The Maven

Can life get any better than a sunny day at a tiny restaurant in an obscure  Northern Italian town? Perhaps. I could be cooking. Or browsing the local markets. Or talking history, culture and the price of tea in China with the locals.

Join me as I explore what the world has to offer where food meets culture.


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    Entries in cooking (10)


    Mark Bittman's 25 all-time favorites

    I adore the ground Mark Bittman cooks on. Seriously, I have his cookbooks and constantly refer to them, practically ignoring all the others that I’ve collected over the years. Bittman is down to earth real about food and how to incorporate good, healthy food into our everyday diets.

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    From his New York Times column:

    Picking 25 favorites out of more than 1,000  recipes from The Minimalist — the last weekly column appears this week — is an awesome task. But each of these, listed in order of appearance, represents something special either to me or to regular readers of The Minimalist, or in a couple of cases — most notably Jim Lahey’s bread — to a wider audience. It’s a list that will make you want to cook, I think. What are your favorites?

    RED PEPPER PURÉE The first Minimalist. Check out the roasting technique; it works. (Published Sept. 17, 1997)

    CHICKEN UNDER A BRICK So popular that a group in Santa Cruz, Calif., made a T-shirt that reads, “We love chicken under a brick.” (Oct. 22, 1997)

    PEAR, GORGONZOLA AND MESCLUN SALAD Not my invention, but truly a ’90s classic. (Nov. 19, 1997)

    SPAGHETTI WITH FRIED EGGS Made this the other night; insanely easy and soothing. (March 10, 1999)

    BRAISED SQUID WITH ARTICHOKES Braised fish, artichokes, sometimes potatoes, always garlic and powerful olive oil; that’s Liguria. (April 28, 1999)

    PASTA ALLA GRICIA The basis for some of the simplest and best pasta dishes I know. (Nov. 8, 2000)

    PUMPKIN PANNA COTTA The headline on this Thanksgiving column said it all: “No Time for Crust? Who Needs It, Anyway?” (Nov. 22, 2000)

    WATERMELON AND TOMATO SALAD A Jean-Georges Vongerichten special; especially good with feta. (July 24, 2002)

    45-MINUTE ROAST TURKEY Many readers swear by this one. (Nov. 20, 2002)

    This has many of the qualities of duck confit — but no fussiness. (Dec. 25, 2002)

    SICHUAN CHICKEN WITH CHILIES Overcook the chicken, overdo the chilies, you’ll be happy. (Sept. 3, 2003)

    BLACK COD BROILED WITH MISO Yes, you can do this at home. (April 14, 2004)

    STIR-FRIED CHICKEN WITH KETCHUP Perhaps the highest and best use of ketchup. (May 12, 2004)

    CORN SALAD WITH SOY AND TOMATO Soy and tomato is a marriage made in heaven; the corn adds crunch. (Aug. 17, 2005)

    PARSLEY-HERB SALAD Think of parsley as a green, not an herb, and you get the idea. (Sept. 7, 2005)

    SOCCA (FARINATA) From my first taste of this, I’ve been an addict. Best made at home. (Oct. 19, 2005)

    As soon as I tasted this, in Flushing, Queens, I knew I had to make it. (Sept. 20, 2006)

    My most popular recipe, and it isn’t even mine. Credit Jim Lahey. (Nov. 8, 2006)

    SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH SHRIMP I know of no dish that exploits the texture of shrimp better. (Jan. 17, 2007)

    Just the other day, a guy stopped me on the subway and said, “Your pernil is terrific.” It’s not really mine, but I made it that weekend, and it is terrific. (Jan. 2, 2008)

    SOUTH INDIAN EGGPLANT CURRY If you are an eggplant fan, this will really turn you on. If you’re not, this will make you one. (April 2, 2008)

    BRAISED TURKEY Cooked this way, turkey will remind you of pork. (Nov. 12, 2008)

    My wife’s staple. Try it with toasted hazelnuts or pine nuts. (Nov. 26, 2008)

    What? Yes. (May 20, 2009)

    MORE-VEGETABLE-LESS-EGG FRITTATA Just enough eggs to hold it together. One of those transformative recipes. (July 15, 2009)


    Christmas dreams for the baker in your circle

    Do you have a friend, co-worker or relative who just lives to bake? They are always delivering joy in the form of cookies, pies, breads and more? Their Christmas gift is now a no-brainer - just deliver some shopping joy at King Arthur Flour.

    King Arthur Flour is so much more than flour! It’s a baker’s nirvana. They have every type of speciality flour imaginable, plus all the professional baking additives that will ramp up your homemade yummies!

    It doesn’t stop there. At KAF, your recipient can get all the best, tested equipment for baking - and even cooking. Plus they have signature flavorings, mixes, spices, nuts and so much more. The only conundrum that comes with a KAF gift certificate would be how to spend it.

    I’ve been using KAF products for years, and I really, really recommend them.


    Thanksgiving cooking in the Rancho Maven kitchen

    All of my readers might wonder what a cooking frenzy at Rancho Maven looks like.

    Here it is:

    Sorry to tell you this, but here’s my ideal: alone in my kitchen. I love it that people would want to help, but I move happier alone.

    The pork roast ala Robert turned out absolutely perfect.

    Click to read more ...


    Basic knife skills: a great refresher for everyone.

    This is a beautiful demonstration of proper technique in knife skills including the ‘high’, ‘low’, ‘pull’ and ‘push’. I probably sound like a broken record around the house, pulling out the correct knife for the task and encouraging good knife skills, but it really does make the task simpler, more effective, faster and definitely safer.

    Try making a habit of good knife skills and watch your cooking actually improve!


    Chef-Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, Norman Weinstein shows us how to dice vegetables.

    A demonstration of ‘high cut’ and ‘low cut’ technique:

    And let’s review the basic chef knives and why they differ.

    How to handle a basic chef’s knife:


    Julie&Julia: A charming, funny journey of self-discovery and inspiration

    The theatre was packed, as you might expect of a movie starring the incomparable Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. The laughter, however, was a delightfully unexpected surprise. This movie genuinely makes people happy.

    After the credits began to roll, the woman sitting to my left said “gosh, it makes you want to go home and cook something with butter.” I have to say, I agreed. And, perhaps Child’s own Braised Cucumbers with a fine olive oil and butter. That’s what I’m preparing tonight, with chicken in a Vindaloo curry sauce with a brown rice/red quinoa and lentil pilaf.

    I think I’ve been inspired.

    Click to read more ...


    Recipes for a quiet, no drama kitchen from Mark Bittman

    This is how I cook and how I encourage the Maven&meddler readers to cook. Quit with the uptight, precise measurements. Free yourself up to be creative and really, intuitively, understand the ingredients and process. Unless you’re baking, the exact measurements won’t really matter.

    Believe me, you’ll be a better cook for it.


    Thrifty Christmas Gifting: Online cooks membership

    Here’s a great gift idea for the cook or foodie in your gift giving circle that is bound to please, plus be very thrifty too: An online membership to the premier source for all things food and kitchen related, Cooks Illustrated. It’s a wonderful magazine, but the online membership gives you access to step-by-step technique videos and much more.

    Click to read more ...


    Knife skills 101

    Everybody who has cooked in my kitchen knows that I’m really fussy about how my knives are used and cared for. Good kitchen knives are expensive, so don’t store them in a drawer where they’ll loose their sharp edges, and don’t use them as substitutes for other tools.

    Also, knives have specific designs to make the work of slicing, chopping and cutting easier. Working with the design, using proper grips and motions will make your cuts much easier, neater and safer for you - the cook.


    New Gourmet Rice: Bamboo Infused

    True enough…actually it is ” organic pearled rice with BamBoom!™ extract, made from the Moso species of bamboo that grows in the virgin highland forest of south central China. When cooked, this premium rice produces the aroma of a bamboo forest, a light vanilla taste, and an explosion of health giving nutrients. Make an especially pretty plate presentation, sushi and dessert pudding.”

    Whew. That’s a mouthful, so it speak, from the manufacturers website:

    I love rice and just had to try it, even at the exorbitant price of $4.59 for a 15 ounce bag at Whole Foods.

    I really was uncertain how to pair this up, so went the safe route with a light teriyaki grilled fish as the main protein and some marinated carrot slaw.

    The flavor is at first a bit subtle, but grows in intensity. As per the advertising it cooked on the speed setting of my fuzzy logic rice cooker in just about 20 minutes. It held its shape and the aromatics were nice, but might be overlooked by most people. I could have just stood there at the rice cooker and eaten the whole thing with a bit of light Shoyu.

    I guess all you can say about this product is that if you are really trying to achieve something a step up in the culinary world on an occasional basis this is nice to have in the pantry. I do suggest that you try it at least once and find out for yourself.


    New Gourmet Sauce Evokes Old Morocco and Satisfies Modern Tastes

    Moroccan Harissa sauce evokes all the romance of old Morocco and gets better as time goes by. In fact, you’ll never want to be without it in your pantry.

    This is amazingly versatile, working especially well on fish, but great as a base for dressing a whole grain salad …. or any wonderful whole grain quinoa or other salad.

    Made mainly from Moroccan hot red chilies, red bell pepper, olive oil, a touch of tomato, oil, salt and spices. Harissa is an essential accompaniment at the Moroccan table. This is an outstanding “hot sauce” with a lot of taste and not just fire! Net Wt. 390 gr/10 oz

    Made by Mustapha, is should be in every pantry. Just brush it on fish and grill. Be prepared for ‘oooohs and aaaahs”