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The Beautiful Books

As I've said before, it's a golden age of cookbook photography and design, maybe because digital photography and photo editing software have made it easier to achieve whatever vision of beauty or perfection you seek. (Though there's a downside, too - publishers often feel they must reserve a stiff chunk of a book's production budget for photography, and they sometimes short-change editing and recipe testing in the process.)

 Among these splendors, there's a subcategory of cookbooks so ravishing you hesitate to bring them near the splatters and spills of kitchen life. It may have started with the Canal House series of quarterlies; with their spare layout and saturated images, they felt like literary productions, or miniature works of art.

 More recent arrivals in the deluge of beautiful books aspire not so much to Art with a capital A as something more accessible, something more commercial. It's called "lifestyle". If you've ever browsed through a Martha Stewart magazine just to window-shop the pictures, that's "lifestyle". If you've bought a Beekman Heirloom cookbook for the recipes but then stopped dead while paging through it, floored by a vegetable still life whose lighting seems to have been arranged by a Renaissance master, that's "lifestyle". Sometimes there are associated "lifestyle products" you can buy - lotions, or jams, or glassware. It might be anything, but you can bet it'll have a stunning label.

Sometimes, there are profiles or interviews or essays or portraits, as in The Kinfolk Table - glimpses into lives beautifully lived, and airy spaces where people with great hair and intriguing accessories bite into crisp apples with perfect teeth. The recipes are often monklike in their simplicity, because, the cooks claim, they are really all about "beautiful fresh ingredients" rather than technique. (The fact is, recipes like this may not have much to teach a competent cook.)

Another one of these lovelies, A Simple Feast: A Year of Stories & Recipes to Savor & Share, crossed my desk today. The author, Diana Yen, runs a "creative studio" called The Jewels of New York, which does special-event catering, menu consulting, and other lifestyle-oriented gigs. The book is gorgeous, with a wide-open matte-finished page, serene photography, and the occasional charming graphic. The stories aren't exactly stories.  They're more a diary of things seen, planned, loved, or bought; a chronicle of materials. Nothing happens on this beautiful stage, but what doesn't happen, doesn't happen beautifully.

When I see these books, I fall in love a little, maybe for a half hour. I leaf through the pages,letting my eyes soak up the rich colors. I remember sitting at my graphic designer dad's drafting table, with Rapidograph pens and T-squares and cases of colored pencils at hand - the promise of trapping beauty and making it stand still for a moment. And then, after a while, I wake to the sounds of life passing by, my kids growing older, our own dinner crying out to be made. It's messy, it's imperfect, sometimes it's downright exasperating, and it's rarely staged at all, never mind beautifully staged. But no one would ever say that nothing happens.

The all-weather fruit

Preserved lemons

Lemons may be associated with summertime treats like lemonade and sorbet, but we shouldn't overlook their contribution to winter foods, notes Judith Elen of The Australian. Lemons go well with so many types of food that they remain popular year round, and in the global marketplace you can usually find fresh lemons in any season. But even though it may not seem necessary to preserve lemons, Elen thinks you should. She describes how preserved lemons "packed in salt or oil and dried lemon zest, quite different from their fresh forebears, are potent additions to robust meats. They're even fun to concoct from scratch on a chilly weekend afternoon in the dead of winter."

Also included in the article is a fascinating history lesson about the origins of this popular citrus fruit. Lemons can be traced to the Himalayan region of the India thousands of years ago. But their genetic roots go back farther--and farther afield. Recent DNA analysis "seems to identify finger limes among citrus's earliest progenitors," with the origination point being in Australia. Researchers believe that "in the time of Pangaea (200 million-plus years ago), Citrus glauca, whose variants include finger limes, developed in what is now Australia."

Here are some popular recipes with preserved lemons from the EYB Library. Let us know your favorites in the comments section.

Bluefish (or swordfish) with preserved lemons by Dorie Greenspan
Preserved lemon, pork and Parmesan meatballs with herb salad from Cuisine Magazine
Chicken with chickpeas, prunes and preserved lemon, from Food and Travel Magazine
Preserved lemon & chickpea pasta with parsley pesto  from The Year in Food

Photo of Preserved lemons (Citrons confits) from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous by Joan Nathan



Layers of lies

Maple caramelized onionsTom Scocca of Slate magazine is taking recipe writers to task. After reading countless recipes that assure you that you will get caramelized onions in as little as 10 minutes, Scocca finally snapped and tweeted an all-caps rant about it.

He notes that even veteran cookbook authors make this claim: "Here's Madhur Jaffrey, from her otherwise reliable Indian Cooking, explaining how to do the onions for rogan josh: 'Stir and fry for about 5 minutes or until the onions turn a medium-brown colour.'" One author who gets the timing right, according to Scocca, is Julia Child. In her instructions on preparing onions for French Onion Soup, Child instructs us to cook the onions "slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, raise heat to moderately high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes." This 40 to 45 minute mark is much closer to reality than the 10 to 20 minutes in many recipes.

Scocca tried several "short cut" methods, including one advocated by Melissa Clark of the New York Times. While he found that this using this technique did shave a few minutes off the time, he noted that Clark's claim was "off by 180 percent on the cooking time. You can save 12 minutes off caramelizing onions, provided you pin yourself to the stove." And that is one of the problems with any of the shortcut methods, according to Scocca. He posits that any time you save by using one of these so-called shortcuts is wiped out by the slavish devotion to the stove that they require.

So why do authors continue to perpetuate the myth of 20-minute caramelized onions? Probably because they are under pressure to keep cooking times to 30 minutes or less. "Telling the truth about caramelized onions would turn a lot of dinner-in-half-an-hour recipes into dinner-in-a-little-over-an-hour recipes." Scocca goes on to note that other recipes also play fast and loose with the times noted for tasks. He takes on The Times' scone recipe as another example.

In which recipes have you found the authors fudging on the time it takes to caramelize onions (or perform other tasks)?

Photo of maple caramelized onions from Closet Cooking

The savory side of jams

Roasted tomato jam

For the past few years, home canning and preserving has been growing in popularity. As people master the basics like strawberry and raspberry jam, they look for new challenges. ABC News reports that increasingly, people are finding that outlet in savory jams. These semi-sweet concotions "occupy the space between chunky relishes made of pickled items and smoother spreads and purees" and offer loads of new flavor possibilities. They also help you make use of any extra produce from your garden. 

Marisa McClellan, creator of indexed blog Food in Jars and author of Preserving by the Pint, is always "looking at ways to open people's eyes to the different opportunities in preserve making." Some of her savory jams include apricot rosemary jam and tomato jam. For the latter, she might serve it "with roasted sweet potato rounds or whirr it in the food processor with cream cheese for dip. A dollop of caramelized shallot jam livens up a grain bowl, she says, and a ramekin of peach-Sriracha jam makes a great dipping sauce."

Naturally, another popular ingredient in savory jams is bacon. Bacon jam surprises the taste buds, because people aren't expecting the sweet punch with the salty and savory flavors. As Chicago chef Gregory Ellis notes, "It pleases everyone and they like it after they try it." He uses it in his pork belly sandwich and on French toast. While bacon jam may be a novelty, other savory jams have been around for ages, like hot pepper jelly, a Southern U.S. staple.

Are you a fan of savory jams? If so, which is your favorite?

Photo of Roasted tomato jam from indexed blog Food52 and the EYB Library

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

At Eat Your Books we want to bring you the best recipes - our dedicated team searches out and finds online recipes excerpted from newly indexed cookbooks and magazines. And new recipes from the best blogs are indexed daily.

Below you'll find this week's recommendations from the EYB team.

Remember you can add any of these online recipes to your EYB Bookshelf - it's a great way to expand your personal recipe collection.

From magazines & blogs:

Kahlua Cheesecake Brownies from indexed blog Bake at 350

6 recipes featuring ricotta from the Spring issue of newly indexed Sweet Paul Magazine

From UK books:

10 recipes from Tart it Up! Sweet & Savoury Tarts & Pies by Eric Lanlard,
indexed by an EYB member

From AUS/NZ books:

3 recipes from Cuisine du Temps by Jacques Reymond

Enter our giveaway (Ends Aug. 15th)

9 recipes from The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches 
by Andrea Nguyen
Enter our giveaway (Ends July 31st)

9 recipes from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden by Brent Ridge, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, & Sandy Gluck

8 recipes from Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes That Respect the Whole Hog 
by Matthew McCarry & Stacy Toth, indexed by an EYB member

7 recipes from Baking By Hand: Make the Best Artisanal Breads and Pastries
Better Without a Mixer
by Andy & Jackie King

5 recipes from  The World's Best Street Food: Where to Find It & How to Make It 
by Lonely Planet

3 recipes from Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining by Bill Staley & Hayley Mason,
indexed by an EYB member


There are still a few days left to enter our contest for a chance to win
a free LIFETIME membership!
(Ends July 31st)


Jacques Pépin on "reality" cooking shows

Jacques PepinTurn on any televised cooking program and you are likely to hear yelling--a lot of yelling. The drama drives ratings, but how much is what we are seeing like a real restaurant kitchen? If you ask Jacques Pépin, the answer is "not much." In a recent Daily Meal article, Pépin blasts this negative depiction of professional kitchens.

While he admits that sometimes the stress of service causes tempers to flare and results in the occasional verbal barrage, Pépin notes that this is usually temporary and that it often "ends in a friendly discussion over a glass of wine or a beer." Kitchens work best when there is order and dignity, and in these so-called reality shows "the confrontation and the bitter drama are not conducive to producing good food."

To add insult to injury, very little actual cooking is shown. We don't see "the process of combining ingredients together to create a dish...nor is the process of tasting, adding an ingredient, then tasting again and commenting ever shown." Pépin singles out Hell's Kitchen, noting that while the conflict depicted may be good for ratings, it is "unjust to dedicated cooks and unfair to the trade." He notes that if you were to visit the kitchen in a respected restaurant (citing restaurants run by Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, and Grant Achatz), you would see "a kitchen that is well organized, with a contented, dedicated, hard-working staff."

Do you agree with Chef Pépin or do you think he's being too hard on Gordon Ramsay and these shows?

The good, the bad and the ugly

Inglorious fruit

Visit any supermarket produce department and you'll see beautifully arranged bins with towering mounds of perfectly formed, glossy fruits and vegetables. There is nary a blemish or mark on the produce. But as any gardener knows, not all cucumbers are straight, sometimes carrots look funny, and apples are frequently lopsided. A great many fruits and vegetables don't conform to the supermarket ideals of beauty. So why don't we see them in the stores? Supermarket produce managers would likely say it's because people won't buy the imperfect foods. But one grocer is seeking to change that. Intermarché, France's third-largest grocery chain, has launched a campaign to get people to buy less than perfect produce.

Featuring clever ads for "inglorious" fruits and vegetables, the stores hope to entice customers to buy "the ridiculous potato," the "disfigured eggplant," and the "failed lemon" by offering a 30% discount. The goal is to reduce food waste - almost all imperfect produce is just tossed by the growers. You may have seen this video making the rounds on social media with calls for other supermarkets to emulate the campaign, which has been quite successful. Have any of the stores in your area tried to do this or something similar?

5,000 cookbooks and counting

5000 cookbooks

Drum roll, please: we are thrilled to announce that we have indexed book number 5,000 in the EYB Library! So which book is lucky number 5,000? It's Monday Morning Cooking Club: The Feast Goes On, an Australian book that Yotam Ottolenghi calls "a remarkable excursion into the realm of comfort food."

The Feast Goes OnEYB indexers have been diligently working to reach this milestone, so thanks goes to them for their dedication to the task. They have received assistance from members who have indexed their favorite cookbooks, so thank you to everyone who has volunteered to do that. Remember, if you have a book on your Bookshelf that you can't wait to see indexed, you can request that EYB do the indexing or that you do it yourself.

This milestone follows on the heels of surpassing 1,000,000 indexed recipes earlier this year. We are not stopping to rest on our laurels, however. We've added two new magazines this month, Sweet Paul Magazine and Kinfolk. Plus we are in the process of indexing over 400 more volumes. The odds just keep getting better that the cookbook you've been thinking of buying will be indexed on EYB - so go ahead, buy it! And if you click on the Buy Book link from EYB, we get a small affiliate fee from the retailer, so we have more money to spend indexing more books - a win-win!

July 2014 cookbook roundup

Every month Susie Chang reviews new cookbook releases and notes trends in the United States. And she may also occasionally throw in a review of a "not-quite cookbook."  And for our non-U.S. members, Jane and Fiona provide similar reviews for new Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand releases.


Oddly enough, the outdoorsy, spontaneous month of July brings a surprising lack of grill books - could that market finally be tapped out?  Instead, there's lots of street food, DIY backyard and healthy books, and family-friendly books.  And by far the most exciting street-food title - as far as I'm concerned - is the Banh Mi Handbook, by veteran author Andrea Nguyen, who promises to make the daunting Queen of Sandwiches accessible to all. 

Perfect Preserves


Perfect Preserves: 100 Delicious Ways to Preserve Fruit and Vegetables by Thane Prince:  This summer's canning & preserving books seem to have been taken over by pickles, but here's one in the traditional popular format.






Juice: Recipes for Juicing, Cleansing, and Living Well by Carly de Castro, Heidi Gores and Hayden Slater: The trend has moved over from juicer books to juice books.




Banh Mi Handbook
The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches
by Andrea Nguyen: From my perspective at least, July's most anticipated publication.  Nguyen's recipes are generally scrupulously tested and her instructions clear, so sandwich nirvana may be just around the corner for home cooks. Learn about the history of banh mi from author Andrea Nguyen and enter our contest for a chance to win one of three copies of the cookbook.



Ice Creamery Cookbook


The Ice Creamery Cookbook: Modern Frozen Treats & Sweet Embellishments by Shelly Kaldunski:  Ice cream books are an embarrassment of riches these days.  This one got recipes for all the go-withs, too - cones, edible bowls, toppings, sauces...


Wrapped Crepes


Wrapped Crepes, Wraps, and Rolls from Around the World by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra and Keiko Oikawa:  It's definitely hard to resist something wrapped in something else - recipes for the portable and the exotic.




Meat and Potatoes cookbook

Meat and Potatoes: Simple Recipes that Sizzle and Sear
by Rahm Fama and Beth Dooley: Stepping up to the great void where the July grill books should be, Fama cooks up a whole lot of protein in nothing more complicated than a cast-iron skillet.




Making Soda at Home

Making Soda at Home: Mastering the Craft of Carbonation
by Jeremy Butler:  There's an abundance of good soda books out there, but this is the first one I've seen that doesn't involve an outlay for equipment. 




Everyday Kitchen for Kids

Everyday Kitchen for Kids
by Jennifer Low:  Very much focused on safety - no knives, electrics, or stovetop cooking.  It'll be interesting to see what that leaves.





Gluten-free Family Favorites

Gluten-Free Family Favorites: The 75 Go-To Recipes You Need to Feed Kids and Adults All Day, Every Day
by Peter Bronski and Kelli Bronski:  One-stop shopping for the special-diet family.





Better from Scratch

Better From Scratch (Williams-Sonoma)  by Ivy Manning: A primer on making condiments and other everyday food products that most of us purchase instead of making. Read our interview with author Ivy Manning and enter our contest for your chance to win one of three copies of the book!




Green City Market cookbook


The Green City Market Cookbook: The first collection of recipes from the celebrity chefs, local farmers, loyal customers, and longtime vendors that make up Chicago's Green City Market community.




The Vibrant Table


The Vibrant Table by Anya Kassof: Over 100 recipes from the author's "always vegetarian, mostly vegan, gluten-free, and sometimes raw" kitchen.




Salad Samurai cookbook


Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero: The author of several vegan cookbooks turns to entreé salads, with ideas for meatless, dairy-less seasonal main dish salads based on whole-food ingredients. 





And...just for reading:Brunch

Brunch: A History by Farha Ternikar: Brunch joins Breakfast, Lunch, Barbecue, and The Picnic in this charming food history series.  I bet you can guess what's next.






150 Essential salads

150 Essential Salads by Canadian Living Magazine:  Salads for every occasion from Canada's top women's magazine.







Burgers by Paul Gayler: Paul Gayler, Executive Chef at The Lanesborough Hotel in London believes that a well-made burger can transcend the sum of its parts to become truly sublime. In this small book he presents his favourite 25 burger recipes and covers all bases - meat, poultry, fish and seafood and vegetarian.



Hummus Bros. cookbook

Hummus Bros. Levantine Kitchen: Delicious, Healthy Recipes Inspired by the Ancient Mediterranean: Hummus is such a versatile food and a true staple of the eastern Mediterranean, where every restaurant wants to be known as makers of the best hummus in town. The Hummus Bros claims to offer the best hummus in London town and now bring it to the world via their first book. They include recipes that go well with hummus.



Rachel Khoo's sweet and savoury

Rachel Khoo's Sweet and Savoury Pâtés: Rachel and her tiny kitchen became famous through her TV series and cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen She now shows you how to make a variety of spreads to serve as a snack or a main course. From a nutty pate, fruit curd and lots of clever ideas for chocolate and caramel, this unique collection of recipes provide the homemade, healthy alternative to all of your favourite spreads.


Good Eating

Good Eating: Suggestions for wartime dishes: A selection of dishes from Daily Telegraph readers trying to cope with meagre rations during wartime. The facsimile edition includes recipes for the perfect omelette made with dried egg, mock cream, mock fish pie (made with Jerusalem artichokes!) and seven ways to stuff potatoes.




Home Baking

Home Baking by Jo Wheatley: Jo Wheatley, winner of the Great British Bake Off 2011, shares a new collection of the hearty food she brought her three hungry boys up on, the fool proof recipes handed down to her by her Nan, and the treats she delights her extended family and friends with.




Great British Bake Off


Great British Bake Off: Big Book of Baking by Linda Collister: And another book from the GBBO factory. Recipes are contributed by Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry and there are the best recipes from the Series 5 contestants.




Simple Cakes

Simple Cakes by Mary Berry: The British queen of baking demonstrates that cake-making need not be complicated (unless you are a contestant on the Great British Bake Off). Step-by-step illustrations and simple instructions ensure impressive results every time.




Scottish Food Bible



The Scottish Food Bible by Claire Macdonald: A celebration of the best ingredients from Scotland - from oatmeal, dairy produce, meat and fish, fruit and vegetables and even whisky.





Spice: Layers of Flavor


Spice: Layers of Flavour by Dhruv Baker: Dhruv Baker is the winner of the BBC's MASTERCHEF 2010 and has a rich cultural background which has helped shape how he cooks and the spices he uses in his dishes.





Salad love

Salad Love: How to Create a Lunchtime Salad Every Weekday, in 20 Minutes or Less:  David Bez, a designer by profession, made his workmates jealous with the well balanced, carefully crafted salad he prepared for his lunch in no time every day. Now he shares his winning formula for creating salads by layering a base, vegetables or fruit, fresh herbs, protein toppings and dressings, which creates a perfect salad every time.



Australia and New Zealand

BreadBread: Global Baker by Dean Brettschneider: With 25 years as a professional baker, Dean shares his expert knowledge of how to make exceptional breads with step by step instructions on artisan breadmaking techniques. From the basics through to more complex creations, plus information on essential ingredients and equipment, make this a wonderfully usable book. Bagels, baguettes, sourdough and stollen are all included as well as a fascinating history of breadmaking.



Gery Mehigan Favourites

Gary Mehigan's Favourites: Over 100 Recipes to Cook at Home by Gary Mehigan: Masterchef Australia co-judge Gary Mehigan lives and breathes food. This book is the result of Gary's ongoing food obsession: a collection of his favourite recipes garnered from thirty years in the industry. Gary also gives mini-masterclasses covering some of his favourite foods, such as bread, chillies and tomatoes.



Miguel's TapasMiguel's Tapas by Miguel Maestre: Television personality Miguel's energy and passion for his native cuisine, brings together the best traditional Spanish recipes as well as contemporary creations that can be made quickly to feed a gathering for authentic tapas for all times of the day.



Japanese cookbook

Japanese: Modern & Traditional Cuisine by Hideo Dekura: In his latest book, part of the Silk Series, Hideo takes us through the seasons of Japan and the history of Japanese cuisine. He shares the basic tools and ingredients you will need as well as introducing tableware and knives. With over 60 recipes including a large vegetable section this book covers all the basic recipes for cooking Japanese food at home.




Best of StonesoupThe Best of Stonesoup: 25 Favourite Recipes: Healthy Meals Made Easy by Jules Clancy: Jules' weekly blog, Stonesoup, about fresh, healthy and delicious food is indexed on Eat Your Books. This free ebook compiles 25 recipes from Stonesoup, including soups, salads, veggie meals, carnivore meals, and sweet treats. You can download it by clicking on the Buy Book link on EYB.


Latest from Australian Women's Weekly:

Best Ever Collection

The Best-Ever Collection by Australian Women's Weekly:  Over the last 80 years, The Australian Women's Weekly has published countless recipes in the magazine. This latest collection is a selection of their favourite dishes that have been collected and cherished by three generations from all over the world.


Dinner with friends - potluck or theme?

My favorite way to see my friends is to get together for dinner.  I love going to other people's beautiful, clean houses and bringing dessert or drinks or sides.  I love having people to our messy, chaotic house and plying them with good things to eat and drink.  And I love summer, because that's when we have time to do a bit of both.

Some of my friends are planners.  They'll make a big amazing protein like a corned beef or something that's been smoked for hours and then put out requests for the perfect sides to go with it. Usually everybody's happy to comply, whether it means trying a new recipe or just picking something up at the store.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have another friend who has a yearly potluck - she invites the whole community and whatever happens, happens.  Sometimes there are multiple pasta salads or carbs or a whole lot of beer - you never know, but everyone has a great time anyway.

When people come to my house, it's somewhere in between.  My dinners are usually somewhat thematic because I'm probably testing something from that week's cookbook, so I might be making all-Southern or all-slow cooker or all-vegetarian.  But my dinners are also potluck-y, because you never know what will happen.  I've rarely tried the recipes before, so things could be great...or I could be in for an eleventh-hour salvage operation, or we might have to order pizza.  (That - the pizza - hasn't happened yet, but I always warn people that it could.) I'm lucky enough to have friends who are adventurous enough to go with that, and good enough cooks that they come with something great (and more reliable than whatever I'm serving) in hand.

What's your preference, planned or spontaneous?  And do you have a tried-and-true potluck dish?

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!