NY Times Food Writer is “Changing the Game”
Pushing Food Boundaries
The New York Times is not known to be “conservative”. And neither is the NYT’s long time food writer Melissa Clark. In 2015, she published a recipe that received a torrent of attention, positive and negative, including from then President Barack Obama. What caused this controversy? Pea guacamole. Clearly there are many guacamole traditionalists out there. The point of all of this is that Melissa Clark is not afraid to push boundaries in pursuit of her craft. You can find this recipe and more in Clark’s 2017 cookbook Dinner: Changing the Game.
Clark is a prolific cookbook author and recipe writer. As the title says, this book is about dinner and I thought it was excellent. The recipes are creative, but not too different and many of them are super speedy.
These recipes have a ton of flavour. Ingredients like anchovies, fish sauce, chili paste, citrus, pancetta, garlic and onions are used liberally. Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Kumquats and Cranberries has some of my favourite ingredients (crispy chicken! cranberries!) but put together in a different way. Korean-Style Stir-Fried Beef in lettuce wraps looks like big flavour without a ton of work. I’ve also heard about the Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby (a savoury pancake) but I haven’t tried it yet. Lots of vegetarian recipes for omnivores and vegetarians both.
We tried a number of the recipes. Like me, you may not be a fan of anchovies on their own, but they add a punch of umami. Case in point – Marmalade Meatballs with Cider Vinegar Glaze. The meatballs are, as Clark says, “ever so slightly reminiscent of something you’d find at a 1950’s supper buffet”, but more. The anchovies are mixed in the meatballs which were spicy and gingery and slightly sweet from the orange marmalade glaze.
Thai-Style Shredded Tofu with Brussels Sprouts was a great quick supper. The shredded tofu tasted like scrambled eggs, nicely soaked up the spicy / sour/ sweet sauce and worked well with the crunchy sprouts. I made extra sauce and added spice, but it’s purely a matter of taste.
Leek, Tomato & Farro Soup with Pancetta was our favourite. It was more of a minestrone-type stew. Don’t skip the pancetta (unless it’s something you don’t eat) because a small amount added a big pop of flavour and crunch. I added borlotti beans for some extra protein.
Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup with Coconut and Spinach was good although a little thin. Fettuccine with Spicy Anchovy Bread Crumbs was also an easy dish with a “big personality” but a little dry. I would try both again, but with some tweaks.
This is one of the most useful cookbooks I have seen for a while. She’s got good ideas and knows how to make them work. As for the Pea Guacamole – I love the classics but I’m no purist. I’ll take new ideas over stagnation any day.
Naomi Bussin is a lawyer, mother of three and an accomplished cook. Food is her favourite subject and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.