Tag Archives | cookbooks

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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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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