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Gorgeous Spring Cookbooks, Part I

favorite cookbooks spring 2011

You many not realize it (I didn’t know it until I started writing about food), but the arrival of new cookbooks is a seasonal event. They tend to come out in large clusters in the early spring (in time for the peak summer season) and in the fall (so that you have new ones to choose from for holiday giving). So far, this season’s crop of books is just gorgeous. In fact, so many lovely ones have crossed my path recently that I’m splitting them up into two posts, so that this doesn’t turn into an epic.

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

Having grown up in Southern California and Portland, OR, I partial to that variety of sandwich that is hard to find off the west coast. I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about. It is made on either sourdough or whole grain bread and includes very thinly sliced red onion, sprouts, cucumbers, avocado, lettuce, shredded carrots, a smear of mustard, a bit of cheese and, if you’re me, a few slices of turkey breast.

Though we don’t lack for sandwiches in Philadelphia (it’s the homeland of the cheesesteak, after all), it’s hard to find ones made in that hippie, crunchy west coast style. However, with the help of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches I’m working to broaden my sandwich horizons. Written by Susan Russo and photographed by Matt Armendariz, this book is gorgeous and is sure to induce hunger pangs. I think someone should do a cook-through blog of this book (and invite me to share in some of the sandwich bounty. *I do realize that sandwiches don’t have a whole lot to do with canning, but the book is just so pretty that I couldn’t resist including it in this stack.

How to Cook Indian

A few weeks ago, someone asked a question on the Food in Jars Facebook page, wondering if there was a good source for ethnic canning recipes. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer for her. That was before How to Cook Indian showed up on my doorstep. If you’re in search of recipes that can guide you through a world of Indian recipes, including wide assortment of chutneys and pickles, this is a fantastic book. I will warn you that not many of these recipes can be water bath canned, but many will keep in the fridge for a nice, long time. For more on Indian pickles, I also recommend checking out some of the posts that the Tigress has written on the subject.

Tart and Sweet

Hooray! A new canning book! Tart and Sweet is a lovely book written by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler and I’m so delighted to add it to my preserving library. I think one of the things that you guys are going to love about this book is that when a recipe needs pectin, it calls for Pomona’s Pectin. I don’t know of any other book that references that particular pectin and so will be a great confidence boost for those of you who are just starting out using it (oops, I’m hearing in the comments that Put ’em Up also includes instructions for Pomona’s Pectin. I had forgotten that). But don’t think that this is just a jam book, it also includes a variety of pickles, preserved fruits and other amazing sounding compotes. I’m really looking forward to making a few of the recipes from this volume.


Have you ever found yourself tempted to buy a jug of goat milk in a natural foods store? If the thing holding you back is a fear that you wouldn’t know how to best use it, then Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese is for you. Written by prolific cookbook duo Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, this is a beautifully photographed and appealingly penned volume. It has me itching to leap up from my chair and make the cajeta on page 148.

Super Natural Every Day

I have been reading Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks for more than six years now. It was one of the first blogs I followed and has always been a source of great inspiration for me. When Super Natural Cooking came out, I wasted no time in ordering a copy. It has been a beloved volume in my kitchen and when I heard she was she was working on a new book, I had no doubt that it wouldn’t be similarly wonderful. Having now had my hands on a copy for a couple of weeks, my hunch has been born out. Super Natural Every Day, is a fantastic book. It is bursting with bright, healthy, accessible food that I can’t wait to eat. With Easter coming up, I’m definitely going to make the Hard-Cooked Eggs with Dukkah on page 106 very, very soon.

One-Block Feast

As a native west coaster, I am ordained by birth to love Sunset Magazine. My mom subscribed to it when I was a kid and over the years, I’ve build up quite an archive of vintage cookbooks published by the Sunset empire (Cooking Bold and Fearless, for instances). The One-Block Feast is the latest volume to issue forth from Sunset and is dedicated to food editor Margo True’s project – to produce delicious meals only using the foods grown in the yard at Sunset HQ. I followed much of the project last year via their blog and loved both the concept and the execution.

What makes this book so fabulous is that it isn’t just documenting the process. It gets into the nitty gritty and gives readers the tools to tackle all the same projects as the One-Block team took on. And while I don’t have the space for chickens, I plan on using the guidelines offered here to finally turn some of the crappy wine I have squirreled away into useful vinegar.

River Cottage Every Day

There are some cookbooks that are clearly designed to be used regularly and there are some that are more aspirational in natural. While I am totally smitten by River Cottage Every Day, I’m a bit afraid that it falls more into the aspirational category than the regular utility one for me (remember, this is just my opinion. Cooking styles vary widely, so it might work differently in your life). That’s not to say that there aren’t a few recipes I will try (hello Cauliflower Cheese on page 322), but many of the recipes are too far outside of my culinary dialect for daily use.

All that said, I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with an aspirational book. This volume has rapidly become my go-to escapist fare, the thing I turn to when the pressures of my regular life get a bit intense and I just want to imagine a life lived in the English countryside, where gooseberries grow like weeds and there’s always time for a four hour braise. But it’s not going to be as useful as the Every Day title implies.


You don’t have to be a country girl (or boy) to want to crawl right inside the pages of Heartland. Written by Judith Fertig, this huge book is appropriate for both coffee table displaying and trips to the kitchen. It offers good reminders that the artisanal food revolution isn’t just happening along the coasts. I am desperate to make the Popcorn with Smoked Gouda on page 120.

The Complete Kitchen Garden

The Complete Kitchen Garden is a book that does just what it says it’s going to do. It walks you through the steps necessary to plant and maintain a thriving garden and then shows you what to do with your bounty. However, if you’re like me and don’t have any outdoor space, don’t write this one off. It also contains 100 recipes that are the perfect thing for those heady days of mid-summer and early fall. I am already looking forward to making the Roasted Fall Vegetable Tart on page 118.

Now, because no cookbook post would be complete without a giveaway, here’s the deal. I have one copy of the The Complete Kitchen Garden to give away to a lucky reader. Leave a comment and tell me what your current favorite cookbook is by Monday, April 11 at 11:59 p.m. I’ll close the comments at that time and use to select a winner.

And now, the disclaimers. All books included in this post were sent to me as free review copies. However, I chose which books to include in this round-up and all opinions expressed herein are mine. The links embedded in this post are Amazon affiliate links. I earn a few pennies each time you click, which occasionally adds up to enough money to buy a few new jars. If you click through and buy something, I earn a tiny bit more, which gets invested in produce, vinegar and sugar (we’re living high around here!) If clicking these links makes you feel squidgy, feel free to skip ’em and find the books another way. Thanks!

A Potluck with Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking Author Kate Payne

I have something quite fun to announce. On Tuesday, April 26, I will be hosting a potluck for The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking author Kate Payne as she swings through Philadelphia on her East Coast book tour. If you’ve always wanted to meet Kate (or you just want to check out my tiny kitchen), this is your chance. My apartment isn’t huge, so we’ve limited attendance to 25. If you want to attend, plug your information into the form below. If you’ve got questions, leave a comment.

If you can’t make the potluck, don’t fret. Kate will also be appearing at the University of Pennsylvania book store the following evening (April 27).

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Fork You Returns + The Geometry of Pasta Giveaway

Years ago, before the canning bug well and truly bit me, my husband Scott and I regularly made an online cooking show called Fork You. In all honesty, the production of the show was essentially our courtship, as it gave us an excuse to spend time together when we were just friends and weren’t yet able to fess up to the fact that we adored one another wildly.

When we did finally started dating (and very soon thereafter, living together) the production of new episodes slowed to a crawl, because we just didn’t need an excuse to hang out. And then, when our “crew” (friends Thad and Angie) had a pair of wickedly cute twin daughters and didn’t have any extra time to do crazy stuff like spend a Saturday afternoon filming cooking videos, well, Fork You went on life support.

However, I’m happy to announce that we’re bringing it back (or at least, trying to). We’re planning on featuring recipes on a monthly basis from some of the cookbooks that publishers occasionally send me, so that they don’t just collect in awkward piles in the living room.

The first book featured in this new season of Fork You is The Geometry of Pasta, written by Jacob Kenedy and Caz Hildebrand and published by Quirk Books. Quirk was kind enough to send us copies of the book, as well as some cash to cover ingredient costs (that was a first for me).

Take a look and let us know what you think. If I sound a bit stuffed up, know that we filmed this during the height of the cold I had at the end of December.

Oh, and if you want a chance at winning the copy of The Geometry of Pasta that we have to give away, leave a comment here and share your favorite pasta shape. Comments will close at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 31. We’ll be in touch with the winner soon after that.

Soba Noodles with Peanut/Sesame Sauce and Julienned Vegetables

peanut soba noodles

The first third of my cookbook is due in two weeks. This means that while I’ve been writing and cooking like mad lately, not much of it has been destined to appear here. As I gave the old brain a little jingle-jangle, to see if anything I’ve cooked recently would be appropriate for this humble little website, a bowl of soba noodles fell out (well, not literally).

I cooked this up for lunch last Tuesday, in between batches of granola. I borrowed the proportions for the sauce (with a few tweaks) from the recipe for Takeout Style Sesame Noodles in The Essential New York Times Cookbook and poured it over two quickly boiled clusters of soba noodles, as well as some julienned carrots and cucumber (made with one of these). Finally, I tossed in some leftover chopped jerk tofu, a final remnant from a New Year’s Eve potluck (what? It was only a week+ old when I made this. Besides, tofu keeps).

This humble little dish was one of the best things I ate all week. The vegetables kept it tasting fresh and the sauce was the ideal cold noodle topper. Should you be looking for a cold sesame noodle dish, this one is a winner. Slurp and enjoy!

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A Few Current Cookbook Favorites + Giveaway

cookbook stack one

Lately, it seems as if every day brings a new gift guide or best cookbooks of the year list from some corner of the internet. I briefly considered putting one or another of my own together, but I did a gift guide last year (and things haven’t changed much in the world of canning since then) and truly, I am not perfectly acquainted with all the new cookbooks that came out this year.

cookbook stack two

Instead, I thought I show you the stack of cookbooks that I’ve been flipping through and using the most lately. Some of these came out this year, but a handful of them are classic books that I’ve loved for years.

How to Feed Your Friends with Relish

How to Feed Your Friends with Relish came out several years ago. However, I only discovered it recently, so it’s happily new to me. It’s just the kind of cookbook I like best, lots of good food and plenty of narrative that allows you to read as if it were a novel. Plus, knowing that it was written by a British author means that when I read it, I can use an English accent in my head, which is a whole other kind of satisfying entertainment.

DIY Delicious

D.I.Y. Delicious by Vanessa Barrington is a book that falls firmly in my wheelhouse and so will certainly appeal to many, many readers of this site. Essentially, she set out to learn how to make a whole world of things we’ve taken to buying at the grocery store. She takes the homemade assignment far further than I do here and shows how to make lovely things like tortillas, worlds of vinaigrettes and sour dough starter.

The Way We Cook

The Way We Cook is a book I first discovered when it first came out in 2003 (in fact, Amazon tells me that I bought it almost exactly seven years ago today) and I love it as much today as I did when it first arrived. In the beginning, it was an aspirational cookbook for me, full of things like seared scallops and many-ingredient stews.

As I became a more confident cook, I grew into it and my copy is now wrinkled and stained. I’ve got good news for you all too. I recently spotted copies at Borders for $4.99, so if it sounds interesting to you, head to your local outpost and see if you can’t score a bargain copy.

Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook

Written by fellow food blogger Rachel Rappaport, The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook is a fantastic book for those of us who love our slow cookers. The thing I like most about this book is that it has helped me expand my understand of what a slow cooker can do (in the past, I’ve use mine primarily for fruit butters, chicken stock and cooking beans). There are a number of recipes I’ve marked that I hope to try soon. After all, what better time of year for a slow cooker than chilly winter?

Almost Meatless

In recent years, I’ve been working hard to buy better meat. For me, this means that it was locally raised and grass-fed. Of course, that choice comes with a heftier price tag and means that the end result is that we end up eating less meat.

Happily, Almost Meatless has been on my shelf since the spring of 2009, helping me make that good meat taste wonderful and stretch further than I ever thought possible. It’s a really great book that also happens to have been I written by two women I know and adore. However, I’d love it even if they were perfect strangers.


Written by salt expert Mark Bitterman, Salted, is a glorious book. Admittedly, I was a natural audience for it, as I’ve been obsessed with salt for years now (truly, I have more than eight varieties in my kitchen right now). But even if I was a complete salt novice, I would have been quickly converted by its lovely pictures and pure passion. If you get a book store gift card for the holidays this year and find single subject books fascinating, you should consider splurging on this one.

Love Soup

Not to be totally redundant, but I do truly love soup. Be it bean, chicken, beef or vegetable, I welcome it in my kitchen. I first heard about Love Soup when it came out last fall. I spent a year resisting buying it (when I buy a new cookbook, my husband raises an eyebrow and says, “really? Another one?”) before finally succumbing back in October. Since then, it has served as inspiration for many a warming bowl of soup. When my sister gets married someday, I want to give her a copy of this book paired with a sturdy soup pot.

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

You’ve probably heard about In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite already. It’s been something of a food blog darling since it came out this fall. I tend to be a little skeptical of books that get so much attention (I can’t help but root for the underdog), but in this case, the people were right. It’s wonderful. I particularly love the fact that there’s a chapter called ‘Things With Cheese.’ There is no way not to love this book.

The Yogurt Bible

I like yogurt. I like it plain, with granola or with a few spoonfuls of jam stirred in. I also like to cook with it (example: this quick bread recipe). I’m loving The Yogurt Bible because it has opened up a wider world of yogurt appreciation than I ever knew possible. Mmm, yogurt.

Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

I have a well-documented weakness for community cookbooks and have at least 25 in my apartment (a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to adopt a number from a collection that had belonged to the mother of a friend of a friend). However, The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook is really a whole different animal from those simple spiral-bound community collections. It’s an expertly curated assortment of classic southern recipes and I love it.


I love salads nearly as much as I love soups. In fact, just this evening, we had a chopped salad of crunchy veg, grilled chicken and garbanzo beans, bound together with a pesto-mayonnaise dressing. It was a new salad for me and came to be because I’ve had my copy of Mixt Salads out on the dining room table for the last week, radiating fresh ideas. This is wonderfully helpful since I often find myself treading the same well-traveled path between butter lettuce, arguula and baby spinach. It’s nice to eat something new.

Gifts Cooks Love

As you may have figured out, I’m a sucker for edible gifts. Gifts Cooks Love takes my simple canning and baking and reminds me that it can be elevated it into something special. I realize it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good for this holiday season, but this is the kind of volume that will become a classic that you’ll turn to year after year.

Yikes, writing this post has been something of a marathon. I hope you made it this far! If you did, you’re in luck. I have copies of two of the books on this list to give away. Leave a comment sharing your favorite cookbook to give as a gift by Thursday, December 23 at 11:59 p.m. to enter for a chance to win a copy of either The Yogurt Bible or Gifts Cook Love.

Some Cookbooks I’m Loving Lately

stack of recent cookbook favorites

I’m nearly out of empty jars, and other than a small pile green tomatoes waiting to be pickled, I’m currently free from a canning project pile-up. While I look around for my next burst of canning inspiration, I thought I’d tell you some of the cookbooks I’ve been enjoying recently (because one cannot live by canned goods alone). These are the books I’ve been turning to lately for mealtime inspiration as well as general reading material (what? Doesn’t everyone read cookbooks for fun?).

Interior page from Canal House Cooking #4

I am completely enamored of the Canal House Cookbook series. If it hasn’t yet crossed your path, it is half cookbook, half tri-yearly food magazine. Pictured above is a two-page spread from their fourth edition, which shipped earlier this summer. This one contains a slew of summer and early fall recipes. I’m already beginning to reference volume 2, which was the fall and holiday edition from last year.

Interior page from Canal House Cooking #4

I’m particularly fond of this page, which offers a number of compound butters. They are such great ways to totally change the a dish and I never remember to use them. I’m trying to change my ways, though. I’m anxiously awaiting this year’s fall and holiday edition of Canal House.

Interior page from Canning for a New Generation

I do love a canning cookbook that includes some recipes for how to use the contents of those gleaming jars that you’ve so carefully put up. Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation does just that, making it a really good year-round book for the home canner (if you’re a preserver, consider adding this one to your holiday wish list).

The Meatlover's Meatless Cookbook

I’ve known Kim O’Donnel virtually for more than four years now, but I only met her in person on Wednesday night. Happily, her brand new book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook is just as wonderful as she is. I’ve been getting increasingly concerned about ensuring that I’m eating more vegetables and less meat, and so I’m looking forward to using this book to do just that.

interior photo page from The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook

The photos in this book are also completely stunning. Look at that spread up there! I want to climb right into the scene. While I can’t do that, will be sharing my love for this book by giving a copy to my meat-ambivalent sister for Christmas (I hope she’s not reading this).

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

So here’s the thing about Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. It’s beautiful. The recipes, while completely free of gluten, don’t have that sense that they’re trying to cover up for a missing ingredient. The entire book is filled with lovely, joyful food. It’s a volume for everyone, not just people who need to avoid gluten.

interior page from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

I have two neck pumpkins in my apartment right now (neck pumpkins are grown a lot in Pennsylvania and look like huge, overgrown butternut squash) and so I’ve flagged this pumpkin soup recipe as one to make in the next few days. I love that soup season has arrived!

Nuts in the Kitchen

I picked up Nuts in the Kitchen at The Strand when Scott and I were in New York back in August. I bought it strictly because I’ve loved the cookbooks that Susan Herrmann Loomis wrote in the past and so figured I’d like this one too. Happily, it was a good gamble. I’ve yet to actually cook from it, but I’ve been marking pages as if sticky notes grew on trees.

interior page from Time for Dinner

I’ve been reading the blog Dinner: A Love Story for months now (although the site seems to be down right now). It’s written by one of the former Cookie Magazine editor Jenny Rosenstrach and it’s one of my current favorites. While still with Cookie, Jenny wrote a book with two of her fellow editors called Time for Dinner. I resisted buying for a while, trying to convince myself that my cookbook shelves were overstuffed enough, but recently, I succumbed. Though it’s designed to provide dinnertime back-up for parents, it’s also a lovely source of inspiration for those of us who’ve yet to reproduce as well.

And, for those of you who are in the habit of pressure canning chicken stock (truly, it changed my life), the above recipe would take all of ten minutes to make and serve up. The best kind of fast food, if you ask me.

interior page from The Wild Table

The Wild Table by Connie Green is a book that doesn’t actually come out for a few more weeks now. An review copy of it landed in my mailbox late last week, and I fell for it fast and hard. It’s a big, beautiful book with loads of glossy-but-rustic photos of foraged ingredients and the many wonderful things that can be made from them.

Now, living in the city, it’s not always easy to do much foraging. In that way, this is more of an aspirational book for me than an inspirational one. And I’m okay with that.

interior page from Sarabeth's Bakery

This is another book that came to me by way of a publisher’s PR company. Called Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, it’s written by Sarabeth Levine, the woman behind the nearly ubiquitous line of homemade-style preserves. She’s also got a charming bakery in New York’s Chelsea Market (but I learned from the book that she got her start by making an orange-apricot marmalade). It’s a hefty tome, mostly filled with recipes for baked goods (as one might expect).

Of course, the section that appeals to me most is the one near the back that offers up some of Sarabeth’s famous spreadable fruits. It’s not an extensive canning section, but adds a nice counterpoint to all the baked goods. This is another one that would make a good holiday gift, should you have someone on your list who deserves a gorgeous baking book.

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