By Linda Avery | SEPTEMBER 28, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s Note: Name three things you know about Icelandic food. How many did you come up with? Me? Zero, until I read Linda Avery’s piece below about a new cookbook from the most sparsely populated country in Europe. 


North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland

by Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Jody Eddy
Photographs © 2014 by Evan Sung

Facts: Ten Speed Press, 352 pages, $40.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.30, Kindle $19.99)
Photos: Lots. Both food and Icelandic landscape
Recipes: 81

What a fascinating book. There is so much to say and learn about Iceland.

Imagine coming upon a field peppered with thick, rusted metal plates. You spot curious handles attached and realize the plates are lids covering holes in the ground. Later you’re told a baker is using geothermal energy in the form of geyser steam to bake rugbraud, a sweet dense rye bread. Ingenuity.

Numerous artisan producers are showcased in this book. Evidently chef/author Gunnar Karl Gíslason will always have respect and gratitude for the purveyors who provided supplies without demanding payment in the down-turned market when his investors pulled out. And, in addition to sharing his recipes in this book, he wants you to meet the purveyors.

Cured-Arctic-Char-NorthChapters are named for each vendor: The Rugbraud Baker, The Bacalao Producer, The Arctic Char Producer, The Seabird Egg Collector, and it continues with salt maker, dairy, barley, goat and sheep farmers, birch and mushroom forager, fisherman, Hardfiskur (dried wolf fish) producer and mussel harvester. Beginning the chapters with a conversation with the vendor, he creates an intimate connection.

The Icelandic diet is heavy in fish, dairy and lamb – and, of course, available local produce.  Several recipes in this book include skyr, a cultured dairy product resembling thick Greek yogurt. Each recipe (81 in total) gets your creative juices (and salivary glands) flowing.

Every image is as stunning as the Cured Arctic Char , Buttered Potatoes, Mixed Salad, and Smoked Fresh Cheese you see to the left. Go to Amazon and use the “Look Inside” feature for more.

I don’t know if Icelanders go Trick-or-Treating, but Halloween is just around the corner. Surprise the children with some Licorice Lava.


Photographs © by Evan Sung

Licorice Lava

Since the first day he opened Dill, Gunnar has been serving what he calls “sweet goodies.” He often serves them before dinner as a way to build anticipation for the good things to come, and his Licorice Lava has been in the repertoire from the beginning. Perhaps no other sweet better represents the area of Lake Mývatn where Gylfi Yngvason smokes his arctic char. The otherworldly region is mapped by lava fields that stretch to the horizon of a world that feels more like the surface of the moon than somewhere on earth. Although the flinty texture of the Licorice Lava mirrors the porous lava stones that inspired it, don’t be fooled by the airiness of this sweet. Its intense flavor will leave you wanting more.

Makes about 30 Bite-Size Rocks | Preparation time: about 1 hour

1-1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1-1/2 teaspoons egg whites
1/4 cup (30g) confectioners’ sugar
3 grams licorice powder (see note)
8 drops powdered black food coloring (see note)
Nonstick cooking spray

Note: Both licorice powder and black food coloring are available at specialty baking stores or online. The only word of warning when using the food coloring is to wear gloves, as it will stain your hands.

1. Combine the granulated sugar and water in a tall, heavy pot. Place the pot over medium heat, and heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, stop stirring, and heat the mixture to 284°F (140°C).

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites, confectioners’ sugar, licorice powder, and food coloring until blended.

3. Line a heatproof bowl with aluminum foil, spray the foil with cooking spray, and wipe off the excess spray with a paper towel.

4. When the sugar mixture reaches 284°F (140°C), rapidly whisk in the egg white mixture until fully incorporated. Whisk at lightning speed to prevent the mixture from becoming a solid mass, letting the contents concurrently foam and rise to the top of the pot. As soon as it has reached its rising limit, which should take about 1 minute (including whisking time), immediately pour the mixture into the prepared bowl.

5. Let cool to room temperature, then break into bite-size rocks. The rocks will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.



By Linda Avery | SEPTEMBER 09, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a spin through Tacolicious, a fun book based on the successful San Francisco restaurants of the same name.


Tacolicious: Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails, and More

by Sara Deseran
Photographs © Alex Farnum

Facts: Ten Speed Press, 212 pages, $22.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $17.23, Kindle $10.99)
Photos: about 72
Recipes: 62

I wish I could tell the whole backstory of Sara Deseran and her husband Joe Hargrave, but then I’d only have room to say that Tacolicious is a fun book with great, creative recipes. I’ll try to squeeze in a short version.

Setting: San Francisco, 2009. Joe owned a Spanish restaurant but his love was/is Mexican food. His restaurant was good and before leaving for Mexico, Joe was asked to participate in the new farmer’s market at the Ferry Building (presumably serving his Spanish food).

Prior to the trip, a bit of serendipity: Rick Bayless walks into Joe’s restaurant and Joe musters the courage to ask Rick where to eat in Mexico City. Turn the clock forward: Poof! Magic! The suggestions were spot on fabulous and their love of Mexican food was stronger than ever.

Upon returning home Sara and Joe decided the farmer’s market stand would be Mexican instead of Spanish. The stand was dubbed Tacolicious and drew long lines the first day. Fast forward to today: three Tacolicious restaurants are located in San Francisco and another in Palo Alto.

This book contains 62 food recipes: 15 salsa, pickles and more, 23 snacks and sides, and 22 tacos, tacos, tacos. Plus 37 drink recipes (including twists on a base recipe) for cocktails, agua frescas and what they call G-rated drinks. Actually, saying there are 62 food recipes isn’t correct because there a riff in the center of the book “Twenty 20-minute (max) tacos del día: Quick inspirations for what to wrap in a tortilla.” Make that 82 food recipes plus an ingredients glossary and mail order sources.

There are a lot of parties in the pages of this book – recipes for salsas, tacos, tostados, tamales, rice, ribs, quesadillas, empanadas, and infused tequila.

And there are useful sidebar tips: “Crisco is out. Lard is in..…. If you’re looking for the most healthful lard, don’t look in the grocery store. Lard sold in a can has usually been hydrogenated to extend its shelf life. Look instead for leaf lard which is the highest grade available…”

By the way, did I mention that Williams-Sonoma carries their line of sauces: habanero, chipotle, avocado-tomatillo, braising sauce and more. Check it out – they sound delicious!

In the meantime, here is a recipe for vegetarian tacos using butternut squash.


Photo © Alex Farnum

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Crunchy Pepitas Taco

Drummed up by our intrepid recipe tester Lauren Godfrey, this nontraditional taco, sweet with squash, earthy and nutty with kale, and crunchy with fried pumpkin seeds (Pepitas), is–shhhh–vegan. Don’t tell anyone, but because it is so tasty, no one will care. The cashew crema can be replaced by store-bought crema or our Cumin-lime crema but after polling both vegetarian and carnivorous friends, everyone preferred the nutty and rich nondairy cashew version (which must be made with raw cashews to work). To prepare the butternut squash, use a sharp peeler to remove the tough skin before slicing it in half and scooping out the seeds and fibers. Lazy cook’s tip: Some markets sell butternut squash already peeled and seeded and ready to go.

Makes about 12 tacos: serves 4 to 6

Cashew Crema
2/3 cup raw cashews
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes)
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pumpkin Seeds
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups 1/2-inch-dice butternut squash
1 teaspoon chile powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 cups finely chopped kale
Corn tortillas, warmed for serving
Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro and salsa of choice, for serving (optional)

1. To make the crema, soak the raw cashews in room-temperature water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain and reserve.

2. Toast the cumin in a small, dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until a fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder, let cool, and grind finely.

3. In a blender combine the cashews, cumin, lime juice, water and salt. Start the blender on the lowest speed and gradually increase to the highest speed. Blend for at least 1 minute, until a creamy consistency. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.

4. To make the pumpkin seeds, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds and sauté for about 2 minutes, taking care that they do not burn. The seeds will begin to puff up and pop. Once they appear toasted, immediately pour them into a bowl. Toss with the cayenne and salt and set aside.

5. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute more. Add the squash and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes, just until the squash begins to soften. Season with the chile powder and salt.

6. Add the kale and cook, stirring, for about 1 minutes, until it begins to wilt. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.

7. Serve with the tortillas, crema, pumpkin seeds, onion, cilantro, and salsa. To assemble each taco, invite guests to spoon about 1/2 cup of the warm filling into a tortilla and top with some crema and pumpkin seeds. If guests want more toppings, they can finish off their tacos with onion, cilantro, and salsa.

By Linda Avery | JUNE 30, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a trio of summer books she found worth a look. You can catch her round up of summer books part one here. Pour a chilled glass of rosé and dive in. 


Here we go – grilling and chilling and staying healthy. These three books will keep you inspired in the kitchen this summer.


The Big Flavor Grill by Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby
10 Speed Press
Hardcover $19.08 Kindle $13.99
240 pages

The second part of this book’s title is “No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes” and they aren’t kidding. Most of the recipes fit on one page under the headings Prep, Grill and Top, but that doesn’t mean the recipes aren’t interesting.

Each chapter begins with a “Super-Basic” recipe on which other recipes are built: Super-Basic Pork Chops, Super-Basic Smoke-Roasted Whole Chicken, Super-Basic Grilled Fish Fillets. Here’s a recipe exemplifying how you build on the basic recipe. (If trying new recipes make you nervous, flip to the back of the book and start with a  Mojito).

The Curry-Coated Grilled Chicken Breasts with Fresh Mango Chutney, for example, begins with rubbing the chicken breasts with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Easy enough and you can stop there or mix up the chutney which will take 5 minutes (maybe 7 if you have trouble dicing a fresh mango). Then, when the chicken is done, slather the chutney over the breasts and sprinkle with dried coconut, chopped macadamia nuts (both toasted) and lime zest. Fast and easy.

Lots of meat, fish and vegetable dishes are included, plus drink recipes categorized by drinks with mint, with ginger, and with pineapple. And it includes a concise section with ingredient definitions.


The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams & More by GiaGiasullo & Peter Freeman
Hardcover $13.40 Kindle 9.99
10 Speed Press
224 pages

If you aren’t old enough to remember the old soda fountains (and based on the photos – think WWII — not many of us will remember), you’re in luck. Evidently those old soda fountains are enjoying a revival. But if you can’t wait for one to open in your town, you can create your own fizzy treats at home.

A relatively long history of soda fountains opens the book, followed by which tools you’ll need, e.g., are the bowls in your cabinet OK, or do you want to step up to a “fountain glass” or  an “egg cream glass” or perhaps buy a whipped cream dispenser? The authors even explain why you might want to choose between a half dozen straws. Then, the recipes – there is a recipe for every syrup you can imagine including boozy ones like Pineapple Pisco Sour.

The book includes 23 float recipes, six egg creams, 22 sundaes, eight milkshakes and toppings galore. If you feel like baking, Giasullo and Freeman share the recipes featured at Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain such as Chocolate Whoopie Cakes and PB&J Thumbprint Cookies.

This book will keep your sweet tooth nice and chilled all summer long. And after a few old-fashioned sodas, you might want to serve up a few recipes in the next book. You know, balance.


Go Fresh: A Heart-Healthy Cookbook with Shopping and Storage Tips
American Heart Association
Paperback $15.13 Kindle $9.99
Potter: an Imprint of Crown Publishing
320 pages

Gone are the days when heart-healthy meant bland, no sauce, totally boring. The new publication from the American Heart Association is diverse, informative, and surprisingly appealing.

This book covers appetizers to desserts and the appendices include proper handling and storage; should it be in the fridge? should it be in the back or front of the fridge or is it stored on the countertop? how long will it be good in the fridge? how about in the freezer? That’s followed by an at-a-glance veggie cooking time chart and equivalents.

Servings, prep time, cooking time, and standing time (if necessary) are also noted in each recipe.

Here are some of those diverse and appealing recipes: Peanutty Choco-Banana Freezer, Indian-Spiced Pumpkin Apple Soup, Balsamic Pork with Pan-Popping Tomatoes, Filets Mignon with Blackberry-Soy Reduction plus lots of side dishes and desserts.

Take a look and stay healthy!

By Linda Avery | JUNE 08, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returned from vacation to a pile of books on her doorstep (we could all be so lucky). She’s gone through them and selected four that she thinks are worth a second look. Here’s what she had to say about each one.


Returning from una dolce vacanza nel Italia, I found so many creative books screaming SUMMER IS HERE! I couldn’t choose just one and I’m certain there’ll be at least one calling to you.


Kombucha Revolution by Stephen Lee with Ken Koopman
10 Speed Press
Hardcover $12.01 Kindle $9.99
75 recipes

Do you kneel at the altar of Kombucha? If you aren’t in with the in-crowd, kombucha is a slightly fizzy, fermented drink with a tea base. It has been said to be the “elixir of life.” It’s a detox drink, it aids digestion, and some say it reverses the symptoms of cancer.

Stephen Lee co-founded Tazo Tea and Stash Tea so he knows what he’s doing. He explains the process, the essential equipment, a SCOBY (an acronym for Symbiotic Colon of Bacteria & Yeast) and then gets to the recipes. There are infusions, juices, spirited cocktails (I think Kombucha Peach Daiquiri got me interested), dressings, sweets and ices (like Strawberry Citrus Basil Sorbet). If you are, as he says “weekend warriors ready to care for their very own SCOBY”, this is the book for you.


Marinades by Lucy Vaserfirer
Harvard Common Press
Paperback $12.02
Almost a recipe per page in the 300-page book

One doesn’t have to think about firing up the grill to reach for a recipe for marinade but for many, it’s a requirement. Lucy Vaserfirer’s book covers it all. Mentally put the word “marinade” after each of these words: dairy, coffee, soda, beer, wine, spirit, southwestern, Mexican, South American, European, Chinese… you get the idea. There are also dessert marinades. If you aren’t a creative person (or even if you are), this is quite the compendium of marinades.

I like the fact that in addition to her index of recipes, there is an index of suggested uses i.e. a listing by specific meat, cut of meat, fish, vegetable and fruit.


Meringue Girls by Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman
Chronicle Books
Hard Cover $15.45Kindle $9.99
60+ recipes

Has the popularity of French meringues intimidated you? This colorful, crazy (good crazy) book will put you at ease. From the beginning with tips and techniques to flavorings and how to make striped kisses, you’ll love it.

Is there a little girl in your life (or maybe just for you) who would love a Barbie cake with a multicolored meringue kiss skirt? There are recipes for a Meringue Tower, Surprise Kisses (with an M&M inside), Summery Eton Mess, Grilled Peaches with Crushed Amaretti Cookies and Maple Meringues – YUM – meringue compote jars and more.

And these smart gals have a chapter on Using Your Yolks for Vanilla Custard, Lemon Curd with Lemongrass, and Passion Fruit Curd.

Best of all, it’s naturally gluten-free!


Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon
10 Speed Press
Hardcover $12.64 Kindle $9.99
75 recipes

Karen Solomon created Jam it, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects and Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It. Her newest book, Asian Pickles, begins with the Japanese Tsukemono (traditional Japanese pickles). You’ll find items like Pickled Plums and “Thousand Slices” Turnips.

She proceeds from Japan to cover all of Asia: Korea has Mushrooms in Soy Sauce and numerous Kimchi recipes.  China is represented by over a dozen pickles like Five-Spice Pickled Carrots; India has pickles plus eight chutneys and the balance of Southeast Asia includes recipes from Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Malysia.

Some recipes take minutes to hours (Onion and Cilantro Chutney, Hot Pickled Pineapple and Peanuts), some days up to a week (Pickled Shallots Kimchi, Apples in Mustard with Mint) and then those that require patience like Preserved Steamed Lemons which requires at least 6 months. Pucker up!

By Linda Avery | APRIL 22, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a review of a new pastry book, The Art of French Pastry, which is up for a James Beard Award. Read on to see why. 


The Art of French Pastry

by Jacquy Pfeiffer with Martha Rose Shulman
Photographs © Paul Strabbing

Facts: Alfred A. Knopf, 432 pages, $40.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.30, Kindle $21.99)
Photos: About 99 not including diagrams and drawings
Recipes: Too many to count

In 1995 Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer and Chef Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F., opened The French Pastry School in Chicago. It was the only school of its kind in the United States. Having taken classes at The French Pastry School, I will say that everyone I have met on their staff  is competent, genuinely nice, helpful and interested in a student’s success.

(Aside: In 2009, the DVD Kings of Pastry hit the market. The documentary follows Chef Pfeiffer’s return to France on a quest for the prestigious status of Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (M.O.F.). If you are not aware of what transpires during this competition, i.e., the pressure, the long hours and the high emotions, it’s a must see. The story is fascinating.)

Back to the book: Chef Pfeiffer’s talents have been recognized worldwide and now The Art of French Pastry is a finalist for a James Beard award in the category of Baking and Dessert.

He opens the book with his life growing up in Alsace and his rigorous training. After working as executive pastry chef in France, he hit the road and became the trainer, moving to Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Hong Kong and Palo Alto before landing in Chicago in 1991.

He then tells you how to use the book, scale ingredients, and provides an essentials chapter where he gives an opinion of which tool is best (digital candy thermometer, wooden rolling pin, ramekins, etc) and gives source information. Essential Ingredients follow (sourcing included).

Chapter 1 is devoted to fundamentals or “little pastry master classes” – the foundation – and he warns “you will not be able to execute the classic recipes… without mastering the fundamentals.” Think puff pastry dough.

Chapters on French Pastry Classics, Tarts, Cookies, Cake & Ice Cream follow. The final chapter is a nod to his home: Sweet and Savory Alsatian Specialties.

Diagrams and drawings are precise; the visuals solidify the reader’s understanding of what the recipe states. Time-lapse photos of creating meringue and whipped cream are the perfect guide for the novice who is baffled by the difference between soft peak, semi-stiff peak, stiff peak and very stiff peaks. He shows broken meringue and how he “repaired” it.

This book is a comprehensive tool for anyone who aspires to a career in pastry or just enjoys serious baking. Do yourself a favor and go to Amazon. Use the Look Inside feature to see how comprehensive this book is. It is indeed award-winning material.

By Linda Avery | MARCH 24, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returns with a look at two new books dedicated to cheese. Want to learn more about cheese? You might lean toward Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. Looking for inspired recipes built around cheese? Both books are inspirational, but The Cheesemonger’s Seasons adds a seasonal twist.


Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

by Sue Conley & Peggy Smith
Photographs © Hirsheimer & Hamilton

Facts: Chronicle Books, 256 pages, $35.00, Digital: $24.99 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.07, Kindle $9.50)
Photos: about 72
Recipes: 71 including techniques

The induction of new members to the Guilde des Fromagers Confrérie de Saint-Uguzon took place last November during a conference of Les Dames d’Escoffier International in Austin, Texas. The Guilde, founded in France, honors “dairy professionals” or cheese producers; the Confrérie is for educators, writers, chefs, i.e., those who share the knowledge. I was expecting a rather solemn ceremony when I saw the robes, insignia and medallions worn by the members, but they were having great fun, obviously based in their common love of cheese.

That doesn’t diminish their serious attitude about cheese-making and who they induct. The Guilde has more than 5,600 members world wide and includes Sue Conley & Peggy Smith, the “cowgirls” of Cowgirl Creamery, founded in 1994. Since then they have received numerous awards for their flavorful cheeses.

Their recently released Cowgirl Creamery Cooks underscores their cheesemaker ability and educates. It answers questions. Can I drink tea instead of wine with cheese? Should I eat the rind? What do I need to consider for a cheese course? What should I serve with the cheese? What is a vertical flight of cheese vs. a horizontal flight? (Personally, I was rather surprised that it had nothing to do with whether one is standing at a bar or lying on a sofa).

The recipes are divided by fresh cheeses (Crème Fraîche Scones, Ricotta-Asparagus Soufflé), soft, young-aged cheeses (Gougères), aged cheeses (Raclette with Boiled Potatoes and Quick Pickles), grating cheeses (Cheese Fricos, Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Paillard), blue cheeses (Sweet Smokey Blue and Bacon Soufflé) and (almost as important) the end bits (Classic Mac and Cheese).

Consider the techniques and summary section, combine those with the photography of Hirsheimer & Hamilton (our friends from The Canal House), and the result is an informative, thought-provoking and mouth-watering book.

The Cheesemonger’s Seasons

by Chester Hastings
Photographs © Joseph De Leo and Chester Hastings

Facts: Chronicle Books, 192 pages, $35.00; Digital: $27.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.37, Kindle $15.39)
Photos: 37
Recipes: 90

Chester Hastings is a chef and cheesemonger. His 25 years of experience and the training under Carlo Middone at Vivande Porta Via in San Francisco sharpened his palate.

This man creates enticing combinations. I could almost taste the dishes from the names of his recipes in The Cheesemonger’s Seasons: Roasted Broccoli Romanesco with Scamorza − Lemon Olive Oil, and Toasted Sesame Seed − Roasted Beets and Fresh Strawberries with Orange Syrup and Goat Cheese − Savory Pumpkin Tarts with Bûcheron – Cannellini Beans with Sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano. YUM – you know how those recipes are going to taste!

As implied by the title, the book is divided by season. Of the 90 recipes, 30 are summertime recipes. My guess is that is the result of the availability of so many fresh fruits and veggies. There is no pantry, nor glossary. No techniques section, nor where to shop. Just intriguing recipes with great headnotes which are the bridge between us and Chef Chester Hastings.


Pea Shoots with Burrata, Lemon Olive Oil, and Toasted Sesame Seeds

photo © Joseph De Leo

Serves 4

When I was visiting Princess Marina Colonna many years ago in Rome, she was in the process of developing a line of citrus-infused olive oils, and tasked my mentor, Carlo, and me with developing a few recipes featuring these exotic creations.

“Infused” is not really the right word here, however, as these oils are made by crushing whole citrus fruits (peels, seed, and all) with the olives at the time of pressing to create a blend of oil so deeply permeated with fruit it will blow your mind. Agrumato, in Abruzzo, is another producer who uses the same technique to create a variety of oils that are outstanding for drizzling raw over grilled vegetables, fish, chicken, and salad greens.

If you can’t get your hands on a lemon olive oil for this recipe, use a good fruit extra-virgin olive oil and add freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste. There should be a nice balance of acidity to fat.

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 cups/115 g fresh pea shoots
1 pound/455 g fresh Burrata cheese
4 tablespoons/60 ml/ lemon-infused olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until just barely turning golden, taking care not to burn them. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the seeds into a small bowl. Let cool completely.

2. Trim any tough lower leaves from the pea shoots, then rise and dry well.

3. Cut the Burrata into four equal pieces and lay them, cut sides up, on a serving platter or four individual plate.

4. Divide the pea shoots evenly around the Burrata pieces. Drizzle the olive oil over the pea shoots and Burrata and scatter the sesame seeds over the top. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

By Linda Avery | FEBRUARY 03, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returns with a review of book to help you with that panini press you got for Christmas, and if you didn’t get one, she tells you how to fake it.


The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook

by Kathy Strahs
Photographs © Kathy Lipscomb Strahs

Facts: Harvard Press, 355 pages, $19.99 (or Amazon Paperback $13.48, Kindle $9.99)
Photos: about 93
Recipes: 225

Snowbound? Just bored? Feeling guilty about the New Year diet you’ve already put behind you? Maybe a panini is just what you need to snap out of it and get those creative juices flowing.

Kathy Strahs’  The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook covers the subject from Aioli to Zucchini. You may be familiar with her blog which has been inspiring panini fans since 2008 and encouraging readers to think outside the box. You don’t have a Panini press? Use a grill, a George Foreman grill or any countertop appliance.

Truth be told, I’ve used a cast iron skillet with a weight on the Panini as you would a spatchcock chicken. Wrap whatever your weight (traditionally a brick) in aluminum foil, cook one side and at the appropriate time, flip the panini over and place the weight on again. It won’t have grill marks but it’s just as tasty. After all, didn’t someone say necessity is the mother of invention?

Strahs is passionate about variety. As toothsome as baguettes are, she suggests using corn bread, tortillas, even pound cake as alternatives. In the “A Little Something Sweet” chapter she includes a recipe for Brie, Nutella and Basil Panini on brioche!

Chapters are by main ingredient, i.e., poultry, meats, seafood, fruit/vegetable, cheeses and also panini for breakfast and brunch. Most of her combos are interestingly simple: Cheddar, Apple, And Whole Grain Mustard Panini; Gruyère and Red Onion Confit Panini; Speck, Taleggio, and Grill-Roasted Garlic Panini; and even the Spicy Elvis Panini (peanut butter, bananas, and bacon with sriracha).

Strahs says the panini recipe below is one that conjures up fall and anticipation of Thanksgiving, but to me it’s timeless. Fig preserves are one of my favorites!


Turkey-Apple Panini with Fig and Gruyère 

photo © Kathy Lipscomb Strahs

Yield: 4 panini

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
8 slices rustic whole-grain bread, sliced from a dense bakery loaf
1/2 cup fig preserves
8 ounces carved or deli-sliced roast turkey
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced

1. Heat the panini press to medium-high heat.

2. For each sandwich: Spread butter on two slices of bread to flavor the outside of the sandwich. Flip over both slices and spread 1 tablespoon fig preserves on the other side of each. Top one slice with turkey, apples, and cheese. Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, buttered side up.

3. Grill two panini at a time, with the lid closed, until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, 4 to 5 minutes.




By Linda Avery | JANUARY 05, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Got gift cards? Linda Avery returns with a look at Jeff Koehler’s Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Costal Waters of Andalucía. Read her review to see if it’s a book for your collection. 


by Jeff Koehler
Photographs by Jeff Koehler

Facts: Chronicle Books, 352 pages, $40.00 (or at Amazon Hardcover: $27.79; Kindle: $16.19)
Photos: over 200
Recipes: 172

Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucía

Let me begin by saying that I’m totally jealous of Jeff Koehler. It began when I read and made recipes from his book Morocco. Now I’m pouring over recipes from the Basque Country to Andalucía and the image of my passport is mentally stamped on each page.

Koehler met his wife in London and moved to Spain shortly before marrying. He has an intimate knowledge of the country which comes through loud and clear in the book. He begins with a regional culinary tour and provides a map of the regions for those of us who don’t know Castilla is in the center of Spain with La Rioja and Navarra to the north (it’s quite helpful). The book has 15 chapters. Soups, fish, rice, meat and other mundane foodstuffs are slotted between pulses, shellfish, game and snails, innards and extremities. Did you just go to google to find pulses?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention salt cod or bacalao (the Catalan word happens to be the same word as Italian bacallà, in the Basque country it’s bakailoo). “Some of the most classic, even celebrated, dishes in Spain are made with bacalao.” Koehler presents nine salt cod recipes and in the glossary you’ll find how to desalt salt cod along with using saffron, preparing fresh snails for cooking, cleaning squid, cuttlefish, mussels and sundry other techniques.

Each chapter is led by interesting information whether it’s the history of tapas, or how and why consumption of certain food has changed or just an entertaining story. He quotes a funny line in the introduction to Innards and Extremities reflecting how a Spaniard feels about eating a whole animal. It essentially translates to “taking advantage of everything except the way that a pig walks.”

Wrapping up the book are desserts including Galician Crepes with Fresh Whipped Cream and Honey, Flatbread with Pine Nuts, Sugar and Anise; plus drinks like Slushy Lemon Granita and sangrias; and then conserves such as Dried Apricots Macerated in Sweet Wine and Creamy Quince Paste.

I predict that Jeff Koehler has a well-deserved award in his future for this book.

The following recipe has no season – It’s a hit for lunch, dinner or cut in smaller servings, an appetizer.


Potato and Onions Egg Tortilla
Tortilla de Patatas y Cebolla

photo © Jeff Koehler

One of the most classic and popular of all Spanish dishes, the egg and potato tortilla is, simply, iconic. It was, fittingly, the first dish I learned to make when I moved to Spain in 1996, in a lesson given to me by my future brother-in-law, Robert. Preparing a tortilla with potato alone is fine, but using an equal amount of onions produces a sweeter, moister, and, in my mind, superior result. While the key to a good tortilla is keeping it moist in the center, the real trick, he showed me, comes in flipping it. Or rather, flipping the tortilla without the bottom sticking.

Makes one 10-inch/25-cm tortilla
Serves 6 to 8


1 1 ⁄4 pounds/570 g medium white potatoes
1 1 ⁄4 pounds/570 g medium onions
1 quart/1 l mild olive oil or sunflower oil
10 eggs

1. Peel the potatoes, halve lengthwise, and thinly slice crosswise. Peel the onions, halve lengthwise, and thinly slice crosswise.

2. In a large sauté pan or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat until shimmering. Carefully add the potatoes and onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring from time to time, until they soften and just begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and onions to a colander to thoroughly drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the oil.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly with a hand whisk until frothy. Season with salt. Pour the drained potatoes and onions into the egg. Gently push down to cover with egg. Let sit and absorb for 10 minutes.

4. In a 10-inch/25-cm nonstick skillet, heat the reserved 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Pour in the egg mixture. Immediately turn the heat to low and swirl the pan in a circular motion for a few seconds to keep the egg from sticking. Cook until the bottom is golden and the tortilla set, about 6 minutes.

5. Wearing an oven mitt, place a flat, tight-fitting plate over the tortilla. Firmly pressing the plate against the pan, carefully and quickly turn the tortilla over onto the plate, and then slide the tortilla off the plate and back into the pan. Swirl the pan in a circular motion to settle the tortilla and keep it from sticking. Tuck any edges down with a spatula. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until firm but still moist in the center.

6. Flip the tortilla onto a clean plate. Dab off any excess oil with a paper towel. Let cool before slicing it into fat wedges to serve.

By Gwen Ashley Walters | DECEMBER 15, 2013 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS


Everyone has one — a fanatic, food-loving friend (some of us have boatloads of them). You know the type. She (or he) already has subscriptions to Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Cook’s Illustrated. She devours cookbooks like page-turning novels, and her idea of the perfect evening is curling up with a glass of wine and the latest issue of Saveur.

So what do you buy for someone who already has those magazines? Get them a highly focused, specialty publication — a food journal.

Here are five I recommend and why. The good news is this gift fits any budget because you can buy a single issue or, if you’re feeling generous, a full year’s subscription.


Paul Lowe is a highly respected and sought after food stylist based in New York City. A quick glance through his thick, quarterly magazine, Sweet Paul, and you’ll see why. Dreamy is the first word that comes to mind, followed by inspirational and then aspirational.

The tagline is “chasing the sweet things in life” and although much of the magazine is devoted to food, it also includes decorating and crafting ideas. Pictures are in soft focus and inviting. Recipes are gourmet but approachable.

Raised in Norway, Paul might be the Norwegian version of Martha Stewart, only I find his style far more appealing and chic. Sweet Paul might kindle your own inner homemaking, or at the very least, provide a blissful way to pass an afternoon, turning page after gorgeous page, dreaming of domestic shangri-la. (Single issue $18; 1 year subscription (4 issues) $60.)


CHERRYBOMBE is a bomb… at nearly 200 pages and weighing just under two pounds, it’s a hefty work of art. It’s also new, and prints only twice a year (issue 2 was just release). CHERRYBOMBE is a celebration of women in food, written by women, about women. I suppose guys can appreciate the high-quality writing and great storytelling, but I’m guessing the readership is largely women.

Each issue has a couple dozen contributors, including some professional chefs. In issue 2, Manhattan Chef Anita Lo (Anissa) interviews Brooklyn Chef Sohui Kim (The Good Fork) in a handwritten, playful banter. Multiple contributors make for a diverse collection of voices, and each story feels fresh and different from the last. Recipes are included if they fit the story.

As with Sweet Paul, imagery is important and the pictures are beautiful and compelling, but it’s the stories that make CHERRYBOMBE da bomb (sorry, couldn’t resist). (Single issue $18; 1 year subscription (2 issues) $40.)


If CHERRYBOMBE is slanted toward the female persuasion, Lucky Peach is the male counterpart. To be fair, Lucky Peach has women contributors and not all stories revolve around the Y chromosome toque, especially in the more recent issues, but this is largely a guy-written (and edited) magazine.

The brain-child of David Chang (Momofuku), writer Peter Meehan and Chris Ying (co-publisher of indie house McSweeny’s) the quarterly’s first issue, Summer 2011, was dedicated to ramen (speeding up the momentum of the ramen craze currently sweeping the nation). The trio has since covered American food, Chinatown, and the before-and-after of an imaginary Apocalypse (weird but it worked). Their “Gender” issue (slightly less than half for the ladies, slightly more than half for the dudes) generated quite a buzz.

Contributors have included Anthony Bourdain, L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold and food scientist Harold McGee. Irreverent in design, Lucky Peach is the ultimate foodie-hipster’s literary manual — and thoroughly enjoyable even if you’re not tragically hip. (Single issue $9 to $12; 1 year subscription (4 issues) $28.)



What began as an eight-page newsletter, The Art of Eating has fully matured into a 48-page literary journal of food and wine. Published quarterly by Edward Behr, one of the leading voices in food and wine writing in America, The Art of Eating offers a multi-course dinner of articles not covered by other print publications.

Behr and his contributors focus on “sense of place,” digging deep, down to the roots of a story. In-depth articles cover current — and timeless — topics you won’t find in other publications: moving stories about shepherd cheesemaking in the Tsakonia region of Greece; Chinese cooking techniques of velveting, deep-frying and stir-frying; recipes suited to Chablis; contemporary restaurants in Montreal; and book reviews of books you’ve might or might not have ever heard of, but suddenly want to read.

The Art of Eating is less about imagery (although there are many high quality photographs in each issue) and more about the words. In today’s world of sound bites and blurbs, it’s stimulating to soak in a good story and learn something new. (Single issue $13.50; 1 year subscription (4 issues) $52.)



Gastronomica is a serious, academic food journal. Published since 2001 by the University of California Press, it is the leading intellectual literary journal on food and culture. Stories are born out of the intersection of food and culture, often looking at one through the eyes of the other.

Long-form food journalism is celebrated in several of these specialty publications, but it is the crux of Gastronomica. Heavy-hitter contributors cover stories on American food policies, global food issues, and other social and economic issues related to food. Lest you think this is dry reading, it’s not — and not every article is wrapped in weighty reverence. While there is never a single piece of fluff, some stories touch on lighter topics, such as an interview with a current renowned chef, or a personal essay explaining the unlikely joy of angel food cake.

The writers may have academic backgrounds, but they are storytellers at heart. Gastronomica will quench the thirst of the thinking food lover. (Single issue $12.99; 1 year (4 issues) subscription $53.)

Here’s to happy shopping (and reading) this holiday.  Cheers.

By Linda Avery | DECEMBER 01, 2013 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a look at award-winning Chef Suzanne Goin’s new book, The A. O. C. Cookbook, named after her second restaurant, plus Linda takes one of Chef Goin’s seasonally appropriate dessert recipes for a spin. 

by Suzanne Goin
with wine notes by Caroline Styne
Photographs by Shimon and Tammar Rothstein

Facts: Alfred A. Knopf, 448 pages, $35.00 (or at Amazon Hardcover: $22.14; Kindle: $13.29)
Photos: over 125
Recipes: 98 not including sub-recipes

Suzanne Goin opens her new cookbook The A.O.C. Cookbook by telling us why it’s taken seven years from receiving a James Beard award for Sunday Suppers at Lucques to write a second cookbook.

She “opened two more restaurants, had three children, moved homes” and more! There’s no question about her ability to multitask. I always felt I liked this woman but the thought was solidified when she said that before having children, she never had anything in the freezer but ice cream and gin (my preference would have been vodka but hey, it’s the thought).

As her first book was named after Lucques, her first restaurant, A.O.C. is the name of her second restaurant. A.O.C. stands for Appellation d’Origine Controlee, the French government’s system for regulating and designating wine, cheese, and other artisanal products. The definition embodied what she wanted from the new restaurant i.e., “celebration of unique products and the joy of tasting and drinking them.”

The book: after the first two chapters, Cheese and Charcuterie, each chapter, from Salads through Dessert, has recipes categorized by season (as she did in Sunday Supper). This book also introduces Goin’s business partner and wine director, Caroline Styne, who has written insightful wine notes for each recipe.

Goin doesn’t disappoint my thirst for headnotes. Whether she’s defining soubise, explaining how she developed a recipe, why she swapped ingredients at the last minute, or telling the story of her six-year-old daughter’s salad dressing recipe, she’s bringing us closer to knowing her.

Here is a sampling of recipes included in the book: Young Goat Cheese with Dried Figs and Saba; Duck Sausage with Candied Kumquats; Roasted Kabocha Squash with Dates, Parmesan, and Pepitas; Grilled Orata with Cauliflower, Fregola, and Persimmon-Pomegranate Salsa; and Pork Cheeks with Polenta, Mustard Cream, and Horseradish Gremolata. There’s also a smattering of recipes from the wood-burning oven and sixteen desserts including S’mores with Caramel Popcorn and Chocolate Sorbet.

Following the recipes is a 50-plus page compendium of A.O.C. cheese which she describes as “a marathon opus collection of cheese information” and she’s not wrong. The list and descriptions are wonderfully informative. If you’re interested, go to this Amazon link and “Look Inside” – type in Page 355 to see some examples.

In the meantime, here is a wonderful, season-appropriate cake you might consider for the holidays.


Persimmon Cake with Crème Fraîche and Maple Pecans

Photo © 2013 Shimon and Tammar Rothstein

Crisp, crunchy varieties of persimmons, like Fuyus, are great eaten out hand, sliced into salads, and diced into salsas, but this cake is the perfect way to show off the softer Hachiya types, which need to be completely soft before they are eaten. My palate has strange textural issues—mostly that I like some oddball ones that other people generally don’t appreciate. Bring on the chewy, the stringy, the slimy, and even snotty textures! The strange gelatinous interior of a super-ripe persimmon reminds me of an aloe plant in a way, and I think it’s that very dense and wet texture that makes this cake so ethereal. This recipe was inspired by farmer James Birch of Flora Bella Farm, who is, shall we say, a little spacey, in the most charming and lovely way— meaning that sometimes he forgets to let anyone know what he’s growing and what he would like to sell. When he comes for lunch, for example, I’ll ask him, “Hey, James, how’s it going?” Then he’ll just happen to mention, “Well, I do have four cases of very ripe chocolate persimmons on my truck.” Thank goodness, Christina and the gang are used to this type of kooky farmer behavior, so she responded, “Great! Let’s bake a cake or two.” I love that these persimmons actually taste of fall and winter—as if they have been grown in fields of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. It’s very strange but so magical to have those flavors reinforced by the fruit itself. This is a great one for the Thanksgiving or Christmas buffet.

Makes one 10-inch cake

For the cake
1 3/4 cups (approximately 3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a little for the pan
About 3 ripe Hachiya persimmons (to yield 1 cup puréed flesh)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup crème fraîche

For the maple pecans
1 1/2 cups pecans
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup (see Note below)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Note: Maple sugar can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, specialty stores, and, of course, online. Although you can substitute turbinado or even brown sugar, the maple sugar makes it extra maple-y and special.

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Prepare a 10-inch round cake pan by lightly buttering the inside surfaces, lining the bottom with parchment paper, and buttering the parchment.

3. Cook 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick) in a small saucepan over high for a few minutes, swirling the pan, until the butter browns and smells nutty. Set aside to cool.

4. Scoop the ripe flesh from the persimmons, and puree in a blender until smooth. Measure out 1 cup puree.

5. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, the spices, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.

6. In another bowl, combine the puree, 1/4 cup cream, vanilla, and cooled browned butter.

7. Paddle the remaining 1 1/2 cups butter and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium-high for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg.

8. Decrease the paddle speed to low. Alternately add the flour mixture and persimmon-puree mixture to the bowl, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

9. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until cake feels springy to the touch.

10. Whip the remaining 3/4 cup cream and the crème fraîche to soft peaks.

Make the maple nuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Spread evenly across the prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring every few minutes, for about 10 minutes, or until nuts are toasted.

Cut six slices from the cake (the cake will yield ten to twelve servings), and place on six dessert plates. Dollop with whipped crème fraîche, and scatter the candied pecans over the cake and around the plate.

Wine Note
This cake epitomizes winter with its weighty texture and dense fruitiness. I love how the crème fraîche brings a lightness of body and brightening flavor to the composition, and look for a wine to continue in that mode. Madeira is perfect for this, because, along with its overall nut-laden flavor, it brings a degree of texture and tart acidity to the palate. In this pairing, I opt for one that is in the mid-range of sweetness, made from the Bual or Verdelho grape varieties, which possesses back notes of stone fruits and caramel that will marry with the sweetness of the persimmons and pecans, while its tart acidity works in sync with the crème fraîche.

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