A talented friend of mine was the main programmer for building The History of Jazz for the iPad. What he learned from that experience was that there didn’t have to be original content to create an app, but the focus was on curating the existing content and figuring out an innovative way to weave the information together for the users to enjoy.
I’ve been thinking about the value of curating, especially in our lives today where we are bombarded with information: the massive volume of records from our past, newly recovered information and their analyses, new information from our scientific discovery, not to mention our overflowing inbox, Twitter feed, Facebook postings and more.
Another friend wished I reviewed restaurants on Yelp because there are many reviewers he wouldn’t trust, and he seems to enjoy the same types of restaurants I like. Yelp and other similar apps don’t work for someone with a particular need or taste because their results are that of the aggregate. Artificial Intelligence has yet to screen my google searches for my taste, even though Amazon is desperately trying to recommend things I might also want to purchase because others have.
Reviewing anything is a drag, but here are some sources for recipes that I have enjoyed. People with similar taste to mine can see if they are helpful in filtering the millions of recipes and food related websites out there.
Budget Bytes: This site focuses on recipes that are inexpensive to make, and posts the cost of each dish, broken by ingredients. While I am not that price sensitive about the cost of ingredients, I enjoy this site because it usually means the recipes are simpler, vegetarian-based, and avoids unusual ingredients or spices you have left overs of (which end up going bad sooner or later, neglected in your cupboard or at the back of the refrigerator).
Food Wishes: Chef John provides videos of classic recipes that have been updated. He shows techniques as well as showcasing the recipe, but it’s not as self-righteous or self-congratulatory as the America’s Test Kitchen, and more practical, skipping insignificant optimization. He seems to pick recipes that would brighten up one’s repertoire for guests or for weeknight cooking. There’s something about his delivery (strange cadence in his voice as he describes the steps) that keeps me watching his videos, even though I usually prefer to read my recipes.
Francis Lam: his writing is fun and informative, and reflects my values on food as a way to show appreciation of people you love by respecting the ingredients themselves. His weapons-grade ratatouille recipe is not only a great read but wonderful to make for people you care about.
Lucky Peach: David Chang’s food magazine has a website that not only has out-of-the-box recipes from bacon “dashi” to pesto ramen (both, for whatever reason, categorized under “Japanese”), but it also contains useful primer type articles, such as how to put together an Asian pantry for beginners. (I would start with 5 items from their 16 item list of the most used items, like soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, miso and dashi (or substitute miso for tahini, and sesame seeds for dashi, if you want an Asian pantry less focused on Japanese food) and grow the collection from there as needed.)
Moosewood: if you are one of the few people who enjoy cooking vegetarian but don’t own their cookbook, you can probably find most of their recipes online, but you will be missing out on their classic illustrations.
Others:Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison has not failed me yet. Jacques Pépin‘s cookbooks are great for techniques. Mark Bittman‘s simple recipes reflect our health-conscious life style while not skimping on taste. I don’t actually own a copy of Dean and Deluca cookbook by David Rosengarten but my friend does, and I’ve been the happy taster for her creations from that book, and only hits and no misses so far. When I was living in Denmark, I was very hungry for Asian cuisine, and because there isn’t a critical mass of Asian immigrants for good Asian restaurants, I had to take matters into my own hands. Besides the Japanese recipe sites like クックパッド which require you to at least read Japanese, Ono Kine Recipes Facebook page gave me inspiration to make familiar dishes I only ordered in restaurants.
Hope to hear from you if you seem to have a similar taste and you have a suggestion to add to this list!
Photo: “Geisha’s Kiss” at Sushiritto in Palo Alto, California