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Much more than just a garnish

parsley red onion and pomegranate salad

Many diners in the US probably first experienced parsley as a pale sprig garnishing a (likely overcooked) protein in a family restaurant. But the culinary herb has so much more to offer than just being a splash of green on your plate. Epicurious explores the myriad ways you can use parsley in your cooking.

Italian or flat-leaf parsley is generally preferred by cooks over the curly variety, but either can be used in any recipe that calls for parsley. Although native to the Mediterranean, the biennial plant is hardy enough to grow in most climates and freely self-seeds. This can lead to a bumper crop of parsley in mid- to late-summer. Luckily there are many great dishes that highlight its bright and fresh herbal flavor.

Parsley makes an excellent pesto that can be served with pasta or swirled into a soup. A variation on this theme is to make a parsley salsa verde or chimichurri to accompany steak, fish, or roasted vegetables. However you spell it, tabbouleh (and its cousin kisir) is another wonderful dish that showcases fresh parsley along with other garden favorites. It's a great addition to salads and can even be the starring green, as in the Parsley, red onion, and pomegranate salad from Bon Appétit Magazine by Yotam Ottolenghi pictured above. What's your favorite way to use parsley?

Why some people are picky eaters

 broccoli and brussel sprouts

We all have at least one friend or relative who we find difficult to please when making a meal. The list of items he or she doesn't like seemingly goes on forever, and we can't understand how some of the foods got put on the 'dislike' list. It may make us wonder how the person got to be such a fussy eater. If you are interested in learning more about the subject, visit NPR's The Salt, where anthropologist Jane Kauer and Here & Now co-host Jeremy Hobson discuss the science and culture of picky eating.

One of the biggest questions they discussed was whether we are all blank slates when it comes to taste - would five people raised in the same way end up with the same likes and dislikes? Kauer said there are both cultural and biological influences. "We have a preference in infancy, at birth, for sweetness. We have a dislike or strong aversive reaction to bitterness. We have a slight preference for slightly salty things, but not much of a preference, and a slight preference for moderate to low sour things. But the sweet and the bitter, we all come in with that, so we're not a total blank slate. Otherwise, it is mostly experience - personal experience, cultural values, everything that affects us in just the same way about clothing and all that." she explains. 

The discussion also covered the topic of how people tend to treat picky eaters. In many areas, a person wouldn't feel comfortable critizing someone else for his or her choices. But food is a different story. Says Kauer, " I would never get on you for wanting to wear gingham shirts ... but we do seem to feel that we have the right in the public domain to talk about each others' foods." She goes on to note that while people are mostly well-meaning in trying to get someone to try a particular food, it's easy to cross the line into judgment and moralization. 

Pictured above, a picky eater's nightmare: Easy stir-fried broccoli and Brussels sprouts from Serious Eats

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 magazines:


8 recipes for savory biscuits from the May 7th issue of indexed The Guardian Cook supplement

 

 

From AUS/NZ books:


36 recipes from Bakeclass: Learn to Bake Brilliantly, Step by Step by Anneka Manning

 

 

From UK books:


5 recipes from The Kitchen Shelf: Take a Few Pantry Essentials, Add Two Fresh Ingredients and Make Everyday Eating Extraordinary by Eve O'Sullivan & Rosie Reynolds

Save 35% on ANY Cookbook on Phaidon.com!

 

16 recipes from  Friends Food Family: Recipes and Secrets from LibertyLondonGirlby Sasha Wilkins, indexed by an EYB member


14 recipes from  Love Your Lunchbox: 101 Do-Ahead Recipes to Liven Up Lunchtime by James Ramsden, indexed by an EYB member

 

 

From Canadian books:


13 recipes from Make Ahead Meals: Over 100 Easy Time-Saving Recipes by Michael Smith

 

 

From US books:


11 recipes from Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings by Leela Cyd

21 recipes from Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better
Schedule of upcoming events

9 recipes from Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine Bryson with Ann Volkwein


Za'atar is even better when you make it yourself

zaatar bread

Those who are familiar with za'atar, the Middle Eastern spice blend, love how it adds a tart and herbal punch to many foods. Za'atar has been popularized outside of the Middle East by celebrity chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi, who sprinkles it on many dishes. The Los Angeles Times explains how, like most spice blends, za'atar is at its best when you make it yourself.

You don't have to look far to find many of za'atar's ingredients like thyme, oregano, and sesame seeds, but you may have to resort to mail order for the key ingredient: powdered sumac. Sumac is "the ground berry from the Sicilian sumac plant, Rhus coriaria. It has a deep red color and delightfully tart and tannic taste," according to The Times.

While the basic recipe uses the ingredients mentioned above, everyone seems to have their own tweak for the spice blend. The EYB Library contains over 40 different recipes for homemade za'atar, including several that include cumin and one that uses rose petals. Uses for za'atar are only limited by your imagination. It's frequently used as a topping for flatbread, like the Za'atar bread from Falafel for Breakfast by Michael Rantissi and Kristy Frawley shown above, but that is only the beginning. Za'atar is equally at home on grilled meats as it is on roasted vegetables. Find your favorite use for za'atar in over 325 online recipes in the EYB Library.

An argument for unbleached flour

Potato rolls and bread 

A few days ago we posted about a pastry chef who only uses bleached flour for cakes. Today we look at a counterpoint (of sorts), this time from Cooking Light Magazine, which advocates ditching bleached flour for unbleached.

The crux of the Cooking Light article is that the reason flour is bleached is because it benefitted large-scale commercial bakeries who needed a very consistent product. Before baking occurred on a such a massive scale, flour would naturally be "bleached" through oxidation, which occurs 1-2 months after grinding the wheat into flour. Cooking Light explains that unlike "farm-to-table garden goods, best when hot off the vine, freshly milled "green" flour isn't the most ideal for baking. The gluten in wheat flour needs time and oxygen to develop and mature, resulting in a stronger, more elastic dough… and lighter, fluffier product. Also with age, the flour naturally becomes whiter and paler."

Chemicals - either potassium bromate or chlorine gas - replaced the natural aging process and made the flour much whiter. Potassium bromate fell out of favor after bromates were linked to cancer in laboratory animals in the 1980s. The chemical is banned in Europe and Canada, but is still allowed in the US, although the FDA has encouraged producers to stop using it. In California, products that contain potassium bromate must carry a warning label. In other states, look for the term "unbromated wheat flour" if you want a product without bromate.

The article asserts that most home bakers won't notice any difference if they switch to unbleached flour. "The difference between bleached and unbleached flour is basically indiscernible to the home baker," says Sharon Davis of the Home Baking Association. She claims that "the bleaching process helps commercial bakers with consistency. Spread, texture, volume, and quality of grain must be exact each and every time… but for the home baker, the only thing bleach has to offer is a whiter bread or cookie." The caveat is that there is no mention of whether unbleached flour will negatively affect cakes, the main point of the previous article about using bleached cake flour.

Photo of Monday morning potato rolls and bread from Cooking Light Magazine

BBC Food website to close

sausages with red onion

Yesterday the BBC announced that BBC Food, along with a few other websites, will be shuttered as part of a larger cost-saving plan. Before you get too upset, please note that the company's commercial site, BBC Good Food, will carry on.

The BBC Food site contains over 11,000 recipes, which will not be searchable after the site closes, although you will be able to find the recipe if you know the URL. That means any recipes currently indexed on EYB (currently 291 recipes) should remain linked. If you have any favorites from the site that you haven't yet Bookmarked, now is the time to do it. BBC Food contains recipes from well-known names like Nigella Lawson, James Martin, Nigel Slater, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Hairy Bikers, including their Glamorgan sausages with red onion and chilli relish recipe shown above.

A BBC spokesperson explained the process: "We currently have two websites and we'll move to one. The recipes you love will still be available and we'll migrate as much of the content as possible to the BBC Good Food website. So you'll still be able to carry on baking and cooking with the BBC."

How to make caramel without melting sugar

 sugar

People are sometimes afraid of making caramel. It can be a fussy process: the sugar can crystallize, you can easily scorch it if you get distracted, and it's really hot and will leave a nasty burn if it gets on your skin (or your lip - I learned the hard way not to rap my wooden spoon on the side of the pan). But a revolutionary method from Stella Parks of Serious Eats promises great caramel flavor without all the fuss.

If you think you must melt sugar in order to get caramel, Parks dispels that notion with a bit of science. In a nutshell, melting is a simple phase change (think ice cubes melting into water), but caramelization is a chemical reaction. "While it's not a perfect analogy, imagine a pile of grass clippings releasing carbon dioxide as it turns to mulch in the sun-an irreversible process with variable results (i.e., no two handfuls of mulch are exactly alike, or composted to the same degree). Instead of occurring at a specific point, thermal decomposition occurs over a range of temperatures determined by the intensity and duration of heat," she explains. 

Usually melting and caramelization go hand in hand, because the temperatures necessary to produce caramelization are achieved using high heat, where the sugar quickly melts. Parks' method draws out the process, achieving the same result by using the more gentle heat of the oven. This allows the sugar to remain in its crystalline state while still undergoing the required chemical reactions that produce the delicious caramel flavor. Not only is the method easy, but you can substitute the finished product as-is in any recipe that calls for granulated sugar, from cakes to cookies to meringues to custard. And unlike molasses-rich brown sugar, the low-heat caramel sugar doesn't change the pH of batters and doughs. 

If you can't beat 'em...eat 'em

butter lettuce and dandelion salad

Dandelions are a gardener's bane. Even before the grass sheds its winter dullness, bright yellow flowers polka-dot the lawn, frustrating homeowners who dream of lush green expanses of lawn. But dandelions weren't always considered a nuisance. The French have long found dandelions to be a culinary delight (the name comes from the French dent de lion, literally 'lion's teeth'), and their popularity has started to rise again among chefs and nutritionists alike. David Tanis, writing for The New York Times, explains how the versatile green can be easily foraged, even in urban environments.

Even if you prefer to "forage" in the grocery store or at farmers' markets, you might be able to find both cultivated and wild dandelions as interest in them grows. You're more likely to find the long-leaved variety in grocery stores. While he considers those a fine choice, Tanis instructs the reader to "trim them ruthlessly, using just the top eight inches of the leaves for salad." He also notes that "like some chicories, dandelion has a pleasant slight bitterness, more so with the wild than the cultivated type."

In addition to their pleasant bitter flavor (think arugula), dandelions have plenty of vitamins A and C. If you decide to pluck your own, make sure to pick them before they begin to flower, so the the leaves don't get tough. Additionally, you should make sure you know whether they have been treated with any pesticides or other chemicals. The EYB Library contains nearly 150 recipes using dandelions, from salads like the Butter lettuce and dandelion salad with hot bacon dressing from Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine above, to tonics and even muffins.

Celebrate Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookies

Today was National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day in the US, but it doesn't take a special day for anyone to appreciate this both humble and transcendant treat. There are different chocolate chip cookie camps: some people prefer thin and crisp cookies, while others like theirs to be thick, gooey, and chewy. Some embellish their cookies with additions like rolled oats or nuts, while purists declare their love for the simple, unadorned version.

Whatever type of chocolate chip cookie you fancy, you'll find plenty of inspiration in the EYB Library, which contains over 670 online recipes for chocolate chip cookies (if you don't already have a favorite). Interestingly, both Dorie Greenspan and Thomas Keller have more than one recipe near the top of the rankings The recipe I have always turned to is the Mrs. Field's recipe, although I've made my own tweaks over the years. If you want to branch out from your tried-and-true recipe, try one of these highly-regarded cookies:

My best chocolate chip cookies from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Chocolate chip cookies from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce and Amy Scattergood
Chocolate chip cookies from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
Milk chocolate chocolate chip cookies from Baking Bites by Nicole Weston
Chocolate chip cookies from Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Chocolate chip cookies
from The New York Times by Jacques Torres (pictured above)

What's your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?

Eric Ripert on how his mother's cooking kept them close

Eric Ripert

Eric Ripert is the chef and part-owner of Le Bernardin, a Michelin three-starred restaurnt in New York City. He is a frequent guest on such national shows as Bravo's Top Chef, Today, Charlie Rose, and more. Chef Ripert's new memoir, 32 Yolks, hits bookstores this month. 32 Yolks follows in the tradition of Jacques Pépin's The Apprentice and Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef, as a coming-of-age story of a true French chef and international culinary icon.

Before he earned those Michelin stars, won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef, or became a regular guest judge on Top Chef, and even before he knew how to make a proper omelet, Eric Ripert was a young boy in the South of France who felt that his world had come to an end. The only place Eric felt at home was in the kitchen. His desire to not only cook, but to become the best would lead him into some of the most celebrated and demanding restaurants in Paris.

Ripert shared an excerpt from his book on Oprah.com about how dining with his mother and watching her cook was the salve that helped to heal the wounds caused when his parents divorced. Ripert's mother never told him about his father's philandering, instead allowing the young boy to hold his father in high esteem. Because he didn't know the truth, Ripert blamed his mother for his father leaving.

But as he explains in the essay, dinnertime with his maman helped to repair their relationship. "As soon as she got home from work, she put a white apron over her silk designer blouse and slacks. That apron was like a superhero's costume; the minute she put it on, she was no longer the evil witch who'd cast my father out, destroying our family and my happiness in the process. She was just Maman. Lovely, capable, loving Maman. And although I would not allow myself to hug and kiss her with abandon as I had before, my anger melted and I let her feel my love," he says. 

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