which leads me to a quick interlude: Dearest readers - sometimes, when I'm forced to lie in bed and think about thrilling things like organization and staying on top of things and other areas in which I find myself, at times, failing miserably, I wish there was some kind of textbook or curriculum on how to organize your life that could be passed around once you have a child and then go back to work. I'm not talking about having it all or balance or any of that, at least I don't think I am. It's more that I find myself wondering what little tips and secrets there are to running a household, working and parenting and staying marginally sane throughout. Then it occurred to me that I could just ask you wise people, because you've always come through in the clutch for me before. Right? So, tell me, give it to me straight: what is one piece of advice you'd give a frazzled lady such as myself if you could? You know, like, only buy socks in one color so you never have to worry if you lose one in the washing machine! Or...cook all your vegetables on Sunday and then use them up over the week! You know what I mean? Go!)

Raw squash

In return, I will tell you about this roasted squash business, which I made for the first time a month ago and have cooked every week since then and have decided is my favorite food discovery of 2013, which is no faint praise when you think about all the delicious things I wrote about since the beginning of the year: Orange marmalade, broccoli soup, French chocolate cake, porridge, for Pete's sake, homemade saag and THE BEST ROASTED VEGETABLES EVER, to name just a few.

It comes from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which should already tip you off somewhat, since that man is a cooking genius and one of the only chefs I know who can successfully translate his insane restaurant kitchen chops into doable home cooking. This particular recipe shows up on ABC Kitchen's menu as Squash Toast and you can see adorable Mr. Vongerichten himself cooking it with Mark Bittman right here (if that video doesn't make you want to get into the kitchen right this instant, then I don't know what to tell you). And the first time I made it, I followed it pretty precisely and had myself a fabulous little lunch - the spicy squash and the sweet-sour onions are fantastic layered with the cooling ricotta, the crunchy bread, and the mint. But it was just me for lunch, which meant that I had a good amount of the roast squash mixed with vinegary onion jam left over. I figured I'd eat the leftovers for lunch the next day, stuck them in the fridge and forgot about them.

Then, a few days later, my mother was over and we needed lunch, fast. I put water on to boil for pasta, rummaged around in the fridge and found the mashed spicy squash. I thinned it with some starchy pasta water, dressed the boiled pasta with it and topped it with a big mound of grated Parmesan cheese and, lo, it blew our minds. I've made the squash and onions and used it for pasta every week since then. No joke. Everyone who eats it (my mother, my husband, my friends) goes quiet and makes that wide-eyed face, you know which one I'm talking about, as they work their way through their plate. It's magical and delicious and perfect and I love it.

Roasted squash

Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Squash Toast
Adapted from the original recipe
Note: I usually use less oil than called for here, reducing the amount by a tablespoon here and there.

1 2 1/2- to 3-pound kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes, more to taste
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick
1/2 cup ricotta
Coarse salt
4 tablespoons chopped mint

1. Heat the oven to 450. Combine the squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, chile flakes and 2 teaspoons of salt in a bowl and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook, stirring once, until tender and slightly colored, about 15 minutes or a little longer. Remove from the oven.

2. Meanwhile, heat another 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are well softened and darkening, about 10-15 minutes. Add the vinegar and syrup, stir and reduce over medium-low heat until syrupy and broken down, 10-15 minutes; the mixture should be jammy.

3. Combine squash and onions in a bowl and smash with a fork until combined. Taste for seasoning.

4. Add the remaining oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add bread and cook until just golden on both sides, less than 10 minutes total; drain on paper towels. Spread cheese on toasts, then top with the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt and garnish with mint.

4a. Alternatively, boil penne or rigatoni in lightly salted water, setting aside 1-2 cups of starchy pasta water towards the end. Toss the cooked pasta with the squash-onion mixture, thinning it with pasta water until you get the desired thickness and top with grated Parmesan cheese. The amount of squash and onions above will make enough "sauce" for 4-6 portions. If you go the pasta route, you can leave off the ricotta and mint.


Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Luisa and Jamie
On November 20, I had the great pleasure of hosting Jamie Oliver at the Apple Store in Berlin for a conversation about Jamie's Food Revolution Day, a worldwide event encouraging individuals to take action against obesity and other diet-related illnesses by bringing healthy food and home cooking back into their communities. It was an incredibly inspiring afternoon and evening for me and I'm brimming with ideas for the next Food Revolution Day, which will be on May 16, 2014.

For those of you who've already participated in the Food Revolution, tell us a little about it! I'd love to know how you decided to participate and what you organized and did. Will you be participating again next year? I have visions of, among other things, teaching a little "cooking" class to my friend's second grade class or trying to see if there's something that I could organize at Hugo's daycare for the slightly older children. But what I love most about the idea behind Food Revolution is that once you start thinking about all the things you'd like to try and change, you find yourself reaching higher and higher for bigger and bigger things.

For those of you who haven't yet participated in Food Revolution, like me, could you see yourself organizing something for your community? You can learn more here and by watching our podcast, which is available for download on iTunes - just click here.

And yes, Jamie truly is as genuinely lovely in real life as he seems on television. He's hugely inspiring, but also just a regular, down-to-earth, nice guy. The real deal.