What James Beard had to say about onions

Onions are indispensable in my kitchen. I usually have at least two types on hand at any given moment (red and yellow) and frequently even more. They are essential to many dishes. I'm far from the only fan of onions, of course; they are favored by home cooks and chefs alike. One of the onion's biggest fans was James Beard, who wrote about this subject and many more in his iconic book Beard on Food. The James Beard Foundation just posted an excerpt from the book regarding onions, and it makes for a wonderful read

cider and sage roast onion

Beard notes that onions form the backbone of dishes from many cultures and provides us with examples of how onions have been venerated throughout the ages: "Onions, we are told, were part of the cargo on Noah's ark. The Egyptians regarded them as a symbol of the sun they worshiped as a god, with the concentric rings of the sliced onion representing heaven, hell, earth, and the universe. If you've never studied the inside of an onion, cut one in half sometime and really look. It is one of nature's most amazing works of art."

The essay provides myriad ways to enjoy different types of onions - in a salad, pickled, or even on their own as a sandwich. Beard adored onion sandwiches, preferring sweet onions grown in Washington State and Idaho (undoubtedly the Walla Walla variety). As much as he loved onions, Beard shared the lament that many of us have about the tasty but fussy pearl onion, noting that "peeling these babies is a pretty monotonous task."

Naturally, the EYB Library is stuffed with onion recipes. These alliums are included in over 41,000 online recipes. A few highlights are listed below. One of my favorite onion recipes is the Golden onion & thyme dip from Fine Cooking Magazine. What's your favorite way to enjoy onions? 

Amazon Prime Day guide

Prime Day starts at 3 p.m. ET (noon PT) on Monday, July 16. It runs through 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, July 17. (Note it will start at noon in the UK and noon AEST on July 16 in Australia, and will run for 36 hours in both countries. Offers will differ from country to country.)

If you're not yet an Amazon Prime member, we suggest signing up to the 30-day free trial now in order to access the deals on Prime Day. If July 16th is the day you decide to sign up for Prime, please use our affiliate links listed below. 

 

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Amazon US

These cookbook deals are available for a short period:

Use code PRIMEBOOKS18 to save $5 on a $20+ book purchase (only valid on books sold and shipped by Amazon.com, not a 3rd party

Deals coming soon

Other deals today:

Kitchenwares deals can be found here and Instant Pot is at the lowest price ever.

Amazon is already cutting the price of Amazon-specific products: 


Meanwhile, a number of movie rentals have been reduced to $2. Gamers can get a free video game from Twitch every day leading up to Prime Day as well as a few after. On Monday, Amazon will offer the Kindle Paperwhite for $80 and if you shop at Whole Foods, you can get $10 in Amazon credit for spending $10 on groceries.

On Monday we will share new deals of importance hopefully lots of cookbooks and kitchen items on social media but as of now these deals are rumored:

Amazon UK

Cookbook deals

There's a three-month free trial for selected channels on Prime Video - Discovery, Shudder, BFI and MGM.

  • New customers can get four months' access to Amazon Music Unlimited for 99p 
  • There currently are rumors of many electronic deals and we will be updating this post with items of importance to our members.

Amazon CA

Amazon.ca will be celebrating Prime Day as well. Rumored sales include:

Alexa related products are already on sale

We appreciate your support of Eat Your Books by using our affiliate links for your purchases on Prime Day and throughout the year. Our affiliate links are always located on our Home Page (right sidebar) and allow us to index more cookbook titles for our members.

Spain's National Library puts historic recipes on video

Talk about a cookbook collection - Spain's National Library contains an impressive 23,000 food-related works, some of which date back to the 1400s. In an effort to raise awareness about these unique and ancient works, the library is embracing a modern techology: videos. Partnering with contemporary chefs, they have put together video recipes adapted from cookbooks that span the centuries.  

ipad on counter

In addition to the videos, which not only provide recipes but also delve into the history to explain how such gastronomy developed, the library has also been creating digital versions of about 200 vital gastronomy books.  "We have an enormous wealth of data, but that doesn't mean we can easily attract a huge public," said Elena Sánchez Nogales, who is in charge of the digital area. "The library has always been a natural habitat for researchers, but food is clearly interesting more and more people, so we just needed to find the right language to reach them."

Madrid chef Javier Estévez said he enjoyed the challenge of reinterpreting a 19th-century recipe for caramel pig trotters. He appreciated that the older recipes were more of a general guide for the dish rather than a strict step-by-step instruction. "We've become much more technical, so that we treat the preparation of food as if it was some sort of scientific dissection in which everything should also be measured," he said. "But I don't think cooking should be like mathematics. I personally much prefer trial and error." 

Are you a messy eater? Wear those stains with pride

It never fails: any time I wear a light-colored shirt while eating, I will splash tomato sauce, berries or chocolate sauce on it, creating an indelible stain. Dark colored clothing will get the same treatment in reverse, with a white sauce, yogurt, or something equally contrasting. When this happens, I attempt to discreetly daub the stain with a napkin and cold water, often creating a larger smear in the process. Instead of trying to hide these stains I should wear them with pride, says food critic Jay Rayner, who writes in praise of being a messy eater

spaghetti sauce

Rayner is as amazed as I am when he sees someone wearing a pristine white shirt that remains pristine throughout a lengthy meal. How can that be possible, he muses, while "I seem completely incapable of leaving a table without everyone being able to read, from the full Jackson Pollock across my chest, exactly what I've just had for my tea." 

The explanation, he surmises, is not that he is incapable of being neat, but rather that he properly appreciates the art of eating. "The ones who manage not to spill everything down their shirts are obviously not doing food properly," says Rayner. Remember his words the next time you hesitate to order the pasta with red sauce or that gooey chocolate dessert. Embrace the berry coulis stain and the curry spots. They are marks of a meal well eaten.

Photo of Spaghetti with winter tomato sauce (Spaghetti con sugo simplice di pomodori pelati) from The Guardian Cook Supplement by Rachel Roddy

What's new at the Fancy Food Show

Wander down the aisles of any large supermarket or grocery store and you will be bombarded with choices. There are rows and rows of every type of processed food imaginable, from chips/crisps to cookies to pickles to soups and sauces and so much more. How do those myriad items find their way onto the store's shelves? One part of the process is the trade show, like the Fancy Food Show that was just held at the Javits Center in New York City. Bon Appétit's Alex Beggs takes us inside this enormous event

puffed grain and miso cookies

The Fancy Food Show is one way that food producers catch the eye (and tastebuds) of buyers for supermarkets, kitchen stores, and convenience stores. Vendors provide samples of their wares to interested parties, offering stories to help sell the product. According to Beggs, smoked items were rampant, with everything from smoked chocolate to smoked honey and even smoked olive oil. "That's how you know a trend is over, I was told by an apt specialty store owner," he says. 

Puffy was another big theme at the event. "Take a grain, seed, whatever, and puff it with air to make it a  snack," says Beggs. He sampled puffed quinoa, rice, and edamame, just to name a few. With over 2,600 companies at the show, there is no way to sample - or even visit - all of the items on display. 

Photo of Puffed grain and miso cookies from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine by Dorie Greenspan

Which foods do you need to wash prior to cooking?

Most food safety guides tell you to rinse fruits and vegetables before preparing them. Some sources will even tell you to rinse meat before cooking. Is this good advice? NPR's The Salt weighs in on which food items you should rinse - and which you should leave alone. 

washing mushrooms

A recent US outbreak of E. coli infections caused by tainted romaine lettuce reignited interest in whether rinsing produce will help you avoid foodborne illness. The short answer is that it can help, but that comes with a caveat. If you do not cook the foods that you rinse, you are still at risk, because washing fruits and vegetables can only go so far in removing the microorganisms. Since cooking many items like lettuce and fruits drastically changes their flavor and texture, most people will take the chance in order to eat those foods in their fresh state. 

As for rinsing meat, experts say that is not a good practice. You risk spreading harmful bacteria by splashing them around on sinks and countertops. To be safe, you need to cook all meat and eggs to a safe temperature. Plenty of people will take the small risk that comes with their over-easy eggs, although if you are concerned about undercooked eggs you should be able to find pasteurized eggs in most larger grocery stores. 

Other items that you should rinse include beans, rice, and grains. The article provides helpful reminders on how to best wash different types of produce to remove the most harmful bacteria, and also tips on how to properly clean the surfaces in your kitchen such as countertops, cutting boards, and utensils. 

Clever uses for your salad spinner

A salad spinner is one of those kitchen gadgets that is so good at what it does - wash and dry leafy greens - that you forgive it for being a one-trick-pony. It takes up a fair amount of cabinet space, so you might think about getting rid of it to make room for something else. Before you do that, check out Taste of Home's alternate uses for a salad spinner

 berries in a salad spinner

The first alternative may come in handy for summer picnics. If you are making a pasta salad, place the drained pasta in the salad spinner to extract all of the water, keeping your pasta salad from getting soggy. You can also use the basket to drain salted vegetables like cabbage or eggplant, and to rinse and drain berries. For the latter, make sure you spin them gently to avoid bruising. 

The next idea is a bit more controversial. The article recommends using a salad spinner to dry meat that has been brined, specifically chicken pieces that that should be patted dry before seasoning or breading. Maybe it's just me, but I am not comfortable with putting meat into a device normally used for vegetables as it can be a cross-contamination issue. 

One use I can definitely get behind is to repurpose the bowl part (especially if it's a clear bowl) as a dough rising bucket. A salad spinner is the perfect size for this, and you can easily keep an eye on the rising dough without disturbing it. Another clever repurpose is to use the spinner to drain, rinse and dry canned beans. 

The last idea is another one that may be questionable - using the device to get excess water out of a swimsuit. They do provide a caveat that you should thoroughly wash out the salad spinner after doing this, but I would go a step further and say that a to visit the thrift store may be in order. There you can probably find a used one that you can dedicate for this purpose, leaving your salad spinner solely for kitchen use. 

The case of the disappearing salt shaker

Something is missing from more and more restaurants in the United States, and it's not politicians. The trend has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with confidence. Across the country, chefs are removing salt and pepper shakers from their tables. This practice is occurring across the spectrum of restaurants, from fine dining to more casual eateries.

kosher salt

While the nation's top restaurants long ago removed the shakers, until the last few years you could usually find salt and pepper at every table in most other establishments. The reasons vary - some chefs feel that the food they serve is seasoned to perfection, while others are more focused on the table setting, preferring a cleaner look. 

Steve Cook, who along with chef Michael Solomonov, co-owns Zahav and other restaurants, said not offering salt has more to do with providing "flawless hospitality" than anything else. "When that food leaves the kitchen, it's to be ready to eat. The guest shouldn't have to do anything," he said. "We're not doing our job if the food isn't coming out seasoned just right."

The amount of salt needed for optimal results can be difficult to pinpoint. Since taste is subjective, one person's 'too salty' is another diner's 'just right'. Steve Cook says "When we were naming our cookbook, we joked about calling it  Zahav: Loud, Dark and Salty," he said. "Those are the complaints we get. It would probably be more useful to some of our guests if we put salt remover on the table."   

Use thrift stores as a guide for your cookware collection

EYB Members have frequently posted about the great items they discover at thrift stores. Whether it's a wonderful cookbook, vintage cookware, or a gorgeous serving piece, there is a thrill involved in digging through the shelves to find the perfect gem. But the things you pass over - and the things you don't find at these stores in the first place - can be used as a guide for what you really need to stock your kitchen.

thrift store cookware

Let's start with the items - okay, junk - you must dig through in order to find the treasures. Thrift stores teem with gadgets and small appliances that were once the "must-have" new item. Consider how many pizza cookers and popcorn poppers litter the shelves at secondhand stores before spending your hard-earned money on something that is heavily advertised. They end up discarded for a reason. Do you see yourself actually using it enough to justify the purchase? Does it take up valuable counter space that you are going to want back in a few months? Do you really need to have a divided frying pan or countertop cheese maker

Then there are the things you don't see in thrift stores. How many large Le Creuset or Staub dutch ovens grace the shelves? When is the last time you saw tri-ply cookware or heavy duty half-sheet pans? For me, the answer to those questions is none and never. Quality items like those are treasures that see constant kitchen use, and at least one person in the family will want it once its owner passes on or tires of it. This is the type of cookware that you should strive to purchase, even if it means doing without for a while. 

Despite the scarcity of high-quality cookware and the copious quantity of last year's overpriced gadgets, I will continue to haunt thrift stores. Today I picked up a good condition Joy of Cooking (1953) to round out my collection, and paid only a trifle for it. I passed up a few other items, however, using the wisdom gained from previous impulse buys to temper my enthusiasm. If you can avoid the temptation to buy things you won't use, thrift and secondhand stores still offer potential. 

Almond extract is this baker's secret weapon

Every baker has a secret weapon, whether a special type of flour, a certain brand of cocoa powder, or another ingredient that they feel adds a spark to their baked goods. For Elizabeth Chambers Hammer, founder of BIRD Bakery in San Antonio, that secret weapon is an elixir known as almond extract

cookies

Hammer says almond extract is the secret to her bakery's famous sugar cookies. "It's the fancier version of vanilla, and it adds another layer of flavor, depth, and warmth to so many recipes," she says. Not only is it a crucial to the cookies, but it's also a family tradition. Hammer recalls eating sugar boat tarts in the walk-in cooler in her grandmother's commercial catering kitchen. 

"Maybe that's why I feel so strongly about almond extract - because to me so much about cooking and baking is nostalgic and reminds me of those times with these amazing women in my life," she notes. In addition to using almond extract in her bakery's sugar cookies, Hammer also utilizes the ingredient in everything from whipped cream to banana pudding and even in French toast. 

Photo of Soft sugar cookies from Bake at 350 by Bridget Edwards

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