And in Non-Thanksgiving News:
Sometimes life just isn’t fair. You’re not supposed to be able to sell 14 million albums AND be a great cook. But alas, that’s what you get with Martina McBride. The country music superstar just happens to also be an accomplished cookbook author and her second book, Martina’s Kitchen Mix, was recently released.
Martina came by the kitchen to share a little bit about her book as well as one of her recipes. She was so sweet we might even forgive her for being good at everything.
The problem with any cocktail or cookbook is always where to begin. With dozens of options in front of you it seems impossible to choose. But this is the beauty of the new book Be Your Own Bartender. It really starts with just the idea of ‘what should I drink tonight?’ and takes it from there. Through questions and flowcharts it will get you where you need to go. Do I want something light or heavy? Is it cold outside? Am I drinking alone? This book has you covered.
The delightful authors are two of the best experts around- Carey Jones and John McCarthy. The cocktail-loving duo know how to approach cocktails from both the geekiest cocktail side and the simplest consumer perspective. It’s a book for anyone who loves to drink and hates making decisions.
We got them both over to make an easy but perfectly balanced winter treat- the Gin Gingerly!
Every party needs a good cocktail to start and it shouldn’t be made in a vacuum separate from the food. Instead it should all flow together like different elements to the same meal.
Alex Guarnaschelli - chef at Butter and a judge on Food Network’s Chopped - is of the same mindset, which is why she included an entire section for cocktails in her book The Home Cook. So when we had a chance to catch up with her I wanted to get her chef’s perspective on a good cocktail to serve to kick off a party. Her take is a classic and simple lemon ginger concoction that goes perfectly with easy bar snacks.
Certain concepts seem to be stuck in another time. Egg salad always feels that way - a bit heavy and a bit basic with the tweaks in herbs or spices never feeling quite large enough to shift the genre. But that’s where Cal Peternell comes in. His recipes always have the feel of something you should have been making forever but are actually his own special spin. His newest book, Almonds, Anchovies and Pancetta, is a delight and is full of semi-vegetarian recipes that all fit that bill. I fell in love with his Salsa Rustica because it feels like a breath of fresh air to the egg salad mold. It serves the same purpose but without any mayo and ingredients to give depth and new life.
When I first moved to New York, my mother-in-law made sure to pass along a lot of her local ingredient knowledge. With seafood there was one constant: Citarella. She would travel over 20 blocks to get her fish at Citarella because to her there was nothing better.
So when Joe Guerrera- Citarella’s founder and original fishmonger - came out with a book, I knew it was going to be great. The title is succinct perfection: Joe Knows Fish. I had to have Joe over and he decided to share one of his easiest recipes, Spaghetti Vongole. It starts with good pasta and very fresh cockles or littleneck clams. But it’s one of those recipes that takes only a few ingredients and makes something magical.
I hate to sound old enough to say I've enjoyed following someone's career, but apparently today I'm going to. I have loved watching whatever Eden Grinshpan does next. She is a barrel of laughs and a breath of fresh air wherever she goes. I first interviewed her when she had a show on Cooking Channel. She has since moved on host Top Chef Canada and now she has opened her first restaurant, Dez. It combines all of her Israeli, Middle Eastern and other travel experiences into one spirited and flavorful fast casual spot.
And since I can't possibly pick a favorite I decided instead to pick her brain about mezzes. It's an all-encompassing word but it can help outline one of the best appetizer plans possible.
Lately it seems everyone I talk to has a mild obsession with Sicily. The Southern Italian island for years was passed over in favor of more glamorous places like Amalfi, Rome and Lake Como. But something interesting happened in the last decade or so: the casual, less polished nature of Sicily has become more interesting to travelers as the world has become more globalized and every city starts to feel like it has the same 30 stores. I was excited this year to finally get a chance to see this unique part of the country.
So like any set of recommendations, this one comes from too-short a time and not possibly having all the information. But I can tell you what I liked from my trip and what are the safe bets that I enjoyed.
While Palermo and its environs are definitely on my list, for this trip we focused on the Eastern portion of Sicily. You can certainly drive around the entire island but if you only have a week or so I would try and stick to one general area, otherwise you'll be in a car the entire time. You can rent a house or stay in a hotel - there are great options for both. We did a hotel in Taormina and then we were in a house the rest of the time.