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A berry good harvest

strawberry mouse cake

It appears that 2015's strawberry harvest in England is going to be a bumper crop. According to The Telegraph, strawberry yields are expeced to increase by nearly 20 percent this year. The bump is due to "a perfect combination of weather conditions, new growing techniques and more land given over to the crop."

Despite a sluggish start to the season with several cold nights in April, the berries recovered thanks to the sunniest winter on record, which benefitted greenhouse-grown crops. In addition to an increased yield, you can expect the berries to be sweeter as well.

The news in North America isn't as heartening, as the continued drought in California puts stress on strawberry growers in that state. However, strawberry producers in other states report better luck with above-average May temperatures boosting yields. Berries should be plentiful in markets across the US and Canada.

If you find yourself with an excess of berries, look no further than the EYB Library for great strawberry recipes, including these Member favorites:

Strawberry mousse cake from Delicious Magazine (Aus) (pictured above)
Meringue and berry mess with hazelnut praline from Cuisine Magazine
Panna cotta with balsamic strawberries from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Strawberry Pimm's cup from Saveur Magazine
Frozen strawberry margarita pie from Gourmet Magazine
Easy strawberry ice cream from Tinned Tomatoes

DIY herb stripper

DIY herb stripper

If you're like me, you love to browse through kitchenware catalogs. (In my case it runs a close second to perusing cookbooks.) We may already have cupboards and drawers overflowing with bowls, pans, and kitchen tools, but it's still fun to see the new cookware and gadgets or swoon over the newest color of Le Creuset. Sometimes the browsing even provides inspiration.

That's what happened recently, after I viewed the Chef'n® ZipStrip™ Herb Zipper. I was intrigued by its simple yet effective design. My favorite rosemary  chocolate chip shortbreads were calling me, but I don't like getting my fingers sticky when stripping the rosemary by hand. The herb stripper allows you to quickly strip the leaves without handling them at all. The beauty lies in its simplicity: the stripper is nothing more than holes in plastic through which the stem of a woody herb like rosemary, thyme, or lavender is pulled. The leaves are larger than the holes, so they get efficiently stripped off the stem. But I surely didn't need another tool to clutter my already crammed drawers, so I turned my eye to repurposing a tool that I already owned.

herbs

It turns out that I had three different tools that could be used in a manner similar to the herb stripper: a lemon zester, an herb/tea infuser, and a melon baller. Each of them has holes of varying sizes, and the diameter of the stem determines which tool is best. The infuser often wins because it has the smallest holes. As a bonus, it serves as a handy cup to hold the leaves. Just put the stem into the inside of the cup, hold it upright, and pull the stem out through the bottom.

Do you have any repurposed kitchen tool tips that you'd like to share?

Rhubarb moves from sweet to savory

Rhubarb

Rhubarb season is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere. Usually that means pies, tarts, and crisps, but chefs are taking a look at using rhubarb in savory applications as well. The Washington Post recently devised a contest for three area sous-chefs to come up with a savory spring rhubarb dish, and the results were fabulous.

The challenge was to find a way to tame rhubarb's puckery tart flavor without using copious amounts of sugar. One of the contestants, Krystal Cripe of the Red Hen in Bloomingdale, said "Rhubarb is definitely a difficult ingredient to work with. People are used to seeing it in sweet desserts, with ... something sweet to cut that tartness. It was tough to get that balance in savory."

In addition to the constraints on using rhubarb in a savory application, there were other limits on the contest. "The dish could incorporate just six ingredients (not including salt and pepper). And when the sous-chefs gathered at cooking school CulinAerie, they had just one hour to prepare their dish." The dishes they devised included a chilled rhubarb-strawberry soup with black pepper ricotta, grilled smoked foie gras with burnt rhubarb vinaigrette, and duck breast and foie gras with wild rice pilaf and cherry-rhubarb preserve. The EYB Library contains other interesting savory rhubarb dishes for you to try.

Sarah Leah Chase breaks long hiatus to write a new cookbook

Sarah Leah ChaseAfter a two-decade hiatus, Sarah Leah Chase is back with a new cookbook, New England Open-House Cookbook: 300 Recipes Inspired by the Bounty of New England, which will be released later this summer. Chase is a caterer, cooking teacher, and prolific writer who is best known for co authoring The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. Her other cookbooks, all highly regarded, include Nantucket Open-House Cookbook, Pedaling through Burgundy Cookbook, and Pedaling through Provence Cookbook.

After publishing the latter two books in 1995, Chase hadn't planned to write another cookbook, according to an article in Publishers Weekly. "Writing more cookbooks just wasn't part of my mindset," said Chase, who writes a weekly food column for Nantucket's Inquirer & Mirror newspaper. But in 2010, Peter Workman, the late founder of Workman Publishing, came up with the idea for a regional cookbook. He suggested to Chase that she write about New England. At first, she resisted.

She relented, however, after being inspired by the regional foods she has enjoyed. "In order to make the project feasible I chose to highlight people and places throughout New England that have been of special significance to me," said Chase. For New England Open-House Cookbook she draws from her memories of growing up in Connecticut and Maine; her experience living and cooking on Cape Cod; and her extensive travels meeting farmers, fishermen, and chefs. 

Featured cookbooks & recipes

Finding the best recipes amongst the millions online is not easy - but you don't have to! The team here at Eat Your Books, searches for excerpts from indexed books and magazines and every week we bring you our latest finds. Every day recipes are added from the best blogs and websites.

As a member, you can also add your own favorite online recipes using the Bookmarklet. With EYB, you can have a searchable index of all your recipes in one place!

Happy cooking and baking everyone!

 
From websites & blogs:


Lemon curd friands from Dish Magazine (NZ)
indexed by an EYB Member
 
From UK books:


5 recipes from How Baking Works by James Morton
 

How to marble like a pro

Marbled cheesecake

You know those gorgeous marbled tops and spiderwebs on cakes, tarts, and cheesecakes? They're really easy and don't require any fancy equipment, says Alice Medrich (via indexed blog Food52).

In addition to the classic marbling technique like the one used on Medrich's Marble cheesecake pictured left, she offers tutorials on how to make a spiderweb design, the chevron often found on Napoleons, and a string of hearts pattern. Medrich notes that you need nothing fancier than a lazy Susan and toothpick or bamboo skewer to achieve spectacular results.

She also provides tips to make sure your designs are stunning. Since the glaze must be fluid for the patterns to work, Medrich notes that "it's best if a cake is at room temperature rather than cold. For both the base layer and the design on top, a fluid, pourable glaze works better than a thick frosting." You should also have all of your tools at the ready before you start so your glaze doesn't set up while you are still digging around to find a skewer. See more tips plus illustrative photographs over at Food52.

Blanching vegetables locks in color and crunch

Asparagus

Spring vegetables are exciting for cooks because they are fresh, delicious, and fast. You can maximize their bright flavors and colors by blanching them before using, and indexed blog Serious Eats provides a guide to using the technique with all manner of vegetables.

Blanching vegetables serves a number of purposes. First, blanching destroys "enough cellular structure to just barely tenderize your vegetable to the point that it has lost its raw, fibrous edge, but still retains crunch." The second benefit is that the color becomes vibrant - and stays that way. This happens because "intercellular gasses will expand and escape from the vegetable. This initial escape of gas is what causes the color of a vegetable to change from pale green to a vibrant, bright green-the gas pockets that had been diffusing light suddenly disappear, allowing the full color of the chlorophyll pigment to stand out."

In addition to a timing chart and guides for specific vegetables like English peas, asparagus, and fiddleheads, Serious Eats provides three rules for blanching. First is that you should always have the blanching water at a rolling boil to make the changes noted above happen quickly without overcooking the vegetables. Second, you should blanch each vegetable separately because the timing is different for each one. Third, you should shock the vegetables in ice water to stop the cooking process. The article notes that this last step is controversial, but offers evidence to support keeping the step in place.

Once your vegetables are blanched and shocked, they'll retain their color and texture better than non-blanced vegetables. You can use them in a variety of recipes, or just eat them cold with your favorite dip.

Photo of Grilled asparagus with almond-parsley gremolata from indexed blog Serious Eats

 

New ways to get your foodie fix

Facebook Food & @TwitterFood

Can't find enough online sources to get your foodie fix? While that's an unlikely scenario, both Facebook and Twitter have recently created new feeds that deal exclusively with food. Twitter announced its new feed on April 29.  The site's announcement noted that the obvious:  "There are many thousands of food-related Tweets people send on Twitter each day - Tweets about meals, ingredients, favorites, recipes and dining experiences." Apparently this prompted Twitter to "join the conversation" with @TwitterFood. 

Not to be outdone, Facebook also joined the foodie fray with its new page. Promoting the new Facebook Food is none other than Mario Batali, who must have endless energy as he adds another job to his already lengthy résumé. The Facebook page features links from your favorite websites, as well as guest chef "takeovers." The current takeover is by Alex Guarnaschelli

What do you think - will you be subscribing to either of the two new feeds? Or do you feel you already have enough to keep track of on social media?

Cookbook giveaway - A Free Range Life: Winter Goodness

A Free Range Life: Winter GoodnessIn her latest cookbook, A Free Range Life: Winter Goodness, Annabel Langbein takes a lighter approach to roasts and gravy, slow-cooker meals and winter cakes and puddings. She attempts to streamline and simplify winter cooking to give it the same easy mood that we love about summer. In addition to over 130 new recipes, A Free Range Life: Winter Goodness is packed with tools, tips and tricks to take the stress and boredom out of deciding what to eat in winter.

We're delighted to offer five copies of the cookbook to EYB Members in Australia and New Zealand. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

Which winter comfort food is your favorite?

Please note that you must be signed into the Rafflecopter contest before posting the comment or your entry won't be counted. The contest ends June 8, 2015.

 

Jammin' cocktails

Whiskey sour with marmalade

It's easy to end up with a large collection of assorted jams, jellies, and preserves. The tiny, adorable jars packed with fruits both novel and familiar practically beg us to take them home.  But there is only so much toast that you can eat, and rather few savoury uses for jams, so what else can you do with the surplus? Sheela Prakash has one answer: use jams and preserves in cocktails.

Prakash, collaborating with NYC mixologist Tristan Willey, offers tips on how to incorporate the pantry staple into classic cocktails. First, choose the right preserve to match your drink's base spirit. Flavor affinities include strawberry, peach, or rhubarb with whiskey, berries and vodka, and gin with apricot jam or marmalades. Second, remember that preserves have an acid component that will intensify their sweetening effect, so don't swap an equal amount of jam for a drink's sweetener like simple syrup.

Many drinks already use jams and preserves and can start you on a path of experimentation like these 40 recipes from the EYB Library, including the Whiskey sour with marmalade from Saveur Magazine, pictured above. Other classics that incorporate preserves can be found in books like The PDT Cocktail Book, including two of my favorites, the Blinker and the Clover Club.

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

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