Hot Knives Cookbook: Salad Daze + Kitchen Disasters

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Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 3:31 PM

click to enlarge Flour power: Hot Knives after another taxing day in the kitchen. - AARON FARLEY
  • Aaron Farley
  • Flour power: Hot Knives after another taxing day in the kitchen.
Today, our favorite Eastside vegetarian duo releases The Hot Knives Vegetarian Cookbook: Salad Daze. The 128-page book ($25/Mark Batty Publisher) has, unofficially, been in the works for five years, as long as Alex Brown and Evan George have been posting to their cooking blog, Hot Knives.

click to enlarge The Hot Knives Vegetarian Cookbook: Salad Daze
  • The Hot Knives Vegetarian Cookbook: Salad Daze
Like the blog, Salad Daze is a non-linear journey, in this case through the foods of fall and winter. (The duo is already at work on a cookbook of spring and summer recipes, slated for release in 2012.) The recipes are geared to intermediate-level home cooks looking for irreverent takes on common fruit and veg: kohlrabi latkes, beer-candied apples, warm radicchio salad, hot squash ice cream. The book's size and format offer plenty of eye-candy. Bright red "blood sausage mushrooms," sausage-sized oyster mushrooms soaked in a bath of salted beet juice, look like one of the more gorgeous props from the Saw franchise.

"We go to the farmers market, we find something we think is cool and we fuck with it," says Brown, summing up the duo's methodology. The path to glory isn't always paved with locavore honey and Fromager d'Affinois. It's a long, rocky road (and not the chocolate ice cream kind) haunted by hardship and failure.

click to enlarge Blood sausage mushrooms by Hot Knives. - AMANDA MARSALIS
  • Amanda Marsalis
  • Blood sausage mushrooms by Hot Knives.
Brown and George aren't professionals. They're cheeky. They're over-the-top. They don't much care for established notions of propriety. (Perhaps the back cover shot of them swigging from a flask and firing up a bowl gave that away.) They do, however, test their recipes -- over and over. (It's a quality that has served them well in the cutthroat world of competitive grilled cheese.) And as fewer recipes, whether in cookbooks, magazines or online are actually tested prior to publication, this is no mean feat.

"Our process seems to be getting an espresso at the coffee stand at our farmers market, checking out what looks cool, then going home and talking about it," George says.

"Our geeky fascination is trying to top each other," Brown says. "What can be done with the remnants of a fennel frond or a butternut squash? What the hell do you do with the kiwi? You just eat a fucking kiwi. You don't make gremolata with it." Except when you do.

If their culinary experiments "end up being cool," in Brown's words, they shoot photos and post them on the blog. Their success rate is 95%, but their failures are probably more interesting. In that spirit, we present Hot Knives' top three kitchen disasters.

3. "This is not your typical kitchen nightmare, but it's kind of funny writing a seasonal cookbook in a city where we only know about the seasons from the vegetables at the farmers market. We were working on a seasonal cookbook for fall and winter and wrapping up recipe development in early spring, so we'd find ourselves madly trying to get a pomegranate in March or a persimmon in April. It really did become a recurring nightmare. Are we going to have to fake a photo? Are we going to have to go to Whole Foods to get something out of season? Are we going to cut the recipe form the book? We woke up at least once in a fever [about this dilemma]. There's a recipe we had to change for the upcoming book because we couldn't get any Clementines. "

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