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'Low and slow' works for more than just meat

 baby carrots

Read any modern vegetable recipe and you're likely to see words like char, sear, and roast - all high heat methods. This reflects the current emphasis on treating vegetables like meat as many people embrace a more vegetable-centric diet. But just as many meats benefit from 'low and slow' cooking, so can vegetables, says indexed magazine Bon Appétit.

Don't worry, the magazine isn't advocating boiling your vegetables to death. Instead, they suggest "dry roasting that veg with a little olive oil, a good sprinkle of salt, and a sprinkle of chile flakes for good measure-in a 250° degree oven until the exterior gets all shrivel-y and the interior takes on a delicate, custard-like texture." The goal is to concentrate the natural flavors of the vegetables instead of adding flavor with char. 

Just as with braises and stews, patience is rewarded. It may take an hour and a half to slow-roast fresh carrots, but you end up with a "beautifully concentrated sweetness." Likewise, it can take up to two and a half hours for a halved head of cauliflower to become tender, "but the result-moist, rich, deeply satisfying-is worth the wait."

The problems with food media


I'll admit it; I'm a food writing junkie. A significant portion of my free time is consumed by reading about food in print media (albeit less and less frequently), in cookbooks and, of course, on a plethora of websites and blogs. There are definite trends in the discourse on the web. Some of that revolves around seasonal items like holidays and weather-driven foodstuffs, but other trends seem to be picked up just to echo popular sites or to drive clicks. The website First We Feast discusses this phenomenon, and also criticizes food media for additional perceived flaws.

The article notes that over the past several years, the food media landscape has been in a state of flux, with big names like Bittman, Parsons, and Cowin departing the scene, among other changes. "Yet through all the ups and downs," they note, "something rankled: Food media has felt, for lack of a better word, soft. The most interesting and challenging stories are told from outside of the industry, and the appealing feralness of early food blogs has been neutered as websites settled into their role as the new establishment."

Specific fault-finding includes the theory that food writers are too scared of losing access to be critical. This seems to be belied by the recent takedowns of the Mast Brothers and the disparaging review of Per Se by food critic Pete Wells. But even those negative articles are problematic, says First We Feast. "While food-media outlets are quick to pull punches, they can also be opportunistic bullies at times, switching from boosterism to bashing only when it suits them best," they say. If it feels safe to do so, they posit, websites will gleefully tear down once-revered idols, but only after someone else (like an obscure blog) gets the ball rolling. 

On recipes, First We Feast is even more critical: "We've hit peak recipe, and too many of them are bad." The site laments the shift from cookbooks written by homecooking stalwarts like Diane Kennedy and Madhur Jaffrey to more chef-driven books, saying that "too many new cookbooks are little more than vanity projects, packed with elaborate recipes that require obscure ingredients and full brigades to pull off correctly." 

Some of the criticism may be fair, like the fact that gatekeepers are too homogenous, leading to lack of diversity. Other parts of the article seem to be attributing to food writing the same changes that all media has undergone as the world has shifted from print media to an online platform. And for its complaints, the site offers few suggestions for what should be done differently. Perhaps this introspection will lead to changes, but ideas on how to improve would have been welcome.

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. New recipes from the best blogs are indexed daily and members index their favorite online recipes using the Bookmarklet all the time.

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.

Happy cooking and baking everyone!

From magazines:

Goat Cheese, Bacon and Olive Quick Bread by David Lebovitz from the February issue of indexed Food & Wine Magazine

From UK books:

3 recipes from Chicken: Over Two Hundred Recipes Devoted to One Glorious Bird
by Catherine Phipps

26 recipes from Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: 200 Fab Fish Dishes by Gee Charman,
indexed by an EYB member

From AUS/NZ books:

91 recipes from Masterclass: How to Cook Perfect Pasta by The Australian Women's Weekly, indexed by an EYB member


Julia Child's home in France is sold

 La Pitchoune

Last fall we reported that Julia Child's home in France, La Pitchoune, was for sale. Speculation abounded as to what would become of the house, which Child built on land owned by her best friend, Simone Beck, who co-authored Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Recently we learned that Makenna Johnston, an alumnus from Smith College (the same university that Child attended) purchased the home and has plans to turn it into a culinary retreat center. Johnston grew up in a family of Francophiles, and she herself is a big fan of Julia. "I watched reruns on PBS, and I used to imitate her voice," Johnston says.

When she saw the article announcing that the house was for sale, Johnston was intrigued but didn't think it was in the cards. However, after she and her family learned that Paris was under attack, she decided to seriously consider purchasing the home. "When [that] happened, I started thinking about how Julia Child was a total peacenik. She worked for the government, and the best word from back then is she was very democratic. She was very involved in improving communities through food," Johnston says.

She and her wife, Yvonne, conceived of a "project devoted to Child's legacy of joy, compassion, and sharing the love of food." Yvonne, who left her full-time military career in 2014, enrolled in culinary school. The pair gathered together a few investors and made an offer on La Pitchoune, which was accepted. After closing, they plan to make the house "a cooking retreat with excursions in yoga." It "will be a home base for a center on culinary exploration, peace, and community," Johnston shared with the Smith College community.

Chefs create culinary award that goes beyond the kitchen

 books by chefs

A group of the world's top chefs recently announced a new global culinary prize aimed at rewarding cooks who use their skills to make an impact beyond the kitchen. The award, created by the Spanish Basque Culinary Centre, is slated for cooks with "an initiative in the gastronomic area that will be strongly engaged with society."

Top chefs Joan Roca of famed restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck, and Peru's Gaston Acurio will be on the jury of the award. While these chefs hail from fine dining establishments, the award won't be limited to chefs from those types of eateries. "The key of the award is that it doesn't necessarily have to be haute cuisine," Roca told AFP.

Celebrity chefs have frequently used their fame and skills for charitable work, like Jamie Oliver who campaigned for healthy school dinners and Gaston Acurio, who has opened a culinary school for underprivileged children in Peru. But until now, there hasn't been an award aimed at such philanthropy. "Every year the prize will go to a chef who demonstrates how gastronomy can translate into a transformative force," said Joxe Mari Aizega, general manager of the Basque Culinary Centre. "It will help to highlight the work that is being done the world over -- projects linked to cultural themes, social responsibility, sustainability or economic development."

To be considered for the prize, chefs must be nominated online by a professional from the gastronomy world. The winner will receive 100,000 euros ($109,000 USD) that he or she will have to reinvest into a project "that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society."

Celebrate National Carrot Cake Day

 carrot cake

The short month of February doesn't have a lot going for it in the celebration department. Valentine's Day gets a lot of attention but if you aren't in a relationship that date can be rather depressing. Plus, residents in the Northern Hemisphere have grown weary of the month's old, dark days and are pining away for the spring weather. Before you get too depressed, take a few minutes out of your schedule and get ready to celebrate National Carrot Cake Day.

Like most of these national food days, the date is rather arbitrary. The good news about this day is that you can count your celebratory cake as part of your vegetable servings. According to the lore surrounding this food holiday, carrots have long been used in sweets, dating back to the Middle Ages. Then, sugar and other sweeteners were rather scarce, so naturally sweet carrots were substituted in desserts and puddings.

There is no shortage of carrot cake recipes in the EYB Library. Try one of these Member favorites:

Vegan carrot cake from Tinned Tomatoes by Jacqueline Meldrum
Carrot layer cake
from Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine by Christina Tosi
The ultimate carrot cake
from Delia's Cakes by Delia Smith
Spiced carrot, pistachio and almond cake with rosewater cream
from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour
Bill's big carrot cake
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (pictured top)

Favorite foods of political candidates

 Goat cheese stuffed jalapenos

If you live in the US, you can't escape from constant news about the US Presidential race. The first real contest of the primary season took place last night in Iowa, so the race is only going to get more heated. While many of the news stories may raise your blood pressure, this one should be less divisive: a report on the favorite foods of many top candidates.

Bernie Sanders, the junior Senator from Vermont, is pretty traditional. He likes eggs for breakfast and has expressed a fondness for pork chops. His self-professed secret kitchen skill: "I'm pretty good on the grill," he says. On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump is more of a snacker. On the campaign trail, Trump apparently enjoys cherry-vanilla ice cream and See's candy, according to Us magazine. He said he's been losing weight on the campaign trail, saying that after he is finished speaking at an event he often has no appetite. 

Ben Carson is the only vegetarian in the crowded field of candidates. He's eschewed meat since at least 1990. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush may belong to the same political party, but they don't agree on at least one food: avocados. Cruz passionately despises them, but Bush says that his secret cooking talent is making a "mean guacamole."

Hillary Clinton is a fan of spicy food. Former White House chef Walter Scheib told Slate that during her time in the White House, "Clinton went wild for sweet potatoes spiked with fiery red curry paste. After that, Scheib always kept the White House kitchen stashed with assorted hot sauces." More recently, she told People magazine  that her favorite thing to eat on the campaign trail is jalapenos. "I started during the '92 campaign, and I believe they keep me going!" she said.

Photo of Goat cheese-stuffed jalapeños with ranchero sauce from Cooking Light Magazine

A high steaks venture

 Grilled beef and mushroom burger

We all know that beef come from cows (heifers and steers, to be more precise). But as The Wall Street Journal reports, several companies are vying to be the first to make meat in the lab and bring it to the market. (If you have trouble with the link, Google "Wall Street Journal lab grown meat" and you should be able to access a free version of the story.)

The goal of these startups "is to remake modern animal agriculture, which the United Nations estimates consumes one-third of the world's grains, with about a quarter of all land used for grazing. The companies say that growing meat with cells and bioreactors-similar to fermentors used to brew beer-consumes a fraction of the nutrients, creates far less waste and avoids the need for antibiotics and additives commonly used in meat production."

Of course environmental concerns are only one reason for the companies to attempt to make commercially produced, lab-cultured meat. Their is potentially a huge market to tap, since US consumers spent close to $200 billion on meat and poultry last year. While the potential is enormous, skeptics say that people who are clamoring for naturally-raised, organic, or hormone-free beef will not rush to embrace "test-tube" meat. Then there is the matter of taste - so far the samples haven't earned high praise among testers.

Would you be willing to try cultured meat products if they tasted like the real thing?

Photo of Grilled beef and mushroom burger from indexed blog Simply Recipes

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:

Berry and Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd Cream by Claire Aldous from the
Feb/Mar issue of indexed Dish Magazine

From AUS/NZ books:

5 recipes from Meat: How to Choose, Cook and Eat It by Adrian Richardson
(Also published as Meat: Delicious Dinners for Every Night of the Week)

From US books:

5 recipes from The Mediterranean Family Table: 125 Simple, Everyday Recipes Made with the Most Delicious and Healthiest Food on Earth by Angelo Acquista & Laurie Anne Vandermolen
Enter our giveaway (US/CAN only -- Ends Feb 17th)

Get ready for the Lunar New Year

Lucky Rice cookbook

The term 'fusion' when applied to the mashup of different cuisines has taken a bad rap in some circles. But Danielle Chang, author of the new cookbook Lucky Rice and the mastermind behind the LUCKYRICE festival, a multi-city celebration of Asian culture and cuisine, thinks that fusion shouldn't be a dirty word

While "fusion" has negative connotations to some cooks, Chang defends it: "I think Asian food is nothing if not fusion, because if you look at the landscape of Asian cuisine in America it reflects the various populations that have come together to create these new dishes." She uses one of the book's recipes, Kimchi tacos, to illustrate her point. Says Chang, "It's the product of Koreans and Hispanics living side-by-side in L.A.'s Koreatown after the L.A. riots, reclaiming that community, and in a way creating a brave new cuisine that is fused out of just living together over all these decades."

Eating foods with auspicious meanings isalso "a huge part of Asian culture," says Chang, and something she highlights in her book. Communal eating and lucky foods are particularly important during the Lunar New Year, which takes place in early February. Chang notes that it is common to have a dumpling making party that culminates in a midnight dumpling feast. Dumplings  are considered lucky foods because their shape resembles an early form of Chinese currency. Some people hide gold coins inside for extra luck.

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