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Articles / Peter Hoffman's Fireplace Beans; Mark's Liquid Gold

Peter Hoffman's Fireplace Beans; Mark's Liquid Gold

Published February 1, 2023

Also: Vegas help, your favorite food writing, and a very special playlist


It’s Wednesday, which means it’s a Food with Mark Bittman day, plus this week’s recommendations, snark, links, a playlist that means a lot to me, a “recipe” — my liquid gold! — and more.

Melissa McCart joined me as co-host on today’s episode of Food, and we have with us my old friend Peter Hoffman. Peter ran the wonderful Savoy restaurant in Soho — it was a real go-to for me — and other restaurants as well, but is even better known for bringing real farm to table food to New York City restaurants. We talked about that, and we talked about Peter’s book, What’s Good, and we talked for a while about culinary “fashion shifts,” which is an interesting phenomenon to consider.

Peter shares his recipe for Beans al Fiasco, here.

“My cooking has been about wanting to reflect the seasons and the changing of the seasons. The rotation of the earth and the tilt of the earth is where the seasons come from, and so as an urban dweller, the way that I stayed in touch with what was happening on the planet was by going to Union Square [Greenmarket]. And seeing that variation — what was coming in, what was going out, what was no longer available, and building menus, cooking for myself, and cooking for others.” — Peter Hoffman

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THIS WEEK’S MARKSISMS

DINING IN SIN CITY

I have a couple of requests for you this week. I’m spending a little time in Las Vegas, and then Taos. The latter – who knows? All advice welcome.

The former? Well, the first time I went there was in ’72, and it was still the post-war Vegas, the gambler’s paradise, the seedy nights filled with smoke and sequined cocktail waitresses and cheap drinks and astonishingly cheap buffets. (Not at all bad, as I recall, but do we trust my 22-year-old self? Probably not.)

Then came the food-and-family-entertainment Vegas and, because chefs wanted to cook there and tv people wanted to shoot there, I found myself (never, not once, willingly, I swear) in Vegas annually. There were near-constant restaurant openings by the world’s most famous chefs, ever-newer and more glamorous hotels and “exciting” events—and, except for Siegfried and Roy, it was almost always disappointing.

Now I’m headed there for work once more (I always swear it’ll be the last time) and I’m determined not to eat on the Strip, not to eat in restaurants run by famous chefs (with the exception of Jean-Georges’, because excluding his would be just rude), but instead to seek out some unusual stuff. Yes, I know about Golden Steer and Lotus of Siam, but if anyone has done a deeper dive recently, I’d like to hear about it. And I promise to report back.

READ ANYTHING GREAT LATELY?

And the second request: I’m guest-editing/curating Best American Food Writing of 2022 (here’s the link to last year’s edition) in the next couple of months, and I’m curious about any pieces you might have seen and especially liked. You can assume we’ve already scanned the obvious, like the Times (and The Bittman Project!); and please note that this is American — so while the Guardian might be fair game (there is an American edition, after all), the Independent is not. Send your ideas, please, to members@bittmanproject.com.

LIQUID GOLD A LA MARK

Kate gave you some great soup suggestions on Monday, and in a couple weeks, Kerri and I will be doing a “Deep Dive on Soup” — debunking, really stellar tricks and tips, and, of course, recipes.

Today, though I wanted to tell you about my previously mentioned “liquid gold”: I’ve made a vat of this — carrot, leek, celery soup, a real staple, drinkable and portable veggies — two weeks in a row. And then I realized if I made smaller quantities, it would be the easiest thing ever.

So: a non-recipe if ever there was one. Take carrots; let’s say four, but you choose. Peel and trim and roughly chop. Combine with ¼ as much trimmed and roughly chopped and washed leeks (or, yes, onion, but not really as distinctive) and ¼ as much celery, roughly chopped and washed. Water to barely cover, and salt.

I do five minutes in the pressure cooker; it would take a half hour or so, depending on your chopping size, on top of the stove. Puree, adjust salt, serve or chill or carry around with you as I’ve been doing. 

MUSIC FROM MITCH AND ME

As a sort of thanks to you—both for any help with the above requests and for your loyal readership—here’s a link to a playlist I made in the last few weeks, in honor of my friend Mitch.

We grew up listening to this music, and were singing some of it together on the phone a few weeks ago. (Happily for all of us, no recordings of those calls survive.) With one exception (The Stones’ cover of Larry Williams’ exciting “She Said, Yeah,” just as an example of where the Stones’ early music mostly came from; note that there’s also the original of “Slow Down,” later covered by the Beatles), this is the intersection of fifties and sixties R&B/soul/pre-Motown (and some outright Motown)/blues … for the most part, a bit more obscure than a “greatest hits” collection. Spotify keeps insisting that it knows better than I, and adds songs its algorithm likes as fast as I can remove them — but the core of this is wonderful stuff.