Today my friend the Foodinista asked me what I was cooking for Thanksgiving because somewhere during our ten year friendship she picked up the idea that around this time of year, I have something inspiring up my sleeve. My family is having a pseudo Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow afternoon. I'm bringing dessert, and since I have been elbow-deep in olive oil and grated Parm testing recipes for the Mozza cookbook all week long, I didn't think about what I would bring until five o'clock this evening at which time I decided to take a Why Argue with Success approach and make a Sourmash Apple Cobbler that I have been making since 1991. I was given the recipe as a going away present from the chef at a restaurant where I worked after college to save money to move to New York City, and I have relied on it countless times since--even after my rustic baked fruit repertoire became much more, er... sophisticated (can I that word in the context of a rustic baked fruit dessert?).  The apples are cooked ...

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For reasons having to do with the fact that I had no idea how much work it would be and that I would have had no idea what else to get my friend Julie for her 40th birthday, I baked 100 cupcakes last week for Julie's milestone party. Yes, you read that right: cupcakes. In my own defense, the idea started as a cake but evolved into cupcakes as the guest list grew like kudzu in Georgia (which means relentlessly). Thankfully I had the privilege of baking these cupcakes in the expansive Scuola kitchen at Mozza, which basically looks like the marble-topped kitchen of a really rich person who insisted on the best of everything—only this kitchen actually gets used. I made two types of cupcakes: a very basic chocolate cake with boiled sugar white icing that was the closest thing I could get to a Ding Dong, which I adore, without the spiral design on top (I'm not that good with a pastry bag). And carrot cake because that's what the birthday girl wanted, and what bday girl wants, bday girl gets. ...

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I should have known better than to ask Tom Chino, in an email earlier this week, whether if I planted a fig--specifically a fig that came from his farm that was withering in my refrigerator--in a pot of soil, if  I'd get a fig tree. Being friends with Japanese people should come with an instruction booklet. There are a lot of customs, and therefor a lot of possibilities for a gaigin like myself to mess up. Over the 10 years that I've known the Chinos, I have learned a thing or two about how things work. Very high on the list, in Tom's words: "If you ask us for something, we are required to say 'yes.'"  But anyone who knows the family well enough to have landed themselves inside the vortex of their famous generosity knows that it's not just if you ask for something. So much as ask about something and you're doomed. Doomed for good things, but still, your fate is settled. Tom emailed me right back, saying that if I planted  what he called "the fruit of the strawberry fig,"" I would be ...

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I'm writing the cookbook for the L.A. resto phenom, Mozza (Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, and Mozza 2Go), and included in that is what seems to be no-end-in-sight job of testing the recipes. The executive chef, Matt Molina, Nancy Silverton, who owns the joint (along with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich), and I wrote Nancy's last book, Twist of the Wrist together. And it's safe to say that we are all complete freaks about publishing recipes that can be followed by anyone with a decent command of the language the book is printed in, and successfully executed at home by anyone with opposable thumbs. (No offense, Rufus.) Each dish that I or one of my trusty testers cooks has to be tasted and approved by either Nancy or Matt, judged not just by whether or not they work, but by whether the results are Mozza-esque. It is tons of work and the kitchen in my 1920's Spanish style rental is seeing more mileage than it likely has since the frozen dinner was invented. But I love it. I feel like Will ...

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