Eat up!

My wife’s office is near an incredible farmers’ market. She likes to go and mooch around on her lunch hour, and often brings home goodies she found irresistible, fresh fruit and vegetables, odd cuts of meat, fish I’ve never seen before, and hand them over to me to deal with. This usually leads to a lot of frantic hunts through the indexes of my cookbooks, or, if it’s really exotic stuff, on-line searches. It’s sometimes exasperating, but it keeps me on my toes (that’s what she says, anyway). Now, though, I’ve got a new kitchen tool that puts me ahead of the game—Eat Your Books.

Eat Your Books is not a website of recipes, but rather a tool for finding

RECIPE: Zuppa Inglese with strawberries

This gloriously sensual dessert translates to “English soup,” for reasons no one is entirely sure of; it’s similar to the famous English trifle, but a considerable improvement on that sherry-drenched, soggy concoction, and a lot more vibrant than its upstart cousin, tiramisu. The best version is made with strawberries, an easy but modestly elegant way to end a

RECIPE: Tomato Essence

Here’s one to make ahead, and use in a variety of recipes as a quick, easy, and robust flavoring ingredient. Commercial sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil are often expensive, vary in quality, and don’t contribute enough flavor, but this one works well.

RECIPE: Coca-Cola BBQ Sauce

My son has been bragging about this one so much so that I was once obliged to cook up several dozen barbecued-chicken drumsticks for his class picnic. No problem: Any chance to be a hero to your kid is an opportunity not to be missed. Actually, it’s not my recipe. It’s from "Cooking of the South," by Nathalie Dupree, who has done so much to

RECIPE: Potatoes “Mediterraneo”

Most of our friends and relatives swap recipes, so we ran into variations of this one in France and Italy; seemingly endless variations are part of the fun. Also, it’s a good warm-weather potato dish, being fairly light. We used various potatoes, Charlotte, Rosevear, new potatoes, all worked well; for small ones, cut them in half or quarters, larger ones should be in 1-inch pieces. They taste better

Spring has sprung!

Our birthdays and anniversaries arrive in the Spring and, after four months of gray skies, cold, and rain, we celebrated by getting away to the sun and friends, in Italy and France. After that, the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland was a last bit of gray unpleasantness, and then the sun came out, and it’s finally Spring for real, and we’re back, overflowing with good cheer and tasting notes. More to come soon. . .

RECIPE: Fish Pie

Getting kids to eat fish can be a challenge. For a year or so when he was four, my son wanted nothing but fish fingers (the frozen kind, which only average about 60-70% fish). Then he went off them, and refused all substitutes for a few years, until he had salmon at a friend’s house and decided it was okay. I moved him along to halibut, also fairly bland and meaty, and I had some luck making


It resembles a large garlic press. When I was a kid, we had a metal one so heavy I could hardly work it, but these days, with stainless steel and high-impact plastic, they’re easy to use in many ways. You simply put cooked potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, butternut squash, whatever, into the basket and clamp down the lever, and through the bottom come light, fluffy bits of the vegetable—no lumps, airy, looking a bit like rice.

You can use it in many ways: Whip the “riced” potatoes with a bit of milk and butter, or olive oil, and you’ve

RECIPES: Upside-down cakes

Great ideas seem to arrive all at once, and that was certainly true in the 1890s, when two sisters in France named Tatin invented an upside-down apple tart, made with pie crust, and the Dole family in Hawaii created a recipe for an upside-down cake made with their new product, canned pineapples. (Until canning was invented, pineapples were a luxury, and eaten fresh; brought back from South America by Portuguese and British sailors,

Food memories: Cast iron guaranteed

All the best things in my kitchen, and the most indispensable, are the old things (no wisecracks, please). The big roasting pan that does the turkey or goose or salmon is a very old baked-enamel number, quite lightweight and efficient; the baking dishes and casseroles are glazed terracotta, mostly from street markets; the beat-up steamer baskets and wok came from a Chinese hardware store on Stockton Street in San Francisco a generation ago, before Teflon became

RECIPE: Almond Biscotti

This is a simple version of the cookies known as biscotti (or cantucci in Tuscany), that are served after meals, usually with a glass of sweet wine, into which they’re dunked to soften. (For my son and his friends, the beverage of choice is hot chocolate—they think dunking is really cool.) A good many variations of this recipe are 

News: Watch those unwanted pounds fall away!

For Weight Watchers chapters, the weigh-in is the dramatic high point of the week. In Sweden recently, a group gathered round the scales to measure their progress, and were treated to more drama than usual when the floor gave way beneath them. No one was injured, and the assessment was re-convened in a nearby undamaged hallway, where the floor was firmer. Swedish newspapers didn’t report whether the accident was caused by a weak floor or a rogue fridge-raider.

RECIPE: Butternut Squash & Red Pepper Gratin

We’re now in the season a chef I know calls “root-vegetable hell,” unless you want your greens to log more air miles than we can only dream of right now. I always have good intentions when it comes to cabbage, but the follow-through tends to be weak. Squash sometimes gets overlooked, too, which is silly, so here’s my remedy for