Seeing Molly Wizenberg

Dairy Free, Salad, vegetarian

Last night I went to see Molly Wizenberg speak and read from her book, A Homemade Life. If you are not familiar with Molly’s blog, Orangette, you can click through to it from my home page, and I highly recommend that you do. Both her blog and the book, as well as her monthly column in Bon Appetit, are written in Molly’s wonderfully warm and unpretentious tone, often featuring recipes that are not only vegetarian, but are very accessible to novice home cooks as well. What struck me last night however after seeing her in person is her youth and (relative) newness as a food writer/expert. On her blog and in the pages of her memoir, Molly does what many food writers do: exposes parts of her personal life and the way they intersect with food and cooking. Her father’s death, her romance to her now-husband, and their new restaurant venture are all detailed among her recipes for anyone to see. Conducting herself in a controlled, careful manner — unlike the larger-than-life personalities of the food writing sphere, such as Ruth Reichl, with her overt-passion and enthusiasm, or Anthony Bourdain and his crass, gritty, rock-star persona — Wizenberg spoke last night in a slow, measured way about her approach to food and cooking, as well as writing and being a restauranteur. Contrary to her writing, she appeared guarded, cautious and even a bit self-conscious at times. But of course, Bourdain and Reichl are much older than Wizenberg and, one can only assume, more comfortable in their skin as well as their profession. An interesting point during her talk, was how much luck and timing was a factor in her success (as she pointed out herself). Not to undermine her talent as a writer in any way, but when Molly began her now-widely read blog, there wasn’t nearly the same amount of competition for readership that exists in the blogosphere today. Although it was only 6 years ago that Orangette was founded, in 2004 a food blog with a personal voice, lovely writing and simple but elegant photographs was still considered new, hip and a commodity. Wizenberg needed no special “hook” other than just being herself and being able to communicate her love of food and life to her readers. Here’s to luck, timing, and simple, delicious food.

Green Goddess Potato Salad, serves 6 (unless you reach for when you have just retuned from dancing and teaching for 4 hours, in which case you may just eat half of it on your own…)

Hearing Molly read from a chapter in her book, that dealt with her father’s death, and his great love of good potato salad, left me with s serious craving. Although the following recipe came from Gourmet’s June, 2007 issue, rather than Wizenberg’s book or blog, I think she would agree that it is a keeper.

Ingredients:

3/4 pound green beans, trimmed

3 pounds cooked small (2-inch) boiling potatoes, cooled to room temperature and quartered (put potatoes in a pot with cold water, covered by a couple inches. Bring to a boil and cooke, partially covered until fork-tender.)

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar or white-wine vinegar

3 scallions, chopped

3 flat anchovy fillets, chopped, or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional- I did not use anchovies, and the salad was still completely delicious)

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Preparation:

Cook beans in a 3-quart saucepan of boiling salted water , uncovered, until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a sieve, then plunge sieve into a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain again. Pat beans dry, then cut into 1/4-inch pieces and put in a large bowl along with potatoes.

Pulse mayonnaise, vinegar, scallions, anchovies, parsley, tarragon, salt, and pepper in a food processor until dressing is pale green and herbs are finely chopped. Stir into potato mixture.

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