One of the trends we're seeing in new cookbook releases this May is the concept of small-batch cooking. Portland loves food, so cheese making and home beer brewing are right up our alley. And what better to serve with small-batch goods than homemade street food?
There are stores and restaurants I will go to especially for their artisan cheese, but it hadn't occurred to me that I could make my own. Claudia Lucero's One-Hour Cheese is an eye opener! I can easily make my own paneer and string cheese? A prerelease copy of Lucero's book has been passed around our office and made a few field trips home with employees so we could try out the ridiculously easy recipes. Each recipe has roughly 8 to 24 accompanying photos that finely detail the process of cheesemaking. Yes, 8 to 24 photos per recipe! How amazing is that? To make it all even easier, Lucero also puts out DIY cheese kits. And it must be said: Ms. Lucero is a Portlander!
Coworker Aubrey made this wonderful Caprese salad with One-Hour Cheese mozzarella for the office to chow down on.
Speaking of Portland, the mason jar craze is still going strong here — drinking out of mason jars, making hanging lights out of mason jars, and now we have a cookbook devoted to putting salads in mason jars: Mason Jar Salads and More. The mason jar has a home comfort look and feel and is perfect for individual salads to transport to work or take picnicking. The very first recipe I turned to was a watermelon and feta salad, and it was also the first recipe I tried: so delicious! (I added black pepper.) Sure, we could keep on using our Tupperware, but packing a salad in layers in a glass jar is just danged pretty! The added benefit is the dressing stays on the bottom so the upper layers of greens can stay fresh and crisp. One of the charms of jarred salads is a beautiful presentation; accordingly, this book is filled with photos.
Tacos! Quite possibly the world's best street food. Tuck your fillings into the tortilla and you are on your way with a hot, tasty treat. Dos Caminos Tacos is choc-a-bloc with variations on this Mexican staple. Chef Ivy Stark is a master at building modern flavors into street food. These tacos are dressed up a bit fancy, with fillings such as ginger-pickled cabbage, duck with plums, or apple-onion pico de gallo. The standard ground-beef recipes are here as well, but with a sophisticated twist of Jalapeño Mint Salsita. Don't be put off by the complex flavors of the recipes — these are still good old tacos, just packing some extra punch! This will be a great book to dip into all summer long to bring a little extra pizazz to alfresco dining.
Beer! While grabbing an ice-cold longneck from a cooler is a summertime delight, brewing your own is another type of wonder. But normally, it's quite a commitment necessitating the rental of temporary space at a brew supply shop. With the aptly named Make Some Beer, you can, well, make some beer. But in your own kitchen! The 30-plus craft beer recipes offer a broad range of global beery flavors. Recipes range from beginner style to the more experienced beer meister. You could be just two weeks from drinking your own stovetop stout (porter, IPA, etc.). Sweet potato lager for me, 'cause vegetables are good for you, right?
Lastly, I have to talk about Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes. This recently fell across my desk, and it is such a delight that I want people to know about it now, at the beginning of garden-planting season. That is just how inspiring this cookbook is. Who better than a multigenerational family of fruit farmers to know the best simple-yet-satisfying recipes to star seasonal fresh fruit? The folks from Red Jacket farm have perfectly curated recipes. Organized by season, you'll want to follow along with your own fresh fruit coming into availability. While the growing and storage tips are a bonus, it's really the recipes that make this cookbook sing. Not just for the dessert lover, there are many savory dishes as well.