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Recipes with warmth and ease in The Kitchn Cookbook

Faith DurandFaith Durand is Executive Editor of The Kitchn, one of the United States' largest websites devoted to home cooking, reaching over 14 million readers a month. Faith is also the author of Bakeless Sweets, the first cookbook dedicated to pudding and no-bake desserts. Her newest book is The Kitchn Cookbook, coauthored with Sara Kate Gillingham, published by Clarkson Potter and in bookstores now. (You can enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of The Kitchn Cookbook).  We asked Faith about The Kitchn and her new cookbook:

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There are 3,449 recipes on The Kitchn (we know because they are all indexed on EYB).  How on earth did you manage to choose your best recipes for the book?

Well, first off, most of the recipes in the book are new and never before published on The Kitchn! We wanted to create a new batch of recipes with all the things we value on The Kitchn: warmth, ease, accessibility, but still a real sense of drawing from smart cooking skills and different cultures. Having said that, though, we did include a few all-time reader favorite recipes. We just drew out the ones that have been so wildly popular they deserved a victory lap in the book, things like Monkey Bread with Bourbon Crème Anglaise, and Sparkling Peach Sangria.

The book also contains lessons for 50 basic skills that every cook should master.  How did you decide which skills were most important?

As we developed the recipes we also made note of the things that we do over and over again: boil water, chop onions, knead dough. These are the skills that let you not only cook well but learn to cook impromptu meals with no recipes at all.

Were there any skills covered that taught something even to an experts like you?

I always learn something new, every time I write a book! It's always a process of discovery. I loved how the veggie burger, for instance, is baked in the oven (not pan-fried). That takes some of the guesswork and hassle out of cooking veggie burgers and for me anyway makes it more accessible.

Of course The Kitchn covers a lot more than just cooking - kitchen design, storage, hygiene, shopping, etc.  Again, how did you choose from 9 years of excellent advice what to include in the book?

It was really a matter of looking at essentials. We've published so many fun and helpful tips over the years, but when you come down to it, what's most essential to a clean, well-organized, and happy kitchen? I hope that we emphasized these the most.

What are your favorite features of your own kitchen?

I love the light in my kitchen. The sun comes in all day - in the morning, in the afternoon, and even at sunset. I also have a really deep kitchen sink that hides all my dirty dishes!

Are you a gadget junky or do you keep things simple in your kitchen?

I don't have a lot of gadgets, but I do have many, many duplicate tools. For Christmas last year my husband gifted me with about half a dozen 1 teaspoon measuring spoons, since I always seem to need a clean one!

Whose kitchen that you have featured on The Kitchn do you most envy?

The one that I (and most of our readers!) seem to love the most is this gorgeous blue and marble kitchen in San Francisco

The Kitchn has 14 million readers per month so presumably you get a lot of feedback from them.  How much did your readers contribute to what was chosen for the book?

So much! We looked at what they like best and what they respond to, and we even included a lot of reader comments in the sidebars of the book. They have so much to offer; we really look to them to decide what to write about.

Do you know what has been the most popular recipe ever on The Kitchn?

Oh yes! Once you move past all our cooking lessons (How To Cook a Turkey, et.al.) it's Emma's fab Thin Crust Pizza recipe

And finally, what is the recipe from The Kitchn that you personally cook the most?
Well, besides Sara Kate's margarita recipe (does that count!?) it's probably these absolutely perfect pancakes by Dana. My husband is a cracking good pancake flipper and often makes them on the weekends.

Cookbook giveaway - The Kitchn Cookbook

The Kitchn CookbookThe Kitchn, one of the United States' largest websites devoted to home cooking, reaches over 14 million readers a month. Not content with the 3,449 recipes on the website (all indexed on EYB), Faith Durand and Sara Kate Gillingham came up with great new recipes in The Kitchn Cookbook. In addition to the new recipes, you'll find favorites like Monkey bread with creme anglaise along with helpful kitchen tips. (You can learn more about the book and The Kitchn in our author interview with Faith Durand.)

We're delighted to offer five copies of The Kitchn Cookbook to EYB members. Click on the contest below to view all of the entry options. One of the options is to answer this question in the comments:

Which recipe (or tip) from The Kitchn is your favorite (so far)?

Please note that you must enter the comment after signing into Rafflecopter or your entry won't be counted. The contest ends November 21, 2014.

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.

Happy cooking & baking everyone!
 
From UK books:


14 recipes from Thailand: The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel

 
From AUS/NZ books:


9 recipes from The Food of Vietnam by Luke Nguyen

 

The foods of Diwali

Carrot halwa

Diwali, a five-day festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains across the world, celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. The actual day of Diwali is traditionally celebrated on the third day of the festival, this year that day is Thursday, October 23. Diwali celebrations frequently include fireworks, candles, and other forms of light displays. Additionally, as with many holidays around the world, food plays an important role, especially sweets.

If you are wondering which foods are frequently associated with this festival, you can find guides to what foods to eat during Diwali. The lists include many fried items such as chakali, a crispy deep-fried snack made with rice flour, gram flour and spices; and karanji, a slightly sweet deep-fried snack that looks like a hand pie. You'll also find poha chivda, a flattened rice snack; maida burfi, a concoction of ghee, cashew nuts, flour and sugar (often colored with green food coloring); laddoo/laddu, made with flours like chickpea, wheat semolina and ground coconut, combined with sugar and other flavorings, cooked in ghee and molded into a ball shape. Another frequently found treat is halwa, which is a thick, pudding-like dessert made from various fruits and vegetables (carrot is a favorite), grains, nuts and lentils, finely grated and fried in ghee and sugar.

This is only a sampling of foods associated with this festival. If you have any favorite Diwali foods, please share them with us!

Photo of Punjabi-style carrot pudding (Gajar ka halwa) from Saveur Magazine

Move over tacos, here come arepas

Venezuelan style arepas

Riccardo Romero, the owner of NYC's Arepas Café, has a big dream: he hopes that arepas, the cornmeal cakes from his native Venezuela, seared on a griddle and stuffed with a dizzying array of fillings, may one day be as widely eaten as tacos. Indexed blog Serious Eats reports on the rise of arepas, the Venezuelan and Columbian sandwiches, which are quickly becoming popular across the U.S. 

The "carb of choice" in Venezuela and Colombia, arepas de maiz are made with but three ingredients: pre-cooked corn flour (masarepa), water, and salt. Griddled and ready in a matter of minutes, the small, soft containers are filled with a wide variety of ingredients. Romero offers many traditional fillings like shredded, poached chicken combined with avocado and cilantro (reina pepiada), and stewed and shredded beef (carne mechada). He also offers unique combinations such as a breakfast version filled with scrambled egg, ham, cheddar cheese, fried sweet plantain, and avocado.

While most of us aren't going to be able to sample the Arepa King's deliciou sandwiches, we can make arepas at home, using recipes from the EYB Library. Here are some popular ones to try:

Venezuelan-style arepas with pulled pork (Arepas rumberas) from indexed blog Serious Eats (pictured at top)
Arepas with cheese and corn by Mark Bittman
Chicken and chorizo arepas with chimichurri
from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Latin Cooking (member indexed)
Vegetarian arepas with avocado and plantains
from indexed blog Food52
Kingfish with pique boricua and coriander arepas from indexed magazine Australian Gourmet Traveller

What's your favorite arepa filling?

Ruhlman on paying attention

Michael RuhlmanAward-winning author Michael Ruhlman is back with another cookbook, How to Roast. (You can enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book.) It's the first in a series of "how-to" books he plans to publish, and he's hinted that the next book will be about braising. Ruhlman provided EYB with an excerpt from the introduction of How to Roast to share with our members. It is presented without further ado:

When you set your oven to 350˚F, do you believe that it is an absolute and uniform measurement of temperature? Or 180˚C, for that matter?...

Happily we don't need to know the precise, +/− 0.1-degree measurement when we're roasting a leg of lamb or some parsnips. Foods that we roast are generous and easygoing. Temperature and time are more critical for baked goods. Leave a second batch of cookies in for five extra minutes and you've got two different cookies (one may be ruined); do that with a roasted chicken and the difference is not likely to be noticeable. This also reflects the fact that the smaller the food item is, the smaller the window you have in terms of pulling it out of the oven at its moment of perfection.

More important than choosing 350˚F/180˚C rather than 375˚F/190˚C is paying attention to the food itself.

What this means cannot be overemphasized. If I am washing salad greens, with my back to the oven, I am still paying attention to that standing rib roast in the oven. If I'm washing greens, it means that dinner is nearly ready and the meat has been roasting for most of my intended cooking time, so if I don't smell deliciousness in the kitchen, my oven is not hot enough. If I smell smoke, I need to pay even more attention and maybe turn around and use my eyes. If my rib roast has been in the oven for only 15 minutes and I hear violent crackling, I'd better check to make sure that the oven is not too hot. I certainly wouldn't pay attention to the recipe in the book I was following because that won't tell me anything about what my roast is doing in my oven at that moment.

So when you're cooking, you're using all your senses, the most important of which is common sense. And that just means paying attention. If you smell burning and your roast shouldn't be close to done, you need to evaluate. And you should not simply pay attention to today's chicken or pan of root vegetables and then hit the "reset" button in your brain. You should have roasted chicken and root vegetable files in the vault of your cooking experience...This is how, over time, you develop cooking sense. Cooking sense comes from being aware; to be aware we use taste, touch, smell, sound, sight, experience, and common sense over the continuum of our cooking lives. We might never be able to achieve a state of absolute awareness in the kitchen, but if we strive to pay attention, we continually turn up that awareness by degrees each time we apply heat to food.

Now, having addressed your most valuable cooking tool, well protected between your ears, I return to the primary roasting tool, the oven...generally speaking, "Know thy oven" means paying attention to how it has behaved in the past, knowing where the hot spots are, understanding how your particular convection fan works, and so on. Implicit in the command is not to be overly dependent on a recipe. Common sense should almost always override a recipe instruction.

Excerpted from RUHLMAN'S HOW TO ROAST. Copyright 2014 by Michael Ruhlman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or printed without permission in writing from the publisher. Reprinted by arrangement with Little, Brown and Company.

Cookbook giveaway - How to Roast

How to RoastMichael Ruhlman begins a new series of "how to" cookbooks with How to Roast, a treatise that provides clear, no-nonsense advice on a fundamental cooking technique. "Of all our cooking terms," Ruhlman writes, "sautéed, grilled, poached, broiled--I believe roasted is the most evocative adjective we can attach to our food, conjuring as it does ideas of deep rich flavors and delicious browning." You can read an excerpt from the book to get a flavor for the practical guidance Ruhlman dispenses to accompany the book's 20 recipes, illustrated by dozens of color photographs depicting both step-by-step instructions and gorgeous finished dishes.

We're delighted to offer five copies of How to Roast to EYB members in the United States and Canada only. Click on the contest below to view all of the entry options. Please note that while one option is to answer a question in the comments, you must enter through Rafflecopter or your entries won't be counted. The contest ends November 18, 2014.

 

Artisanal meat alternatives?

Aubrey Walch

Until recently, meat alternatives were mostly shunned by foodies, because many of the products were highly-processed, bland, had weird textures, or a combination of the three. That's changing, accordng to an article posted on Civil Eats. Kristina Johnson reports that as demand for meatless protein grows, it has spurred the creation of companies devoted to foodie-worthy meat alternatives.

One of these companies is called No-Evil Foods, started earlier this year in Asheville, North Carolina. No-Evil produces seitan-based Italian sausage, roast, and chorizo. Inspired to find something better than what was commercially available, co-owners Mike Woliansky and Sadra Schadel, both vegetarians, sought a way to make vegetarian alternatives that were not heavily processed. They also wanted to appeal to meat-eaters, so they recruited friends to taste test their products. Apparently they have succeeded, because Schadel notes that people "come up to us at the farmers' market and say they haven't had chorizo as good as ours since their grandmother made it."

Another success story comes from the opposite side of the North American continent, where San Francisco chef James Corwell creats a sushi alternative made with tomatoes cooked sous-vide with select herbs, tamari, rice wine vinegar, and a touch of sugar. And in the middle of the U.S., siblings Aubrey and Kale Walch recently started The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis, taking the city's farmers' market by storm with products that have the look, taste, and feel of meat. Their ultimate goal is to create "a vegan butcher shop with cheeses and meats and sauces and meat rubs... anything you'd find in a butcher shop." 

To more fully fund their ventures, Chef Corwell of Tomato Sushi has a Kickstarter in the works and the Walch duo are planning one next month. What is your take on these "meatless meats" - tofurkey all over again, or do you find them promising?

Photo of Aubry Walch courtesy The Herbivorous Butcher 

The Perfect Instruction

So, over my years as a cookbook reviewer, I've come to realize there is actually a word formula for the kind of recipe that works for me.

The ingredients list doesn't matter that much - unless there's a bunch of callouts in the list, like "Saba vinaigrette (see p. 289)" and "48-hour croutons (see p. 311-313)".  

No, for me, what makes or breaks a recipe is the way the instructions are written.  What I like to see looks like this, in what I will call, for lack of a better term, Mad Libs form:

"[ACTIVE VERB] [INGREDIENT] [ADVERB] over [TEMPERATURE], for about [X-Y MINUTES], until [VIVID VISUAL DESCRIPTION].  You should [SEE/HEAR/SMELL/FEEL] [DETAIL] ["-ing" VERB]."

I'll make up an example:

"Sweat the shallots and shiitakes gently over very low heat, for about 4-5 minutes, until the shallots give up their rigidity and the mushrooms start to curl a bit on the edges.  You should hear the mixture start to hiss a little as it begins to dry out."

Sometimes it's not exactly that formula.  But I know it when I see it.  Here, for example, are several examples from Dorie Greenspan's new Baking Chez Moi:   "As the bubbles grow big, be on the lookout for the sugar to start changing color around the edges."   Or  "You'll think that there isn't enough liquid to coat all the dry ingredients, but keep stirring..."  Or  "Don't be discouraged if the mixture curdles; it will be fine as soon as you add the flour."

Even a little single-subject book can be a giant in the details department. In The Banh Mi Handbook, Andrea Nguyen keeps track of the small stuff with both eyes and nose:  "Add the pepper and sugar, then grind to a fragrant, sandy mixture."  And - I love this one about portobellos - "Steam will shoot from under the caps as they cook gill sides down."

We talked a couple weeks ago about the way some authors make you use your judgement, with subjective terms like "squidgy" and "dollop". Sometimes I enjoy that too.  But by and large, I like my hand held.  It can make for a wordier recipe, but I always feel like I'm in good hands when someone's watching out for the tiniest signs and symptoms.  It forces me to pay attention too, and, I'm pretty sure, that makes me a better cook and a better writer, too.

Observer Food Monthly announces award winners

Persiana, Nigella Lawson, & Jack Monroe

Awards season in the U.S. won't happen for several months, but in the U.K. there's food award action now, as indexed magazine Observer Food Monthly announces its 2014 award winners. While much of the action focuses on restaurants and retailers, there are some awards that EYB members outside of the U.K. may find interesting.

Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour won the award for best cookbook. Ghayour's take "on Middle Eastern cooking mixes it up a bit and includes turmeric and cumin roast potatoes and pomegranate-glazed pork as well as pistachio and lemon shortbread." The best food blog award goes to Jack Monroe, the blogger, cookbook writer, and austerity activist who "has defeated all-comers, from Edwina Currie to internet trolls, on her way to success."

If you're in the market for a new brownie recipe, you might want to try out the winner for best reader's recipe: smokin' pig licker brownies by Gavan Knox (yes, they contain bacon). Read more about the 2014 award winners, including an interview with Nigella Lawson, OFM's food personality of the year. 

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

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