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  • Alice Waters and the Edible Schoolyard: A Book about Inspiration from the Ground Up

    Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted another six weeks of winter but that hasn't stopped me from dreaming up grand plans for my plot in the community garden. Once the last frost of the season has passed, you'll find me in the garden doing some prep work that will hopefully result in an abundance of vegetables, herbs, and even flowers. I'm merely a weekend gardener so I am in awe of gardeners whose green thumbs cultivate vibrant and verdant growth. Add to that awe a healthy dose of inspiration and you've got my reaction to Alice Waters's newest book, Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea (Chronicle Books).

    I won't go into Waters's storied beginnings with Chez Panisse and her roles as grande dame of California Cuisine and as a vocal proponent for organic and local foods. What I will tell you is that Edible Schoolyard is a gem of a book. It's not a long book-in fact, I read it in one sitting. And what a simple and compelling story she tells: one woman dreams that food can educate

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  • The Argument Against Organic Food

    Bill Spencer of Windrose Farm, near Paso Robles, Calif. Even if you're anti-organic, it's a great place to visit.

    Leave it to, of all places, to lay out a cogent and pithy (and, in some places, flawed) argument against organic foods.

    You ought to read the story yourself, but the case it makes against organic foods comes down to five basic points.

    1. Organic foods won't solve the hunger problem.

    This is the one that the pro-organics often seem to gloss over. Chemical-based farming methods vastly increased crop yields and made it possible to feed far more people than ever before. So much so that it could be argued that the recent food crisis isn't so much about our food system failing so much as it is about the slowdown of an unprecedented food boom that came about thanks to the methods the organic movement decries.

    A typical pro-organic response seems to be some variation of, "The world lived by organic farming for millennia before chemical farming," or

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  • How to Grow Your Own Herb Garden

    You don't need green acres to grow fragrant herbs

    For thousands of years, herbs have been used in myriad ways. Their taste, smell, and healing properties have made them integral to the home, whether they are used in beauty products, taken to fight illness, or simply added to enhance the flavor of food. While shakers of the dried variety will do in a, er, pinch, there's nothing quite like fresh herbs to add character and flavor to recipes. Luckily, growing your own herbs is easy, and you can test your green thumb whether you live on acres in the country or six flights up in a city building.

    So where do you start? We put that question to Renée Shepherd, owner of Renée's Garden Seeds company and author of two kitchen garden cookbooks, Recipes from a Kitchen Garden and More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden.

    "The key is to have your herb garden close to where you're cooking," she says. "Even though I grow an extensive backyard herb garden, I still plant my favorites for everyday

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  • Bread Basics

    From measuring the ingredients to storing the loaves, a step-by-step guide to making bread, plus essential equipment and ingredients and 8 classic recipes

    Fresh homemade bread, whether a soft white sandwich loaf, a crusty sourdough, or a rich brioche, is truly a culinary gift. But many cooks-even experienced ones-find the unique requirements of bread baking intimidating. Complicated, scientific-sounding terms like "fermentation" and "proofing" can lead many to conclude that this is a subject best left to professionals. But if you think baking bread at home is beyond you, you may want to reconsider. Once you've mastered a few basic skills, it's actually an easy-and extraordinarily gratifying-experience. In this primer we walk you through the entire process, from kneading, through fermentation, to baking. We explain common words you may have heard, such as "sponge" and "rise," and cover the ingredients and equipment you'll need to get started. With the simple steps we outline,

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  • Food & Memoirs: A Delicious Combination

    Non-fiction books are of immense interest to me, but the sub-genre that probably gives me the most pleasure (and sometimes frustration) is the memoir. The best memoirists shed light on the personal as well as the universal aspects that tie us all together. And when food (sometimes unexpectedly) is the vehicle for self-discovery and transformation, the well-written memoir can become the most delectable of reads. So if you're in the mood for a memoir with a culinary bent, here are two recently published books that might just satiate your literary appetite.

    HOW TO COOK A DRAGON: Living, Loving, and Eating in China (Seal Press) by Linda Furiya
    At the start of the book, Linda Furiya decamps for China to be with her expat boyfriend but quickly finds herself alienated from everyone around her. Amidst the upheaval of a failing relationship and the seemingly futile search for personal happiness and self-fulfillment, the author does find love, and herself, in the most unexpected

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  • The Mardi Gras Library: Four New Orleans Cookbooks

    In honor of Mardi Gras (tomorrow!), here are some of our favorite recently published New Orleans cookbooks.

    New Orleans Classic Gumbos & Soups
    By Kit Wohl

    In the introduction to her new book, New Orleans Classic Gumbos & Soups, Kit Wohl (author of Arnaud's Restaurant Cookbook) explains that the region's rich cultural diversity is reflected in the incredible variety of gumbos and soups that are made and enjoyed there. Her book is a tribute to that diversity and features 37 recipes from some of Louisiana 's best chefs (Leah Chase, John Besh, Susan Spicer, and Donald Link to name just a few). Wohl, who designed the book and took all the photographs, includes recipes for just about every Cajun and Creole soup you can imagine (Creole Seafood Gumbo from Chef Brian Landry of Galatoire's, Rabbit, Oyster, and Andouille Gumbo from Chef John Folse, Arnaud's Shrimp Bisque, and Broussard's Bouillabaisse).

    Commander's Wild Side
    By Ti Adelaide Martin and Tory McPhail


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  • A Visual Introduction to Cajun and Creole Ingredients

    Roux - A combination of equal parts flour and fat (typically vegetable oil but sometimes butter-in the French tradition-or lard). The mixture is stirred constantly over low heat until it's a rich brown color. A roux is the basis of many gumbos and stews, serving as a thickener and flavor enhancer.

    The "Trinity" or "Seasonings" - Also simply called "seasonings," the "trinity" of chopped and sautéed onions, celery, and green bell peppers is used generously in both Creole and Cajun recipes. (In Acadiana and New Orleans , many cooks also add garlic.) This mixture flavors a wide variety of sauces and dishes, including étouffée, gumbo, jambalaya, and sauce piquante-a thick stewlike mixture containing the trinity, tomatoes, and spices, along with chicken, rabbit, alligator, turtle, or wild game.

    Andouille - a Cajun smoked sausage made of pork and spices, including cayenne and garlic.

    Boudin - a Cajun sausage made with bits of pork-generally including

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  • Taste of America: Cajun and Creole Cuisine

    Marcelle Bienvenu tells the story of south Louisiana 's food and shares recipes for iconic dishes, including gumbo and jambalaya

    New Orleans has long enjoyed a reputation for its fine restaurants, including Antoine's, Galatoire's, and Commander's Palace, where one can dine on such delicacies as creamy spinach-topped oysters Rockefeller, sherry-spiked turtle soup, and bananas Foster. Elegant French sauces, like béarnaise, hollandaise, and marchand de vin, are ladled on poached eggs, seafood, meats, and myriad vegetables, giving dishes a refined and opulent style. Venture west of the city to what is known as Acadiana (the 22 parishes-counties-of southern Louisiana ), and you'll find many small towns serving spicy sausages (like boudin), rabbit stewed in sauce piquante, and crawfish étouffée. Here the cuisine is pungent, peppery, and as robust as the farmers, fishermen, and trappers themselves who settled in the area more than 200 years ago.

    The difference between the two cuisines

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  • Recipes for Mardi Gras

  • New Orleans Cocktails for Mardi Gras

    Looking for a little Carnival tipple? Consider these cocktails

    New Orleans is said to be the home of the first cocktail. During Carnival season, it's ground zero for boozers-alcohol is served morning, noon, and night. The following adult beverages were all invented in the Big Easy. Try one to add a touch of authenticity to your Mardi Gras party.

    The Inside Scoop


    Here's what we're talking about when we refer to "the first cocktail." In the early 1800s, pharmacist Antoine Peychaud invented a brand of bitters to soothe rotten stomachs. Then he invented a drink for the bitters. Voilà, cocktails.

    Ramos Gin Fizz

    This gin drink tastes like a floral bouquet, thanks to the addition of orange flower water.


    Necessity being the mother of invention, when absinthe was outlawed in 1912, J.M. Legendre came up with his own wormwood-free version of the anise-flavored liqueur. Substitute it for any recipe that calls for Pernod. (Incidentally, it's

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