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Hold the mayo


You may have seen the news article a few months ago that multinational giant Unilever, maker of Hellman's Mayonnaise, was suing the (very small) producer of Just Mayo, a vegan "mayonnaise." Unilever brought the lawsuit claiming that Just Mayo's label was misleading, and that because it contains no eggs, the product doesn't meet the legal definition of mayonnaise.

Yesterday Unilever announced it was dropping the lawsuit to allow Hampton Creek to address its label issues directly with regulatory authorities and industry groups. (Just in time for holiday deviled egg trays!) Just Mayo's CEO, Josh Tetrick, praised the decision. Keeping an upbeat attitude, he noted that the lawsuit had provided his company with a windfall of publicity, boosting sales and giving the company "the opportunity to tell our story to millions of people."

Critics of the lawsuit noted that some of Unilever's products that were labled as mayonnaise weren't exactly mayonnaise either. Just after filing the lawsuit, the company "tweaked references on its websites to products to refer to them as "mayonnaise dressing" rather than mayonnaise."

We'd love to year what you think of the lawsuit and Just Mayo's label. Is the label inherently misleading, or was Unilever overreacting by filing a multi-million dollar suit?

Photo of How to make mayonnaise with an immersion blender from indexed blog The Kitchn 

The only recipe box you need

Recipe box

Quaint recipe boxes like the one pictured above used to be commonplace, but these days your recipe box is just as likely to be virtual. Many recipe websites include a "recipe box" feature, but you may not be able to rely on it. For example, if you're a user of Serious Eats, you may have noticed that as of December 10, their recipe box is no longer. They are not planning to replace it.

Serious Eats used a third-party vendor, Ziplist, to manage its recipe box and shopping list. Many recipe websites use a similar third-party service that is not developed or managed by the site itself. Therefore they all run the same risk of the vendor pulling the plug, leaving users in the lurch. The recent Serious Eats event prompted us to remind everyone of the convenience of using Eat Your Books to organize all of their recipes, regardless of where those recipes are located. Basic Membership is free and includes unlimited online recipes.

Over 80 websites and blogs, like Serious Eats, are fully indexed on EYB. All you have to do to see all recipes from that site in your search is to add the site to your Bookshelf. You can easily do this by browsing the list of indexed blogs and clicking the +Bookshelf button. If you have favorite recipes from a site, you can Bookmark them and add them to categories of Bookmarks that you control, making the customization superior to website recipe boxes. You can use indexed recipes to develop shopping lists, too.

And of course you aren't limiting yourself to one site - you can add multiple blogs to your Bookshelf, plus you can index recipes that you find on other sites. (Add those recipes via the Bookmarklet.) You can index your personal recipes, too, a feature not offered on other websites. Upgrade to a Premium Membership to add unlimited cookbooks to your Bookshelf (the Basic Membership is limited to five cookbooks).

If you still have recipes in a virtual recipe box on another site, it's a good idea to take a few minutes to add them to your EYB Bookshelf before that recipe box goes the way of the dodo bird.

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 US books:

25 recipes from  Joan Nathan's Jewish Holiday Cookbook

12 recipes from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman

4 recipes from Better Homes and Gardens Very Merry Cookies, indexed by an EYB member

25 recipes + 3 videos from Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann,
indexed by an EYB member

42 recipes from A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse by Mimi Thorisson

6 recipes from French Roots: Two Cooks, Two Countries, and the Beautiful Food Along the Way by Jean-Pierre & Denise Lurton Moullé

12 recipes from Paris to Provence: Childhood Memories of Food & France
by Ethel Brennan & Sara Remington, indexed by an EYB member

Today is the LAST DAY for Buy 1, Get 1 Free EYB gift vouchers for the holidays!
(Ends Dec. 18th)


A stellar year for women in food

Barbara LynchIn 2013, TIME Magazine published an article titled The Gods of Food, which attracted notice for its glaring omission of women. Time took some heat for the article and 2014 began with low expectations for the treatment of women in the food industry. However, The Braiser reports that despite the dismal outlook, the year proved great for women as they dominated the James Beard Awards and received many other accolades.

The Braiser lists twelve women who "owned" 2014, and EYB members will recognize many of the names. First on the list was restaurateur Barbara Lynch. To say she was busy in 2014 would be a grave understatement. In addition to running her restaurant empire, Ms. Lynch earned a James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Restaurateur, appeared on Top Chef, and is preparing to compete in the Bocuse D'Or in January.

A Lynch protégé, Kristen Kish, is also on the list. This year the Top Chef winner competed in Top Chef Duels and landed on the cover of Cherry Bombe magazine. Speaking of that publication, founders Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu were heralded for their pioneering magazine that highlights not just big-name chefs, but also "the gals in the industry we may not have heard of before."

April BloomfieldAnother woman from the publishing field, Dana Cowin, makes the Braiser list as well. The editor of Food & Wine was lauded for leading the way in giving female chefs their due. In January, Food & Wine will publish an entire issue dedicated to female chefs. Other familiar names mentioned in The Brazier article include chef/authors April Bloomfield, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Nancy Silverton.

Some less familiar names include Katie Button, a James Beard-nominated chef from North Carolina who took "her chops on the road for the most dramatic chef show to come out this year, World's Best Chefs, to interview some of her former bosses, like Adria and José Andrés." Another newcomer is Rosio Sanchez, who worked with Rene Redzepi at Noma. Redzepi selected Sanchez to open a Mexican taqueria, Hija de Sánchez, in Copenhagen next year. 

Fermented foods continue upward trend

Bread & butter pickles

Restaurant discovery service Urbanspoon compiles restaurant reviews from various sources including bloggers, food critics, and local diners. After sorting through the data from their app's Popular Dish feature, reviews, comments, and user data, the service has come up with their predictions for 2015's food trends, along with the top cuisines of the current year.

The reigning cuisines in the US & Canada for 2014 were Spanish-style tapas, Italian, Mediterranean, Southern (US) and soul foods, and Japanese. The popularity of pickles and other fermented foods soared this year, and the service predicts that trend will continue, and in 2015 we'll see "cauliflower, onions, eggplant, zucchini and fennel bulbs get dunked in vinegary, herbal and garlicky solutions." (See Susie Chang's recent report on pickling and preserving cookbooks for 2014.)

Other Urbanspoon predictions for the new year include smoked vegetables and the return of old-fashioned desserts and candies, especially brittle. Look for the terms "artisanal" and "homemade" to preface the treats.

North American trends seem to be in line with what's expected in Australia. One Australian source predicts a fermenting frenzy: "Originally popular amongst the raw food enthusiasts, the trend of using microbes in your own kitchen is set to go mainstream with DIY lessons going beyond creating homemade yoghurt. Think sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kombucha (fermented tea), kimchee (fermented vegetables) and kefir (cultured milk product)." Tourism Australia's predictions for next year also include smoked foods (everything from meat to fruit), plus savoury cocktails, an emphasis on vegetables, and outrageous sweets.

No one seems to have made similar pickle predictions for the UK for 2015. Members there will have to fill us in on whether 'fermenting frenzy' is taking hold in the UK as much as it is across the pond.

Photo of Bread & butter pickles from Food Wishes by John Mitzewich

Gil Marks, Jewish food historian, dies at 62

Encyclopedia of Jewish FoodOlive trees and honey










Gil Marks, a culinary historian who wrote about Jewish food and culture, has died at the age of 62. Marks authored several books on Jewish food and in 2005 won a James Beard Award for his book Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes From Jewish Communities Around the World. He is probably better known, however, for his more recent Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.

Marks' books "not only provided a recipe-by-recipe chronicle of kosher menus through the centuries but also examined the role of food in the establishment and growth of cultural traditions," according to his obituary in the NY Times. At the time of his death, he was working on a new book called American Cakes. Portions of that work have appeared on the website The History Kitchen. 

In addition to being a culinary historian who focused on the relationship between Jewish food and culture, Marks was previously a guidance counselor and history teacher at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in New York. He also worked in Philadelphia as a social worker before returning to New York, where he lived for most of his life. Marks had recently moved to the West Bank near Jerusalem.


The Cookie Countdown

I am, and always have been, a cookie person.  I'm happiest when there's a nearly-full cookie box or jar somewhere in the kitchen, just waiting for me to have an excuse: a story filed, a disagreeable chore completed, or just plain "lunch dessert".  A cookie doesn't make you feel as guilty as a big juicy slab of pie, or a dense wedge of cake.  It's just a cookie - sweet, perfect, and of short duration.

The difficulty at this time of year is deciding which of my many, many favorite cookies will get my attention.  Last year, it was all star cookies, of which my perennial favorite (and the one I always make time to make) is La Befana, the sprinkle star from Gina dePalma's Dolce Italiano, which has never once let me down.

If I've really got my ducks in a row, I might have time to make stroopwafels, which require a bit of careful timing and keeping your wits about you so you don't burn yourself on the waffle iron. You also have to eat them while they're warm and still pliant, but that's the least of our problems.

My husband's favorite cookie - and one I'm also crazy about - is the double dark chocolate cherry cookie from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  He makes giant double batches with jumbo bags of chips and cherries from Costco, and he gives them out to his students.  But there's always some left over for the rest of us.

This year around Thanksgiving, I discovered another favorite cookie - The "Ischler" - from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Baking Bible.  It's a sandwich cookie filled with apricot preserves and ganache, and I think it will be my Death Row request cookie if I ever find myself in that situation.  

While I've been dreaming about cookies, my cousin Barbara and my aunt Mimi have been making them. We got an incredible package this week in the mail, overflowing with little meringues and wrapped truffles and, best of all, crisp pecan sand tarts.  Barbara says these are the Joy of Cooking sand tarts, which means now I have another cookie to add to my Try list.  My plan is to use them for this year's reindeer cookies - oh, I forgot - that's another favorite, but mostly because we get to practice our royal icing technique on them.

My long-term ambition is to someday get all these cookies done early enough to mail them to friends and family, the way Barbara does.  But for now, it's just one more thing I'll be dreaming about.  What's your cookie of choice? 

Tips for perfect sugar cookies

Iced sugar cookies

If you haven't started your holiday baking yet, there is still time to make plenty of treats. Iced sugar cookies are a classic holiday treat, and they are tons of fun to make and decorate. However, they can be a little fussy and if you're not careful you can end up with misshapen, broken, greasy, or burnt cookies. Don't panic, though, we've got great cookie tips from your favorite indexed blogs.

The Kitchn shows us how to avoid the top 5 mistakes in making sugar cookies. The number one tip is to make sure your butter isn't too soft. Sometimes we get in a hurry and try to rush the butter softening by using a microwave, but this frequently results in butter that's too warm. When that happens, your cookies can turn out greasy and won't hold their shape well.

You also want to avoid overworking the dough, which will lead to tough cookies. Use a gentle hand and mix "the dry ingredients only until they're just incorporated, and not a second longer. Once the dry ingredients are added, less mixing equals more tender cookies." The third tip is to chill the dough before rolling and cutting to make it more compliant. Visit The Kitchn for the remainder of their tips.

In addition to this great advice, Food52 offers suggestions for improving your cookies. Their first tip is to "Cream, cream, cream, cream the butter." Why is this so important?  Because the creaming "process actually helps to "dissolve" the sugar into the butter, which makes for a properly mixed cookie. This process -- done correctly -- takes 4 to 5 minutes on medium-low speed." You don't have to worry about over-mixing until you add the dry ingredients.

Another solid piece of advice is to not add too much flour. More flour leads to tough cookies, not the soft, chewy masterpieces you're after. When rolling out the dough, a "light dusting to your surface and your rolling pin should do the trick. Plus, if you've rolled your soft dough into a 1 inch-thick disk, you don't have very far to go to roll out the dough to the proper thickness." Read more tips at Food52.

Finally, the "golden" rule that both blogs emphasize: don't bake the cookies until golden. Although many recipes will tell you to do just that, it is not good advice for rolled sugar cookies like this. They should appear set around the edges, and the edges should just be turning color, but the tops should be pale for the most tender cookies.

Photo of Iced sugar cookies from Cooking Light Magazine

Returning the star

Michelin stars

A Michelin star rating can put a restaurant on the map. It can also put it in a straitjacket, which is why a number of chefs are giving back their stars, says Fortune magazine. Another issue plaguing starred restaurants isn't the constraint placed upon them, but rather that diners have come to expect a certain type of atmosphere. Some avant garde restaurants don't fit into that mold and diners can feel let down.

Australian chef Skye Gyngell learned this the hard way. "People have certain expectations of a Michelin restaurant, but we don't have cloths on the tables, our service isn't very formal. You know, if they're used to eating at Marcus Wareing [a two-star restaurant in London's Berkeley hotel], then they feel let down when they come here," Gyngell told Australia's Good Weekend magazine. Gyngell took the star off her London restaurant, Petersham Nurseries Café, and quit a short time later. She has since opened a new restaurant, which does not have a star.

Chef Julio Biosca returned his Michelin star for a different reason. While he respects the star system and recognizes that his Michelin star helped popularize his restaurant, he also felt pressured by it.  Biosca "felt that he'd been awarded it for a certain culinary project, which included a tasting menu and complicated dishes, and the award gave customers very specific expectations. The star was an honor but also a straitjacket" that limited his creative ability.

The decisions made by these chefs are not the norm. "A Michelin star is the life goal of many restaurateurs, and the distinction has immense marketing power. "Michelin puts you on the gastronomic map, literally," says Spanish food critic Julia Pérez Lozano.

But keeping the Michelin star is not a guarantee of success for a restaurant. Restaurants that are awarded stars often feel pressure to invest in decor and service and to raise prices. Even though the star rating may increase traffic in the restaurant, it doesn't always translate into financial reward as nearly half of starred restaurants aren't profitable.

Fruitcake's extended family


Fruitcake has gotten a bad rap. What used to be a celebratory cake studded with dried fruit and nuts that was moist and flavorful turned into a caricature of itself, morphing into a products that was overly sweet yet somehow dry, with neon-colored bits that barely resemble anything in the fruit world. No wonder most fruitcakes end up in the trash bin.

It doesn't have to be that way, says Tess Panzer of Yahoo! DIY."Think quality dried fruit and crunchy nuts. Think of good brandy. Think toasted, warming spices. Revamp that glowing old loaf, and give it new, rustic depth of flavor and the TLC it deserves."

You don't have to stick with traditional fruitcake, either. Different regions have different takes on the holiday treat, Panzer notes. "German Stollen incorporates marzipan for a sweet and nutty flavor that also keeps the cake from drying out." There's also a traditional Italian favorite, panforte, which contains fruit, nuts, and spices but no eggs or leavener and only a little flour. This results in a dense, chewy and spicy treat. 

Christmas puddings also fall on the fruitcake spectrum, and if made properly, "soaked in brandy or sherry and sticky with beautiful dried figs and currants, can be to die for. " Which fruitcake family member do you prefer? 

Photo of Panforte from Jamie Magazine

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