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Articles / Chris Morocco: What is a Recipe and What is a Template?

Chris Morocco: What is a Recipe and What is a Template?

Published August 2, 2023

Plus: Grilled eggplant Parmesan, a very scary book, and why I’m anti-Caprese


This Week’s Marksisms

Food with Mark Bittman: Chris Morocco

Today’s guest on Food, Chris Morocco, is the very talented Food Director at Bon Appetit, and also has a food podcast of his own, called Dinner SOS, where he answers pressing cooking questions from his audience — we talked about that, much about some of the funnier questions he’s gotten, but also about how Chris develops recipes, how he eats at home, what it is that he loves so much about the nature of a recipe. Chris is actually a colleague of my son-in-law, Nick, and it was nice to see how much the two of them like each other, and it sort of made this conversation feel like a familial conversation — you’ll see. Kate and I liked talking to Chris so much; we agreed on a lot, but I think we all learned from each other, too. Also, when he studied abroad in college, he brought just one book with him: How to Cook Everything. I never get tired of hearing things like that! Anyway. Here we are.

The recipe featured on today’s episode, Chris’s Corn & Chickpea Bowl With Miso-Jalapeño Tahini, can be found here.

Follow Food with Mark Bittman on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Overcast | Pocket Casts | Amazon Music


Cukes, Not Caprese

There is something about “Caprese” – tomatoes layered with mozzarella and basil – that I really dislike. If the tomatoes are good, you don’t need any mozzarella; it’s a distraction. Even if it’s freshly made (which it almost never is), its bland milkiness adds nothing. If the tomatoes are not good – i.e. out of season – you would be much happier eating mozzarella with a little good oil and salt on it.

A cucumber, however? That’s another story! Take an August cuke, slice or chunk it, salt it a little, let it rest for a few minutes. Now slice some August cherry tomatoes (the best for this, IMO), salt them separately, let them rest for a few minutes. Combine the two attractively but effortlessly, as I have here, drizzle with oil, and of course add basil if you have it. Lemon is good too.


Grilled Eggplant Parm(ish)

It’s a cliché that mistakes often lead to discoveries. But one way to see clichés is to recognize that they are often-repeated sentences or phrases that are repeated too frequently because they are basic truths. (Not always of course.)

In this case, my “mistake” was to grab some eggplant in a hurry and just slice it and grill it, with nothing but salt. Have you done that?

The content below was originally paywalled.

You get dried eggplant – that’s an ingredient, not a side dish. However: If you take that eggplant and plunge it into a quickly-made tomato sauce – a few tomatoes, or a big can, simmered together with oil and garlic, in the usual way – and then cook that until the eggplant is moist and tender, then season with salt and red or black pepper and, if you have it, basil or parsley, AND THEN top the whole thing with grated Parmesan, you have what we’d have to call … grilled eggplant Parmesan. And it’s good. Great, in fact.


A Book That Should Terrify You

From the New York Review of Books, a frightening review of Jeffrey Toobin’s latest book, Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism. In it, Sean Wilentz draws a direct line from Ronald Reagan to McVeigh to the Proud Boys, stopping to point out waypoints of home-grown terror on the way. Toobin’s more focused work is reliably brilliant, so if you’re a reader of contemporary history, it’s probably already on your list. But the review, which will take you thirty minutes if you read carefully, is head-exploding.

American Carnage Sean Wilentz The New York Review Of Books
7.92MB ∙ PDF file

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A Chance to Do Good Work

My friend Dan Zauderer runs an energetic and growing community refrigerator operation in the Bronx and elsewhere in New York, and is looking for help – it’s an awesome opportunity for the right person. Here’s the link.

See you next week!