Dawn Viola is a food writer and award-winning cook on a mission to teach others how to cook with creativity and purpose using sustainable, local and organic ingredients whenever possible, with an improvisational approach to cooking.

  • Website
  • Location: Orlando, Florida
  • Last bite on earth: Pizza strips and spinach pies from Federal Hill in Rhode Island, and then clam cakes and chowder on the jetty by Block Island Sound.

Latest Comments

Daily Slice: Tomato Pie from Conshohocken Bakery

Looks just like the pizza strips from the Italian bakeries in Rhode Island.

How about a Serious Eats Convention?

Love the idea, but please come to Florida. It's sunny, warm and no one ever holds a food event here, could be the first! hint, hint.

Any Holiday Cooking Questions? Ask Harold McGee and The Food Lab

Hi Kenji and Harold - I have two questions:

#1 - I'd love to know exactly how much acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc.) is needed to to break gluten strands in a standard pate brisee -- is there a ratio that has been recorded?

#2 - can I heat cream to infuse with an herb, then cool it and whip it into stiff peaks? Or is it better just to do a cold infusion for 24 hrs.?


autolyze or not to autalyze

There is a substantial difference in the final flavor. The autolysed dough is more complex -- waiting to add the salt gives the yeast a fighting chance to do their magic.

Make two batches, one using autolyse, one without and compare :-)

Making Ketchup

When I'm in a hurry, I make homemade with San Marzano tomato paste. But you can reduce your fresh tomatoes (blanched and peeled) to the same consistency -- it will take a few hours, but well worth it :-)

...and speaking of ketchup

I make my own, which always has to stay in the fridge.

The Food Lab: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (Plus More!) About Boiling Water

I know know, Kenji, I saw you at ATK a couple of weeks ago and you looked pretty good to me!

Do touristy places ever have good food?

I live in Orlando. I wish it weren't true, but no. No way, no how.

Smoked sugar?

Originally thinking about making a caramel with the smoked sugar for a topping on frozen Greek yogurt, with spiced pumpkin seeds. But, it would be great in other desserts, and savory dishes that could use a little sweet/smoky flavor.

Good side dishes for Spanish tortilla?

A simple green salad would be lovely. Or, roasted red peppers and zucchini.

Movie theater food: what's your favorite and are you a smuggler?

I'm definitely a smuggler! I can't eat a lot of the movie treats because of food allergies, so I always bring my own popcorn in. Oh, just try and stop me Mr. Theater Usher!

rescuing a failed pie?

Cornstarch is always hit or miss -- it needs to be fresh and it can't be heated or chilled too much or too long or it breaks down. If it comes in contact with frozen fruit, forget it.

Arrowroot is a better choice. Or, a roux with flour and butter will work too. Both are much more stable.

any tips for new england clam chower

I love the idea of smoking the salt pork. Here's a breakdown of the classic chowders - broth, red, and white:

What's Your Favorite Way to Cook Potatoes?

We made flat French fries a few weeks ago, following the technique used for fried plantains. Instead of the plantain gizmo, I used the bottom of a sauce pan to flatten the tiny potatoes. It's our new family favorite!

Weekend Cook and Tell: Foodtography

Despite three years of photography in art college, my food photography was less than yummy. I think I finally got the hang of it though:


Cakes Dropping in the Middle

Cakes, high or low altitude, fall in the middle because the cell structure didn't set up properly. Adjusting the formula will definitely help, but look at your oven temp closely, too.

cast iron and tomatoes?

You'll release a bit of iron into your food, which is one of the benefits of using cast iron. But I don't imagine the flavor will be very inviting. Avoid aluminum foil since it can release aluminum into your tomato. Studies are conflicted on how much will harm you (big surprise), but why take the chance. Be careful with non stick, too - if heated too high, it will release chemicals into your food.

Anybody using The Flavor Bible?

I love this book. The Flavor Bible is like a Pantone swatch book for a cook. It's a great resource for flavor profiles when you're kind of stuck in a rut.

Deviled Eggs

Deviled crab eggs are a favorite,

Cut the eggs across the middle, instead of length-wise, and you'll have a deeper well to stuff more stuff into the egg :-)


Cooking & Preparation Methods

Breaking some of the terms down into basic moist and dry cooking methods helps it feel less daunting.

Moist = braising, boiling, simmering, steaming
Dry = baking, roasting, broiling, grilling, deep frying, pan frying

The neat thing about basic cooking methods is that once you learn them, you can apply them to absolutely anything. So, if you master the technique of braising, for example, you can braise any meat, fish or vegetable -- it's all essentially done the same way.

Might be fun to research one item on the list above per month, and give it a try. :-)

Debunking the MSG myth

As mentioned earlier, my allergy isn't to MSG, it's to soy. And, if you read labels carefully, you'll see hydrolyzed soy protein listed, which is a free glutamic acid (MSG). But, because food companies don't want to list "MSG" on labels, they disguise it by listing it as hydrolyzed soy protein.