Cookbook store profile - featuring Book Larder in Seattle

Recently we began to offer an EYB feature highlighting independent cookbook stores. Now you can discover (or get reacquainted with) a store near your home - or plan a new target destination when you travel.

And to make this as strong a feature as we can, we're asking our members to help us. We already know of many great stores, which we keep an ongoing list of (you can view them here), but we'd love to learn about more - especially those treasured by our members. So please share the names of independent cookbook stores that you know, love, admire, or are just plain crazy about. Add a comment to this posting, or email us at info@eatyourbooks.com with the name, address, and owner (if you know it). We'll do the rest.

Book Larder in Seattle

Book Larder is a community cookbook store in Seattle's North Fremont neighborhood that features a carefully curated selection of new, vintage, collectible, and imported cookbooks. In addition to the dazzling cookbook collection, Book Larder offers cooking classes, author signings and demos, and other events featuring celebrated authors and chefs like Ferran Adria, David Lebovitz, Ruth Reichl, and many more. (You can view upcoming events on the store's website.) Store owner Lara Hamilton sat down with EYB to chat about how Book Larder creates a sense of community for its customers.

Two cookbook stores have closed down recently - The Cookbook Store in Toronto and Salt and Pepper Books in Maryland. How does The Book Larder stay competitive in the current trading environment, where online stores offer low prices and free home delivery?

From the beginning, my goal was to provide a unique experience for customers, something that they can't find online. We offer a very carefully curated selection of books, and with our author talks and cooking classes, we give customers a way to connect with the books in a way that they value. Seattle is also a really great food town and book town, so (so far) that combination has created a great environment for Book Larder.

Why do the customers in your store prefer to come to Book Larder rather than stores such as Barnes & Noble or online shopping?

Besides having a staff who loves books and can help people make decisions, I hope we offer them a sense of community that they can't find online or in a big box store.

Do you specialize in any particular areas of cookbooks?

We have an abundance of wonderful authors in this part of the country, so we do our best to bring a healthy selection of their books into the shop. And I've long been a fan of British cookbooks, so we import those as well.

What are the big sellers at Book Larder?

Like many shops, anything Ottolenghi. Vegetable books generally do very well-we have lots of wonderful farmer's markets here and Seattle is a big gardening town, so customers are always interested in finding new and delicious things to do with what's in season.

What type of books do you like to cook from yourself? Do you have a favorite cookbook of all time?

I have a family with a busy schedule of its own, so I gravitate towards books that help me get delicious food on the table quickly. This year I've cooked quite a bit from Nigel Slater's Eat, Laura Russell's Brassicas, and Carla Kelly's One Pan, Two Plates. All-time favorites are so hard to narrow down, but they definitely include Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, as it was my "gateway" cookbook.

What events to you have at the store in the next couple of months?

So many! I'm extremely grateful that the publishers continue to support author tours. We'll host David Lebovitz at the end of April, and Ruth Reichl, Deborah Madison, and Bryant Terry in May, to name just a few.

Photos by Rebecca Sullivan

Does local and seasonal produce always taste better?

Farmer's market

The mantra of eating local and seasonal has reached a fever pitch. But The Guardian's Amy Fleming wonders if the product lives up to the hype. Does a locally grown strawberry really taste much better than one that's been shipped from many miles away? The conventional wisdom is that the local product will be better because it is grown under optimal conditions and reaches you right after harvest. However, says greengrocer Andres Georghiou, "it's such an ambiguous argument. You can have an English strawberry that tastes like water because it's not a particularly good one, and then you get a French gariguette strawberry that is consistent and amazingly sweet. So it's not just about provenance, it's about the specific product." While some products do suffer from a lengthy transport time (asparagus), the article notes that many vegetables actually improve with age, like russets, peppers, and aubergines (eggplants).

The article notes that Observer food critic Jay Rayner concluded that choosing local and seasonal produce is not a sustainable food-chain solution, but is instead a middle-class lifestyle choice, and also points out the hypocrisy that exists among many vocal locavores: they are not going to give up their lemons, coffee, or figs any time soon, even though these products must come from far away.

Returning to the initial question of whether farmers market foods do more than give us the warm fuzzies and in fact possess superior taste, Fleming notes that an "interesting study was published in the journal Appetite in 2012, which saw farmers'-market shoppers asked about how the food tasted. None of them could confidently assert that, or describe how the food tasted better."

What's your take on the trend of eating local and seasonal foods?

Photo courtesy The Guardian (Nick Turner / Alamy/Alamy)

Cookbooks as teachers

Do you remember what it was like when you first learned to cook?  And you had to learn everything for the first time, whether it was jointing a chicken or roasting a pepper?  Now, you probably aren't even aware of just how much you know, except for when you're teaching someone who's new to cooking themselves.  Then you remember that even chopping an onion isn't as obvious as it seems.

Sometimes it feels like I'm not learning much that's new these days.  But on closer inspection, that's actually not true.  Just this year, I learned two new things from cookbooks.  One was gravlax.  For some reason, I'd never made gravlax before...I think because of the planning-ahead factor, even though I've often enough done multi-day projects.  But in the last two months I've made gravlax 3 times.  One came from The New Jewish Table, one from Cooking from the Heart, and one from Smashing Plates.  All were different, but none was difficult.

And this year I finally got round to trying sous vide.  I used a number of references, but definitely the chief one was Modernist Cuisine at Home.  Sometimes, you're not just looking for a recipe - you're looking for a kind of seminar, and that book fit the bill at the right time.

Then there are books that become your go-to references for years, and these tend to be few, battered, and dog-eared.  For example, I've been using Julia Usher's Cookie Swap to decorate cookies for years.  I don't need as much guidance as I used to, but it's still reassuring to me to know where I can find the right proportions for different icing consistencies and reminders about brush technique.

And every  spring I break out Grow Cook Eat, which is really more of a gardening book than a cookbook.  I have more comprehensive books, including classics like Eliot Coleman's and Barbara Damrosch's books.  But there's just something about the format that speaks to me and gives me some much-needed confidence when I go out to the barren beds and remember all the previous year's gardening disasters.

I suppose there are times when a book can't teach you absolutely everything...last year I went on a jag trying to learn how to make rope crusts on my pies, even though I make perfectly okay crimp crusts and lattice crusts.  I went through dozens of pie books (there must have been at least 10 published last year alone), but none told me quite what I needed to know in quite the way I needed to hear it.  In the end, it took YouTube.

Which books have taught you a new skill lately - or stood by you long-term?  And how often do you stumble on a new one?

Skimping on shrimp

grilled shrimp

Shrimp prices have soared worldwide due to a shortage caused by a disease that's wreaking havoc on the crustacean's population. Bloomberg reports that shrimp prices increased 61 percent in March over last year, mostly due to a bacterial disease known as early mortality syndrome (EMS). The surge in prices was made especially difficult because it came during the Lenten season, when many people turned to shrimp over chicken, beef and pork. At chains like Noodles & Co., the shortage has led to a 29 percent increase in the cost to add shrimp to pastas this year. However, Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. is bucking the trend. While the fast-food chain is experiencing a 40 percent increase in shrimp costs, it isn't raising prices, thanks to offsetting lower costs for chicken.

Early mortality syndrome does not affect humans, but it is nearly wiping out young shrimp farmed in Southeast Asia. Since EMS was first reported in China in 2009, it has spread to Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand (the number one supplier of farmed shrimp). The disease has now reached Latin America, causing similar devastation.

While there is currently no cure for EMS, researchers at the University of Arizona have developed a new diagnostic test, which they hope will help mitigate the spread of disease by providing quicker and cheaper diagnoses. Until farmers are able to get this disease in check, expect to see continued higher prices at the market.

How has the shrimp shortage affected your cooking?

Photo of Tom Yum Grilled Shrimp from Closet Cooking, indexed on EYB

Uses for leftover Easter eggs that aren't all devilish

Hard boiled egg foods

The Easter egg hunt is over, the kids are in a sugar coma from the chocolate bunnies, and now you're left with a bunch of hard-boiled eggs. Now what? Naturally, deviled eggs come to mind. The EYB library is full of deviled egg recipes, with all manner of add-ins like guacamole, sriracha, and just to mix things up, beet-pickled deviled eggs.

There's a world of options beyond deviled eggs and egg salad, however. Hard-cooked eggs feature in several baked goods too, like these hard-cooked egg cookies, tender buttermilk biscuits, and James Beard's strawberry shortcake. (The recipe is by Larry Forgione, but was inspired by James Beard telling Chef Forgione about his mother's shortcake that featured hard-cooked egg yolks. Beard allegedly said about Chef Forgione's recipe, "there can be no dessert better, only fancier.")

Turning back to the savory side, many empanada recipes include hard-boiled eggs, and for those looking for something out of the ordinary, Pashka cheese is an interesting alternative. Pashka cheese is an Russian dish made from fresh farmer's cheese, brandy, golden raisins, hard-cooked egg yolks, and other dairy ingredients that are pressed in a mold (a clean terra cotta pot will work, so don't worry about not having the right equipment). Another unusual option is Salmorejo, a Spanish soup combining bread, tomatoes, sherry vinegar, hard-boiled eggs and Iberico ham. Sauce gribiche is another excellent choice that works as well over asparagus as it does steak.

Naturally, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Scotch eggs. What's your favorite use for hard-boiled eggs?

Coconut and spring

Coconut

News feeds have recently been buzzing with coconut desserts for both Easter and Passover, but the reason for coconut's popularity during these springtime religious holidays remains an enigma. There certainly isn't a grand historical tradition--coconuts weren't everyday ingredients in Biblical times. So why have coconut desserts - especially coconut cakes and macaroons - become so popular during these holidays?

Perhaps its popularity with Easter stems from the idea that shredded coconut resembles bunny fur when used in the adorably kitchy Easter Bunny cake. While that cake is cute, more popular Easter cakes are layer cakes like the wildly popular coconut cake from Ina Garten, and this one from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. These individual chocolate coconut Easter cakes from Delicious Magazine are an interesting diversion from the traditional layer cake.

Maybe coconut's ascendency was caused by the use of green-dyed coconut being used as grass under Easter eggs. You could certainly do that in these squee-inducing Easter nest coconut & white chocolate cupcakes from BBC Good Food Magazine.

Coconut's popularity during Passover may be explained by its versatility in desserts that don't require flour, dairy or leavening. There are a plethora of coconut macaroon recipes in the EYB library that fit the bill here including coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate from Leite's Culinaria and double chocolate coconut macaroons from Serious Eats.

A final "springtime" theory is that since it resembles snow, coconut is used in desserts as a final send-off to that unwanted white stuff after a long winter (many of us could drink to that). But let's face it - whatever the reasons for its rise to the top of springtime desserts, coconut remains popular because it's delicious.

What's your theory on coconut's popularity during this season?

The power of positive thinking

NPR screenshot of nutrition label

It happens to all of us. We read the nutrition label on a tub of ice cream and silently think, "This is really fattening. I shouldn't eat it." The siren song of the mint chocolate chip is irresistable, however, so we succumb. But before you eat the next scoop, you may want to think about it in a more positive way, as this NPR article explains.

According to Alia Crum, a clinical psychologist who performs research at the Columbia Business School in New York, when we pore over food labels, we often think about what ingredients are good or bad for us but we don't consider how the label itself might affect us. Crum had a thought: what if the information we glean from nutrition facts could physically change what happens to us - "whether these labels get under the skin literally," she says, "and actually affect the body's physiological processing of the nutrients that are consumed."

So Crum conducted an experiment, mixing up a batch of milkshakes that was divided into two containers that were labeled differently from each other. One was labeled as rich and decadent, the other as low-calorie and low-fat. The experiment yielded startling results. If a participant thought she was drinking the rich shake, a hormone level responsible for telling the brain when it's time to look for food dropped three times as much as someone who thought she was drinking the "sensible" shake.

While the results of this study don't mean the actual food we eat is not important, it does suggest that our mindset regarding food matters. More studies are needed to make a determination about how much influence our thoughts may have.

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

These weekly round-ups mostly highlight cookbook recipes, but we also like to share great recipes from magazines and blogs like the  Rhubarb-Raspberry Cheesecake Squares from Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Did you know EYB has over 1,500 issues from 36 popular publications indexed? 53 issues of BBC GoodFood, 51 issues of Australian Gourmet Traveller, 44 issues of NZ's Cuisine, and 198 issues of Cook's Illustrated -- just to name a few. Even if you're not a subscriber, over 43,000 magazine recipes have online links so you can add any you would like to try to your personal Bookshelf (if you are a free member, this feature will be available to you soon).

If you get the chance to make any of the recipes featured here, please share your experience with the EYB community by adding a Note to the recipe. Happy cooking and baking everyone!

 

From magazines & blogs:

Cheesecake squarescitrus saladcinnamon buns

Rhubarb-Raspberry Cheesecake Squares from the April issue of indexed Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese-Stuffed Dates from indexed blog Food52

Overnight Buttermilk Soft & Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting from Averie Cooks, added with the Bookmarklet

 

 

From UK books:

Mary Berry Cooks

52 recipes from Mary Berry Cooks, the companion cookbook to her popular BBC2 series

 

Tony & Giorgio

9 recipes from Tony & Giorgio, the companion cookbook to Giorgio Locatelli & Tony Allan's 2003 BBC series

 

 

From AUS/NZ books:

In the Kitchen

132 everyday recipes from In the Kitchen by Allan Campion & Michele Curtis

 

 

From US books:

Eggs on Top

2 recipes from Eggs on Top by Andrea Slonecker

Enter our giveaway to win 1 of 5 copies (ends April 22nd)

 

My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen

17 recipes from My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

 

Blackbird Bakery

19 recipes from Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free by Karen Morgan

 

Preserving with Pomona's

10 recipes from Preserving with Pomona's Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy, indexed by an EYB member

 

No Experience Necessary

2 recipes from No Experience Necessary: The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken

 

Braises and Stews

9 recipes from Braises and Stews by Tori Ritchie 

 

What to Cook

5 recipes from What To Cook When You Think There's Nothing in the House to Eat by Arthur Schwartz

 

 

The sultry language of online food reviews

iphone food foto

Anyone who has read online restaurant reviews has probably noticed that the language used to describe the food can be downright sensual. Words like "orgasmic" and "seductive" appear frequently. A new study co-authored by Stanford linguistics professor Dan Jurafsky confirmed this tendency and offered insight on what other words used in online reviews say about us. The study analyzed 900,000 Yelp.com restaurant reviews from several major U.S. cities. The highlights of the findings include:  

  • Positive reviews of expensive restaurants frequently contained metaphors of sex and sensual pleasure, such as "orgasmic pastry" or "seductively seared foie gras." People who wrote reviews of these types of restaurants also tended to use multi-syllabic words like "sumptuous" or "commensurate" to provide the impression that the author was highly educated or sophisticated.
  • Positive reviews of cheap restaurants or decadent foods often utilized metaphors of drugs or addiction, like "these wings are addicting" or "these cupcakes are crack." According to Jurafsky, "We talk about food as an addiction when we're feeling guilty about what we're eating."  
  • Women used these drug metaphors more frequently than men did.

Another finding that surprised Jurafsky was "how strongly the language of negative Yelp reviews resembled the language of people who have been traumatized by tragedies or the deaths of loved ones." It appears that getting bad service at a restaurant does much more than ruin a meal, it "goes straight to your sense of self." Therefore, negative reviews act as a way to cope with this trauma.

And in all situations, whether the language was sensual, light-hearted, or negative, reviewers were careful in how they presented themselves to readers. Even while giving a bad review, people want to be seen in a good light. Given all of these findings, perhaps the next time you read a restaurant review you can catch a glimpse into the author's psyche.

Bringing home take out

General Tso's Chicken by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Even though EYB members love cooking at home, we occasionally (or perhaps more than occasionally) crave take out. Frequently that means Chinese food, and in particular, the kind of crispy, sweet, and spicy dishes typified by General Tso's chicken. But sometimes we don't want take out because we don't want to go out (is spring ever coming to the upper U.S.?) or because we don't have a good take out joint close to us. Being intrepid cooks, we then attempt to make our favorite take out at home, but it can be difficult to recreate those dishes. Lucky for us, J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats comes to our rescue with the latest installment of The Food Lab, where he tackles General Tso's chicken.

Besides giving us a great history lesson on the dish itself - its namesake general probably never tasted the dish, among other tidbits - Kenji provides us with the science behind making a crunchy coated chicken that doesn't get leathery yet holds up to the sweet and tangy sauce. (If you aren't up to the task of breading your own chicken, you can always try Kenji's shortcut of using Popeye's chicken nuggets.) As a bonus, in the comments section he hints that he's working on a few other favorites from the Chinese take out menu - orange chicken and sesame chicken in particular.

Until then, the EYB library offers other options for Chinese take out at home. You can make take-out style sesame noodles, chow mein, Kung Pao chicken, fried rice, or mu shu pork. Also, you should definitely make your own fortune cookies to end the meal. 

Do you make "take out" at home? What's your favorite?  

Photo courtesy J. Kenji López-Alt 

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