Tag Archives | cookbooks

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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Books to Take You Further on the Salt Preserving Path

Judging from the happy posts on Instagram and Facebook, most of you who are participating in this month’s Mastery Challenge are really enjoying your exploration of salt preserving (and for those of you who haven’t loved this month, March and its jelly and/or shrub topic is just around the corner).

I thought it would be really useful to recommend some books for those of you who are finding yourself really engaged with the salt preserving and want to keep going after this month is up. Here are the five books I turn to most often when I’m looking for inspiration and answers around the topics of salting, curing, and fermenting.

1. Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey. This book never lets me down. It turn to it any time I’m contemplating trying a new ferment, because I know that Kirsten and Christopher always share honestly about what works and what isn’t worth my time. I appreciate the step-by-step pictures for the basic ferments as well as the more exotic combinations.

2. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. If you only have space for one book on this topic, this is the one to have. It’s not limited to salty ferments, but covers the entire fermentation canon. It can be dense at times, but as long as you approach it with patience, it will never let you down.

3. Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison. The brilliance of this book is in its range. It’s got something for every food preserver, and there’s plenty here for those who want to zero in on salting. Joel and Dana also go beyond the preserves and show you how to make the most of everything you salt, cure, can, smoke, and infuse. The introductions to fermenting and salting are worth the price of admission alone.

4. Bar Tartine by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns. The restaurant is closed, but the book lives on! The sub-title is Techniques & Recipes and it’s the combination of those two that makes this volume so useful. Within each section, they lay down a technique and then over up a handful of recipes that riff on that technique. This allows curious readers to crack open the offered skills and journey towards working knowledge.

5. Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry. This is an intensely beautiful book and the chapter entitled “Salted, Cured, and Potted” is particularly useful to those looking to deepen their salting knowledge (it includes multiple takes on gravlax). Diana is a UK-based author, and so does make storage recommendations that are in contrast with those we’re guided to in the states. In the case of her sweet preserves, I will often use her recipes and then apply a water bath.

If you have other books that you turn to for salt preserving instruction, please share them in the comments!

Disclosure: I got my copy of Fermented Vegetables as a free review copy. All other books listed here were ones I bought because I knew my library wouldn’t be complete without them. 

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Cookbooks: Eat It Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton

There is little in life I find more satisfying that making a meal that uses up things that might otherwise get thrown away. Leek tops? A batch of veggie stock, which then becomes risotto, soup, or a cooking medium for whole grains. Random, limp vegetables? Soup, fried rice, or egg scramble. Stale bread? Bread pudding, savory panade, meatball or meatloaf binder, panzanella, or toasted bread crumbs.

However, having spent some time with Sherri Brooks Vinton‘s relatively new book (it came out last June), Eat It Up!, I’ve come to realize that there’s even more I could be doing to use things up and prevent waste in my kitchen.

Sherri begins the book with an introduction that defines the problem of food waste and identifies reasons why so many are striving to reduce it. From there, she heads off into techniques and recipes for using up unloved bits and transforming scraps into delicious dishes.

In the produce section, Sherri focuses primarily on the parts that we most often toss into the trash or compost. She’s included recipes that make good use of apple peels, celery leaves, the stems from various greens, fennel fronds, and the tops of radishes, turnips and beets.

In the meat section, she shows you how to make stock, prepare bone marrow, render fat, and transform those things into tasty dishes. Hit the dairy section of the book to use up scraps of cheese, the end of a tub of yogurt, and make queso fresco. There are suggestions for the ends of condiments, leftover baguettes, and the olives that invariably remain after you’ve thrown a party.

If one of your resolutions for 2017 was to do better with food waste, I highly encourage you get yourself a copy of this book. It’s bursting with useful tips (potato peel croutons!) and is friendly, approachable, and fun.

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Cookbooks: The Perfect Blend by Tess Masters

The third book by Tess Masters, The Perfect Blend combines colorful produce, health-promoting boosters, and your countertop blender to create appealing, flavorful food.

I first met Tess Masters back in early 2013, when we were both guests on a Driscoll’s berries press trip. She was already The Blender Girl by then, but was just starting on her cookbook writing path. In the years since that first meeting, she’s written and published three cookbooks, the third of which came out just last week.

Called The Perfect Blend, this beautifully photographed book features 100 vegan and gluten-free recipes that all make good use of your countertop blender (don’t worry, it’s not just a book of soups and smoothies. There’s plenty here to crunch and chew).

I always like inviting a couple of vegetable-focused books into my library at the start of the new year. I never hew particularly close to any one eating modality, but I always appreciate being reminded that there is a rainbow of produce out there and that there are so many ways to make it interesting and delicious.

I’ve tucked nearly half a pad of sticky notes into this book by now, marking things like Kale Caesar (page 13), Cheezy Broccoli Soup (page 45), Sweet Potato & Macadamia Magic (page 97), and Thai Slaw (page 129). I do love a creamy soup made hearty and lasting with the addition of soaked and pureed nuts (I sometimes make this cauliflower soup and replace the cheese with cashew creme. So good!).

I also appreciate the chapter dedicated to promoting probiotics. Tess includes a salad dressed with a vinaigrette that includes fermented tofu, and offers her recipe for a finely shredded ferment that includes cabbage, leeks, carrots, apples, and parsley. I plan on picking up the necessary ingredients today and giving it a try.

My bottom line with this book is that it has inspired me to lever myself out of my regularly traveled cooking ruts and has me inviting more vegetables, seeds, and nuts into my kitchen. I’m looking forward to bringing a handful of the recipes to life. If you’re looking for a book to do something similar for you, I highly suggest you page through it next time you’re in a book store!

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Cookbooks: Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti

preserving-italy-cover

Over the last several months, I have done a truly terrible job sharing the wonderful preserving books that have been published recently. I’m going to try to do a better job, because there are some exceptional new books out there that you should be checking out of the library and putting on your holiday wish lists.

preserving-italy-infused-oils

First among these excellent books is Domenica Marchetti’s Preserving Italy. Focused on preserving food in the traditional Italian style, this gorgeous paperback neatly fills a void in the canon of food preservation writing. I often get questions from people wanting to preserve tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and garlic in the same manner as their grandparents once did, and this book deals with all of those topics (as well as many more).

preserving-italy-quince-jelly

The recipes are divided up into eight sections. They deal with foods preserved in oil, food preserved in vinegar, sweet preserves, tomatoes and sauces, infused oils and vinegars, fresh cheeses and basic cured meats, syrups and boozy things, and confections. In addition to the recipes focused on preserving, Domenica also tucks recipes into each chapter that are designed to help you use what you’ve preserved.

preserving-italy-vinegar

One of the things that I most appreciate about this book is that fact that it balances tradition with safety. Domenica includes a section on pressure canning and addresses the issues that exist when you preserve foods in oil (the start of that section includes some safety tips that should be required reading for anyone thinking about using this method of preservation).

preserving-italy-back-cover

As we head into the holiday season, this becomes an even more vital addition to our collective food preservation libraries. I am considering making a batch of the Coffee Cream Liqueur for gift giving and the Pear Mostarda would be so fabulous for a New Year’s Eve cheese board.

If you haven’t checked this book out yet, please do! It’s very much worth your time!

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Cookbooks: Batch

The cover of Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison

I think of myself as minor expert on canning and preserving books. In addition to having written three of my own, I have a working familiarity with nearly everything that’s out there and so whenever I’m asked to recommend books for specific purpose, I flip through my mental file and offer up a few options.

The spine of Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison

Need help with small batch fermenting? Amanda Feifer’s Ferment Your Vegetables is the best option. Looking for thoughtful recipes with a modern, Southern twist? Kevin West’s Saving the Season is for you. Domenica Marchetti’s Preserving Italy will help you recreate your Italian grandmother’s pantry. And Karen Solomon’s Asian Pickles is brilliant and self explanatory.

The waterbath preserving spread in the cookbook Batch

I’ve also found myself suggesting Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison’s new book Batch a great deal lately (if their names sound familiar, it’s because they are the bloggers behind the website Well Preserved).

This book is essential for anyone who wants a huge, exuberant, smart, gorgeously designed, and vibrantly photographed book that deals with seven styles of food preservation, offers recipes for using the food you’ve preserved, and helps you make the very most out of every scrap of food you grow, buy, and forage.

The introduction to the fermenting section of the cookbook Batch

I particularly like how they’ve structured this volume. The first quarter of Batch is designed to help you build the skills you’ll need in the balance of the book. It’s here that you’ll learn about waterbath canning, pressure canning, dehydrating, fermenting, cellaring, salting & smoking, and infusing. Joel wrote the bulk of the book’s text and his writing telegraphs calm knowledge and reliable expertise.

The introduction to the Peppers chapter of the cookbook Batch

The remainder of the book is organized around 25 ingredients, laid out in alphabetical order. Starting with apples and ending with tomatoes, each ingredient chapter helps you make the very most of seasonal produce with recipes to preserve, store, and consume.

A page featuring Batch-It recipes in the cookbook Batch

One of the brilliant elements in this book is the Batch-It approach. The recipes are grouped so that it becomes easy to make two or three things in concert with one another rather the traditional approach that silos each project. I find that having read my way through this book, I now am constantly thinking about how I can couple my preserving activities.

Falafel lettuce wraps in the cookbook Batch

Another thing that makes this book so uniquely useful is the way in which the recipes for using the preserves are nested into the ingredient sections. Some put the preserve to work as an active ingredient and others demonstrate how a side of sauce or chutney can easily enhance a simple plate.

Back cover the cookbook Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison

Along with being a reliable and useful resource, Batch is a pleasure to glance through. Dana is an artist and designer, and both her creative eye and her work are found throughout Batch’s pages. Every time I open it, some new element catches my eye.

If you’re an avid canner and you’ve not added it to your bookshelf yet, I highly encourage you to add it to your wish lists and shopping carts!

Disclosure: I bought the copy of Batch you see pictured above. I count Joel and Dana among my friends, but the opinions offered here are offered on the basis of their exceptional book, not our friendship.

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