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.
The Broad Fork
The Broad Fork is from Southern chef Hugh Acheson — although he's actually Canadian. He followed his American wife to the South and fell in love with the food, so The Broad Fork has a touch of the American South in its recipes. Inspired by farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture boxes, he concentrates on recipes for the common and uncommon fruits and veggies likely to be landing in our kitchens this summer. (What do I do with green garlic, with a persimmon? What even is a ramp?) Each item of produce is given a number of recipes, which is extra helpful, as CSA boxes often come with an abundance of whatever is in season. Acheson's style is easygoing; I love a cookbook author who can claim to be imperfect and who is honest about having budget brand goods in their kitchen. (Jif, because his kids love it, and sliced American cheese because it's the best for melting on burgers.)
Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson
Ah, Chef Watson. Never heard of him/her? You may be familiar with IBM's artificially intelligent computer, Watson. It famously played on Jeopardy — besting former winners. Big deal; so Watson knows a bunch of facts. Here's what I find a big deal: Chef Watson. Chef Watson is a cuisine application for creating new recipes. It's currently in beta; I've been testing it for a few months, and it is freaking awesome. You give it a few ingredients, a style of cooking, and Chef Watson cruises its knowledge about the molecular breakdown of your food, and the commonalities of the food style you've chosen, then matches that information with the database of recipes. And voila, out pops a recipe. It's like living in the cartoon The Jetsons — only with no Rosie to make the food. I've been struck with how often there is what seems like a crazy ingredient added in, only to find it is a terrific choice. I've also been struck with how often the recipe is a little bonkers, mostly regarding the techniques suggested. Remember, Chef Watson is still in beta. The experienced cook can easily work around some of the nutty suggestions.
Another thing to try: Have you forgotten much of a recipe, but can remember some of the ingredients? Chef Watson might be able to spur you along. Above is a picture of individual cheese soufflés where Chef Watson helped me rebuild my lost recipe.
The book, Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson, is a presentation of recipes made by chefs from the Institute for Culinary Education with Chef Watson. These are recipes for the dedicated home cook who loves a complex recipe; many recipes involve lots of ingredients and go on for a few pages. But not all recipes are quite so vigorous. There are plenty of shorter ones, such as the Austrian Chocolate Burrito (beef, apricot, edamame, and, of course, chocolate) and the Kenyan Brussels Sprouts (spicy with cardamom and ginger, and sprinkled with an almond gremolata). While the recipes are intense, they are also fascinating. If you don't get this book for yourself, remember it when you are holiday shopping, as it is a surefire winner for anybody who delights in being at the frontier of new food. I should repeat how much I've loved using the beta version of the Chef Watson application because each book comes with a code to "get your Chef Watson app for free." You will want this code, I swear.
The Dirty Apron Cookbook
The Dirty Apron is a cooking school in Vancouver, BC. They are passionate about hands-on learning, fresh ingredients, and cultivating a joy of cooking. Their intent is for the home cook to be able to prepare a high-end restaurant meal at home. The Dirty Apron Cookbook captures their teaching philosophies in book form. First recipe in the book: scones. Coworker Aubrey made these for our buying team. She was pleased with how uniform the scones turned out and found the extra tips (cutting the scones, recipe variations) helpful. The Dirty Apron Cookbook hits a difficult-to-attain position: it's a cookbook that both beginning and experienced cooks will find pleasure in. And, it looks pretty just lying around on a table. (The school logo is a tiny aproned pig and is embossed in silver on the cover, a small touch that I find charming.)
Kitchen Creamery gives you the basics and certainly can get beginners starting in cheese making, but I think this book shines in going to the "next level" of cheese making. (I kind of hate that phrase, but carn sarn it, it fits.) Along with techie information given in a friendly voice, Kitchen Creamery moves onto some cheese styles not yet covered in other dairy books — cheese such as Marbler, Gosling, Burrata, etc. Author Louella Hill ("the San Francisco Milk Maid") has packed a lot of knowledge into this attractive cookbook. Based on the fact that all our office cheese makers want this book, I think I can safely say that every home cheese maker will want a copy of Kitchen Creamery as well.
Food52 Genius Recipes
Genius Recipes is from the popular food blog Food52. Kristen Miglore heads their column of near-perfect recipes culled from various sources: well-known chefs, bloggers, and cookbook authors. Here are some reasons why you'll want this cookbook:
1. These recipes really are genius. They are tried and true; you can count on them.
2. Miglore does a great job of explaining what is the genius in every recipe, and I love to know details behind how a recipe works.
3. Miglore imbues her book with her personality. I take delight in the Chicken Thighs with Lemon recipe where she suggests: "Eat all the chicken as fast as you can."
Coworker Mark brought in the Use a Spoon Chopped Salad for our potluck, and now this recipe is another Powell's office favorite. The story behind this recipe: Paul Newman wanted a salad at his restaurant, The Dressing Room, to have a salad so finely chopped it could be eaten with a spoon. His chef built a salad of veggies, apple, vinegar, and goat cheese that conspire together for that umami balance.
Well Fed, Flat Broke
Well Fed, Flat Broke: Recipes for Modest Budgets and Messy Kitchens is from Canadian blogger Emily Wight. She writes from her native Vancouver, BC, that shining jewel of an international foodie town, and Vancouver's international flair finds a home in her cookbook. Wight brings her personality to her book, in a friendly come-have-a-seat-in-my-living-room-and-don't-mind-the-mess sort of way. You feel that you know her kid, her grandpa, and of course Wight herself. These meals all give a nod to staying on a budget, but she readily acknowledges that sometimes you have to splurge a bit — because life is short. Some of her budget meals are wonderfully creative. Peanut Butter Bacon Fat Cookies — no need to buy butter for this recipe; use that bacon fat that is just sitting around doing nothing but taking up space! (I haven't yet made these cookies, but I will!) Spaghetti Squash Muffins will be handy come fall, when your squash crop takes over the garden. (Coworker Corie served Spam Fried Rice to her family without warning the kids it was Spam. They loved it and never even noticed its Spammyness, until she fessed up.) Well Fed Flat Broke is one of my favorite cookbooks to come out this spring.
The River Cottage Booze Handbook
From the well-loved River Cottage series, The River Cottage Booze Handbook is a bootlegger charmer. John Wright's booze book is filled with classic and old-fashioned seeming alcohol fermenting recipes, such as Rose Hip Vodka, Green Walnut Grappa, Elder Flower Cider, Melon Fizz, and the rather disarming Oak Moss Gin. Each recipe starts out with the season the crop may be harvested and how long the infusion will take. This petite hardback packs a lot of inspiring recipes into its 255 pages.
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First off, this is a beauty of a cookbook. The fruits and flowers on the cover are gently embossed. What is a picnic without a few ants? Don't miss the tiny guests at the bottom of the cover. This attention to detail is carried along throughout the book: Deviled Eggs with Chorizo Strips, Shocking-Pink Beet Hummus, Figs with Feta and Honey, Spicy Salted Olive Oil Brownies. Illustrations are sweet and enticing with a touch of sass. This cookbook covers pretty much all you need to plan a vivacious picnic, from picking your blanket and packing your bike to building your cocktail al fresco. The authors are experienced gourmet picnickers, come rain or come shine. (Rain is a covered topic in their book, page 26.) They are the founders of the Portland Picnic Society, which this year made the resolution to picnic each and every month, no matter how foul the weather. That is some admirable dedication to outdoor dining. (Not to drop any names, but I've met the authors a few times and they are all charming folk.) Here is a recipe from The Picnic, followed by a picture of my dog, who is helping — as usual — with the recipe in the kitchen.
Rainbow Carrots with Smoky Paprika Vinaigrette
Serves 4 to 6
Part of the fun of preparing this vibrant salad stems from searching for just the right mix of heirloom carrots, in a spectrum spanning from deep purple to bright yellow to ivory. (Good old orange works, too.) We prefer sweet (dulce) smoked Spanish paprika, or pimentón de la Vera, in this recipe, rather than the hot (picante) variety; look for it at specialty grocery stores.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika
1 pound rainbow carrots
1½ cups cooked chickpeas or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
½ cup dried plums (prunes), chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and paprika in a large bowl until emulsified; set aside.
2. Shave carrots into ribbons.*
3. Add the carrots, chickpeas, dried plums, and mint to the bowl with the vinaigrette, and toss well so that everything is coated nicely and thoroughly mixed together. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer the salad to a portable container and refrigerate until the picnic, or up to 8 hours.
*The Carrot Trap
The best way to achieve ribbons of carrots that meld flawlessly with the smoky sherry vinaigrette is by shaving the carrots. Yes, you read that correctly
- Peel and discard the tough outer layer from the carrots and trim the tops.
- Pin the tip of the carrot to a cutting board using a fork, and shave it into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler until you reach the core.
- Flip the carrot and continue shaving until, again, you reach the core.
- Pile the gorgeous tangle of carrot ribbons into your salad bowl, and toss the cores to your dog, who's giving you the side eye. He'll thank you.
Thank you to Artisan Books for permission to reprint this recipe.
[Here is a picture of my dog Mathilda, no side eye, she. Just eyes on the prize.]
Splattered, torn, perpetually bookmarked, and scribbled with marginalia, the oldies-but-goodies featured in Cookbook Flashback never stray far from the kitchen.
The Silver Palate Cookbook
It is asparagus season, and get a load of this gorgeous platter of asparagus. Coworker Kathi charms us every now and then with this delicious dish topped with a vinaigrette from The Silver Palate Cookbook, a classic ever since it came out in the '80s. The Silver Palate was an early representative of new American cuisine and is chock-full of recipes bound to be hits for serving family and friends. Need to put together a reliable feast for Thanksgiving or Easter? Pull out The Silver Palate. There are a number of editions of this cookbook, so don't be surprised if you find a copy that looks a bit different than what is pictured.