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A Press Democrat Blog

Proximal Kitchen

Cooking locally, with really sharp knives

Would You Pay $625 For A Cookbook?

Whether or not, quite a few of us would would, because the cookbook in question – Modernist Cuisine, by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet – already sold out its initial printing, and it hasn’t even hit the shelves yet! Moreover, despite the fact that virtually nobody on Planet Earth has actually touched the 6-volume, 2400-page opus, it’s already been called “the most important cookbook ever”, inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame, and generated uncountable words in the foodie blogosphere, including tweets by Thomas Keller and just about every other important chef you can think of.… Read More »

The Costco Report: Organic Beef

I cooked this steak – with a simple red wine-honey reduction and a creamy parmigiano-peppercorn salad – in honor of one of my especially snarky fans, someone who objects strenuously every time I buy something from a supermarket for what I’ve billed as a “cooking locally” weblog. I’ll stipulate the point, but my money says I’m not the only parent in the County who’d like to serve their kids a decent, healthy steak for a few less bucks. But is it a decent, healthy steak?… Read More »

Because it rhymes with ‘orange’

I may have seen a cloud this week, but if I did, I don’t remember it. Really, our weather has been impossibly nice. And really, it ought to worry me – the lack of rain, the risk of budbreak before a frost – but it’s hard not to simply soak in it, the whole of our little wine country valley like some great, tickly bubble bath of pea shoots and sunlight. … Read More »

When Life Gives You Lemons, Cook Them

Road Trip: Sunday night red-eye from SFO to JFK; mythical quantities of food and booze; a cumulative loss of sleep bordering on some chapter in FM 34-52, the field manual of interrogation techniques. Many of my best and oldest friends and much personal history remain rooted in the concrete canyons of Manhattan, so normally I’d say I get to go to NYC this week, but instead I’ll limp into this post with I have to be there, because – as… Read More »

My Favorite $5 Kitchen Gadget

Useless Kitchen Gadgets I buy too many kitchen toys, and I suspect I’m not alone. Admit it: Anyone who watches Food TV, buys cookbooks, or owns an up-to-date Zagat’s, to say nothing of the hardcore amongst us who actually read blogs about food and cooking in our spare time, owns an extravagant number of culinary gadgets. That many of them go unused is a virtual certainty, strange, medieval-looking devices that seemed so indispensable in the Williams-Sonoma catalog, but which turned out to be hard to clean or – worst of all – to require more work than the task they were originally meant to simplify…… Read More »

Make-Up Bread

My eldest daughter is one of my very favorite people in the world. Really, that’s not just a parent talking: The child has an innate happiness, a fullness of heart, and a spontaneous grace that simply disarms everyone she meets. Like her good looks, I take very little credit for any of that, but I cannot abdicate her Mr Hyde self, so we have to find ways to make up with one another, and this is what we’ve found: There is no better splint for fractured family love than the baking together of fresh bread. Read More »

A Rainy-Day Braise: Ancho Chilis, Zinfandel, and Beets

Goat shanks braised with Zinfandel, Ancho Chilis, and Beets I think this is a killer one-pot dish for a dank, inclement night although, in point of fact, I’m cheating, because neither beets, nor my protein of choice – young goat shanks, from the Owen Family Farm up in Hopland – are technically in season right now. But the mild heat and smoky undertone from the chilies, together with the spicy-sweet peppery jam of the wine, seemed a natural bedfellow for dense, rich, and slightly gamy flavors…… Read More »

In-N-Out’s “Animal Style” Onions, Home Edition

Caramelized Onions, In-N-Out "Animal Style"At some point, I’ll get around to writing a longer treatise on the wonders – consisting, in roughly equal proportion, of cardiac perfidy and gustatory revelation – of In-N-Out’s “Animal Style” offerings. But not today. Today – and, if you saw my recent column on Savory Onion Jam, I guess you’d say all week – I have eyes only for condiments, and few condiments inspire like In-N-Out’s insanely caramelized onions.… Read More »

The Accidental Vegetarian: Fire-Roasted Peppers

fire roasted peppers on a home stoveI’m not sure what (if anything) this strangely cool, damp year in Northern California says about global warming, but it definitively changed the relationship between the physical calendar on my wall and my erstwhile sense of the natural culinary seasons: I didn’t eat a ripe tomato until well into August, and I’m still picking chili peppers from our garden in mid-December. And, in a proximal vein, I managed to procure a Technicolor Dreamcoat of richly hued, perfectly ripened late-season peppers from Soda Rock Farms at our very last farmer’s market of 2010… Read More »