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Cookbooks

We Sure Can! Released

I’m excited to share the news that Sarah Hood’s We Sure Can! is now available for sale. Knowing Sarah and some of the other contributors (like Dana and Joel from Wellpreserved) I’d be pumped for this book even if I didn’t have a secondary, immodest motivation. Sarah was kind enough to ask me to submit three of my recipes for her to include in We Sure Can!

They are much polished and edited versions of recipes taken from these posts:

  • Serviceberry Jam: All the rain this May made for a lacklustre crop (I think in part because the birds were squeezed out of some of their preferred berry sources) so I only got a couple handfuls worth and therefore no jam. There’s always next year, though.
  • French Cornichons: I couldn’t find the tiny cucumbers at any markets so I grew my own. Doing the same thing again this year and it looks like a good crop. The brine is a pretty “hard-core” combination of basically straight vinegar and a mix of French herbs (like tarragon) and spices.
  • Cottage Garden Pickle: A rough adaptation, the idea here was to use up whatever was left in the garden at the end of the summer.

I’ll have more information for you as soon as I get my grubby paws on a copy of the book. For now here is a link to the Arsenal Pulp site from which the book can be ordered.

Food iPhone Apps

I’m late to the i-game but I think I may have an interesting perspective on the world of apps available for iPads, iPhones, and the iPod Touch like mine. There seem to be three categories of apps that are useful to cooks: recipe apps; utilities (like timers); and what I call guilty conscience apps.

In the recipe category the best should be able to stand in for cookbooks, I think. When apps offer the same collection of recipes as an entire cookbook they can seem inexpensive (maybe $5 versus $30) but compare the 125-year-old cookbooks that are almost as useful today as they were when bought to the probably useful lifetime of app technology.

Caution when taking your expensive device  into a hot, wet, and greasy kitchen is a good idea and apparently cryo-vacing iPhones (like this guy does) has become quite popular. So, as always, operate at your own risk. I’ve found four recipe apps that I really quite like and I think would be very useful for most intermediate cooks: (more…)

Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook

Without an unseasonably warm March for inspiration I found myself a week behind schedule with my vegetable gardening. So, I was happy to get a bump in the right direction when Bonita from Thomas Allen & Son sent me The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook: Design Plans, Seasonal Checklists, Fresh Recipes, Plant Profiles, Growing Tips, and Flowers for the Table by Jennifer R. Bartley to review.

The book is divided into four sections with one for each season. Each season is divided between crop information, recipes, and garden plans.

There is an aggravating social construct that demands of homeowners who want to grow fruit or vegetables for eating that they hide this shameful gardening away in their backyards and keep their front yards for monotonous swaths of grass and flowerbeds. So, right off the bat, I’m happy to see that The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook offers four seasonal plans for an edible front yard that include a diverse palette of plants. (more…)

Book Review: French Food My Way

The crowded world of cookbooks has seen a wave of celebrity chefs added to the list of cookbook authors and Toronto’s members of the firmament are busily releasing their contributions.  I was happy to get the opportunity to cook from a review copy of Chef Marc Thuet’s French Food My Way(Penguin). Chef Thuet is well-known for his King West restaurant, chain of Petite Thuets, and his television show Conviction Kitchen.

Because there are so many options I definitely think if we’re going to make good use of our cookbooks we need to be selective.  Consider whether a particular book does a very good job of filling one of two roles: either as a very broad (usually large) collection of recipes that offer well-researched and tested techniques for fairly common recipes; or a guide for a specific, often luxury (or at least special occasion) form of cooking.  Most cookbooks that fail do so because they aim between these two targets.  With the seasonal organisation, specific menus for holiday meals and direct references to the well-regarded restaurants he has cooked in Marc Thuet does a good job of placing French Food My Way into the category of specialised cookbooks. (more…)

Book Review: The School of Essential Ingredients

Erica Bauermeister's The School of Essential Ingredients

Today’s post is a departure from the usual for me.  I have posted two book reviews but they have both been cookbooks, namely The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Earth to Table. Thanks to a review copy from the good people at Penguin Canada I have the chance to share my first review of a work of fiction, Erica Bauermeister’s The School Of Essential Ingredients.  Not to worry, food is on almost every page of this book–and not just because I’m a messy eater when I read.

The book is the story of Lillian’s cooking school for beginners and is based around profiles of her eight students: Claire, Carl, Antonia, Tom, Chloe, Isabelle, Helen, and Ian.  For each chapter one of the characters is the focus and we learn about their lives and the experiences that they bring (and that bring them) to a cooking class that is more about the people than the recipes. (more…)