The Cook's Blog

Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Cook’s Cook, Denise Landis has been a professional recipe tester for over twenty years. She began her career testing recipes in the small kitchen of her New York City apartment - where she would bring in chairs to use as extra counter space – then moved with her husband and children to New Hampshire, where she set up a large professional test kitchen.

Denise tests recipes for cookbooks, newspapers, and magazines. She serves on the advisory board of the culinary arts program of the Seacoast School of Technology, a public career and technical high school serving Seacoast New Hampshire, and she is a member of the Northeast Chapter of Les Dames d’ Escoffier. She is the author of a New York Times cookbook, Dinner for Eight: Forty Great Dinner Party Menus for Friends and Family.

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Chicken Parmesan

There are plenty of traditional American foods with which to celebrate autumn, cold weather, the harvest, and the oncoming holidays. But when you’ve had enough of apples, corn, squash, and cider, a hearty Italian-style recipe provides a welcome break while still fitting the prescriptives of the season…Chicken Parmesan is an excellent dish for serving to a crowd. You can serve it (as I prefer to) accompanied by pasta generously dressed in best-quality olive oil, minced raw garlic, minced parsley or basil, and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

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Penne alla Vodka

I have to confess that for a while in my early adulthood, when I lived alone, my “signature” dish was one involving a can of mushroom soup combined with canned tuna and raw chopped onion, served over cooked spaghetti. Someone – I’ve forgotten who – taught me to make this, and I liked it because I could get home from work and whip it up in less time than it took for the pasta water […]

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Good and Fried

If there is a list of deadly culinary sins, I have no doubt that frying is somewhere near the top. But, like many sins, it’s seductive. Though slow-roasted vegetables are exquisitely sweet and tender, and grilled vegetables’ crisp blackened edges have a smoky taste of the fire, vegetables that have been breaded and fried have their own dangerous allure. Should you decide on occasion to indulge, the easiest breading I know is as follows. Prepare […]

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Simple Recipes for Spring

I live in New England, where the winters are usually long and snowy. My favorite form of cold-weather exercise is snow-shoeing, but by chance I haven’t been able to go this year. Too busy working at the computer when fresh snow fell, out of town when I had free time, I’ve been spending too much time at my desk or, while vacationing, eating and drinking. We all know the wages of this sin: a sad […]

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Chowder, Plain and Fancy

When I was nineteen, after spending a year at a small private college in Vermont, for financial reasons I had to switch to a state school. I found myself in Buffalo, New York. Transplanted, I was utterly overwhelmed by the warren-like dorms, the vast campus, and the auditorium-like classrooms of my required courses. One day I wandered, lonely and homesick, into the bookstore in the Student Union and noticed a small pile of books for […]

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A Job at The New York Times

After I’d been testing cookbook recipes for two years, Julie Sahni, whose book of Indian recipes, “Moghul Microwave,” I’d tested, asked me if I’d be interested in doing some work for The New York Times. She had heard that the Times was looking for an experienced freelance tester and she’d told them she knew of someone. I was in awe at the thought of working for such a prestigious publication. Julie gave me the phone […]

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Dinner Party for a Chef

I began my career as a recipe tester for cookbooks, and I did that work for two years.  I loved cookbooks and loved browsing for them at thrift stores or used-book shops. My husband, Jim, was a book publisher and often brought home the cookbooks that his company published or that were sent to him by other pubnlishers and editors. As a result, I owned a hundred or so cookbooks that I kept in a […]

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How did you get started?

I’ve been a professional recipe tester for over twenty years, and the question I’m asked most often is, How did you get started? I got started in this career by accident. I had a degree in Anthropology and worked for seven years as an archeologist, traveling around the United States to work at prehistoric and historic sites. But when I got married I began living in New York City (a block from where I’d grown […]

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve been baking this cake for many years, and have experimented with making it into cupcakes, as a layer cake, and serving it dusted with confectioner’s sugar instead of frosting it. Twitter follower @msserephina sent me a photo of this cake made as a loaf cake and glazed in chocolate – a lovely variation. Makes one 13-by-9 inch sheet cake. For the cake: Vegetable oil or nonstick spray, for greasing pan 2 cups all-purpose flour […]

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