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Cookbooks: Eating From the Ground Up

I the kind of cook who tucks vegetables into nearly everything I cook. My turkey chili always includes wilted Swiss chard. I prefer my eggs perched on a bed of sauteed spinach or zucchini. And if I’m making a sandwich, I pile it high with sliced cucumber, lettuce, and ribbons of carrot. This habit of mine doesn’t always thrill my husband (he grew up with a mother who was less of a produce pusher than mine), but after 10+ years together, he’s gotten used to it.

All that said, I confess to having a somewhat limited repertoire of vegetable dishes. I rotate through steaming, roasting, and sauting most things. This gets the job done, but can lead to a certain weariness. However, recently my vegetable cookery has received a much-needed shot in the arm.

This is all thanks to Alana Chernila’s gorgeous new book, Eating From the Ground Up. Many of you might be familiar with Alana’s previous books, The Homemade Pantry and The Homemade Kitchen, as well as her blog (it shares a name with this new book).

What I love about this book is that it tackles vegetables from a number of different directions, all with delicious results. The book opens with a section entitled Barely Recipes. These are ideal for busy weeknights, when you need to get dinner on the table and value speed and flavor.

After that, you’ll find A Pot of Soup (filling and deeply savory), Too Hot to Cook (perfect for deep summer, when it doesn’t take much to make a flavorful meal), Warmth and Comfort (many of these make a main dish out of veg), and the final chapter, Celebrations and Other Excuses to Eat With Your Hands (with a title like that, it needs no additional description).

This book should be on your shelf if you keep a backyard garden, shop farmers markets, subscribe to a CSA share, or simply love vegetables. It’s one that I know I’ll turn to again and again.

Thanks to Clarkson Potter, I have a copy of this lovely book to giveaway this week. Please use the widget below to enter.

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Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book and the giveaway copy at no cost to me. No additional compensation was provided and all opinions are entirely my own.

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Loaded Baked Potato and Cauliflower Soup from Healthyish and OXO

Back in January, before I entered the “all work, all the time” stage of my book writing process, I said that I would participate in a blogging challenge with OXO. This one featured the new cookbook Healthyish by Lindsay Maitland Hunt and an array of OXO tools. I opted to make the Loaded Potato and Cauliflower Soup and soon after, received a copy of the book and some of the tools necessary to make a batch.

I unpacked the book and the tools, took some pretty pictures, and then got swept away in my own book frenzy. However, with the post deadline approaching, I did the hard mental work of switching gears (I’ve been so singularly focused that I’m fairly certain that my brain made a loud, screeching sound as I opened the book) and planned to make some soup.

I read the through the recipe, made a grocery list, and walked to pick up the ingredients I needed. Back home, I chopped, stirred, and pureed. As I worked, I realized that making someone else’s recipe was exactly what I needed. I didn’t have to take notes, measure the size of my dice, or pay close attention to the exact duration of the cooking time (when I develop recipes, I often run a stop watch to ensure that I exactly capture the timing).

It was also a pleasure to have some new OXO tools to use. I’m been in such a rut with my gear that the new equipment brought a really pleasurable lift to the act of cooking.

Here’s what they sent:

  • The Pro 8 inch Chef’s Knife – Wickedly sharp right out of the package and the perfect weight for flying through vegetables.
  • The Swivel Peeler – Grippy, sharp, and put my stained Y-model to shame.
  • The Wooden Corner Spoon – Made of solid wood and carved to the perfect angle for getting into the corner of the pot.
  • The Kitchen and Herb Scissors – Perfect for slicing the bacon into slivers for garnish, and the blades come apart for easy cleaning.
  • The Coarse Grater – This grater laughed at my hard cheddar and reduced it to shreds with ease. It’s also far simpler to clean than my ancient box grater.
  • The 12 inch Tongs – They are now the longest reaching tongs in my kitchen. They’re good for flipping bacon, retrieving toast, and grabbing boxes of crackers from on top of the fridge.

We ate this twice for dinner and each time I was reminded of the importance of taking time to eat good food and relax a little, even during the most action packed times. I look forward to cooking more of the recipes from Healthyish (though probably not until the book is turned in).

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The 2017 Class of Canning, Preserving, and Culinary DIY Books

It is time for my annual round-up of all the canning, pickling, and preserving (or preserving-adjacent) books that came out last year (I typically try to get this post up before the holidays, but I could not make it happen this time). Not all of these are traditional canning books, but all have a high enough number of jams, pickles, infusions, decoctions, and condiments that they deserve placement on the list.

Please forgive me if I missed a book! I do my best to keep track of the category, but occasionally a preserving book or two slips by me. If you feel like something was overlooked, please do let me know!

Artisanal Preserves – This is a beautifully packaged reissue of a classic preserving book by storied cooking teacher Madelaine Bullwinkel. It features traditional jams, jams without added sugar, jellies, marmalades, preserves, breads and muffins, and desserts. Amazon | Powell’s

Can It & Ferment It – Written by long-time canner Stephanie Thurow, this book is organized by season and offers recipes for both canned and fermented items. It focuses primarily on pickles, salsa, and relishes, so it’s a good one for folks who prefer the salty and tangy side of things. Amazon | Powell’s

Fermentation on Wheels – Part cookbook and part travelogue, this is the story of Tara Whitsitt’s years spent traveling in a school bus, sharing her love and knowledge of fermentation. It’s a delightful tale and the recipes can’t be beat.   Amazon | Powell’s

The Wildcrafted Cocktail – Written by foraging expert Ellen Zachos, this book offers up a wide array of garnishes, syrups, infusions, juices, and bitters made from ingredients you can often find in your own backyard. There’s a whole lot of inspiration here for anyone looking to take their home bar program from good to great. Amazon | Powell’s

Composing the Cheese Plate – The thing I always love about cheese plate books is that they’re often preserving books in disguise. This one, written by cheese evangelist Brian Keyser and pastry chef and condiment maker Leigh Friend, is bursting with an array of bright, creative, and unusual things to spread, smear, and dollop. Amazon | Powell’s

Preservation – For canners who like a goodly dose of science with their jams and pickles, there is no better book than Christina Ward’s comprehensive volume. She is a master food preserver who digs into the hows and whys of water activity, pectin, and the boiling water bath process. Amazon | Powell’s

Traditionally Fermented Foods – By Shannon Stonger, this book focuses on a wide spectrum of classic fermented foods. Shannon writes the blog Nourishing Days from her family’s small Texas farm and her book feels very much like an extension of her site. It’s friendly, helpful, and comes from a place of deep experience and expertise. Amazon | Powell’s

Fiery Ferments – The second book from seasoned pickle makers Kristen and Christopher Shockey, this one focuses on building pickles, sauces, and condiments that walk on the spicy side. You’ll find an in-depth sections on the ingredients that bring the heat like ginger, galangal, turmeric, peppercorns, and chiles. It’s so good for anyone longing to bring some serious zip to their fermentation. Amazon | Powell’s

Artisan Sourdough Made Simple – I’ve been an on and off sourdough baker for years now and this book by Emilie Raffa (she blogs at The Clever Carrot) is one of the best introductory books on the subject that I’ve seen. It also features a short but mighty section of dips, spreads, and jams towards the back that are good whether you’ve baked your own loaf or you’re picking one up at the market. Amazon | Powell’s

Ball Canning Back to Basics – This book was written by the Ball Canning test kitchen team and offers all the reliability of Ball recipes, with gorgeous step-by-step photography. If someone asked me to recommend an introductory canning book for a visual learner, this would be the very first volume I would suggest. Amazon | Powell’s

Modern Cider – With this book, Emma Christensen claims her crown as undisputed queen of small batch home brewing. It’s the perfect guide for anyone who has been intrigued by boozy fermentation but doesn’t drink beer. Amazon | Powell’s

Toast & Jam – Looking for a book that will get you stirring up tasty preserves AND help you discover a world of naturally leavened breads on which to spread them? Look no further than this gorgeous book by Sarah Owens (she also posts really amazing Instagram stories about her various ferments, preserves, and bakes). Amazon | Powell’s

Savory Sweet – This book, by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen, focuses on simple, approachable preserving with a northern sensibility. Organized by ingredient, all the recipes are small batch preserves that are low in sugar, are bright and zippy on the tongue, and can be stashed in the fridge or freezer rather than needing to be processed in a water bath canner. Amazon | Powell’s

The Essential Book of Homesteading – This hefty book gathers up all four of the books that Ashley English wrote for her Homemade Living series and tucks them into a single volume. It contains detailed info on canning, home dairy, keeping chickens, and raising bees. Amazon | Powell’s

The Joys of Jewish Preserving – Written by Food Swap! author Emily Paster, this lovely book celebrates the many aspects of traditional Jewish jams, pickles, fruit butters, and spreads. From your classic fermented deli pickle to lemon curd designed to use up extra egg yolks (common around Passover!), there’s a wealth of goodness here. Amazon | Powell’s

Preservation Pantry – Written by Sarah Marshall, the kitchen genius behind Marshall’s Haute Sauces, this is like an encyclopedia for canners. Organized by ingredient (much like Savory Sweet), this book goes well beyond the sauces that Sarah makes and sells. She digs into 24 different fruits and vegetables, and shows you how to preserve all that goodness without a smidgen of waste. Amazon | Powell’s

Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond -This book, written by Alex Lewin and Raquel Guajardo, offers an array of approaches to fermented drinks. In 13 wide-ranging chapters, they hit on everything from kombucha to fermented cocktails. There are sodas, vegetable drinks, and even traditional Mexican fermented drinks that date back to the pre-Hispanic era. The recipes are relatively simple, intriguing, and entirely approachable. Amazon | Powell’s

Ferment – Written by Australian chef Holly Davis, this book offers up some serious fermentation knowledge (Sandor Katz wrote the introduction). For those who are looking to deepen their fermentation practice, I highly recommend it. Amazon

Homegrown Pantry -So often, people ask me if I grow what I can and if I could give them gardening advice. I always disappoint them when I confess that I’m not a gardener. Happily, this book by Barbara Pleasant, is designed to help you choose the best varieties to plant, determine how much you’ll need to grow, and the best ways to preserve the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are the result of your hard work. Amazon | Powell’s

The Preservatory -This gorgeous, hard cover book by Lee Murphy contains 80 sophisticated, unusual, and intriguing recipes. They’re broken down so half are preserves and the balance is a collection of dishes, drinks, and baked goods that you can make with the contents of those glowing jars. Amazon | Powell’s

That wraps up this year’s class of preserving books. You can find previous years here: 2016 | 2015 | 2014

Disclosure: Some of the books pictured here were received as review copies. Others I bought. The Amazon links are affiliate (so I make a few pennies if you click over and buy). The Powell’s links are not. 

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Tomato Jam Pizza from The Harvest Baker

The Tomato Jam Pizza from Ken Haedrich’s The Harvest Baker is a tasty way to transform a jar of homemade tomato preserves into a dish worthy of a dinner party!

Tomato jam is one of my favorite homemade condiments. I serve it with cheese. I use it as a dip for roasted sweet potato chunks. I spread it on egg sandwiches. I stir it into vinaigrettes. I use it to glaze baked chicken. However, until a few days ago, one of the few things I hadn’t done with it is spread it on pizza in place of a more traditional sauce. And what an absolute shame that was!

This brilliant idea comes from The Harvest Baker, a gorgeous book by Ken Haedrich about baking with fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Every time I pick up my copy, I find myself flagging more recipes to add to my to-make list. It’s a volume that feels entirely fresh and new, while also maintaining a familiarity that keeps it accessible and welcoming.

When the folks from Storey asked if I might be interested in participating in the virtual book tour for this book, I said yes immediately. The only struggle I faced was choosing just one recipe to feature. However, when I spotted the aforementioned Tomato Jam Pizza, I knew it was the recipe for me (thought the Double Crusted Cabbage Pie regularly haunts my culinary dreams).

The recipe starts by instructing you to make a batch of pizza dough. There are two options in the book, one made by hand and another made in a food processor. I opted for the food processor version and was really pleased with it (I plan on adopting the technique moving forward, as it was so easy).

While the dough rises (of course, you can also use store bought dough if that’s easier), you caramelize some onions. Ken says it should only take about 12 minutes, but I prefer a much longer cook and let mine go for about 45 minutes, until they were honey-hued and nearly as spreadable as room temperature butter.

Once the dough has had a chance to rise and the onions are cooked, it’s time to make some pizza. Take a half batch of the dough (most recipes, including the ones in this book, make enough for two pies) and work it out as thin as you can on a sheet pan.

Top the flattened dough with a thin layer of tomato jam, a more generous layer of caramelized onions, and goat cheese (you can also use a combination of goat cheese and feta, if you prefer something a bit zippier in flavor).

To make the process of getting the goat cheese onto the pizza neatly, I let it come to room temperature, worked it a little with a fork to fluff it up, and then used my meatball scoop to portion it out onto the pie. Then, I used a damp fork and pressed those lumps of cheese down, the same way you would a peanut butter cookie. Worked like a charm.

Once the pizza is fully dressed, you bake it for 18-22 minutes in a 450F oven, until the crust is brown and the cheese bubbles.

I could see making this pizza as an appetizer for a party (just cut into small squares for easy eating) or adding ribbons of prosciutto just before serving. I ate a hearty corner with a pile of kale salad for lunch the day I made it and have been rationing out the leftovers ever since. There’s one, lonely piece left that is destined to be warmed and topped with a fried egg and eaten for breakfast tomorrow.

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A Trio of Cookbooks – Smorgasbord, The Simple Bites Cookbook, and Bravetart

I have a big round-up of this year’s canning cookbooks coming next week, but I have a few favorite cookbooks from this year that I wanted to call out before the holiday shopping season wraps up. These three are worthy of gifting or getting for yourself and would each bring fresh inspiration to your December table.

First up is Smorgasbord by Johanna Kindvall. I was a huge fan of Fika, Johanna’s first book (co-written with Anna Brones) I am just as delighted with this one. Much like the first book, it unpacks a beloved Swedish culinary tradition. We in the US think of a smorgasbord as a giant buffet, but it translates more specifically to open sandwich table.

If you’re looking to liven up your holiday gatherings this year, make sure to open Smorgasbord up to the celebrations chapter. Bake up a loaf of Christmas Malt Bread (page 40), set a batch of Gravlax with Fennel (page 124) to cure, and cook up some Creamed Kale (page 154).

Readers of the blog Simple Bites will know that no one sets a more appealing table or makes cooking with the whole family seem more delightful than Aimee Wimbush-Bourque. Her new book, The Simple Bites Kitchen, packages up all that I love about her site and lets me carry it right up to the stove.

There’s a lot about this book that makes it worth the price of admission, but a few recipes you should not miss are the Spelt Date Scones (page 35), the Overnight Spiced Stollen Swirl Buns (page 37 and pictured above), the Roast Chicken with Bay Leaf and Barley (page 199), and the Fig, Rosemary, and Pistachio Crisps (page 239).

Last up is Stella Parks’ Bravetart. I have long been a fan of Stella’s work on Serious Eats and am so happy to have her wisdom gathered up in a book because she is truly a baking genius. This book serves up classic American treats, from cookies and cakes, to pies and ice creams.

This whole book is a worthy investment, but the pie section is the one I find myself turning to most often. I’ve been using Stella’s pie crust recipe since she shared it on SE last year and love it for its flexibility, durability, and crazy flakiness. I have a feeling you will too.

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Giveaway: How to Instant Pot

I bought my Instant Pot in the summer of 2016 and it quickly became one of my favorite appliances. It had the power to turn out flawless batches of beans, braises, stocks, and batches of rice and didn’t need to be tended the way that a stove top pressure cooker did.

However, I often found myself wishing that the IP had come with a really great manual that would unlock more of its secrets. Sadly, as any IP user knows, its accompanying instruction booklet leaves a great deal to be desired.

Happily, Daniel Shumski, author of Will It Waffle and Will It Skillet, has leaped into the void that the IP manufacturers left and has written a book that I believe will become the defacto user’s guide to this valuable little appliance. It’s called How to Instant Pot and has already vastly expanded my Instant Pot horizons.

The book opens with a chapter designed to demystify the machine itself. You’ll discover what all the buttons do (I’ll confess that up until the moment I opened this book, I had only ever ventured to used the yogurt, manual, and cancel buttons), how to set it up, the best ways to clean the devise, and even how to convert your favorite recipes to use the IP.

From there, the book is broken down by device functions. Instant Pots are designed to pressure cook, slow cook, make rice, make yogurt, and steam. Dan addresses each one of those functions, teaches you how to use that setting, and then serves up a bevy of tasty recipes that utilize that IP feature. (He even makes blueberry jam in the IP, using the slow cook setting. I will definitely be trying that.)

From the Fragrant Lamb and Chickpea Stew (page 47) to the Parmesan Bread Pudding with Bacon and Broccoli (page 190), there is so much in this book that I want to try. It has opened up a world of IP possibilities and I can’t wait to dig in.

Thanks to Dan and Workman Publishing, I have a copy of this handy book to give away this week. Use the widget below to enter!

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Disclosure: Workman Publishing provided the copy you see pictured here and the copy I’m giving away, both at no cost to me. No additional compensation was provided. All thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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