Slate, my favorite news / commentary site, recently introduced a cooking column called “You’re Doing It Wrong.” America’s Test Kitchen has a similar mentality, that many traditional recipes produce inferior results and that there are better approaches. While ATR produces reliable recipes, I’ve always found their approach a bit stuffy and elitist. Their focus also tends to be what tastes familiar and American, which isn’t always what I want.

I was hooked into the column because writer L.V. Anderson makes homemade pizza almost exactly like I do: thin crust, lots of olive oil, very high heat, toppings light enough not to weigh down the crust. It took me years to get to that point, so I was immediately curious about his other recipes.

The chili, which I tried first, was initially disappointing. While I liked his “kitchen sink” flavoring approach—chipotles, beer, mushrooms, chocolate, etc.—the tempeh created an off flavor in the mix, like adding Lou Reed to Metallica. That said, it was great after a couple days. Marinating the tempeh overnight in tomato juice (or beer) and spices probably would have made it really good straight out of the pot. Sarah especially liked how the chili was flavorful but not at all greasy. It was much better than a recent Paula Dean recipe we made for taco soup.

His brownies were quite good, with the intensity of the chocolate clearly coming through. Sweet chocolate chips added a nice counterbalance. The ground nuts were a bit odd—the almond flour I used added a spice-like element that Sarah thought was cinnamon. They didn’t top my all-time favorite recipes, though, Kahlua brownies (low-fat, oddly enough), and rocky road with unsweetened chocolate chunks.

Anderson’s philosophy with granola is much like Ruhlman’s with sausage: there’s no such thing as too much fat. There was so much olive oil in the recipe (3÷4 cup) that nothing chunked together. The flavor was outstanding, though, much better than any granola recipe I’d made in the last couple years, with caramel overtones from the maple syrup and fruitiness of the oil. The oil seemed to prevent a burned flavor that came through in other batches I’ve recently made. That said, it made the granola so rich that I might use ½ cup next time (which still seems like plenty).

I still haven’t gotten to Anderson’s hummus or pancake recipes (both are common preparations in our house), but I’ll definitely try them (although the only real difference between his pancake prep and mine is that I use butter instead of olive oil).

  • Meg

    I like the new look of the site! I’m looking forward to investigating that chili recipe.

  • Tom

    Coconut oil instead of olive oil would help keep the granola solid at room temperature and provide a more healthy fat. :)

  • Ben

    @Meg: Thanks! @Tom: The granola wasn’t exactly oily. The effect was almost like the oats were fried in the olive oil. It’s actually a very traditional oil / sugar ratio. As with most things, modern granola has gotten more low fat while adding sugars.

  • Tom

    I was more referring to the fact that coconut oil is saturated and solid at room temperature, meaning it would hold the granola together stronger and make it form into chunks more than a liquid oil like olive oil.