Bean Cuit

October 01, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Bean CuitI wrote this post more than a month ago, when green beans were still plentiful. Then, before I had a chance to put the finishing touches on it, I got a story assignment, my first since moving to Richmond. (It’ll be published in the November/December issue of Edible Richmond Magazine). Of course I fell into that deep hole of writin’ and researchin’, like I always do when I get a chance to have a byline, so Bean Cuit had to wait. Hope there’s still lovely fresh green beans about somewhere. Considering how this method has you cook green beans to smithereens, I would think that a frozen stash of summer’s abundance will work just as well.

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I may end up being one of those old people that you can’t let in a kitchen anymore because they’ll leave the stove on and burn the whole friggin house down. It’s going to suck to not be able to cook.

Several weeks ago I made a pot of slow simmered beans and peas: a couple of handfuls of pole beans from our 12-foot-tall Turkey Craw pole bean plant in our courtyard, the remaining bush beans from the plant in our community garden plot, and some shelled pink-eyed peas, also from our garden plot, added sequentially in descending order of size to a pot of water seasoned with a healthy teaspoonful of sea salt and even healthier spoonful of bacon grease. When the beans had become withered and dull in color and velvety soft, and when the water had transformed into nutritious pot liquor, I turned off the heat and went for a walk.

Upon returning, I thought I heard my husband in the shower, but at that moment I realized the sound I was hearing was the sound of the last amount of pot liquor evaporating into the air and sound of beans sizzling on the bottom of

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Succotash—More Than the Sum of Its Parts

August 23, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Succotash #1

Two versions of Succotash (#1 in the foreground)

Succotash is a perfect subject for this posting, my first on the foods of Virginia. You could argue that no dish is more Virginian than succotash, going way back, as many claim, to the Powhatan Indians, a tribe that lived along the eastern shore of what is now called Virginia. And it’s the dish that made me feel at home here during my first summer living in Richmond.

Last August, heading home from the Richmond airport on Route 5, past vestigial farm fields sprinkled among small businesses and light industry, I spied a tented farm stand on the left side of the road. After doing a quick maneuver, I pulled in next to the table of colorful produce.

“Do you add tomatoes to your succotash?” asked the farmer, as soon as I’d made my selection of tasseled ears of corn, shucked fresh lima beans, and bright red tomatoes.

Her question caught me off-guard. I hadn’t given the dish much thought, perhaps not since

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Magnified Procrastination

August 16, 2015
By Holly Jennings

I thought I was way past it: that thing of avoiding doing something a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then again and yet again, until the thing you’ve left untended and the space of silent absence that surrounds it becomes magnified and more awkward to return to by the day. I’m like that wayward parent who skips out on a child’s rearing, not stepping back in until years later. That’s me, stepping back into this blog one year and seven months from my latest posting.

I just vanished. The truth is I succumbed to full-time job and then to magnified procrastination.

It’s not a coincidence that the date of my last posting coincides with the same week that I started a full-time+ work-from-home editing job. I don’t know how some people find the energy to blog regularly (when those blog postings include recipe testing and development, writing, and photography) and keep a full-time job, let alone have children or any kind of social life. It’s impressive! I don’t have children or a hugely active social life. No, it was working full-time at a job at home alone that requires sitting in front of a computer and making heavy use of my brain that made even the idea of sitting longer still in front of the computer to write and post those writings, rather than getting out and about and speaking other humans, entirely unappealing.

That was then and now, happily, I’ve been able to cut back a bit on my day-job hours, so I’m ready to end the vanishing game.

For the time being I will not be resurrecting the cookbook club exactly as it was when I lived in Vermont; instead I will write periodic postings about the food of my surroundings, the Piedmont region of Virginia and sometimes beyond (most likely with the compass pointed a little bit east or west or further south). Books will continue to play a big role; they are how I make my living, one of the things I love dearly in the material world, and one of the things I love to share with you.

I will leave the information about starting and running a cookbook club in place on the blog for others to use who

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Best-Ever Wings

January 19, 2014
By Holly Jennings

Korean hot wings_72 dpi

photo by Heath Robbins

I wasn’t going to share this recipe with you. I’d already blown my wad on three permission requests for Jap Chae, Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger, and Tofu and Clam Hot Pot, all equally good but in very different ways, and all from The Korean Table. But then I tried these wings, and I got greedy. Oh Tuttle Publishing, would you please grant me permission to use yet another recipe on the blog? Because of their generosity, I present you with the best-ever chicken wings. They are hot and

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Polar Vortex Food

January 07, 2014
By Holly Jennings

Taekyung Chung, co-author of THE KOREAN TABLE, stirring Tofu and Clam Hot Pot. (Photo by Mark Goodwin.)

Taekyung Chung, co-author of THE KOREAN TABLE, stirring Tofu and Clam Hot Pot. (Photo by Mark Goodwin.)

Right about now, whether you live in the north or the south, this is what you want to eat: a hot pot of steaming, spicy, and nourishing broth. This hot pot takes its name from pillowy soft tofu, but there’s much more going on in this soup besides sundubu (tofu): there’s pork, clams, egg, and beef via the broth. It’s both rich tasting and enriching to the body. Again, perfect vortex food.

This same dish was one of several served

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Summer Noodles with Vegetables

December 27, 2013
By Holly Jennings

I love it when members let me know what they think of DCCC picks. Most often, members relay their thoughts about a book in an email, which I then incorporate into my book reviews (the DCCC chapter in Denver has been consistently wonderful in this regard). All members, however, are invited to contribute postings, which can take just about any form (there’s information here about member-submitted postings).

Take this missive from Carlos Santa Coloma, one of the newest members to join DCCC. He lives in Florida, far from the location of the original DCCC (Vermont) and my new home base of Richmond, Virginia. He’s not letting that distance get in the way of his fun. He’s participating from a far, and has contributed a status report on his explorations of The Korean Table.

Carlos sent me his photo and greeting a some weeks back, so by now I imagine he’s become a Korean cooking pro. HJ

Photo by Carlos Santa Coloma

Photo by Carlos Santa Coloma

Hello. To members of DCCC who read this, greetings! I am a new member but I am a longtime avid, amateur cook. I love bold spicy flavors so Jerusalem, Entice with Spice and the current DCCC book, The Korean Table, have recipes that I really like. (Actually, exploring Ottolenghi’s cuisine is what brought me to this club.)

I offer a photo and a few comments on my first selection from The Korean Table. This is my version of Summer Noodles with Vegetables on page 132. I liked it because it has a lot of veggies—kind of like a salad and hearty meal at the same time,  and yes, it was quite tasty. These are flavors that I definitely want to explore. Next time I’ll ease up on the amount of somen . . . or figure it out better. It got too mushy. I think I need to cook the noodles less? Any ideas?

My wife complained that the meat was too cold. Other than that she liked it okay. The dish reminded her of cold sesame noodles. (She’s not one for effusive compliments. So I read her body language.) Today is the next day and I’m craving more from that exotic taste department. My youngest daughter who adores all things Asian is going to be jealous.

I think I’ll try to make kimchi with the Napa cabbage that was left over. The Kimchi Hot Pot on page 87 looks yummy . . .

—Carlos Santa Coloma



Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger

December 06, 2013
By Holly Jennings

pork ribs with fresh ginger

photo by Heath Robbins

Have you ever sat back in your chair after enjoying a meal, allowing the flavors to linger in your mouth, reached for your water glass, and then regretted it? I have, until breaking myself of the habit. All it takes is one small sip of water to wash all of those wonderful flavors down the tubes, possibly never to be experienced again in exactly the same way.

This dish from The Korean Table, or rather its redolent sauce, which is the dish, is worthy of regret—should you lapse into knee-jerk mode and imbibe in a post-meal drink of H2O.

The base of the sauce is Sweet Soy Base Sauce, a soy sauce concoction that’s ramped up with brown sugar, wine, and aromatics (ginger, garlic, and black peppercorns). To that is added more wine and black pepper and a good amount of ginger and green onions. Then in go the pork ribs, carrots, pearl onions, and potatoes. The result is a rich, mellow, and well-balanced sauce that hits all the right notes: salt, sweet, acid, faintly peppery.

Soy sauce along with the pork supply the sauce with its umami, so it’s important to use good quality pork (translation: happy life, good diet, least stressful death possible). (I kinda hate throwing the term umami around because it’s an abstract one—like a lot of food flavor language—and most of the time I’m not exactly sure I could recognize it on my palate if I had to. But every so often I eat something that seems designed just to illustrate umami. And this is one of those foods. It’s deeply rich, complex, and satisfying in a completing savory way, and yet is as addictive as a sugary treat was to you as a kid—remember picking chunks of brown sugar out of the box as a kid? As far as I can tell, that’s umami. Scientifically, umami is provided by the amino acid glutamate, found in proteins, fermented foods of all types, and some vegetables.)

I shopped for pork ribs at my new local butcher shop—the Belmont Butchery, owned by Tanya Cauthen. When the man behind the counter handed me the ribs, I was happy to see they had a nice dark and meaty color to them (none of that tragic “other white meat” business, please). He said, proudly, that the ribs were from a Berkshire pig from a local farm. His comment, and his obvious love of food and love of talking food, made me realize that the only thing that could make me happier in my new home town of Richmond is if we lived in walking distance to Belmont Butchery.

I hope my description, and the enticing photo by Heath Robbins, are enough to convince you try this dish and savor it. And to find a butcher you can talk pig breeds with. That’s as much of a treat as the dish.

Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger

(Adapted [very slightly!] from The Korean Table by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels)

Serves 4, amply

2½ pounds meaty pork ribs, separated into individual ribs
2½ cups water
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
7 ounces pearl onions, peeled (see Note)
¾ pound potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes

¾ cup Sweet Soy Base Sauce (click here, and scroll down for recipe)
2 cups minced green onion (scallion)
2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ cup red or white wine

  1. Place the ribs in a large bowl and cover with water. Let them sit for 20 minutes to remove excess blood. Drain and transfer the ribs to a large pot with a lid. Discard the soaking liquid.
  2. Add the sauce ingredients and the water to the pot. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until tender. Add the carrots and pearl onions and continue cooking, with the lid on, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes can continue cooking until the vegetable are soft, about 10 minutes more.
  3. With a slotted spoon remove the ribs and vegetables and transfer to a serving bowl. With a spoon, skim any oil from the surface of the sauce.
  4. Cook the sauce for another 10 minutes or so over medium-high heat, or until the sauce is thickened. Pour the sauce over the ribs and vegetables. Serve in wide shallow soup bowls with plain white short-grain rice on the side.

Note: Peeling pearl onions is extremely finicky work, unless you give them a pre-peel blanch. Trim the root ends of the onions, then blanch the onions in boiling water for about 30 seconds and transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Pinch the onions at the stem end to pop them out of their skin. If they don’t slip out, use a paring knife to remove the skin.

(Recipes and photography from The Korean Table by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels. Photography by Heath Robbins. Recipe for and photograph of Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger reprinted with the express permission of Tuttle Publishing,


Korean Magic Noodles

November 20, 2013
By Holly Jennings


Japchae. Japchae. It’s almost as fun to say as bibimbap. And come to think of it, every Korean I’ve met seems to utter the word with revere and a sigh.

Maybe that’s because the noodles used to make the dish are magical. Called Dangmyun, they are dried vermicelli noodles made with sweet potato starch. When heated, they go from being opaque to transparent, and from

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5:15 p.m., 70°F in Richmond, Virginia

October 23, 2013
By Holly Jennings

That was day before yesterday. Maybe one of the last possible days to enjoy a pomegranate-ginger smash—a lemony, minty, sweet-tart concoction served over crushed ice—even in Richmond, Virginia. October 21st is way beyond the date of wanting such a thing in Vermont—the place where I lived for seven years before plopping myself down here exactly one month ago.

The views. They’re from the balcony off of the second floor bedroom in our new home. Starting from the top: looking out to the left toward the parish house and Father Wayne’s back courtyard; straight ahead to the large magnolia tree in our own courtyard, which will be magnificent next spring; over the tree tops to the stately, prior school building, now condominiums, the next block over (which you could make out better if the top portion of the photograph wasn’t blown out); then over to the right at a slight angle to some of the courtyards of neighboring buildings; and finally, the bottom image, to the far right out beyond our neighbor’s matching Juliet balcony and beyond to nearby rooftops, my favorite view.

Views from 2nd floor balcony_smaller

The drink. It’s a hold-over from Jerusalem days: the thread being the use of pomegranate molasses. (The recipe is below.) I came up with this cocktail back in mid-August with the plan of photographing it soon after and posting it on the blog—in perfect late

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Jerusalem: A Cookbook (and a great “ROI”)

August 16, 2013
By Holly Jennings

A Cookbook
by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Ten Speed Press
320 pp. $35.00


Here’s what DCCC members have to say about Jerusalem:

LOVED everything that was made—both by me and the other club members.
—Sherri, DCCC member

This was my favorite cookbook so far and favorite menu. Food is not only beautiful, it’s delicious, healthy and not too hard to make.
—Lisa, DCCC member

I am a HUGE fan of anything related to Ottolenghi. My husband & I go to their restaurants every time we are in London. I now own all 3 of their cookbooks & love everything about them. The tone, history, culture, photos & of course the inspiring recipes.
—Leslie, DCCC member

I love Jerusalem, how ethnic it is and delicious the recipes are. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks now. And I love that it isn’t just straight up recipes. There was so much culture in it, too.
—Jennifer, DCCC member

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For a long time I didn’t feel I had much to add to the talk about Jerusalem, except for more of the same exuberating adulation along the lines of “Wow, this is a wonderful cookbook. I don’t think there’s a single bad recipe in it. The food is fantastic—very flavorful and reasonably easy to make.” For this reason I’ve dragging my feet, waiting for something to percolate. I mean just saying “Gee, this book is great” doesn’t make for much of review.

I, like everyone else who picks up the book, was immediately seduced by its soft, puffy cover and the gorgeous food photography by Jonathan Lovekin and the lively street photography by Adam Hinton. Clearly Lovekin is one of the best food photographers in the world because upon first flipping through the book, I found myself saying “I want to make that, and that, and that . . .”

Once drawn in, next comes skimming the recipes. The theme is irresistible, and is hard to sum up in just a few words. Here is snapshot: Ingredients like sour lemon and tart sumac and tangy yogurt, sweet sun-ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, fruity and meltingly soft eggplant, bitter greens, caramelized onions, and any number of other fantastic vegetables, including the au curant fennel bulb, are intermingled with a heady mix of spices, many aromatic, to either create meat-not-missed vegetable acts or dishes layered with the deeply resonant flavors and fatty textures of meats, fish, or chicken, or perhaps simply labne, tahini sauce, or olive oil. Add to this a jack-in-box flavor boost provided by one of the many piquant condiments in the back of the book, and you have flavor that is screamingly good.

Is this why the book has resonated with so many people? I’ve cooked screamingly good food from other cookbooks, so that in and of itself doesn’t seem to be it. No, I think the secret to its success is a highly favorable exchange rate, or what my financial copy writing and excellent punster boyfriend said could be referred to as the ROI. In the financial world this stands for “return on investment.” In the cooking world? Return on ingredients.

Simply put, for the amount of time spent securing ingredients, prepping them, and cooking them, the results you get are exceptional. Sure there is some time involved, but not a ton, and the techniques and recipe steps aren’t complicated. This is probably because at its heart Jerusalem is a cookbook of traditional foods, though in many cases tweaked and modernized by Chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. And traditional cooking, unlike chef cooking, is home cooking.

Barring a sampling of traditional dishes, however, like the basic hummus and falafel, I have a feeling that the food of Jerusalem is not your ordinary Israeli home cooking. My guess is that the genius of Ottolenghi and Tamimi lies in their ability to overlay an array of sensational flavors—complex and nuanced and satisfying, delighting the mouth and belly of Western eaters—onto the structure of home cooking techniques, maintaining a perfect balance between the spirit of the home-grown foods of Jerusalem and the region and exciting and bold taste sensations that hit a chord with modern, adventurous home cooks and eaters.

How do I know this for sure? I don’t. I’ve never been to Israel, and I haven’t interviewed Ottolenghi and Tamimi to find out the back story of the book. Partly, it’s spelled out in the recipe headnotes, where they sometimes describe the changes they’ve made to traditional recipes—how they’ve put their stamp on them. But in many cases it’s just hinted at. Nonetheless, their hand in the traditional recipes is there. You sense it and can taste it.

I got an idea of how the recipes in Jerusalem may differ from everyday home cooking when I gave a Turkish friend of mine a taste of Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts—a dish with Turkish roots. After I showed her their recipe for it, her immediate reaction was to wonder why it had so many ingredients and is so rich tasting. Clearly Ottolenghi and Tamimi have added their chef touches, riffing on dishes here and there to make them pleasing to their palates.

I started this review by saying that for a long time I felt didn’t have much to say. That’s a little bit of a white lie. I do have a critical comment. I’ve kept it to myself because when everyone is having fun at the party, it’s a drag to be a Debbie Downer. And it is a party. In Vermont, where I live, fried chickpeas are showing up on pub menus, and at restaurants sautéed greens are being slathered in tahini sauce. And food magazines of all stripes are publishing stories about the flavors from part of the world, from Gabriella Gershenson’s “The Promised Land” in Saveur (May, 2013) to Hugh Acheson’s “A Southern Chef in Israel” in Cooking Light (June, 2013).

Plus my only criticism is a little difficult to articulate because it’s not of what’s in the book, but rather of what’s missing: a strong, personal voice. It’s not that the writing is bad, or the content boring. Far from it. The writing is competent and the story of two men, one Jewish and one Muslim, living in the very charged and often divided atmosphere of Jerusalem but united through food is compelling. And there are some wonderful turns of phrase. I love how they emphasize the importance of the sun in their cooking and the ingredients they use. Referring to the quality of the vegetables used in Fattoush, they write: “They must be fresh, ripe, and flavorsome, with many hours in the sun behind them.”

It’s simply that I don’t feel the presence of a voice, or a personality, to connect with or warm up to. The opposite is true of many previous DCCC picks: The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy, Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread by Crescent Dragonwagon, Fat by Jennifer McLagan, Thai Food by David Thompson, Ripe by Nigel Slater,  The New Portuguese Table by David Leite, The Breath of a Wok by Grace Young.

In Plenty, Ottolenghi’s previous book, a collection of recipes with short headnotes originally published in a vegetarian column he wrote for the Guardian, you can hear his voice, discern a personality. So, what happened in Jerusalem? Perhaps the explanation lies in the two-author structure. You know what they say about design by committee. Ottolenghi, of the two presumably the one with the greater writing experience, may have taken a back seat to ensure the book was indeed a two-author project. Perhaps they relied on a “ghost writer” to flesh out some passages for expediency. (Note: These are absolutely and completely my own ponderings and musings. They have no basis in fact. I simply like to think about and discuss how books get made.)

This doesn’t make Jerusalem a bad cookbook. In fact, it’s a great cookbook. I am certain that I and every DCCC member will return to it again and again. But perhaps it’s a less good book as a result. Ultimately it makes me ask myself what I want in the ideal cookbook. Fantastic recipes are a given, but a distinct voice is an added bonus that makes cooking from it a more personal and richer experience.

Like taste, however, voice is subjective, and the voice that’s I’m drawn to may be different from what you or another reader is drawn to. So perhaps one reason why Jerusalem has been so successful is that the writing is sound but largely neutral, thus alienating no one, but the food is lively, bright, and bursting with flavor. As I’m writing this, I’ve just now realized that there is a voice in Jerusalem. Not in the writing, but in the food.

In her interesting story “‘Jerusalem’ Has All the Right Ingredients,” published in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, Julia Moskin has tried to get to bottom of why this book, right now, has been so incredibly popular in America. To tell the story of Jerusalem’s popularity, which has spawned the creation of several cookbook clubs, by the way, Moskin puts the book into the context of cookbook publishing as a whole, comparing it to other touchstones—like The Art of Mastering French Cooking and The Silver Palate Cookbook.

I held off on reading Moskin’s piece because I didn’t want it to sway my review. And guess what I found? This quote from Ottolenghi sent by email: “Jerusalem’s food is idiosyncratic yet has a clear voice.” For this book, it really is all in the food.

A potluck montage: DCCC members and food from JERUSALEM

P.S. You will notice that I haven’t included a list of DCCC members’ favorite recipes as I usually do in cookbook reviews. That’s because the list would very, very long. And a long list of recipes is practically as boring as just saying, “Gee, this book is terrific.”