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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Ottolenghi Cooks Sweet

It was hard to choose among the many delightful options at Yotam Ottolenghi’s cafe. Photos: Charlotte Peale.

 

My daughter Charlotte and I were in England last summer, exploring London and the northern countryside, and discovering the revival of good cooking now in full swing there. Even the traditional foods like bangers and mash, fish and chips, and Cornish pasties were tasty and well-prepared.
 
A highlight was taking the Underground from London out to Ottolenghi Islington. On arriving at this wonderful eatery, with its long communal tables bathed in natural light, we found glorious savories and alluring baked goods set out in sumptuous array among fresh flowers and greenery. After we selected two or three items (a hard choice with all the tempting options), the food was plated and delivered to our table. We chose from quiches, savory pastries and cakes, salads, and vegetables, all tossed, baked, roasted, or served with rich mixes of curries, cardamom, chilies, lemongrass, za’atar, sumac, dukkah, ruby-red pomegranate arils, full-bodied grains, fresh yogurt, cheeses, and a myriad of other delicacies. The abundant, colorful spread was as beautiful as it was delicious.
 
But the sweets—studded, sprinkled, and flavored with rose petals, pistachios, saffron, dark chocolates, cinnamon, aniseed, coffee, cardamom, and orange blossoms—were a whole different order of wonderful.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Six Americans in Paris Create Culinary History

 

The Gourmands’ Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy
By Justin Spring
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017
 
If you don’t know how a gourmand differs from a gourmet, this is a good book to read just for that bit of information, but it has much more to offer to anyone interested in food culture and history. Justin Spring’s biography chronicles six eclectic individuals, some cooks and some food and wine writers, whose lives and careers intersected in mid-twentieth-century France and in turn influenced how Americans came to cook and eat.
 
The six—A. J. Liebling, Alice B. Toklas, M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, Alexis Lichine, and Richard Olney—came to Paris and food from different backgrounds. Liebling was a war correspondent, reporter, and humorist; Toklas was Gertrude Stein’s life partner who reinvented herself at age 75 as a cookbook author; Fisher was a storyteller; Child was a cookbook author and television food celebrity; Lichine was a French wine importer and merchant; and Olney was a food and wine writer.
 
Spring describes the lives of these six epicures living and working along the Left Bank after World War II and during the 1950s, elaborating on the way in which their work served to popularize French cuisine in America.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

It’s the Little Things that Count

 

Autentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way
By Rolando Beramendi
St. Martin’s Press, 2017
 
Rolando Beramendi, enthusiastic cook and founder of Oakland-based Italian food importer Manicaretti, has published a very good cookbook that’s about much more than pasta. Drawing on his experience as a trusted purveyor of Italian foods, he focuses on the ingredients and preparations that can make Italian food so special and distinctive.
 
The 364 pages include a forward by Ina Garten, one of many chefs Beramendi has taken to Italy to meet the families and farmers from whom he buys his inventory. San Francisco photographer Laurie Frankel supplies colorful images of Italian landscapes, food, friends, and family. Extensive sections on what to include in your pantry are particularly helpful. Learn about the differences in canned tomatoes, the special taste of Sicilian pistachios, and the seven basic tools a cook should have on hand for preparing these recipes (Beramendi is a minimalist).
 
Among the 120 recipes, you’ll find Tellicherry Black Pepper Beef Stew, Pork Belly with Wild Fennel (includes more of those Tellicherry peppercorns found in many of Beramendi’s dishes), Risotto with Radicchio, and a lamb stew redolent with a rich mix of spices.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Market Cooking:
Recipes and Revelations Ingredient by Ingredient

by David Tanis
(Artisan, 2017)
 
David Tanis built his reputation during 25 years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, but this highly regarded chef is perhaps most passionate about cooking at home. Fans of his New York Times column or his cookbooks, A Platter of Figs, Heart of the Artichoke, and One Good Dish, know that he likes fresh, high-quality ingredients simply prepared. His latest book, which takes its name from the French expression la cuisine du marché, is about cooking with what looks best at the market and, “letting the natural flavors of the ingredients shine.”
 
Tanis likes his garlic, onions, and scallion and features them both in dishes of their own and as flavorings for more complex combinations. The book is organized by vegetable types and includes a mix of recipes easily prepared on a weeknight. In his Broccoli Rabe Lasagne, Tanis pairs the broccoli’s tasty bitterness with a pungent garlic pesto. A Turkish Spoon Salad is spicy, flavored with lemon juice, sumac, pistachio, and juicy pomegranate seeds and molasses. Improved Creamed Corn is made better than the traditional cream-intense dish with the addition of cumin, jalapeño, and crème fraîche.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

L’appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making my Paris Home

by David Lebovitz
(Crown, 2017)
East Bay residents may know David Lebovitz as a former chef at Chez Panisse, author of much-loved cookbooks My Paris Kitchen, The Perfect ScoopThe Sweet Life in Paris, and three others, and creator of a popular food and living blog at davidlebovitz.com. Lebovitz’s departure after 13 years from Chez Panisse took him to Paris, where he lived for ten years in a rental before deciding to buy his own place. In his latest book, the author details with humor and the keen eye of a traveler his real estate ownership odyssey—including a lot of misadventures and mishaps—buying and renovating his new apartment together with his partner, Romain. The book includes about two dozen recipes, each included to illustrate a story: His Swedish Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies were inspired by a meltdown during a frustrating visit to IKEA, and his delightfully toothsome Plum Raspberry Gratin is a recipe devised to bake in a toaster oven during renovations. An easy read, this book is sure to amuse and entertain any cook who’s ever undertaken a kitchen remodel or imagined living in Paris.
 
Meet Author David Lebovitz and sample flavors from his new book:

Thursday November 16, 6pm
Rakestraw Books
3 Railroad Ave, Danville
Info: here
 
Friday November 17, 4–6pm
Market Hall Foods Rockridge
5655 College Ave, Oakland
Info: here

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers. 

 
 
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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Spice Up Your Celebrations with Mexican Tastes
for Halloween and Día de Los Muertos

The end of October and start of November bring Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations. A passel of new books provide dozens of recipes for Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes that can be prepared quickly and easily to feed those hungry revelers. Be sure to stop by Casa Latina on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley for a fresh-baked pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread): This fluffy, yellow, bread-y cake sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar is delicious with a warm cup of Mexican hot chocolate!

 

Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A.
by Wesley Avila with Richard Parks III
(Ten Speed Press, 2017)

Wes Avila’s Taco Truck is well-known in Los Angeles for its unconventional and incredibly delicious tacos. In his new cookbook, Avila shares 50 of his best recipes along with encouragement for being creative with your own tacos at home. Avila draws on ingredients not often associated with tacos, like golden beets in a tostada, which taste delicious and can come together with minimal preparation and few ingredients. The book is also an absorbing narrative about Avila’s life growing up in East Los Angeles, the way his mother inspired his cooking, and his circuitous path to developing a taco truck business. 

 

QUESO!Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Robin Sloan Reads from Sourdough
on October 12 in Berkeley

Berkeley-based author Robin Sloan is well known for his novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. On October 12, Sloan’s East Bay fans have a chance to hear him read from his new novel, Sourdough, at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore in Berkeley. Buy a copy to reserve your seat by calling the store at 510.704.8222. Info: here

Sloan grew up outside Detroit and first came to the Bay Area to work at Twitter, where he formed a lunchtime writing group that led to his first draft for Mr. Penumbra. But it was the Bay Area’s exciting artisanal food scene and a copy of San Francisco baker Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread that sparked his new novel. Sourdough is the fictional story of Lois Clary, a software engineer at a thriving San Francisco tech company, who inherits a sourdough starter and finds her way into an underground (literally) secret food society located at the decommissioned Alameda Naval Air Station. Named an Amazon Best Book of the Month for September 2017, Sloan’s delightful, compulsively readable book is similar to Mr. Penumbra in combining an old-fashioned pursuit—in this case, bread making—with the
world of high-tech.

We recently learned that Sloan and partner Kathryn Tomajan are producing extra-virgin olive oil in Alameda County under the label Fat Gold. Tomajan has worked on the milling end of olive oil production, and has won multiple international awards for her products with the Enzo Olive Oil Company in Clovis, California.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Eat Your Way to Good Health

 
I’ve read many books in which someone evangelizes about their experience sliding into a terrible health crisis and turning around all their problems by radically changing their diet to remove sugar, carbs, gluten, and any number of other products. Accordingly, I was a little ho-hum when I received yet another book about a chef who trashed his gut, nearly died, changed up his diet, exercised more, and restored his health. But I started reading and was hooked. After reading and hearing so many testimonials and eating fairly simply myself, I grow increasingly convinced that there’s something to the gospel of clean eating: that sugar really does behave like a toxic chemical in the body, and that for some people, reducing gluten and other offending ingredients can improve energy and mood, reduce inflammation, stimulate weight loss, improve digestion and elimination, strengthen resistance to colds and flu, and bring a host of other health benefits. Have you ever experimented with changing up your diet? Remove all allegedly offending substances for a few days or a week. See how you feel. Then begin slowly reintroducing foods. See if any changes make a difference. You might be surprised.… Read More

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Cheese: The Ultimate Companion to Beer

Review by Kristina Sepetys
 
Cheese & Beer
By Janet Fletcher
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017)
 
The same hearty, flavorful qualities that make beer and cheese a popular combination can also make for challenges when pairing the two. Janet Fletcher is the publisher of the Planet Cheese blog, former San Francisco Chronicle columnist, and author of more than 25 books on food and wine. Her Cheese & Beer, first published in 2013 and now coming out in paperback, is a guide to two-dozen popular craft beers and their best cheese partners. As with most food pairings, according to Fletcher, “Success largely rides on contrasts and complements.” These may be found in texture, intensity, sweetness, bitterness, aroma, and other characteristics. For example, Fletcher suggests combining hoppy beers with tangy cheeses and malty beers with nutty or sweet cheeses. Organized by 23 beer styles (Pale Ales, Belgians, Quadrupels, Sour Ales, Wheat Ales, among many others), each chapter recommends craft beers and breweries and describes the types of cheese—dozens and dozens of different types and makers—that pair well with the beer. Fans of beer and cheese will be delighted by the extensive list of suggested cheese and beer combinations to try.

The new paperback of Cheese & Beer comes out next week, so check with your favorite local independent bookseller.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

The Endlessly Versatile Sweet Potato

Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made into Pie
By Mary-Frances Heck
(Clarkson Potter, 2017)
 
Sweet potatoes are a staple food in many cultures for good reason: They’re loaded with vitamin A as well as a good amount of vitamins B, C, and fiber. And they’re lower on the glycemic index (meaning less blood sugar increase) than white potatoes. The leaves and stems are edible and high in vitamin K. Cooked in any number of different ways, they can be used in dishes from mains to desserts.
 
In her new cookbook, Mary-Frances Heck offers 60 recipes for preparing sweet potatoes. Among the delights, you’ll find dishes like Sweet Potato-Apple Butter Crostini with Speck; Cracked Sweet Potatoes with Chilies and Coconut; Celeriac, Sweet Potato, and Scallop Chowder; Sweet Potato Chocolate Babka; and Black-Bottom Sweet Potato Pudding Pie. Attractive photographs, extensive headnotes, and informational chapters provide additional helpful detail.

Meet author Mary-Frances Heck at Omnivore Books
 
Thursday September 21, 6:30–7:30pm 
Mary-Frances Heck: Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made into Pie
Omnivore Books on Food 
3885a Cesar Chavez St, San Francisco
 
Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.Read More

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