Spring resolutions...and the books to go with them

I finally got into the garden this weekend - anybody else?  It wasn't much of a start, but I put in arugula and spinach, favas and peas.  It's the start of the growing season, when there's nary a weed or a pest (except for ticks - I've seen plenty of those already), and good intentions go hand-in-hand with wild ambition.

Forget about the new year we started back in January - spring is the real new year.  Every spring I mean to do a better job of cooking the season, and this spring is no exception.  So here are my spring resolutions - I'll try to keep them to a small handful, so I have a sporting chance.

Expand my repertoire of salad dressings: I know, I say this all the time.  But this time I'm really going to do it.  The pantry is overflowing with vinegars and I need to get serious about using them.  What I need to do is develop, say, three basic dressings - something vinaigretty, something creamy, something soy-based - and then figure out how to vary them as I like.

Find another way I love nettles.  These grow everywhere around our house, and I usually make at least one spring batch of nettle ravioli.  I've never quite warmed up to nettle soup, that classic cleanser, but maybe I'll try the nettle börek in Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume.  Or maybe the nettle and goat cheese pesto in Home Made.

Find another way to love radishes.  If no one stops me, I will eat all the radishes in the garden in the form of radish butter.  Sometimes I chop the radishes into the butter, sometimes I shingle radishes right onto buttered toast.  I can eat radish butter all day long. Seriously, it's like a sickness.  But I have a vague memory of loving them pickled, too.  And I have a feeling I would love very small radishes gently sweated in a buttered pan, like turnips, or tossed in a bright salad with spring onions, à la Nigel Slater.

I definitely want to avail myself of more marinades - because all that time in the garden comes at a price,and when I drag my soil-encrusted self back into the house in the afternoons, dinner prep tends to get drastically curtailed. Fortunately Harvard Common Press has just the book for me - Marinades by Lucy Vaserfirer.

There are other greens I'd like to think more about too - asparagus, and arugula, and spinach, say. But I know that if I overreach, my spring resolutions will go the way of my January ones - whatever those were.

What do you resolve to cook this spring, before all our time is thieved away by other pressing obligations?

What to do when life doesn't hand you limes

limes

The U.S. relies on Mexico to supply 95% of its limes, but severe weather late last year knocked blossoms off lime trees and reduced the current crop by two-thirds. As a result, lime prices have soared by 200%. One damaged harvest isn't enough to cause more then a temporary spike in prices, but a strain of bacteria that is slowly creeping across Mexico poses serious concerns about the future of limes, according to the New York Times.

Many foods and drinks rely on limes for their distinctive flavor (Key lime pie and margaritas, for example). Some people recommend a blanket substitution of lemons for limes, but would you notice a difference? The folks at Slate  were determined to find out and conducted a taste test to see if people could distinguish between lemons and limes with no visual clues. The results confirm that you probably can't indiscriminately substitute lemons for limes. However, there are items you can make with lemons that still provide the pucker factor that many people enjoy. Food and Wine offers five lemon cocktails to make when life takes your limes, and the EYB online library tops that with 803 additional cocktails featuring lemons but not limes.

Key lime pie may be out of the question, but lemon pies can take up the slack. Lemon chess pie is one option, as is lemon shaker pie, and of course, lemon meringue pie. Let's not forget sweet Meyer lemon tarts and silky lemon cream tarts.

A generous dose of lime in guacamole might seem like a necessity, but we found several guacamole recipes that use lemon instead of lime. Most folks appreciate a squeeze of lime in their tacos or fajitas, but there are plenty of meat-centric Mexican dishes that feature lemons as well.

How are you coping with the lime shortage? Have readers outside the U.S. noticed any change in prices?

 

Cookbook giveaway - Egg

Egg by Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman is back with a cookbook featuring a food that has been popular around the world for centuries. Egg is an homage to an ingredient vital to many dishes that also fares well on its own in many different preparations. EYB is pleased to offer three copies of the book.

Discover Ruhlman's thoughts about the versatile egg in his EYB interview.

For your chance to win a copy, just answer the following question: What is your favorite dinner recipe that prominently features eggs?

Additional rules are:

  • Please make certain you have signed in to the EYB website (you don't have to be a paid member). This ensures that we have your email address and can get in contact with you.
  • The giveaway will expire in 4 weeks on May 12, 2014.

Michael Ruhlman extolls the virtues of the egg

Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman is an award winning writer whose cookbooks cover numerous subjects ranging from charcuterie to the importance of ratios. While the chicken (more precisely the chicken fat) may have come before the egg in his writing, he gives the egg its due with his latest work, simply titled Egg. Ruhlman graciously took time from his book tour to answer several questions posed by EYB.

You can enter our contest for a chance to win a copy of Egg.

 

EYB: Do you have a view on which of the many variables of eggs - organic, free-range, cage-free, Omega-3, pasteurized, etc - are the best for eating (and kindness to animals)?

I'm wary of all health claims beyond this one: eggs are nutritious and delicious food. My intuition is that eggs from chickens raised by a local farmer, chickens allowed to forage on fertile clean pasture, will be the most nutritious and delicious of all. If you care about the welfare of the chicken, same goes, though you do have the option of seeking out cartons that are labeled certified humane. Omega 3 eggs apparently may have more omega 3 fatty acids, supposed to be good for you. Are they? Your guess is as good as any nutritionist's. As a rule all eggs are going to be fairly similar from a nutrition standpoint, with small variations.

Do you have any idea how many eggs you used while developing the recipes in this book?

No! Cartons and cartons of them. And with very little waste.

What new ways of using eggs are readers of this book likely to discover?

There are no new ways of using eggs, which have been around well, for some time now. (The chicken came first, by the way, but a very, very long time ago.) Unless you include that weird egg extruder demonstrated by Stephen Colbert [on The Colbert Report]. What readers of this book will find, to their astonishment, I hope, is the amazing variety of ways this single and singular object can be put to use, whether as the focal point of a dish or a mechanical tool for some unforeseen effect (the egg whites capacity for clarifying a stock for consommé for instance).

Egg by Michael RuhlmanHow much do you explain about the science of cooking with eggs?

Only insofar as it teaches a technique or helps us to understand why a preparation works as it does. Why the amount of water in a yolk-emulsified sauce is more critical to the sauces stability than the amount of yolk, for example. Any areas where the a student reader wants more, I direct them to McGee's unparalleled On Food and Cooking.

What are your personal favorite and least favorite methods of cooking eggs?

My favorite ways of cooking eggs is using gentle heat on a whole egg, or a whole egg blended--poached, scrambled fried over easy, and the like: ways that feature the egg. I can think of no ways I don't like cooking eggs. I don't like being on the receiving end of a thrown raw egg in its shell.

We know from your blog that you love cocktails - are there any cocktails using egg whites in the book?
 
Yes! I've included a Clover Club cocktail in the book, a sweet and sour gin-based concoction that gets its body from egg whites. I also couldn't resist three very different eggnog preparations.

Your last book was Schmaltz, about chicken fat.  Now we have Egg.  What's next?

A series of short single subject cookbooks focusing on a specific technique--roast and then braise are slated for next fall and the following spring, respectively.

Believe it or not, there are some people who don't like eating eggs - what recipes in the book are likely to change their minds?

I like to think that if I personally scrambled eggs for such a human, I could change their mind. If that didn't work, I'd make them a Clover Club.

Who buys cookbooks and why?

cookbooks on shelf

It's a pretty safe bet to say that people who use this site like to buy cookbooks. But what drives people to buy cookbooks and who, besides EYB members, are buying them? Those are questions answered by a Nielsen survey and reported by Dianne Jacobs on her excellent blog.

Probably no one will be surprised to learn that 65 percent of people who buy cookbooks are women. However, some people might not have expected that even though food photos dominate social media like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, only 21 percent of the people surveyed said photos influenced their decision to purchase a cookbook. Apparently, recipes still rule over eye candy.

Which cookbook, websites, and magazine brands were the most recognized? Maybe not the ones you might imagine: Betty Crocker was the most recognized cookbook brand, AARP (Amecian Association of Retired Persons) magazine was the most recognized magazine, and Allrecipes.com was the most recognized website.

Another noteworthy finding is that eBooks only accounted for 16 percent of cookbook purchases in 2012. It will be interesting to see how quickly this number grows. The article also discusses other results, including which cuisines were the most popular and how much emphasis people put on looking through a book before buying it.

Did any of the findings surprise you?

How cookbooks rate in the States

Great American Eats

Amazon.com has just released an interactive infographic called "Great American Eats" that shows which cookbooks originating in each region of the U.S. are most popular. The map is curated by Mari Malcolm, Amazon Books' food editor. She explains her inspiration to the LA Times: "I've long been intrigued by the regional trends in cookbooks, so I decided it would be fun for foodies and our cookbook customers if I actually mapped them."

Living in the Midwest, I was naturally curious about this region, which includes some very rural areas along with the metropolis of Chicago. The comfort food-heavy The New Midwestern Table nabbing a spot in the top five cookbooks hailing from this region, but the sophisticated Alinea holds its own at number eleven.

So far only the U.S. has been mapped, and there is no indication it will spread to other countries. The maps shows cookbooks by originating region, and lists them in order of "new and popular."

 

Cookbook giveaway - My Paris Kitchen

My Paris Kitchebn

David Lebovitz began working in restaurants at the age of sixteen, ending up as pastry chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. After working there for 13 years, David packed his bags and headed to France to begin a new career in writing. Since then, he has published seven books. His latest is My Paris Kitchen, and we're delighted to offer three copies.

You can learn more about the cookbook and David's life in France in his EYB interview.

For your chance to win a copy, just answer the following question: What is your favorite French food?

Additional rules are:

  • Please make certain you have signed in to the EYB website (you don't have to be a paid member). This ensures that we have your email address and can get in contact with you.
  • The giveaway will expire in 4 weeks on May 9, 2014.

David Lebovitz takes us to Paris

David Lebovitz

David Lebovitz has certainly kept busy since leaving a successful career as a pastry chef in San Francisco to move to France and begin a career in writing. His seventh cookbook, My Paris Kitchen, has just been released and promises to be another bestseller. (You can win a copy of the book by entering our contest.) On the eve of his book tour, David sat down with EYB to answer questions about the cookbook and his life in France. You can read even more about the writing of his current book on his blog.

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This is your seventh book. How do you carve out the time when you also have a blog, you're busy on social media, you conduct Paris culinary tours, write articles, etc.?

Because I spent most of my life working in restaurants, I am used to working a lot, especially at insane hours, and am particularly adept at multitasking. So I also love what I do - writing books is very interesting for me as it allows me to delve deeply into a subject, and blogging is fun because it's more immediate and I love the interesting feedback from readers - and everything I do (books, blog, social media) is integrated into my life. So it's not a chore, but a pleasure.

However I have learned what my limits are. And amongst the many things I've learned from the French is how to say "Non." There's a reason that they are able to value leisure time more than we do and it's because they are better at balancing life over work, and saying no to things they don't have (or don't want) to do. So I've learned when to dial back, and to only do what I can do - otherwise, I'm spending all my time doing things other than writing cookbooks, testing recipes, blogging, and more importantly, visiting chocolate shop and bakeries!

You have been living in Paris for many years.  How difficult was it to whittle down your favorite Parisian recipes to the 100 or so in the book?

When I started writing My Paris Kitchen, originally I had thought that I would have recipes from some of the young Paris chefs and write about the current culinary scene. But then I realized that many of those dishes are not something anyone would be able to recreate at home, as many are the "personal" visions of the chefs. And they often feature complex plates with tiny greens, a few slices of smoked fish, a garnish with four cubes of various different root vegetables, and a scribble of sauce made with a reduction of quail essences.  The French are naturally pretty good cooks and people in Paris like to go out for food they can't get or make at home, and those kinds of dishes fit the bill.

I wanted to write recipes that people could make at home, anywhere in the world. And with so many lovely ingredients available worldwide it's possible. So I decided to concentrate on home cooking and my own cuisine. I wanted to include how I shop for ingredients at the outdoor markets, what I get in the specialty shops - such as at the butchers and cheese shops, and also featured bits and pieces of the multicultural neighborhoods, which are lesser-known to people who come visit or overlooked in books about Paris, but I find them fascinating to visit and inspirational to the way I cook. I was also fortunate to have a wonderful photographer, Ed Anderson, who was particularly adept at getting pictures that capture the mood of Paris.

Which are the recipes that resonate most with you and why?

I am a big fan of "apero hour", the time in France when you relax at the end of the day over a glass of cool rosé - or something more ambitious, like an apéritif. So I'm particularly fond of the salted almond crisps, which are inspired by the wispy, salty crackers from Provence that are laden with almonds and olives. Another favorite recipe is the Parisian Gnocchi, which I am pretty sure I made every week this winter. It's a dish that not really well-known outside of France (or even Paris), and is a simmering gratin dish of pâte à choux (cream puffs) nestled in creamy béchamel sauce, baked under handfuls of cheese. When it comes out of the oven, the top is deeply bronzed. It's hard not to scrape the entire dish clean! (Especially when washed down with a lovely Sancerre or Sauvignon blanc.)

My Paris KitchenI'm also a big fan of chocolate and confiture de lait (dulce de leche), so these two flavors play big in the dessert chapter of the book. I can't help using them as much as I can. And I often add a sprinkle of sea salt, such as fleur de sel, to them  which gives the chocolate - confiture de lait tart, or warm chocolate cakes with the confiture de lait  in the center, a certain je ne sais quoi. But the recipe that is probably the most special to me is the last one, the Bûche de Noël, or Christmas Cake. It's perhaps my most requested recipe and I thought it was perfect to feature at the end of the book (which is not just a recipe book, but is part storybook, with tales that mirror my life) not only to wrap up the book, but to tie up the connection between my former life in San Francisco and my current life in Paris.

Do you think an immigrant to Paris ever feels truly "at home"?

It's been said that you never feel more American than when you leave America, and that's certainly true. Like other big cities, Paris can be a tough place at time. And it's very difficult to integrate into the culture. Fortunately I have an advantage, and that's that people are always interested in pastry chefs, and writing is considered a noble profession. So those have helped.

I also have a French partner, so I do a lot of things that a typical American (or foreigner) might not get to experience. Plus being here a while, I've made close friends. But still, I'm not sure I'll ever feel exactly "at home" here. Cultural ties are very strong and there are things about the United States I still miss: Sharpies, organic crunchy peanut butter, and customer service, come to mind. But there are things about Paris that make up for it. (Although customer service isn't one of them.)

Your blog is immensely popular (and indexed on EYB). How difficult is it to keep your best recipes back for your books (or maybe you don't!)?

I think certain recipes are better on blogs while others work better in books. I cook a lot of Asian foods at home, and some Mexican, and it's hard to pop those in a book about Paris. Desserts with several components work better in books so people can have a book in the kitchen with them.

Books are part of a long, more thoughtful process than the blog, which is meant to be more spontaneous and casual. In My Paris Kitchen (as well as The Sweet Life in Paris), the recipes are part of a longer story, so they work with the text to help me communicate with readers, which I do with both working together.

Are you frustrated by the long, slow process of book publishing now that you can publish recipes so quickly on your blog and get instant feedback?

Writing a book is vastly different because you're creating a document that people will refer to for years to come, so you need to be especially careful that the text and recipes are exactly what you want to say because they can't be changed. Whereas a blog is more of a diary and running commentary, and tends to be more casual. You're right that the process of writing a book is slow, but in this age of "get it out there - quick!" it's nice to spend the time working on something that will have lasting value. (Folks write that they still bake from my first book - Room for Dessert - which was released in 1999, which shows that people still value cookbooks as much as ever.)

The process of writing a book is much more measured than writing a blog. People often don't realize how many stages a book goes through. Writing a book takes at least a year (I spent two years writing and testing recipes for My Paris Kitchen). To me, writing and recipe testing is almost a 24/7 job, and when I'm working on a book, that's almost all I think about as it becomes a major part of my life. The next stage, editing, is tough because someone else is scanning your words and thoughts, asking for revisions or following up. Then there is taking the pictures (which is one of my favorite parts), then the book goes into production with designers and so forth. It takes a while, yes. But when you hold that finished book in your hand, well, I can't think of anything that feels better.

When writing the recipes, how much did you need to adapt ingredients, bearing in mind it may be hard for your readers to get some of those you find in Paris?

Fortunately the range of what is available in America has expanded greatly and thing that are common in France and used in French cooking, like Swiss chard, Comté cheese, frisée, shallots, bittersweet dark chocolate, Dijon mustard, and olive oil, can be found in most supermarkets. For this book, I called butchers in America to find out about what cuts of meat were common, and I have my recipes tested in the US with products available there since they can be different from those in France. Most people are pretty adept at using the internet and you can really find anything you want, although I still try to stick with ingredients people can get fairly easily, because not everyone wants to wait for a delivery to make dinner.

You will shortly be doing a book tour to promote the new book.  How can your fans find out where they might meet you?

I put events on the Schedule page at my website and in my newsletter, but I also put them on my Facebook page and Twitter stream, which are more immediate ways to let people know where I will be. I always want to go everywhere because I love meeting people.

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

With Passover and Easter right around the corner, this week's featured recipes include one for each holiday, but there are plenty more to choose from in the EYB Library for last-minute menu planning. You can browse more than  300 Passover recipes and  900 Easter recipes with online links and add the ones you'd like to try to your personal Bookshelf (if you are a free member, this feature will be available to you soon).

If you get the chance to make any of the recipes featured here, please share your experience with the EYB community by adding a Note to the recipe. Happy cooking and baking everyone!

 

From blogs & magazines:

Spring pea saladCherry hot cross bunsCoconut macaroon cake

Spring Pea Farro Salad from indexed blog What's Gaby Cooking

Sour-Cherry Hot Cross Buns for Easter by Alice Storey from the April issue of indexed Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine

Coconut Macaroon Cake with Pistachios & Coconut Ganache for Passover from indexed blog 5 Second Rule

 

Deviled eggs

21 jazzed-up deviled egg recipes from the April issues of indexed Martha Stewart LivingBetter Homes and Gardens, & Cooking Light magazines

 

 

From UK books:

The American Cookbook

10 recipes from The American Cookbook: A Fresh Take on Classic Recipes by Caroline Bretherton & Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, indexed by an EYB member

 

My Kind of Cooking

3 recipes from My Kind of Cooking by Mark Sargeant, indexed by an EYB member

Click "related video" to watch a demonstration by the author of the Quick Paella with Hot Smoked Salmon recipe pictured above

 

Vegan on the Cheap

4 budget-friendly recipes from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson

 

 

From AUS/NZ books:

Steve Manfredi's Italian Food

17 recipes from Stefano Manfredi's Italian Food

 

The Book of Tripe

3 nose-to-tail recipes from Stéphane Reynaud's Book of Tripe and Gizzards, Kidneys, Feet, Brains and All the Rest

 

 

From US books:

The Italian Vegetable Cookbook

5 recipes from The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone

Enter our giveaway to win 1 of 5 copies! (Ends April 19th)

 

Sauces & Shapes

11 recipes from Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini De Vita & Maureen B. Fant

 

The Art of French Pastry

3 recipes from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer & Martha Rose Shulman

 

Artisan Cheese Making at Home

11 recipes from Artisan Cheese Making at Home by Mary Karlin

 

Easy Chinese Stir Fries

7 recipes from Helen's Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries by Helen Chen, indexed by an EYB member

 

 

Cookbook giveaway - I Quit Sugar for Life

I Quit Sugar for LifeAuthor, blogger and television host Sarah Wilson's cookbook, I Quit Sugar for Life, has just been released in the United States after enjoying considerable success in Australia and the UK. We're delighted to offer four copies of this book.

You can learn more about Sarah's views on sugar in her inteview with EYB.

For your chance to win a copy, just answer the following question: what sweet would you find most difficult to eliminate from your diet?

Additional rules are:

  • Please make certain you have signed in to the EYB website (you don't have to be a paid member). This ensures that we have your email address and can get in contact with you.
  • The giveaway will expire in 4 weeks on May 7, 2014.
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