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Voyage to the 7,000 Islands of the Philippines

Jordan Wright
August 3, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts 

7000-islands

One of the most beautiful and evocative cookbooks to cross my path of late is the recent issue 7,000 Islands – A Food Portrait of the Philippines by Australian-Filipino food and travel writer Yasmin Newman.  A lavishly photographed and comprehensive collection of recipes from around the islands of Southeast Asia, it is especially relevant as we see more and more restaurants opening that feature Asian cuisine.  In it Newman takes us to exotic locales to offer up dishes that can be prepared in our own kitchens.  Of all the 323 pages of recipes I chose this one, which is a unique way of preparing our Maryland Blue Crabs.

Ginataang alimasag at buko Crab and young coconut ginataan

Ginataang alimasag at buko
Crab and young coconut ginataan

Crab and young coconut ginataan One of the most resounding memories I have of the Philippines is of regularly eating crab; the expensive crustacean is a rare treat in Australia. My cousins occasionally enjoy it for breakfast when an affordable batch of live crabs arrives home from the morning market or is received as a gift. The bright orange shells splash colour across the table and we prise the sweet crabmeat from within. Dinner or dinner-party dish, it depends on the price of crab near you. Either way, it’s special. It’s also incredibly quick to prepare. If you prefer, ask your fishmonger to clean the crab for you.

 Serves: 4

  • 4 raw blue swimmer crabs (about 1 kg / 2 lb 3 oz)
  • 80 ml (2 ½ fl oz / 1/3 cup) vegetable oil
  • 10 cm (4 inch) piece ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small vine-ripened tomato, roughly chopped
  • 3 lemongrass stems, white part only, bruised
  • 2 long green chiles, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 250 ml (8 ½ fl oz / 1 cup) vegetable stock
  • 250 ml (8 ½ fl oz / 1 cup) coconut milk
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz / 1 cup) coconut cream
  • 2 young cocounts (buko), opened and meat scraped (see method, page 326)
  • Steamed rice, to serve

To prepare each crab, lift the triangular tail flap on the underside of the body and gently but firmly pull down to release the top shell. Remove and discard the flap, reserving the top shell. Remove and discard the spongy, finger-like gills, then replace the shell. Cut the body in half. Using a nutcracker or the blunt edge of a large knife, crack the large claws.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute, stirring until fragrant. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring and pressing until the tomato starts to break down.

Add the lemongrass, chillies, stock and coconut milk to the pan, season with freshley cracked black pepper, then bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the crab, reduce the heat oto medium, and continue to cook for a further 8-10 minutes, turning over the crab pieces halfway – the crab is cooked when the shell changes colour and the meat turns white. Using tongs, remove the crab pieces to a serving bowl.

Add the coconut cream and young coconut meat to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high , and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat, discard the lemongrass and chillies, if desires, and pour over the crab. Serve with steamed rice.

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Spring Cookbooks and a Sensational First Novel from Ruth Reichl

Jordan Wright
May 20, 2014

Delicious! A First Novel from Ruth Reichl 

When seasoned food writer and four-time James Beard Award-winner Ruth Reichl debuts her first novel (two more are planned), foodies everywhere sit up and take notice.  The former restaurant critic, first at the LA Times  - – later a six-year stint at the New York Times, is better known for bestselling memoirs like Comfort Me with Apples, Tender at the Bone and Garlic and Sapphires, books that seamlessly blended essays with recipes.  In Delicious! (Random House 2014) she proves she can cook up a tale as eloquently as penning a review.

Reichl’s keen insight and food knowledge lend authenticity to a storyabout an aspiring young writer who leaves her family for an entry-level job at a bespoke food magazine that soon after goes belly up.  Though she claims her characters evolved on their own, “Over time, all the characters claimed their own territories, refusing to do the things I wanted them to do, taking on their own strong voices”, Reichl’s ten years as Editor-in-Chief of the much beloved, and sorely missed, Gourmet magazine, inform their motivations through every twist and turn.  Oh, the parallels!

This light-hearted mystery will intrigue the reader with its ethno-botanical references, intriguing anagrams and culinary clues.  Did you know that NYU’s Fales Library had eclipsed Radcliffe’s as America’s largest collection of antique cookbooks?  Just one of the little known facts where Reichl reveals her insider’s savvy on epicurean esoterica.

The story is filled with the adventures Billie Breslin and her discovery of a trove of wartime letters between the mysterious Lulu and James Beard.  Yes! Reichl has channeled the august James Beard who offers his kindness and wisdom to the budding journalist.  Other colorful characters are drawn from Reichl’s vast experience with food emporia and her years in the New York publishing world.  When Breslin takes a weekend job at a Greenwich Village cheese shop, you’ll swear you’re on Bleeker Street buying mozzarella di bufala at Murray’s Cheese.

Reichl will be speaking and signing Delicious! at DC’s Politics and Prose on May 29th.

Spring Things 

Getting a fresh start on the season once meant foraging for whatever wild edibles popped out of the ground.  That means spring sprouters like ramps, violets, redbud flowers, tulip petals (not wild but certainly edible especially when stuffed with herbed goat cheese), mint, the tender shoots of the greenbriar, young dandelion leaves and the lovely morels and chanterelles found in leaf-strewn woods.  If you live near a stream, or even a roadside culvert, chances are you’ve already found watercress for your salads and tossing in a few shards of shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano to finish it off.

If you are city-bound and need a jumpstart to your diet, or just want to amp up your workout performance, pick up one of these cookbooks.

Can a Vegan Be a High Performance Athlete?

Canadian Brendan Brazier’s fourth in his series of health-minded books, the Thrive Energy Cookbook (Perseus Books 2014) is perfect for those in high performance training who may be on a plant-based diet or even for those looking for meatless options.  As a former Ironman competitor and two-time Canadian Ultra-Marathon Champion, this high-intensity athlete doesn’t sacrifice taste to get the results he wants.  As Head of Nutrition for the Garmin-Sharp Pro Cycling Team and creator of Vega, a fantastic award-winning line of whole food nutritional products, he’s expected to please picky athletes.  Celeb clients Hugh Jackman, MLB All Star Brian Roberts, and Olympic Gold Medal triathlete Simon Whitfield, follow this regime for optimum performance.

The book has 150 plant-based recipes, a pantry list of must haves, and tons of colorful photos.  Okay, what fruit or veggie isn’t colorful?  Brazier leaves out yeast, wheat, meat, dairy and refined sugars, but doesn’t neglect desserts, smoothies or power-packed veggie shots.  This was one of the hardest books to choose a recipe from, since they are all quite original and delicious.  But here’s one that should make your summer a whole lot cooler.

Super-Fruit Sangria from Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Energy Cookbook

Serves 1 – Makes 2 ¼ cups (550 mL) – Gluten Free, Super Nutrient-Dense – Prep Time: 5 minutes – Special Equipment: high-speed blender

  • 4 or 5 fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 10 fresh or frozen raspberries
  • ½ cup (125 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped pineapple
  • 2 fresh mint leaves
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Zest of ½ lime
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) pomegranate juice
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) acai berry juice
  • 6 tbsp (90 mL) coconut water
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • About 2 cups (500 mL) ice cubes

In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the ice. Add ice to about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the liquid line. Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy.  If using frozen fruit, use less ice.

Cha-Cha-Chia:  Not Just for Growing Green Hair on Clay Critters

Superfoods for Life, Chia by Lauri Boone (Fair Winds Press 2014) is a 75-recipe book jam-packed with doable ideas for using chia seeds in your daily diet.  High in fiber, protein, minerals and essential fatty acids (They’re the good kind!), this tiny seed is cropping up everywhere these days – - in kombucha drinks, crackers, cereal and baked goods.  And it’s no wonder.  Known as an inflammation fighter and natural source of potent omega-3 fatty acids along with other nutrients, chia seeds can boost stamina, aid in weight loss and improve digestion.  Le Pain Quotidian serves it up in puddings and Boone offers a few tasty options for making yours at home including a no-cook one for chocolate lovers.

Boone gets her street cred as a Registered Dietician, raw food instructor and writer for One Green Planet, Self and Oxygen Magazine.  She has appeared on CNN, BBC Radio and NPR and blogs regularly about a holistic approach to health and wellness.  And we’re all paying more attention to that!

Here’s an easy recipe from Boone’s cookbook.

Lemon, Coconut & Chocolate Chia Bark 

This is an incredibly simple and decadent sweet treat combining smooth and creamy dark chocolate with crunchy chia seeds, dried coconut, and lemon zest. I like to use dark chocolate chips, which have a higher percentage of heart-healthy cacao than other varieties, but feel free to use your favorite chip, including nondairy chocolate chips or carob chips.

  • 1 bag (9 ounces, or 255 g) dark chocolate chips
  • 1⁄2 cup (43 g) shredded dried coconut
  • 1⁄4 cup (50 g) chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon (6 g) lemon zest
  • Pinch of sea salt 
  • Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth and creamy.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the dried coconut, chia seeds, and lemon zest.
  • Spread the thick mixture into an even layer on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Freeze until hard, about 30 minutes.
  • Break into bite-size chunks. Store in an airtight container. 
  • Yield: About 24 pieces

Probiotics Rule 

It may seem that an entire book on yogurt may be overkill.  But I assure you it is not.  Sonia Uvezian knowledge of the tasty dairy product originates with her upbringing in Armenia and Lebanon, both of which incorporate yogurt in their daily diet.

In The Book of Yogurt – An International Collection of Recipes (HarperCollins) she has compiled both old and new recipes using yogurt.  I especially like her Chilled Cherry Soup for summer and Ghivetch, a Rumanian veggie casserole that uses 12 vegetables plus grapes and greengage plums. Though the book has been out for a while, I thought it would add to the health-consciousness of this scribble.

Off the Beaten Track with Fred Sauceman 

Fred Sauceman’s Buttermilk and Bible Burgers: More Stories from the Kitchens of Appalachia (Mercer University Press 2014) is the latest for author, NPR radio broadcaster and college professor whose celebration of the American South is legendary.  I’ve already seen most of his documentaries,  “Red Hot Dog Digest”, “Mountain Mojo: A Cuban Pig Roast in East Tennessee”, “Beans All the Way: A Story of Pintos and Persistence”, “Smoke in the Holler: The Saucy Story of Ridgewood Barbecue” and “Ramps & Ruritans: Tales of the Revered and Reeking Leek of Flag Pond, Tennessee”.  The titles say it all.

The 57-year-old’s love for the rural, most especially the backwoods and backstory of Appalachian foodways, is infectious – like riding down a dusty road in the cab of an old pickup listening to a country boy spin stories.  Just hearing him honor the food culture and traditions of South is as satisfying as seeing a curl of smoke rise up off a rack of ribs at a roadhouse.

A native of Greenville, Tennessee, Sauceman is Senior Writer and Associate professor of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University.  He’s also known for his radio appearances on “Inside Appalachia”, a radio program produced on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, daily newscasts on WETS-FM/HD and “Food With Fred” which appears monthly on WJHL-TV, the CBS affiliate in Johnson City, TN.  He is also a regular contributor to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum of New Orleans where he writes for the museum’s magazine Okra.  His three-volume book series entitled “The Place Setting” Timeless Tastes of the Mountain South, From Bright Hope to Frog Level”, was also published by Mercer Press.

Recently I interviewed Sauceman by phone in anticipation of the release of his latest book.

Whisk and Quill – How many years have you been teaching and chronicling the food ways of Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky?

Fred Sauceman – I’ve been writing about food-related topics since the mid-1990s and taught American Literature courses in the past.  In 2005 I began offering a first-of-its-kind course entitled “The Foodways of Appalachia”, which has become the most popular course in Appalachian Studies at ETSU.

W&Q – What are your other writing outlets?

Sauceman – There are a number of publications I write for, among them the Johnson City Press where I have a monthly food column, “Potluck”, as well as the “Flavors” page for Blue Ridge Country Magazine.

W&Q – What is your connection to the Southern Foodways Alliance?

Sauceman – In 2010 edited the organization’s book “Cornbread Nation 5: The Best of Southern Food Writing”, and created the book Home and Away: A University Brings Food to the Table” in 2000.  In 2010 I was one of the authors of “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook”.

W&Q – How many years have you been in radio?

Sauceman – I started in radio when I was 15 with a rock and roll program on Saturday and Sunday nights.  Later I became a country music DJ while working on my degrees.  I also worked in television news with the ABC affiliate in Kingsport, TN.

W&Q – How can people order your DVDs?

Sauceman – Through the university at www.ETSUstore.com.

W&Q – What’s your favorite BBQ joint?

Sauceman – The Ridgewood Barbecue in Bluff City, Tennessee.

Easy Peasy Cooking for Diabetics 

Robyn Webb’s The Smart Shopper Diabetes Cookbook offers real time strategies for making stress-free meals.  Designed with the harried home chef in mind, the book sources ingredients from the deli counter, freezer, salad bar and supermarket shelves to put a healthy meal on the table in no time flat.  It comes with the stamp of approval from the American Diabetes Association.

As an author, nutritionist and Food Editor of Diabetes Forecast, Robyn already has fifteen cookbooks under her belt and is a two-time award winning author of The Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook.  She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Radio, Food Network, Discovery Channel, CNN, ABC, CBS, ESPN and more, and as a local food writer her work has been highlighted in the Washington Post along with a ton of national magazines 

A resident of the DC Metro area, she conducts cooking classes, speaks to groups on nutrition, and even caters special events keeping in mind those with diabetes, pre-diabetes and heart conditions.

Here’s a recipe for the perfect cold summer side dish.  Or serve it hot with melted goat cheese on top.  I might try it as a main course with a fresh green salad and a bowl of Robyn’s Ginger Honeydew Soup to start.

Ratatouille recipe

Ratatouille recipe

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Cookbooks From the Heart

Jordan Wright
December 16, 2013 

Dozens of fascinating and inspiring cookbooks have landed on our desks this year.  Some from new writers, others from established authors, all eager to bring you into their kitchens and bars to tantalize you with recipes both retro and re-imagined.  I’ve tried to pick out a few that are not on everyone’s radar.  Here are a few that caught my eye…and my palate.

In Great Pub Food: Make Home Your New Local by Rachel Lane (Hardie Grant, London, 2013) the title says it all.  In this nifty book Lane brings over 80 recipes of old school pub fare like Tandoori Chicken Burgers, Beef and Guinness Pie, Cornish Pasties and Rabbit Cacciatore into the home kitchen.  Her desserts are comfort food for Brits and the Anglophiles amongst us.  Two of my favorites are Eton Mess, a dessert that piles on heaps of heavy cream and strawberries, and Chocolate Stout Pudding that uses as an ingredient the creamy head from a glass of stout.  Cozy up to this book before the first snow falls.

Edward Lee is a celebrated Korean chef who has been in Kentucky long enough to reinvent Southern cuisine.  In Smoke & Pickles – Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen (Artisan Books, 2013) he has brought his Korean cooking techniques to bear on classic down-home cooking.

A three-time James Beard Foundation Award finalist for Best Chef: Southeast he has been perfecting his recipes at 610 Magnolia and MilkWood, his two successful restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky, a city he has called home for the past ten years.  In this book he teaches you many of his tricks of the trade – - like how to make your own smoker on the cheap, and how to cure lamb for bacon.  To warm the cockles of your heart, you’ll want to try his Asian-style ribs with kimchee and his Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze.  While the Whiskey-Ginger Cake with Pear Salad is in the oven, you could be making his Pickled Chai Grapes.  Stories of his Korean-American life in Brooklyn, New York add interest to the more than eighty recipes.   According to Lee, “I am hoping to capture the inspirational journey of my life and cooking, even as I struggle to remember last night’s cooking.”

Vegans will want to get in on Vegan Slow Cooking by Kathy Hester (Fair Winds Press 2013).  With over 100 recipes geared to a smaller-sized 1.5- to 2-quart slow cooker (crockpot) it’s a fantastic way to have something hot and hearty waiting for you at the end of a long day.  I’m eager to try the Root Veggie Barley Risotto, Green Beans in Black Bean Sauce with Tofu, or the Bananas Foster for Breakfast – - a dish that cooks overnight.  Perfect for Sunday brunch in bed!

There are delicious-sounding soups like White Bean Barley Soup and Creamy Celery Root Soup.  There’s even a fondue made with almonds and Great Northern beans.  Hester includes recipes for Cashew Cream, a great substitute for soy-free sour cream, and a budget-friendly chapter for DIY spice blends.  Did you know you could bake in your slow cooker?  Hester does, making brownies and even an Apple Chocolate Chip Nut Bread Pudding!  Now if everyone would eat vegan just one day a week…

You may have caught the CNN series Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, in which our hero teams up with local guides to explore some of the world’s most exotic locales.  The episode that most delighted me was the one on Sicily, an autonomous country smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean.  Many times conquered, and thus culinarily influenced by Greece, Italy, North Africa, Turkey and France, it is a wind-swept landscape of farmers and fishermen.

If you’ve ever been captivated by this rugged region…its beauty, its volcanic soil, its hearty foods and its equally hearty wines, pick up a copy of Sicily (Phaidon, 2013) and transport yourself to its charms.  This wonderful book tells the history of the island with nature-inspired photographs and authentic recipes from the nine widely diverse regions of the island – - Siracusa, Palermo, Messina, Enna, Racusa, Catania, Trapani, Caltanisetta and Agrigento.

Most dishes reflect the simplicity of the ingredients and the casual style of preparation from Sicilian pizza, Sfincione, and Timballo, the region’s signature layered pasta dish, to Maltagliati con L’Aggrassatu, a flat pasta with a buttery, cheesy, veal sauce.  Each chapter begins with a beautiful story giving recipes that employ regional indigenous products.

In The Way We Ate: 100 Chefs Celebrate a Century at the American Table (Touchstone, 2013) we can virtually sit at table with today’s most renowned chefs, restaurateurs and food writers (and a singer) from Jacques Pepin, Daniel Boulud and Anita Lo to Chef/Owner Michael Lomonaco of New York’s iconic Windows on the World, Chez Panisse founder Jeremiah Tower and Shanna Pacifico of Back Forty and Back Forty West in Soho.  Celebrated food photographers and The Way We Ate Tumblr bloggers, Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz, have created an extravagantly illustrated cookbook chronicling the rich culinary history of the last American century.  Here’s the twist.  Each chef and food writer has developed an original recipe inspired by a specific year in history from 1901 to 2000.

Local chef extraordinaire José Andrés has dreamed up a re-do of Beijing Glass Noodles, while award-winning chef and cookbook author Jasper White takes a turn at updating Old-Fashioned Cod Cakes.  These are super chef-driven recipes, simply described and with beautiful photographs.  The first one I’ll prepare will be singer Kelly Hogan’s Breaded Pork Chops with Tart Cherry Caraway Port Wine Sauce.  Now where did I stash that bottle of port?

It’s always a good time to throw a party, but in Le Petit Paris: French Finger Food (Hardie Grant, 2013) Nathalie Benezet shows you how to do it the Parisian way.  From Croque Monsieur to Foie Gras Burgers and Camembert Fondue, this adorable book offers chic ideas for any hostess or picnicker.  I particularly like the petite Salade Nicoise in tiny butter lettuce cups for stylish tailgating, and the easy-to-make Grand Marnier Truffles.

For the hipster on your list, you can’t go wrong with Lust for Leaf: Veggie Crowd-Pleasers to Fuel Your Picnics, Potlucks and Ragers (Da Capo 2013) by Alex Brown and Evan George, a.k.a. Hot Knives.  That I don’t know what a “rager” is I’m sure speaks volumes, but no matter, the book is great fun and inspirational in the bargain.  The two gonzo journalists and California denizens have made their mark by partying with their friends and sharing the photos of their outdoor cooking adventures.  I really enjoyed this book, though it took me longer to type out the title than to flip through it, but not so long I couldn’t get a sense that these two wild and crazy guys are as serious about their bourbon as they are about their BBQ, beer pairings and musical suggestions.  Can you make Kale Slaw while drinking Lagunitas beer and digging “Raw Ramp” by T. Rex”?  They’d like you to try.  Peanut Butter, Banana & Pickle Power Bars?  Maybe not.  But if I’m drinking the suggested Stone beer and listening to “Clay Stones” by We Are the World, well, why not?

How would you like to have access to wholesome fresh greens loaded with protein and nutrients even in the middle of winter?  How about right in your own kitchen all year long and for pennies?  Then why not make a garden indoors by growing your own sprouts, a fun and inexpensive activity I haven’t revisited since my college days.

Rita Galchus, author of Homegrown Sprouts (Quarry Books 2013), makes it a snap, to grow your own sprouts explaining three major methods – - from growing them in a Mason jar or using a hemp-sprouting bag or even a sprouting tray specifically made for this simple task.  Anyone can do it and kids will get a kick out of growing their own food.  A big trend now is chia seed pudding, which I have seen at Le Pain Quotidian and Whole Foods.  But why not make your own?  It’s a snap.

The book has 200 helpful photographs and ideas for how to incorporate nutrient-rich sprouts into your breads, salads, juices and spreads.  You can even share these phyto-packed treats with your pets.  Most sprouts only take a few days to pop out of their tiny seeds and provide a super-nutritional food source.  Try radish, barley, arugula, rice, flax and sesame, or grow your own snow pea and sunflower shoots used by chefs in some of the best restaurants.

Local and Notable 

One of Virginia’s most colorful and delightful food and wine writers comes to us from the Hampton Roads and Chesapeake regions.  Patrick Evans-Hylton, co-host of NPR’s locally produced show What’s Cooking Wednesday and food reporter for The Hampton Roads Show has written a marvelous compendium of Virginia recipes. It’s called Dishing Up Virginia.  Using his extensive knowledge of colonial foods and recipes from some of the Commonwealth’s best chefs, Evans-Hylton has crammed the book with evocative photos from bay to farm.  It’s a marvelous collection that belongs on every Southern cook’s shelf.  Follow Patrick at www.PatrickEvansHylton.com.

Local food writer and pop culture archaeologist Nevin Martell has teamed up with Farmers Restaurant Group and Executive Chef Joe Goetze to create a cookbook showcasing the recipes from Founding Farmers restaurant.  The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink from the Restaurant Owned by American Family Farmers (Andrew McMeel Publishing 2013) is a healthful, casual, rustic style of cuisine featuring recipes that use the farm-sourced products incorporated in their seasonal menus.  If you’ve ever dined at the DC-based restaurant you’ve most likely swooned over the Seven-Cheese Mac & Cheese Salmon, Crab and Lobster Devil-ish Eggs, or the Many Vegetable Salad with 13 different veggies.  Healthy never tasted so heavenly!   These recipes and dozens of other well-loved classic dishes are given here.  As Founding Farmers co-partner Mike Vucurevitch puts it, “ A lot of dishes were based on my travels throughout America, which have taken me to every state.  Sometimes my life feels like that Johnny Cash song “I’ve Been Everywhere”.   To catch more of Martell’s adventures in food writing follow him at www.NevinMartell.com.

Italian cookbook writer and regular contributor to the Washington Post, Domenica Marchetti, tackles her fifth topic with The Glorious Vegetables of Italy (Chronicle Books 2013).  Here veggies get 100 chances to shine.  It is a tribute to her Abruzzian mother who taught her to roll pasta as a child that Marchetti is expert in all things from an Italian kitchen, both traditional and modern.  The vegetable-centric recipes range from soups to antipasti and main dishes to desserts.  Some include meat but not as the featured performer.  Grilled Lamb Spiedini on a Bed of Eggplant Caponata, Carrot Polenta Cake with Marsala and Pumpkin Gelato show Marchetti’s versatility in the kitchen.  Pizza, calzone, panini and pastas are well represented here too.  Exquisite photographs by Sang An highlight the beauty of these soulful dishes.

On January 23rd Marchetti will present a five-course dinner featuring dishes from the cookbook at the National Press Club in DC.  Wine pairings are included.  For details on the ticketed event visit http://press.org/events/verdure.

In Visual Eats: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Modern Italian Cooking (Keith Publications, 2013) renowned DC chef Enzo Fargione shares stories of his upbringing in Turin, Italy alongside insider tales of his restaurant experiences.  Known for his culinary sorcery in dishes that stunned the food world when he was at Teatro Goldoni (like the dazzling Four-Minute Smoked Branzino Carpaccio served in a cigar box which your humble scribe has had but once and never forgotten) are here revealed and tailored for the home cook.  Now helming the kitchen at his own DC restaurant Osteria Elisir, Fargione aims to reach out and teach the average cook how to be a wizard in the kitchen.

Pati Jinich, Executive Chef at DC’s Mexican Cultural Institute and host of the PBS television series Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013) has written a companion cookbook of recipes from the show.  As in her show the petite blonde with the fiery cuisine shows how you can easily create regional Mexican dishes from Veracruz to Michoacan in your own home.  Follow her on www.PatisMexicanTable.com.

Cocktail Confessional 

In Shake, Stir, Pour (Quarry Books, 2013) by Philadelphia mixologist Katie M. Loeb you’ll find beverage recipes both with and without the use of spirits.  I’m a sucker for any book that tells a story about each concoction and Loeb does.  There are more than four dozen nicely photographed recipes that use her basic syrups and infusions.  I loved the Rhubarb, Pear and Thai Basil syrups, as well as infusions like Jalapeno-Cilantro Vodka and Limoncello.  The book’s foreword is penned by uber-chef and Philly restaurateur, José Garcés, which gives you an idea of the company Loeb keeps.

As a noted bartender, sommelier and creator of craft cocktails who has written for Bon Appetit, the Los Angeles Times and Food & Wine, Loeb will have you making and shaking up a “Gin-Gin Mule” or a “Rosalind Russell”, a throwback cocktail from New York City’s Stork Club Bar Book published in 1946.  She even gives a recipe for the Aquavit that’s used in the drink.

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Whisk and Quill Picks The Most Notable Cookbooks of 2012

Jordan Wright
December 13, 2012

 





This year’s cookbooks brought us a wealth of ways to be engaged in food in one way or another – grow it, cook it, eat it, share it, broadcast it.  While some cover the cuisines of far-off cultures, others focus on a specific region of America or share memories of meaningful meals.  Books on preparing a garden’s harvest and instructive manuals on chronicling your food adventures with blogs, photos or Pinterest.  Proust would be pleased.  Have a madeleine and read on.

Lifestyle Cooking

Each afternoon I am treated to lunch by the writers of the Canal House cooking series – virtually that is.  From their bespoke blog they email a beautiful photograph of their luncheon with a short description of how they prepared it and what they served with it.  It might come from their Lambertville, New Jersey garden; be foraged on a hike in a nearby woods; or left on their doorstep by a friend.  Sometimes a few simple ingredients combined with leftovers from their Sunday suppers or backyard cookouts become a gourmand’s delight.  Written by Christopher Hirsheimer, former executive editor and co-founder of Saveur magazine and food and design editor of Metropolitan Home; and Melissa Hamilton, food stylist and former Saveur food editor, Canal House Cooks Every Day (Andrews McMeel Publishing) is a gorgeous collection of over 250 recipes for the home cook.

Entertaining 

Cynthia Nims’s Salty Snacks (Ten Speed Press) is a fun book with simple, but original recipes for making your own chips, crisps, crackers, pretzels and other savory bites and had me bookmarking a goodly number of pages.  I loved the Cumin Lentil Crackers, Salami Chips with Grainy Mustard, Blue Cheese Straws, Five-Spice Duck Skin, and other tasty treats.  Whether you make food for gifting, cater parties or host them, you will refer to this delightful book whenever you’re entertaining.  Heads up, family and friends, the Coconut Crisps with Basil and Chiles could be in your Christmas stocking.

How To Books

Helene Dujardin’s Plate to Pixel – Digital Food Photography & Styling (Wiley) shares secrets from her career as a professional food photographer teaching photo-by-photo how to achieve the fabulous results professional food stylists use in creating those mouth-watering photos used in ads, magazines, blogs and books.

Three food-centric books from the “For Dummies” series, give tips for DIYs on how to get your message out with Pinterest For Dummies by Kelby Carr, Food Blogging For Dummies by Kelly Senyei, and Food Styling & Photography by Alison Parks-Whitfield – all from WileyNow you can write your own cookbook, blog about your Aunt June’s recipes, or photo broadcast the last scrumptious thing you ate.

Healthful Cooking and Gardening

Health nuts delight! Mark Bittman has you in his culinary sights with Leafy Greens – An A-to-Z Guide to 30 Types of Greens (Wiley).  From the New York Times food writer and author of How to Cook Everything, Bittman puts together over 120 recipes to green up your diet.  And who isn’t going green these days?  Ramp up your anti-oxidant intake with dishes like Bitter Greens with Bacon, Grilled Radicchio and Risotto with Arugula and Shrimp.  Whether its mizuna, kale, watercress, broccoli rabe, mustard greens, dandelion or collards, this nifty book will tell you how to identify and prepare over 30 kinds of greens whether found at local farmers markets or an Asian grocery.

I had a lot of fun with Vegan Eats World (Da Capo) by Terry Hope Romero – named “Favorite Cookbook Author” by VegNews.  Though I am most assuredly not a candidate for a strict vegan diet, there are many wonderfully creative recipes from a wide variety of cultures that would suit an omnivore.  Romero doesn’t just share her recipes and experiences that she describes as “savoring the planet”, she dreams of a vegan revolution.  So imagine a tofu banh mi sandwich, a seitan Greek gyro, Jackfruit Tacos, and Korean bulgogi made with extra-firm tofu.

I’m all for growing your own berries and veggies.  So over the past ten years or so our family has tended a small plot at the Chinquapin Organic Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia.  Community gardening is a great way for urban gardeners to keep their hands in the soil, swap crop tips or recipes, and share summer’s bounty.  So I was particularly interested in Fruit Trees in Small Spaces – Abundant Harvests from Your Own Backyard by Colby Eierman (Timber Press) an inspiring and informative book filled with concrete advice on selecting, pruning, espalier training, and preparing the fruits of your labor.  Did you know you could make wine from fresh oranges or peach leaves?

Photos by Erin Kunkel who once served as Director of Sustainable Agriculture for the Benziger Family Winery and Director of Gardens at the recently shuttered COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa Valley, make it look easy and fun.  Expect to see his produce on your plate if you are dining at Chez Panisse in Berkeley or Girl and the Fig in Sonoma.  As an advocate for children’s gardening programs, he was the co-founder of the School Garden Project in Eugene, Oregon. 

Ethnic Cuisine

Phaidon Press, who last year charmed us with the Noma cookbook whose recipes used Scandinavian foraged ingredients, now brings us The Lebanese Kitchen by Salma Hage.  Hage has compiled over 500 recipes from every region of her native Lebanon to bring us an astonishing collection of dishes for every course from mezzes to fattoush and aromatic desserts.  Within its pinked-edged pages is also a special section devoted to recipes from noted chefs who have already come under the spell of the Lebanese cuisine.  Roasted Sea Bass in Tahini Sauce, a Middle Eastern favorite of mine, is here demystified.

Morocco (Chronicle Books) by Jeff Koehler has a subtitle – A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-Scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora which pretty much tells you what you can expect from its matte finish pages.  If I could eat this book I would.  You can almost smell the rosewater and spices.  This is why everyone dreams of visiting the ancient North African nation and why those that have come away with stars in their eyes.  The food is lavish, sensual and colorful.  From tagines to cous cous with a section on the Moroccan pantry that defines the country’s exotic ingredients.  It is easy to follow and sublime to eat.  You can follow Jeff’s culinary adventures on his website www.jeff-koehler.com.

Also worth noting is Rice & Curry – Sri Lankan Home Cooking (Hippocrene), a re-issue written by former Rolling Stone contributor S. H. (Skiz) Fernando Jr.  The photo-laden cookbook slash travelogue, has book jacket blurbs from Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods and Anthony Bourdain who used Skiz as a guide through Sri Lanka on Travel Channel’s No Reservations.  Visit this link to read about Skiz’s DC pop up dinner this summer and more 2012 cookbook reviews.  

American Regional

Get the jump on your Charleston friends this year with Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking (Gibbs Smith).  Veteran cookbook authors Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart explore the history of Southern regional cuisine with recipes that reflect the Old South along with some modern day twists.  This summer I watched Ms. Dupree making an unholy mess at a biscuit demonstration at Maryland’s National Harbor.  She was as funny on that hot steamy day as she is in this book.  And she gave practical tips in the same generous way she shares them on these pages.

Jordan with Nathalie Dupree

Jordan with Nathalie Dupree

“I always use flexible plastic cutting boards.  They make life easy when you transfer dry ingredients to the bowl and cut out your biscuits,” she trilled.  She went on to show how the biscuits must touch, and how she uses a 9” cake pan to nestle eight biscuits together.  “That’s enough for four for the first serving.  You can put in another pan after that to keep bringing out hot biscuits.”  She is very clear in her instructions and it certainly emboldened me to learn to make the perfect biscuit.  In this terrific compendium of all things edibly Southern you’ll find classics like Fried Chicken, Pimento Cheese and Sweet Potato Biscuits along with Peaches and Figs Wrapped in Country Ham.  It’s a keeper – all 600 recipes!

Memoirs 

Margrit Mondavi’s Sketchbook – Reflections on Wine, Food, Art, Family, Romance, and Life is a personal favorite.  Margrit, widow of Napa wine pioneer Robert Mondavi and worldly octogenarian, has written this book with her heart and soul.  It is a refreshingly candid pentimento by a lively spirit who has found both pleasure and passion in both work and life.  Enjoy a memoir that reads like a private conversation with a close friend, and is beautifully composed with personal photographs, recipes and tributes from friends and family, and illustrated with her whimsical watercolor studies chronicling the couple’s private dinner menus, tablescapes and plein air landscapes.  Visit this link to read my recent interview with Margrit Mondavi.  .

Marcus Samuelsson’s latest book, “Yes, Chef”, is an emotion-filled autobiographical journey beginning with his adoption as a child from his native Ethiopia to his new family in Sweden.  The James Beard Foundation Award winner and winner of Top Chef Masters has written a thoroughly fascinating and poignant memoir that takes the reader from his culinary education in Europe to his success at New York’s Aquavit restaurant, later culminating in the 2010 opening of his smash hit Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem.  Visit this link to read my August interview with Samuelsson at the Howard Theatre

A Table at Le Cirque: Stories and Recipes from New York’s Most Legendary Restaurant (Rizzoli, NYC) written by its creator the Tuscan-born Sirio Maccioni and Pamela Fiori, a former editor at Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, puts you squarely at the best table in Manhattan.  For close to four decades, this exclusive institution has been a glamorous watering hole for celebrities and the country’s social and business elite.  Many of the world’s leading chefs have made their mark in its kitchens and the book contains recipes of some of their legendary dishes including Daniel Boulud’s Black Bass with Barolo Sauce, Alain Sailhac’s Fettuccine with White Truffles, Pierre Schaedelin’s deconstructed Caesar Salad, and noted chocolatier Jacques Torres’s Bombolini.

Local and Notable

Jersey born and bred Mike Isabella has a passion for food – earthy, soul-stretching, heart-stirring Italian food – and he’s decided to share it with the home cook.  In Crazy Good Italian (Da Capo Press Lifelong Books) he takes you into the kitchen with his nonna to teach you the family’s favorite dishes.  Included in the over 150 recipes that speak to his Italian roots is his famous Pepperoni Sauce, the one that wowed the judges on Bravo’s “Top Chef”.  Isabella has gotten to be a familiar fixture not only on television, where he made a cameo appearance on “Life After Top Chef”, but also around the DC area with his casual resto Graffiato and Georgetown venture Bandelero.  His almond and jam flavored Rainbow cookies are perfect for Christmas with their red, gold and green layers topped with chocolate.  Visit this link to read my piece on Isabella’s opening of Bandelero earlier this year.

My first assignment as a DC-based food writer was to interview Carla Hall at DC’s CulinAerie, a catering company where she once taught cooking classes.  I found her presiding over a TV watch party with her friends and co-workers, held the night the Top Chef finalists were announced.  Though she came in second that night, the show forever changed the life of the former French fashion model in ways she could not have imagined.

Currently the co-host of ABC’s The Chew, Hall has written her first book Cooking With Love – Comfort Food That Hugs You (Simon and Schuster Digital Sales).  In it she offers up her versions of simple, home-style dishes like Chicken Pot Pie and Deviled Eggs with Smoky Bacon.  The amorous title best describes Hall’s easygoing approach to cooking.  She continues her presence in DC as executive chef of Alchemy, an artisanal cookie company.  Visit this link to read my interview with Hall on that auspicious night.

A Few More Treasures from This Year

Bouchon Bakery (Artisan) by Thomas Keller; Jerusalem: A Cookbook (Ten Speed Press) by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi; My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories (Kyle Books, London) by Norman Van Aken and Justin Van Aken; The Complete Recipes (Flammarion, Paris) by Paul Bocuse.

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Best Cookbooks of 2011

Jordan Wright
December 14, 2011

In no specific order, we read, cooked, gobbled down and swooned over this year’s prolific crop of cookbooks.  There were experiential books, back-to-the-farm books, compendiums, (Escoffier was reissued!) and books on baking that hitched their star to the cupcake craze.  I chose ones that are unusual and memorable, with an important voice that rose above the din and others that might change the culinary paradigm forever.

Through decades of preparing recipes from the teetering piles of cookbooks in my personal collection, as a former restaurateur and private chef, added to countless hours spent reviewing restaurants, I try to imagine the flavor profile of the combinations of ingredients and techniques in recipes, often without so much as lifting a ladle.  I use my culinary imagination, which is forever wired to my palate, reading a recipe for both flaw and flavor – a handy skill for evaluating the complex concoctions presented to a cookbook reviewer.

Winnowed down from the year’s abundant selection of enthusiastic chef/authors (save for a selection written by a scientist who has invented a new field of study called “neurogastronomy” and another marrying technology with kitchen wizardry), I selected nine from a veritable blizzard of tomes chock-a-block with photos luscious enough to make you want to gobble the pages.  Four local writers are also featured for their contributions.

Months of bedtime reading were clocked, winnowing out and chucking the ones that are repetitive or recklessly composed.  You won’t find those books listed here.  On a positive note several books broke new ground and belong on every collector’s shelf.

Below is a list of my favorite cookbooks of the year.  None are French.  Sacre bleu! One is a re-issue, but deserves revisiting all the same.

Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

The authors of this book have penned over 20 cookbooks, including The Ultimate Ice Cream Cookbook so chances are you have at least one in your collection. Weinstein and Scarbrough remind us that not only are goats a sustainable commodity but that they are “the most widely eaten meat across the globe”, though decidedly less in US kitchens.

Riding on the crest of the artisanal goat cheese fad they are positioned perfectly to take us to the next level – how to prepare and serve goat meat.  In this latest of their ventures they provide a myriad of recipes (and humorous tales) celebrating goat cheeses and the now readily available goat’s milk.  But it is the introduction to the many cuts and uses of goat meat and the rich, deep flavors it brings to roasting, stewing and grilling that are exciting and new.

So strike up a friendship with your nearest halal butcher and try the Braised Goat Meatballs with Artichokes and Fennel, Goat Shanks with Cabbage, Port and Vanilla or the sweet dessert-like Goat Cheese Tamales, a Southwestern treat.

Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi

Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi

Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi (Phaidon)

The most exquisitely elegant cocktail table-sized book this year harkens from René Redzepi, whose Copenhagen restaurant, Noma, is now considered the most innovative cuisine in the world, relegating the now-shuttered elBulli, his former employer, to the back burner.  Written in diarist style, Redzepi takes us on a “North Atlantic study tour” beginning three months before the opening of Noma in 2003 to the present.  We tromp along with the intrepid gastronome through Sweden for lingonberries and Blue Ducks; Denmark for birch sap, rowan shoots and bark; and Greenland for rosenrod, and campanula, a sweet tasting blue flower that grows along the moors and is used for vinegars, marmalades and parfaits.  Lavish photos by Ditte Isager .

Whether you will actually cook from this book is not the point, but you will be inspired, as I predict will all chefs worth their sea salt once they crack the spine – tripping over each other to source the exotica – Icelandic moss, spruce shoots and reindeer.  This is a love story – a romance of the Nordic land, sky and sea – and an inspiration to the forager inherent in us all.

Neurogastronomy – How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters by Gordon M. Shepherd

Neurogastronomy – How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters by Gordon M. Shepherd

Neurogastronomy – How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters by Gordon M. Shepherd (Columbia University Press)

Far be it from me to claim any knowledge of chemistry past the years-ago high school version I took, barely passing the class to the threat, “Here’s a C, now don’t come back!” But in a book on a subject he seems to have invented, neuroscientist, Gordon Shepherd, carves up a well-researched explanation for why Proust so craved the madeleine.  Apparently it’s all about “smell and flavor and their relationship to the neural basis of consciousness, ” the Yale professor convincingly claims – all without recipes.  If you can follow this weighty topic filled with references to the olfactory cortex, and if combinatorial interactions are in your vocabulary, you are going to have a lot of fun figuring out how to get the kids to eat their veggies and to look back in wonder at what an evocative experience it was.  This explanation of the science of flavor and memory might just fire up your receptors and synapses for a swell tour through the laboratory of your sensors!

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (Chronicle Books)

At last this searingly-hot UK chef, whose has four traiteur-style delis and a single sit-down eponymously-named restaurant, has brought his latest book across the pond – thankfully translated from the metric system – to better serve the American cook.  Using a casually conceptual approach (chapters are organized by ingredients) he has blessed the reader with his stylishly imaginative approach to cooking.  He focuses on one central ingredient, which he then enhances, and as he says “elaborates” on, only to keep the ingredient at the center of the final dish.  The sleek line drawn cover belies its ramped-up vegetarian options and scrumptious desserts.

Ottolenghi, who was born in Israel to a German mother and Italian father and writes a column called “New Vegetarian” for Britain’s Guardian Weekend Section, provides many of his most intriguing recipes from his column (along with gorgeous photos from Jonathan Lovekin) like Turkey and Sweet Corn Meatballs with Red Pepper Sauce and Raspberry and Peach Tea Cakes or Sour Cherry Amaretti.  For a simple winter weekend dinner try the Caramelized Garlic Tart with Winter Cole Slaw made with apples and celeriac.

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck (Ten Speed Press)

As far as I’m concerned there are not enough chefs serving whole grains and pulses.  My sense is that they are not perceived to be posh enough ingredients for fine dining.  I hope that will change soon and proteins can take a lesser role in high-end restaurants.  Along comes Maria Speck who not only triumphs that notion but also offers plenty of recipes to guide you along – Barley Salad with Figs and Tarragon-Lemon Dressing, Leek Salad with Grilled Haloumi Cheese and Rye Berries, Lamb Stew with Wheat Berries in Red Wine Sauce, and Purple Rice Pudding with Rose Water.  This whole grain primer belongs on every nutritiously conscious cook’s shelf.

Modernist Cuisine – The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet (The Cooking Lab)

Three modern day Escoffiers set out to write the ultimate guide to cooking, replete with the nouvelle vague of high-flying molecular gastronomy acrobatics.  It will be eons before there will be anything more comprehensive than this six-volume compendium.  Dazzling, iconic and courageous!

Spirit of the Harvest – North American Indian Cooking by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs

Spirit of the Harvest – North American Indian Cooking by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs

Spirit of the Harvest – North American Indian Cooking by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs (Stewart, Tabori and Chang)

This reissue was a James Beard and IACP award-winner for good reason.  It is a well-researched book filled with over 150 traditional recipes from native cultures – Cherokee, Navaho, Comanche, Chippewa, Hopi and many others.

Recipes are accompanied by tribal lore and legends and include uses for indigenous ingredients like cholla cactus, chokecherries and Jerusalem artichokes.  Stunning photography by Jacobs incorporates artifacts and objects.  Divided into five major US regions, you’ll enjoy preparing Cherokee Pecan Soup and Oneida Sauteed Morels from the Northeast to Olympia Oyster-Potato Cakes from the Northwest.  Zuni Corn Soup, a specialty from the Southwest and Pueblo Roast Turkey with Pinon-Raisin Stuffing would be standouts on any holiday table.

FYI: The closest restaurant for sampling regional native cuisine is Mitsitam Café, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (my all-time favorite lunch spot on the National Mall), serving up regional native cuisine.  Their popular Mitsitam Café Cookbook is filled with recipes from the café.

Food Trucks – Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels by Heather Shouse (Ten Speed Press) 

A world away from the bastions of fine dining and haute cuisine comes the food truck – now establishing itself as the counterculture’s kitchen-on-wheels for foodies that eschew formal restaurants but love great food.  Shouse has been on a countrywide mission to find the “best of” and has done a bang up job uncovering this burgeoning underground food scene.  Follow her map and you could be chowing down on some the nation’s most creative gourmet-leaning fast food bites.

Filled with snapshots from the road, the book gives recipes for Winter Squash Soup from Oregon resident and Thai native, Nong Poonsukwattana’s sidewalk cart; Butter Chicken from DC chef Farhad Assari’s Sâuçá truck; and Laurent Katgely’s recipe for Braised Beef Cheeks Sandwich from his gleaming silver truck in San Francisco’s South of Market District.  This stuff is big on flavor light on formalities.  Use twitter to keep up with these chefs on the move.

The Sweets of Araby by Leila Salloum Elias and Muny Salloum (Countryman Press)

The Sweets of Araby by Leila Salloum Elias and Muny Salloum (Countryman Press)

The Sweets of Araby by Leila Salloum Elias and Muny Salloum (Countryman Press)

Channeling the “Tales of the 1001 Arabian Nights” and other medieval texts for inspiration, these Syrian sisters draw back the veil on some of the most delicious and elusively recorded recipes for Arabic sweets.  Culled from 10th century Arab culinary manuscripts the authors (who are also professional scholars and historians) tested and tweaked countless recipes to arrive at this exotic and authentic collection, the likes of which have never before been published.  With charming brightly colored art by Linda Dalal Sawaya, this beautiful, evocative book of recipes and ancient stories is a treasure as rich and mysterious as the alluring tales from Scheherazade’s lips to her husband King Shahryar’s ears.

Local and Notable

The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti

The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti

 The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle Books)

Spoiler alert.  This writer is partial to the author/chef whose cuisine she has sampled from Marchetti’s own hand.

Rustic and approachable these dishes are bold, elemental and divinely delicious.  Not just another Italian cookbook, this is food to impress your guests as well as shine at a potluck supper.  Of course, if you bring one of these dishes, be prepared for an onslaught of impending invites.  Slow-cooked Pot Roast Papardelle; Maccheroni Alla Chitarra with Ragu All’Abruzzese and Palottine (mini ground veal meatballs); and dishes made for the holidays with sweet pasta dough – La Cicerchiata are tiny fried dough balls held together with honey and decorated with almonds.  These recipes highlight the many different styles of cooking in Italy and reveal the author’s passion for her roots.

Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed Press)

Dinner for one (known in waiter-speak as DFO) has never seemed so appealing as when Yonan presents one of his ratcheted down recipes.  This James Beard Award-winning food editor of the Washington Post has found an underserved niche and filled the void with ethnically eclectic recipes that anyone can cook.

Let’s start with dessert, no one does but we all would like to.  I am all over the Cardamom-Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles, ditto for the Spicy Coconut Sorbet that uses a dash of tequila. Imagine that in your next margarita! But just try keeping a fellow diner at bay when you tell them you are home alone eating Duck Breast Tacos with Plum Salsa or Fig, Taleggio and Radicchio Pizza that can be made on the flipside of a cast iron pan.  There are lots more neat solo tricks and super healthful recipes to glean from this seasoned chef and writer of the delightful “Cooking for One” column.

For Cod and Country: Simple. Delicious. Sustainable. by Barton Seaver

For Cod and Country: Simple. Delicious. Sustainable. by Barton Seaver

For Cod and Country: Simple. Delicious. Sustainable. by Barton Seaver (Sterling Epicure)

Barton Seaver is a human lighthouse for the sustainable fishing industry.  A former DC area chef, he has taken his mission around the globe earning him recognition and kudos.  The National Geographic Society awarded him a fellowship, and he is a sought-after lecturer on topics ranging from sustainability to protecting the environment.

Seaver is well known in Washington for his career as a local chef, working with Jose Andres at Jaleo, Executive Chef of Café Saint-Ex, and later at Bar Pilar.  His sustainable seafood restaurant Hook in Georgetown, was named Bon Appétit’s Top 10 Eco-Friendly Restaurants.  In one year alone the restaurant had over 75 different species of seafood on its menu.  He was named Esquire magazine’s 2009 “Chef of the Year,” and in 2008, was honored as a “Seafood Champion” by the Seafood Choices Alliance and as “Rising Culinary Star of the Year” by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

His first book, organized by seasons (Yes! Most fish have seasons too!), is a collection of recipes based on seafood that hasn’t been overfished or harvested using destructive methods.  Seaver shows it can be done with simply prepared and flavorful dishes for the average cook.  Grilled Clams with Lemon-Chive Butter, Crab and Corn Toast and Smoked Bluefish Spread are a few of the seafood recipes that beckon.  But there are lots of side dish, grains and veggie recipes, perfect for pairing with the seafood.

Beyond the Red Sauce – Classic Italian Cooking Without Tomatoes by Matt Finarelli

Beyond the Red Sauce – Classic Italian Cooking Without Tomatoes by Matt Finarelli

Beyond the Red Sauce – Classic Italian Cooking Without Tomatoes by Matt Finarelli  (Self published by www.finarelli.com)

Using a novel approach to Italian cooking, by eliminating the use of one of its most familiar ingredients, this highly personable DC cooking instructor thinks out the proverbial box.  Emphatic about his love for the red fruit, he nonetheless challenges the reader with over 100 recipes that skirt around it.  That the tomato is primarily a Southern Italian ingredient, still leaves him with a plethora of Northern climes from which to source his recipes.  Star dishes include Farfalle with Mascarpone, Asparagus, Hazelnuts and Smoked Salt; Roasted Branzini with Arugula, Prosciutto and Lemon; and a lovely Orange Vanilla Panna Cotta.

Finarelli is a local chef with a huge fan base from the classes he conducts at Sur La Table in Pentagon Row, CulinAerie in DC, Open Table in Falls Church and the Adult Ed programs in Fairfax County.  Few cookbook authors spend real time answering basic cooking questions.  Even fewer have faced their readers in a kitchen setting.  In his young career he estimates he has taught over a thousand budding cooks who he continues to empower and encourage.  You won’t find glossy pages filled with alluring photos, but you will be guided by a gentle teacher with a terrific sense of humor whose driving force is sharing his knowledge and experience.

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