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Alta Editions Kickstarter features a "pioneering digital cookbook"

Alta Editions

Alta Editions, publisher of award-winning digital cookbooks like Laurent Gras: My Provence and The Journey, was launched a couple years back as a project inside a large mobile content company. Earlier this year, the team that started Alta purchased the business from the parent company. This independence, while fostering continued innovation in digital cookbooks, comes with a catch: fewer resources available for publishing. So Alta is turning to Kickstarter to fund its latest project called Unconventional, the next release in the Cooking Series.

Unconventional will feature "delicious recipes and stories from rising star chefs" including Jesse Schenker, Jehangir Mehta, and Francisco Migoya, head chef at Modernist Cuisine. Veteran food photographer Evan Sung will be shooting all photos including step-by-step photos and short videos. Unlike other e-cookbooks, all of Alta's cookbooks are available online so you don't need any specific reading device or app - you can log in from your phone, tablet, or computer. Alta also promises plenty of helpful tips, instructional videos, shopping lists, and other interactive features.

Most of the cookbook development, such as recipe testing and editing, is complete, but funds are still needed to complete the photo shoot and for final design and production work. Some of the backing options include one-year and  lifetime subscriptions to the Alta Editions Cooking Series. If you're interested in backing this project, you need to act quickly - the campaign ends on October 3.

Alta believes "innovation is critical for the future of cookbooks in a world where bookstores are slowly disappearing and where the majority of cooks look to Google and online recipe databases for inspiration." They hope to create better online content by "combining the quality of traditional cookbooks (i.e. professionally-tested and edited recipes, top notch photography and quality writing) with the convenience, interactivity and the social capabilities of the web." You can learn more about My Provence and other Alta Editions books in our publisher profile.

Stamp of approval

James Beard stamp

The U.S. Postal Service is honoring five influential chefs in a new series of postage stamps. The Celebrity Chefs series recognizes icons like teacher and author James Beard, whose stamp is now available for pre-order (it will be officially released September 26). According to the U.S.P.S. website, these chefs "invited us to feast on regional and international flavors and were early but ardent champions of trends that many foodies now take for granted. As they shared their know-how, they encouraged us to undertake our own culinary adventures."

The stamps feature illustrations designed by Greg Breeding in a style meant to resemble oil paintings. Jason Seiler created the art for the James Beard. The design of the selvage represents "a white china plate resting on a fine linen tablecloth."

Although the U.S.P.S. website is mum about the other four chefs in the series, Eater reports that they are "Chinese food champion Joyce Chen, legendary cookbook author Julia Child, Southern cooking ambassador Edna Lewis, and South American chef Felipe Rojas-Lombardi." The Postal Service is on a food-themed roll,  as they released a series of farmers' market stamps in August.

What do you think about the Postal Service's choices? Who else would you like to see honored on a stamp?

Behind the scenes with a cookbook editor


Have you ever come across a cookbook that made you think "wow, someone was brave to take a chance on this book"? Then you'll love reading about cookbook editor Rux Martin of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She specializes in cookbooks, narrative nonfiction on food, and diet books, and has worked with storied authors like Dorie Greenspan, Mollie Katzen, Jacques Pépin, and Ruth Reichl. Martin has edited several best-selling cookbooks including Hello, Cupcake! and Around My French Table  as well as quirky tomes like The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert. Food writer Dianne Jacob provides an enlightening interview with Martin, where she dishes about about the cookbook market and trends, the importance of great photography, and how food blogging has changed the industry.

In addition to discussing trends in cookbooks (one of which is eclectic artwork), Martin provides advice for would-be authors. Prospective authors should realize that "there is a hugely shrinking space at all of the major retailers, that independent booksellers are still going out of business, that more cookbooks are being sold every day, and that in big box stores, they give less and less space to cookbooks." This means fierce competition as publishers fight over shrinking shelf space in bookstores.

When asked about what was new in the realm of recipe writing, Martin responded with an interesting perspective: "The world of the bloggers has perhaps resulted in more borrowing of recipes. In the past they would be considered stolen. You're supposed to be doing genuinely original work, giving full attribution as to how your recipe came into being. If you used a crust from so and so and a filling from so and so and put them together, and you say so, that's honest."

Read the full article to find out more, including how food bloggers have changed the cookbook industry.

Faster! Easier! Simpler!

At the end of this month, Nigel Slater's Eat will be published (in the U.S., anyway.  I think it came out in fall of last year in the UK).  I'm a fan of most Slateriana, so when the book arrived this week, I dove right in.  Instead of the usual Slater ramblings in lush prose, I found a trim little volume chock full of 5- or 6-ingredient recipes.

First of all, I was charmed by the format. And I like books that encourage you to believe inspiration - lots of it - is right around the corner, even in the most apparently boring fridge.  

But the second thing that occurred to me was that this book, the "easy" book, was a familiar friend and almost its own genre.  The easy book is never an author's first book.  Often the first is an ambitious book, filled with memoir-y anecdotes and an eclectic range of recipes, to introduce the author to the public.  Then there's a book about a specific technique or ingredient or region the author loves.  And then, after a while, you get the easy book.  (For restaurant chefs, it goes restaurant book - at-home book - cooking with kids or for a crowd.)

It didn't actually work that way for Slater. But if you look around, you'll notice that most well-known chefs have an Easy or a Fast book on their list.  There's Nigella Express.  There's Mario Batali's , Molto Italiano (Actually there are three Molto books, all "simple" or "easy".)  Jacques Pépin, Sara Moulton, Jamie Oliver, Melissa Clark - all cooks of varying renown.  But each one's gotten their Easy on at one point or another.

I always love these books, but for some reason they don't end up on the downstairs use-it-all-the-time shelf.   I don't know why - goodness knows I could use a bit more Easy in my life. But it always seems like the books that end up getting loved to bits in my kitchen are the highly focused or long-labored-over, Trust Me, I'm Authoritative books. 

How about you? Are there any Quick, Fast, Easy, or Simple books you just can't do without?

Netflix announces The Chefs Table documentary series

Massimo Bottura   Francis Mallman

Food lovers are eager to learn about their favorite chefs' opinions, techniques, and paths to culinary success. Even if we don't have the opportunity to eat at their restaurants, for some chefs we can catch a glimpse of them through their cookbook writing. Soon Netflix will make it easier to discover what makes world-famous chefs tick with a documentary series set to debut next year in all markets where Netflix is available. The series will first focus on Massimo Bottura, founder of Modena's Ostera Fancescana and author of Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef (coming soon to a cookbook store near you). 

Other chefs to be profiled include Sweden's Magnus Nilsson, Ben Shrewry of Attica restaurant in Melbourne, Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York, Buenos Aires chef Francis Mallmann, and Niki Nakayama of N/Naka in Los Angeles. This is the first documentary series commission by Netflix, and director David Gelb (best known for the award-winning Jiro Dreams of Sushi) will be overseeing production.

Photos of Massimo Bottura and Francis Mallmann from the EYB Library

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 UK books:

Many recipes + 3 videos from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

3 recipes from Tea Fit For a Queen by Historic Royal Palaces

From AUS/NZ books:

14 recipes from Monday Morning Cooking Club: The Feast Goes On

2 recipes from Bread Revolution: Rise Up & Bake by Duncan Glendinning & Patrick Ryan, indexed by an EYB member

From US books:

17 recipes from À la Mère de Famille: Recipes from the Beloved Parisian Confectioner 
by Julien Merceron

2 recipes from The Ancestral Table: Traditional Recipes for a Paleo Lifestyle 
by Russ Crandall, indexed by an EYB member 

Pick a perfect pear

Pear Tart 

Crisp mornings and shortening days herald the arrival of fall and with it, fall fruits such as pears. Jacques Pépin notes in Sweet Simplicity that pears are regarded in France as "the king of fruits," and indeed pears shine in both sweet and savory applications. Indexed blog The Kitchn's provides a refresher on how to choose, ripen, and store pears. Unlike many other fruits, pears ripen best off the tree, and you can time the ripening to fit your schedule. According to The Kitchn, "If you are looking for a ripe pear to eat immediately, press a finger gently into the top of the pear just where the stem joins the fruit. If it just starts to give there, the fruit is ripe." If you want to use the pears in a few days, make sure the tops are still hard. You can hasten the ripening process by putting pears into a paper bag with apples or bananas.

Asian pears are completely different in taste, texture, and shape than European pears. They possess different criteria for judging ripeness, and one of the key indicators is color: "If you are looking for a ripe pear to eat immediately, find a browner or more yellow-colored pear with no green undertones. There should be no soft spots on the pears, and it should be very firm. If you want to eat the pears in a few days, green is fine."

For more information on the differences between varieties of pears, Epicurious offers a visual guide to the fruit, describing attributes of pears from Anjou (short and squat, best for eating raw) to Taylor's Gold (from New Zealand and perfect for jams, jellies, and sauces). While the Epicurious list contains many varieties, notably missing are Seckel pears, tiny pears that make for great individual whole-pear dessert presentations.

Get started with this fall's pear crop with these great recipes from the EYB Library:

Tray-baked meringue with pears, cream, toasted hazelnuts and chocolate sauce from Jamie at Home
Asian tofu tacos with hoisin slaw
  from The Sprouted Kitchen
Roasted squash, pear, and ginger soup
from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen
Pear and almond tart
from Smitten Kitchen (pictured at top)
Pears in rose syrup
from Delicious Magazine (Aus)
A Sunday roast of pork, perry, and pears
from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard

What's your favorite pear recipe?



After 25 years, Food Arts says farewell

Food Arts magazine

It's always sad to see a much-loved food publication come to an end. It seems to be happening with increasing frequency in the digital age, and the latest to fold is indexed magazine Food Arts. According to Inside Scoop SF, the magazine's September issue is its swan song. There is no word yet on what will happen to its online recipe collection.

Created in 1989 by husband and wife team Michael and Ariane Batterberry, Food Arts was aimed at the fine-dining restaurant community and featured sumptuous photo spreads paired wtih in-depth recipe tutorials. (Former staffer Julie Mautner penned a touching tribute to Michael Batterberry after he passed away in 2010.)

The Food Arts Facebook page provides this simple farewell: "It is with great sadness that, after 25 years, we announce the closing of Food Arts magazine. We have loved working with everyone in the food industry-our writers, photographers, chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers, and everyone else we've raised a glass with along the way. Thank you for all of your loyalty and support throughout the years. We wish you all the very best. Keep the kitchen fires burning!"

A new place to find joy

Recipes from the Joy of Cooking

If you named the most influential cookbooks of all time, Joy of Cooking would appear near the top of the list. By itself, the 1974 edition is the fifth most popular book in the EYB Library. If you add together the number of 1974 and 1997 editions on member Bookshelves, the total far surpasses that of the number one cookbook in the Library (Plenty by Ottolenghi).

Recently descendents of Joy's original authors, Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, have created a blog that carries on the family tradition. We're delighted to announce that EYB has indexed the blog, bringing the total number of indexed Joy of Cooking recipes to 8,870. This total includes 3 editions of Joy of Cooking plus the blog. 

In addition to recipes, the Joy of Cooking website contains notes on recipes and ingredients, plus the fascinating history behind the original cookbook, which was born out of the grief Irma von Starkloff Rombauer faced after her husband's suicide in 1930. Irma found a sense of purpose as she spent more than a year assembling a collection of favorite recipes which she published it at her own expense. She sold copies of her book out of her apartment for a few years while rethinking the entire process of recipe writing. Finally "she hit on a novel format with the ingredients lists worked into the directions, now known as the action method." Irma and Marion continued to revise the book through World War II and beyond, changing to accommodate new ingredients and cultural influences while retaining many familiar favorites. The practice continues to the present day, where the fourth generation is preserving the family legacy while introducing the Joy of Cooking to a new audience.

Photos of Golden cherry tomato and ginger jam, Vietnamese bún bowls, and One-eyed bouillabaisse with bacon and peas from indexed blog Joy of Cooking

Ottolenghi fans - it's here!

Ottolenghi Plenty More

The wait is over for Ottolenghi fans!  Plenty More is now available - at least in the UK.  You'll have to wait until Sept 26 in Australia and Oct 14 in the USA for your own editions.  Though you can now check out the recipe index on EYB - 156 recipes, continuing the Plenty tradition of innovative ways to cook vegetables.

Because the recipes were first published in the Guardian newspaper in the UK, many of the recipes have Online Recipe links - so you can start cooking now before your copy of the book arrives.

You can get a signed copy of the book from the Ottolenghi website.  And if you are feeling extravagent, you can order a Plenty More hamper for £100 (about $160) which includes ingredients used in the book and a signed copy.

If you are feeling lucky you can enter to win a signed copy of the book and a tote bag on the Random House Happy Foodie website.  And also read about Yotam's own cookbook collection and his favorites.

Finally, if you want to see Yotam Ottolenghi in person, check out our list of his tour dates. This will be updated so check back regularly - he may be coming to your town.

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