In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes
I first met Deborah Madison at the Greens Restaurant in San Francisco during the early ’80s. Madison honed her skills at the San Francisco Zen Center, where her cooking needed to enable worshippers to digest comfortably while in a meditative pose. She later became a hugely successful cookbook author (“Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”) and an omnivore living in Santa Fe. Her new book, “In My Kitchen,” represents wonderful simplicity and refinement. Madison achieves a state of culinary bliss with an offhand expertise. Recipes include bulgur and green lentil salad, roast asparagus with arugula, coarse-cut egg salad with tarragon and chives, even a cheese soufflé. This level of restraint and confidence is what one hopes for but rarely finds in our foodie superheroes.
Some culinary stars went to the source for inspiration–Paula Wolfert, Rick Bayless and Julia Child. Others are synthesizers; they look across a sea of recipes to pick out groupings place. Melissa Clark falls into the latter category, offering us a keen eye for what we should be cooking now. Her timing is impeccable: Recipe titles include words such as Colombia, Thai, Vietnamese, sake-steamed, tamarind, harissa, za’atar, tandoori and Georgian. And her convivial, you-can-do-it approach is comforting. Just throw the bird into a 450°F oven for 50 minutes and be done with it. Forget about the science of brining and salting, let’s talk about what’s on the sheet pan with the chicken: grapes, kale, chickpeas, blood oranges, etc. Clark’s promise is that everybody can cook, and she means you!
Dinner: Changing the Game
Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire
Barbara Lynch recently invited me on a tour of her childhood neighborhood in South Boston, the Old Colony Housing Project. She lived a few doors down from Whitey Bulger and, on one memorable occasion, he swooped her up in his arms and dove behind a car to save her from a hail of gunfire. “Out of Line” is her warts-and-all autobiography about survival. Some of her teenage activities are regrettable (stealing credit cards from tourists at Faneuil Hall), but she also paid her dues with hard work, making beds and waiting tables at Boston’s St. Botolph Club. Today, she is Boston’s most prolific restaurateur. Her ineffable charm is that she still hangs out at the Shammy (the Shamrock Pub & Grill in Southie) and drinks “green hornets” (Heinekens) with her friends. “Out of Line” is a tell-all from a chef who remembers her roots and is proud to expose them.
If you read Jeremiah Tower’s “California Dish,” you already know his is a very different coming-of-age than Barbara Lynch’s. He spent part of his childhood in Australia, enjoyed early culinary adventures aboard the Cunard Line, and though he had to bootstrap his career in California in the ’70s, his outlook was more “to the manor born” than the mean streets. In his latest memoir, “Start the Fire,” he fantasizes about what to order at Le Pavillon, starting with the Bayonne ham and a glass of Champagne, followed by the goujonnettes de sole with sauce tartare, proving Tower is the Oscar Wilde or Lord Peter Wimsey of the culinary senior’s club. To some extent, this is a reprise of earlier work, including H.R. Haldeman’s awkward visit to Chez Panisse (Tower’s English manners saved the day). But he does offer a glimpse into the day-to-day of a famous restaurateur, including death threats, cash flow, lawyers and the mundane. “I checked on the toilets, the homeless the homeless outside, the basement pumps, the carpet…” Tower is a name-dropper par excellence, but Stars, his epic San Francisco eatery, earned him some swagger. After all, he got his stars the hard way.