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Giveaway: Will It Skillet by Daniel Shumski

My grandma Bunny was devoted to her cast iron skillets. They sat in a graduated stack on her stovetop, always ready to be pressed into service. She kept them seasoned through regular use and claimed that nothing was better for restoring their glossy black finish than cooking up a batch of bacon.

Bunny’s collection of cast iron remains in her hillside California home, where my aunt, uncle, and cousins now live. I’ve had to amass my own heap of skillets, and have done so through thrifting, eBay (my beloved square skillet, used almost exclusively for eggs), Kickstarter, and inheritance.

Despite having a hearty collection, I confess that I rarely do anything truly exciting with my skillets. However, thanks to Dan Shumski’s new book, Will It Skillet, that all changes now. He’s got me seeing my cast iron skillet as the ideal vessel for so much more than just eggs, bacon, burgers, flat broiled chicken, and the world’s most perfectly burnished roasted potato cubes.

There is so much in this book that speaks to me, but here are a few that are on my immediate wish list. Giant Cinnamon Bun (page 37). Spinach and Feta Dip (page 64). Mac and Cheese – you make the whole thing in the skillet! (page 106). Giant Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie (page 153). Are you hungry yet?

I have one copy of this tasty book to give away this week and we’re doing it the old fashioned way (I know that there are those among you who hate Rafflecopter, so this is for you!).

The winner of the giveaway is #196/Barb. Many thanks to all who took the time to enter! 

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your favorite thing to make in a cast iron skillet.
  2. Comments will close at 12 noon eastern time on Sunday, May 21, 2017. A winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog later that day.
  3. Giveaway open to all. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Workman Press sent me two copies of this book at no cost to me. One was for review and photography purposes and the other was to give away. 

Giveaway: A Year of Picnics by Ashley English

When I turned ten, my mom’s best friend Maria gave me a wicker picnic basket. Inside, it was stocked with sturdy, reusable plastic cups, plates, and utensils. I was completely thrilled and spent the next couple days packing and unpacking those wicker walls.

So powerful was the pull of the basket that I even made temporary peace with my sister (it took us growing up and living in different places to finally become friends) so that she would accompany me on trips to the neighborhood playground, where I’d plate up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in order to make best use of my picnic gear.

While I’m not quite as enamored of picnics as I was in 1989, I still believe that there’s no better way to make an ordinary day special than to pack up lunch or dinner and take it to the park (and when there’s something to celebrate, an outdoor gathering is my favorite way to make merry).

Thanks to Ashley English‘s gorgeous new book, A Year of Picnics, I am once again filled with picnic inspiration (in the past, Ashley’s books have also motivated me to bake pies, blend my own tisanes, and gather up friends for seasonal celebrations).

Organized by season, this book makes an excellent case for the concept that dining well and beautifully in the outdoors is possible all year round. During spring and summer, some of the picnics Ashley suggests include those for breakfast, while seated near the water, and for a movie night gathering.

Some of the fall and winter picnics are those to celebrate the falling leaves, for tailgating, and for when perched on a rooftop. Each picnic includes suggestions for choosing your picnic site and activities appropriate for all ages, as well as tidbits tailored specifically to theme.

You’ll also find between three and five recipes for each picnic. I’m particularly looking forward to trying the Cardamom, Rose Water, and Berry Coffee Cake (page 24), the Moroccan Apple Salad (page 93) and the Mason Jar Apple Cardamom Crumbles (page 187).

For those of you hoping to be inspired to pack a picnic, I’ve got two copies of this book to give away. This giveaway is open to everyone (though it is void if giveaways are prohibited where you live). Please use the widget below to enter.

PS – As you enter the giveaway, please do take a moment to send Ashley and her family good thoughts. She recently gave pre-mature birth to a sweet but tiny baby named Alistair. Everyone seems to be healing and growing, but well wishes are never unwelcome. May they all picnic as a family together soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Roost Books sent me three copies of this book for review and giveaway purposes. No additional funds were provided and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

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Cookbooks: The Quick Pickle Cookbook

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post rounding up some useful cookbooks to help inspire us all during this month of quick pickles. In my research for that post, I came across a new-to-me book on the topic called The Quick Pickle Cookbook.

Written by Food & Wine alum Grace Parisi, this slim volume came out last fall and is a delightful addition to my personal pickle resource library. I think many of you will feel similarly.

The book is divided into two sections, with vegetable pickles coming first and fruit pickles coming second. Scattered amidst the pickle recipes are dishes designed to help you put your pickles (and their leftover brine) to work.

Some of the recipes I’ve marked to try include the Smoky Okra Pickles (page 47), the Pickled Pepper Romesco (page 85), the Bourbon-Pickled Blackberries (page 97), and the Lime-Chile Pickled Pineapple (page 135).

If you’ve really enjoyed this month’s quick pickle challenge, consider adding this one to your library for future idea fodder!

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Quick Pickle Cookbook Recommendations

Our month of quick pickles for the Mastery Challenge is underway. While there is PLENTY of information about quick and refrigerator pickling available on the internet, I also have a short stack of books to recommend in case you’re hoping to dig deeper. (Amazon | Powell’s)

  • Pickled by Kelly Carrolata (Amazon | Powell’s) – This book runs the pickling spectrum. You’ll find everything from a class dill pickle to refrigerator herring. There are some recipes here that are designed for the water bath, but most are to be used and eaten promptly. Another fine feature of this volume is the fact that about a quarter of the recipes are ones to help you use up what you’ve put up.
  • Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger, John “Doc” Willoughby, and Dan George (Amazon | Powell’s) – This book is a celebration of the unprocessed pickle and serves up inspiration every time I flip through its pages. It does show its age a bit as far as the names of the recipes go (no one would name something Korean-Style Cabbage Pickle in these times, they’d simply call it Quick Kimchi), but the fact remains that it has plenty to offer.
  • The New Preserves by Anne V. Nelson (Amazon | Powell’s) – I bought this book for its pickled cantaloupe recipe and keep it around for its sweet pickled carrots. Just don’t make the three bean salad – there’s not nearly enough acid in that recipe for boiling water bath canning.
  • Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon (Amazon | Powell’s) – If you want to pursue authentic pickles from Japan, Korea, China, India, and Southeast Asian, you want Karen Solomon by your side. This book is a masterful piece of recipe development and curation. And since many of the traditional pickles from those parts of the world are kept with processing, much of the book is perfect for this month’s challenge.
  • The Pickling Handbook by Karin Bojs (Amazon | Powell’s) – I included this book in the round-up because it is beautiful. It offers a handful of pickling recipes, as well as bunch of recipes to help you use up the pickles you’ve made.
  • The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich (Amazon | Powell’s) – Linda Ziedrich is the high priestess of home food preservation (I anxiously await her forthcoming book on savory jams). The third edition of her pickling book came out last summer and is bursting with all manner of pickled delight. If you only own one book on pickling, this should be it.
  • The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman (Amazon | Powell’s) – This is a big, friendly book with lots of pickle knowledge to offer. Andrea processes most of her pickles, but many of the recipes could be easily done as quick pickles. She’s got one section where the recipes are all scaled for a single jar, making them easy for the small batch aficionado.
  • Pickled & Packed by Valerie Aikman-Smith (Amazon | Powell’s) – Pickled rose petals! Boozy bread and butter pickles! Pickled makrut lime leaves! This book is the one I pull down when I need something to wake me up and get me thinking about pickling in a whole new way.
  • Beyond Canning by Autumn Giles (Amazon | Powell’s) – I love Autumn’s flavor sensibility. She has a way of combining ingredients that is creative, delicious, and accessible. Recipes in this book that would work particularly well for the challenge include Kombu Dashi Pickled Shitake Mushrooms, Curried Orange Pickle, Bloody Mary Pickled Eggs, and Quick Pickled Rhubarb.
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Cookbooks: Perfect for Pesach

I have had this copy of Perfect for Pesach by Naomi Nachman sitting on my desk for a better part of the last month. I’ve sifted through it several times, taking note of various recipes to try and appreciating each time the fact that there’s a picture for every recipe (as a cookbook author, I am painfully aware of how expensive this can be).

I’ve also hoped that inspiration would strike that would give me a good way to write about it. Because as a book, it brings up some stuff for me (I’ve written about other books with Judaism or kosher cooking at their core without this trouble. I don’t know why this particular volume got me. But it did).

I am Jewish by birth, but was raised in the loose, liberalism of the Unitarian Universalist church. I regret nothing about my upbringing and am deeply grateful for the space I was given to craft and cultivate my own belief system and perspective on the world.

But. Sometimes, I long to fit in. To be connected to that Jewish side of me without uncertainty or fear that I will be denied recognition. And this book triggers that longing. I think it’s happening because this is a book designed to help cooks out during the eight day holiday of Passover/Pesach.

It’s not a book about celebratory meals or festival food (those don’t haven’t caught me off-guard the way this one did). It simply about daily cooking for a time when grains, legumes and anything leavened is forbidden. And that’s not really a space in which I feel like I have easy footing or even feel like I belong.

Now, with that angst out of the way, there are things I want to tell you about this book. Like the cover says, these are “Passover recipes you’ll want to make all year.” At its core, this is a book about home cooking and it has a lot to offer in that arena. Because grains are off the table during Passover, many of the recipes are, by default, gluten-free (if that’s your allergen of avoidance, make sure to steer clear of anything including matzo meal).

It’s a book that spends a lot of time focusing on vegetables and proteins as well, which makes it relevant also to the paleo and low carb crowd.

I have a long list of things I plan on making, including the Zucchini Mushroom Soup (page 72), Sweet and Salty Pecan Chicken Cutlets (page 112), the Zucchini Onion Frittata pictured above (page 164), and the Crispy Potato Stacks (page 186).

These thumbprint cookies are made using potato starch and ground almonds rather than wheat flour, and the filling is a combination of apricot jam and chopped pecans. Sounds like a good treat no matter what time of year it is!

This book is a solid collection of recipes that are terrific whether you keep kosher for Passover, or you’re simply looking for fresh inspiration for your family meals.

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Cookbooks: Composing the Cheese Plate

I love cheese plate books, because in many cases, they’re really preserving books in disguise. Because what goes better with all manner of cheese that interesting jams, spreads, chutneys, mostardas, and jellies? Nothing, that’s what!

Published last fall, Composing the Cheese Plate is a perfect example of preserving-centric cheese book. Written by cheese evangelist Brian Keyser and pastry chef and condiment maker Leigh Friend, this book is bursting with an array of bright, creative, and unusual things to spread, smear, and dollop on cheese.

I have markers sticking out of this book in every direction. In addition to the recipes I’ve shared via photography here, I’m hoping to make the Balsamic Rosemary Cherry Mustard (page 63), Cardamom Poached Butternut Squash (page 89), Spiced Carrot Chutney (page 131), and the Pineapple Mostarda (page 198).

There is one downside to working with a book like this and that’s that none of the recipes are designed for boiling water bath canning. However, the batch sizes are small enough that you can easily tuck them into the fridge and use them up. I confess that I will probably borrow flavor elements from this book and will marry them with recipes I know to be safe for the canning pot.

One final note. This book comes to us from the same publisher that produces my books and as a result, this book shares the same size and binding as those in the Food in Jars series. It would fit quite nicely on a shelf next to my trio of books!

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