Author

Karen Berman

Karen Berman has 16 articles published.

Karen Berman is a writer and editor who specializes in food and lifestyle topics. Her books include Friday Night Bites: Kick Off the Weekend with Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family and Easy-Peasy Recipes: Snacks and Treats to Make and Eat. She has worked as an editor on some 35 cookbooks and written more articles than she can count. She holds a certificate in cuisine from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and her culinary travels have taken her as far as the Thai House Cooking School in Thonburri, Thailand. Among her current titles are senior content editor of TheWeiserKitchen.com and managing editor of NYFoodstory: The Journal of the Culinary Historians of New York. She is mom to daughter Jessica, her best food critic.

Sriracha, you’ve met your match: Meet Gochujang

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Back in the ’90s, I went to hear food writer Ruth Reichl speak. I don’t remember what she said about the hot trends of those days, but I do recall very clearly her lament about Korean food. She had written about the cuisine of the tiny East Asian nation a few times, but even a platform as powerful as The New York Times, where she was the restaurant reviewer, could not push the cuisine onto the nation’s foodie radar. It was a puzzle, she said, because Korean food has several characteristics that you’d think would endear it to the American palate—succulent beef dishes and a signature hot sauce among them. That commentary has come back to me over the years,…

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Tidying doesn’t have to be tyranny: A better way to declutter for 2015

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For a while now, I’ve been ranting to myself about what I call the tyranny of neat people. It happens whenever I stumble on one of those New Year’s articles about de-cluttering your home and transforming your life. You’ll feel better, work more productively and become a more perfect human being, they say, if only your house is tidy. Here’s what I say: maybe the neat people have simply done a better job of public relations for their decidedly limited comfort zone. What if it’s the slobs of the world (including me) who are more flexible, more tolerant and more able to be happy and productive in any environment? I can function in your pristine sanctuary or my own mess;…

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Dana Cowin calls on top chefs for help in Mastering My Mistakes

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Some years ago, when I edited the food pages of a daily newspaper, we asked readers to tell us about their worst mistakes in the kitchen. One woman recalled making her first chicken soup. When the steaming, fragrant soup was ready, all that remained was straining the broth. She picked up the hot pot, carefully poured the contents into a colander in the sink that she had prepared beforehand, and watched the golden broth as it flowed. . . down the drain. She had forgotten to put a bowl under the colander. Oops. Kitchen mistakes. We’ve all made them. And we all live through them somehow, even if survival entails a quick drive to the local pizza place. Or a…

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Donuts for Hanukkah? The Festival of Lights is more than latkes

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The donuts-for-Chanukah thing caught me by surprise, and now, having read Michael Krondl’s The Donut: History, Recipes, and More from Boston to Berlin, I understand why. When I was growing up, nobody in my Ashkenazi Jewish family ever mentioned Chanukah donuts. Potato latkes, yes—fried in oil to recall the time when the victorious Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE; according to the story, the meager supply of oil there lasted for eight days, until more could be procured. But donuts for Chanukah? Nobody in my family knew from that. Then, some years ago, I noticed people talking about sufganiyot, donuts fried in oil—for Chanukah! I wondered how I had missed this tradition. But Krondl’s book explains that…

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Saveur cookbook savors a world of food

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If Saveur: The New Classics Cookbook (Weldon Owen, 2014) was merely a 600-plus-page compendium of 1,000 recipes covering the touchstone dishes of myriad ethnic cuisines, with tempting ideas for every meal of the day, every occasion and almost every ingredient, that would have been more than enough. But this newest book-spinoff of the eponymous foodie magazine is something more; it’s a bellwether of food culture in the United States. That’s saying a lot, but I don’t think it’s too strong a statement. If a magazine can be a reflection of its time (think back to the impact of Time’s Man of the Year a few decades ago), Saveur has been a mirror of America’s evolving relationship with food since its…

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Hello, American Pie

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Let us now give thanks for pie. As Thanksgiving approaches, pie is much on our minds, especially if we’re the ones planning the menu. Of course we’ll have pumpkin and apple, but what else? Should we add pecan? Pear? Appease the chocoholics with chocolate-hazelnut? Tweak tradition with cranberry-caramel tart? The possibilities are many on this most American of holidays, perhaps because pie is the most American of desserts. A few years ago, my sister biked across country (yes, over the Rockies and across the Great Plains, but that’s another story). Along the way, she told me later, she was struck by the presence of pie on American menus; it was everywhere, and yet each region had its own specialties—more so…

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More: Just as good the second time

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Plenty More is here, and there is plenty to love in it.  Few cookbooks have been so ardently anticipated as this follow-up volume to Yotam Ottolenghi’s 2011 sensation, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi (Chronicle). To cut to the chase, the new volume, this one subtitled Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi and published by Ten Speed Press, is as beautiful and inspired as Ottolenghi’s fans imagined it would be. But that’s hardly a surprise from the Israeli-born, London-based restaurateur. Since Plenty, he has issued two other much-praised cookbooks. In 2012, the extraordinary Jerusalem: A Cookbook, co-authored with partner Sami Tamimi, explored the food—Jewish, Arab, and everything else—of the city where both Ottolenghi, a Jew, and Tamimi, an Arab,…

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How fish sauce traveled the world and became ketchup in The Language of Food

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It took a while for academia to acknowledge the role food of in history. In his 2003 memoir, The Apprentice, Jacques Pépin tells of the long-ago Columbia University professor who forbade him to focus on the history of French food when the then-young chef was studying for his Ph.D. (Yes, it’s Dr. Pépin, to you.) When Pépin became a celebrity chef, he had his revenge: he co-founded Boston University’s gastronomy program, the first of its kind at a major university. Now, of course, food history is hot. There are books and articles on the history of everything from amaranth to za’atar, and you can find classes at top colleges and in your local adult education catalog. The role of food…

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This ain’t your mother’s Rosh Hashanah menu — but she’ll love it

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What’s cooking for Rosh Hashanah this year? Will it be Bubby’s famous brisket, cooked for hours until it’s falling to pieces? Tsimmes, the traditional stew of sweet carrots and dried fruit? Or maybe you’ll venture into something completely different? I asked my food writer pal Ronnie Fein what she’s serving this year. Her previous books include Hip Kosher (175 Easy-to-Prepare Recipes for Today’s Kosher Cooks) (DaCapo), and she’s a columnist for The Jewish Week. Fein’s new book, The Modern Kosher Kitchen: More than 125 Inspired Recipes for a New Generation of Kosher Cooks (Fair Winds Press, 2014) is full of innovative kosher recipes that reflect the way we want to eat today—plenty of veggies and grains and flavor profiles from…

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The Traveling Gourmand shares what it means to eat New Orleans

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Long before “locavore” was a word, before the Food Network made cooking a spectator sport, before Chez Panisse and California cuisine, before even Julia Child and James Beard—a good century or two before what we now think of as the seminal moments on our culinary timeline—there was New Orleans. It’s true that rich and diverse food cultures could be found from sea to shining sea, but New Orleans food was the haute cuisine of America. Jambalaya, brimming with andouille sausage; shrimp gumbo, thick with okra or file; crawfish étouffée, creamy, savory and utterly delicious; less fancy but no less satisfying muffaletta and po’boy sandwiches; oysters so rich (and green) they were named for Rockefeller; sweet, delectable pralines; boozy, buttery, flaming…

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The Traveling Gourmand devours Vietnamese history on a plate

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Some meals represent more than the sum of their ingredients; they are history on a plate. Such dishes speak to us of the great migrations and conquests of the past, of suffering and celebration and adaptation to change. Vietnamese banh mi is a dish that offers a snapshot of history. It’s a sandwich of various meats and various condiments combined on crusty bread. This might not seem remarkable to a Westerner—until you recall that in Vietnam, like much of Asia, leavened bread is the exception at the table. Rice—not wheat—is the dominant grain. Banh mi is a culinary mash-up that resulted from the French occupation of the region from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Food writer Andrea Nguyen reveals…

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Cooking up some great summer reading and recipes

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Now that summer is officially here, there’s nothing like finally having the time to make a new recipe. The season offers so many tempting new cookbooks it’s hard to choose among them, but a few beckoned to me a little more than the rest. Done: A Cook’s Guide to Knowing When Food is Perfectly Cooked by James Peterson (Chronicle) The book’s premise is simple—so simple you might wonder what the point is. But let’s face it: the lure of convenience food and appliances has left us with an unintended consequence: rusty cooking skills. This is ironic, because at the same time our obsession with food and our appetite for new and adventurous eating experiences has never been greater. We’ve become…

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Top food writers pick spring cookbook favorites

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With spring on the way (we promise!), what better way to spend the last few weeks of winter than experimenting in the kitchen? To keep you busy while the snow melts, here’s a rundown of 2013’s best cookbooks, chosen by fellow cookbook authors (the only rule was that they couldn’t pick their own books). Mary Goodbody picks VEGETABLE LITERACY by Deborah Madison Goodbody is an award-winning cookbook writer and editor who has worked on more than 50 books. She is also a senior editor of Cookstr.com, and editor of Familytime.com. Goodbody was the co-author, with Chef Debra Ponzek, of The Dinner Time Survival Cookbook: Delicious, Inspiring Meals for Busy Families (Running Press, 2013). “I liked Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy,” says…

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Edamame Salami, or Eat Your Poetry; It’s Good for You!

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“Oh, Mom, we do enough of that in school.” My daughter’s reaction to the news that I’d be leading a poetry jam with her Girl Scout troop was pretty much what you’d expect from a hipster 10-year-old. But our troop leader had loved the idea, so it was a done deal, school poetry lessons or not. When the day arrived, of course we started with a snack. The troop had come straight from school on that May afternoon, and being fifth graders, they were as famished as if they’d just come from a 10-mile trek. Because poetry was the theme of the day, we’d have a “poetic” snack. First on the menu was Edamame Salami, which I had invented for…

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Add one part Julia and stir: Karen Karbo’s JULIA CHILD RULES

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Books about Julia Child are among my secret reading pleasures. But I was skeptical when I heard about Karen Karbo’s Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life (skirt! Books/Globe Pequot Press). It sounded like yet another gimmicky project, like the blog-book-movie phenomenon, Julie and Julia. I must admit that I enjoyed Julie Powell’s account of her year of cooking every recipe in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking; it’s a funny, engaging, stylishly written page-turner. But there’s a quality about it that’s so anti-Julia—an edge of smugness and seeming lack of compassion for, well, humanity. In the first chapter of the book, Powell encounters a mentally ill homeless person on her way home from a bad day at work…

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The Most Important Meal Of The Day

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When I was growing up, it would have been hard to imagine the proliferation of cookbooks that offer today’s cooks instruction in the art of the family dinner. In the past few years, food personalities like Rachael Ray, Laurie David and Sara Moulton as well as other less prominent folk (myself included), have issued volumes on quick dinners, slow dinners, special dinners and everyday dinners.  Each author takes a unique approach to the subject of dinner, and each book offers its own charms. Back when I was growing up, family dinner was just what you did. Every night. Mom cooked a hot meal, the kids set the table, Dad came home from work and everyone sat down to eat and…

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