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Cookbook all-stars

cookbook collage

When there are tens of thousands of cookbooks available (the EYB Library currently has over 144,000 books), how can you possibly winnow down a list of favorites to less than a dozen? Epicurious decided to do just that with the ten cookbooks every home cook should own.

After starting with a long list of 50 cookbooksand soliciting contributions from readers to expand the list, the editors of Epicurious sat down to "commiserate, kvetch, argue, and barter" until they whittled the list to a final, definitive ten. In setting out the criteria they used to determine what being "the best" meant, the editors had some characteristics in mind. 

The noted that a great cookbook contains "delicious recipes that work, beautiful photography, writing that inspires and intrigues, and, most importantly, it covers a type of food that people are excited to eat. A truly amazing cookbook earns its stains through frequent use, and can almost become a family member as it reappears year after year at birthdays and holidays."

Instead of just choosing 10 cookbooks from the same genre, they selected the books "to function as a library, as a group: If you only own ten cookbooks, these are the ten you should own." The article further explains the shortcuts they had to take to come up with the list, including an American-centric focus and little attention to bread or cocktails.

So which books made the final cut? Some of them are obvious, like Joy of Cooking, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Plenty. Others may surprise you, like MomofukuBaking From My Home to Yours, and the Yankee Church Supper Cookbook. Rounding out the list are The Taste of Country Cooking, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and Mexico One Plate at a Time.

Do you agree with this list? What changes would you make?

When books don't represent the end, but the beginning

Cheryl Sternman RuleEver wonder what it's like to write a cookbook? Author Cheryl Sternman Rule provides her perspective of the writing process, and how the journey led her to create a new website. Cheryl's cookbook, Yogurt Culture: How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World's Creamiest, Healthiest Food, comes out on April 28.



One of the greatest pleasures of writing a cookbook is holding that book, that physical object, at the end of what can be a very long process.

Some authors - across many disciplines, not just food - spend a year, or many, drilling deeply into one topic. We amass endless notes, interview write-ups, travel diaries, and recipes inspired by people we've met along the way.  This collection of knowledge, of insight, informs our books, sure, but not all of it will make it into the final product. As with a feature film of predetermined (and often inflexible) length, some material invariably ends up on the cutting room floor.  We can say goodbye to it, I suppose, or we can find another way to tell those stories, to share that hard-won knowledge.

We can accept the book as the end of a journey, or re-imagine it as a beginning.

I'm extremely proud of my forthcoming cookbook, Yogurt Culture. I learned everything I could about yogurt and immersed myself deeply in the subject. I read financial documents and nutritional studies, visited yogurt shops and factories, spoke with scientists and academics, traveled abroad, and interviewed cooks from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

This process had both its intended consequence (it educated and informed me so I could write a really informed, inspiring book) but it had a surprising corollary outgrowth as well: At the end of the book process, I was left more interested in the topic than ever before. Some people get burnt out working on a single subject for so long, but for me, once my curiosity was piqued, it just kept growing.

I therefore launched a website called Team Yogurtas a living outlet, in some ways, not only for the content that couldn't fit within the confines of the print book, but also for all the new information I've amassed since and will continue to amass moving forward. Every day I learn something new about yogurt and the people who make it and eat it, and the site allows me to share this information in real time.

Team Yogurt

I've brought on a team of talented contributors who represent different points of view (culinary, visual, and otherwise) and who themselves are passionate about yogurt. And I'll welcome additional contributors over time. After all, I may be an expert, but I'm not the only one. The more of us who give voice to a single passion, the greater the benefit for those who love what we love.

On the site's new Facebook page, people from all over the world have already come to gather. Over time, I expect we'll swap stories, recipe ideas, and country-specific yogurt inspiration from our respective perches in far-flung lands.

The original end (the book) is now a beginning, and this beginning has no end in sight.

If you like yogurt, please join us. The circle's ever-widening.

A lesson in simplicity

Maria SpeckMaria Speck has a lifelong passion for the subtle flavors and rich textures of whole grains. She grew up in Greece and Germany before moving to the US in 1993, and this unusual heritage is at the center of her cooking, writing, and teaching.

In her food writing, Maria combines more than two decades of journalistic research, editing and reporting with her lifelong passion for food. She started her career at Germany's leading news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA), and she came to the US as a Knight Fellow at Stanford University. Since then, she has worked as a freelance writer for US and German magazines, contributing to many magazines including Gourmet  and Saveur.

Maria just released her second cookbook, Simply Ancient Grains: Fresh and Flavorful Whole Grain Recipes for Living Well. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy, and visit our cookbook calendar of events to see where Maria is headed on her book tour). We're delighted that Maria has offered us an excerpt from the book to share with EYB Members:


Cooking without knife skills
(excerpted from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck)

If you come to my house on a Tuesday night, don't expect to be served a perfectly composed dinner plate, restaurant-style. Much of my weekday cooking is fast, easy, and restrained-a quick wholesome pasta, fish and vegetables with leftover grains, or a toss-it-all-in soup or grains salad. My cooking during the week is often improvised and so low-key that, as a professional food writer, I should be embarrassed. But I believe in home cooking. I was raised on it, and today I pride myself on it.

So how do I cook every day? Mostly I prepare modest and practical meals, trying to bring dinner to the table without exhausting myself. I never went to cooking school. I learned by doing, mostly by failure.  

Cooking every day is a compromise and a lesson in simplicity. During the week, I have no time to cook up complicated sauces or spend an hour washing piles of dishes in the sink. Instead I rely on the basics: my hands and a few sturdy pots and pans. So, if you struggle to prepare a home-cooked meal more often, here are a few things I hope will ease your life at the stove. It is a no-nonsense laundry list of things you don't need to worry about.

First, please don't fret about your knife skills. You don't have to attend classes on wielding large chef's knives to become a solid home cook. My mom doesn't have any knife skills and, boy, does she cook. Neither does my Indian mother-in-law, who has prepared elaborate meals for a crowd of thirty all her life, with not much more than a beat-up paring knife.

I must admit that I have no knife skills myself. None whatsoever. I tried to hide this when my first cookbook came out. I have since learned not to pretend anymore.
 I cut my onions differently than you learn in cooking school, but fast and, may I add, just as well. Certainly good enough for dinner. I never went out of my way to practice cutting carrots or potatoes into chunks of similar size. I simply learned it over time by doing, especially when I noticed that differently sized pieces cooked unevenly. So just get started with any knife you have. And if you want to learn to use a chef's knife, go ahead. Just know that it's not mandatory.

Cookbook giveaway - Simply Ancient Grains

Simply Ancient GrainsThe award-winning author of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, Maria Speck returns with a second cookbook, Simply Ancient Grains that promises to make cooking with ancient grains faster, more intuitive, and easier than ever before. The book includes many Mediterranean-inspired, family-friendly dishes like Spicy Honey and Habanero Shrimp with Cherry Couscous; Farro Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Caramelized Onion, and Pine Nuts; and Red Rice Shakshuka with Feta Cheese. Many of the recipes are gluten-free to boot!

You can read an excerpt from the cookbook, and our cookbook calendar of events provides details on Maria's book tour dates. In addition, we're delighted to offer a copy of the book to an EYB Member. One of the entry options is to answer the following question on this blog post:

Which ancient grain do you most like to eat?

Please note that you must enter the comment after signing into Rafflecopter or your entry won't be counted. The contest ends May 14, 2015.


Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

Did you know adding online recipes to your EYB Bookshelf is a really great way to build your personal recipe collection? You can now do this even if you have a free membership!

Try it out now and see how easy it is. Browse the recipes below, choose one that appeals, click on the link, and add it to your Bookshelf. (Make sure that you are signed in first.)

All the recipes we feature in these weekly round-ups have online links so you can add any of them to your Bookshelf. Happy cooking & baking everyone!

From magazines:

8 hummus recipes from the April issue of indexed Cooking Light Magazine

From AUS/NZ books:

5 recipes from Cook Book: 187 Recipes That Will Make You Incredibly Popular by Matt Preston

16 recipes from Home by Karen Martini

From Canadian books:

6 recipes from A Matter of Taste: Inspired Seasonal Menus With Wines and Spirits to Match 
by Lucy Waverman & James Chatto, indexed by an EYB member

From US books:
6 recipes from Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World
by Kevin Gillespie & David Joachim
Enter our giveaway (Ends April 28th)

14 recipes from  The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook: A Fresh Guide to Eating Well with 700 Foolproof Recipes by America's Test Kitchen

17 recipes from  The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking: Templates and Lessons for Making Delicious Meatless Meals Every Day by Martha Rose Shulman

7 recipes from  Sunday Suppers: Recipes + Gatherings by Karen Mordechai

6 recipes from  Inspired Bites: Unexpected Ideas for Entertaining from Pinch Food Design 
by TJ Girard, Bob Spiegel, & Casey Barber

9 recipes from Inside the Test Kitchen: 120 New Recipes, Perfected by Tyler Florence

4 recipes from Whole Larder Love: Grow Gather Hunt Cook by Rohan Anderson,
indexed by an EYB member

22 recipes from Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution by Kris Carr & Chad Sarno

5 recipes from  Fifty Shades of Chicken: A Parody in a Cookbook by FL Fowler

5 recipes from  Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork 
by Ryan Farr & Brigit Binns

16 recipes from David Burke's New American Classics: Brilliant Variations on Traditional Dishes for Everyday Dining, Entertaining, and Second Day Meals 
by David Burke & Judith Choate


Renowned Chicago chef Homaro Cantu found dead

Innovative chef Homaro Cantu was found dead Tuesday afternoon on Chicago's Northwest Side, according to authorities. Police are investigating the death as apparent suicide by the 38-year-old chef and part owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Moto. 

Cantu was know for his avant-garde cuisine that feature edible menus and carbonated fruit, but he had ambtions that extended beyond being a renowned chef. Motivated by his family's homelessness when he was a child, "Cantu presented food and science as a way to solve the world's problems, particularly hunger."

The Miracle BerryHis former restaurant iNG and recently opened coffee shop Berrista prominently featured the miracle berry, a fruit that makes sour foods taste sweet. Cantu felt the fruit could eliminate the need for sugar and in 2013 he wrote a cookbook touting the miracle berry's benefits.

Cantu worked in acclaimed chef Charlie Trotter's kitchen for four years before becoming Moto's chef in 2004. He later became an owner of Moto, which has been honored with one Michelin star since the 2012 guide. After Trotter died in 2013, Cantu served on the board of the foundation established in the famed chef's name.

In March Cantu was sued by a former investor in Moto and iNG, Alexander Espalin, who claimed Cantu improperly used Moto's business bank account for personal use, including trips, meals and personal business. Espalin also alleged that Cantu was using profits from Moto to prop up other failing businesses. 

Mayonnaise mania

how to make mayonnaise

Almost no food inspires brand loyalty as much as the simple condiment mayonnaise. In the US, there is a cultural divide in fans of the two major brands of mayo: Duke's, which reigns supreme in the southern part of the country, and Hellman's (known as Best Foods west of the Rocky Mountains) which holds court in the north and west. The New York Times  identifies the factors that go into the strong preferences of each brand's fans.

Athough mayonnaise wasn't commercialized until the early 20th century, it was "codified as a sauce by the father of haute cuisine, Marie-Antoine Carême, and popularized in the formal kitchens of 19th-century France." The exact origin of mayonnaise is a bit more murky, as no one has pinned down whether garlicky aioli, the "lemon-touched" French version, or a different emulsion came first, nor where the epicenter of mayo creation lies.

Americans likely agree with British food writer Elizabeth David's description of mayonnaise as a "beautiful shining golden ointment," since they spend roughly $1.86 billion USD each year on mayonnaise. But as much as Americans love the stuff, they pale in comparison to the Russians, who eat nearly twice as much, around 11 pounds per capita each year. People in other countries also enjoy the condiment, pairing it with fries (in Germany and Belgium) and even pizza (in Japan, where the Kewpie brand rules).

At one point, there were over 600 brands of mayo available in the US, although that number has dropped to a handful of national brands, many of which have a devoted following. Fans of Duke's praise its rich, creamy texture, no one more so than the gentleman who ordered a custom Duke's mayonnaise jar in which to store his remains. No Hellman's fan has yet stepped up with a similar request, but it is the brand recommended by Ina Garten. She sometimes adds white wine, lemon juice, mustard, or herbs to jazz it up, but she uses it right out of the jar on her BLTs. "Mayonnaise is one of those things people think will taste better if you make your own," she said. "I don't think that's the case. If it's perfectly good prepared, why bother?"

Do you agree with Ina that commercial brands are as good as homemade? What's your favorite brand of mayo?

Photo of How to make mayonnaise from indexed blog Food52

Keeping the taste while losing the sugar

Joanne ChangIn addition to running an expanding restaurant and bakery empire, Joanne Chang has authored two best selling baking books (Flour and Flour, Too). She returns with a totally new perspective in her latest cookbook, Baking with Less Sugar. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book, and check out the events calendar to see where the book tour is headed.) Joanne spoke with us about the significant challenges she faced in reducing refined sugar while keeping the flavor and texture of baked goods.



This is your third baking book.  The other two, Flour and Flour, Too are traditional baking books, featuring recipes from your Boston bakeries, Flour.  How much harder was it creating the recipes for this book?

This book was much harder! The obvious challenge was reducing/removing white sugar from popular pastries and making sure they still taste amazing. With the first two books I had a starting place and I simply needed to clarify the directions and reduce the quantity to make a reasonable amount. For this book I was starting from scratch much of the time and there was a huge amount of testing and retesting that went into creating these pastries. I made up brand new recipes for a honey cashew morning bun, gingersnaps, strawberry fool, maple cheddar bacon scone and more!

Did you have any surprises in what worked and didn't work when looking at alternative sweeteners?

I was shocked at how much sugar affects the texture of desserts. I knew they would taste different and I learned a lot of little tricks that allowed your palate to still enjoy your favorite treats with less sugar. But I couldn't get over how difficult it was to create crispy, chewy cookies and moist tender cakes. 

Using reduced fruit juices was a super pleasant surprise - I loved baking with apple and grape juice and am going to keep testing new recipes using fruit juices. I also fell in love with dates. Pureeing dates and mixing into cakes and cookies and custards was a revelation to me. The date pecan shortbreads from the book are one of my new favorites. 

Were there any recipes that you wanted to recreate with less sugar but they would not work without it? Anything with caramel springs to mind!

Ah this list is too long for one q+a!!! :) Yes caramel was out. Although I did reduce maple syrup to make maple creme caramel and pear tart tatin that are amazing. Meringues were pretty much impossible. I wanted to try angel food cake but compromised with chiffon cake that came out really well! I tried making a maple pudding cake (similar to a lemon pudding cake) about a million times and eventually had to give up. I still think it's possible...but not in time for the deadline for the book!

There were traditional sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup before refined sugar came along.  What new sweeteners are there that are acceptable alternatives?

Stevia comes to mind, as does agave nectar. I didn't use either of these incidentally. I wanted to stick to traditional sweeteners that people were familiar with and had ready access to.

Have you found there is demand from customers at Flour for baked goodies without refined sugar?

Yes one of the reasons for writing the book was hearing our guests ask if we had pastries that were free of refined white sugar. We just added a super delicious mixed nut and honey biscotti to our menu that is made without white sugar.

What surprises did you have when you started this experimenting with your established Flour recipes?  Any that you think have been improved in the new version?

One surprise was the lack of color in the reduced sugar pastries. The coffee cake, banana bread, oatmeal raisin cookies, carrot cake - all have a very pale appearance because they are missing the caramelization effects that happen when your pastry has lots of sugar in it. I love many of these new versions just as much or even better than our current. I love sweets but I don't like my sweets to be too sweet so these versions are very appealing to me. However a significant effect of reducing sugar in your baked goods is that keeping quality is greatly reduced. Especially with the Flour favorites you want to eat them the day they are baked so that they are as fresh and moist as possible.

Your 4 Flour bakeries are all in Boston and Cambridge and are very successful.  Have you considered expanding the operation into other cities?

To be honest I haven't thought of it before but I've learned over the years to never say never.

As well as the Flour bakeries you have an Asian restaurant (Myers + Chang) with your husband, Christopher Myers.  Are there any plans to produce a cookbook from the restaurant?

Yes! That is our next project - we just started recipe testing and I can't wait to share all of our recipes!


Cookbook giveaway - Baking with Less Sugar

Baking with Less SugarIn Baking with Less Sugar, Joanne Chang - author of the bestselling Flour and a Harvard math major to boot - comes up with a winning formula: Minus the sugar equals plus the flavor. Joanne shares her secrets for substituting natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup, for refined sugar in all-new recipes plus favorites from her previous cookbooks and her bakeries. To learn more about the challenges that she faced in swapping out natural sweeteners, read our Q&A with Joanne. Also, don't forget to check out the EYB World Calendar of Cookbook Events to see details on the book tour.

We're delighted to offer 3 copies of Baking with Less Sugar to EYB Members in the US and Canada. One of the entry options is to answer the following question on this blog post:

What delicious treat would you be most interesting in baking without refined sugar?

Please note that you must enter the comment after signing into Rafflecopter or your entry won't be counted. The contest ends May 11, 2015.


Thinking outside the schnitzel

roasted parsnip salad

When you think of German food, sausages, schnitzel, and sauerkraut probably leap to mind. Husband-and-wife team Jeremy and Jessican Nolen, authors of New German Cooking, want to change that perception. Owners of Philadelphia restaurant Brauhaus Schmitz, the Nolens recently spoke with Lynn Rosetta Casper of The Splendid Table on how they are challenging the stereotypes of German cuisine.

When discussing the impetus behind the cookbook, Jeremy notes, "We were trying to show Americans that there's a different side to German food, that it's not all sausage, sauerkraut, schnitzel, and meat and potatoes. There are a lot more vegetables and lighter, cleaner flavors. I think our goal was to make people aware that there's much more to German food." Recipes from New German Cooking that highlight vegetables include a radish and orange salad, kohlrabi salad with a black radish and garlic dressing, and a roasted parsnip salad with wheat beer vinaigrette.

Traditional German ingredients like sauerkraut make appearances in the book, but are often used in unusual ways, like in a sauerkraut potato gratin. Says Nolen, "Potato gratin is such a warm, comforting dish. I just wanted to change it up a little bit. Sauerkraut, being such a German ingredient, made sense. We put it together and the results were really great. It has that little bit of acidity, it cut the fat and the cream, and it came out really nice."

Photo of Roasted parsnip salad with hazelnuts, blue cheese, and wheat beer vinaigrette from Saveur Magazine by Jeremy Nolen and Jessica Nolen


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