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Hot kitchen, cool pastry

Plum and raspberry pie

Why is it that the peak season for juicy, delicious fruits coincides with the worst conditions for pie crust? All of those ripe, luscious berries, peaches, and apricots are just begging to be sandwiched between flaky, tender crusts, but a hot kitchen can wreak havoc on your pastry dough. What's a baker to do? Follow the tips from indexed blog Food52 on working with dough in a hot kitchen, that's what.

A little planning coupled with judicious freezer use can save you from a ruined pie crust. Keep your cool by putting "your utensils -- rolling pin, bowl, mixing paddles, and any other specialty tools -- in the freezer to chill. If you ever fear that your dough is getting too soft while you work, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes." They suggest an hour of chilling time. Using a marble pastry board can help, too. If you have one, use a food processor instead of your hands to cut in your butter or lard. And you may want to "keep a bowl of ice water near your work surface. As you shape your pastry or form your pie crust, occasionally dip your fingers in the water to cool them down and prevent the warmth of your hands from melting the butter in the dough." Don't forget to dry your hands before handling the dough to avoid making it too wet. 

Food52 offers advice on how to work with bread dough and biscuit dough, too. One trick for biscuits, scones and shortcakes is to use a box grater to grate frozen butter into the dough. These and other tips in the article should help you maintain your cool when working with dough in a hot kitchen. 

Photo of Plum and raspberry pie from Food52 and the EYB Library

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

Do you find other people's comments on recipes helpful? Have you written your own recipe Notes? It's a great way to remind yourself how a dish turned out and share your experience with the EYB community. On each Recipe Details page you'll find a Notes tab.

Adding online recipes to your EYB Bookshelf is a really great way to expand your personal recipe collection. You can now do this even if you have a free membership!

We're featuring online recipes from these books, magazines and blogs - check them out.
From UK books:

4 recipes from Frozen Yoghurt by Constance & Mathilde Lorenzi

From US books:

13 recipes from Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The World's Most Delicious Food Made Easy 
by David Joachim

54 recipes from Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day by Kate McMillan,
indexed by an EYB member

Restaurant names explained

Alinea restaurant

Some restaurant names are obvious--they are named for the owners, the type of food served, or their location. Others seem to be letter salad. But some are more mysterious: you know there is a reason behind them, but you may not know what it is.  Rachel Tepper of Yahoo! Food has found out the reasons behind the names of several of the world's most famous restaurants.

No one will be surprised that the name of René Redzepi's award-winning restaurant, Noma, is a clever amalgamation of " two Danish words: "nordisk" (Nordic) and "mad" (food)," or that Grant Achatz's Chicago restaurant is "named for a symbol also known as a "pilcrow" or "paragraph sign," which indicates a new trail of thought." Sometimes a chance exchange leads to a restaurant name. When Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame was asked about what his New York outpost would be like, he responded that "It would not be like the The French Laundry, per se, but rather an interpretation." 

Sometimes the names are more personal. Le Bernardin, the lauded NYC French seafood restaurant, is named for a folk song titled "Les Moines de St. Bernardin."  Gilbert Le Coze, the late founding owner of the restaurant, "held the song dear; his father used to sing it to him when he was a babe." A restaurant name may not make the food taste any better, but it can certainly add to its charm.

Photo credit: Alinea/facebook

The Splendid Table turns 20

The Splendid TableWhile some cooking programs have turned to high drama to attract bigger ratings, one show has remained rock steady for 20 years: NPR's The Splendid Table. Host Lynne Rossetto Kasper reminisces with Eater about the show, recalling the early episodes which featured luminaries like chefs Danny Meyer and Michael Romano of The Union Square Cafe, food scientist and cookbook author Shirley Corriher, and Julia Child, who appeared regularly on the early shows.

Kasper also discusses the changes that have happened over the past two decades. She feels there is now "more varied material on food. We were always tracking what was happening in the food world in the broadest sense. One of the great changes was that in the beginning, whenever we mentioned the word "sustainable" or "organic," we had to explain it. Today, you don't even have to think about explaining it."

The Spendid Table has certainly contributed to the broader U.S. interest in food today. Says Kasper: "We saw the changes. Some people have said we nudged some of those, or at least broadened the awareness of those changes in what we were doing. I consider that a great compliment." Congratulations to The Splendid Table and Lynne Rossetto Kasper on twenty years of great food radio.


Bigger isn't always better

RefrigeratorWaistlines aren't the only things to have grown in the United States over the last few decades: our refrigerators have as well. Gawker's Dan Nosowitz makes the arguments for why we should consider downsizing our refrigerators.

Nosowitz points out that on average, refrigerators in the U.S. are more than twice the size as refrigerators in Europe (22 cubic feet vs. 10 cubic feet). They're getting bigger, too. Browse any appliance website and you can see monstrous units that break the 30-cubic-foot mark. Part of the reason our fridges are so large is that we keep too many things in them, notes Nosowitz. He says that items like hot sauce, mustard, vinegars, and most oils don't need to be refrigerated, because they won't go bad and most won't even develop off flavors for months.

Another problem with large refrigerators is that they can lead to unhealthy eating habits. A study of warehouse food shoppers found that "families that have more food in the house eat more food. If your freezer is large enough to house the family SUV and is full of ice cream because you bought it in bulk on a deal, you're going to eat more of that ice cream than if you'd just bought a single carton for your sensibly-sized freezer." That may seem obvious, but in addition to eating more, people with larger refrigerators likely waste more food too. It's estimated that the average American throws away 25% of the food and drink purchased in a year.

Nosowitz advocates buying groceries more often, "a few times a week or even near-daily, and the only things in your fridge should be stuff you plan to eat immediately and maybe a few jars of preserves and condiments and sauces." That's easier said than done in today's hectic society. Not everyone lives conveniently close to a grocery store and has the time to devote to a daily grocery shop.

Another point Nosowitz makes is that big refrigerators cost more, both to purchase and to operate. Anyone who has shopped for refrigerators recently probably faced sticker shock at the prices. Nevertheless, you may have to pry our large refrigerator door handles out of our cold, dead hands. The siren song of a large fridge, where everything is neatly stored, easy to find, and that can accommodate that tall layer cake without it getting smooshed, is enticing to many people. What do you think? Are U.S. fridges bloated behemoths or necessary given our busy lifestyles and distant supermarkets?

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


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