Posts filed under ‘Cookbook Reviews’
I know it’s not exactly ice cream season any more, at least not here in Philadelphia. Unfortunately this is yet another recipe that slipped to the bottom of the drafts pool and just now is resurfacing since the weather is cold enough to keep me inside and at my computer with greater frequency. To make up for the untimely fashion in which I’m getting around to posting this decadent Pear Caramel Ice Cream, I’ll throw in another cookbook review with today’s recipe.
Falling Cloudberries, written by globetrotting Tessa Kiros, stopped me in my tracks when I saw its beautiful tapestry cover and the striking photos of both the food and places of Tessa’s travels inside its pages. I was thrilled to have a such a lovely book to have tucked on my bedside table to read a little bit each night. Tessa has written the book in a style that melds memoir with making delicious dishes out of local ingredients. Perfect, right?
Well, while the book is a real stunner and the stories within its pages heartfelt and poetic, I always judge a cookbook not by its cover, but by the recipes in its collection that I test. I have to be blunt: the recipes in Falling Cloudberries are not really worthy of the price on the dust jacket. While I love the cultural context in which Tessa chose her recipes, the reality is that the ingredients in many of them are quite hard to find and I couldn’t really think of any substitutes to try for the ones that did get me itching to make them. In the end, I tried the recipe for her potato salad and for this ice cream. The potato salad was such a disappointment I’m not even going to post that one. The original recipe from the book’s pages for this Pear Caramel Ice Cream was also a huge disappointment with the first batch I made, mostly because the caramel process Tessa presents is, in my humble opinion, misguided and resulted in a grainy consistency and not very sweet flavor.
I decided to make a second batch using my own caramel technique and, lo and behold, the flavor of this ice cream proved to be outstanding! The pear is soft and smoky from being steeped in the hot caramel and the caramel itself adds an unmistakable yet subtle golden richness to the cream while also adding a little chewy texture and a punch of flavor when drizzled in at the end of the churning to create little veins of gold in each scoop.
So with the right tweaking, I’m sure there are several recipes worth a look between the gorgeous covers of Falling Cloudberries. But you must be an adventurous cook willing to make the effort in order to use this book for its recipes. That being said, if you enjoy food more in spirit than in process, as many a foodie does, this is a book well worth having for its graceful storytelling and poignant photography. It would make a wonderful gift here at the holidays for the foodie traveler on your list or as a luxury purchase for yourself. Falling Cloudberries may not be a workhorse in the kitchen, but it certainly is a worthy piece of eye candy in the world of culinary reads.
There are many benefits to being a food blogger. You meet a lot of awesome people for starters. You also occasionally get asked to review a cookbook that you’d already been anxious to get your hands on because it’s written by a fellow food blogger whose work you adore. Bou-YA!
I’ve been a fan of The Pioneer Woman blog just about since Ree Drummond started it in 2007 to document her zany life as the “accidental country girl” wife of a cattle rancher. When I heard tell she was working on a cookbook, I was thrilled to see yet another food blogger join the ranks of “real” (i.e., the kind that make money at it) food writers. I especially love Ree’s honest and sometimes unexpected viewpoint on life and food and how she ties it all together. Her photos of her ranch always take my breath away and make me dream of meeting my own steely-eyed cowboy and saddling up a mustang. Or something like that. It’s escapism at its best, folks. Trust me. Or, better yet, visit her blog and find out for yourself.
Now, to get back to business. I got her cookbook, appropriately titled The Pioneer Woman Cooks, the other day and I promptly sat down to read it from cover to cover. I’ve never seen a cookbook so stuffed full of photos. There are glorious photos of Ree’s ranch, family, and food. It’s evident that Ree, who shot all her own photos, has a serious artist’s eye for nature. In addition, each recipe has a photo for every single step!! That’s right, every single step! And there’s a parade of cute country sketches of butterflies and roosters and such across the pages. Cover to cover, it’s a stunner.
There are many perks to being a food blogger. Good food, great readers, and a comfy space in which to share my passions, among other things. One of those “other things” is occasionally being asked to review a hot-off-the-presses cookbook. I’m repeatedly blown away by how beautiful and savvy cookbooks have become in recent years, and The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook is certainly a stand-out among a worthy field of competitors. Any time I crack a new cookbook, I always flip the pages to look at the photos first. Big Sur’s certainly got stunning captures of both the recipes and the natural landscapes surrounding the restaurant’s tiny town that clings to the edge of California’s coast.
Once I finished my visual indulgence, I got down to business reading the text and choosing a recipe to test. After all, the prettiest of cookbooks is just a glorified paperweight if it’s recipe collection is a dud, isn’t it? I really loved reading the producer profiles that are peppered throughout the book – beekeeper, butcher, poke pole fisherman, hunter/forager, even porch farmers (a young couple that produces microgreens from their deck). All of these folks sell directly to Big Sur Bakery, and their products are featured in the book’s wholesome recipes. Reading these profiles reminds me of how different life is out on the west coast. I’m really rather certain there aren’t too many people here on the east coast making a living spearing fish in the surf to sell to local restaurants. If you know of someone doing this, please let me know as I’d love to tag along with them for a day!
Usually when I crack the cover of a new cookbook, I have a hard time deciding where to start with the actual cooking from its pages. Like a kid in a candy shop, everything I see is so tantalizing. Not that the recipes in Big Sur didn’t all read like the chalkboard menu of my dreams, but picking the first dish out of this book turned out to be very easy. I was immediately captivated by the photo of Breakfast Pizza and found myself brooding on the ingredient list (eggs and bacon on a pizza crust?!?) until I was able to find time to make the pizza for myself last weekend.
The concoction of a hungry and hurried chef right before a Saturday brunch service, this pizza proved incredibly tasty and satisfying. I have to admit that I’ve had my fair share of cold pizza for breakfast (mostly back in college, but once or twice since) and always felt a tad ashamed for eating this doughy dish so early in the day. Not so with Breakfast Pizza. It seems perfectly natural to chow down on this – morning, noon and night. In fact, after having it for dinner Sunday night, I happily had the (cold) leftovers for breakfast while driving to work on Monday.
This one is a definite repeat and earns The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook a spot on the top of the stack. I’m already thumbing through it, looking for the next recipe to try. I have to say, I’m very tempted to hop on a plane bound for California to visit the Big Sur Bakery in person. These folks seem like kindred spirits for sure, and I’d love to sit down at their long family-style table and chat about the food.
Do you have a cookbook from a restaurant that makes you want to go eat there, even if it’s on the other side of the country?
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m absolutely smitten. I haven’t been this taken with someone or something since the day I met D. You know how that first encounter makes you wish for more time together. You dream of being curled up on the couch together, basking in the soft puddle of light from a solitary lamp, maybe an afghan pulled over your knees. “When? When will be we together again? Can I see you tonight? I’ll cancel my meeting…”
Now for the shocking confession: I’m talking about a cookbook! It’s true! Anne Bramley’s Eat Feed Autumn Winter cookbook is utterly irresistible and, yes, so charming it will sweep you off your feet. And guess what? The recipes are delicious too!
When Anne asked me to review this gorgeous book, I had no idea what I was in for. To start with, the talent of the team that put this book together is incredible. The elegance of the layout, the styling of the food, the quality of the photos, the wit of the sidebars, and the overall welcoming soft atmosphere speaks volumes even before you’ve tried a single recipe. I spent two days just hungrily reading this book before I even started contemplating what recipe to try first. Really, it’s just plain addictive.
Now, about that title: I too was a bit confused when I first read it. See, Anne, unbeknownst to me until I got this book, has a hugely successful podcast – an online radio show in essence – called Eat Feed. Since discovering this, I’ve been listening to as many of her archives as I can fit into my spare time (along with thumbing the pages of her book) and have come to realize this woman really knows how to spin a tale about food. I’m immensely impressed with her all around.
So, anyway, back to the title of the book. The remainder of the title bears tribute to the theme of the book, which is “30 ways to celebrate when the mercury drops”. Anne compiles her recipes into said number of vignettes, such as “Highlands Hogmanay”, “Fireside Chat”, and “Traveling the Spice Route”. Each of these creative themes includes three or four recipes and usually a historical quip or two. The overarching idea being to present fun excuses for gathering friends and family together during the dark short days of winter to light them up with good food and merriment. Like I said, “charming.”
To step aside for a moment from my tween-like-cyber-squeeling-at-the-sight-of-the-coolest-cookbook-ever, I do have one little bitty piece of criticism about the book. On the inside of the jacket, in the introduction where I, being the good literature major, naturally started my reading, it says “Everybody talks about eating seasonally. But that’s easier to accomplish in summer….Being a consummate (and truly seasonal) cold-weather cook takes real creativity – and a deep enthusiasm for the fortifying pleasures of the autumn and wintertime table.” Oh how I almost jumped for glee in my reading chair! Finally, I was going to get loads of great recipes for winter squash, rutabaga, celery root, kale, collards, parsnips and all those other tricky cold-season vegetables.
Well, there are a few recipes for most of those, but really, I don’t think Anne’s goal in this book, even if it came across in that very first introductory paragraph, was to present recipes for locally grown produce in autumn and winter. Or, if that was her goal, she fell a bit short when she listed citrus and chocolate as main staples in the winter pantry. Neither of those are easy to come by locally in most of the continental United States in January.
But, hey, having said that, guess what I’m about to do? I’m going to use some locally grown lemons in a recipe from Eat Feed Autumn Winter! Ha!! How’s that for irony? I happen to have friends who have the world’s most productive indoor lemon tree growing in their kitchen. These same friends also happen to throw intimate dinner parties about every other week or so. When I got an invite to the last one, I immediately remembered seeing Anne’s recipe for a loaf of lemon tea bread.
In a post way back in the archives somewhere (oh yes, it’s here), I’d once experimented with pairing lemon and rosemary together and I quite liked it. So, I decided to add a little to this new recipe to make Lemon Rosemary Tea Bread and dressed it up a bit with some fluffy frosting and flower garnish to make it presentable for dessert after a nice dinner.
I’m a huge fan of public television and even more so of cooking shows on public television. See, as snazzy and slick as Food Network is, the shows on PBS are much more realistic and focused on the cooking, not the hosts. That being said, if I could order just one cable station, it’d be Food Network. Shhh, don’t tell. In any case, when I was asked to review a new cookbook just released by PBS’s Toni Fiore, host of the food show Totally Vegetarian, I was keen to dive into it.
As I flipped through my fresh copy just ripped from its packaging, I had a few misgivings. For me, a good cookbook needs good photos of each and every recipe. That’s the food photographer and blogger in me, I’m sure. After all, I’m a little obsessive about my own photos for recipes here on this very site. Well, to be honest, Totally Vegetarian doesn’t really impress me in the photo category. I might have set it back down in the bookstore, but I’d have been missing out.
After assessing the photo spreads in the book, I delved into the text a bit more. Again, I wasn’t hugely impressed at the outset as a good portion of the book focuses on very basic information about becoming a vegetarian/vegan and how to find appropriate meat substitutes and so forth. Good information if you’re a newbie cook or newbie vegetarian, but not really what I would have personally been looking for in a cookbook. Again, I might have set it back on the shelf at this point, but fortunately for me, I needed to try a few recipes to make sure I gave it a fair review.
Dear readers, when you get right down to the recipes, this book rocks! The dishes I have tried so far are all fantastic and very easy. Ms. Fiore is a cook after my own heart, showcasing fresh vegetables in straightforward preparations that always manage to surprise you just a little bit (in a good way). I’ve already dog-eared several pages.
For instance, take this Roasted Red Pepper Dip/Spread. I’m sure many of you, like me, have had a few versions of this classic party menu item in your life. I’ve never been a huge fan because I usually find them too heavy and really not all that flavorful, at least not in the roasted pepper department. But since I had several large red peppers from the garden starting to languish in the fridge, I figured roasting them was the best way to preserve them. And then once they were roasted, I needed a way to use them and so I turned to my new cookbook.