The New Pie - Interview with Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin

Baking cookbooks, watching others bake and the act of baking, brings me joy.  Cooking is a passion, but one borne out of necessity and love. It makes me happy to share my food with others, but baking is therapeutic for me. The excitement of a new baking book opens a whole new world of possibilities. 

In 2017, I read about the award-winning pie team of Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin and remembered thinking "please write a cookbook". The cookbook gods answered my plea and next month (on March 12th) The New Pie: Modern Techniques for the Classic American Dessert will hit the shelves.


Chris reached out to me after seeing my 2019 preview post in a professional culinary group and I jumped at the opportunity to interview the couple, find out more about their book and get the down-low on their own cookbook collection.

Before we get to that, I want to share a bit about this exciting book. Clarkson Potter graciously forwarded an early press copy to me and I have spent a great deal of time in its pages. Do not let that gorgeous apple pie lead you to believe that this is just a "pie cookbook". These are not your grandmother's pie recipes. This is high octane pie and it is delightful and refreshing.

The photography is stunning (we will be getting an EYBD Preview up as soon as possible), the detailed instructions are invaluable, and the pie recipes are everything. Flaky crusts, creamy fillings, swirling whipped cream, and torched meringues like no others you have come across before. This is the new pie. They mention Stella Parks below in our interview and the first thing I thought of when I cracked open their book was the attention to detail which is very similar to Stella's Bravetart book. 

There are so many unique and delightful recipes that I guarantee that even the most experienced pie baker will be impressed. How about a Toffee cream with crunch or a Clemenza's cannoli or even a Caramel popcorn pie? And what really blew up my skirt was the showpiece pies chapter - Strawberry chocolate cosmos! Bubbling butterbeer! Order this book now so that you have it on the day of release. You will not be disappointed. I foresee The New Pie being a selection for our EYB Cookbook Club (update: It's a selection for May!)

Update: This weekend I attempted the Checkerboard Peanut Butter Pie. I thought I had enough peanut butter but ran out with two more layers to go. Let me tell you, if the pie is this amazing (I adapted by adding pretzels and chocolate dots on the top) even missing two layers - I can't imagine how great it will be when I make the entire pie. 

The authors' events are on our calendar, we are indexing this title now so the index will be available on publication date, and we will get up a EYBD Preview and promotion in the near future. 

Photograph of the authors ©2019 Andrew Thomas Lee

Now to our interview:

EYB:  Paul and Chris - congratulations on your upcoming book! I am so excited for its release. Tell us how your journey into pie baking began and did you ever imagine it would turn into 500 plus awards and now a cookbook!?

Chris: Thank you! We had both been bakers before we met, but neither of us had really baked many pies. In 2011, I discovered a pie baking contest about an hour away from us in Atlanta. It was our first baking competition, and I won a blue ribbon for my Summer Strawberry Pie (and we share the recipe in the book)!

Paul: After that first competition, we started entering other contests-local competitions, county and state fairs, and even the National Pie Championships. We really enjoyed competing and developing recipes for the competitions. When Chris won the Best of Show award at the National Pie Championships, our story was featured in the New York Times. After the Times story, we were approached about writing a cookbook. As self-taught home bakers, it's been really been gratifying to write a cookbook because we've learned so much from cookbooks ourselves.

EYB: Tell us about the book writing process did you fall back on many of your prize-winning recipes or are these recipes all new?

Chris: A little bit of both! Several pies in the book have earned blue ribbons, and even for some of those winners, we've made the recipes even better by either streamlining the recipe or changing it as we learned more during the last seven years of pie baking. As we're inspired by flavors or new techniques, we keep a running list of pie ideas that we'd like to try. So while many of the recipes haven't been entered into contests, they're not exactly new because we've been building them in our heads for years!

EYB: For a novice baker, which recipe would you recommend they try first from your book? Which recipe is your favorite?

Paul: One of the great features of The New Pie is that we have a rating for each pie on how difficult it is to make, if it uses any specialty ingredients, and if special equipment is needed. Some of the easiest recipes in the book are the German Chocolate Pecan (a pecan pie version of the cake), the PB&J (peanut butter cream with raspberry jam), and a boozy cappuccino cream pie called The Nicolé. 

EYB: What are your top three tips for pie bakers?

  1. Weigh your ingredients! Baking is so much better when you weigh ingredients instead of measuring by volume. Pie crust is especially important to weigh the ingredients because flour measures differently by how heavy it's packed or how it's scooped into a cup. Because only a few tablespoons of water are used to make a pie crust, it's so important to make sure that the flour is measured accurately so the pie dough won't be too dry to roll or too wet to handle effectively. Weighing ingredients also allows for consistency in baking so a baker can be sure that a recipe will work time and time again.
  2. Don't be afraid of pie crust! We talk to so many people who love pie and want to bake pie, but they don't because they're afraid of pie crust. One of the keys to a successful pie dough is weighing the ingredients (see Tip #1). In the book, we walk readers through making great pie crusts. Of course, if you have crust recipe that works, feel free to use it. If you have to use a commercial pie dough, (ours is certainly better), go ahead and do it if it gets you in the kitchen to make pie. Pie is such a piece of Americana, don't let crust hold you back.
  3. Don't be afraid to try new flavors or techniques! The New Pie has recipes with some creative and new flavors and techniques. A lot of people are familiar with making apple pie or blueberry pie, but pie is an American dessert and what is more American than innovation? We really wanted to step outside the box and look at pie in a whole new way. We've incorporated fun flavors like root beer floats, mango coladas, bubble gum, and Tahitian pineapple into our pies. Some of the fruit pie recipes use a sous vide technique, where fruits are cooked outside of the pie at a precise temperature to ensure that the pectin sets and results in an apple slice or blueberry that is cooked but still keeps a great texture without being soggy.

EYB: Rose Levy Beranbaum is a good friend. I read that the first baked good you made together was her Scarlet Empress. Who would you say inspires you? Who are your pastry heroes?

Paul: Certainly Rose, for sure. As scientists, her scientific approach to baking is really inspiring to us. Years ago, her recommendation to weigh ingredients really changed how I baked. Dominique Ansel, the creator of the Cronut and other fantastical creations, is another inspiration because of how he innovates to create things we've never seen before. The same for pastry chef and cookbook author, Christina Tosi of Milk Bar who pioneered the naked layer cake and developed her delicious Cereal Milk inventions.

Chris: We read a lot of cookbooks and cooking blogs, so there are almost too many people to name who inspired us. Stand outs including David Lebovitz, Stella Parks, and Erin Jeanne McDowell, who is a pie tour-de-force herself. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention our fellow competitors at the National Pie Championships who keep us on our toes every year and really keep us striving to innovate and create the next award-winning pie recipe.

EYB: Besides pies what other types of baking do you enjoy?

Paul: D, all of the above! Yeast breads, quick breads, cakes, pastries, and of course cookies are all in our repertoire. I tend to do more of the savory items and Chris makes all of the really pretty things. With these complimentary skillsets, it is a joy when we get to work on projects together. I might bake the cake layers and assemble the cake while Chris makes the frosting and decorates it.  

EYB: As cookbook lovers here at EYB, we have to know do you have a cookbook collection? If so, how many? Which are your favorites?

Chris: We're both scientists by training, so we're book learners by nature. We love having a great library to turn to for guidance on when we're trying to figure something out in the kitchen. We currently have about 550 books in the cookbook library. We may need to start an annex soon! There are so many that we could call out here for different reasons.  We both love Ina Garten's books because her recipes are so well-crafted and always work. Rose's Heavenly Cakes is jam-packed with so many delicious options we go back to it frequently.  And I know that Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman is Paul's main source for reliable yeast breads.

Paul: It is true.  If you weigh out all of your ingredients according to one of his recipes, you will produce beautiful loaves of bread every time. In fact, that is a common theme in most of our favorite cookbooks. That right balance of precision, reliability and flavors.

EYB: What's next for you both? Another book in the pi(p)eline?

Chris: We're enjoying the ride that that this first book is taking us on. We've gotten the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented people outside our usual sphere such as a food photographer, prop stylist, and art director for the book. We've had the opportunity to meet some of our culinary idols along the way too (including Rose).  It has been a tremendous learning experience. So yes, of course we'd like to keep doing it.

Paul:  Agreed! We're constantly trying new things and have many more ideas that are waiting to be tested. Maybe several more books.


Update: The authors just sent me a photograph of their living room which is a Bundt® paradise!

Comfort: Food to Soothe the Soul

Like most bakers, I am a huge fan of The Great British Bake Off and so much so that I must have all the  cookbooks released by the contestants. One of my favorite contestants is John Whaite who won the coveted cake plate in 2012, Season 3 of the show. 

Comfort: Food to Soothe the Soul is John's latest title and is the balm needed to heal whatever ailment might present itself - a hard day, a broken heart or frustration that we can't watch the latest bake-off for another year!

All of the author's titles are beautiful and happily on my bookshelf and Comfort is no exception. Stunningly photographed and filled with dishes that are approachable and cozy, this book is a keeper. It feels like home - I know that might be a strange description of a cookbook, but it is how I would describe the contents. A steamy bowl of soup or a plate of creamy risotto enjoyed by the fire watching a favorite show or movie all feels like home. Comfort, safety, feeling cared for and loved, that is what home means to me and that is how this book makes me feel. 

The following recipes are available for our members to try now:  

When my friend, Ron at Kyle Books, asked if I would like to interview John for our members, I jumped at the chance. I had just watched Season 3 and John's talent and charm were still fresh in my mind. I hope you enjoy John's responses below. 

Thank you, John, for taking time to answer a few questions for our Eat Your Books members. We are 200,000 cookbook lovers and many of us are fans of GBBO and yourself. Of all the contestants, you made me laugh the most.

That's very sweet - thank you. I guess that's better than making you cry the most ;)

So many exciting things have happened since your GBBO win! Forgive me if I ask a question or two about GBBO. Besides winning, of course, what was your best experience while competing?

It's all a huge blur now, because it was over six years ago and at the time I was in the middle of law degree so I was utterly focused. With that focus, I think, came short term memory loss. I guess the most fun part (aside from winning - which actually wasn't all that fun because it signaled the end of the experience) was the social aspect to it all. Cathryn and I would spend our evenings drinking prosecco and having a good laugh - which was such a welcome respite from the craziness of degree and competition.

What dish made in the tent failed that you thought was going to succeed and which dish was successful that you thought would be an utter failure?

My Torte Noir, which Mr. Hollywood dubbed as the 'chocolate breezeblock'. I thought it was going to be a masterpiece, but it resembled nothing other than a giant chocolate slab from the builders' yard. It tasted amazing, even Paul said so (and let's face it, he doesn't mince his words). But it was aesthetically challenged.

I didn't think my gingerbread colosseum would ever come into being. I imagined it being as derelict as James' barn, but I think something switched in me that week - my sense of competition outran my very reactive emotional side - and I just kept my head down and got on with it. It's important to try and maintain emotions in competitions - I wish I had known that from the start.

I have all your books and find them inspirational. Your latest, Comfort, is filled with dishes that warm the soul and many of them have international flavors - Korean disco fries and Korean popcorn chicken - amazing. Do you enjoy using global influences in your recipes? What is your favorite international cuisine?

I do. I don't feel at all tethered to the cuisine of my motherland, which probably says a lot about me. I am a traveler at heart, and food is an extension of who we are. So I suppose my tastes reflect, if not flow from, my sense of adventure. I'm not a nomad - I love my creature comforts - but I can't hang around a place for too long or I get very twitchy.

I want to make every recipe in Comfort (and truthfully all your books) do you have an absolute favorite dish from Comfort? - Favorites from your other titles?

I always say: asking a cookbook author to pick a favorite dish is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child - we all know she has one, but it's impertinent to ask. Though, to be honest, I seldom have time to revisit my recipes. By the time I've put one book to bed, I'm either developing recipes for the next, or for my cookery school. I do enjoy that side of the career, it's ever changing, and while I hate the idea of food having trends, it does, so my ideas have to constantly evolve with those of the society as a whole. But I think, if I had to choose a recipe from Comfort, it would be Korean Fried Disco Chips, and my Marmalade and Tea Puddings to follow.

Which do you enjoy more - cooking or baking and why? Does one come easier to you than the other?

Baking I enjoy most because it's therapeutic. It's not mindless, and so it has a wonderful way of consuming my thoughts - which, as a deep-thinker, is something I'm in constant need of. It is my Prozac. But when I cook for my family (two hairy blokes and a scruffy mutt) I can't help but feel grateful for them, and the fact I can nourish them with food is symbolic - food is the ultimate conveyor of love.

What are you plans for the next book?

Now that is round of cards I have to keep close to my chest… but it's based on convenience with class.

How many cookbooks do you have in your collection? Which books are your favorites?

Well I've just had to put a load in the shed to make room for my law books - I've started training as a barrister just this week, and have been given a suitcase full of very heavy, boring books. I have about 1300 cookery books, some of them I never open, but I wouldn't be without their spines shining down on me as I write my own.

Lastly, since we are cookbook lovers, what authors do you turn to for inspiration?

Oh the lot: Diana Henry, David Tanis, Ottolenghi, Bertinet, and Nigella. Claudia Roden is one of my favourites.

Special thanks to John Whaite for his time and to Kyle Books for arranging the interview as well as providing three copies of this wonderful book in our giveaway below.  

The publisher is offering three copies of this book to EYB Members in the US and UK. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on November 27th, 2018.

Levant by Rawia Bishara

Levant: New Middle Eastern Flavours by Rawia Bishara pays tribute to the cuisine that has blossomed from the wall flower of global cuisine to one whose dance card is filled. Rawia is also the author of Olives, Lemons & Za'atar and owner of Brooklyn's Tanoreen restaurant who believes one of the greatest assets of Middle Eastern cuisine is its inherent fluidity, its remarkable capacity to adapt and transform over time.

Levant offers up more than 100 recipes that represent the very best of those dishes she has developed over the last twenty years in her restaurant for today's palate. Relying on a traditional pantry (including olive oil, tahini, za'atar, sumac), she applies classic flavor profiles in modern applications. By focusing on dishes that are naturally vegetarian or vegan and gluten-free, as well as meat dishes where vegetables take the leading role, she delivers the type of food that people wish to eat and cook today.

Below, the busy chef and author graciously shares her time in a short interview for our members as well as providing a recipe from the book. At the bottom of this article, please be sure to enter our giveaway for three copies of this vibrant glorious book.

EYB: I am a huge fan of both of your books Olives, Lemons & Za'atar and now Levant that will never leave my collection which is quite extensive. The first recipe I made was the Shrimp in garlic sauce and it was outstanding. Served with some toasted sourdough bread, it was perfection. Tell us how your latest title is different from your first.

Rawia: Thank you, that means a lot! That shrimp dish is a Tanoreen classic! In the process of writing both books, I tried to make them as personal as possible, because after all, food is personal. As I grew, changed and evolved so did my cooking philosophy. So, Levant is a continuation of that journey and adheres to traditions but allows for evolution and movement that allows healthy and alternate ingredients to take center stage.

EYB: I don't think Middle Eastern food is a craze or a fad. I feel that it has found its home as a go-to cuisine for cooks around the world because dishes are typically fresh, vibrant and packed with flavor. I do think we've found new fans due to relief type books such as Cook for Syria, Soup for Syria and Bake for Syria (and of course Ottolenghi). As more people try recipes, either at restaurants or books such as yours, they find it is not difficult or complex, that just the flavors are. Would you agree or do you think there is another reason for the Middle Eastern cuisine food love?

Rawia: Well yes, I agree. This type of cooking and many of these dishes origins originated centuries ago. I feel like the recent spotlight on Middle Eastern food is the result of exposure to the Mediterranean diet and focus on healthy ingredients. It's been part of my plan at Tanoreen all along to slowly incorporate my touches and traditions with new ingredients to achieve what is the theme of Levant.

Most of my guests at the restaurant never knew what Palestinian cuisine was before they ate there, and the one thing I can say is, if you cook from either book or if you eat at Tanoreen, you will most certainly know what Palestinian food is. I say that with pride.

EYB: For someone just picking up your cookbooks for the first time - which recipe would you recommend they try first? Which are your favorites or go-tos?

Rawia: I think any of the salads would be a good introduction to my food. They can be easier to make and will help the home cook ease into it. It's basically chop and mix cooking. Try the Fall Fatoush! Alternately, try the beet hummus - it's a show stopper and very easy to get right!

EYB: As cookbook lovers, we'd like to know if you are a cookbook collector yourself and if so could you share with us some of your favorite titles? And, some of your cooking idols.

Rawia: I have a lot of cookbooks, most of which are on display at Tanoreen. I've just contributed to a couple that I really like: 'The Immigrant Cookbook' and 'Women Chefs of New York'. I also enjoyed 'Palestine on a Plate' and 'Jerusalem'. Of course, Claudia Roden is a wonderful and prolific cookbook writer.

EYB: Lastly, any plans for book three? I for one can't get enough of baking either savory or sweet Middle Eastern titles - any hope for such a book from you?

Rawia: We will see. We are still working on getting Levant out into the world, but there are always thoughts and ideas swirling around. We hope to continue the journey onward and upward!


Harissa Baked Chicken
Add this recipe to your Bookshelf (click the blue +Bookshelf button).

Heat can register on the palate in a myriad of ways: a jalapeño lands differently than wasabi, and the same goes for black pepper and harissa. The latter is my favorite for imparting both flavor and fire, just assertive enough to jolt a dish while contributing intriguing, aromatic depth.

Makes 4 to 8 servings 

  • 2 chickens, halved or quartered (you can ask your butcher to do this)
  • 2 tablespoons Tanoreen Spice Mix 
 1 tablespoon ground allspice, 
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
, 1 tablespoon ground cumin
, 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
, 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 8 waxy potatoes, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup Harissa (page 212, or store-bought)
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 poblano chiles, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crushed dried Persian limes (limu omani; optional, see sidebar)
  • ¼ cup Cilantro-Basil Pesto (page 216), or 1⁄3 cup chopped fresh basil and 1⁄3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 cups chicken broth or water
  • Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 450˚F.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Rub 1 tablespoon of the Tanoreen Spices evenly over the chicken pieces, pressing gently so they adhere.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, sear the chicken pieces on both sides until golden, about 4 minutes each side.

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with ½ cup of the olive oil, then place them in a large baking dish. Roast until just golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the seared chicken in a single layer on top of the potatoes. Return the dish to the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup oil, the harissa, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, chiles, crushed dried limes, if using, the remaining 1 tablespoon Tanoreen Spices, and the pesto. Brush evenly over the chicken.

Pour the chicken broth into the four corners of the baking dish, being careful not to let it splash on top of the chicken. Season everything with salt. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, place in the oven, and roast for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when a knife is inserted between the leg and breast or a meat thermometer registers 165°F. Remove the foil and roast for 5 minutes more, or until golden all over and crispy, being careful not to let the hot pepper paste burn.

The publisher is offering three copies of this book to EYB Members in the US and UK. (Please note the US subtitle is New Middle Eastern Cooking from Tanoreen) One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on September 27th, 2018.

Edward Lee's unlikely journey

Buttermilk GraffitiEdward Lee is a multiple James Beard award nominee, chef/owner of several restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky, and has been on both "Top Chef" and "The Mind of a Chef." His first cookbook, Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen, was an EYB Pick and has received a four star rating from EYB Members. Lee has just released his second cookbook, which is far more than a mere collection of recipes, titled Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef's Journey to Discover America's New Melting-Pot Cuisine.

A natural-born storyteller, Lee decided to hit the road and spent two years uncovering fascinating narratives from every corner of the country. He spoke to chefs across the nation, including many small entrepreneurs as well as more well-known names. In addition to the stories, Lee developed forty recipes that highlight the great evolving story of American cuisine. 

As Lee was flying from stop to stop on his author tour in support of the cookbook, he carved out time to talk to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about why he wrote 'Buttermilk Graffiti' and how it relates to his own journey from Brooklyn to Kentucky. One item that piqued the curiousity of the interviewer was that there are no photographs to accompany the recipes in the book. This was not an oversight, says Lee. 

The first reason he gives for not including pictures is a nod to old-school cookbooks, but the more important reason stemmed from the comments he received from readers of his first cookbook. "They would send me a picture of their meal and say they really liked the recipe but it didn't come out as pretty. That upset me, because they said it tasted good. And they put all this effort and joy into it, then somehow they felt like a failure because it didn't look like the work of a food stylist and a professional photographer."

Three recipes from 'Buttermilk Graffiti' accompany the interview: Korean Doughnuts (Hoedduck), Pollo a la Brasa, and Green Ají Sauce. Lee's author tour continues through June, so check out the EYB Calendar of Cookbook Events to see if he is coming to a location near you. 

The truth comes out of the oven

Bread cookbookI love to bake, but I consider myself a dilletante when it comes to this hobby of mine. I flit about from cakes to pies to laminated doughs and various types of breads, never spending too much time on any one of them. Since I have a 9-to-5 office job, I haven't dedicated myself to the craft, although I greatly admire the professionals who commit to baking with passion and intensity. That's why I was enthralled by Saveur Magazine's discussion with Jeffrey Hamelman, one of the few certified Master Bakers in the US. 

Hamelman has been baking for over forty years, and has taught thousands of home bakers through his work with King Arthur Flour in Vermont. He loves all types of bread, from artisan rustic loaves to flatbreads to egg breads to rolls and beyond, and says that "If a bread is made with respect for fermentation and ingredients, if it's made with care and authenticity, then I think it has a place in our collective bread basket."

This egalitarian attitude comes about partly because Hamelman believes the bread culture in the U.S. did not develop in the same way as it did in other countries. Here, we borrow bits of this and that, choosing pieces that suit our needs, tastes, and desires. While this means we don't have a uniquely defining bread, it also allows us to experiment in ways that would seem blasphemous elsewhere.  Hamelman refers to a saying by French baker Professeur Raymond Calvel: "La vérité sort du four," meaning "The truth comes out of the oven. If the breads are better-please keep it up."

Rediscovering Russian cuisine

 Russian cookbooks

When you say the words 'Russian food', most people immediately think of borscht, beef Stroganoff, or possibly golubtsi. Many dishes everyone believes are classic Russian foods are not, in fact, Russian, according to Maksim Syrnikov. He has spent over twenty years researching pre-Soviet Russian foods, writing several (Russian language) cookbooks in the process.

Syrnikov is a man on a mission, to reclaim the heritage of Russian peasant food that spanned eons before the Bolshevik revolution. He believes that many of the foods that predated this cultural upheaval are in danger of being lost, so he travels across Russia searching for old family recipes. He also looks for clues in novels by writers like Dostoyevsky and Gogol. His goal is to "help Russians reacquaint themselves with the country's agrarian roots" and discover that the classic foods are as worthy as any imports.

It's a daunting task, as Russians don't hold their national cuisine in high regard. That's because what most people think of Russian cuisine is based on post-revolutionary foods that lack the character and flavor of the ancestral meals that few people in modern Russia have even tasted. 

While Syrnikov is exploring nearly-forgotten foods like nyanya (lamb's stomach stuffed with buckwheat, brain and legs) and kulebyaka (a huge pastry stuffed with fish, mushrooms, rice, and crêpes), others are also turning their attention to Russia and its former satellite states such as Georgia. More and more cookbooks are bringing the flavors of this area to new audiences.

While recent books like Kachka, Kaukasis, and Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking may not dive quite as deep into the history of the region as Syrnikov does in his tomes, they do provide us with insights into cuisines that haven't been properly recognized before. In the last five years, over 25 new Russian cookbooks have been added to the EYB Library. There are even more when you add in regional specialty books focusing on Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and others. 

Since my German forebears lived for a time in the Ukraine and Moldova before arriving in the United States, I find these volumes fascinating. It's amazing to me how much my own family picked up from the region in less than a full generation. I hope that this trend continues and that other small countries in Europe and beyond have their heritage cuisines examined and explained to a new generation of cooks. 

Retro cookbooks on the rise

 new vintage books

Remember the old saying that 'there's nothing new under the sun'? That applies to just about every aspect of life, including, as it turns out, cookbooks. Perhaps it started with the classic cocktail revival or maybe they grew together, but whatever the reason, cookbooks that revisit classic recipes are on the rise

Dishes that were popular as far back as 100 years ago are finding a new audience in a surge of 'retro' cookbooks. Sarah Billingsley, executive editor at Chronicle Books, thinks that today's turbulent times is part of the reason we're seeing more books and recipes from bygone eras. "In fraught or trying times, people return to familiar flavors and experiences, looking to the past for comfort," she explained to Publisher's Weekly.

Baking books are especially well-suited for this trend, because baked goods are often cloaked in a robe of nostalgia. Who doesn't wax poetic about a favorite childhood treat? That's why books like The Vintage Baker: More Than 50 Recipes from Pecan Butterscotch Curls to Sour Cream Jumbles by Jessie Sheehan are receiving rave reviews. Here Sheehan tweaks recipes from pamphlets dating from the early 1900s to the 1960s, providing a backstory for the recipe along with possible ingredient substitutions for items no longer found.

Sometimes an entire cookbook gets a second look, as is happening with Graham Kerr's seminal work. The Graham Kerr Cookbook: The Galloping Gourmet is a reissue of the 1966 book of the same name. This release is part of a larger project by Matt and Ted Lee, called The Lee Bros. Classic Library. The brothers plan additional vintage cookbook reissues (this is the second one - Princess Pamela's Soul Food Cookbook was released early last year). 

Sometimes older recipes need a bit of updating to make them better suited to our modern lifestyles. In Something Old, Something New: Classic Recipes Reinvented, Tamar Adler takes some of the fuss out of classic foods like crepes Suzette and Coq au Vin. Another thing that all of these titles have in common besides a retro theme is that we'll be featuring promotions of the books in the upcoming weeks, so watch for Jenny's review and giveaway posts.

Shaya by Alon Shaya

The moment I received Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel by Alon Shaya I posted on social media that our beloved, member favorite Ottolenghi might have some strong competition for best book of 2018.  In the cookbook reviewing world, I struggle every day with adequate descriptions in my writing - beautiful, stunning, gorgeous, inspiring - are overused (not to mention the word delicious) but what am I left with? This book embodies all those descriptors and more.

Alon has put his heart into the creation of this odyssey of food and delivers a soulful, touching book that is as much a joy to read as it is to cook and learn from. Just from his writing, I feel he is a gentle, caring soul that is deeply connected to his vocation - feeding people. His passion for food flows through his words both in his personal narrative and in his recipe writing.

HIs dedication "To my mother, Aliza. You have spent your entire life living for mine, and have always loved, believed, and trusted in me, even when I gave you reason not to," cut me to the core. As most of you know, I have a young son with bipolar and autism issues who has a 130 IQ and can be very sweet. Most days we deal with abusive language, physical threats (with punches landing) and more. I needed to read that dedication today to remind me to continue to have hope for him and for life in general. It is easy to become buried in negative thoughts but when we take a step back and breathe - our lives are wonderful - it is the bumps that make us appreciate the smooth sailing, and sometimes a capsize can put it all into focus.

Even sans the personal narrative, the photographs and recipes in this book are worth the cost of the book - but we are gifted with both a moving story and incredible dishes. There are more than one hundred recipes that range from Roasted chicken with harissa, Marinated soft cheese with herbs and spices (the recipe we are sharing today); Buttermilk biscuits; to Whole roasted cauliflower with whipped feta. Alon's pita and slow-cooked lamb recipes are both shared here. I have a friend in New Orleans who said, "I'd pay $80.00 for the book for those two recipes alone." The measurements are Americanized for those outside the US, don't let that deter you from the greatness of this book. 

Alon is on tour and his schedule is shared on our calendar. He took time to answer a few questions for us and for that we are grateful. I wrote him to thank him for writing such an amazing book and for sharing it with us - I hope you find as much joy in this title as I have. Special thanks to Knopf for providing a recipe for our members to try now and for providing three copies of Shaya in our contest below. 

Q: Being a chef is a calling - your love of food is obvious - when did you first know that cooking was going to be your life. Was it also one of your dreams to write a cookbook - how did the book come to be?

A: I always realized from the age of 7 that I really loved food. Probably even earlier but at 7 years old I knew I had a special connection with my grandmother's cooking. I wouldn't say writing a cookbook was always a dream, but I knew that it was the right time in 2015 when I began to finally embrace my heritage through food.

Q: Someone once said that writing a book was like having a child - or giving birth. What was the hardest aspect and what was the most gratifying?

A:  It was a very intense process that was very emotional and personal. I'd say the hardest part was opening up so much of my history to the world. It's something I've always kept private. The most gratifying part was getting to become closer friends with everyone involved in the production of the book. Vicky Wilson with Knopf helped us see our vision through, Tina Antolini co-authored the book with me, Rémy Robert developed the recipes and cooked every dish in the book multiple times, Rush Jagoe took beautiful photography and Francis Rodriguez drew powerful illustrations.

Q: What is one thing that you want your readers to take away from Shaya?

A: I'd like the recipes to mean more than just a meal after they read the stories leading up to it.

Q: If you could use one sentence to describe your food what would it be?

A: Simple and tied to a story that is meaningful and genuine.

Q: Who are some of your food/chef heroes?

A:  Chris Bianco, Faith Willinger and Ashley Christensen.

Q: We are cookbook lovers and collectors. Are you? If so, how many cookbooks do you have, which are your favorites?

A: I have probably 50 or so. Jerusalem by Ottolengi is a favorite as is Eating in Italy by Faith Willinger. Also love The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.

Q: How do you keep the inevitable headaches of the business side from diminishing the obvious joy you find in cooking?

A: You can't seperate the two and they work hand in hand. Business has never diminished my joy of cooking and cooking has never taken away from the importance of running a solid business.

Q: New Orleans is a cliche for people who don't know the city. What is your favorite "secret" of New Orleans?

A:  Pho Tau Bay Vietnamese Restaurant. Their pho is incredible and they are a New Orleans Restaurant through and through. 


Marinated soft cheese with herbs and spices
Add this recipe to your Bookshelf (click the blue +Bookshelf button).

Yield 6 to 8 servings

  • 8-ounce wheel of soft goat or mixed-milk cheese, such as La Tur
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds 

  • 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 1 dried árbol chili pepper, or 1⁄4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

  • 1 star anise pod
  • Two 2-inch strips of orange peel, orange part only, divided
  • A crusty baguette
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt, to finish

This dish was a revelation when Emily and I ate it in Milan: when you start with great ingredients, you're wise not to mess with them. It's a moment of perfect simplicity; at the right temperature, olive oil and cheese can be as flawless as any- thing that costs you far more time, money, or energy. Any brand of soft aged cheese will do-I like La Tur, a mixed-milk cheese that's as creamy as goat, with just a little sheepy funk, softened by the cow's milk. Mt Tam, a domestic triple-cream cheese, is a great alternative. Have fun with the spices: throw in a couple cloves instead of the star anise, add a sprig of rosemary instead of the bay, or use lemon instead of orange.

1. Heat the oven to 325 ̊F. Put the cheese in the bowl or rimmed plate from which it'll be served, to let it soften.

2. Use the side of a knife or a rolling pin to crush the garlic lightly, just so it starts to open up in its skin. Lightly crush or roughly chop the allspice and coriander, and add them, with the garlic, to a small ovenproof saucepan, along with the olive oil, bay leaves, árbol chili, star anise, and one strip of orange peel. Cover with a lid, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes; the garlic will be very golden and the orange rind will have darkened quite a bit.

3. Once the sauce has come together, remove the saucepan from the oven and increase the heat to 425 ̊F. Take the second strip of orange peel and give it a little twist over the pan to release the oil, then drop it into the pan and let the oil cool down.

4. Cut the baguette on a bias into 1⁄2-inch slices, and arrange them on a baking sheet. Toast at 425 ̊F for 6 to 8 minutes, until they've built some nice color along the edges.

5. Pour the seasoned oil over and around the softened cheese, letting the spices run free, and sprinkle on the salt just before serving. Slather the toasts with the cheese, and encourage your friends to dab up every last drop of the infused oil.

Recipe used with permission of Knopf from Shaya by Alon Shaya ©2018. Photograph credit: Rush Jagoe

The publisher is 3 offering copies of this book to EYB Members in the US. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on May 8th, 2018.

A cook and a book


Members of cookbook clubs like the EYB Cookbook Club are used to working their way through cookbooks, asking others for advice, and offering their own. It's a great place learn how to decipher what a cookbook author means, or expound on changes that worked out better than the original text. 

If there is anything better than learning from your peers and hearing their thoughts on the latest cookbooks, it might be having your favorite cookbook author try a few recipes from someone else's book and provide commentary. If that sounds like an excellent idea, head on over to Food and Wine's website. Charlotte Druckman has a new column there called 'A Cook and a Book' that features cooks and authors trying recipes from new cookbook releases

Druckman described the new column in a recent tweet as "sorta like a cookbook review & sorta like a profile of a person of interest in his/her kitchen. sorta both those things but also not."  In the first installment, esteemed chef and author Nancy Silverton tries a couple of dishes from Nigella Lawson's new book At My Table

Even though she's written nine cookbooks, Silverton admits that she is terrible at following other people's recipes. She is dubious about some of Lawson's suggestions, including heating Greek yogurt and straining some of the excess egg white before poaching an egg. Nevertheless, she gamely follows the instructions and in the end is pleasantly surprised by one of the techniques. 

Wild Honey & Rye by Ren Behan

Last September, Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes by Ren Behan was published in the UK (by Pavilion) and I absolutely fell in love with it. I've been biting my nails waiting for its March 2018 release here in the US (by Interlink Publishing) so that we could do a joint promotion and finally the time has arrived!

Ren is a food blogger whose approach to Polish cuisine is met with modern flair, fresh ingredients and fun. In the opening pages, you discover that you are in for a good time when you read number five of her five reasons to fall in love with Polish food. Reason number five is that the fare is condusive to pairing with vodka and spirits. That's my kind of cuisine. Don't fret the other reasons are all based in health, comfort and cultural influences from other countries.

Each recipe in Wild Honey and Rye is approachable and appealing from something as basic as a Soft cheese with honey and walnuts on rye to pages devoted to pierogi all the way to her beautiful, homey Polish apple cake. This book is a feast for the eyes and the appetite. I have a few polish cookbooks in my collection, but this book tops the list as my favorite. If you buy one book on this cuisine, let it be this one.

Ren was gracious enough to answer a few questions for our readers:

Q: Tell us about yourself and your journey into the culinary world.

My journey into the culinary world began seven years ago, when I decided to take a Diploma in Food Journalism whilst on maternity leave with my second baby. My first assignment was to start a food blog, which I was very happy to do since I had already started to follow a few U.K and U.S. food blogs and was keen to join in. I have made some really great friends through blogging and still read and keep in touch with some of the bloggers behind the first few blogs that I followed, cooked from and read. For the first couple of years, I blogged as a hobby, developing my writing and photography skills. I also took a course in food styling, which I found helped me along a bit. After a year or two, I started to get approaches to work with brands and began freelancing for sites such as and for magazines here in the UK. Although I mainly wrote about seasonal food and family friendly food, my Polish heritage also often inspired me to share some of my favorite Polish recipes and they were always really well received.

I think the explosion of food blogging around the world really helped people to become more interested in global cuisines; suddenly the world was smaller and our plates were more influenced by food from other cultures. Also, I think home cooks were becoming more interested and curious to try new things. When time allowed, I wrote and pitched more articles on Polish food and travel. I was also a big fan of reading Polish food blogs and magazines and could see that the Poles were really embracing street food and supper clubs; just as we were. Polish ingredients were also becoming more commonly available over in Britain and I was often asked to talk about Polish food on the radio. I was keen to keep on bringing Polish food to a new audience through my own food writing adventures.

Q: How did Wild Honey and Rye come about? How was the process? A labor of love?

I had, for a long time, wanted to bring my Polish family recipes together in a cookbook, but with three children and a house remodel underway, things were quite busy. However, I was starting to see this growing interest in Polish food and believed that I had something to bring to the table. I was lucky enough to meet a literary agent who supported my ideas for a Polish book and as discussions progressed, I realized I was quite keen for the book to have a contemporary edge and to really show Poland how it is today. My agent introduced me to my publishers, Pavilion Books, who loved the idea of a modern Polish recipe book and things developed quite quickly from there. Wild Honey and Rye is really a merging of traditional Polish recipes, with some more modern elements, which is reflected by the bright and airy photography by Yuki Sugiura. Some of my photographs from recent food-led trips to Poland are also featured and I was able to weave in snippets of my childhood and my huge respect for Polish culture throughout the book, too. I was so ready to write this book that it was a joy from beginning to end. My publishers pulled together an incredibly creative team, from the prop stylists to the designers - it was truly a dream come true. As a debut author, I am always so grateful for all the guidance and support I receive along the way.

Q: What is your most favorite recipe in the book?

My favorite recipe in the book is probably the one I cook most often for my family, which is Polish meatballs with mushroom sauce, which I serve with Mizeria, a Polish cucumber salad, and with a grated beet salad. I also love baking, so the Plum and Poppy Seed Cake and the Polish Cheesecake make regular appearances in our home. As we gear up for Christmas, we bake Pierniczki, which are Polish Spiced Christmas Cookies and I fend off winter bugs with my Dad's version of a Polish hot drink made with vodka, lemon and honey, or Krupnik, which is vodka infused with honey and spices.

Q: Can you share a bit about Polish traditions? I'm really interested in Polish desserts what are some of your favorites?

As we head into the Christmas holiday season, I look forward to spending Christmas Eve or Wigilia with my family. Traditionally, we eat 12 courses to represent the 12 apostles, we place hay under the tablecloth to represent the manger, we always leave a space for the unknown guest and we begin eating when the first star appears. This is meatless meal, so we eat plenty of fish, beetroot soup and pierogi made with cabbage and mushrooms or with potato and cheese. For dessert, we have a Polish cheesecake or a yeasted poppy seed roll. There's also a great day which is celebrated in Poland called Fat Thursday, or Tłusty Czwartek, when we eat doughnuts and sweet things before lent. At Eastertime, we tend to make Babka's, which are yeasted bundt cakes and cheesecakes, too.

Q: Tell us about your favorite cookbooks in your personal collection? 

My personal cookbook collection is made up of cookbooks from all over the world - I probably have 300 or so books, and I organize them by colour, rather than cuisine. My sister lives in Seattle, so we love sharing recipes and I'm a big fan of Ina Garten. In terms of British cooks, I have pretty much every book by Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver, Diana Henry and Nigella Lawson. I also have a growing collection of Middle Eastern cookbooks and I love anything by Sabrina Ghayour or the duo behind Honey & Co. My Eastern European collection is growing too. I'm a big fan of Olia Hercules' Mamushka and her latest book Kaukasis and I was super proud to be able to add my voice to this genre with Wild Honey and Rye.

Q: Are there plans for a second cookbook? (I hope so).

I have had such a great experience and a great reception to my first book that I'd absolutely love to write a second. I have some travel plans to explore more of Poland next year, so who knows?

Special thanks to Pavilion and Interlink for providing the following recipe for our members to try now. Each publisher is offering two copies of the book to our members in the US and UK. Four books total! Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter.

Meatballs with mushroom sauce
Kotlety mielone z sosem pieczarkowym
Add this recipe to your Bookshelf (click the blue +Bookshelf button).

One of the first recipes I asked my Mama to write down for me when I was leaving home to go to university was her kotlety mielone, or meatballs, a dish she often made for supper, served with mashed potatoes and Mizeria, or Cucumber and soured cream salad, and grated beetroot salad on the side. I missed her cooking so much when I left home. Traditionally, Polish meatballs are coated in breadcrumbs or flour, but I cook mine without to lighten them up. I love eating leftover meatballs in sandwiches with plenty of mayonnaise and pickled cucumbers.

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 400g/14oz minced beef
  • 400g/14oz minced pork
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup beef stock (you can use a stock cube), cooled
  • 2 slices of bread, preferably sourdough rye, soaked in a little water
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the mushroom sauce

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 250g/9oz fresh white mushrooms, sliced
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ vegetable or chicken stock cube, or ½ tsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup single (light) cream

Heat a splash of vegetable oil in a frying pan, add the red onion and fry for 5 minutes until soft. Leave to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the minced meat, beaten egg, mustard and parsley. Tip in the cooled onion and pour in the cold stock. Crumble the soaked bread into small pieces and add to the meat. Season the mixture with pepper and mix everything thoroughly with a fork.

Keep a small bowl of cold water nearby, to wet your hands. Take small amounts of the mixture, roughly a tablespoonful at a time, and shape into small balls, then flatten slightly. Between making each meatball, dip your hands in the cold water, to prevent stickiness. You should have enough mixture for 12 meatballs.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large frying pan, preferably non-stick, over a medium heat. Fry the meatballs, in two batches, for 4 minutes, turning occasionally until golden all over. Remove and transfer to a plate and continue browning the rest of the meatballs.

Once they are all browned, put the meatballs back into the pan, add 2 tablespoons cold water, shake the pan around a little, cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil, and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes.

To make the mushroom sauce, heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and lemon juice, and cook for 5 minutes. Crumble in the stock cube and about 125ml/4 fl oz/½ cup of water and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cream and stir well.

Serve the meatballs and mushroom sauce over mashed potato with cucumber and soured cream salad and/or grated beetroot salad on the side.

The publisher is four offering copies of this book to EYB Members in the US and UK (two winners from each region). One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on April 20th, 2018.

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