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Why I Love Olives and Oranges


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I don’t want to complain endlessly about how the food world exasperates me sometimes because it is mostly overrun with poser celebrity chefs hamming it up like culinary clowns on their gimmicky TV shows featuring soulless recipes, more entertainment than substance. I’d rather turn my readers on to something real that makes me happy and this is one of those things. Every once in a while there comes along a great cook, and even better when that cook is possessed of a genuine and generous spirit and reaches out to share her gift. Such is Sara Jenkins, daughter of the food authority Nancy Harmon Jenkins. I met Sara at a party thrown by Saveur magazine where I was tagging along with Laura who had recently written for them. Lucky me. Not only was the party food exceptional and the company welcoming, but I was fortunate enough to be waiting on the buffet line next to Sara. We struck up a conversation during which she told me about her new cookbook with co-author Mindy Fox, Olives & Oranges: Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond (Houghton Mifflin 2008). pictured above, and her restaurant, Porchetta, in downtown Manhattan. I was so impressed with Sara’s down-to-earth, modest demeanor and intriguing descriptions of her food and restaurant that I bought her cookbook online, sight unseen and hiked into the city to Porchetta as soon as I was able. Why do I love both so much? Sara has the kind of sensibility that knows what the word flavor means. The Mediterranean-styled recipes, of substantial soups, salads, entrees and sweets, yield dishes with flavors that are intensely nuanced and complex without being in the least difficult. She’s almost like a painter in the way she assembles a palette of flavors that meld beautifully. Her roast chicken, stuffed under the skin with sage, garlic and lemon peel, which was chosen for Saveur’s top 100 issue last year, is one of my favorites. Her tiny restaurant, practically a hole in the wall but with a clean, modern allure, is a treat if you love all things homey and rustic. You can read an interview with Sara here. And if you’re anywhere near NYC and you’re dreaming of a hot bowl of good soup, a crusty slice of fresh bread, melt-in-your-mouth pork, soulful beans, greens, and an exemplary biscotti, visit Porchetta.
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