26 February 2022

Weekend Cooking: Food IQ by Daniel Holzman and Matt Rodbard

book cover of Food IQ by Daniel Holzman and Matt RodbardToday I want to talk about one of my new favorite kitchen companions, Food IQ by Daniel Holzman and Matt Rodbard (Feb 22.). I was very excited to get a review copy of this book of "100 questions, answers, and recipes to raise your cooking smarts" from Harper Wave because I love increasing my food knowledge, and Holzman and Rodbard make it fun to learn.

The book is divided into chapters (for example, "Tools and Technology"), which are further broken down into sections. Each section is introduced by a question ("I talk the talk, but should I buy a wok?"). What follows is not only an answer (yes, buy a wok) but also advice pertaining to the question (how a wok is used, what kind to buy, etc.). Finally, Holzman and Rodbard provide a recipe that puts your newfound knowledge to work (Wok-Blistered Green Beans with Black Bean Sauce). Some sections include bonus material, like the interview with Shirley Chung, who gives us even more insight into using a wok.

Holzman and Rodbard write in a relaxed, conversational style, making it easy to absorb the information. They talk about their own biases and explain their conclusions. Even when they're less enamored over an ingredient, they don't have an either-or attitude. For example, though Holzman pretty much insists on using beans cooked from dried, Rodbard points out that most people don't plan and prep ahead and like the convenience of opening a can instead of remembering to soak the beans before cooking them for upwards of 45 minutes. After discussion, Rodbard agreed that making beans from dried wasn't hard and the end dish was tastier, and Holzman noted that it was okay to used canned, though he couldn't quite advocate it. (My advice is to get a pressure cooker for your dried beans!)

Photo of chicken and rice in a cast iron panI browsed Food IQ, reading the sections that caught my attention, rather than starting on the first page and reading straight through to the end. I still have plenty more to read, but here are three things I discovered:

  • The majority of canned tomatoes sold in the United States as San Marzano, are not really San Marzanos. What's more, several California brands of canned plum tomatoes are every bit as good as the real thing, and likely a whole lot cheaper and easier to find.
  • Always undercook pasta by a minute or two and finish it (unrinsed) directly in the sauce. Add a little pasta water or hot tap water and allow the sauce to emulsify, which makes it stick to the noodles.
  • The world's best cooking pot is a heavy-sided enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a tight lid. It can do just about everything those specialty pots do. No need to own a tagine, clay cooker, and donabe.
I have only one problem with Food IQ. I can't quite decide if my digital edition will work for me or if I'd rather own the physical hardcover edition for easier exploring. That's a good dilemma to have! I recommend that you track down a copy of Food IQ by Daniel Holzman and Matt Rodbard. It's an interesting and informative read. Note that the "recipes play a critical role in increasing your food knowledge and learning to cook smarter." Plus I've found the recipes to be tasty and doable as well as educational.

The recipe I'm sharing is the one from the tomato section. I picked it because, as the recipe introduction says, "it's extremely easy to make a delicious utility sauce with only five ingredients plus salt." The sauce can be used for dipping, in lasagna, for pizza, or for chicken parm. The key to this recipe is in the way the garlic is cooked. You can use any good-quality canned tomatoes.

Forty-Minute Sauce That Works with Everything
A picture of a hand crushing canned tomatoes into a bowlMakes about 5 cups

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled, then smashed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • pinch of red chile flakes
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good-quality whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, slowly heat the garlic and oil over medium-low heat. Cook slowly, being very careful not to brown the garlic, until the smashed cloves are soft and pungent, about 8 minutes. You should watch the garlic for the entire duration, as it can burn quickly. Toss in the chile flakes at the very end.

Add the tomatoes and 2 teaspoons salt, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently and mashing the tomatoes to break them up as they cook, until one-fourth of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce begins to thicken, the color darkens, and the oil begins to float and separate, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the basil and adjust the seasoning with salt as needed. Use immediately or let cool and then store until needed. The sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Note: The scans and the recipe are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


Vicki 2/26/22, 6:41 AM  

I've never seen this book or heard of Daniel Holzman or Matt Rodbard before that I can remember. This book sounds very helpful.

Mae Travels 2/26/22, 7:45 AM  

Cooking advice is interesting, but I can only assimilate so much. This sounds over-the-top.

best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 2/26/22, 7:52 AM  

Definitely a book I'd love to browse through. I shall be looking for it.

Tina 2/26/22, 8:22 AM  

A food reference book- how cool. I didn’t know that about San Marzano tomatoes but I’ll bet lots of people didn’t know. Happy to hear that about a good Dutch oven, I use mine quite a bit.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 2/26/22, 8:41 AM  

This is the type of book reference read I would return to time and time again.Thank you!

Jackie McGuinness 2/26/22, 10:16 AM  

The pasta tip I learned recently and now always do it.

rhapsodyinbooks 2/26/22, 11:06 AM  

One can never have too much advice about making good pasta, not to mention about the other stuff. Thanks for sharing!

Marg 2/28/22, 12:17 AM  

We love our dutch ovens and use them (yes multiple) for all sorts of things.

Sherry's Pickings 2/28/22, 1:42 AM  

i like the sound of this book! I tried those fancy tomatoes once and didn't like them at all. I always buy aussie ones to support our local farmers.

Heather 2/28/22, 11:54 AM  

What a coincidence, just this weekend my son asked for this book. And yes, I am getting it for him.

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