A Few Good Reads :: Filling My Bookshelves
There's few things I like more than devoting a couple of hours on a lazy weekend to sifting through a stack of cookbooks, allowing myself to get sucked into a world of culinary inspiration from great chefs, cooks and writers. So finally, this past weekend, I was able to tackle a bunch of recently published books. And they definitely did not disappoint. Here's a few to feast on just in time for cold-weather and the holiday season. I'll be back with my wishlist of books for the winter and my next round of reading.
Super Natural Everyday (by Heidi Swanson). I highlighted this book last spring, but it's well-worth doing twice. Heidi Swanson knows a thing or two in the kitchen. One might even her call the queen of natural foods cooking. She also happens to be an incredible photographer, always a bonus when featuring gorgeous, gorgeous dishes. Her latest book is filled with recipes to nourish the soul and inspire you to experiment with new/different flavors and wholesome, natural ingredients - definitely healthy staples to add to your repertoire. Recipe sampling: Lemon-Zested Bulgur Wheat with Coconut Milk, Toasted Almonds and Poppy Seeds; Yellow Split Peas and Greens with Serrano Chili and Lemon Juice; Pazanella with Grilled Tofu, Sunflower Sprouts, Peanut Butter and Oven-Roasted Tomatoes; Little Quinoa Patties with Goat Cheese, Garlic and Herbs; Macaroon Tart with White Whole Wheat Flour, Blackberries, Coconut and Pistachios. *You'll find more of Heidi's recipes and photography on her addictive blog 101 Cookbooks.
Feeding the Dragon: A Culinary Travelogue through China with Recipes (by Mary Kate and Nate Tate). I am bit taken with this book. It mixes culture, history and food and reads like an amazing culinary travel journal that's categorized by brother and sister duo Nate and Mary Kate's itinerary. Recipes span from across China--Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet, Xingiang and more. Recipe sampling: Char Su Pork Buns, Black Bean Spareribs, Cool Cucumber Pear Salad, Macanese Crab Curry.
Cook this Now (by Melissa Clark). I admit, I have a major crush on Melissa Clark. From what her cookbooks and NY Times articles tell me, she and I cook in very similar styles, focusing on local, seasonal ingredients and super fresh dishes. Her newest book is geniusly organized, making streamlined family-style cooking that much easier and realistic for just about anyone. The book's split by season...and then by month. Recipe sampling for November: Farro Pasta with Spicy Salami Tomato Sauce and Fresh Mint, Gralicky Broccoli Rabe, Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Caraway, Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise.
Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume: Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean (by Silvena Rowe). Take me back to Turkey asap please! I am head over heels fascinated with Mediterranean cooking and I adore how Rowe weaves in not only the rich flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean (Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon), but stories from her childhood and old-world Ottoman-Turkish culture. Recipe sampling: Jerusalem Artichoke Hummus Topped with Lamb and Sumac, Eggplant, Aleppo Pepper and Pomegranate Spread, Mahluta - Lentil, Rice and Lamb Soup, Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Dried Cherry Salad; Lavender and Honey Glazed Chicken with Pine Nut, Chervil and Honey Sauce; Cod in PIstachio and Za'atar Crumbs. Pistachio, Rose Water and Honey Ma'amoul Cookies.
Essential Pepin (by Jacques Pepin). From the famed French chef himself, this book is filled with over 700 classic recipes, Pepin's "short list" of favorites. I love how he provides intermittent tips -- your random kitchen queries answered, like how to choose a good fish or refashion leftovers. Saving shrimp shells and freezing them for later use in a soup or stock, so smart. (He goes on to note his wife's Thai soup with shrimp shell stock with lime juice and lemongrass). Recipe sampling: Warm Oyster with Spinach, Garlic and Ginger. Wild Mushroom Toasts, Stuffed Butternut Squash, Banana Bread Pudding, Chicken Liver Mousse, Pork Tenderloin Medallions in Port.
The Family Meal (by Ferran Adria). This book comes from legendary talent, Ferran Adria, whose restaurant, El Bulli, was recognized as best in the world five times over. Adria might be known for his ingenius molecular gastronomy techniques and 40-some dish dinners at El Bulli, but this book showcases the simpler family meals that the staff might eat before the start of an evening's service. The book is broken into family meal "menus" with tips and tricks woven in as well as a sneak peek into the world of the El Bulli system and day to day routine. Recipe sampling: Meal 16 -- Noodles with Shiitake and Ginger, Duck with Chimichurri Sauce, Pistachio Custard. Meal 7 -- Saffron Risotto with Mushrooms, Catalan-Style Turkey, Yogurt Foam with Strawberries. *El Bulli closed this past July and will reopen as the El Bulli Foundation in 2014, a new creativity center and think tank for creative cuisine and gastronomy.
Ferran’s Family Meal | Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise from Cook This Now | Roasted Lemon Chutney on toast from Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks
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Asheville + Cisthene :: When Beautiful Places and Beautiful Things Collide
I've been ready to return to Asheville, a cozy, cultured town tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina, since, oh...about 24 hours since returning from my first trip there last October. It's no wonder the town has gotten such incredible press in recent years - an incredible food scene, a thriving art community, breathtaking moutainous scenery, some of the best antiquing I've ever laid eyes on, the Biltmore house, and a pretty phenomenal standard of living. Oh, and one very exceptional kindred spirit, my good friend and creative goddess Jen Altman - and her wonderful family, including 3 gorgeous girls who could whip you into shape and wrap you around their fingers all at once. So when Jen's photography was recently featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine, I couldn't help but be transplanted back to the calm, rustic beauty that's Asheville. Helps that the spread highlighted various Asheville hot spots, no doubt a collective of Jen's favorites, many of which I've been to or heard of thanks to her. Thankfully I have good reason to return to Asheville in the next month or so.
Until then, magazine clippings and memories will have to suffice. And some serious oogling over Jen's recently launched drop-dead amazing site, Cisthene, a jewelry and apothecary fiend's mecca. One look at Jen's glittering arms and hands, and it's clear her affections lie with beautiful, unique pieces - her personal jewelry box is unreal, and overflowing. She's turned her excellent artistic eye into a site that might just heal, inspire, or make you simply shine. Have at it, it's always a good time to gift something special to yourself...or someone else. www.cisthene.com
delights from Curate & White Duck Taco
above, a lovely fall salad from The Admiral
may I present Cisthene
beautious bits and bobbles
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Fall Cookbook Series :: Jerusalem
If you know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you have most likely heard me fawn over Yotam Ottolenghi and his culinary empire of London takeaway shops aptly named Ottolenghi, his three cookbooks, his newest restaurant Nopi and most of all, his beautifully inspiring recipes. Somehow I knew nothing about Ottolenghi until a visit to London nearly 4 years ago, and a completely chance encounter with his adorable jewelbox of a shop in Notting Hill, the first Ottolenghi location, there are currently 4. I spotted the shop from across the street and made a mad dash. And then walked inside and nearly had a heart attack. It was almost as though my vision of food and philosophy around eating had spawned into a brick and mortar shop, with a distinctly Middle Eastern accent. Ottolenghi places a huge amount of emphasis around vegetables in his cooking and at his shops...and it pays off. His cookbook Plenty is devoted to veg and was a massive best-seller. And thus we come to Jerusalem, the newest book from Ottolenghi and his business partner and childhood friend, Sami Tamimi. Shocker, it's a doozy. The two grew up together in Jerusalem, one on the west and one on the east, Jewish and Arab sides respectively. The book weaves in the wonderful mixture of countless cultures and historical events that have influenced the city's cuisine for centuries. When you can connect a story or meaning behind a dish, that's when magic happens around the table and that's when barriers can be broken. I love all the snippets of childhood memories and mini history lessons sprinkled over the pages of Jerusalem, amongst 120 approachable recipes - both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, but all oh so enticing.
A few of my favorites that I'll definitely be testing out...
Chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt
Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio and mixed herbs
Watercress and chickpea soup with rose water and ras el hanout
Stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts
...and cardamom rice pudding with rose water and pistachios - for my dad who loves rice pudding
To give you a sneak peek at just one of the incredible recipes in the book, below is Ottolenghi and Tamimi's recipe for roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion :: with Tahini and Za'atar
Serves :: 4
1 large butternut squash, cut into ¾ by 2 ½ inch wedges
2 red onions, cut into 1 ¼ inch wedges
3 ½ tbsp olive oil
3 ½ tbsp light tahini paste
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
1 small clove garlic, crushed
3 ½ tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp za’atar*
1 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
*za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix and can be found online or in many specialty markets.
Preheat the oven to 475F.
Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and toss well.
Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from oven and leave to cool.
To make the sauce, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.
Pour the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts along with ½ teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.
To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.
Images via Jerusalem by Jonathan Lovekin and via Telegraph.co.uk