Tag Archives | cookbooks

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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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. 

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!

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Cookbooks: Perfect for Pesach

I have had this copy of Perfect for Pesach by Naomi Nachman sitting on my desk for a better part of the last month. I’ve sifted through it several times, taking note of various recipes to try and appreciating each time the fact that there’s a picture for every recipe (as a cookbook author, I am painfully aware of how expensive this can be).

I’ve also hoped that inspiration would strike that would give me a good way to write about it. Because as a book, it brings up some stuff for me (I’ve written about other books with Judaism or kosher cooking at their core without this trouble. I don’t know why this particular volume got me. But it did).

I am Jewish by birth, but was raised in the loose, liberalism of the Unitarian Universalist church. I regret nothing about my upbringing and am deeply grateful for the space I was given to craft and cultivate my own belief system and perspective on the world.

But. Sometimes, I long to fit in. To be connected to that Jewish side of me without uncertainty or fear that I will be denied recognition. And this book triggers that longing. I think it’s happening because this is a book designed to help cooks out during the eight day holiday of Passover/Pesach.

It’s not a book about celebratory meals or festival food (those don’t haven’t caught me off-guard the way this one did). It simply about daily cooking for a time when grains, legumes and anything leavened is forbidden. And that’s not really a space in which I feel like I have easy footing or even feel like I belong.

Now, with that angst out of the way, there are things I want to tell you about this book. Like the cover says, these are “Passover recipes you’ll want to make all year.” At its core, this is a book about home cooking and it has a lot to offer in that arena. Because grains are off the table during Passover, many of the recipes are, by default, gluten-free (if that’s your allergen of avoidance, make sure to steer clear of anything including matzo meal).

It’s a book that spends a lot of time focusing on vegetables and proteins as well, which makes it relevant also to the paleo and low carb crowd.

I have a long list of things I plan on making, including the Zucchini Mushroom Soup (page 72), Sweet and Salty Pecan Chicken Cutlets (page 112), the Zucchini Onion Frittata pictured above (page 164), and the Crispy Potato Stacks (page 186).

These thumbprint cookies are made using potato starch and ground almonds rather than wheat flour, and the filling is a combination of apricot jam and chopped pecans. Sounds like a good treat no matter what time of year it is!

This book is a solid collection of recipes that are terrific whether you keep kosher for Passover, or you’re simply looking for fresh inspiration for your family meals.

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