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A plant-strong diet

Karen PageA lifelong omnivore, Karen Page coauthored with her chef-husband Andrew Dornenburg such influential food books as The Flavor Bible, What to Drink with What You Eat, Culinary Artistry, and Becoming a Chef, each of which has sold more than 100,000 copies.  She has just come out with her first solo book, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, to which Dornenburg contributed more than 100 four-color images for his first book as a photographer. We asked Karen to expound on her new release. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible.)

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What prompted you to embrace a plant-strong diet? 

At the end of 2009, I lost my father to cancer - on the heels of losing my stepmother to cancer in 2006.  In 2000 and in 2004, we'd lost my husband Andrew's mother and father, also to cancer.  No longer could we ignore the headlines linking diet and wellness, nor the research of Michael Pollan that "In all my interviews with nutrition experts, the benefits of a plant-based diet provided the only point of universal consensus."

As a Midwest native who grew up eating meat at least twice a day, vegetarianism was foreign to me - but at the end of 2009, I ended up meeting Oscar winner Marketa Irglova (who starred in the indie film "Once," and co-wrote the music for the movie and the hit Broadway musical based on it) through our mutual friend Chef Jose Andres.  As Marketa moved to New York City and our friendship deepened, her vegetarianism was yet another influence on my decision to eventually embrace a plant-strong diet in May 2012.  In 2013, I earned a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell in conjunction with the T. Colin Campbell Foundation, and the work of Dr. Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman were especially influential on me.

Have your taste buds suffered?

As award-winning culinary authors, Andrew and I have always believed flavor to be paramount -- and it continues to be so.  Now, however, we believe healthfulness should be its equal in priority.  While we used to think - mistakenly -- that the two were mutually exclusive, we now know better!  Leading restaurant critics are discovering this, too:  Even 15-time James Beard Award winner Alan Richman wrote in GQ that "I had a hard time understanding how vegan cuisine had advanced this far this fast without an accompanying outpouring of acclaim."  Andrew and I agree - and have actually been amazed to discover the flavor benefits of plant-strong cooking, aside from the health and other benefits.

What have been some of the health and other benefits you've experienced as a result of a plant-strong diet?

Food professionals - chefs and writers alike -- can often have a difficult time managing their weight.  However, Andrew and I discovered that after switching to a plant-strong diet (eliminating meat and reducing our consumption of eggs and dairy, while increasing our consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains), we each dropped more than 25 pounds rather effortlessly.  Also, I used to have digestive aches and pains every night after dinner, which I'd thought was normal until I discovered they completely disappeared when I stopped eating meat.

Most importantly, we both found that instead of feeling depleted from any sense of lack, as we'd feared we might, we both felt great and with more energy and vitality. 

KCRW's Evan Kleiman described The Vegetarian Flavor Bible on her public radio show "Good Food" as a "deeply-researched book."  What was your research process like?

Over the several years that I spent creating this book, the research was deep indeed: For Chapter 3 alone, I studied more than 100 of the most influential vegetarian and vegan cookbooks of the past 50 to deconstruct how they combined flavors, pouring through classics by Mollie Katzen, Deborah Madison, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and others.  I also studied the dishes mentioned on restaurant menus and in restaurant reviews of some of America's leading vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and interviewed dozens of their chefs and owners - from Dirt Candy's Amanda Cohen in NYC to Crossroads' Tal Ronnen in LA -- about how they composed flavors.  In addition, I studied vegetarian and vegan nutrition to be able to write the Introduction to the book, and vegetarian and vegan history for Chapter 1, not to mention trends in contemporary gastronomy to be able to write Chapter 2.

What were some of your favorite flavor discoveries along the way?

I had a surprisingly great vegan latte at Pomegranate Café in Phoenix, whose mother-daughter owners Marlene and Cassie Tolman told me that the secret was using half hemp milk ("for nuttiness") and half coconut milk ("for great richness"), which foam up better together than any other of the dozens of blends they tried. 

And the chef of Winvian resort in Connecticut, Chris Eddy, taught us a ridiculously simple technique he'd learned while working with Chef Alain Ducasse for making a creamy vegetable sauce for pasta with vegetables other than tomatoes, using just steamed vegetables, a Vitamix, some ice, a hint of cayenne or chili pepper flakes, and an optional touch of brown butter.   I can attest that it's ridiculously delicious, too.

Photo above of two-time James Beard Award-winning author Karen Page with Oscar winner Marketa Irglova after her NYC concert while on tour with her new album MUNA

 

Cookbook giveaway - The Vegetarian Flavor Bible

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible

The 576 pages of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible are filled with countless tips for easy ways to add more flavor to everything you cook, like how to make creamy vegetable sauce for pasta using just steamed vegetables, a Vitamix, some ice, a hint of cayenne or chili pepper flakes, and an optional touch of brown butter.  (Learn more about the flavor discoveries that author Karen Page made during the research of the cook in the EYB interview.) We're delighted to offer five copies of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible to EYB members in the U.S. and Canada only.

Enter by clicking on the contest below. Please note that while one of the entry options is to answer a question in the comments, you must enter through Rafflecopter or your entries won't be counted. The contest ends November 12, 2014.



What if you hate cooking?

Coq au vin

Why is it that some people really hate to cook? It's a question that Michael Ruhlman tackles in a thought-provoking blog post. He approaches the subject as a response to an article in the NYT Magazine by Virginia Heffernan, in which she judges the call for people to cook for their families as being unreasonably difficult. She asserts that besides being hard, the task of cooking too often burdens only the women in the family, and that a woman's self-worth is unfairly linked to whether or not she cooks.

Ruhlman disagrees that cooking is inherently difficult and speculates that the biggest reason people don't like to cook is because they don't plan ahead. (Perhaps some people are also put off by unrealistic images of people cooking.) Ruhlman also argues that cooking for your family "is a good and powerful force, and failing to cook at least one meal a week that you share with the entire household deprives all of that goodness." He points out several benefits to cooking, including that establishing a routine can "give structure and stability to the chaos of our days," and that home-cooked food is often better for us than takeout. Plus he notes that the aromas given off by food while it's cooking can actually help us relax.

Ruhlman illustrates his point by including a recipe for chicken schnitzel that he made for his family in about 30 minutes.  He concludes his argument by stating that many worthwhile associations go hand-in-hand with a home-cooked meal, and that "failure to plan isn't a good enough excuse to give that up. We all make our own choices. No one should judge those choices. But we should be aware of what those choices mean."

Do you agree with Ruhlman that Ms. Heffernan's excuses for not cooking for her family are unavailing, or is he too harshly judging her legitimate complaints?

Photo of Coq au vin from Ruhlman.com by Michael Ruhlman

La belle cuisine...

This is me in the kitchen: Hair up in a messy ponytail.  An apron that is laundered but nowhere close to white.  Scuffed clogs and glasses spattered with something or other.

This is Mimi Thorisson in the kitchen.

And by the way, she has five kids.

And fourteen dogs.

You EYBers are a kinder lot than I, and you may find the beautifully packaged and shot A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse inspirational.  "Lean in, Chang!  You too can make a picture-perfect gâteau basque and chou farci while still maintaining a perfect blowout and not spilling wine on your neutral-tone ballet flats, which, by the way, don't make your calves look stubby at all!" 

I know, I know.  A cookbook is highly edited merchandise, and nobody really looks like that at crunch time.  Still, I can't help but feel that it's one more straw on the camel's back when it comes to female perfectionism in our time.  Be a great mom.  Run an immaculate household.  Maintain a fulfilling job.  And smile!  

Also, I worry that a hair is going to fall in the soup.

Of course, French women have always had a monopoly on a sort of easy grace, whether in the matter of tying a scarf or simply not getting fat.  It was probably inevitable that European TV would follow in the footsteps of American TV and seek out fresh, rosy faces for culinary broadcast - Thorisson has a show on France's Cuisine+, Rachel Khoo (at right) had one on BBC and the Cooking Channel.

(And Khoo's My Little French Kitchen isn't just charming visually - it's an interesting tour of regional styles, even if the recipes are a little on the fussy side for me.)

There's room for a bit of fantasy in cookbooks.  If we were all realists, we would probably own a much more reasonable number of cookbooks, and we would never be 2 hours late with dinner because we tried something a little too ambitious.  But just once, I'd love to see a book showing one of my kitchen sisters in all her bedraggled glory - shirttails flying, hair mussed, cheeks dusted with flour.

I'd clean my glasses to get a closer look.  And then I'd smile.  Not a camera-ready, scrubbed and toothy professional smile - a real one.

The key to a good sandwich

Chicken club sandwich

Over 49% of Americans eat a sandwich on any given day. What separates good sandwiches from bad ones isn't necessarily the ingredients, says Dan Pashman, author of Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious. Instead, as Pashman tells NPR's The Salt, assembly is a critical factor in a successful sandwich.

Pashman thinks that people should take into account the slipperiness of many foods like avocado or tomato, calling this "the sliced cucumber conundrum." To more securely anchor these items, separate them with leafy greens, which provide friction to hold them into place. He also provides illustrations on the best way to eat your sandwich (starting in the wrong corner is a no-no).

Besides sandwich construction, Eat More Better provides guides to more mindful snacking along with other advice to improve your eating, like how to "reincarnate bagels, leftover pizza and sandwiches." Pashman says that a stale bagel can be refreshed with a "dousing of hot water and a quick five-minute bake in the oven." Listen to the podcast to learn more.

What's your secret to great sandwiches?

Photo of Grilled chicken and club sandwich with avocado and chipotle caramelized onions from indexed blog Closet Cooking

Dustbin dining

Food waste

Supermarkets proudly display bins full of pristine, perfectly ripe vegetables and fruit. But what happens to the produce that is overripe or blemished? Chefs in France wanted to bring that point to the public's attention, and to do so they prepared a banquet for 5,000 entirely from ingredients rescued from the trash. As reported in The Telegraph, five French celebrity chefs created the meal entirely from "bruised, misshapen potatoes and stringy, overripe avocados collected from supermarkets and groceries that were about to throw them away."

The Michelin-starred chefs promoted the event through full-page newspaper advertisements sponsored by a TV channel. The goal of their campaign is to raise awareness of food waste in France, where the average person wastes 20kg (44lb) of food each per year. Says Yves Camborde, a chef from the Basque country, "People are wrong to think that ingredients that don't look pretty aren't good to eat."

Cookbook giveaway - The Slanted Door

Charles Phan

Award-winning chef and restaurateur Charles Phan opened The Slanted Door in San Francisco in 1995, inspired by the food of his native Vietnam. Since then, The Slanted Door has grown into a world-class dining destination, and its accessible, modern take on classic Vietnamese dishes is beloved by diners, chefs, and critics alike. Now the eagerly anticipated The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food is finally here.  Phan has penned not just a cookbook, but a love letter to the restaurant, its people, and its food. Featuring stories in addition to iconic recipes, The Slanted Door both celebrates a culinary institution and allows home cooks to recreate its excellence.

The Slanted DoorPhan has graciously provided EYB members a recipe excerpt from his cookbook, a first for EYB! Even better, we're delighted to offer two copies of the book to EYB Members in the USA and Canada only. Enter by clicking on the contest below the recipe. Please note that while one of the entry options is to answer a question in the comments, you must enter through Rafflecopter or your entries won't be counted. The contest ends November 8, 2014.

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Ginger Beef Vermicelli from The Slanted Door by Charles Phan

About ten years ago I met up with restaurateur Bobby Chinn, the London educated New York stock trader who eventually found his calling as a chef. His hugely successful Restaurant Bobby Chinn opened in 2001 in Hanoi, and he followed up a decade later with a location in Saigon. When I visited him in Hanoi, we hopped on his scooter and he took me to a street stall where a woman was stir-frying beef and garlic, which were served over noodles. The key to her delicious dish was getting a caramelized crust on the beef without burning the garlic. At the Slanted Door we do this by stir-frying the beef and garlic separately, but at home, just give the beef a quick stir-fry before adding the garlic.

6 ounces bavette or flank steak, thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3 cups cooked rice vermicelli
Flavored fish sauce for serving

For serving:
Lettuce, torn
Roasted, unsalted peanuts

Serves 2 to 4

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the beef slices, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the cornstarch, salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Use your hands to toss together and set aside.
  2. Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add 1½ tablespoons of the oil and heat until shimmering. Add half the beef and cook, stirring, until the beef is browned, about a minute. Add half the garlic, half the ginger, and half the fish sauce and continue cooking until the beef is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil, beef, garlic, and fish sauce.
  3. Serve the beef on top of the vermicelli, and a bed of torn lettuce. Sprinkle with peanuts, and serve with flavored fish sauce alongside.

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Oh, sherry

Scotch sherry & concord cocktail

Until recently, sherry was all but forgotten in the U.S., often regarded as a quaint, old-fashioned quaff meant to convey elegance but falling short of the mark. Now sherry is making a comeback, as the L.A. Times reports in a review of a book out next week, Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World's Best-kept Secret  by Talia Baiocchi.

Sherry: A Modern GuideSherry wasn't always relegated to Grandma's liquor cabinet. Baiocchi notes that it was "was practically the official drink of fifteenth and sixteenth-century explorers, a favorite of everyone from Shakespeare to Poe to Dickens, the base of the Sherry Cobbler, one of the greatest American cocktails ever invented." At one point, California wineries were even producing more "sherry" than Spain.

Baiocchi tackles a very complex subject in her book, as sherry is quite complicated. There is the complicated solera system for aging, and the fact that sherry comes in many different styles ranging from bone-dry to sticky-sweet. Continue reading the review to learn more, including a definition of the so-called Sherry Triangle.

Photo of Scotch, sherry, and Concord cocktail from indexed blog Serious Eats

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 blogs & magazines:


Ricotta Crêpes with Honey, Walnuts and Rose by Yotam Ottolenghi
from the October issue of indexed Food & Wine Magazine

Salted Maple Dark Chocolate Raspberry Crisp from Vegetarian Ventures,
added with the Bookmarklet

 
From UK books:

12 recipes from The Art of Eating Well by Jasmine & Melissa Hemsley

 
From AUS/NZ books:

12 recipes from Roast Lamb in the Olive Groves: A Mediterranean Cookbook by Belinda Harley


16 recipes from Vietnamese Street Food by Tracey Lister & Andreas Pohl


From Canadian books:

53 recipes from Canadian Living: The Slow Cooker Collection, indexed by an EYB member

 
From US books:
15 recipes from What to Bake and How to Bake It by Jane Hornby
(Also released in the UK)
Enter our giveaway (Ends Oct. 31st)


5 recipes from A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories by Renee Erickson
Enter our giveaway (Ends Nov. 3rd)


32 recipes from Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food 
by Jessica Merchant


20 recipes from The Supper Club: Kid-Friendly Meals the Whole Family Will Lov
by Susie Cover, indexed by an EYB member

 

Cookbook giveaway - How to Cook Everything Fast

How to Cook Everything FastDo you ever get flustered when you want to make a homemade meal but are in a time crunch? If so, you'll enjoy Mark Bittmann's How to Cook Everything Fast, which focuses on time management, the essential principle of fast cooking. You won't be lacking for choices, either, as Bittman provides hundreds of simple-to-make recipes that are bursting with flavor. He's overhauled many classic recipes through clever (and sometimes unorthodox) uses of equipment and techniques.

The 1,700+ recipes in How to Cook Everything Fast bring the total number of Bittman recipes indexed on EYB to a whopping 17,558! That impressive number includes all of Bittman's recipes from every cookbook, blog, and column. And don't forget to check our events calendar so you can find out if he will be doing a book signing or talk near you.

We're delighted to offer three copies of How to Cook Everything Fast, plus a bonus giveaway of three screen-printed dish towels, to EYB members. The towels are large flour sack towels, printed with the book's cover and three illustrations from the book. Enter by clicking on the contest below. Please note that while one of the entry options is to answer a question in the comments, you must enter through Rafflecopter or your entries won't be counted. The contest ends November 6, 2014.

 

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