A Glimpse into Yotam Ottolenghi's SWEET Home

If you were to resurrect my long expired teenaged years, my utter devotion to David Cassidy would be revealed. I hear the clicking of keyboards D a v i d  C a s s i d y being typed into the Google search engine (be sure to look at photos from the 70's - dreamy right?) The memories of my teen self with hairbrush in hand singing backup to "I Think I Love You" into the bureau mirror - those were the days. Yotam Ottolenghi is my chef equivalent crush.

Recently Alice Hancock of the Financial Times* visited Ottolenghi in his home where "presentation is paramount".  Sharing personal tidbits of his life, photographs of his garden and home as well as his favourite thing - a gorgeous chopping board made of swamp kauri gifted to him by a friend - the glimpse into his life is an enjoyable trip. A photo of his kitchen gives a tease of his cookery books. I hope to be able to include Ottolenghi and his collection in more detail in my Cookbook Collection Stackup posts in the future (see a link on the stackup post to the Happy Foodie website about Ottolenghi's collection).

While the main purpose of this post is to share the Financial Times' article, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a bit more about Sweet. As I stated to a friend recently, I haven't anticipated anything to this degree since the divorce of my first husband. 

Sweet is written with pastry chef Helen Goh and is stunning with full page coloured photographs, extensive detail contained within each recipe and as promised recipes that bring the exotic flavors that define the Ottolenghi empire. Jessie, a friend, has asked "is it all yoghurt" - no Jessie, there are very little recipes that even contain yoghurt in this book - four in total. 

Broken down into categories: Cookies and biscuits, mini-cakes, cakes, cheesecakes, tarts and pies, desserts, and confectionery - the book ends with baker's tips and notes and ingredient information. Immediately upon opening Sweet, after the Preface and Introduction, you are greeted by the first recipe - Custard Yo-Yos with Roasted Rhubarb Icing - I love getting right down to business. Recently, Darcie shared The Guardian's sneak peek into the book featuring ten recipes and I hope to make the Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread that is indexed on our site in the next few days - tahini caramel - yes!

Other recipes that are calling to me include Lemon and Blackcurrant Stripe Cake, Pineapple and Star Anise Chiffon Cake, Lime Meringue Cheesecakes, Chai Brûlée Tarts - and every other single recipe - even the fruit cakes. Therein lies the scope of magic that is Ottolenghi - where fruitcake is a must make recipe.  I am working with the UK publisher in hopes to bring you a full promotion as soon as we are finished indexing the title.

I started a group on Facebook to work our way through this book come join us - also once the index is up be sure to upload photos of your creations at Eat Your Books as well. I also hope to periodically prepare roundup posts here at Eat Your Books sharing all your creations from this masterpiece.

The Sydney Morning Herald shared a wonderful piece on Helen and Yotam which my friend Maree shared today along with this piece on Good Food. I'm sure the food news is going to be exploding with stories and we will try to keep you in the loop on all of them. 


*Update since I've published this article - I'm told that the link to the FT article hits a paywall but that didn't occur for me and I don't have a subscription. Darcie shares that if you Google "Ottolenghi Financial Times" a link will come up without a paywall. 

An unlikely path to cookbook store ownership

Read It & Eat cookbook store

Chicago's cookbook store Read It & Eat opened in 2015, bucking a trend of cookbook store closings. It was the first cookbook store in Chicago, and is dedicated to providing food lovers with exceptional culinary experiences through carefully selected books, classes and discussions. The shelves are filled with food and drink books on various topics including cookbooks, travel, biographies, essays and history. In-store events and a cookbook club help readers connect with the books.

Owner Esther Dairiam's path to opening a bookstore for food lovers was not straightforward, as we learn in a recent podcast from Modern Mrs. DarcyEsther's background isn't in food or in books, but rather in management consulting. A trip to Paris a few years ago inspired her to open a store dedicated to food and cooking as none existed in the Chicago area. 

The podcast includes, as you might expect, discussion of cookbooks, food, and how they bring people together. In addition, Esther talks about what makes a great memoir and her favorite childhood tomes. When you are done listening to the podcast, read the 2015 EYB cookbook store profile of Read It & Eat

A sneak peek into Ottolenghi's latest cookbook

 fig and pistachio frangipane tartlets

The anticipation for Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook, Sweet, is intense. There are only a few days until its UK release on September 7 (the US release date is October 17th). While we are eagerly awaiting our copy, The Guardian released an excerpt of 10 recipes from the book so we can start baking right now.  

Although Ottolenghi made a name with his vegetarian-friendly savory fare, he started his career as a pastry chef. "I've always had a serious love of all things sweet," he says. "There's nothing like a perfectly light sponge flavoured with spices and citrus, or a mega-crumbly icing-sugar-dusted cookie to raise the spirits."

In this cookbook, Ottolenghi partners with his long-time collaborator Helen Goh to create recipes that take familiar desserts - ranging from cakes to ice cream to puddings - and add the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients combined with exotic spices and complex flavourings.  All of the recipes look sensational; the most difficult part is going to be choosing which one to make first. 

All 10 of the recipes, including the Fig and pistachio frangipane tartlets pictured above, are indexed on EYB. Remember, if you find any recipes you like in The Guardian or anywhere on the web, you can add them to your Bookshelf using the Bookmarklet

The best way to dry herbs, according to Alton Brown

 dried herbs

Dried herbs like oregano, marjoram, and rosemary are staples in the repertoire of many home cooks. Most people purchase the herbs already dried, but it isn't difficult to do it at home, says Alton Brown. He provides a foolproof technique that ensures the herbs retain their green hues

Blanching the herbs is the key to keeping them from turning brown and unattractive, says the celebrity chef. He says that while any herb can be dried, "heartier herbs like oregano, thyme and rosemary tend to hold on to their essential oils even after they've given up most of their moisture. That said chives, parsley and even dill are worth drying if you plan to use them within a month or so."

His unconventional technique uses items available to almost everyone - no dehydrator needed. Instead, Brown uses a box fan, air conditioning/furnace filters, and bungee (stretch) cords. You can stack up to three filters to maximize the available surface area. 

Recreating childhood memories

 Homemade Oreos

They say you can never go home again. The same could be said about food - whenever you revisit a favorite childhood treat, it almost inevitably fails to live up to your memories. This was the challenge faced by Stella Parks when it came time to write her baking cookbook BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. Stella explains to Eater the difficulties of making a treat that tastes as delicious now as you thought it was when you were a kid

If you have ever purchased a favorite childhood cookie or candy as an adult, were disappointed with the flavor, and wondered whether the company had changed the formula, you are not alone. While it is possible that tweaks have been made over the years, it is just as likely that you have changed instead. Children prefer sweet to bitter flavors, but that preference begins to reverse as you get older, and adults often find the cookies they loved as kids are now far too sweet.

Parks adapted the recipes in her cookbook, which features 'copycat' recipes of iconic American cookies and treats like Oreos and Heath English Toffee (which we learn is not, in fact, British) to suit adult tastebuds. Her goal is not to create exact replicas of the items, which would be impossible, but rather to recall the pleasant memories associated with them. 

I recently made the Homemade Oreo cookies pitctured above and I can attest that these are a grownup-pleasing version of the classic cookie. The cookie portion has a slightly bitter edge and the filling is less sweet but far more flavorful than the commercial product. I was pleased to discover that I did not need to purchase black cocoa in order to achieve the dark color. 

The Eater article also includes a link to an inteview with Parks, where she elaborates more on BraveTart and tells us how she thinks Oreos got their name. Stay tuned to the EYB blog - we will post a contest for a chance to win the cookbook in the next week or two. 

The best food television shows of 2017

GBBO contestantsFor cookbook lovers, nothing beats cracking open a favorite book and settling in to browse and dream of new tastes and techniques. Sometimes you have to put down the book, however. Thank goodness for a plethora of television shows to fill the time in between book reading sessions!

This fall, everyone's favorite baking show, The Great British Bake Off, debuts on its new home. The contestants have been announced, and everyone is eagerly anticipating what changes are in store for the program and its freshened cast. Meanwhile, former GBBO host Mary Berry is gearing up for her new show, but unfortunately we will have to wait until next year to see it. 

Another GBBO alumnus, Nadiya Hussain, recently debuted Nadiya's British Food Adventure on BBC 2. Viewers have been singing her praises; she is an effortless host and her bubbly personality shines through. We are busy indexing the cookbook that accompanies the show, also titled Nadiya's British Food Adventure.

We recently discussed Jamie Oliver's new program, Jamie Oliver's Quick and Easy. On this side of the pond, fellow Brit Gordon Ramsay's new program on Fox (US), The F-Word, began airing early this summer. Based on his popular UK show, each hour-long episode features groups of friends and families battling in an intense, high-stakes cook-off. The first season is nearing its end; you can stream full episodes on the Fox website

Ina Garten also had a new program debut earlier this year. In Cook Like a Pro, the veteran host "teaches the essential recipes and techniques every cook must know to achieve success in the kitchen," according to Food Network. There is no word on when a cookbook from this show will be released, but rest assured it will happen. 

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Television airs on PBS starting next month. The billing for this new show claims to "bring the best of home cooking to public television, adapting new techniques, flavors, and recipes to produce bolder, simpler, better food to home cooks everywhere." It will be interesting to see how the program differs from America's Test Kitchen, which soldiers on without its iconic host. 

What shows are you watching (or planning to watch)?

In Search of Israeli Cuisine

In Search of Israeli Cuisine
is a film that highlights the dynamic food scene in Israel. The film's chef/guide is Michael Solomonov, a James Beard Award winning chef and co-owner of acclaimed Zahav in Philadelphia. He is also the author of the cookbook Zahav (one of my most treasured books). The chef was born in Israel and has lived and traveled there frequently. This documentary follows Michael into hot restaurants and home kitchens, wineries and cheese makers, he eats street food and visits markets. All over the country, he discusses traditions, ingredients, the origins, and the future of Israeli Cuisine.

There are four screenings of this film scheduled for the New York area this month and screenings will continue. Check the film's page for more information or to request a screening in your area. I have reached out to the filmmakers asking if a DVD or PPV option will be available and will provide you with that information when I have a response.

I will be updating the calendar this weekend with tour dates for Solomonov who will be promoting his upcoming book Federal Donuts in September. 

Photo courtesy of Florentine Films.

Jamie Oliver gets back to basics

 Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver's career has been going strong for nearly 20 years. Beginning Monday, August 21, he is adding to his lengthy credentials by returning to the small screen with a new program called 'Jamie's Quick and Easy Food'. The chef recently spoke with Food & Wine to discuss why he chose to get back to basics in his new program

The premise of the show is to create mouth-watering dishes using only five ingredients and taking only 30 minutes to prepare. "It's taken 20 years to make this show," Jamie says. "It just struck me that having a large amount of ingredients is an incredible barrier to people either cooking, or not. I wanted to get as many people as possible to just have a go!"

In addition to talking about the show, Jamie talks about his school lunch initiatives, how his career has changed since he burst onto the scene in 1999 with The Naked Chef, and more. We learn that while the chef likes to get his kids to help in the kitchen, only one of his five children (six-year-old Buddy) has expressed an interest in being a chef like his dad. We may be watching a second generation of Chef Oliver in a few years. 

Chefs recall their greatest influences

 summer ribollita

Every chef - and probably most passionate home cooks as well - can recall a dish that inspired them to dive headlong into the world of food, whether it was a top chef who guided them or a family member passing down cherished treasures. I find these stories fascinating so I was tickled to see top chefs recently sharing some of the recipes that inspired them. Not only do we get to learn the who and why behind the careers of a few culinary giants, we also get the recipes to try at home.

For Samantha Clark of Moro, the dish that really sticks in her mind is a Tuscan summer ribollita. She recalls chef Rose Gray of London's venerated River Café teaching her how to make it by "building up the layers of vegetables, first with the base of onion, celery and garlic, followed by the fresh tomato, then borlotti beans, chard, basil and bread, and to finish, copious amounts of Capezzana extra virgin olive oil - a thick, syrupy green nectar with a peppery finish."

After a revelatory meal at Fergus Henderson's seminal 'nose-to-tail' restaurant St. John, Chef Jonathan Jones knew he had to work there. After a year, he got a job at the establishment, and Henderson mentored him. Although St. John is known mainly for meat and offal, Jones found a vegetable recipe to be one of items that inspired him. It opened his eyes to "what a restaurant could do."

Another River Café alumnus, April Bloomfield, was also wowed by vegetables. She was fascinated by how the chefs transformed simple items like celeriac, fennel and fresh shelling beans, making a dish "that comes alive and dances around on the palate." She shared an aubergine recipe inspired by the café. 

Photo of Summer ribollita by April Bloomfield 

Why did Rocco DiSpirito quit cooking?

Rocco Dispirito

In the late 1990s and into the early aughts, Rocco Dispirito was at the top of his game. He had a successful New York City restaurant, Union Pacific, that was praised by critics and frequented by celebrities.  He was one of the earliest "celebrity chefs," before food television and social media rocketed an entire cadre of chefs into the spotlight. But in 2004, Dispirito left the kitchen. He has not cooked professionally since then. 

In a lengthy article on Thrillist, Kevin Alexander tries to answer the question of why Rocco Dispirito stopped cooking. Alexander recounts Dispirito's rise into the highest levels of the NYC restaurant scene, and then turns to the reasons that he feels prompted the talented chef to put down his knives. Says Alexander, "And as a lover of said food, I struggle -- truly struggle -- with trying to understand Rocco's refusal to cook. It upsets me, still. Confuses me. Is it an act of defiance, or one of survival? A temporary respite that just got too comfortable, or a well-planned second act?" 

The article explores whether the criticism that has been heaped on Dispirito for embracing the 'celebrity' part of celebrity chef is warranted. Far from disappearing after he stepped away from the stove, he has remained in the public eye by appearing on many televisions shows (some not even food related), by promoting products ranging from frozen foods to cars, and by writing several cookbooks (which, judging by the EYB Library, are not hugely popular). 

Alexander wonders whether a talented chef owes something to the dining public. "What if Thelonious Monk quit jazz to write toilet bowl cleaner ad jingles? Or Salinger started doing Harlequin romance novels?" he ponders. While Alexander doesn't believe that Dispirito should feel guilty about leaving the restaurant world, he does want to answer the question of why the chef did just that. Dispirito would not agree to be interviewed, so the world may never know. 

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