Welcome to Naomi Kooker's blog.

At age 6 my mother let me into the kitchen, alone. By seventh grade I was feigning sick to stay home from school, "miraculously" feeling good enough to make baked-stuffed pork chops for dinner. My passion for cooking led me to a job as a sous chef in a Manhattan restaurant and, later, to stand quietly in the corner of (and eventually do one thing in) Restaurant Guy Savoy's kitchen in Paris. I overcame the ultimate cooking challenge when I made butter cream icing over a Bunsen burner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It was for a friend's wedding cake, the centerpiece at the reception the next day. It was midnight. With just hours to go, I managed to whip up the icing, then carefully place the last few candied violets onto the cake before the reception. Oh, how grateful I was for that Bunsen burner and the corner bodega that was open 24 hours.

It all worked out in the end. It always does.

Food, cooking and eating are inextricably linked to life. Life is better when good food is involved, and even better when good company is part of the eating.

Thank you for stopping in and being part of a growing dinner party of readers.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Carbs of My Father; Best Blueberry Muffins

My father loved carbohydrates. I think this as I dunk some of my blueberry muffin in my coffee the way he would. The tender, warm muffin tears, releasing a summary of our lives at The Lake: Blueberry picking; the plop of each berry in the large, old metal pot with a thin handle that swung like a bucket; the cobbler mom made in the electric skillet; dad’s deliberate footsteps on the floorboards. Him dunking a wedge of muffin in his coffee, leaning in to catch the drenched sweet in his mouth before it fell to the table. The piece of white silver birthday cake placed on the plate so the icing fell to the right or was it the left? So he could approach it handily. He was left-handed. He attacked the remaining cake batter with a spoon, controlling the silence with every lick of the lips—his fix, his salvation. Now it is my turn.

Using the “Mostly Muffins” book (St. Martin’s Press, 1984), I turned to the blueberry muffins recipe as the foundation; I found when I substituted part of the sugar for brown sugar, the muffins turned out wonderfully moist with a hint of nuttiness that went beyond the walnuts’ inclusion. Enjoy warm out of the oven; they freeze well and make an excellent


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (preferably not quick oats)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups fresh or thawed, drained frozen berries*
1/2 cup walnut pieces

            Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or coat with vegetable spray six large muffin cups.
            In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, butter, egg and vanilla until well blended. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Add milk mixture and stir slightly. Mash 1/4 cup of the blueberries and add to batter, folding just to combine. Add rest of whole blueberries and walnut pieces with just a few quick strokes. (It’s important not to over-mix muffins, as they will become tough.)
            Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins until nearly full and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake in middle oven rack for 20 to 25 minutes or until top of muffin springs back when lightly touched and they are slightly golden brown.
            Place muffin tin on wire rack and cool 5 minutes before removing muffins; remove muffins and finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or cool completely and wrap snugly in aluminum foil and freeze.
            To reheat in the microwave, take muffin out of foil and place on plate in center of microwave. Heat 1 to 2 minutes, reposition muffin and microwave until completely warmed. In oven, heat frozen muffins at 350 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes.
            *For frozen blueberries, use one 16-ounce bag, thawed and drained.