Ottolenghi to be guest judge on Masterchef Australia

Yotam OttolenghiMasterchef Australia fans will get a special treat the week of June 4, as Yotam Ottolenghi will be the guest judge. As you might expect from the vegetable-centric cookbooks he has penned, the challenges will feature plenty of plant-based ingredients.

One of the challenges will be to prepare a vegetarian feast that will win over meat lovers. "I was hoping they would have enough confidence to leave the vegetables largely alone," Ottolenghi said of the Masterchef competitors. "Not everything needs to be blitzed, pureed or julienned. A carrot is most beautiful to me when it still looks like a carrot."

If you have read any of his five hugely popular cookbooks, you already know that  Ottolenghi's signature style involves plenty of vibrant colors, stunning presentations, and bold flavors. "Nowadays, the most creative chefs are working solely with vegetables," he says. "People's perceptions of vegetables, what they are, their importance, how versatile they are, the whole perspective, has changed completely," he continues. 

Jacques Pépin discusses changes in the food world

Jacques PepinJacques Pépin  remembers the first food that was more than sustenance for him: fresh milk from a cow. In an interview with the LA Times, Pépin recalls this and other gems as he recounts how the food world has changed since his childhood in WWII France. He also discusses what it was like to be on television in the culinary genre's earliest days. 

Recalling his early days as a chef in New York City, Pépin noted that the universe of high-end of food was small and insular: "When I came to America at the end of 1959, six months after I was here I had made friends with Julia Child and James Beard, and Craig Claiborne had just started at the New York Times," he noted. Pépin continued: "It was so small, in fact, I did not know one single American chef that was white."

The iconic chef also talks about how the food world was changed in the intervening decades - for better and for worse, depending on which metric you are counting. He cautions young people who see glamorous television chefs about the reality of cooking in a restaurant, with long hours, relatively low pay, and little recognition for the vast majority of chefs. "Unless you really love it and you have the bug, then you should not go into that business," he says. 

What do chefs plant in their gardens?


It's always informative to learn what chefs keep in their home kitchens. Sometimes the quality and breadth of those ingredients can invoke a twinge of inferiority for one's home pantry. The same can happen when you learn about what chefs grow in their garden. Or maybe it's just me. After reading Australian Gourmet Traveller's article on what chefs grow in their gardens, my vegetables and herbs seemed mundane.

For example, Chef Ben Shrewry of the world-famous Attica restaurant in Melbourne grows a plant that few people even know exists: murnong. Native to Australia and also known as yam daisy, " murnong was an important staple of the Australian Aboriginal people but almost disappeared with the introduction of grazing animals," Shrewry notes. The tubers are allegedly delicious when "lightly roasted or gently simmered to tenderness. The leaves are also excellent to eat and have a slight bitterness," says the chef. I will have to take his word for it. 

Analiese Gregory of Bar Brosé, Sydney, starts out with items like radishes and turnips that do not produce planting envy, but then she adds shiso, sweet cicely, bronze fennel and anise. My reliable mint and chives seem a bit dull in comparison.

Not all of the chefs grow exotic plants, however. Annie Smithers of Du Fermier plants good old-fashioned corn. She prefers an heirloom variety called Golden Bantam. Sean Moran of Sean's in Sydney loves to grow garlic, especially purple garlic. He harvests the scapes a couple of weeks before harvest to invigorate a last-minute growth spurt in the heads. 

Do you plant a garden? If so, what are your favorite edibles? 

PBS launches new mini-series on food icons

 American Masters Beard, Child, Pepin, & Waters

If you are in the US, you will want to clear some time for the next two Friday evenings. That is when PBS stations across the country will air four documentaries on American food icons. Part of the 'American Master' series, the 'Chefs-Flight' programs chronicle the lives of James Beard, Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Alice Waters.

The first show, debuting on Friday, May 19 at 9-10 pm (check local listings for the time in your area), relays the story of James Beard, cookbook author, journalist, and one of the first television celebrities. Beard, dubbed "America's First Foodie", helped launch and grow the food media industry into the juggernaut that it is today.  The second program celebrates the life and legacy of Julia Child. It airs immediately following the James Beard episode. 

On May 26, the series explores the story of Jacques Pépin, described as "a young immigrant with movie-star looks, a charming Gallic accent and a mastery of cooking and teaching so breathtaking he became an early food icon". This program is followed by a profile of Alice Waters. Instead of a traditional biopic, the show follows Waters through a year of shopping and cooking, describing both the recipes and activism of the pioneering chef. 

Even star chefs have things to learn

Herb pie 

Working with thin laminated doughs like phyllo can strike fear in the even the most confident cook. But even if your technique isn't perfect, you shouldn't be afraid to jump in and try making something with it, says Yotam Ottolenghi. Even the celebrated chef admits to being intimidated by these types of dough.

Even though he was trained as a pastry chef, Ottolenghi said that he stands in admiration of people who have dedicated their careers to mastering things like phyllo and warka pastries. He thought he was pretty good at handling these until he made the 2012 television series 'Mediterranean Feast'. Three different trips to pastry shops set him straight. 

Ottolenghi recalls attempting to help Mustafa, a fifth-generation chef in Istanbul, roll out and stretch phyllo. "What followed was nothing short of comedy as I got lost in the clouds of flour resulting from my trying to "help" and to roll out the pastry at a pace that would keep it from drying out," he says. 

The chef shares these humbling experiences to let us know that "compared with the experts, we're all on training wheels when it comes to making thin laminated pastry." He continues, "Don't be scared. Take delight in the fact that it isn't necessary for home cooks to make their own. There is enough good ready-made phyllo available." Ottolenghi follows this encouragement with tips on working with phyllo. 

Photo of Herb Pie from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

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.

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