Tag Archives | cookbooks

Cookbooks: The Joys of Jewish Preserving

I met Emily Paster on Twitter sometime in the summer of 2010. In those days, she was a part-time law professor and full-time mom, just starting her canning and preserving journey. She would frequently reach out to ask a question or simply engage around our shared interest.

In the intervening years, our online conversations led to real-life friendship and it has been a treat to watch (and offer a little help when possible) as she has transitioned into a career as a food writer and cookbook author.

Earlier this summer, Emily published her second cookbook, called The Joys of Jewish Preserving was published (her first was last summer’s Food Swap!) and it is gorgeous, accessible, and perfect for preservers of all stripes.

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.

The other thing Emily does really beautifully in this book is that she gives you lots of ways to use up the preserves you’ve made. I’m hoping to make her Sweet Potato Latkes (page 132), the Chocolate Babka with Jam (page 139), and her Cream Cheese Rugelach.

For those of you who have enjoyed cooking from Plenty, Jerusalem, or Zahav, you’ll find much to love in this book. Make sure to check it out before the summer ends!

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Cookbooks: Homegrown Pantry

People often ask me if I grow the things I preserve, mostly in the hopes that I’ll be able to share with them favorite varieties for growing and canning. I always end up disappoint them when I confess that other than a couple seasons with a mediocre community garden plot, I almost no gardening experience.

Happily, there’s a new book that is the resource that people have always wished I could be. Called Homegrown Pantry and written by Barbara Pleasant, this book should be on the shelf of everyone who likes to garden and preserve what they’ve grown.

The book 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.

This book digs into canning, drying, fermenting, freezing, root cellaring, and even wine making. There are tips, tricks, recipes, and a world of useful recommendations.

It’s even useful for those of us who don’t garden, but occasionally find ourselves in possession of a bushel of apples, a big bundle of herbs, or a fresh potatoes from the farmers market. It’s a really terrific resource!

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Cookbooks: Bread Toast Crumbs

I first discovered that it was possible to bake bread without kneading (along with much of the English speaking world) in 2006 when the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe ran in the New York Times. I embraced the concept wholeheartedly and have been something of a no-knead recipe collector ever since.

Four or five years ago, I stumbled across a recipe for peasant bread on Alexandra Stafford’s blog, Alexandra’s Kitchen, that didn’t need to be kneading, was baked up in some of the Pyrex bowls I already owned, AND could be ready to eat in just a couple of hours. I made a batch immediately and became a fan for life. It became THE thing I made to serve with leftover soup, to bulk out a meal for unexpected guests, or on weekends when we wanted sandwiches but didn’t feel like leaving the apartment.

As a food writer, it’s rare that I return to the same recipe over and over again (because I am always looking for new, interesting things to write about), but this one is simply too good and too reliable to leave behind (though I almost always make it with half whole wheat pastry flour and half white. I am what I am).

So, when Ali announced that she was writing a cookbook that used her peasant bread recipe as a starting place, I was delighted. More ways to make use of this recipe and its tasty results? Yes, please!

Bread Toast Crumbs came out back in April and is everything I hoped it would be. The title also serves as the organizational structure for the book. It opens with the master peasant bread recipe and then offers up more than 35 variations. I’ve only made the original recipe, but have plans to make the hamburger buns this weekend and have half a dozen other versions earmarked.

In the Toast section, you’ll find an array of soups, salads, starters, sandwiches, main dishes, and sweet things. I’ve got my eye on the Summer Vegetable Strata for the near-term and the Cabbage Soup with Gruyere-Rye Toasts for the fall (if you listen to Local Mouthful, you’ll know that my love for cabbage knows no bounds).

The Crumbs section takes the heels of your loaves, grinds them down, and makes delicious use. Someone needs to invite me to a potluck so that I can make the Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese or the Baked Pasta with Mushrooms, Fontina, and Crumbs. Seriously. How good do those dishes sound?

My bottom line on this book is that if you’re looking to up your bread baking game in an approachable way and then find some new ways to make good use of every last morsel of the bread you made, you should check it out.

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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!

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Cookbooks: Fiery Ferments

When it comes to cultured pickles and preserved, Fermented Vegetables by Kristen and Christopher Shockey is one of my most-referenced cookbooks. I take a peek at it any time I want guidance on how to put together a new-to-me a batch of fermented veg, and my beloved fermented dilly bean recipe is simply a scaled down version of theirs.

Their second book, called Fiery Ferments, was released a couple weeks ago and it is just as good and useful as their first volume. It opens with an introduction to basic vegetable fermentation and includes a really useful discussion of the many airlocks and fermentation accessories that are out there (as well as advice on how to ferment without investing in any gear beyond a jar and a ziptop bag).

From there, the book shifts to explaining the skills necessary to make the recipes in the book. You get step-by-step guide to building a basic pepper mash, brine-based sauces and pickles, pastes and mustards, and kimchis, relishes, and salads. For those of you looking to build your confidence in these techniques, this part of the book is worth the price of admission alone.

Then, because Fiery Ferments is focused on building pickles, sauces, and condiments that walk on the spicy side, you’ll find an in-depth section on the ingredients that bring the heat. Ginger, galangal, and turmeric get equal billing with peppercorns and chiles.

Then we get to the recipes. They are small batch (smaller than the recipes in Fermented Vegetables, which I appreciate), varied in flavor and construction, and are illustrated with glorious, appealing pictures. Best of all, in addition to lots of ferments, they also included a handful of recipes designed to help you make good use of the things you’ve made (those fermented jalapeno poppers above look darn tasty).

Thanks to the folks at Storey, I have a copy of this book to give away. Follow the instructions below to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your fermented food to eat, drink, or share.
  2. Comments will close at 12 noon eastern time on Sunday, June 19, 2017. A winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog later that day.
  3. Giveaway open to US residents only. 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: Storey sent me sent me a review copy of this book and is providing the giveaway unit, both at no cost to me. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

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.

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