In Bitter, Jennifer McLagan turns her attention to a fascinating, underappreciated, and trending topic: bitterness.
What do coffee, IPA beer, dark chocolate, and radicchio all have in common? They’re bitter. While some culinary cultures, such as in Italy and parts of Asia, have an inherent appreciation for bitter flavors (think Campari and Chinese bitter melon), little attention has been given to bitterness in North America: we’re much more likely to reach for salty or sweet. However, with a surge in the popularity of craft beers, dark chocolate, coffee, greens like arugula, dandelion, radicchio, and frisée, high-quality olive oil and cocktails made with Campari and absinthe – all foods and drinks with elements of bitterness – bitter is finally getting its due.
In this deep and fascinating exploration of bitter through science, culture, history, and 100 deliciously idiosyncratic recipes – like Cardoon Beef Tagine, White Asparagus with Blood Orange Sauce, and Campari Granita – award-winning author Jennifer McLagan makes a case for this misunderstood flavor and explains how adding a touch of bitter to a dish creates an exciting taste dimension that will bring your cooking to life. (description from publisher)
If you’re anything like me, packing a healthy, flavorful lunch day after day is a surprisingly difficult task. So I was pretty excited when I found Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go! by J.M. Hirsch. Utilizing a combination of leftovers and fresh ingredients, Beating the Lunch Box Blues was created not only to provide recipes, but to give inspiration.
This book gives very simple, practical advice. As I perused the pages, I had a lot of a-ha moments. Why had I never thought that I should cook a little extra couscous to save for lunch that week? Why did I bring leftovers exactly as they had been cooked the night before? Why couldn’t I bring the leftover chicken from dinner as part of a salad for lunch? (I’m clearly not a creative lunch maker.) And why do I never plan lunches, but just toss them together as I’m running out the door?
Hirsch’s recipes focus on creating variety in your meals and planning ahead. This will save time in the end and might prevent you from buying that bag of chips from the vending machine. If you’re looking for additional ideas check out Hirsch’s blog: www.lunchboxblues.com or these other lunch box cookbooks from DPL: Best Lunch Box Ever by Kate Sullivan Morford and Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann.
Have a fridge full of staples, a family of finicky mouths to feed, and only a few minutes to get something on the table? If this sounds all too familiar, chances are you’ll find dinner and more in this can-do approach to mealtime.
The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook is designed with the modern-day family in mind – too busy, with not nearly enough time to eat together – and makes delicious meals come together in a snap. With a focus on accessible recipes with only a few simple ingredients, this guide takes the humble pantry staple and transforms it in minutes into delicious restaurant-quality dishes. The more-than 125 recipes are organized, not by course or time of day, but by the way people really cook: categories like pasta, vegetable dishes, salads, chicken, slow-cooking, fish, and more make the dinner dilemma easy. Try Butternut Squash and Pear Soup, Bronzino Veracruz, Baked Wild Mushroom Risotto, Roasted Chicken Enchiladas, and Meatloaf Burgers. This revolutionary approach will change the way you see dinnertime. (description from publisher)
I require two things of a cookbook for me to check it out:
♥ There must be lots of photos.
♥ Those photos must be beautiful.
Checking out a cookbook is not the same thing as USING a cookbook. For me to actually use a cookbook, I require two additional things:
♥ Simple ingredients.
♥ Simple instructions.
Very, very few cookbooks meet these requirements (thus I am forced to make frozen pizza at least twice a week. Sigh. It is so difficult being a lazy cook with high cookbook standards). So when I discovered that Mary McCartney’s new cookbook, FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking, exceeded all of my requirements I just had to hug it. Yup, I hug that cookbook. On a regular basis. Because I love it. I really really love it.
For those of you who are not as obsessed with the McCartney family as I am, Mary McCartney is the daughter of Sir Paul McCartney and the late Linda McCartney, and thus grew up in arguably the most famous of vegetarian families. I was worried that Mary’s long history with vegetarian cooking (not particularly my favorite type of food) would result in complicated and unappealing fancy cuisine and thus dash my hopes that I would ever be able to comfortably tuck in if invited to sit at the McCartney supper table.
Upon opening the cookbook, I was first struck (and almost brought to tears) by Mary’s cozy photographs of lovely people and fresh food and how the photographs reminded me just enough of her mother, Linda, but were still very much the artist’s own. Wonderful and crisp.
Then I started looking at the recipes and I was like “HEY I CAN MAKE THESE!” I made a cold Quinoa salad, a Quinoa and white bean soup, granola bars, zucchini pasta, a coconut-pineapple smoothie and all were easy and successful. My favorite recipe was the hummus and hot pepper jam sandwich – So simple, right?! The recipes are delicious and appealing to even a non-Veggie lover like me. Mary McCartney managed to not only make a beautiful and delicious cookbook, but also to make me feel like a confident, capable cook. And that is why FOOD gets a frequent hug from me. You should probably hug it, too.
With the purchase of his newest CD, B.O.A.T.S II, #metime, southern rapper 2 Chainz is releasing a digital Instagram cookbook with some of his favorite recipes called #mealtime. While 2 Chainz is not the first celebrity to offer up a cookbook, he might very well be the first to include a digital cookbook with a CD (I’m going to bet that he is.) You may not be able to borrow #mealtime from the library, but we would love it if you checked out one of these celebrity cookbooks:
The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet by
Cher Horowitz Alicia Silverstone
Silverstone is best known for playing Cher Horowitz in Clueless, but also made a name for herself in recent years for demonstrating mouth-to-mouth feeding of children to many for the first time. This book helps vegetarians and vegans ensure that they’re getting all of the nutrition needed, while still making tasty food.
The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci
Tucci has been in a number of fantastic films, including The Devil Wears Prada, Julie and Julia, Easy A, and of course, The Hunger Games. As the grandson of Italian immigrants, Tucci has spent his life around food. In this cookbook he shares a mixture of family recipes and stories.
If it Makes You Healthy by Sheryl Crow
Crow’s cookbook is comprised of healthy recipes created by her personal chef, Chuck White. As breast cancer survivor, Crow is more concerned with the health benefits of certain foods and focusing on local and organic than with calorie counts. The title is a pun on Crow’s hit, “If it Makes You Happy” off of her 1996 eponymous album.
Cookin’ With Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price by Coolio
So, apparently Coolio had a “Cookin’ with Coolio” webseries (that no one told me about!) and as a result, he had a cookbook published. The “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage” rapper (and “Rollin’ with My Homies” featured in the aforementioned Clueless) mixes tongue-in-cheek humor, slang, vulgarity, and a plethora of drug references with simple recipes in this R-rated cookbook.
You can also find cookbooks from Gwyneth Paltrow, Trisha Yearwood, Padma Lakshmi, and Eva Longoria at the library!
Deb Perelman has garnered a pretty significant following from her blog Smitten Kitchen, and has transformed cooking in her 42-square-foot Manhatten kitchen from a feat to a pleasure. She crafts everything from unique desserts to one pan entrees to sophisticated appetizers, and more; documenting her accomplishments with beautiful photographs and detailed instructions.
One of the primary things that sets Perelman apart from other food bloggers is her excellent conversational writing style. She is witty and warm, and provides a healthy mix of anecdotes and edification. That is why I was ecstatic to see that she had released a cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. This charming cookbook features a diverse array of recipes, accompanied by exceptional tips and explanations. Much of the cookbook features vegetarian friendly recipes — as Perelman was a vegetarian for a large chunk of her life — but there are definitely recipes for the carnivores included as well.
When I saw this book at the library, I promptly checked it out. And then a few days later, bought it. It now sits in my kitchen with a fine layer of bread flour on it from repeated use (the recipe for homemade pizza dough is now a family favorite.) I bought it because it met my two cookbook criteria: Providing photographs of every dish and using fresh and affordable ingredients. I recommend checking this cookbook out as soon as possible. And then you have to make the pizza dough, the sesame-spiced turkey meatballs and smashed chickpea salad, and, of course, the apple-cider caramels.
Deb Perelman is one of my favorite nonfiction writers. Her blog, smittenkitchen.com, is one of the most beautiful and well-cultivated on the web. She writes with good grammar, common sense, and maturity: all too rare in the world of blogging. Her photos are sumptuous; her voice is authentic and charming; her advice is encouraging but never preachy. Her recipes range from moderate ease (mixed bean salad) to incredible ambition (Moules à la Marinière) . Most importantly, her lifestyle (which is what any blogger on any topic is ultimately selling) seems attainable, realistic, homey, and good. Now, she has “arrived,” so to speak, by getting herself published in “real life,” aka, a glossy hardcover book published by Knopf.
And what a hardcover it is! I have it checked out now, but I know I’ll be returning to it too often not to make a home on my own bookshelf for it. Most of the recipes are new, which is to say they have never appeared on the website. The design is crisp, the photos delectable, the writing full of warmth. I have no reservations whatsoever about recommending this book to anyone who has a kitchen!
Having children changes your life, but it doesn’t have to change what you cook. The Naptime Chef by Kelsey Banfield is equal parts pragmatic parent and ardent foodie. The result is a tasty playbook of meals, made over to save time without compromising taste.
Some favorites are the 45-minute artichoke lasagna, assembled in the morning or afternoon and held in the fridge until dinnertime; a roast chicken that’s rubbed down with herbs in the morning stays moist and flavorful when roasted later in the evening; a French toast casserole that can be tossed together the night before and popped in the oven in the morning for a special breakfast. Soups, salads, veggies, sides, main courses, and desserts are all adapted to the time that you have—whether it’s during naptime, before bedtime, in the morning, or on the weekends—without sacrificing quality or flavor. Take back dinner, one dish at a time! (description from publisher)
Have you been languishing waiting for Ireland to produce a chef as healthy and good-looking as Jaime Oliver? FINALLY that wait is over! Let me introduce you to the young, Irish chef/blogger Donal Skehan, aka “Ireland’s answer to Jaime Oliver” (as stated on the cookbook’s cover), who appears to be an expert at creating simple and cozy recipes that make me want to curl up in a country cottage and watch him cook for me. Just kidding! Actually, Good Mood Food is one of the few cookbooks that actually made me want to cook. I do not usually enjoy cooking, and probably only checked out this cookbook because I liked the rhyming words in the title, but within a few days of having the book on my kitchen table I discovered I had made Perfect Parmesan Parsnips! What happened?! I just don’t do things like that! Soon afterwards I found a Bacon Avocado and Sundried Tomato Sandwich in my hands. The recipes are so easy and the photographs so lovely that I couldn’t resist. Yup, this Donal Skehan guy is good. Check out his blog at: www.donalskehan.com.
Celebrating the simple beauty of food, A Platter of Figs by David Tanis will tempt you with beautiful, unpretentious recipes, gorgeous photos and a simple philosophy – cooking should be a joy, eating should be a pleasurable experience and both should preferably be shared with friends.
The recipes are arranged seasonally, spring through winter, rather than by course, the idea being you should celebrate what each season offers. This fits in nicely with the current trend toward eating locally and sustainably, but it also has everything to do with flavor – fresh picked, in-season food is undeniably the best tasting.
Recipes range from the simple – Warm Asparagus Vinaigrette – to the more complex – Chicken Tagine with Pumpkin and Chickpeas – but all are clearly explained. Stories of Tanis’s life and travels (which are reflected in his recipes) are scattered throughout the book, adding a warm and friendly atmosphere to the cookbook. A beautiful book about beautiful food.