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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Can Gluten-Free Mean More, Not Less?

Many desserts and other confections described simply as “gluten-free” get sold short. Baked goods made with a gluten-free flour can offer much, much more than simply being free of the protein that gives dough its elastic texture. Depending upon the ingredients— specifically the flours used—they can be deeply flavored, with a more interesting texture than is produced by standard all-purpose flours, making for a complex-tasting treat.

Alternative Baker: Reinventing Dessert with Gluten-Free Grains and Flours 
by Alanna Taylor-Tobin 
(Page Street Publishing, 2016)

San Francisco–based pastry chef, food stylist, and photographer Alanna Taylor-Tobin is the founder of the popular recipe website The Bojon Gourmet. Her latest cookbook features more than 100 recipes using gluten-free flours like corn, oat, chestnut, almond, buckwheat, sorghum, and others. These alternative grains possess a variety of intriguing characteristics that make for deeply flavorful baked goods. Headnotes to most of the recipes offer useful information about storage, complementary jams and other condiments, and suggestions for variations on the recipes. Find intriguing recipes like Roasted Banana Teff Scones with Muscovado Sugar Glaze; Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting; Mesquite Chocolate Cakes with Whipped Crème Fraîche and Raspberries; Chestnut Brownie Ice Cream Sundaes with Port-Roasted Strawberries; and Buckwheat Bergamot Double Chocolate Cookie.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Captivating Flowers, Perfumed Herbs, Curved Branches:
Love’s Truest Language

Harvest offers ideas for creating beautiful and delicious treats using items from your garden.

Harvest offers ideas for creating beautiful and delicious treats using items from your garden.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with beautiful and delicious things beyond the traditional chocolate! For inspiration, look no further than your own garden or the out-of-doors around your house. Flowers, branches, petals, leaves, roots, and seeds can make striking arrangements, flavor food and drink, and mix up into aromatic treatments and elixirs to excite the senses and welcome the early days of spring.


Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants
by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis
(Ten Speed Press, 2017)

Authors Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis own Homestead Design Collective, a local landscape design firm. The duo’s latest volume, filled with colorful photographs, describes how to grow 47 different plants and use them to create pantry staples, floral arrangements, fragrances, beverages, and beauty supplies. Lafayette resident Bittner also co-authored The Beautiful Edible Garden, and Harampolis co-founded floral design company Studio Choo and co-wrote The Flower Recipe Book and The Wreath Recipe Book. Organized by three gardening seasons, Harvest offers instructions for growing plants like cardoons, scented geranium, gem marigolds, Chilean guava, and chinotto orange to make lovely Marigold Bitters, Lemongrass Salt Scrub, Lilac Flower Cream, Vin D’Orange, Pickled Rhubarb, and Oregano-Infused Vinegar.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

Celebrate the Year of the Rooster!

Many years ago I lived for a time in Taiwan and Hong Kong and traveled extensively throughout China. The food I discovered was remarkable: almost always fresh, locally sourced, flavorful, and characterized by a special regional ingredient or preparation method. Every place seemed to have a special dish tied to some historical event or ancient figure, or a special chili pepper or mushroom grown only in that village, or a pickle fermented with locally made wine or liquor. When I returned to the United States, I was disappointed to find that menus at many Chinese restaurants offered the same standard dozen or so dishes, often made from canned ingredients and heavy on the corn starch thickeners. In some measure, that was what their customers wanted. Thankfully, in the intervening 30 years, diners have become quite adventuresome and there are many more offerings to be had. One can find, particularly in this part of the country, restaurants specializing in a particular regional cuisine. And for cooks looking to prepare dishes themselves, items that were once considered exotic are now readily available. Many shops and markets offer ingredients (including seeds) to enable home cooks to prepare delicious, authentic dishes.… Read More

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Kristina’s Bookshelf

michaelablemanMeet Michael Ableman, Author
and Transformative Farmer

Michael Ableman is coming to town! This is a great opportunity to meet an engaging early visionary from the urban agriculture movement.

Home for Michael Ableman is Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. That’s where he grows food on the 120 acres he calls Foxglove Farm. A cofounder of Sole Food Street Farms and founder of the nonprofit Center for Urban Agriculture, Ableman is also the subject of the award-winning PBS film Beyond Organic, narrated by Meryl Streep. As an urban and local foods system advocate, Ableman has created high-profile urban farms in Watts and Goleta, California, as well as in Vancouver. He’s also worked on and acted as an adviser for dozens of similar projects throughout North America and the Caribbean.

For over two decades, Michael Ableman has been telling the story of urban agriculture through his books: From the Good Earth, On Good Land, and Fields of Plenty. The scene of this new book, Street Farm, is the Low Track in Vancouver, British Columbia, noted as one of the worst urban slums in North America. Ableman narrates how the residents of this community worked to create an urban farm that could address chronic problems in their neighborhood.… Read More

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Reset and Recharge with Clean, Healthy Meals

Book reviews by Kristina Sepetys


Clean Soups: Simple, Nourishing Recipes for Health and Vitality
by Rebecca Katz
(Ten Speed Press, 2016)

Nothing sounds more appealing in this chilly weather than a steaming bowl of soup. Chef and author Rebecca Katz shares 60 recipes for flavorful, cleansing soups made from wholesome stocks to help you detox and stay energized.



Run Fast. Eat Slow. Nourishing Recipes for Athletes
by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky
(Rodale Books, 2016)

Hungry runners want delicious, wholesome meals to feed their bellies and fuel their runs. From world-class marathoner and Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky, a runner’s cookbook with more than 100 recipes without refined sugar and flour. 



The Naked Cookbook
by Tess Ward
(Ten Speed Press, 2016)

This small book with a plain cardboard cover and exposed binding features 60 simple and flavorful recipes composed of nutrient-rich ingredients, as well as a chapter on detoxing. Delicious, simple, low carb, refined sugar–free dishes support and fuel the body and encourage good health. 



The Perfect Blend: 100 Blender Recipes to Energize and Revitalize
by Tess Masters
(Ten Speed Press, 2016)

Blogger Tess Masters’s new cookbook is filled with recipes and tips for a more vibrant and healthy life with improved energy, boosted immunity, and reduced inflammation.… Read More

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Meet the Sea Forager

The Sea Forager’s Guide to the Northern California Coast
by Kirk Lombard with illustrations by Leighton Kelly 
(Heyday Books, 2016)

Author and fisherman Kirk Lombard shares fish-filled tales
at the Berkeley Public Library:
Saturday January 7, 2–3:30pm
3rd Floor Community Meeting Room 
2090 Kittredge St, Berkeley
Event info: here

Book review by Kristina Sepetys

Moss Beach resident Kirk Lombard is many things: writer, teacher, musician, actor, blogger, raconteur, commercial fisherman, puppet master, tenor, baseball historian, and maker of giant papier mâché faces. Having spent nearly a decade working for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, he’s also passionate about marine resources. Together with his wife, Camilla Lombard, he founded Sea Forager Tours and Sustainable Seafood Subscription (a Community Supported Fishery program). On his “fun and crazy” San Francisco tours, he pulls out edible fish and seafood from local urban waters and discusses local regulations, sustainability, and the history of local fisheries, among other topics.
In his new book, The Sea Forager’s Guide to the Northern California Coast, Lombard’s enthusiasm of our local marine environments shines brightly. He combines his deep knowledge and experience with wry humor and colorful storytelling to profile the many species of fish and seafood found locally as he guides readers’ quests to hook fish, dig clams, and pick seaweed.… Read More

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Spirited New Year’s Celebrations!

Book reviews by Kristina Sepetys

A raft of new titles provides loads of inspiration for mixing up intriguing and tasty cocktails to ring in the new year!


Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs,
with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas

by Brad Thomas Parsons
(Ten Speed Press, 2016)

Brad Thomas Parsons, author of the James Beard and IACP Award–winning title Bitters, explores the world of amari. Italian for bitters, amaro is a key ingredient in many popular cocktails. Parson starts with a tour of bars, cafés, and distilleries in amaro’s spiritual home of Italy, then offers more than 100 recipes for amaro-centric cocktails, DIY amaro, and amaro-spiked desserts. With handsome photos of drinks, snapshots from Italy, and loads of detail in recipe headnotes, Parsons discusses the dizzying range of amari available—from familiar favorites like Averna and Fernet-Branca to the growing category of regional, American-made amari.



Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes
by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau
(Ten Speed Press, 2016)

Talia Baiocchi is the editor-in-chief of Punch and the author of James Beard Award–nominated book Sherry. Leslie Pariseau is the former deputy editor of Punch. In their introduction, the authors explain that the word “spritz” generally refers to an easy, casual “bubbles and bitterness drink” served as an aperitif, but the word may have evolved from “sprezzatura,” which doesn’t have a direct English translation.… Read More

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Gift Books for Your Favorite Cooks

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

It’s the rare cook who isn’t delighted to receive a book full of recipes and photographs. Here are some of the latest titles to raise your game in the kitchen. Perfect for the holidays!



Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking
by Naomi Pomeroy
(Ten Speed Press, 2016)

James Beard Award-winning and self-made chef Naomi Pomeroy’s debut cookbook features nearly 140 lesson-driven recipes to improve the home cook’s understanding of professional techniques and flavor combinations to produce simple-but-artful meals.   




Food52 A New Way to Dinner:
A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead

by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs
(Ten Speed Press, 2016)

The founders of Food52 share instructions for planning, shopping, and cooking meals throughout the week. Their secret? Cooking ahead. As an example, blistered tomatoes are first served as a side, then become sauce for spaghetti with corn. Learn to cook more efficiently and reduce the stress surrounding meals. 




SymmetryBreakfast: 100 Recipes for the Loving Cook
by Michael Zee
(powerHouse Books, 2016)

SymmetryBreakfast began as a popular Instagram project and evolved into a cookbook featuring 90 internationally inspired recipes and handsome photography shot entirely on an iPhone.… Read More

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Spice it Up!

Book reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Good quality salts, fresh spices, and a grinder are essential parts of any kitchen. They also make wonderful host or holiday gifts, and one of the following books would be a great guide to choosing and using these items. If you are near Lake Merritt in Oakland, take the opportunity to visit the charming Oaktown Spice Shop. With helpful, enthusiastic staff and wooden shelves lined with spice-filled glass jars, it’s one of my favorite places to stock up on all things spices, from standard to specialty. You’ll find dozens of different kinds of chili peppers like the ebony-colored Urfa biber of Southeast Turkey; the sweet and spicy orange piment d’ville, a Basque pepper grown locally in Boonville, California; and the dark red-hued Syrian Aleppo chili pepper. They also offer many varieties of sea salts, like black truffle and ghost chili pepper, as well as blends like zahtar, barbecue rubs, and too many others to list!

Bitterman’s Craft Salt Cooking
by Mark Bitterman
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016)

From Mark Bitterman, renowned salt expert and best-selling author of Salt Block Cooking and the James Beard Award–winning Salted, comes a detailed guide to enhancing your favorite foods with natural, healthful, hand-crafted salts.… Read More

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Reflections on Food Culture 


Purchase this book

Purchase this book

Best Food Writing 2016
edited by Holly Hughes
(Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2016)

Book review by Kristina Sepetys

For anyone who enjoys food writing, this 300-page paperback is one of the leading publications of the year. For 17 years, Holly Hughes has compiled an annual best-of, a robust mix of top pieces from the food writing world. Hughes has combed through magazines and newspapers, scanned websites and blogs, and foraged in bookstores to select pieces that highlight trends, document the particulars of everyday meals, and open a window on the lives of chefs and the people who eat their food. Taken together, the stories offer up an insightful reflection on the food culture zeitgeist, from the earnest to the odd.

The volume often features East Bay writers, and this year is no exception. Oakland resident John Birdsall contributes an amusing reflection from Bon Appétit titled “Brooklyn is Everywhere,” exploring the ways in which hipster artisan food culture is no longer the sole purview of well-known U.S. urban enclaves, but can be found from Tulsa to Chiang Mai. From food writer Dianne Jacob, “The Meaning of Mangoes,” which appeared in Lucky Peach, describes the pleasures of rediscovering some of her family’s former life in Shanghai in a crate of mangoes.… Read More

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