Reviews by Kristina Sepetys
According to Technorati, an Internet search engine for blogs, as of 2012 there were nearly 17,000 food blogs. One can only imagine how many more have debuted in the two years since. If they’re all publishing a recipe a day, that’s nearly seven million recipes per year! Some of the most popular food blogs have been created by home cooks without professional training. Though perhaps short on schooling and commercial kitchen experience, these bloggers are long on life experience and often really good storytellers. They have a distinct voice or special interest (pastry, gardening, specialized diets, the out-of-doors, relationship navigation), and include lots of lovely photographs; colorful, personal narratives; and tasty recipes that use fresh ingredients. Dishes are generally designed to enhance family life, spark social gatherings, or celebrate the seasons or holidays. As time passes, blogs evolve, recipes accumulate, and some writers move from the blogosphere into print. Below are some notable cookbook offerings from popular bloggers that use seasonal produce easily available to East Bay residents.
Food photographer Erin Gleeson and her husband moved from New York City into a tiny cabin in the woods south of San Francisco. The natural beauty of her surroundings, abundance of local produce, and her weekly CSA box all serve as inspiration for The Forest Feast, based on her popular blog. The book’s 100 vegetarian recipes are for “dishes that are easy enough after a long day at work, yet impressive enough for a party.” Each calls for only three or four ingredients and equally minimal effort, but yield dishes that are fresh, wholesome, and tasty. Among the recipes, find Eggplant Tacos with Brie and Cilantro, Rosemary Shortbread, and Blackberry Negroni. Photographs of food and Erin’s cabin life, enhanced by her whimsical watercolor illustrations and hand lettering, complement the rustic simplicity of the dishes. (theforestfeast.com)
Home cooking in her tiny Manhattan kitchen led Deb Perelman to launch her award-winning blog, Smitten Kitchen, to demonstrate that cooking should be an easy, always-satisfying pleasure. Perelman, a photographer by training, is a firm believer that there are no bad cooks, just bad recipes. In her bestselling, much-lauded cookbook (winner of the IACP Julia Child First Book Award; among Cooking Light magazine’s Top 100 Cookbooks of the Last 25 Years), Perelman shares more than 100 reliable recipes, beautiful color photographs of finished dishes, and the same cheerful and amusing prose that endears readers to her blog. Try Honey and Harissa Farro Salad, Tomato Scallion with Whipped Goat Cheese Shortcakes, Corn Risotto-Stuffed Poblanos, Shaved Asparagus Pizza, Mushroom Bourguignon, and any of the baked goods for which Perelman is celebrated. (smittenkitchen.com)
For Béatrice Peltre, Boston-based traveler, teacher, mother, and author of the award-winning blog LaTartineGourmande, cooking is about celebrating people and places we love throughout each meal of the day. To do so, she shares 100 recipes, colorful photographs, and memories and anecdotes from her childhood in the French countryside and her worldwide travels. Gluten-free recipes use whole grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and nut flours. Try the oeufs en cocotte (Baked Eggs with Leeks, Spinach, Smoked Salmon, and Cumin) inspired by a dish Peltre enjoyed as a child after collecting fresh eggs from her grandmother’s hen house. Sample the Buttermilk, Lemon, and Poppyseed Pancakes she made every morning in Crete. Enjoy Tartine with Walnut, Lemon, and Ricotta Pesto and Sauteed Mushrooms, or Fava Beans, Poppy Seed Goat Cheese, and Lemon Vinaigrette. Desserts like Lavender Ile Flottantes (“floating islands” of whipped egg whites on flavored, silky crème anglaise), Blackberry Tartlets with Vanilla-Flavored Mascarpone Cream, or Cardamom-flavored Chocolate Crème Caramel, are sublime. (latartinegourmande.com)
At 15, teenage food blogger Joshua Weissman decided he was tired of being obese, unhappy, and bullied. Through his own initiative, he lost over 100 pounds by turning away from packaged food and diets to preparing his own nutrient-dense meals. Weissman’s cookbook shares 100 recipes, which draw largely on the Weston A. Price and paleo-primal nutrition philosophies. Dishes are free of grain, gluten, and refined sugar; really good; and not difficult to prepare. There’s a particularly tasty Rolled Pork Loin lined with fresh and fragrant herbs, a flavorful Steak and Brussels Sprout Stir-Fry, Braised Leeks and Artichoke Hearts, and Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Fudge. The recipes are interesting and creative, likewise the photographs. I finished the book wanting to know more about how this 18-year-old managed to find his way into such wholesome and sophisticated cooking. (slimpalate.com)