Burning Questions: 15 Things You Never Knew About Valerie Gordon

Categories: Cookbooks, Cooking

Valerie GordonSince 2003, Valerie Gordon has wooed Angelinos with her award-winning sweets and baked goods. Sweet is her first cookbook, a tome filled with recipes for favorite desserts, including cakes, truffles, petit fours, cookies, and so much more. For November’s Artisan Cookbook Club, we spotlight Sweet and ask Valerie our burning questions.

Your usual breakfast: I eat the same breakfast every day: two cups of coffee and a cookie.

Fantasy vacation: A vacation.

Your ideal kitchen sound track: My kitchen soundtrack changes according to my mood. On any given day it might include Judy Garland, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder (’70s specific), Pink Martini, Justin Timberlake, Roxy Music, Amy Winehouse, and Zero 7.

Guilty pleasure: It feels like I’m sharing something really intimate and torrid. A bowl of Sour Patch Kids accompanied by a glass of ice-cold Ketel One. I know; it’s a lot to take. Don’t judge me!

Kitchen utensil you can’t live without: My zester(s).

Food you won’t eat: I stay away from any foods that are purchased in a drive-through.

Ingredient you’re currently loving: Oolong tea.

Last meal you made for your family: Roast chicken, pasta with butter and Parmesan, and a tomato salad.

Last meal on earth: Billecart-Salmon rosé, two dozen oysters on the half shell, and a crusty baguette with freshly churned butter sprinkled with fleur de sel.

Recipe you cherish: The Bon Ton-style fried chicken recipe that I found in Gourmet magazine about fifteen years ago. That recipe triggered a small fixation with fried chicken. I absolutely love making fried chicken—not eating it, just making it.

Recipe you hope readers will make this holiday season: Fruitcake Blanc. Fruitcake has such a terrible reputation, but this recipe tends to convert the most ardent naysayers.

Your kids’ favorite treat: My children gleefully and voraciously consume any cookie, cake, ice cream, chocolate, or pie I serve them, which is never as often as they might like.

Restaurant you can’t stop recommending: Trois Mec in Los Angeles. Ludo Lefebvre’s food is consistently delicious and creative. A reservation requires some effort, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

Signature clothing item: A black T-shirt with three quarter-length sleeves.

Wisdom you’ve gained from owning and operating your own shops/restaurants: Flexibilty and communication are the keys to success.

Recipe in Sweet that best reflects your personality: The Durango cookie—it has rigid ingredients but is naturally pliable.

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Burning Questions: 15 Things You Never Knew About David Tanis

Categories: Cookbooks, Cooking

David TanisIn his three decades behind the stove, David Tanis has overseen kitchens in Santa Fe and Paris and throughout the San Francisco Bay area. He currently writes the weekly City Kitchen column for The New York Times. As part of October’s Artisan Cookbook Club special, he kindly took a break to chat with us about his new cookbook, One Good Dish, and to answer some of our burning questions.

Your usual breakfast: My morning eating habits vary with the seasons, but I don’t ever eat immediately upon rising. I usually make a pot of weak tea, which I sip lazily for an hour or so while trying to get organized. I might have a piece of toast or a tangerine, but generally I want to do some physical work or take a walk, then have some breakfast around ten o’clock, maybe scrambled eggs with green chile.

Your ideal kitchen sound track: I like a quiet kitchen. Once I volunteered in a Zen Buddhist kitchen with a rule of no talking except to say, “Excuse me, your apron’s on fire” or something of that sort. It was great. But sometimes a Sondheim score at full blast is just the thing. I put on something danceable when guests arrive.

Utensil you can’t live without: I’d rather not live without a sharp knife—I take them with me on holidays; everything else is negotiable.

Fantasy vacation: A house by the sea, a small group of friends, simple meals cooked together.

Food you won’t eat: There is no food, offal or otherwise, that I wouldn’t try. And there’s nothing I can think of that I don’t like. As a child, I happily ate both spinach and liver.

Your Madeleine: If you mean what one food stirs memories like no other, I’m not sure I can say. But I have lots of food memories, most of them aroma-activated sense memories. Today I thought of a black bean torta I ate in Oaxaca a long time ago. I can still taste it.

Last meal you cooked for yourself: Last night I made myself spaghetti with bread crumbs. It’s a very simple pasta—garlicky, a bit spicy, and completely satisfying. You can find the recipe in One Good Dish.

Holiday recipe you cherish: How about a relish I cherish? The cranberry-jalapeño chutney in Heart of the Artichoke is nice to have on hand. So is my friend Niloufer Ichaporia King’s tomato chutney, or her Parsi wedding pickle, in her cookbook, My Bombay Kitchen.

Ingredient you have banned from your kitchen: Truffle oil. It’s a synthetically made product. A truffle producer in France told me it’s made in a lab and has no real truffle content. But he sells it because people want it.

Ingredient you’re currently loving: A friend has a Kafir lime tree.  The leaves are incredibly fragrant. They’re traditionally used in Thai fish cakes. I’ve been grinding the fresh leaves to a green powder in a spice mill and using it to season fish stews.

Sweet or savory? Savory, definitely.

Chocolate or cheese? Cheese. And another glass of wine. For me, chocolate is something tiny served with coffee.

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A Curly Education: 3 Things (Most) Curly Girls Don’t Know

Categories: Beauty, How-to, Live by the Book, News, Self-help

While I identify in many ways––politically, ethnically, socially––there is one identification that I will always be proud of. I am a curly girl! If anyone is in need of a definition, it is simply a girl or woman with curly locks that range from beach waves to tight corkscrews. To most curly girls, our hair is a mystery to us. We go through trial and error, and trial and error, and some more trial and error until we find the right routine for our crazy hair. And again, most curly girls who go through the multiple trials end up having a love-hate relationship with their curls. Like most curly girls, I did too.

Then, I saw a book by Lorraine Massey called Curly Girl and I knew it was for me. Since skimming through the pages (and by skimming I mean reading the whole book from front to back), I have been forever changed. You might say, I’ve had an awakening

Now, out of all the things I  learned, I give you The 3 Things (Most) Curly Girls Don’t Know.

1. Your Shampoo is Killing Your Curls!

dry hair

Terrifying image, isn’t it? That is a closeup your hair. Well, not your hair (that would be weird and creepy), but you would be surprised that if you looked at your hair through a microscope, this is what it would look like. But how!? You wash your hair as much as it needs to and you mostly use conditioner. And when you do, you do use shampoo–well that’s it. LESSON 1: Most shampoos use a harsh chemical called sulfate. It’s the thing that burns your eyes and dries out your hair, but at least they make those pretty suds! It’s also an ingredient in a lot of detergents used to get the stains out of your dirty dishes and laundry (gross). So, ditch the shampoo in favor of a shampoo-like cleanser that is sulfate-free and all natural (like Devacurl where they adorably call it “no-poo“).

2. Moisture is Your Friend


All curly girls unite under one common enemy: water. Whether it be on the beach, through rain, or just the unsettling humidity in the air, we hate moisture. There have been many a times where I have walked out the doors of the Workman Publishing building onto the streets of the West Village with curls intact. The birds are chirping and the sun is shining, but alas,  it is New York in the summer. My curls last no more that two minutes. “Darn you, moisture!,” I used to say, but after reading Curly Girl, I say “Bring it on, moisture!LESSON 2: It turns out that I actually NEED moisture in my hair. Yes, think about it: It seems obvious now, but the reason we curly girls get frizz is because our hair is dry, not because there is too much moisture in the air. Once we learn how to take the sulfate out of our shampoo cleansers and the silicone (it repels the absorption of moisture) out of our conditioners, we could be walking in the middle of the rainforest with little frizz!

3. Don’t Just Chop Your Locks Any Old Way


Put. That. Scissor. Down. We have all been there. We have watched our ends be soft and freshly cut to–just a few weeks later–horrible, dry, and split. I was there just two weeks ago! I decided to take action against my shriveled ends.  I put my hair in a side braid. I seized the tiny ends of my braid, held it between my index and middle finger (mimicking many hairdressers like my own), and cut those suckers off. You feel victorious for a moment because they’re gone. You may even feel that your hair is healing. Well, it’s not. You only gave yourself a temporary victory because they will come back. LESSON 3: In Curly Girl, I learned how to cut my hair the right way. I learned how to cut each section from sides to canopy (I didn’t even know I had a canopy!) and, even to only cut by the ‘C’s of my curls. Oh, and never cut your hair wet.

Okay, so that’s definitely not all I learned from this book. There is so much more for a curly girl to discover about her hair, which, let’s be real, is a real mystery most of the time. But in the meantime, be proud of your curls, and take good care of them. You can find out more in Curly Girl: the Handbook by Lorraine Massey, a fellow curly girl!

– Dilsia

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Recipe: Cold Spicy Soba + Spinach Salad with Shrimp

Categories: Cookbooks, e-books, News, Recipes

My love for this spicy soba recipe from Caroline Wright’s Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals is both genuine and intense. Delicious, easy, quick, and infinitely adaptable, it’s one of those recipes that instantly became a go-to in my weekly arsenal. I make it with whatever noodles I have on hand–flat rice noodles, skinny rice noodles, and soba noodles alike–using tofu more often than I use fish, and I’ve thrown in veggies from broccoli rabe or collard greens to tomatoes and asparagus. (I’m also just as likely to eat it hot.) Enjoy!



Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, stir together in a medium bowl the sliced whites of 2 scallions (slice and reserve the greens), 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 to 3 teaspoons fish sauce, and 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce; season with salt to taste.

Place 6 ounces small shrimp (such as rock or bay shrimp) in a sieve and submerge in the boiling water until cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside. Then cook 12 ounces soba noodles in the boiling water for 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the leaves from 2 bunches spinach well and tear into pieces. Add the spinach to the noodles and continue to cook until the noodles and spinach are tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water, then press gently to remove excess liquid.

Transfer the noodles and spinach to a serving bowl, add the shrimp, and toss with the sauce, scallion greens, and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds until coated.

ALSO TRY: soba + snow peas + skinless salmon fillet (poached about 7 minutes)


Get the ebook, only $6.99 for the month of August, by clicking here. And visit Workman’s Blue Plate Special to sign up for our newsletter and find out about great ecookbook deals every month!



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The Top 5 Laughing Babies of YouTube (or, My Studies in the Fine Art of Laughter)

Categories: Family, Fun and games, How-to, Kids, News, Video

Everyone loves a good laugh, but a baby’s laugh is pretty much the best there is. Unfettered by the slings and arrows that come with age (there’s a reason there aren’t more Laughing Teenagers of YouTube), and encouraged by parents who buy books with titles like 97 Ways to Make a Baby Laugh, babies just don’t hold back when they find something utterly hilarious. So, here, in my first blog post under the title of Newest Intern at Workman Publishing, I have searched high and low for you to present the Top 5 Laughing Babies of YouTube. (And lest you think the workload was light, there are a lot of amused babies online.)

5. Baby Laughing at Ripped Paper

This one is definitely a classic: the baby who laughs hysterically at his father ripping paper. His laughter is contagious and his wonder and amazement are just plain adorable–I dare you to not laugh along with him!

4. Baby Laughing at Dad

This little tyke’s raspy laugh is impossible not to laugh along with. Impossible, I tell you!

3. Baby Laughing at Mom

Oh, Emerson! Every time his mother blows her nose, her baby is taken aback in complete horror before he dissolves into giggles.

2. Baby Laughing at Baby

It’s like looking in the mirror and laughing…with yourself. Any time you take a cute baby laughing and multiply it, the cute quotient increases exponentially. Take a look.

1. Baby Laughing at Baby, and Baby, and Baby…

Okay, I know it’s hard to keep up with the math, but if you take that pair of twins, and double it? This set of quads definitely subscribe to the adage, “The more the merrier!”

Stay tuned for my next blog post, in which I’ll be tackling my curly hair! It won’t be nearly as cute. It can’t be.

– Dilsia


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Pitchapalooza Success!

Categories: News

Thanks to everyone who attended our second Workman Community Event! It was a night of firsts: The first time Pitchapalooza had been hosted inside a publishing house. The first time guest panelist and Publisher of Algonquin Books Elisabeth Scharlatt appeared as a Pitchapalooza judge. And, at the end of the night, the first time in Pitchapalooza history that the judges crowned not one, not two, but three winners! For the full rundown (and the winners), check out what the Wall Street Journal had to say about it.

Pitch5 workman

The one-minute pitches were flying and the judges’ advice spot-on, while Savannah and I tried our best to keep up–and keep their nuggets of brilliance to 140 characters or less (look for our tweets with the hashtag #pitchapalooza if you’d like a refresher)….

Pitch7 workman

For those who were seeking out the unabridged version (forget 140 characters, the book has 4 times that in pages!), Workman’s Leslie Fannon was there to take orders.

Pitch2 workman

Stay tuned for the next Workman Community Event…any special requests for future ones?  Leave ‘em in the comments.


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The Founding Fathers, Deconstructed: Benjamin Franklin

Categories: News

Happy Independence Day! Before you watch the fireworks and dump your enemy’s tea into the nearest body of water, let’s round out our three-part series on name history with a Founding Father known for his love of language. A northerner, while we’re at it (sorry Thomas Jefferson, or rather “Twin Son-of-Jeffery”) with a particular etymological connection to a cherished modern Fourth of July tradition:

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin is derived from a Hebrew name meaning “son of the south” or “son of the right hand”; its progenitor, the youngest son of Jacob, is a figure in the Bible, Quran and Torah. The first syllable ben literally means “son of”, and its modern variations (such as “ben”, “bin” and “ibn”) are commonly used in Semitic surnames. The rest of the name stems from yamin, which means both “south” and “right hand”. We don’t have too many English words from this root, but a quick map check will confirm that the southernmost Arab state is, well, Yemen.

Franklin is also etymologically related to an Old World country, this time the more obvious France. Both the name and the nation are rooted in the Franks, an ancient Germanic horde known for their incredible might (unlike those other, not-mighty Germanic hordes). Their many descendants included the Normans, who kept up the family tradition by conquering England in 1066 (thanks high school!) and subjugating the locals for a few centuries. It got to the point where the Middle English directly referred to the Franks in its term for a free landholder, frankelin; Modern English eventually expunged the extraneous e. This means two things for America:

-Benjamin Franklin’s obsession with freedom is echoed in his name, and more importantly

-Freedom has a concrete linguistic link with hot dogs, as the original term ‘frankfurter’ stems from the German city of Frankfurt, which literally means “Ford of the Franks”.

So fire up those grills, and whether it’s halal, kosher, tofu or pork, know that you’re eating the delicious food of liberty.


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The Founding Fathers, Deconstructed: Patrick Henry

Categories: News

Time for Round Two of our look into the etymology of the Founding Fathers’ names! Yesterday we researched George Washington, and today we’re focusing on a fellow Virginian, governor and orator Patrick Henry. Will the man who gave us “Give me liberty or give me death!”, “If this be treason, make the most of it!” and other famous shouts have a name that lives up to his legacy? Find out below, and check in tomorrow for our final installment!

Patrick Henry

Patrick is a descendant of the Latin name Patricius, meaning “nobleman” (or, more accurately and evidently, “patrician”). At first this may seem ill-suited for a champion of republicanism, but if we delve deeper we find that a patricius was meant to act as a fatherly figure to those beneath him; you might recognize the “father” aspect in more familiar words, like “patriarch” and “paternal” (although funnily enough, the term “patronizing” looped back to having an elitist connotation in the eighteenth century).

The word “father” itself shares an ancient root with patricius, the Proto-Indo-European pater (the approximations of plosives like ‘p’ in Proto-Indo-European often split off to become fricatives like ‘f’ when becoming Romantic and Germanic languages, as seen in the Romantic roots patr-, frag- and pter- versus the Germanic father, break and feather).

So we can connect one of the Founding Fathers with the actual word “father”, which is pretty neat. But what’s even cooler is that Patrick is more directly related to an equally apt term: patriot.

Henry comes from the German Heinrich, itself from the Old High German Heimerich, an easily-split name meaning “home ruler” (heim meaning “home”, rich deriving from rihhi, meaning “ruler”). The first half is related to the English word “home” (surprise!), but also “haunt”, stemming from the word’s original denotation as a frequently-visited place; the ghostly undertones didn’t come about until the nineteenth century.

The latter half, rihhi, is part of a rich global family. On the Germanic side this includes the word “rich” itself, as well as “right” and the unfortunately-connoted “Reich”. But going back to its Proto-Indo-European root reg gives us a connection to the Latin regere (meaning “to rule”) from which we get ruler words like “regal”, “reign”, “regime”, “regulate”, “region” and “Regis Philbin”; we also have the Sanskrit raj and raja, which made their way to the English lexicon through India.

What I’m getting at is, there’s a lot of history crammed into the last two letters of Henry.

All in all, you can see Patrick Henry’s full name in two ways: either it’s incredibly ironic that the anti-monarchist’s name essentially means “nobleman king”, or the Virginia governor is perfectly described as a “patriotic/fatherly leader of the home”.


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The Founding Fathers, Deconstructed: George Washington

Categories: News

[Ed's note: We're very excited to introduce a fantastic Founding Fathers mini-series in honor of the 4th of July, penned by our summer intern and etymology enthusiast, Jay Lyon. George Washington, as the first elected president of the United States, seems like a great guy (and name) to start with, don't you think? Stay tuned for Patrick Henry tomorrow, followed by....?]

George Washington:

George (alongside its many counterparts, such as Jorge, Georges, Giorgio and Yuri) stems from the Ancient Greek word for farmer; a fitting moniker for our agrarian first president. This Greek root, georgos, itself derives from ge (earth) and ergon (work).

The words most visibly related to George are “geography”, “geology”, “geometry” and pretty much anything with “geo” anywhere near it. But from the ergon half we get words like “organ”, “urge”, “surgery” and anything that ends in “-ergy” (like energy, synergy and allergy).

Despite its similar structure, the word “gorge” comes from an entirely different root meaning “to swallow” (the same root as one of my favorite etymological pairings, “gargle” and “gargoyle”, both of which have to do with spouting from the throat) and has nothing to do with George.

Washington originates from a British town of the same name, which according to the Online Etymology Dictionary literally translates to “estate of a man named Wassa”. No word on who Wassa was, or what Wassa means (other than the presumably unrelated West African ethnic group of the same name), but the most important thing this tells us is that the capital of the United States is a town that’s named for a person that’s named for a town that’s named for a person.


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Recipe: Jalapeno-Spiked Bourbon Julep

Categories: Cookbooks, Recipes

Though the threat of a national bourbon shortage points to a recent surge in the whiskey’s popularity, there are those detractors who think of it as a heavy, cloying sort of  liquor. Cutting the traditional Mint Julep with an unorthodox kick of Jalapeño is the perfect answer to their qualms. Recipe via chef Edward Lee (who has never met a bourbon he didn’t like), from his stunning new cookbook  Smoke and Pickles.


Mint juleps are a part of the Derby celebrations, and everyone partakes in the ritual. But, to be honest, most juleps I’ve had are overly sweet, cloying, and hard to finish. This is my twist on the julep: It’s minty and verdant, with a kick of spice at the end that makes you want another sip. Serve this in pewter or silver julep cups, and drink it outside on a porch sheltered by a magnolia tree.

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