Breakaway Cook

Tassajara, May 16-20

Who’s free from May 16 through May 20? Wanna join me at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, one of California’s greatest gems? For the past few years, I’ve been leading cooking workshops for the chef-monks at this stunningly beautiful zen monastery in the Ventana Mountains, southeast of Big Sur/Carmel Valley, to “wake up” their summer menus with some breakaway vibrancy. This year though, we decided to do something different: good friend and zen priest extraordinaire Dana Veldon and I will lead a workshop for guests (you!) on cooking and mindfulness.

We’ll be exploring the many ways that food and cooking awaken our senses and play huge roles in all of our lives. We will be doing plenty of cooking demos, hands-on participation, and experiential exercises, but we’ll also be just sitting in the zendo (meditation hall), taking walks, relaxing in the baths (Tassajara has some of the nicest baths I’ve ever encountered), eating delicious vegetarian food, and just hanging out in this surreally gorgeous spot. Visits to Tassajara tend to change the perspectives (and even lives!) of almost everyone who goes. I can’t recommend it enough.

Spaces for the workshop are necessarily limited, but you can try booking here. Accommodations range from pretty spartan to pretty luxe, and all have wabisabi in spades! None have electricity but, trust me, you won’t miss it. Info on rooms can be found here. Rates include three great meals a day and use of all facilities (the baths alone are worth it!). There is a separate charge for the workshop.  I’ll try to answer any questions, either here or in email.

Hope to see you there!

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Keeping Your Knives Ridiculously Sharp

About a year ago I wrote a piece about keeping your knives really sharp. But there’s nothing like actually watching someone demonstrate something, so Henry and I did this next segment on knife sharpening and on good ways to handle and use sharp knives. I’d love to hear from people about favorite ways of sharpening, favorite knives and brands, knife stories, anything! Chime in!

Addendum: Lots of people have written me, asking about the make of the diamond sharpener in the video. It’s made by DuoSharp. Amazon has the cheapest price I’ve seen, here.

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The SF Chronicle Breaks Away!

I have some exciting news to share. A few weeks ago I got one of those emails that snaps you out of your current, everyday rut-like consciousness and into a state filled with optimism and hope and clarity. These of course used to come in the form of letters. Many of us recall our letter of acceptance into the college we really hoped to get into, or letter containing a formal job offer you actually wanted, or even letters from friends having adventures in faraway paces. Nowadays most things come via email, and it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. My invite to appear on Iron Chef appeared in my spam box, because it really DID look like spam.

The  email came from Michael Bauer of the Chronicle’s food section. I was reasonably sure that it was some promotional mail (I have a pretty public email address), but no, it was actually him, asking me if I’d consider writing a regular column on breakaway cooking for the Chronicle! No invitation to submit something to be considered, nothing like that, just a flat out offer to pretty much keep doing what I do here, except they get first crack at publishing it.  We worked out a contract, signed it, and now we’re on! It looks like the first column will appear in late April, I think. It will be a longer, expanded version of the regular column with at least four recipes, laying out the raison d’etre of the column, which will probably appear about twice a month, on Sundays.  I got to meet the staff, see their set-up/operations, including the rooftop garden and way-vaster-than-you’d-think wine library/cellar.

So I’m excited! It’s especially encouraging in this age of nothing but depressing news from newspapers and the laying off of so many talented journalists. The food section has won tons of awards for its writing under the helmsmanship of Bauer and Miriam Morgan, who will be my editor, so it’ll be an honor to write for them.

I have a million and one ideas of things to cover, but: I’d love to hear what YOU would like to see explored. Please keep the idea flow coming!

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Cooking With Cast Iron

Here’s the visual version of this post on the wonders of cast iron pans. Jesus, why did I wait to get a haircut until AFTER this video? Well, at least I put a sweater on!

As always, feedback please!

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