The Aarti Paarti Cookbook Is Here! And a Giveaway!


I always feel like a proud papa when I hold a cookbook that Adam and I worked on. Maybe even more so when it comes to our friend, Aaarti Sequeira. You may know her from her TV show, or you might just be one of the lucky souls on this planet to know her in person. Her energy, humor, smile, humility and her family all radiate with the light of a thousand suns. Aarti is beautiful inside and out, so when we began working on this cookbook last year I really wanted to do my best to honor her story, her recipes,  and her family heirlooms lent to us to incorporate into the photography. And you know what? I think we did a pretty smashing job!

But wait, I cannot take all of the credit. Aarti was right there, at every step of the way to advise, direct, hold my hand on a few occasions, and provide the guidance and levity a team needs when embarking on an endeavor of this magnitude.

(And ssssh, just between you and me, that 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000-watt smile is never-failing, always-present, illuminating any and every photo she takes. And if you don’t believe me, come over and I’ll show you outtakes. All gorgeous.)

And those recipes? Holy smokes. DEEEELICIOUS. In fact, after photography last year we served one of her dishes to guests at a dinner party, but we were all sworn to secrecy since the book wasn’t out just yet. It was a hit, just like so many other things in this book. Tracy knows what I’m talking about.

How about some images? I’m only sharing to entice you to go out and buy this book. You WILL go out and buy this book, won’t you? You better. I can’t wait to hear what you think!





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Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul, Grand Central Life & Style Publishing, 2014 is available at Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, IndieBound, and Amazon.


(UPDATE: I am having wordpress/thesis issues right now so I am currently migrating to a new design. There’s no way to comment at the moment but I’ll let you know because I want to give away a book, darnit! THANK YOU!)

GIVEAWAY! I’m giving one copy away of Aarti Paarti to a random reader! I mean, you’re not a random reader. I’ll choose randomly. Yea, that’s it! Just leave a comment below, you can tell me your favorite Indian dish, or favorite moment from Aarti’s show, or heck, tell me anything! I’ll pick a random comment in the next few weeks and send you a copy! Disclosure: The book copy is coming from my stash, and this post is not sponsored, I’m just doing this because I love this book that much! Oh, and I photographed it. Duh.  Will ship internationally, too.



Joe Yonan’s Eat Your Vegetables out today! And a Giveaway!


Folks, I couldn’t be more excited about today’s release of Joe Yonan’s Eat Your Vegetables if I tried. You know Joe, right? Of course you do. But if you don’t, well, here’s his biography:

joe new author headshot by sarah-kateJoe Yonan is the two-time James Beard Award-winning Food and Travel editor of The Washington Post and the author of the upcoming “Eat Your Vegetables: Fresh Recipes for the Single Cook” (Ten Speed Press, August 6, 2013). In 2011, he wrote “Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One,” which Serious Eats called “a truly thoughtful, useful, and incredibly delicious book.”

Joe was a food writer and Travel section editor at The Boston Globe before moving to Washington in 2006 to edit the Post’s Food section, for which he also writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column and occasional feature stories. His work from the Globe and Post has appeared in three editions of the “Best Food Writing” anthology.

Joe spent 2012 in North Berwick, Maine, on leave from the Post to learn about growing and homesteading from his sister and brother-in-law and to work on “Eat Your Vegetables.”

Ok, so now you know Joe. What you probably already know is that Joe is a fellow Texan like myself, and one of the sharpest and funniest folks I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Oh, and something else you may not know? I photographed his book!

And let’s be very clear about one thing here: IT IS A DELICIOUS BOOK. In fact, there are quite a few recipes that we make at the studio all the time, and Adam’s assistant Alexis is obsessed with Joe’s Lemon Chile Vinaigrette recipe (Ok, I am too). We’re lucky in that we get to try everything and have made several dishes numerous times over the past year (call it a perk of my job, if you will). Enfrioladas with Egg, Avocado and Onion? Run, don’t flip, to Page 110.  Kimchi Deviled Eggs, Page 146, and Grilled Kimcheese, Page 45? MY MIND IS BLOWN. I’ve got quite a few favorites from this book and I have no doubt you will, too.

I want to celebrate Joe’s latest release by giving away two copies of Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes For The Single Cook, Ten Speed Press. All you have to do is leave your name in the comments, I’ll randomly pick a number and contact you and get your book out to you as soon as possible. But don’t wait on me, head on over to your bookstore or Amazon and get Joe’s latest book!

And a very special thank you and hug to Toni at Ten Speed Press. Joe Yonan portrait by Sara Kate.

Caroline Wright ‘s Cacio e Pepe and a giveaway!

9780761174936_p0_v1_s260x420I can’t exactly remember when I met Caroline as this whole online food world introduces you to so many people on a regular basis. But I do remember this: instant connection. Bright. Fun. Sharp. All the qualities I love in friends, and the fact that she knows food made it all the better.

So when she told me she was writing a book , Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals, I couldn’t help but get excited. But little did I know this book would actually help me. As in I-need-something-quick-n-easy-but-still-delicious kind of help, and early on while reviewing the galley of the book I noticed myself actually cooking from it. And it’s not that I don’t mean to cook from the books written by my friends, but after spending all day in the studio with food I don’t usually get excited enough to step into our kitchen at home. Caroline has changed this.

 I wrote her a quick email and thanked her for really amazing solid recipes that feature ingredients that get me excited. And then I thanked her for the Cacio e Pepe recipe that has literally become a staple for us. As in once-a-week, as in super easy and delicious. And while I’ve tried quite a few recipes for this dish that features a delicious play between cheese and black pepper, I must tell you that this is my favorite and you will absolutely want to follow her steps for toasting. It makes all the difference in the world. Seriously.  (And yes, I was lazy once and tried to skip it and it just wasn’t the same, trust me on this).


Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook 1 pound spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta (reserve 3/4 cup pasta water) and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Place 2 teaspoons black peppercorns and 2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns in the pan and toast until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Place the peppercorns in a mortar and crush with a pestle until coarsely ground. Transfer the pepper to a medium bowl with 3 large egg yolks and 2 packed cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

When the pasta is done, stir 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water into the egg mixture, add the pasta, and toss to coat. Stir in the remaining pasta water, if needed, to reach the desired consistency. Season with salt, and serve immediately.

Excerpted from Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals, Copyright 2013 by Caroline Wright. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York. All Rights Reserved.

I’m giving away a copy of her latest book, Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals, to a random commenter below. Leave a comment, I’ll pick a random number, and the book shall be yours!

Caroline Wright is a food writer, editor, recipe developer and tester, food stylist, and photographer who works for Cooking Light, Real Simple, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Women’s Day, and Oxmoor House, among others. A former food editor at Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, she is a graduate of the prestigious Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne.

Best Job (and drink!) In The World

By now you might have seen the links and press releases as Australia relaunches its Best Job In The World program. Imaging spending your days in Australia, experiencing the best it has to offer, and actually getting paid for it. But this time there are six slots open, and in a variety of different positions:

• Lifestyle Photographer (Melbourne)

• Chief Funster (New South Wales)

• Outback Adventurer (Northern Territory)

• Park Ranger (Queensland)

• Wildlife Caretaker (South Australia)

• Taste Master (Western Australia)

HELLO? Having seen a big part of Australia (including Hamilton Island and qualia, thankyouverymuch), I can guarantee you that you’ll enjoy it, no matter which position you’re after.  And even though I’d personally go for Taste Master or Lifestyle Photographer, I also fell in love with South Australia and Kangaroo Island. So please apply so I can read all about it, ok?

And speaking of Kangaroo Island and South Australia, Southern Ocean Lodge is has announced their second KI Food Safari, to be held this August. Billed as a “hedonistic food-lovers’ journey”, this event is a hands-on, get-out-and-get-dirty exploration of Kangaroo Island with some stellar Australian chefs and personalities (and yes, Maggie Beer will be there!) It’s not cheap, mind you, but having spent time in Kangaroo Island and never wanting to leave Southern Ocean Lodge I can tell you that you’re in for an extremely special event with a fantastic group of people. Oh my goodness, the clean pure flavors from that island blow my mind, I’m not kidding. Certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


And now that I’ve fully stoked my love for Australia (you can read about it here and here and here, if you’d like!), I thought I’d close out this quick little post with one of my favorite drinks. OF ALL TIME. It’s simple really, and extremely Australian, for reasons I don’t know why. But if you imagine sipping this with your best Aussie buds, laughing and hanging outside in the sun, you’ll easily see why it’s a favorite. It’s simple and refreshing without being boring, and I couldn’t get enough of it. There are ready-made versions you can buy, and ordering it at a bar will most likely feature a pre-made lemon or lime soda. But I choose to make it from scratch (except the bitters, which you could totally make yourself, too). This version borrows its base from a citron presse, and there are no required quantities: Just lemon sugar syrup, soda water, and dashes of bitters. And plenty of ice.

Damn, I need to get back to Australia as soon as humanly possible.

 Lemon Lime Bitters


It’s simple, really: soda water, lemon and/or lime syrup, about 5 to 7 dashes of bitters, and ice. For the lemon simple syrup, mix the zest of two lemons with 2 cups of sugar and enough water to cover, about 2 cups. Cook until thoroughly dissolved then let cool. The syrup will turn yellow and will taste oh-so-delicious! In a glass pour the lemon simple syrup over ice, then top with soda water and then dashes of bitters. You can do more if you want more of that herbally bitters flavor, and you can increase the syrup if you like things sweeter. Garnish with a lime wedge or the citrus peel, whatever you like. Enjoy!


The Flavors Of Belize Cookbook Giveaway!

Hello everyone! You may remember a post we wrote last year about visiting the beautiful country of Belize to work on a cookbook. I’m proud to announce that the book is now here and it’s every bit of beautiful I hoped it would be. Not that I’m biased, mind you. It’s just great to be involved in such a delicious endeavor.

There’s so many wonderful recipes to dive into within the book’s pages, and if you’ve never experienced Belizean food then you’re in for a treat. It’s a fantastic blend of distinct cultures, sometimes moving in one direction before coming back to another. It’s Mayan, it’s Carribeean, It’s Asian, it’s Creole, and it’s all delicious. In fact, several recipes from the book have become standards at our house.

How about a quick behind the scenes video of the book?

I can’t even begin to tell you what an amazing time we had. Except for the bug bites, but hey, that’s to be expected.

The book is out now and available from the Flavors Of Belize website here. Order a copy and try some recipes, won’t you? In the meantime, here’s a recipe, courtesy of Flavors Of Belize, that is a favorite. It’s a Hot Pepper Onion Sauce, which is used as a condiment on all sorts of things. But the hot vinegar sauce with allspice notes is a thing of beauty, I’m telling you. On grilled meats it rules, on top of beans and rice I love it, heck, I’ll try it with just about anything because it’s not like any other condiment I know of. And it’s easy to make and keeps for many weeks.

Hot Pepper Onion Sauce, recipe courtesy Flavors Of Belize

2 cups onions, minced
2 habanero peppers, deseeded, sliced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
6 allspice seeds
11/2 cups vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and marinate for 2 hours or overnight. Will keep for several weeks in refrigerator.

And there’s a book giveaway!

I’m giving away two copies of Flavors Of Belize to 2 random selected winners. All you have to do is leave a comment below, make sure you leave your email address so that I may contact you in case you are selected. Comments close Friday, August 3, 2012.

Top Ten Halifax Moments

I just returned from 5 glorious days along the Eastern coast of Canada, Nova Scotia to be exact. But you might already know this. In those days I visited Halifax, Dartmouth, the Annapolis Valley, Sambro, Ketch Harbor, Wolfville, and many points inbetween as part Canada’s Explore Like A Local campaign. In fact, I was one of the lucky three selected to hit the ground running and well, explore the area just like a local. And that I did! We ate, sipped, snacked and devoured the best Nova Scotia has to offer, and while I could easily spend an hour talking about the food, how about I just jump right into my Top Ten Halifax moments for you? It’s that good.

 10. Beer

Look, this is a beer-drinkin’ part of the world and Haligonians love their beer. Love. Their. Beer.  That doesn’t mean you can’t find some amazing cocktails at places like Nectar and The Bicycle Thief, because you can. But if you’re looking for a pint of local beer enjoyed in great company then you’ve come to the right place. I fully embraced my IBL (Inner Beer Lover) and I’m sure Benjamin Armendariz will be very very proud of me.

 9. A Drive. Anywhere.

Never have I been so non-specific! But really, it’s hard not to tell you to get in a car and drive somewhere, anywhere, in this beautiful part of the world. Idyllic views, beautiful waterways, rugged coastlines and crisp air beg to be explored (as long as you can tear yourself away from #10 above). Give yourself plenty of time and get out and explore Nova Scotia like I did. You won’t regret it.


8.  Blomidon Inn

I swore I stood in my room at the Blomidon Inn just waiting for someone to come in and dress me before walking down a grand staircase for dinner. It never happened, but that’s ok; this turn-of-the-century mansion enthralled me in so many other ways. While I don’t always throw out words like quaint and old-fashioned without a snicker, there will be no joking about this glorious hotel. It’s easy to go back in time here, especially with the afternoon tea served in one of the hotel’s magnificent front rooms.


7. Foxhill Cheese

I was lucky enough to spend time with Jeanita Rand, the owner of Foxhill Cheese House who, along with her husband and family, run this amazing micro-cheesemaking business on a sixth-generation farm in Port Williams. While you’ll taste some of the most delicious fresh quark and yogurt made from the milk of their own cows out back, it’s almost easy to be awestruck when you hear the family motto: “Quality, Service, Education”.  The dedication to their customers and the pure hard work they put into cheesemaking make you realize how special this place is. Oh, and another thing: there’s not enough space on the internet to tell you the lengths they went through to bring glass bottle milk to their customers. If only every business thought of their customers half as much as Foxhill Cheese.


6. Donair

First, you’ll need to read this article written by my friend Simon Thibault in The Globe And Mail. Read it now. Ok. Done? Now let me tell you why I love it, as summed up by Mr. Thibault himself: “Best eaten late at night and on the street, it is a sweet and savoury, tasty and messy snack for meat lovers.” Yes, it sure is. You can’t visit this part of Canada without trying a donair, and it’s exponentially better when enjoyed with friends after barhopping. While I admit it took me a while to get used to the sweet donair sauce on top of what seems to be a doner kebab, I can see the appeal. There’s simply nothing else like it. But since I’m all about discovery and trying new things, I wasn’t about to pass up the Donair Pizza, either. I actually loved it more, imagine that! One day I’ll return to try Donair Poutine. Who knew?




5. Fid Resto, Specifically This Blood Pudding.

We stopped by Fid Resto for lunch, where I discovered heaven in a bowl: warm smoked haddock sitting on top of a potato and spinach mash that’s been topped by a poached egg. That’s right folks: eggy, mashy, smoked fishy. Three things I adore all put together. Needless to say I felt right at home with Chef Dennis Johnston’s local creation. After snapping a few photos, he began to tell us about a special dinner he was doing that involved his own housemade blood pudding, and as luck would have it a small plate appeared on the table at the end of our meal. I’m going to tell you this right now: a piece of blood pudding (or sausage as we Americans call it) on top of creamy smooth mashed potatoes with cooked apples instantly became the highlight of the day. And before you get all squirmy squeamish on me (ewwww blood!!!!) I want to tell you that you’d most likely enjoy every savory bite of it, too. You would.



4. Tibs Family Dinner

You don’t really know how lucky I was to snag an invite to the Tibs Family Dinner Pop-Up at Dartmouth’s favorite local coffee shop called Two If By Sea. These regular dinners focus on a seasonal ingredient or theme, and with asparagus season upon us we enjoyed tempura, risotto, a savory cappuccino and a beet salad that rocked my world. It was great to see a community come together for a meal and was a fantastic way to really explore Halifax like a local.


3.  A Stroll Through The Halifax Public Gardens

Sunshine and gorgeous views made for a wonderful way to spend an afternoon at the Halifax Public Gardens. Created in 1875, these Victorian gardens cover 16 acres through a series of walkways, bridges and paths and feature a bandstand in the middle of the park.  Strolling through the park and admiring the beautiful plants and trees make for a perfect city experience.


2.  Digby Scallops

I get pretty excited when I experience something that I feel is the absolute best: salmon from the Copper River in Alaska, Ig Vella’s Dry Jack from my adopted homestate of California, and tart cherries from Traverse City, Michigan. Now add Digby Scallops to this list as I’ve never had a more perfect example: tender, fresh, flavorful, sweet but not too sweet, and just right. Of course I must give credit to the chefs who prepared them perfectly at both Chives restaurant in downtown Halifax and Le Caveau restaurant inside the Domaine De Grande Pré winery. This dish in the photo featured then crusted and pan-seared served on top of housemade kimchi. Um, hello? How do you say perfection?


1. The People Of Nova Scotia

I saved the best for last here, with good reason. I talked about Nova Scotia being “nice” in my earlier post, but I’m pretty sure I’m still not getting it across here. You see, I really do believe that people are good and nice; I spend enough time traveling the globe to know that mankind is generally, well, kind. But Nova Scotia? Oh you people, you do something different. You take friendliness to a whole ‘nuther level, in a way that takes this citydweller by surprise. Off guard, even.  All you need to do is strike up a conversation with a shopkeeper, with someone at the table next to you, at a bar, on the street…just about anywhere and you’ll see what I mean. Gracious, friendly, warm, welcoming. And if your town has a deficit in the Manners Department, we can all look to the entire province of Nova Scotia, Canada for having it in spades. It’s just the way they are.

Psst. There are two things missing from this list. Two things that needed their own posts, two places that I’m still dreaming about now that I’m home. Check back in a few days to see what they are.

Disclosure: As part of the Explore Like A Local Campaign, I am working with the Canadian Tourism Commission and all opinions and viewpoints are my own. Travel expenses have been covered by the CTC.

Explore Like A Local: Canadian Trailblazer Contest!

Howdy folks! Give me my camera and a notepad, set me loose in Halifax, Nova Scotia, throw in a fantastic dose of social media and your requests and what do you get? The Canadian Trailblazer Contest, part of the Explore Like A Local campaign from the Canadian Tourism Commission and Travel + Leisure magazine. And if you enter, you might win a trip of a lifetime.

And if you remember my last involvement with the program last year in Vancouver, I don’t need to tell you that it literally was the trip of a lifetime. One of the highlights of the year, actually!

First, how about a lil video? Don’t laugh.

Now here’s where things get really interesting. When you visit my Trailblazer web site you can recommend places in Halifax for me to visit. And I’ll visit them! I’ll report back through photos in all the usual places (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) to let you know how they are and answer any questions if I can. I’m looking forward to eating and drinking the best Halifax has to offer, so hop on over and tell me where to go, will ya?

I’ll be leaving this weekend and I’ll be there all next week. I’m really looking forward to your suggestions and ideas. And you could win a trip!

Let’s keep up with each other, shall we? My stuff: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram: Mattbites

Quick! Which foods do you find difficult to photograph?

Hi folks! I’m working on my book on food photography and wanted to ask you, my dear awesome-n-groovy readers, which foods you find difficult to photograph. Now I know you are all a super talented bunch, that’s no question, but what foods pose issues? Is it that casserole causing you catastrophes? The dagwood sandwich creating dilemmas? Stumped by a pile of holiday stuffing? Please tell me!

As an incentive I will pick the top 5 responses here and send you an autographed copy of my first book, On A Stick!And I’ll randomly select one winner to receive not only my book but also a copy of Susan Russo’s Encyclopedia Of Sandwiches, too! We worked with Susan on her project and it’s really a fun book, if I do say so myself!

So let me have it! What do you have problems with and why?

The Fine Print: I will happily pay for postage when sending out the books to the winners. I will ship internationally but please note I cannot guarantee delivery. Leave comments by January 1, 2012. Thank you!