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A passion for Rome and its food

Leonardo Vignolis cacio e pepe

Kristina Gill is the food and drinks editor at DesignSponge.com, a home and lifestyle site with over 1.2 million readers per month. Her original recipes, and those she hand-selects from celebrated authors, chefs, and readers have appeared weekly as the "In the Kitchen With" column since 2007. She is also a food and travel photographer. Kristina transferred to Rome in 1999 after earning her BA from Stanford and her MA from Johns Hopkins SAIS. She recently teamed up with Rome expert Katie Parla to write Tasting Rome. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book.) Part cookbook, part travel memoir, Tasting Rome transports all of the flavors of Rome into your kitchen. Kristina shared with us the story of how the book came about:

Tasting Rome is truly the culmination of over three decades of a passion for a city and for food as a traceable history of its people. My first visit to Rome was part of a family trip when I was in middle school. I studied in Italy for two years during undergraduate and graduate school, in Florence and Bologna respectively, followed by an internship in Rome. All of my summers during undergrad I spent in Rome and visiting friends in other areas of Italy. I had already developed a passion for cooking and baking, so visiting different regions was fascinating to me because the type of food also varied- something we don't always experience in the United States. When I finally moved to Rome for work, I had already spent so much time here and had such a vast support network, the transition was not too difficult. Eating, however, was often in restaurants or with friends' families, so I didn't cook much at home in the first two years. I had already done all of that while I was a student, learning from my friends' mothers.

Once I met the man who later became my husband, as stereotypical as it may sound, I began to cook again. For some crazy reason, I wanted his mother to feel as though her son were in good hands. I passed the test! We entertained a lot and all of our friends were enthusiastic about meals at our place. I started to keep track of recipes, and collect even more. Specifically, I started to collect recipes from taxi drivers whenever I took a taxi to meetings across town. It seemed that food was what they all wanted to talk about on these long rides and they all knew how to cook! They could explain their recipes in great detail, including alerting to possible pitfalls in the preparation process. There was also a lot of 'folklore' involved about recipe origins that I had heard not just from the Roman taxi drivers, but from many Romans since I had been living there. After I had collected a little over one hundred recipes, it seemed logical to try to form them into a Roman cookbook.

Drawing on the work I had done as the Food and Drinks editor at Design*Sponge for five years at that point, and previous cooking experience and familiarity with Roman cuisine, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to the book to be. Italians are rightfully quite protective of their food, so I wanted this to pass the scrutiny of Romans. I wanted it to be visually about the whole city, not just the tourist areas. I wanted it to dispel any myths about the dishes and their origins. Identifying an equally passionate co-author who knew the food history of Rome, old and new, and could ensure that the recipes adhered to tradition and accurately reflected the city's cuisine was the missing piece. All of these elements came together to make Tasting Rome the book that it is. It is history, recipes, and coffee-table book rolled into one. I am fortunate to have been able to develop recipes for and photograph such a book!

Photo of Leonardo Vignoli's cacio e pepe (Cacio e pepe di Leonardo Vignoli) from Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill

Cookbook giveaway - Tasting Rome

Tasting RomeIn their new cookbook Tasting Rome, journalist Katie Parla and photographer Kristina Gill capture cucina romana -  Rome's unique character and evolved food culture - a culmination of two thousand years of history. Each recipe was selected for the story it tells, and combined the recipes acknowledge the foundations of the cuisine and demonstrate how it has transitioned to the variations found today.

You can learn more about the cookbook by reading co-author Kristina Gill's story of how she fell in love with Rome and wanted to tell the story of its food.

We're delighted to offer 1 copy of Tasting Rome to EYB Members worldwide. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

Which Roman ingredient or recipe are you most interested in learning more about?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends September 19, 2016.

Ina Garten's posh new kitchen

Ina GartenWe've all seen Ina Garten whipping up fabulous dishes in her spacious East Hampton kitchen. Now the television show host and prolific cookbook author has another grand kitchen, this time in her new apartment in New York City.

Ina and Jeffrey recently purchased the two-bedroom unit on the Upper East Side for $4.65 million. The real estate listing describes the kitchen as being "perfect for an enthusiastic cook." Ina definitely qualifies for that description. 

The sleek kitchen features white cabinetry, a professional-grade gas range, and a cozy, marble-topped eat-in island. It's not difficult to imagine Ina saying "how easy is that?" in her elegant new digs.

Did someone find KFC's secret fried chicken recipe?

buttermilk fried chicken 

Over the years, many people have claimed to possess the "secret recipe" for Kentucky Fried Chicken's "blend of 11 herbs and spices" developed by Colonel Harland Sanders. None of the claims have turned out to be true, but the latest comes from a relative of the late Sanders. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune says he stumbled upon the recipe at the home of a nephew (by marriage) of the colonel.

The nephew, Joe Ledington, has a scrapbook once owned by Sanders' late wife, Claudia Sanders. The recipe was found tucked away in the scrapbook, inside an envelope that also contained Claudia Sanders' will. Yum! Brands, whos owns the KFC name, says that the recipe isn't the one used in the restaurants. Others doubt the veracity of Ledington's claim too.

But the 67-year-old Ledington, who used to work in Colonel Sanders' original restaurant, thinks it is the real deal. He recalls mixing up the ingredients for the chicken's coating and that this recipe seems to comport with his memories. A Tribune staffer used the recipe (published in the article), adding a bit of Accent (msg), and claims that the result "was indistinguishable from what it purchased at a KFC restaurant." If you like KFC's chicken, you might want to give it a try at home. 

Photo of Rosemary-brined buttermilk fried chicken [Michael Ruhlman] from Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

Did you know adding online recipes to your EYB Bookshelf is a really great way to build your personal recipe collection? You can now do this even if you have a free membership!

Try it out now and see how easy it is. Browse the recipes below, choose one that appeals, click on the link, and add it to your Bookshelf. (Make sure that you are signed in first.)


All the recipes we feature in these weekly round-ups have online links so you can add any of them to your Bookshelf.

Happy cooking and baking everyone!

 

From blogs:

6 recipes for making and using cajeta from indexed blog Serious Eats

 

 

From AUS/NZ books:

1 recipe from Country Chefs: Stories and Recipes from Australia's Best-Loved Country Chefs by Country Style, indexed by an EYB member

 

 

From UK books:

7 recipes from Nadiya's Kitchen: Over 100 Simple, Delicious, Family Recipes by Nadiya Hussain

Upcoming Events for Nadiya's Kitchen

 

14 recipes from  My Family Kitchen: Favourite Recipes from Four Generations by Sophie Thompson, indexed by an EYB member

 

5 recipes from  Tante Hertha's Viennese Kitchen: A Book of Family Recipes by Monica Meehan & Maria Von Baich, indexed by an EYB member

 

 

From US books:

5 recipes from Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha

 

2 recipes from Cooking with Loula: Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours by Alexandra Stratou

 

9 recipes from Seasonal Recipes from the Garden by P. Allen Smith, indexed by an EYB member

 

108 recipes from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh & Fast: Simple, Healthy Meals for Every Night of the Week by Kristine Kidd, indexed by an EYB member



How chefs are tackling the cause of hunger

Tom ColicchioAs chefs have become more and more well known to the public, thanks in part to television shows like Top Chef and Chopped, they've started to use their celebrity status to promote causes that are important to them. One of the most prominent causes shared by many in the profession is hunger. It's a natural fit, as it deals with their stock in trade. Edible Manhattan showcases the efforts of several celebrity chefs who are vocal anti-hunger activists.

For decades, chefs and restaurants would participate in fundraisers for charitable groups in their communities. More recently, chefs like Tom Colicchio and Bill Telepan have been using their newly minted celebrity status to speak out on a national and global level to policymakers and others. They are appearing on talk shows, lobbying their elected officials, and writing opinion pieces for major publications.Inspired by Ingredients

This activism isn't surprising, says Edible Manhattan: "It's expected that chefs, the rock stars of our time, get involved in the issues of the day like many celebrities-and nothing hits closer to home to someone who cooks for a living than imagining a life without good food." Not everyone is on board with chefs becoming so vocal. In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Julie Kelly argued that because of the problems with low wages in the restaurant industry, chefs shouldn't claim a moral high ground on the issue of hunger. 

After calling Colicchio out by name, Kelly received a lot of backlash from supporters of chef activism. One such defender is Kevin Concannon, who spent eight years as President Obama's chief of the nation's nutrition programs. "When chefs weigh in, they are rightly viewed as experts on the importance of food in all of our lives," he says. 

The savory side of yogurt

 roasted cauliflower with yogurt

Despite being a fermented product, which inherently means it has a sour base, yogurt has developed a reputation for being on the sweet side. That's because we are most familiar with the highly-sweetened, fruit-enriched product often served for breakfast. But as Tasting Table points out, yogurt has a place in savory applications - even for breakfast.

Many of us have probably already dipped our toes into the savory applications for yogurt in sauces such as raita and tzatziki. These sauces only scratch the surface for savory yogurt uses. Tasting Table uses Mediterranean flavors as inspiration to create a savory take on a yogurt breakfast parfait, using a savory granola to add crunch without the sugar.

Anyone who's cooked out of Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks knows that the chef has a fondness for using yogurt in savory dishes. Not only does it make great sauces, yogurt's acidity makes it work wonderfully as a marinade in lamb dishes, chicken tikka masala, and more. Chicago chef Ricardo Jarquin uses yogurt in heavy braised dishes, mixing herbs, lemon zest and salt into Greek yogurt as a finishing sauce. "It brightens up the dish and makes it a little less rich and heavy," he says.

The EYB Library is chock full of savory yogurt recipe. Get started with these Member favorites:

Cumin seed roasted cauliflower with salted yogurt, mint, and pomegranate seeds from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark (pictured top)
Yogurt flatbreads with barley and mushrooms from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Chicken marinated in yogurt with Georgian plum sauce
from Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry
Razia Syed's chicken with an almond yogurt sauce (Murghi korma)
from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer
Lamb manti with yoghurt, sumac and dried mint
from Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine

Using dried vs. fresh herbs

fresh herbs

Plenty of recipes call for fresh herbs, but in others you'll see dried herbs specified. You might be tempted to substitute fresh for dried whenever possible, but you shouldn't just do it reflexively, according to J. Kenji López-Alt of The Food Lab. In many cases you are better off with dried herbs, he says.

The reason that some herbs are just as good - perhaps even better - when dried has to do with type of plant and the climate in which they are grown. Savory herbs like oregano and marjoram "that tend to grow in hot, relatively dry climates- like oregano, for instance-have flavor compounds that are stable at high temperatures and are well contained within the leaf," says Kenji. Other, more delicate herbs like parsley and cilantro have flavor compounds that are more volatile than water, which means that their flavors dissipate as the moisture leaves.

The article provides a chart listing which herbs are fine to use when dried, including the oregano and rosemary mentioned above, along with thyme and rosemary. A rule of thumb that you can use is that herbs with woody stalks can usually be used dried, but those with delicate stems are better used when fresh. And as with any spice, you should frequently rotate your dried herbs, because even though the flavor compounds are more stable, they will diminish over time.

Photo of How to make an herb rub without a recipe from indexed blog Food52

The transformation of corn

how to make corn tortillas 

When you eat a corn tortilla - whether it's wrapped around a filling to make a taco, fried crispy and topped as a tostada, or in any of the other myriad forms it takes - you probably think of it as a simple food. However, the history behind the humble corn tortilla is as fascinating as it is long, and it's anything but simple, as Cook's Science explains.

To discover how tortillas came to be, we must travel back in time to about 1500 B.C. During the height of the Mayan empire, a problem developed: there was not enough protein to feed the growing population. Although we don't know exactly how it happened, the Mayans invented one answer to the protein problem by creating the process of nixtamalization, which makes corn more nutritious. Since corn is not easy to mill, people had to find a way to make the corn easier to eat. Although how they did it is lost to history, the Mayans invented the nixtamlization process and soaked the corn in an alkaline liquid (originally created by using limestone or wood ash), which frees the bound niacin found in the kernels and shifts the balance of proteins to transform the kernels into a nutritionally complete food.

This process not only made the corn more nutritious, it allowed it to be ground and then combined with water to make a soft dough, which could be rolled thin and used as a shell or platform for various fillings. While other food processing techniques have changed considerably since the Industrial Revolution, nixtamalization proceeds in much the same way it did back in the Mayan era.

Tortillas aren't the only things to make out of nixtamalized corn. At Tortilla Nixtamal in Queens, New York, you'll find many items that utilize the product. One of these is a posole soup that "floats plump kernels of nixtamalized corn alongside shreds of meat in a rich pork broth." Tamales also figure into the menu, as does Champurrado, a traditional Mexican Christmas beverage, that resembles hot chocolate thickened with toasted masa.

Photo of How to make corn tortillas from scratch from The Kitchn

Review of Alla Fratelli by Barry McDonald and Terry Durack

Alla FratelliOne might be puzzled why an Australian, by way of New Zealand, named Barry McDonald could be qualified to write a cookbook on how to eat Italian. The answer to that query is simple:  McDonald identifies as Italian and is proud of his faux Italian heritage. He loves the food, the wine, thinks "coffee is oxygen, the tomato is a gift from heaven and wine makes life bearable … family is everything" which is a very Italian way of approaching life. It's like the old saying, "There are two types of people in the world, the Italians, and the people who want to be Italians."

McDonald, with his brother Jamie, started as a produce wholesaler at the massive market at Sydney's Flemington providing their products to the best chefs in the city. Spending time visiting the great Italian delis at that market place is where he learned to appreciate the Italian culture. Later when they expanded their business they named it Fratelli Fresh (Fresh Brothers). Shortly after that expansion, a café was opened, Café Sopra. Café Sopra set everything in motion and now there are three Fratelli Fresh stores, five Café Sopras and a Café Nice. The Fratelli way is simple food with high quality ingredients and this philosophy is reflected clearly in his cookbook, Alla Fratelli.

Alla Fratelli has the feel of a homey, yet definitely cool, Italian cookbook. Chock full of photographs of the food and people behind Fratelli Fresh, the book grabs your attention. McDonald's chef, Terry Durack, helped him to pull together the recipes for this title and as all good Italians do, they start with Aperitivi followed naturally by Antipasti. Arancini with Taleggio, Caponata with Pine Nuts, and Zucchini Flowers with Five Italian Cheese whet our appetites. In natural progression, Zuppa follows - Roast Tomato, Fennel and Chickpea Soup and Parsnip Soup with Gorgonzola are a few examples. Grilled King Prawns with Roast Tomato & Basil Butter (I'm so using that basil butter) and Salted Cod with Mussels are covered in Il Primo. The remaining chapters include: the Pasta chapter which includes a recipe for fresh pasta (and many delicious pasta dishes), Risotto, Il Secondo, Contorni (sides), Pizza, Formaggi, Insalata E Verdura, Dolce e Gelati, Conserve Del Padre (jams) and ending with a chapter on Basics.

Alla Fratelli lasagneThere are so many recipes I plan on making that will impress my family but I narrowed it down to the Tiramisu and Lasagna Al Forno for this review.  I've made Bolognese and Béchamel before so I understood the time commitment. The result was worth the effort. My main experience with Lasagna Al Forno was that it took 16 hours to make according to Sophia on an episode of The Golden Girls. Have no fear, McDonald's version takes about two to three hours total and was delicious. The author's instructions are clear and easy to follow. I did have to search for instructions for tomato passata which was easy to substitute with tomato puree as tomatoes from my garden here in Colorado are still green.

Alla Fratelli tiramisuThe Tiramisu was made for a dessert when we had friends over and it was a show stealer. I loved the addition of rum - I have made tiramisu a few times and was the first time I have seen rum added to the mix - it was scrumptious and disappeared.

Very soon I am going to make the Cassata with Candied Orange for a special occasion because that photograph is etched forever in my memory. I truly wish there were enough meals and time to make the recipes from all the books I have grown to love. I've come to love testing recipes for these reviews and do find myself cooking and baking more from new cookbooks instead of resorting to old classics.

Alla Fratelli has recipes for classics with a touch of the Fratelli way sprinkled in with unique and interesting recipes that will intrigue even the advanced Italian cook. It's a keeper.

Photos for test recipes by Jenny Hartin. Jenny is an enthusiastic home cook who lives in Colorado, owns the website The Cookbook Junkies and runs the Facebook group also called The Cookbook Junkies. The Facebook group is a closed group of 30,000 cookbook fans - new members are welcome.

TIRAMISU SERVES 6

It's a classic for a reason. Coffee, booze and mascarpone combine to make one of Italy's most famous desserts.

100 g (31/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugarAlla Fratelli tiramisu
150 ml (5 fl oz) freshly made espresso coffee
11/2 tbsp dark rum
240 ml (8 fl oz) sweet Marsala
3 eggs, separated
750 g (1 lb 10 oz) mascarpone
150 g (51/2 oz) savoiardi biscuits or sliced, stale panettone
20 g (3/4 oz) dark (70%) chocolate, finely grated

To make the coffee soaking mixture, stir 30 g (1 oz) of the sugar into the hot espresso until dissolved, then stir in the rum and 185 ml (6 fl oz) of the Marsala. Set aside to cool.

Use electric beaters to whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar. Add the remaining Marsala, then whisk in the mascarpone until smooth, taking care not to over-beat it. Use electric beaters to whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then gently fold into the mascarpone mixture.

To assemble, spread a quarter of the mascarpone mixture over the base of an 11 cm x 23 cm (41⁄4 in x 9 in), 9 cm/31⁄2 in deep plastic, glass or stainless-steel dish or container. Dip the savoiardi biscuits one at a time into the coffee mixture, allowing them to soak up some liquid, then layer six of them over the cream. Repeat this layering twice more with the mascarpone mixture and soaked biscuits, then finish with the remaining quarter of mascarpone mixture over the top. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Scatter the chocolate over the top and serve.

Alla Fratelli by Terry Durack and Barry McDonald (Murdoch Books). Photography by Rob Palmer. 

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