Food for Soul

Massimo BotturaWhen chefs become famous, they usually work to expand their restaurant empire by opening new locations, often in far-flung places. Celebrated chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana, located in Modena, Italy and one of the world's top restaurants, has chosen a different path. Instead of creating more eateries, he is focusing his energy on an initiative to ameliorate the growing problem of hunger

Bottura's wife, Lara Gilmore, is  the president of their joint project Food for Soul, which "aims to promote awareness of hunger and food waste, while also opening ambitious 'community kitchens' for needy patrons." The idea came about during planning for the 2015 Expo Milan, when Bottura offered to make a sustainable contribution to the city. He quickly found other chefs to join him in the endeavor, and opened several refettorio, as the kitchens are called, including one in London.

The project continues to grow, and now Bottura is bringing the concept to the United States. The chef is currently scouting US cities for places to open his Food for Soul locations, and is eyeing the Bronx, Washington DC, Baltimore, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Choosing the right location is crucial, says Gilmore. "It's important for us to evaluate if our model could have a positive impact on the economy and social fiber of those cities. Our model is more radical because it's all about bringing people together to share a meal in a beautiful space, and engaging volunteers to be more physically invested in their communities."

Seeds of Peace

We here at Eat Your Books love to spread the news of how food brings the world together in offering hope through gathering around the table to share food along with experiences. 

Earlier this week, I shared our worldwide promotion on #CookForSyria which is raising funds to help children affected by the conflict in Syria. My hope in sharing books that focus on the food and people in the Middle East is to bring a greater understanding of this area of the world through their food, culture and traditions. 

Joan Nathan, whose new book King Solomon's Table is out this month, shared on social media her involvment with Seeds of Peace. This organization brings together young leaders from across the United States to acknowledge and move beyond stereotypes, prejudices, and mistrust of others. Their camp in Maine creates rare and powerful opportunities for them to truly listen to each other's stories and experiences. Listening and understanding is the first step to bringing change.

For 24 years, Seeds of Peace has worked with youth from communities in conflict around the world. Seeds of Peace is committed to growing its US programs now more than ever. As these young leaders courageously sit down at the table together, the hope is that their new weekly post #Recipes4Peace inspires us to invite someone with a different perspective to our table.

"Breaking bread is a good start to building bridges." Joan Nathan and Micaela Varricchio curated this project and a host of amazing chefs took part. A new recipe is going to be posted every Friday for the next few months. The first recipe is from  Joan's  "King Solomon's Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World." A promotion on this title will be come soon but for now you can download her Double-Roasted Lemon Chicken (click through to the link which will take you to a download option where you can save each week's recipe). 

Other chefs contributing include José Andres, Mario Batali, Massimo Bottura, Giada di Laurentiis Bobby Flay, Pati Jinich, Aglaia Kremezi, Mourad Lahlou, Yotam Ottolenghi, Alon Shaya, Nancy Silverton, Christina Tosi and Alice Waters.

For more information on this program or to make a donation, visit Seeds for Peace.



Ina Garten announces a new show

Cooking for JeffreyLooking for a good new cooking show to watch? Keep your eyes on Food Network, because Ina Garten has just announced that she's working on a new show that will air on the cable channel. It appears that the series, titled 'Cook Like a Pro', is already in production and will likely premiere in May of this year.

Garten, author of last year's blockbuster cookbook Cooking for Jeffrey (nominated for a James Beard award), shared the news via Twitter earlier today. She captioned a photo with "Fun today filming with Lidey for my new series 'Cook Like a Pro' on @FoodNetwork!"

There has been no official announcement from the network, nor did the chef elaborate on what to expect from the show. There may be clues in the photo Garten shared on Twitter, however. The picture includes the chocolate chevron cake she posted on Instagram earlier this month, in which she uses a simple technique to achieve sophisticated results with the cake's icing. Perhaps that contains a hint of what's to come in her new show. 

New GBBO hosts announced

Paul HollywoodChannel 4 has announced who will replace Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc, and Sue Perkins this fall for the new season of GBBO, the first at the show's new home. The rumors have been confirmed: Sandi Toksvig, food writer Prue Leith, and comedian Noel Fielding will join Paul Hollywood for the next season

Leith said she was "so thrilled to be joining... the biggest show on TV". The others have indicated it's an honor to be included in the cast. The three will join Paul Hollywood, the only remaining host from the BBC version of the show. Mel and Sue declined to follow Paul, while Berry indicates that she wasn't even asked to move to Channel 4.

The reaction from fans was mixed, with some supporting the new hosts while others didn't think the right selections were made. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding (and pies and cakes) that will be revealed this fall when the new season premieres. Do you think the show will retain the huge following it has accumulated over the years? 

An interview with Rose Levy Beranbaum

Rose Levy BeranbaumEYB Members love Rose Levy Beranbaum's baking books. Rose has been called the "Diva of Desserts" and "the most meticulous cook who ever lived." 

Rose's first book, The Cake Bible, was the 1989 winner of the IACP/Seagram Book of the Year and the NASFT Showcase Award for the cookbook that has contributed most to educating the consumer about specialty foods. A culinary best-seller, The Cake Bible is currently in its 52nd printing. It was listed by the James Beard Foundation as one of the top 13 baking books on "the Essential Book List," and was included in 101 Classic Cookbooks.

Now Rose can add another accolade to the list for her classic tome - it is the 2017 inductee into the IACP Cookbook Hall of Fame. Just after this news was announced, the blog The Secret Ingredient interviewed Rose about this latest honor

When asked about why she decided to write the cookbook, Rose said she was "frustrated by baking books that listed several recipes for the same cake or buttercream but didn't explain what the results would be." She also wanted a repository for all of the recipes she had created for her business, Cordon Rose, and she wanted to share them with people "to empower them to reproduce them."

In the years that have passed since she wrote this book, Rose has changed the way she bakes somewhat. One of the first to embrace weights in a cookbook, Rose now is delighted that more cookbooks have adopted weight measurements and that grams are taking the lead over ounces. She thinks the biggest accomplishment from the book was her innovative technique for butter layer cakes "of mixing all the dry ingredients together, mixing in one quarter of the liquid, and then mixing in the remaining liquid and eggs in three parts," noting that this is not only easier, but also "results in a more tender and even cake." You can read the full Q&A on The Secret Ingredient website.  

Rose is one of the authors we have produced a complete recipe index for - from her books, magazine articles and her blog.

Mast Brothers mount a comeback

Mast Brothers ChocolateLate in 2015 we reported on a controversy surrounding Mast Brothers chocolate, in which they were accused of misleading consumers about their "bean-to-bar" products. After the debacle, the brothers Mast kept a low profile, but continued to work on growing their successful chocolate company.  

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, the brothers says that the story, while harmful, was really a case of "fake news" and that almost every allegation in the exposé was false. "Basic facts got lost in all of this," Rick Mast told the magazine. "We always have made our chocolate from bean to bar, ourselves, in house." 

Thanks to an angel investor, the company has recently opened a large facility in Brooklyn's Navy Yard. They are closing down their Los Angeles and London operations to focus on this location and the wholesale market, where their product has done well. Upscale retailers like Whole Foods and Dean & Deluca are carrying the company's chocolate bars. Mast Brothers has introduced smaller, one ounce bars that retail for $3 instead of the $7-8 pricetag that the full-size bars commanded. They hope the new bars will entice leery consumers to try their product. 

Chefs recall childhood dishes that inspired them

 Pepsi ricde

Everyone has a dish from their childhood that they fondly remember throughout their lives. Chefs are no exception to this; the difference with them is that sometimes these nostalgic foods inspire them to create items for their menus. Bon Appetit Magazine recently asked chefs to share their stories of foods from their past that have sparked something that they make today, and they received an overwhelming response

Chef Anita Lo of Annisa in New York City was inspired by butterscotch mints that lived on her mother's desk in a hospital. They were the inspiration for the pecan beignets with salted butterscotch on the Annisa menu. Top Chef alumnus Stephanie Izard recalled one of her mother's signature dishes, Mu shu pork. "My mom used to have her friend Mrs. Cole over once a month and they would drink wine and make Mandarin pancakes for each of our families. It was an all day process," she said. After her mother died, Izard renewed her interest in Chinese cooking, which she highlights at her Chicago restaurant Duck Duck Goat. The menu there features a version of her mother's dish.

Another Top Chef alum, Dale Talde, was inspired by breakfast cereal. When he created his Halo Halo dish, he didn't want to use the usual puffed rice topping. Instead, for crunch he uses his childhood favorite cereal, Cap'n Crunch. He also uses his grandmother's take on rice to make the Pepsi rice pictured above. 

Home cooks might not have a restaurant menu on which to display our food memories, but I'll bet each of us brings something to the table inspired by food from our childhood. 

Italian baking expert Carol Field dies at 76

Carol FieldWe have sad news to report, as Italian baking expert and cookbook author Carol Field died today after suffering a stroke, just weeks after losing her husband. The San Francisco-based author was instrumental in introducing food lovers in the U.S. to now commonplace Italian specialties like focaccia, ciabatta and biscotti. She also played a key role in the revival of artisan bread making. 

Her most popular cookbook, The Italian Baker: The Classic Tastes of the Italian Countryside, first published in 1985 and reissued in 2011, was a phenomenal success. It won an IACP Cookbook Award for best baking book, and  was also named to the James Beard Baker's Dozen list of thirteen indispensable baking books. It has inspired countless professionals and home cooks alike.

Field traveled extensively through Italy, often knocking on bakery doors at night so she could glean recipes and techniques to share with others. In addition to her travels, she had a second home in Tuscany, and received many honors in her home-away-from-home, including being awarded the Knight in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2004. She and her architect husband, John, were married for 56 years. He passed away just last month from cancer. 

Mary Berry's bolognese controversy

 ragu bolognese

Few things are more contentious in the cooking world that fights over authenticity. People become incensed when a chef adds, substitutes, or omits ingredients in a recipe that they view as sacrosanct. Whether it's cream in carbonara or peas in guacamole, you can expect a bitter war of words on social media. Beloved BBC food host Mary Berry recently found herself embroiled in such a controversy when her "unusual ingredients" in a ragù bolognese sparked heated debate

Berry's alleged offenses were using white wine, adding a touch of double cream, and using Italian herbs. All of these ingredients prompted social media outrage. Detractors tweeted their displeasure, saying things like "Shocked and appalled about Mary Berry adding double cream to her bolognese" and "this is NOT ragu Bolognese." Many of Berry's fans came to her defense, however, saying things like "Mary Berry is channeling Elizabeth David. 1958 recipe, adds cream, white wine, chicken livers, and bacon." 

Are these ingredients really that controversial? Of the over 950 bolognese sauce recipes in the EYB Library, 156 include cream as an ingredient, including recipes from Domenica MarchettiNigel Slater, Claudia Roden, Ina Garten, and  Lynne Rossetto Kasper. It's not a new concept, either; Elizabeth David included heavy cream as an ingredient in her Ragu Bolognese from the classic Is There a Nutmeg in the House? 

Concerning the white wine issue, more bolognese recipes in the Library specify white wine than red wine (246 vs. 232). Again, respected Italian cooking authorities like Marcella Hazan and Mario Batali are among those who recommend white wine in the sauce. 

The herbs that Berry adds - thyme, bay leaves and basil -  might be a bit less traditional, although over 190 bolognese recipes in the Library call for basil, and over 201 specify oregano. However, Batali, Hazan and other noted Italian cooks do not include these herbs in their recipes. One interesting side note is that Lidia Bastianich and others call for bay leaves in their bolognese. 

What do you think? Is it a no-no to use heavy cream, white wine, or herbs in ragù bolognese, or are you a bit more laissez-faire about which ingredients are appropriate?

Photo of Bolognese ragù with pappardelle from BBC Food by Mary Berry, indexed by an EYB Member

A film about pioneering chef Jeremiah Tower set to debut

 Jeremiah Tower

Film buffs who are food lovers, mark your calendars. There is a new film titled Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent that chronicles the life of pioneering chef Jeremiah Tower, one of the most controversial and influential figures in American gastronomy. The movie premieres this April in select cities.

Tower began his career at the renowned Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley in 1972, where he forged his reputation alongside founder Alice Waters. The duo had a contentious relationship, and after working at Chez Panisse for over a decade Towers left to form his own groundbreaking restaurant, Stars, in San Francisco. 

Under Tower's direction, Stars birthed the movement now known as 'nouvelle cuisine' or 'California cuisine'. After several years in his renowned restaurant and at the height of his fame, Tower mysteriously walked away from the culinary scene and remained out of the limelight for nearly twenty years. Then, to everyone's surprise, he was named as the new chef at New York City's troubled Tavern on the Green restaurant in 2014.

The film features interviews by Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl and Martha Stewart, as it tells the story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of America's first celebrity chef.

Photograph courtesy The Orchard

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