Tara Mataraza Desmond

I am a food writer, cookbook author, and professional cook. My cookbook with co-author Joy Manning is Almost Meatless (Ten Speed Press). My blog, Crumbs On My Keyboard is about great food in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

  • Website
  • Location: Philadelphia
  • Favorite foods: Parmigiano-Reggiano and most other cheese, Mom's cast iron pizza, popcorn, caramel corn (Johnson's or Garrett's), milk (I have a special glass for it), beans, salami, soppressata, chocolate, peanut butter, ice cream, big reds and sparkling whites.
  • Last bite on earth: Game time decision.

Latest Comments

Resolution: Eat Less Meat

@quickmealhelp, we hope you like the book! Most of the recipes, like our Meat Lite recipes here on Serious Eats, can be tweaked for vegetarians, too, by doing what you already do: prepare the animal proteins separately and add at the end. Several of the recipes are just as good in strictly vegetarian form (try 3 bean chili or the African peanut stew and any of the egg recipes). Sounds like you'd also be interested in Ivy Manning's new book (nope, Joy and Ivy are not related) The Adaptable Feast, which has recipes for meat eaters and vegetarians gathered at the same table. Have fun!

Resolution: Eat Less Meat

Hey @cycorider I'll mostly defer to med and nutrition professionals on your question, but I will say that iron absorption is about paying attention to what you eat AND how you eat it. Other food and drink can encourage or inhibit absorption. Vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus and leafy greens are good partners for helping iron absorption along (try the roasted salmon citrus salad in our book, Almost Meatless). Caffeine can prevent absorption so be careful about sipping tea and coffee with your iron intake. Try cooking in cast iron, which is said to lend a bit of iron to whatever is cooked in it.

Meat Lite: Black Beans and Rice, My Way

irishnyc, I think Joy is recommending boiling the beans until done to your taste, taking them off the stovetop and moving them to a preheated 250 degree oven. Turn the oven temp off and let the beans cool completely as the oven does, too. So you boil to cook first and then place in a hot, but off (cooling) oven to finish.

Meat Lite: Eggplant, Chicken, and Smoked Mozzarella Sandwiches

Bookscooks, the recipe calls for 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, which in the grand scheme of meat eating is a pretty reserved serving for four folks. Feel free to cut back even further though. It's easy to do with a sandwich like this. The eggplant, peppers and that smoked mozz carry the weight of the goodness of the whole thing (frankly, you could do without the chicken altogether!). Hope you give it a shot.

Meat Lite: Bean and Steak Fry Bread with Roasted Jalapeño Salsa

I'm co-author of a book called Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better For Your Health and the Planet (Ten Speed Press 2009) so I do, in fact, promote good healthy eating as a lifestyle, not a diet. I'm, a proponent of knowing where your food comes from, and a believer in sourcing good quality food from trustworthy sources. My husband and I are both runners: I've completed two marathons, he's training for his ninth. Please don't assume that because I enjoy a piece of fry bread, for its culinary culture and tastiness, that I am a nutritional dolt.

I am aware of the controversy around fry bread and the extremely high rates of diabetes in Native American communities. I know that its ingredients are not from the gospel of good food. But this simple post was intended to celebrate a discovery on a cool trip to Santa Fe and to cook with a small quantity of good quality flank steak for four.

I don't pretend to not enjoy a treat sometimes, and a treat can certainly be light on meat.

You're right, fry bread was an invention of necessity to keep people from starving, but over time it has been regarded by many (not all) as an edible symbol of the perseverance of a people. The fact that people eat entirely too much of it is irrelevant to the context of this recipe today.

Dear AHT: Best Burgers in Philly?

Mitch Prensky's burger at Supper was an unexpectedly awesome discovery at brunch one Sunday. One of the best burgers I've tasted in a while. Also fond of the burger at McCrossen's Tavern. It's unfancy, unfussy, well-constructed, plus good fries.

Meat Lite: Tortilla Espanola con Chorizo

Add this to the easy-quick-delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner file!

Meat Lite: Hybrid Banh Mi

Joy, sounds like a perfect solution. Love the pickled vegetables.

Meat Lite: Red Grape, Bacon, and Pistachio Salad with Shallot Sherry Vinaigrette

pwg76, thanks for giving it a whirl- glad you enjoyed. And old chef, I welcome the additions! That's cooking at its best. Have fun.

Meat Lite: Lamb Falafel Burgers

@atammal, not a dumb question at all. No pre-cooking required. The burger gets good and hot and completely cooked with the pan sear/oven bake. I tested with just a longer pan sear, too (about 5 min per side). Also a success, yielding a more "medium" temp for the lamb. I took the temps of the center of the burger with a meat therm in all cases and you are guaranteed in the clear! (think meatballs)

@lgwapnitsky I intended for these to go on the grill initially, but changed course when it was too bloody hot outside to stand aside a grill. Unlike the Beef Bulgur Bean burgers in Almost Meatless, which head straight for the grill, these are a little softer in texture, and benefit from the sturdy surface of the pan. If you do try grilling, I'd suggest cutting back a bit on the bulgur, or letting it dry some before forming the patties. Have fun experimenting!

Sugar Rush: Grapenut Ice Cream from Bittersweet

Awesome! My grandfather, from Fitchburgh, MA, loves grape nuts ice cream. Ditto to other commenters about the flavor's New England roots.


Slice them thin and add them (raw) to salad. They are zippy little tidbits. Really great if you're using a semi-sweet vinaigrette and/or including goat cheese in your salad.

Black Garlic...anyone heard of this?

It's on the menu now at Rioja in Denver. Ppl were flipping over it during the IACP conference two weeks ago.

Meat Lite: Spring Greens and Strip Steak Salad

RegrettableFoodie, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. I really like this picture- you prob shouldn't look at it anymore.

Meat Lite: Spring Greens and Strip Steak Salad

dbcurrie, I appreciate your perspective on the quantity of meat, and share your viewpoint in many cases. However, moderation is the philosophy behind Almost Meatless (or Meat Lite column) and we know our readers are both mostly vegetarian AND enthusiastic meat eaters who are trying to be conscious of eating less meat. This particular recipe is for the latter group. If you consider that people who love steak often eat upwards of 8 ounces as a steak dinner portion, 4 ounces of beef slices is in fact "light" or "lite" or "less". Every little change helps in moving toward a less meat-centric style of eating. If this recipe appeals to a voracious meat eater, then I consider it a success in helping to promote this approach to thinking differently about meat consumption deliciously.

Meat Lite: Salmon and Asparagus Casarecce

Sammie, I think Lidia, and her food, is terrific. Her recipes never fail me. She is the real deal.

Cook the Book: Smoked Trout Chowder

@christineB and @Michele Humes, I didn't know about cullen skink! After researching it, I agree: we could rename this Cullen Skink, which is just fun to say (though not exactly appetizing). @shaogo, I think you meant to say adorn with bacon, not adulterate! Mmmmm, bacon.

Cook the Book: Almond Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

This is one of my favorites from the book. It's amazing how far such a small amount of meat will go. This recipe drives the point home. Lamb adds flavor particularly well.

Cook the Book: Tuna Tartine

Great suggestions, all! @dmarina, absolutely sub in tuna packed in oil, which is, indeed, delicious! Capers, anchovies...whatever you like! Recipes are best when they are customized to your liking! Enjoy. Thanks for piping up.

Serious Efforts: Flat macarons — help

megannesta, I agree with dmarina re: the oven temp. Here's another recipe that I developed for my blog. Bake at 300.

Meat Lite: Lamb Chili for Two

Oooo, Chazmo, you caught a typo. If I had anything to give you, I'd send it to you as a prize, so I'll just give you my sincere thanks. That should simply read black beans. Not red black beans. Though if you find that they exist, I'm sure they'd work just fine.

Indulging Your Inner Colicchio: Judging a Midterm at the FCI

Michele, good one. I'm having flashbacks- the good, the bad, the ugly- of my own proficiency exams in culinary school. Still makes my stomach churn a little remembering it all... I think I'll go make a PB&J for lunch.

Meat Lite: Warm Winter Salad

love the bread cubes for mopping everything up when it's all gone.