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Dave Lieberman snapshot

Dave Lieberman's Fresh Look at Cooking


The Texas Cooking Interview

How does a Yale graduate with a degree in Political Science find himself hosting a cooking show on the Food Network?

That was the first thing I wanted to know about Dave Lieberman, host of Good Deal with Dave Lieberman and author of two successful cookbooks.

I spoke with Dave Lieberman ("call me Dave") several days in advance of his scheduled appearance at Macy's Department Store in San Antonio, where he was slated to promote Tools of the Trade at Macy's cookware and his latest cookbook, Dave's Dinners. During our telephone conversation, he voiced uncertainty about the San Antonio trip since Hurricane Ike was homing in on the Texas coast and, as it turned out, that appearance – one of eight on the Macy's "Tools of the Trade Green & Fresh Tour" – was cancelled. But he shared much about himself and the surprising turn his life has taken during our phone call.

Dave told me about growing up with his family in Philadelphia in an atmosphere where good food was important. His stay-at-home dad was chief cook, and his grandmother also wielded an expert spoon. The family fare was simple and delicious. His latest cookbook, in fact, includes his own variations of recipes from both his dad and grandmother.

Then, being a bright kid, Dave spent his junior year in high school in France. That experience, together with a summer in Paris several years later, opened his eyes to more sophisticated fare and introduced him to an eating experience that went beyond the boundaries of the kitchen where he grew up. But he never lost his appreciation for good food, simply prepared with ingredients easily found at the supermarket.

When Dave went away to college, he was probably one of the few Yale students who not only could cook, but did. He entertained his hungry friends (in fact, the title of his first cookbook is Young and Hungry: More Than 100 Recipes for Cooking Fresh and Affordable Food for Everyone). Some of his fellow classmates were television media students, and that is how his first cooking show Campus Cusine, which aired on Hartford’s public access channel, came into being. "It was just a crazy idea that we went with," said Dave. "It was a lot of fun."

The show was popular and fresh, and it caught the attention of a New York Times columnist who gave it prominent mention in a 2003 food article entitled "Dude, Where's My Spice Grinder?" It didn't take long for the Food Network to take a look, and they obviously liked what they saw.

So, although Dave began college with notions of working in international business or political diplomacy, not long after graduation he found himself hosting his own show on the Food Network. "Good Deal with Dave Lieberman" is shot in New York City, where he now lives, and can be seen on the Food Network two or three times each week, depending upon your location.

Dave's approach to cooking is appealing and completely unintimidating. Make no mistake, his recipes are not necessarily the quick-and-easy four-ingredient variety. But his style is very down to earth. Take pasta, for instance. Dave says:

With the exception of a few varieties of pasta, such as gnocchi and ravioli, I generally prefer dried pasta over fresh. That's because I love my pasta al dente, and it's difficult to get that stiffness out of fresh pasta. Fresh pasta is so easily overcooked, and overcooked fresh pasta turns to mush, which is just a bad scene. You can also get dried pastas in many more varieties than fresh pasta, and playing around with the textures and look of all those different shapes is fun. And did I mention that dried pasta is much cheaper than fresh?

Dave Lieberman is engaging and friendly; he is soft spoken and polite. And his passion for food is evident. Clearly, he enjoys what he is doing. Should he ever tire, however, he can always fall back on his Political Science degree, but the odds of that happening are small. In answer to my inquiry about future cookbooks, he eagerly told me that his next book should be out in December, 2009.

I am cooking my way through Dave's Dinners now, and I am keen to find out where his next book goes. I'm a Dave fan.

Here is one of the superb pasta recipes from Dave's Dinners:

Creamy Lemon Almond Linguine

This pasta dish is about as simply elegant as it gets. Its rich, creamy, silky texture makes it indulgent, too. Cooking the sauce over steam as opposed to direct heat is important, so as not to scramble the egg yolks. The process of cooking over the boiling water thickens the sauce and eliminates any worries about unwanted bacteria. I like to buy eggy pasta to highlight the yolky goodness of the sauce.

  • 1 pound linguine
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon, a pinch of zest reserved for garnish
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup ground whole almonds, a couple pinches reserved for garnish
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the linguine until al dente and toss with oil to keep it from sticking.

Combine the egg yolks, heavy cream, shallot, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a couple of pinches of salt in a heatproof bowl. Place over a pot of boiling water and whisk regularly until the mixture thickens into a pale yellow, silky consistency.

Remove from the heat, stir in the almonds, and toss with the linguine.

Garnish with more lemon zest and ground almonds.

Serves 6.

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