Archive | cookbooks RSS feed for this section

Cookbooks: Savory Sweet

When I wrote my three preserving cookbooks, I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to organize their content. For Food in Jars, we went with type of preserve. In Preserving by the Pint, the recipes are grouped by season. And I opted to group recipes by sweetener type in Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. During all that plotting and planning, it never occurred to me to group recipes by primary ingredient. However, having now spent some time with Savory Sweet by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen, I see how useful and approachable a structure it is.

This book, which focuses on simple, approachable preserving with a northern sensibility (both authors currently live in Minnesota, and Nielsen was raised in Denmark), is a lovely, thoughtful, and useful addition to our collective preservation library. It is guided by a principle the authors call The New Northern Approach, the tenets of which mirror my own approach to preserving. Here they are, in order:

  • Organized by ingredient
  • Small batch
  • No tricky preserving methods, everyday equipment
  • No artificial ingredients
  • Little sugar, big taste
  • Healthy preserved foods
  • Bright, interesting flavors
  • Year round
  • Quick ideas for using them up

When I read that list for the first time, I wanted to hop right up, book a plane ticket for Minnesota, and go off to meet the women who created this book. With such similar approaches to preserving, I believe we’d be quick friends. Plus, look at all the glorious food they make. I have no doubt that we’d eat well!

There are so many things in this book that I’ve marked to try. The Roasted Beet and Tomato Relish speaks to me (and I’ve got beets in the crisper as I type). The Danish Pickled Carrots call out my name (perhaps I could even convince my husband to eat them, since he loves both carrots and caraway). Eggplant Chutney! Indian-Spiced Garlic Chutney! Squash and Apricot Chutney! It’s a glorious time to be a chutney lover.

There is one thing to be aware of with this book. They don’t preserve anything for shelf stability. The recipes are designed to be stored in the fridge or freezer. This will be a boon to some preservers who like to skip the boiling water bath step. However, if you’re like me and find yourself really short on cold storage at the best of times, this might make you curse the authors’ names and toss the book across the room.

There are things that COULD be processed for shelf stability (many of the fruit preserves appear to be plenty high in acid), but if that kind of gray zone makes you uncomfortable, this may not be the book for you.

Personally, I really like this book and plan to borrow plenty of inspiration from its pages. The design and the culinary sensibility speak to me. It just makes me wish I had more freezer space!

Comments { 3 }

Tartine All Day Jam Bars

From the very first moment I picked up Tartine All Day, I liked it a whole lot. My initial flip was at my local cookbook shop and after just a moment or two with the book, I raised my head and said to the owner, Jill, “I want to make everything in this book.” Were I an emoji, I would have been the one with hearts for eyes.

The thing that speaks to me so much in this book is that it is offers both easy, everyday things you can make with the things already in your fridge, along with the fun project cooking you might trot out on a unscheduled Sunday. Plus, there are a handful of approachable recipes for jams and pickles. Author Elisabeth Prueitt seems to really understand how many of us cook.

For those of you who pay attention to the world of cookbooks (or live in the San Francisco Bay Area), you will have heard of Tartine. It’s a cafe-turned-brand that has spawned multiple books, locations, and much frenzy among the food-loving set. However, unlike previous volumes, this book isn’t about recreating restaurant food. It’s about the cooking we do at home.

Because I knew that this was a book I wanted to write about, I reached out to the PR folks handling its publicity. They sent me a review copy and gave me permission to share a recipe from the book. I made a few suggestions and together we settled on the Jam Bars. Because a another method for using up jam is always (ALWAYS!) welcome.

This recipe functions in the same way most other jam bars do. You make a simple, crumbly dough, press about two-thirds into the bottom of the pan, spread it generously with jam and then scatter the remaining bits on top.

However, the beauty of this particular jam bar is in the details. Elisabeth offers gram measurements along with the cups, so you can plunk your bowl down on a scale and heap in your ingredients without dirtying lots of measuring cups. The dough is built in a single bowl. And she uses a combination of vanilla and almond extracts to flavor the base, which is somehow so much more delicious than a jam bar with just vanilla.

Another clever element is that she has you mix up the jam with some lemon juice and salt. This helps temper the sweetness of the finished cookie, and also helped thin out the jar of slightly overset jam I used nicely.

I’ll confess that I didn’t follow the directions perfectly. I used cashew butter rather than almond, because I have a jar I’ve been endeavoring to use up. And I somehow I managed to top the jam with an even layer of cookie dough, rather than scattering it prettily (it was just before dinner and I was hungry). But even with that small substitution and smaller error, they are still quite delicious (they’ll be going with me to a picnic tomorrow, so that I don’t end up eating them all).

If you feel moved to make a batch of Jam Bars from Tartine All Day, the recipe is below.
Continue Reading →

Comments { 10 }

Cookbooks: Green Plate Special by Christine Burns Rudalevige

The first time I met Christine Burns Rudalevige was at a potluck held in honor of the release of the New York Times Cookbook. Christine had driven in from Carlisle, PA to join the party and fit right into our crew of giddy, early career food writers, all bursting with excitement over the fact that we were there to meet Amanda Hesser.

Since then, Christine has moved from Pennsylvania to Maine. Thanks to the wonders of social media, we’ve stayed in touch and I’ve followed her progress as she began writing a weekly column on sustainable home cooking. More recently, she published her very first cookbook, which is what I’m here to share with you today.

Called Green Plate Special (and published by Islandport Press), this lovely book is built on the foundation of Christine’s columns and is dedicated to helping all of us making our home cooking and eating just a little bit greener. Instead of my regular tour through a cookbook, I’ve got a short Q&A with Christine to share with you all.

FIJ: Could you tell us a little about Green Plate Special?

CBR: The book, a spinoff of the weekly column I’ve been writing for three years in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram’s Source, a section dedicated to living and eating sustainably, helps home cooks navigate the mountains of information available regarding eating sustainably in the modern age and then apply that information in a practical way in their own kitchens.

Many people want to eat in a way that ensures there will be good, healthy food for future generations, but have limited time, money and energy to put toward that goal. My book breaks down dozens of sustainable tenets regarding sourcing, cooking and not wasting food, explains them in a down-to-earth fashion, and demonstrates each point with a great recipe.

FIJ: What does sustainability mean to you?

CBR: It means shopping, cooking and eating in such a way that I am not harming the environment or taking more than my fair share of natural resources. And, the critical point of my book, taking on these measures as habit at a rate you can sustain over time. You don’t have to be homesteading to be part of the sustainable food movement.

FIJ: How did your time living in Europe impact your food philosophy?

CBR: When we lived in England, where the price of food is almost twice as much as it is here in the United States, I really honed my skills for not wasting a morsel of food while still making interesting meals.

When we spent a semester in France, where meat products are most often pasture-raised and the prices reflect a fair price for the farmer, I found myself “right-sizing” my omnivore family’s meat portions to reflect both the higher price and the stronger flavor. There, we learned we needed less meat to be satisfied if it was sustainably raised.

FIJ: I first met you when you were living in Pennsylvania. Did your family’s move to Maine change how you cooked at all?

CBR: Living in Central Pennsylvania was a just a fully on feast because the vegetable and fruit farmers kept me in gorgeous produce year-round. In Maine, we’ve got a shorter growing season, and to my dismay, very few stone fruit trees. But our state’s 400-miles of coastline give us access to fantastic seafood.

It’s been a learning curve to understand which fishes make the greenest dishes, but I’ve had a delicious time working that all out. People know Maine for lobsters, but there are certainly a whole lot more fish in the swimming in the sea at sustainable levels.

It’s important to know that if the seafood in the fishmonger’s case in Maine or in Pennsylvania was caught in American waters, it was done so within the confines of very strict fishery management plans. Eaters should buy more seafood and feel good eating it because they are supporting the rock star fishermen who are reeling it in according to the rules.

FIJ: What’s one easy change that people can make to help them make their culinary lives a bit more sustainable?

CBR: Be flexible. If you’ve gone to the farmer’s market looking for spinach, but the farmer only has chard left, understand that it’s a great substitute, one that supports your farmer. Don’t go to the fish market fixed on buying cod, but keep an open mind, knowing that any white flaky fish will work just fine. And if you have a hectic day that ends with a meal less green than you’d like, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.

Comments { 0 }

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. 

Comments { 137 }

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!

Comments { 1 }