Julia's Child, published by Plume/Penguin, is a book about organic food, and growing food, and feeding food to small wiggly people who don't always appreciate it.  This blog celebrates those same things, but also green living. And coffee.  And sometimes wine with little bubbles in it.


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Entries in Sarah Pinneo (6)


A Restaurant as Old as a Memory

We visit our old stomping grounds in NYC a few times a year. Last month we made a quick trip into the city, and my husband and I had an evening alone. We walked the increasingly unfamiliar streets. Shops and restaurants have a short half life, and the meat packing district we strolled was almost unrecognizable, with its hipper-than-thou shops replacing, well, meat packers. 

"It's still here!"

So it was surprising to me to see the Mesa Grill sitting staunchly in its place on 5th Avenue in the Flat Iron. We went inside to have a drink. It was a Wednesday night, and happy faces in summery business attire crowded the tables. One time, that was me.

In the spring of 1994 I received a sudden promotion on the trading floor where I'd worked. The boss had quit, and the company was struggling with a scandal. And a 21 year-old college grad was handed the reins to a multi-billion dollar portfolio of options trades.

"Listen, Missy."

Overwhelmed, I worked many hours but still managed to feel outgunned all the time. One afternoon I was chatting with T.J., one of the interdealer brokers with whom I traded. Into his end of our direct phone line he said, "Listen, Missy. It's getting late and I'm tired of hearing you bitch into the phone. I'll pick you up in half an hour, and you can complain over dinner instead."

I didn't know T.J. very well, but his job (literally) was to change that. Making himself useful to my partners and I in the markets--and at the end of long days--was a broker's way of earning business for his firm. 

Too tired to argue, I went outside to find him waiting. I was young and completely oblivious to the NYC restaurant scene. But T.J. knew what to do. Over the next several years I would follow him into new '90s dining adventures, and taste the cooking of Bobby Flay, Danny Meyer and (T.J.'s favorite) Larry Forgione.

But that first night, I probably didn't even read the sign MESA GRILL over the door. I don't remember what I ordered, but it surely wasn't very adventurous. T.J. talked me out of my misery somehow, but not far enough that I would order dessert. "Okay," he said to the waitress. "The chocolate and raspberry thing, please. And two spoons."

And...wow was it good! We fought over the last few bites, and finally I laughed. At the time, I thought life was so difficult. But that was only youthful folly talking.

I'm older and (a bit) smarter now, at least wise enough to no longer count opportunity as a burden. What a lucky time it was to be young and so gainfully employed in the magical place that was NYC on the upswing. T.J. helped me find the fun in it. For more than seven years he was my friend--he and his wife Patty. And my husband was added to our dinner parties. There were many other business dinners, but those were the fun ones.

That was until 9/11, when he was stolen away from his family and his many work friends. I was only a couple of hundred yards away ("on the other end of our Habitrail" as he used to say) when the plane hit his building. The lives of so many of my colleagues--and all of lower Manhattan--were rendered unrecognizable that day.

But somehow our banquet is still there, against the northern wall of Mesa Grill. Last month my husband and I sat on barstools sipping champagne (a favorite beverage of T.J.'s) just a few yards from where he and I first sat sparring for raspberries. There is still the clatter of savory dishes set upon gleaming wooden tables, the sound of the cork pulling loose from a bottle, and the laughter of the young and well employed. Maybe levity comes to them naturally, but on that evening in 1994, I needed a friend to teach me how to lighten up.


Julia's Dutch Cover

The Dutch cover of Julia's Child is so cute! Kudos to Unieboek for this catchy picture. My, what green eyes you have!


A Canadian Mom Changes Baby Food

By Sarah Pinneo
One of the best things about writing Julia's Child was interviewing all of the real life women who have started organic kids' food companies. I learned so much from them, and came to admire their risk taking and fortitude. Jennifer Broe of Baby Gourmet shared a taste of her story with me, and I gobbled up every word.
When her daughter was six months old, Jennifer Broe made all her food at home. She used simple ingredients of very high quality—and the results were heads above anything she could find in the store. “The food in the jars was sub-par. I would never eat it myself. How could I feel good about feeding it to my daughter?”
Broe quickly identified that there was a big hole in the market, but she needed to do her research. Her first step was to put in an application at a thriving Calgary farmers’ market. Even though there were 300 applicants ahead of her, Broe was quickly given a stall. “There wasn’t anyone making fresh baby food in Calgary.”
She spent three weeks putting the recipes together. Her original product was a frozen one. “I used ice cube trays,” she says.
Immediately business was so good that she couldn’t keep up with the demand. She rented space in a commercial kitchen, and put in special freezers. On the weekends, she sold food at the market. At the end of her two year stint, she was selling an eye popping $30,000 CAD in baby food each month. Sometimes, she sold baby food while her second child helped out from his infant carrier on her front.
Then Broe took a big risk. She discontinued her market sales. She did more research, and spent three years reformulating her product into a shelf stable pouch. She raised funding and hired an executive management team.
The risk paid off, and Baby Gourmet re-launched in Wal-Mart in Canada, and in February 2011 Broe’s sister Jill Vos became the VP of Product Development. There are now three different textures of Baby Gourmet for three different stages. For the youngest babies, there are simple purees such as “Juicy Pear and Garden Greens.” The oldest babies get Tasty Textures, including “Vanilla Banana Berry Risotto.”
Now U.S. babies can enjoy the product, too. Last fall, Baby Gourmet launched in Wal-Mart Super Centers on our side of the border.
Ingredients are still of utmost importance to Broe and Vos. While researching the business, they were appalled to find that the fruit that was commonly sold for baby food production was often not first quality. Baby Gourmet is made only from tasty organic produce. They taste every batch to make sure that it’s as good as the last. “Because taste matters,” says Broe. “Better tasting food means easier mealtimes.”

My Book Tour!

Dear readers,

Thank you for your support! I'm so happy to finally say that Julia's Child is for sale in bookstores. The book tour kicks off tonight, and will run throughout February. I would love to meet you at:


1/31 The Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT

2/6 Water Street Books, Exeter, NH

2/9 The Book Rack, Newburyport, MA

2/17 Northshire, Manchester Center, VT

I can't wait to see you there!


Tomatoes Please. Hold the BPA.

It's officially chili season, people. And another year has gone by wherein there are no better BPA-free canned tomato products on the market. I've been ramping up my gardening, but I'm nowhere near canning all of our own tomatoes yet.

So what's a chili-loving girl to do?

There are some companies, notably Eden Organics, who can beans and other vegetables in BPA free cans. When I'm not using dried beans, I always turn to Eden.

But the acidity of tomatoes means that even Eden can't make a BPA free canned tomato product. Scanning high and low, I've come up with a scant three BPA free products. First there's Pomi, in a tetra-pak. The container is not recyclable or compostable, but it is BPA free. In glass jars, I've found BioNaturae and a brand called Cirio. 

BioNaturae is found in many East Coast shops, and their pasta is--hands down--my favorite organic brand. The tomatoes are the priciest choice and only come in a very well pureed texture. Pomi's "chopped" product is a more traditional chili texture. 

The Cirio brand has a texture in between the other two. Problem: these are not sold in my town. It is an Italian import which I found at Fairway in New York City, a store full of quirky European brands that aren't widely available.

Why aren't there more glass containers? A BPA discussion over at Groovy Green Livin' brought up this question, with a less than satisfying answer from a representative of Annie's products--that glass is heavy and difficult to transport.

True. But it's also oh so recyclable. I argue that it's more efficient to can tomatoes in 24 ounce jars than it ever will be to put baby food in 3 ounce jars. And I don't hear any companies suggesting that baby food should soon appear in BPA lined cans.

Dear Muir Glen (owned by giant General Mills) I'm talking to you! Your pasta sauces reach my store in glass jars. Please, please consider putting those tomato products in glass, too. 

Enough, already.


Never Make Just One Lasagna

A Lasagna's Eye View of My Kitchen

Almost 20 years ago, my smart friend (and Ski House Cookbook co-author) Tina taught me this valuable life lesson: never make just one lasagna.

See, lasagna is no small effort. I'm sure we could point our browsers to several dozen fabulous food blogs right now where even more artful foods are prepared, styled and photographed twice a day. (The 8-layer faux asparagus cake springs to mind.) But at 1.5 hours in the kitchen, lasagna is about as labor intensive as I can fathom on a weeknight. That's why I always make two: one for tonight, and one for the freezer.

Now, isn't that good advice? One night, this month or next, I'll use my get-out-of-jail free card, which will be waiting in the freezer. And that will feel great.

The following recipe is large enough to make two lasagnas, each one will serve 4-6. 

(I don't have two identical pans, so one of them goes in a 9x13 glass pyrex dish and the other in a square pan with higher sides. Feel free to improvise.)

Here's my straight up meat-and-red-sauce recipe:


cooking oil
1 large onion, diced
2 lbs (humanely raised grass fed organic Vermont) ground beef
2 large or 4 small garlic cloves
1 32oz tub of ricotta cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
12 oz. no-boil lasagna noodles (or regular noodles, cooked)
1 and a half 32 ounce jars of marinara sauce
8 ounces shredded mozzerella


Preheat the oven to 350. Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onion until beginning to brown. Add the beef and garlic. Crumble and cook until no longer pink.

Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, eggs and 1/2 cup of the parmesan. Set aside.

Spoon just enough sauce into both baking dishes to barely cover the bottom. Cover with noodles. Then spread 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles first in one dish and then the other. Set aside the other half of the cheese mixture. Cover cheese mixture with another layer of noodles.

Spread the cooked meat evenly over the noodles in both pans, serving all of it out. Next apply about 1/3 of the total amount of sauce. Cover with another layer of noodles. Spread the remaining ricotta next. Add another layer of noodles. Cover with a generous layer of sauce, and then sprinkle with shredded mozzerella.

Cover one lasagna with foil and bake 30 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered. Serve hot, with the remaining parmesan cheese.

The other lasagna: cover with foil and freeze. When frozen, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and replace in the freezer. Cook as above, but for 50 minutes covered and perhaps 30-45 uncovered. Lasagna is cooked when a knife inserted into the middle comes out hot.