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Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014
Ovenly's recipes are hip, exciting, and accessible. If only they worked.

Sometimes I can’t wait to get home before opening my mail. Instead, after stopping at my Post Office box, I tear into my packages indelicately on the Bay Area Rapid Transit, trying not to appear overly animated. As all public transit regulars know, it’s essential to maintain “train face” at all times, lest you attract the attention of transit crazies. But I must have failed to keep my blasé BART face when I brought the Ovenly cookbook home. 


When I looked up from its pages, I noticed people starting. This should tell you how excited I was about the book.


At least, how excited I was at first.


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Thursday, Jun 12, 2014
The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone updates a beloved cookbook. Relax. Your favorites are all still in here.

I can’t imagine the work that went into revamping Deborah Madison’s 1997 magnum opus, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The title says it all, and despite its 740 page heft, this welcoming cookbook became the go-to manual for vegetarians and their veggie-curious friends. Now, 17 years later, Madison has revamped her masterwork. Et violà: The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.


Re-reading an old favorite was deeply enjoyable after page one and the kefir lime incident. O Proofreaders at Ten Speed Press, it is kaffir limes, not kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk drink commonly found in supermarkets near the yogurt. Kaffir is a type of lime, often associated with Middle Eastern cuisines. Being a publishing concern specializing in cookbooks, I suspect you know this. And hasn’t the poor lime sustained enough abuse lately?  This once-cheap fruit now costs almost $4 a pound due to extreme weather; crates are now going for as much as $30, drawing the unsavory attentions of organized crime.  The least you can do is properly name the poor fruits.


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Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014
Popular blogger Marisa McClellan's second canning cookbook urges readers to think small.

Marisa McClellan, bases her second canning cookbook, Preserving by the Pint, on the practical notion that most people do not require a winter’s worth of jams, pickles, or chutneys. Instead, she offers literally pint-sized canning recipes, perfect for smaller households or those who just don’t want five dozen jars of blueberry jam.


McClellan isn’t exactly burning new territory here. Eugenia Bone, master chef, mycologist, and expert canner, led the way in 2009 with her seminal: Well-Preserved whose subtitle says it all: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods.


Bone’s book is the bible, a clearly written manual well-suited to those whose kitchens resemble broom closets. A canning novice could pick up her book and end up the happy producer of canned tomatoes and perfectly pressure-canned corn. I know. I was that person.


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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Even the most experienced cooks, gardeners or not, stand to learn a great deal from The Art of Simple Food II.
Above: Beautiful lettuce photo from Shutterstock.com.


In reviewing Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food II, I returned to its predecessor, The Art of Simple Food, published in 2007.  I’d recently been immersed in multi-step recipes with complex techniques and arcane ingredients. And while flaming cognac, blanching salt pork, and messing around with shrimp paste are all highly diverting, The Art of Simple Food reminded me that all are unnecessary when a delicious meal is desired. 


One only needs a basic kitchen: iron skillet, a knife, a heat source, and some food: a vegetable, a protein perhaps a piece of fruit. Et viola: dinner.


 


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Monday, Nov 18, 2013
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s food is the Middle East on a plate: clamorous, intense, each bite demanding your full attention. This is food shrieking with yogurt and lemon, garlic and tahini.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is actually Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s first cookbook, originally published in England in 2008. It’s the last to be published in the United States, after the insane popularity of 2011’s Plenty and 2012’s Jerusalem. I’ve no idea why the reverse order of the books’s appearances, only that they’ve captured the American imagination on a startling scale.


For those struggling to obtain American healthcare, or absorbed by the former Hannah Montana’s poor performance choices, meet Ottolenghi and his business partner, Tamimi.  The men have much in common: both are professional chefs, born in Jerusalem, now living in London. Both are homosexual (they bring this up as partial reason for leaving the Middle East for England, where they met). But Ottolenghi is Jewish, born of an Italian father and German/Israeli mother. Tamimi is Palestinian.


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