Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Cook, Therefore I am … Happy

Over the past year or so, via Facebook and Twitter, I have become virtual BFFs with a host of culinary luminaries. I have acquired them gradually and gratefully, like a favorite pan or spice enjoyed with genuine appreciation. I read their posts with interest and am as surprised when they respond to mine as when I was asked to dance at junior high socials.

Indeed, late last night I heard from one of my favorites, Amanda Hesser of Food52 and the New York Times, who encouraged me to post to her blog a spontaneous recipe using golden beets I whipped up in January and sent to her on a giddy whim. I was speechless – literally, since Tim was asleep, Graham was busy gaming, and the only food I make that generally interests the dogs is biscuits for Hanukkah. I can’t help but imagine a cosmic connection to have received such an auspicious endorsement on the day I launched this blog.

Tim – also an eager cook who specializes in braising (a la Molly Stevens and Susan Spicer) and making friends at farmer’s markets – initially mocked my social media overtures. When a friend request to Barbara Kafka resulted in a prompt “Tell me about yourself” reply, he doused my excitement with a media specialist’s dry assessment that her staff, or worse, an auto-reply, had in fact greeted me.

Since then, I have connected – real-time and with relevant, thrilling responses – with several chefs and food writers whose work I truly admire. Folks associated with the New York Times – Amanda, Melissa Clark, Sam Sifton – have been especially generous. Melissa shared her Tweet-referenced kale pesto a few weeks before it ran in the Times. Even Mark Bittman, whose much-admired smartphone app I won in a contest, only to discover it is not supported by Android, wrote back to say one is in development. Like any choice ingredient I could not use, I gave it to a friend.

I am lucky to have several local foodies to follow as well. Kathleen Purvis of the Charlotte Observer, Andrea Weigl of the News & Observer, and Laura Leslie – Raleigh-based NPR statehouse reporter who writes the Overworked Foodies blog – provide much inspiration.

Some bloggers/Tweeters have achieved Cher-like fame in our house, including Marcella – who recently chimed in on a discussion that referenced her on Dorie’s Facebook page, and who in turn showered her grandmotherly charm on me. I’ve also managed to befriend two bona fide food stars I met during a recent trip to Mexico: Paco Cardenas of San Miguel de Allende, with whom I took an eye-opening market tour and cooking class, and Ruth Alegria of Mexico City, who described in rapturous turn-by-turn detail the best way to walk and eat your way through her favorite market.

I don’t imagine I’ll ever touch their culinary contributions, but for someone who left home knowing only how to make Rice-a-Roni Spanish rice with ground beef, cooking has proved to be my most enduring and satisfying hobby. Cookbooks and magazines are stacked by my nightstand; kitchen-related gifts are always welcome; dining out and trying new foods is (almost always) a joy; no vacation is complete without visiting a local food emporium. I’m sure the regulars at the Superama in our Mexico City neighborhood wondered why the gringa was happily snapping photos in every aisle, but I had a blast.

I will write about that adventure soon, but for today, though not really seasonal, here’s the creamy golden beet recipe with nutty parmesan that piqued the interest of my No. 1 virtual BFF.

1 bunch medium-size golden beets
olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
¼ cup cream cheese
¼ cup half-and-half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Scrub and trim beets, leaving a bit of the sprouted end. Save greens for other use (and don't forget to use them). Arrange beets on large sheet of foil; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Close parcel and place on baking sheet. Roast about 45 minutes or until tender.

While roasting, let cream cheese and half-and-half sit out about 15 minutes, or whenever you remember, to reduce chill.

When beets are just cool enough to handle, peel skin and cut into chunks. Place in food processor and whirl until fairly smooth. Add cheeses and half-and-half and blend thoroughly; add a pinch of salt if needed. With proudly beet-stained hands, garnish with an extra dusting of parmesan and serve immediately.

NOTE:  Also delicious with red beets or chioggias. If you have a teenage son, consider making a double batch.


  1. NICE! yer making me hungry...
    Very well written.
    Wanna a real good cookie recipe?

  2. Love it! Now we just need mouthwatering photos on these fantastic blog posts! Tell Graham to get crackin'.

    Thought I'd share my one-time foray into the food blog world... look forward to reading more of yours, J!

  3. Ben: It never occurred to me that there is a seeing side and a blind side! Great idea with the chips. I have a bag of roasted/salted sesame sticks that I think also would add nice crunch to fish. Will try it and let you know.

    Bill: Yes, by all means. Bring on the cookies.

  4. Thanks for the shout-out! This makes my stuff look like Betty Crocker basics. Definitely bookmarking. :)

  5. Much too kind, Laura. You inspire me!

  6. Welcome to the blogoshpere! Congratulations and good luck.

  7. Seriously, OMG. Thank you so much for your kind welcome. I am stunned that you took the time to take a look and genuinely thrilled to see your name on my page.