February Round Up
The February Round Up
After I published “A Simple Format for Herb Sauces” I got a bunch of feedback from people saying that they really liked that approach.
For a long time I’ve said that recipes are overrated. They have their place in cooking and are a wonderful way to share knowledge, but too many home cooks adhere to recipes too strictly. Recipes are blueprints, but you should always leave room for your own interpretation. Rarely will the exact ratio of ingredients make or break a recipe. Temperatures and cook times are far more flexible than you think. And there are almost always substitutions that can be made for ingredients you don't have.
The best way to move beyond following recipes strictly is to make cooking a more sensory experience. Recipes tell you how to approach a dish, but your senses must be your real guide. Taste everything as you go. Base your actions on how things look, smell, taste, and feel, rather than on the cook times in the recipe.
I’m going to start sharing more formats, methods, and techniques here. I like these because they encourage experimentation and give you guidelines that transcend individual recipes. I’ll continue to post recipes, of course. Just don’t follow them too closely— they’re always flexible!
My Olive Oil World Tour
I love olive oil. And I especially love trying cool, single-origin, small-batch oils from around the world. So this year I decided to really dive in and attempt to try as many as I possibly can. Thus far I’ve had:
Prosperity Vineyards Organic Black Label - From California. Excellent.
Bona Fortuna Forte - From Sicily. My favorite I’ve tried.
Bona Fortuna Passulunara - From Sicily. Very good quality but I found the flavor to be a bit overpowering.
Oro Bailen Picual Novello - From Spain. Very peppery and robust first-press oil. Full of polyphenols and delicious— a perfect finishing oil.
If you have any suggestions for cool, unique oils I should try, please send them my way!
Extreme Dedication to Craft
I love learning about individuals who are absolutely obsessed with their craft. Dedication and mastery are fascinating in general, but it’s especially interesting to me when it involves food.
Anthony Mangieri is the chef at Una Pizza Napoletana in NYC. I’ve seen his name come up a few times over the years— people like Chad Robertson, Danny Bowien, and Anthony Falco have all pointed to him as a pioneer and a legend in the pizza world. This video shows you why.
I’ve been making a lot of homemade pasta recently (including some really cool experiments with sourdough pasta). But I also like to keep dried pasta at home for a quick and easy meal when I’m short on time. I recently tried Seggiano Pasta and loved it. It’s made from 100% organic wheat grown in Italy, slow dried, and bronze cut for better sauce adherence. It’s about as good as dried pasta gets, and I was really impressed with both its taste and how I felt after eating it.
I’ve recently been looking to upgrade my daily coffee. I drink coffee every single day, so I believe it’s worth spending a little bit of extra money to get something that’s 100% organic. I was on the lookout for a brand that hit all my critera, and I found Klatch Coffee.
They sell 100% organic, single-origin craft coffee. And they even have organic decaf beans made using a water process (rather than the chemical decafination process used by a lot of brands). I got one bag each of their Honduras and their Decaf Peru. Both are excellent.
Outside the System Podcast
I got the chance to be on my friend Neil’s podcast, Outside the System. I loved this conversation.
Neil is super curious, asks amazing questions, and has some amazing insights and ideas. We went back and forth on a bunch of topics— cooking, fermentation, brand-building, internet businesses, and much more.
Alan Scott Ovens
Occasionally you go down a random internet research rabbit hole and emerge on the other end having learned something quite interesting. It’s a long-term goal of mine to build my own backyard wood-fired oven, and I now know exactly how I’m going to do it— by following the plans created by a man named Alan Scott.
Alan Scott was a baker and blacksmith who specialized in wood-fired ovens. He studied traditional community ovens from all over the world, improved upon them, and then created a blueprint for the perfect oven. He custom-built ovens for some of the best bakers in the world, including Chad Robertson of Tartine fame.
Scott was a craftsman of the highest order, and his ovens are widely considered to be some of the best performing ovens for bread and pizza. Scott passed away in 2009, but his building instructions for these ovens can still be found online and in his book.
If any of you build one of these, please let me know.
Another random internet rabbit hole.
In the late 1800s, a woman by the name of Frank E. Buttolph started collecting menus from restaurants all over. She ended up donating the entire collection, some of which can be viewed online.
This website compiled a few of them— it’s quite funny to see both the designs and the menu items that were popular.
A Quote I’m Pondering
Q: How do you cultivate creativity, are there any rituals or routines you rely on?
You have to get quiet. You have to slow down. You have to erase the thoughts from your mind. Thinking is the enemy of creation. The closer you can get yourself to a completely blank mind, the greater chance you have of receiving transmissions from the spirits. Everything I have ever done starts with silence or a blank canvas or an empty pot and it's always a very peculiar and interesting dance to coax down the transmissions and sculpt them into the tangible. - Chef Greg Arnold
Probably the biggest quality bump you can give your coffee is a great grinder. It’s hard to make a specific recommendation without knowing your setup, but it’s a fun rabbit hole to go down.
Clever brewer + Porlex grinder makes silly good drip coffee for not-crazy amounts of time & money.
I think one of the reasons that your posts/threads are so useful is that they're so visual. When you don't have that visual reference, it's feels safest to fall back to a recipe strictly as written. Anyways, thanks!