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Author Archive: "Tracey T."

Spring Potluck

Let's not beat around the bush. The Powell's new book buyers like to eat. We have a special appreciation for brand-new cookbooks and for being among the first to try out the recipes. For our biannual potluck this spring, we were pleased to have fellow book-slinger visitors from Seattle: Pam and Anna from the University of Washington Bookstore. Authors of The Picnic, Jen Stevenson and Marnie Hanel, dropped by the week before with a picnic basket filled with treats from their book. This got us off to a fine start as we prepared for our culinary event. Anticipating a special meal has an enticement all its own.

As trite as this quote might be: a picture is worth a thousand words. Since we have some fabulous photos of our potluck, this blog post will be more of a photo essay. For those with a sweet tooth, head to the bottom of the piece for a sampling of recent dessert releases.

Mary Jo made Honey Roasted Radishes from A Modern Way to Eat:
"Easy to prepare, equally delicious hot or cold, honey-roasted radishes are sure to be a hit with


New Cookbooks: Better on Toast, Food52 Genius Recipes, The Picnic

Spring is a heady time for cookbook releases. There are so many new cookbooks that it feels like Christmas; we even had an early spring mini potluck lunch for a taste testing. We have so much love for many of these new cookbooks. Missing from these reviews are a number of dessert cookbooks; there were just too many books to include here. The dessert books are piled on my desk waiting to be covered in the next On the Table post, so stay tuned. (Let me tell you, it's a little distracting to work with the words: "ice cream," "truffles," "cookies," and "sugar" staring at you all day long.)

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A Modern Way to Eat
Are we ever cooking from this cookbook! Author Anna Jones presents a fine, fat cookbook (352 pages) of creative vegetarian recipes. I've already made the Gentle Brown Rice — twice. Filled with nuts and loaded with aromatic spices, I've served this to guests and family alike. The second time I made the Gentle Brown Rice, I bought pork sausage to go into it, but then I thought better of it and left it out as the dish was perfect as presented. Also made by coworkers: Blueberry Pie Oatmeal, Cherry Poppy Seed Waffles, and Spiced Carrot and Cashew Salad. The salad was amazing; the roasted carrots with coconut cream were a delight for our whole office. We keep coming back to this book over and over again. It is awesome! A Modern Way to Eat is destined to be a vegetarian classic.

Better on Toast
A few things trending up in the food world: ethnic food, toast, bugs. Let's just ignore that last one. There is nothing as satisfying as a really good sandwich. Better on Toast celebrates the sandwich cousin, the open-faced sandwich. Author Jill Donenfeld ALWAYS starts with really good bread. (This isn't a baking book; it's all about the topping. Nevertheless, she includes one bread recipe — and a gluten-free recipe at that.) Step two in her sammie magic is pan grilling, or oven toasting the bread. The bread can be toaster-toasted as well, but you'll lose the delicious fatty seasoning. Step three: the star of the meal, the topping. Turning to a random page, we get: Fig Bagna Cauda and Watercress. Figs mixed with garlic and anchovies? What the...? Donenfeld states it's her favorite recipe in the book, and upon reading it, I can see how blending sweet figs with fishy anchovies could turn into a favorite. I love when a cook can see beyond expected flavors to make something fresh and new. Another random page brings a recipe for a demi-baguette topped with baked grapes and a cheese spread made of goat cheese and blue cheese. She suggests Humboldt Fog for the blue cheese. (Humboldt Fog is one of the keys to my heart.) Better on Toast has charmed the Powell's new book buying department, and I will not be surprised if one of its recipes shows up soon as a break-time snack.

New Cookbooks: The Perfect Egg, Street Foods, Pasta by Hand

Here in the Powell's offices, we are prone to geeking out over Pi Day. Not so much for the mathy-ness of it, although the math is pretty awesome. No, we get excited over the pie part. Pi Day starts early in the month for us, as we tuck into the piles of forthcoming cookbooks littering our desks, all looking for the best recipe. We're a pretty tight crew, and sharing food is a joy we love. Although my joy was temporarily diminished when, at 9:30 the night before our Pi Day celebration, I suddenly remembered I had yet to start making mine. I wasn't entirely sure my pie would even work, as I was altering a recipe I'd never made before to be both gluten-free and a little diabetic-friendly. Luckily, my Double Chocolate Mint Chess Pie tasted fantastic (phew!), as did all our pies, both savory and sweet. Some pies came from family recipes, some from blogs, but most were from soon-to-be-released cookbooks. We even had some anarchy in our Pi presentation with scones made from The Dirty Apron Cookbook.

The past few weeks were super-chunky with some great new cookbook releases, so you might want to fortify yourself with a grilled cheese sandwich or at least make a cup of tea before you read on.

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Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love

I have a secret family recipe for a delicious chocolate mint refrigerator pie, which has been called Slide Pie ever since a pie tipped to one side while quick-setting in the freezer. One side of the pie was frozen mid-drip over the edge of the pie tin, the other side nearly flat. We gave up on slicing it and just communally dug in with spoons. Remember, it doesn't have to look good to taste good. Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love has a Double Chocolate Mint Chess Pie recipe that made me turn aside from my beloved Slide Pie. Delicious! I altered the recipe to be gluten-free and quasi-diabetic, and I gave my usual heavy pour on the mint. I'm pretty sure if I were to go to Savannah, Georgia — the Back in the Day Bakery would be one of the first places I'd visit, and I've wanted to go to Savannah since reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about 20 years ago.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

Sunshine, a normal-seeming teen (albeit a budding paranormal warrior), has a refreshing relationship with her mom — they are BFFs. Young love and the power of friendship mix with some truly scary bits (but scary in a good way!). Based on the YouTube channel, Sunshine Girl is a welcome new book series.

New Cookbooks for January and February: Healthy (and Tasty!) Cooking

Most of the new cookbooks released in January and February tend to fall into the "healthy" and "diet" arenas. Luckily, we live in a time when healthy cooking can be so delicious and filling that we hardly know we are dieting. Not in the mood to diet? There is a short list of dessert cookbooks included below as well.

For dinner last night, I made mini cauliflower soufflés from Ivy Manning's Weeknight Vegetarian: Simple, Healthy Meals for Every Night of the Week. (Not pictured: the other two soufflés that we gobbled down before I thought to snap a shot.)

The soufflés couldn't have been easier. Made with a base of cottage cheese, they didn't require the vigorous beating and careful baking of the usual fancy-pants soufflé. I might call this more of a rustic soufflé. The recipe quite lived up to the concept of being easy to make on a weeknight. Local author Ivy Manning can always be counted on for a thoughtful cookbook. Her recipes are nutritionally well-balanced and sometimes include unconventional ingredients that turn out to be a perfect blend: masa dumplings in chili; a mushroom and chestnut strudel; and, my favorite, apples in a Welsh rarebit!

From Katrine van Wyk, the author of Best Green Drinks Ever, we now have Best Green Eats Ever. I appreciate that Countryman Press has kept the pricing below $20 on this series. This is a rarity in the cookbook world. Author van Wyk includes enough eating-green information to get a beginner started, and there may be a thought or two new to the seasoned hand at healthy eating. (Antinutrients — what are those? See page 20 in her book.) Recipes are simple and well-designed, and almost every recipe comes with a picture. Best Green Eats Ever is a well-rounded and solid cookbook entry into vegetarian eating.

Tracey’s Recipe for Baked Bacon

Editor's note: If there's one thing that's as delightful and delectable as books, it's bacon. Here, our cookbook specialist and On the Table writer Tracey shares her soon-to-be-famous Baked Bacon recipe.

Step One: Do not preheat oven. (This is the most important step to remember.) This ensures the bacon has the long, slow cooking time necessary for this recipe to work.

Step Two: Lay bacon out on a cooking sheet with rolled edges, like a jelly roll pan. Fancy people will want to line their sheets with foil for easy cleaning. I have a dedicated bacon sheet that is always covered with a fine layer of bacon grease.

Step Three: Put the pan in the oven. Now turn on the oven to 400 degrees. Ignore for 16 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness of bacon and how your oven heats.

Step Four: Keep an eye on bacon during the last minutes of cooking, as it can speedily go from delightfully golden brown to dreadfully burnt black.

Step Five: Remove from oven, and enjoy!

This recipe renders a lot of lovely fat to save for another recipe.

Most Popular Cookbooks of 2014

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and these are the 2014 top-selling cookbooks at Powell's. Our number one bestseller: Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi. Not only does Ottolenghi have THE bestselling cookbook at Powells — he has three cookbooks in the top 10. My favorite, Jerusalem: A Cookbook, has been a bestseller since its release in 2012.

Local regional cookbooks (Portlandia, Pok Pok, Toro Bravo, The Bar Book) represented! The Portlandia Cookbook was just as humorous as I expected it to be, but surprised me by having good recipes as well. I mean, no offense to authors Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, but you guys are known for good music and for being funny, not for your delicious Wild Mushroom and Artichoke Tartines.

DIY cookbooks (Preserving by the Pint, One-Hour Cheese) also held sway in the top 10, which is unsurprising as DIY is as Portland as the aforementioned Portlandia. Additional bonus Portland points awarded to Preserving by the Pint author Marisa McClellan for being Portland-raised, and to One-Hour Cheese author Claudia Lucero for being a current Portlander.

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The Forest Feast

A cookbook as THE best book of the year? Yes indeed — when that book is as superb as The Forest Feast. This is a book that I want to live in: enticing, welcoming, and lush. Every page is a beauty, each filled with the author's own illustrations and photography — photos shot at her house nestled in the California woods. And the recipes are delightful. They somehow feel exotic, yet they're deceptively simple and made from nothing fancy — just good-old American veggies.

Best Cookbooks of 2014

As the cookbook buyer for Powell's Books, I am the lucky one who gets to choose every new cookbook that comes into our stores. This means I have a pretty sweet cookbook collection, but I try to keep my shelves under control by limiting myself to only one bookcase of cookbooks. When a new cookbook comes in, a lesser performer has to get kicked out.

No longer do I keep a cookbook because someday I might need to bake a wedding cake, or just because it has a pretty cover (I'm pretty much lying here; I have plenty of cookbooks just because I like the cover, but they are slowly getting thinned out). Most of my cookbooks are real workhorses, in all their food-splashed glory.

Below are the 2014 cookbooks that I cook from at home, and that I heartily recommend to my friends and Powell's customers. There were many other delicious, beautiful, and/or creative cookbooks released this year, but these are the ones that found a place on my shelves, in my heart, and, most importantly, in my belly! Here, in no specific order, are my favorite cookbooks from 2014:

New Cookbooks for October and November: Potluck Time!

October/November is a favorite time in our offices. These are the months when scads of cookbooks are released, a deluge of cookbooks, a tornado of cookbooks. To judge by my desk, it's a perfect (or, rather, imperfect) storm of cookbooks. I have over 50 newly released books piled up, with another pile of yet-to-be-released titles crammed into what little space remains. When better to have a grand work potluck than now? We pulled 10 books out of my desk mess to cook from, each of us bringing in at least one dish to share. We gleefully stuffed our faces and documented it all for you! Here are our potluck reviews, featuring some guest writers from our staff.

Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts

The '80s rocker turned pastry chef, Brooks Headley, writes recipes the way a punk rocker writes poetry: intentionally wrong, in your face, meant to be played LOUD, and yet sometimes hitting the sublime. Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts is a cookbook you want to read, not with a cup of tea in front of the fireplace; you'll want to read it wherever the F' you want, maybe while listening to some hardcore punk music. (Although, not me; I'd listen to the ...

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