Cookery by the Book is a podcast for cookbook lovers. Join host, Suzy Chase, as she chats with cookbook authors to discover interesting stories behind your favorite cookbooks. In every episode Suzy makes a recipe out of the cookbook for discussion. Happy listening & cooking!
Cookery by the Book is a podcast for cookbook lovers. Join host, Suzy Chase, as she chats with cookbook authors to discover interesting stories behind your favorite cookbooks. In every episode Suzy makes a recipe out of the cookbook for discussion. Happy listening & cooking!
Cookery by the Book is a podcast for cookbook lovers. Join host, Suzy Chase, as she chats with cookbook authors to discover interesting stories behind your favorite cookbooks. In every episode Suzy makes a recipe out of the cookbook for discussion. Happy listening & cooking!
Essential Tools, Tips, & Techniques for the Home Cook
By Michelle Doll
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book Podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City sitting at her dining room talking to cookbook authors.
Michelle Doll: Hi, I'm Michelle Doll and this is my new book, Essential Tools, Tips, and Techniques for the Home Cook.
Suzy Chase: As a home cook, I'm always looking for techniques and tips, so I was excited to see this book pop up in my mailbox. You graduated with honors from the French Culinary Institute and you're an instructor, plus you're a cake designer. But your true passion is educating the home cook. How did that get to be your true passion?
Michelle Doll: It's kind of funny. Yeah, I did the whole professional route and ended up in lots of restaurants, getting lots of tips and techniques, and then I started to teach at Sur La Table. As the resident chef there, everybody who was coming to class, occasionally you would get somebody in a chef's coat, but mainly it was people who were just passionate about food and wanting to learn more to do at home. Every class was different every week. The people we had there and the techniques that we were teaching were always evolving and changing, so it really kind of piqued my interest. It made my job super fun again to have to kind of relearn things and apply them to people who were doing this on a much smaller scale and at home.
Suzy Chase: How is this cookbook organized?
Michelle Doll: Each chapter is based on a technique and the tools you need to do it. So our first chapter is rolling pins, which sounds kind of weird I realize. But I start off with just talking about all the different varieties that are out there, what's worth spending some money on, what's worth passing on, how to fix it if you ruin it, proper technique and care, and then I jump into some recipes that are great recipes that will serve you for your entire life. How to make a quick puff pastry, how to make ravioli dough, pasta dough, how to make a really nice pate brisée or pie crust.
These are things that you can personalize too. So I don't just give the recipe out, but I also talk a little bit about what's happening on a molecular level, why does the laminated dough in the puff pastry rise like it does and what can we do to make sure that that always turns out for us. So kind of demystifying a lot of the techniques and then giving some great base recipes that people can then personalize if they want or just jump and use these forever.
Suzy Chase: This is the first cookbook I've seen that's talked about useless gizmos and thingamajigs and how we can clear them out. The problem is, I always think I'm going to need that gizmo. What's the process for clearing things out?
Michelle Doll: If I haven't used it in six months or so, kind of like a closet, you want to just clear it out. It's not worth it. That's what yard sales are for, pass along our junk to somebody else who might want it. But yeah, if you can't use it for more than one purpose, then I also find that it's kind of useless. Like a melon baller I use all the time for lots of different things. That's one of my favorite tools and it's super basic, but to have that and to know that you can use it for so much more than just melon balling makes it a great tool to have.
Suzy Chase: What are some different ways you use your melon baller?
Michelle Doll: I core all of my apples and pears. You can take the inside rib out of them. It's pear poaching season right now. Actually there's a recipe in the book for poached pears and it's done in a white wine and a lemon sauce. With the melon baller, once you slice it in half you get this perfect little sphere taken out, so you don't have to quarter it and remove the seeds that way. It's a super easy way to kind of pop it right out.
Suzy Chase: That's so smart. I used to have a melon baller. I don't know where that darn thing went, so I'm going to have to get another one.
Michelle Doll: That and Microplanes, I think I have multiples of because I'm always ... There's always one in the dishwasher.
Suzy Chase: One item I bet every home cook uses as least once a day is a saute pan. Go over the three types.
Michelle Doll: You've got a regular stainless steel, your All-Clad basic, the shiny ones. We have a nonstick, and with nonstick you really want to look for something that's not Teflon. There's a couple different varieties on the market that I talk about. There's also crepe pans, which are kind of considered saute plans. And then you could do a carbon steel saute pan, which is what they usually use in restaurants. They're not as pretty. They're super heavy. But they conduct heat like crazy, super fast.
Suzy Chase: What's your favorite saute pan?
Michelle Doll: My main reach-to is a nonstick pan. I like GreenPan a lot. SCANPAN's my favorite. They're from Copenhagen and what I like about it is it's not a coating, it's the actual pan that's nonstick. So you can use a fork or tongs on it, metal. You don't have to worry about little black flecks coming up. All you're going to do is scratch the pan, you're not going to release any weirdness into your food. It's green. There's no gases that come off of it like with a regular Teflon nonstick pan, if you heat it up with nothing in it, really noxious gases come off of it. It's kind of dangerous.
You want to definitely make sure that you're springing for something that's going to be safe to use.
Suzy Chase: Another frequently used item would be a sheet pan. What types of sheet pans do you prefer?
Michelle Doll: Kind of similar to our saute pans, you've got a couple different varieties. There's your heavy steel version. They tend to bow. They will pop up a little bit if they get over 400 degrees. So the heat actually changes how the molecules in the pan are moving and that's what you hear, like a loud bang sometimes when you're cooking something really hot. It's your pan buckling. So that's your heavy stainless.
There's a lighter aluminum sheet pans. Then there's also nonstick sheet pans. Nonsticks I actually avoid for sheet pans because they tend to be darker and that darkness attracts a lot of the heat. So it gets really hot in the pan so the bottom of your cookies get really dark, but the top is still totally raw and it's super frustrating. If I have to use those, if for some reason I'm forced to use a nonstick pan, I usually cover it with foil so that it deflects some of the heat and protects my cookies a little bit.
Suzy Chase: Now when your sheet pan bows, does that mean it's ruined or is that okay?
Michelle Doll: Sometimes it doesn't pop back. Sometimes it does stay like that. But usually you can push it back or when it cools back down, you'll hear that bang again and it's flattening itself back out.
Suzy Chase: I hate that bang. I feel like someone shot something through my window.
Michelle Doll: Scared to death.
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Michelle Doll: And if you put one ... At work I have these giant stainless steel tables and if somebody puts down a hot sheet pan on top of it, the whole table makes this loud shotgun bang and the pan sometimes will even bounce into the air. It's really dramatic.
Suzy Chase: Do we really need a pizza stone if we're making pizza at home?
Michelle Doll: I think so. Pizza stones and there's also pizza steels. It depends on who you talk to which is their favorite. I prefer the stone but ... What it does, you cook directly on it, but if you get it wet, it does crack. But you can still push it together. You could still continue to use it. It heats up and it distributes the heat really evenly. Any kind of oven that you have whether it's steam, electric, gas, whatever, convection, they all have hot spots. When you're baking on something, if it's really delicate, you don't want to be opening up the oven door over and over again.
If you're actually baking on top of a pizza stone, you put the pan right on top of the pizza stone, it disperses the heat much more evenly so you don't have to go in and constantly be flipping it around to get everything evenly baked. But as far as pizzas go, yes, a pizza stone, since it's so dry it'll take some of the moisture out of the bottom of the pizza crust so you get this really nice, crisp crust. If you're doing it on a stainless steel pan, it just doesn't have the same effect. You end up with a soggier pizza. It's not quite as crisp and authentic-tasting.
Suzy Chase: In addition to tips, techniques, and tools of the trade, you have a collection of really easy recipes. I made Mom's Mongolian Beef on page 183.
Michelle Doll: Oh good.
Suzy Chase: Now why is this called Mom's Mongolian Beef?
Michelle Doll: It was my mom's. I'm an Army brat and we would move every three or four years. What was kind of great about that, when we lived in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, it was in the middle of the Mark Twain National Forest. We were in the middle of nowhere. Most of the population there was Army brats and they came from all over the world. It was such a wonderfully diverse community that we had ... My neighbor would make her own kimchi and bury it in the yard and then on the other side, they would make their own barbecue rubs and sauces. Food is just this great thing that brings everybody together.
It was funny to be exposed to that in the middle of the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. It's not where you would expect it. But we fell in love with Beef Bulgogi and this is kind of a riff on that recipe that she would do. The officers' Wives Club, they would always have a recipe book that they would put together once a year and sell. This was based on one of the recipes in there that she had done.
Suzy Chase: When I was in junior high, I went to a dance at Fort Leonard Wood. Isn't that crazy?
Michelle Doll: Get out. No way. That is amazing.
Suzy Chase: I used to live in Prairie Village, Kansas, outside of Kansas City. So funny.
Michelle Doll: That is absolutely amazing. Yeah, Waynesville is the town right outside of Leonard Wood. That's where I went to high school, so everybody went to the high school off post and then we would all go back on post at night. That was the whole town. It was crazy, but it was great. I loved it. I really love Missouri. It was a great place to live.
Suzy Chase: I live in the West Village in New York City and have a small galley kitchen, so I'm dying to hear how you've made more space after outgrowing your kitchen.
Michelle Doll: I lived in the West Village for a while myself.
Suzy Chase: You did?
Michelle Doll: And I had a half-refrigerator. It wasn't even like a ... It was like a hotel refrigerator. I had two burners and a tiny, tiny little dorm sink. It was hilariously tiny. So everything hung on the walls. I just had like Julia Child had those pegboards. So I adopted that technique of just hanging everything up. Now we live in Brooklyn. I have a little bit more space and it's kind of leached into another room, so I'm sort of taking over the adjoining room. Crock-Pots and Instant Pots and Dutch ovens, they're huge and they're heavy and they take up a lot of space.
You really want to pick one that you love, that you're going to want to have forever. Invest in a piece and just keep it. Don't start accumulating too many pots and pans. Just pick one or two of each. And then another space-saving technique is we've gone vertical. I have a shelf over the door, the entry door to the house. I'm looking at it right now. There's the Instant Pot on top of that, some giant stock pots, all of that stuff is up and out of the way. I mean it's a bummer in a way because you can't ... It's not super easily accessible. You can't just reach and grab something, but a little step stool keeps everything kind of straight and neat-ish.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. Neat-ish. But so what-
Michelle Doll: Ish, yeah. I'm looking at it now going, ugh, I'm so glad you're not here.
Suzy Chase: What have you-
Michelle Doll: When you open the door, you hear the paella ... I have a giant paella pan hanging off of that shelf over the door and when you open the door too aggressively, it makes this giant gong sound. It's kind of funny. It's our security system.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, you'll know if you've been broken into.
Michelle Doll: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Suzy Chase: So the holidays are coming up and your limoncello granita sounds like the perfect drink for entertaining. Describe that and what tools do we need to pull it off?
Michelle Doll: I love the limoncello granita. It's so good and it doesn't make any sense, but it tastes kind of creamy. The amount of alcohol that's in the recipe controls the size of the ice crystals. It takes a couple hours for it to get jellified, but it does. It gets jellified. You just scrape it up, you don't need any tools at all. Really just any sort of vessel to freeze it in. It's best if it's kind of shallow and flat, so a little lasagna pan or any kind of ... even a cookie sheet if it has tall enough sides.
You dissolve the sugar down, basically making a simple syrup and then mix that in with the limoncello. I did it once with orangecello, which is just an orange version of the same liqueur. It was fantastic too. I love it. If you want to get fancy and you want to have a little cookie portioner. You can scoop it up with that, that works really well. But otherwise just spoons is fine.
Suzy Chase: For my segment called My Last Meal, what would you choose for your last supper?
Michelle Doll: It changes day to day. It's cold out right now, so I would want a beef bourguignon and a bottle or two of wine if it's my last supper.
Suzy Chase: Why not?
Michelle Doll: Some roasted potatoes. I make potatoes with herbes de Provence. It's super simple, just some olive oil and herbes de Provence. That would be really nice. They crisp up really pretty on a sheet pan. And then for dessert, I would probably do a Pavlova with a passion fruit curd.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Michelle Doll: Sure. On Instagram, it's Chef Michelle Doll and on Facebook the same, Michelle Doll, D-O-L-L. My website is Michelle Doll Makes and I'm currently teaching at the New York Cake Academy in Manhattan. They just reopened and they have a big, beautiful teaching space, so I've been getting to teach there as well as still being adjunct at the International Culinary Center.
Suzy Chase: Well, thanks for coming on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Michelle Doll: Thanks for having me. This was so much fun.
Suzy Chase: Follow me on Instagram at Cookery by the Book, Twitter is IamSuzyChase and download your kitchen mixtapes, music to cook by on Spotify at Cookery by the Book and as always subscribe at Apple Podcasts.
Nov 26 2018
Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over
By Alison Roman
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book, with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
Alison Roman: Hi, I'm Alison Roman, a cookbook author of Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over.
Suzy Chase: I was trying to sum up your job description. It's very multifaceted, you have cookbooks, a biweekly column in the New York Times, and a monthly column in Bon Appétit magazine. Talk about how cookbooks are the truest expression of how you are.
Alison Roman: Yeah, so with having so many recipes in so many different places, I always say that cookbooks are the truest expression of myself. Because, while every recipe is pretty true to myself in terms of flavor profile, and effort, and visually speaking, I feel like each of my columns is sort of tailored to the publication, and that includes voice, writing style, and type of recipe. It's got to fit where it's being published.
Alison Roman: But my books are just being published with my name on it, it's my own column for my own publication, and I feel a little bit more free to just have it be exactly tailored to myself. And so I can be a little bit more personal, I can be a little bit more casual, I can be a little bit more relaxed when I'm writing my own books.
Suzy Chase: The busier you got, the less complicated your food got. I think you've found the recipe sweet spot for all of us home cooks out here. Talk a little bit about that.
Alison Roman: Well, I feel like I am trying to get people to cook, and I realize that time and effort are probably the biggest hurdles for people deciding whether or not they want to cook something, just basically for having people over or just for a weeknight for yourself. And so I just use my own life as a real good measure for what I think people are willing to do, just because I also am busy, and I have a small kitchen, and my resources can be limited. So if I'm willing to put in the time to produce something, I think that you will be too.
Alison Roman: And I think the biggest difference for this book versus the columns is that the book is really a good mix of things that require zero prep but maybe take two to three hours of hands-off time, and things that are ready in 30 minutes but maybe require a little bit more effort on your part during those 30 minutes. So rather than just cut and dry sheet pan dinners or weeknight meals, it feels a little bit more elevated, a little bit more interesting, a little bit more mixed. But I'll never ask you to take a long time and do a ton of work at the same time. I feel like it's always one or the other for me.
Suzy Chase: And we thank you for the substitution recommendations.
Alison Roman: Oh yeah.
Suzy Chase: We thank you. So it's "having people over", not "entertaining". When was the first time articulated exactly what you wanted this cookbook to be about?
Alison Roman: I feel like it was when I was writing the proposal for it, which is really ... I mean, the book was already sold, so it was really just an exercise for me to articulate what I wanted the book to be about. But I think it was just becoming so overwhelmed with people, because I knew that I wanted to do this book, and my publisher was like, "Entertaining books don't sell well," and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. "It's very Martha Stewart, people get stressed out." And I was like, "Well, what if people weren't stressed out? What if we just called it something else?"
Suzy Chase: Well, did you tell her you're allergic to the word "entertaining"?
Alison Roman: I did, well she knew once she read the introduction for sure. But I feel like just rebranding it as something else ... People are okay with cooking for one or two people, but as soon as you're like, "Oh, you're having people over," it's like, "Oh, red alert." Well, it doesn't have to be different, it can just be something a little bit nicer. The things that I cook for other people are hardly anything that I would just cook for myself. So for me, it's just rebranding. I have two styles of cooking, I'm either cooking for myself alone or I'm cooking for other people.
Suzy Chase: Describe how this cookbook is organized.
Alison Roman: So this book is a bit different from Dining In in that I've organized it by how I like to put a meal together, rather than by topics. So it starts off with snacks, and there are little subsections within each chapter, but snacks or dips, and vegetables, and crunchy things, and salty things, and cheeses and stuff like that. And then it moves into salads, there are crunchy salads, there are sort-of salads, there are leafy salads.
Alison Roman: And then there are the sides, which I find to be definitely distinct from salads in that, to me, sides can be grains, beans, pasta, chickpeas, roasted vegetables, things with cheese in them, maybe something a bit hardier, something more comforting and substantial. And then there are the mains, and that includes all the proteins and then some pastas and vegetarian dishes.
Alison Roman: And then sweet stuff, which is a pretty slender chapter in this particular book, because I feel like dessert does not have to be a part of having people over. But to me, it's a really good mix of dishes that are excellent for serving to groups.
Suzy Chase: And you can even serve fruit on ice.
Alison Roman: You can, you can literally just put fresh fruit on ice, and serve that for dessert. I've done it a million times, people love it.
Suzy Chase: So you have three helpful things at the beginning. One, ask for help; two, pick your battles; and three, which is the hardest one for me, a typical home cook, never apologize. So let's discuss. What if you're a control freak? How can we ask for help? Not talking about myself.
Alison Roman: Well, that's a huge lesson that I'm still learning all the time, but I think it's learning that things don't always have to go your way, that you don't always have to have control over everything, lessons that I'm still trying to teach myself. But understanding, would you rather be stressed out, or would you rather relinquish some control? And after years in the kitchen and having people over, I realized that I'd rather not be stressed out. So, that is the choice, and to me, letting somebody else do something is the easiest way to achieve that.
Suzy Chase: I heard Julia Turshen say one time she makes one person take out the garbage.
Alison Roman: Oh yeah, I make everyone take out the garbage. I make everyone bring ice, and I make everyone take out the garbage.
Suzy Chase: Don't apologize, because you're not running a restaurant. It won't be perfect.
Alison Roman: You go to a restaurant to have a certain level of service, and to have things go well, and to have things be perfect, and you know what to expect. And that's not your home, you know what I mean?
Suzy Chase: Yeah. But what is it with people that come over, and they expect it, and you expect it, to be perfection?
Alison Roman: That's the thing, I don't think people expect it, I don't think anyone expects it. I think that we project that, I think that we-
Suzy Chase: Yes, it's in our head.
Alison Roman: "People are going to judge me if I don't have matching plates, or they're going to judge me if I don't have the right silverware, or if my house looks a little messy, or blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." But we're not. And if you think that you are going to be judged for any of that stuff, you probably shouldn't have them over for dinner.
Suzy Chase: You wrote, "I do love New York City's farmer's markets, but getting through a subway turnstile and riding a crowded train with produce for 14 people is not a chill experience." I feel the same way. So what do you do?
Alison Roman: So I like to kind of approach my shopping in the same way that I approach my fashion sense, which is I'm a very high-low person, I like to mix and match, and I like to get my things from a lot of different places. So for the farmer's market, I will absolutely get certain specialty items from there, like really in-season vegetables, I always get my salad mixes from there, my good bread, things like that that I know are going to be best when purchased at the farmer's market.
Alison Roman: And then kind of for everything else, staple items, I just either get from the grocery store, sometimes I'll use an online delivering service if I'm really in a pinch. But yeah, I feel like doing that, when you live in a city where you have a car, it's obviously a bit different, you can just go from the market to the car to your home. But for me, I have to consider the things that I'm actually traveling with, and so I really need to make them count.
Suzy Chase: What's your thing with Eastern European dairy products?
Alison Roman: Oh, I love them. If you've ever been to an Eastern European grocery store, the selection of sour cream and butter is unbelievable. And they also have a crazy selection of yogurt and other cheeses, but the sour cream and butter selections are mind-blowing. They have 40 different types of each, and then 40 more in a different flavor profile, or salted or unsalted, or sweet or savory, or whatever. It is just nuts. I am overwhelmed, and the packaging is amazing, and the quality is really great, and they taste different, you know what I mean?
Suzy Chase: I always thought sour cream was sour cream was sour cream. I understand butter, but sour cream?
Alison Roman: Yeah. It's fat content, tanginess, how long was it soured for, it's a lot, there's a lot of difference. And the only way you'll ever know is if you buy every type of sour cream that's on offer at the market, which I have tried to do.
Suzy Chase: Do not confuse snacks with hors d'oeuvres or canapés. Let's talk about anchovies, one of your snack essentials. Describe your spicy marinated anchovies with potato chips.
Alison Roman: Mm, they're so, so good. So this is basically a snack that I had in Italy. We were sitting eating ice cream, and they brought over these anchovy snacks, it was just a little dish of anchovies with potato chips with toothpicks, and we were like, "Well, I guess we eat them on the potato chips." And even if that wasn't the intention, which it may not have been, that's how I did it, and it was so good that I came back from my trip and that's all I wanted to serve to people.
Alison Roman: And you might think, "Oh is that too salty? It's like salt on salt." But when you douse the anchovies in vinegar and add some chili or fresh peppers, then it takes it to a completely different place, and it's just so, so good.
Suzy Chase: What are the best anchovies and the best chips for this combo?
Alison Roman: I feel like the anchovies depends on the brand that you are able to find. I like Ortiz, which is a pretty widely available brand. And then for a potato chip, you definitely want a sturdy, kettle chip style chip, nothing that's going to be flimsy. I think kettle chips are really good, Cape Cod are really good, Zapp's are also good, North Fork potato chips, those are also excellent. Any sort of ... You know what I mean, it's like a sturdy chip.
Suzy Chase: Hardy, yeah. Do you think there's going to be a recipe in this cookbook ... I know everyone's going to ask you this too.
Alison Roman: I don't have an answer.
Suzy Chase: Do you think there's a recipe in this cookbook that catches on like wildfire, like those darned salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies, or the stew?
Alison Roman: I hope so, but I never know what it's going to be. I just hope the whole book does as well, my hope is that everything in the book does as well as any of those recipes. It's tough, because when you release things like the stew, the recipes come out one at a time, so they can really be highlighted. But with a book, you're releasing 130-something recipes at one time. So it's going to take a while for people to work through it, and get a sense of what everybody's cooking. I won't know for a while, but I think it'll be great.
Suzy Chase: I can't wait. So I've heard you say you don't really consume any food media, you don't read magazines, you don't read cookbooks. Where do you get your recipe inspiration?
Alison Roman: Mostly travel, to be honest. I love getting out of New York. Travel can mean going a few hours upstate, or leaving the city, or leaving the state, or leaving the country. I think just getting out of your comfort zone and getting out of your usual rut is a really helpful way to get new inspiration. And that doesn't mean necessarily exotic ingredients, just cooking in a new kitchen with new equipment can inspire you.
Suzy Chase: You have one cookie recipe in this cookbook, Tiny Salty Chocolaty Cookies, and you almost cut it?
Alison Roman: I almost cut it, because I was almost like, "I don't even want to give people another cookie to talk about." It felt like I was setting myself up to fail. People will always compare it to the other cookie, and I almost just didn't even want to give anyone to compare anything to.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, no comments.
Alison Roman: Yeah, no comments.
Suzy Chase: Over the weekend, I made your recipes for Celery Salad with Cilantro and Sesame, that's a tongue twister, on page 100. How is this your humble homage to New York City?
Alison Roman: It feels like I was inspired by the salad that I eat a lot of times at this place called Xi'an Famous Foods, which is a Western-style Chinese, fast casual ... I guess it's a chain at this point, there are quite a few of them in New York. But I eat there are a lot, I love their hand-pulled noodles, I love their soft tofu. But I really, really love their tiger salad, which is a very, very vinegary salad made with lots of cilantro stems and celery and scallions, and it is so delicious.
Alison Roman: My version's a little bit different, it's a little less cilantro-heavy, more celery-heavy, and it doesn't ... I forget, there's one main difference, I forget what it is. If I ate them side by side, I could tell you. But for me, it's being inspired by something, and I want people to know where I was inspired by so they can actually go try the original, because it's different from mine, but also worth eating. And yeah, that was something that was burned into my brain, of a type of salad that I want eat all the time with so many different things.
Suzy Chase: I also made your Sticky Chili Chicken with Hot-and-Sour Pineapple on page 196. Now, you don't love sweet with savory, but this dish is an exception.
Alison Roman: Yeah. I feel like, for whatever reason, and I don't even know where I had the idea for this dish, but I had a craving for it. I was like, "You know what I really want? Just a deeply sticky, savory, sweet pineapple with chicken." I just thought that sounded so, so good. It probably comes from my love of al pastor tacos, although this flavor profile is definitely more Asian-ish because it's got fish sauce and chili paste and brown sugar. There's something about hot temperatures and hot and sweet food that goes really well together, so I think I must've come up with it in the middle of summer when I was just wanting that style of eating.
Suzy Chase: So I also made your Lemony Turmeric Tea Cake on page 309, the ultimate house cake. Talk a little bit about this recipe.
Alison Roman: Oh, this is my favorite, favorite little cake. I love the idea of having a cake when people come over, even if they're just stopping by, or if you're going to somebody's house, or whatever. But this is a one-bowl cake, you don't need a mixer. It's really bright and cheery and yellow, and it's lemony and buttery. I don't know, it just is such a happy little cake. And it's pretty foolproof, I'm pretty sure you just can't mess it up.
Alison Roman: It's good to have one thing that you're kind of known for. And there was a period of time where every time somebody would come over I was making this cake, just because I wanted to have some on hand. And it's not that sweet, so you could kind of eat it as a breakfast cake if you wanted. But it's also sweet enough to where you could serve it for dessert, and it's just kind of a good, all-purpose little house cake.
Suzy Chase: I also made a better garlic bread, Caramelized Garlic on Toast with Anchovies. The anchovies gave it a crazy, salty, briny touch. It was so good.
Alison Roman: Yeah, it is super, super good. I feel like that one comes from my love of caramelizing garlic in general, and just having things to put it on. But I also just realized that, with garlic bread, I think the biggest problem is that people use raw garlic, and they chop it and they put it in the butter, and then they spread it on the bread, and then they char it or they broil it or toast it, and those bits of garlic either don't cook enough, or they burn.
Suzy Chase: They burn, yeah.
Alison Roman: Yeah, so my solution was to kind of cook them into a paste beforehand, so that way there are never bits that have the opportunity to burn. So you can also use a lot more of the garlic, because it mellows out through caramelizing. And so what you end up with is this kind of salty, really savory, almost sweet flavor because of the way the garlic cooks. That's just so crazy good to me, and every time I make this garlic bread for people, they absolutely lose their minds.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called My Favorite Cookbook. Aside from this cookbook, what is your all-time favorite cookbook, and why?
Alison Roman: Probably the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, I love, love, love that cookbook. It's just a ... I haven't ever cooked anything out of it, but I love reading it for the recipe inspiration, and the names, and the stories behind it. It's a really wonderful a mix of narrative and good ideas for menus. But what I like about it is that it's personal, and the stories about the recipes and the menus are more about where they took place, why they took place, than a head note. Sometimes you want to provide service, but sometimes you also just want to provide context, and I really enjoy reading the personal parts of the stories.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Alison Roman: You can find me on social media @alisoneroman on Instagram and Twitter, and I think Facebook, and pretty much every platform. I try to streamline, just because having more than one name is annoying. And my website is alisoneroman.com.
Suzy Chase: It's life the way we live it, it's messy as hell, and it's nothing fancy. Thanks so much, Alison, for chatting with me on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Alison Roman: Of course, I'm so happy to be here. Thank you for including me.
Outro: Subscribe over on CookerybytheBook.com, and thanks for listening to the Number One Cookbook Podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Oct 21 2019
Joy of Cooking
By Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker, and Megan Scott
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
John Becker: Hi, I am John Becker, I'm joined by my wife Megan Scott, and we are the most recent coauthors of the Joy of Cooking.
Suzy Chase: I'm so happy you said the Joy of Cooking because I've always called it "The Joy".
John Becker: It's come up a few times, and you know, we've always said it that way. The definite article was dropped, I think in the 60s, just at least on the cover.
Megan Scott: Yeah. It's from the old books, and then the new one is just, it's Joy of Cooking now, but I definitely know a lot of people call it, "The Joy."
John Becker: Including us, I mean, you just have to add that. Maybe that was the whole idea is like, if people are going to say the anyways, so I don't know. I'm not sure what the rationale is for that.
Suzy Chase: It's crazy to think that it's been nearly 90 years since the first 3000 copies of the Joy of Cooking came out. Your great-grandmother, Irma Rombauer, was not known for her skills in the kitchen. She was a socialite, not a domestic goddess. John, tell us the story of how she decided to self-publish this cookbook in 1931.
John Becker: Well honestly, it's a bit mysterious that she undertook it. So, her husband unfortunately passed away, and both of her children, Edgar and Marion, at that time they had moved out. She had her savings and very little prospects professionally. I mean she was part of a generation where women were kind of... There just wasn't as many opportunities or professional training, available for women.
So she, on a whim, she took half of her life savings and decided to embark upon writing a cookbook. Then had it privately printed and sold it by word of mouth, as well as just hand selling it to booksellers. It resonated with a lot of people. She had a very conversational, witty tone, that was I think a little bit... It was definitely unique in cookbooks at the time, which were either written by people that had come from a home economics background, or maybe from a more chefy perspective, as in chef of a great house perspective.
Suzy Chase: So when did you decide to embrace this family tradition?
John Becker: I mean it was always emphasized to me, that it was not expected of me, that I should follow my dreams wherever they took me, and blah-bidy-blah. So I did that for a while. I ended up, really contemplating going to graduate school for literature. Then I just had a kind of an epiphany moment, where I came across the dedication that Marion wrote to the 1963 edition, and it was her first edition solo, without the help of Irma. They had both worked at that point on the 1951 edition. It's a really poignant, at least for me, dedication, and the ending of it really kind of got me right in the gut, was, "I hope that my sons and their wives continued to keep joy a family affair, beholden to no one but themselves, and you." "You" being the readers, our readers.
Which is really, I don't know, it was the first time I ever felt like I had been called to do something. It changed my life, it really did. It was the first time I really felt a really deep connection with Marion, and I decided that after all my messing around with publishing and kind of the literary academic arena, that I actually had something to offer to joy, and to my family's multi-generational project.
Suzy Chase: I feel a kinship to your great-grandmother, because cooking really isn't my passion either. I'm just trying to be a good home cook for my family. It's interesting that she incorporated joy into the title. Do you have any backstory on the title?
Megan Scott: We don't really, we don't know why she decided to call it that, but I think it's an interesting choice and I almost feel like it's perhaps a little tongue in cheek, because Irma was not... I think in some ways she enjoyed certain types of cooking. Like we know she loved to bake and decorate cakes, but I don't think she enjoyed just the day to day, like having to cook every day for people. So I think maybe it was a little bit of a, not a joke, but just kind of a-
John Becker: There might've been a twinge of irony there. But on the other hand, I feel like she really tried in that first edition, and subsequent ones, to lessen the burden, to kind of be a friend in the kitchen. To have that kind of casual intimacy with her readers. You know, I mean, it's hard to read that title with a straight face sometimes, because she does have a lot of witticisms in the early editions. She just had a really sharp sense of humor.
Megan Scott: Yeah, I definitely agree with that assessment. Also, the cover illustration on the 1931 edition, if you've ever seen it, it's a paper cut. It's a woman who has a broom, and there's a dragon next to her, and she's fighting this dragon. That's the story of St Martha of Bethany, who is the patron Saint of Home Cooks, fighting off the medieval dragon called a tarasc. So in Irma and Marion's minds, it's like the home cook is fighting off the dragon of kitchen drudgery, with this friendly cookbook.
John Becker: Well, and a broom, and what looks to be a pretty menacing purse.
Megan Scott: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: So Megan, you and John developed more than 600 new recipes for this edition. What other changes are in this edition?
Megan Scott: There's so many things. So when we first started to think about doing this revision, we created this... So we went through the book line by line, and created a huge outline, where we detailed everything that we felt needed to be fact checked, or changed, or improved upon, or things that we felt were missing. Recipes we thought were outdated, or ones that we felt maybe needed to be revised in some way.
So we started out with a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do, but some of the changes include, like everything from the actual trim size of the book. So the book is actually wider now, it's the same height, but kind of a wider format. So it lays flat when you open it, basically to any page, which we love. We brought back paper cut illustrations for every chapter heading. We added new sections on fermentation, sous vide cooking, new ingredients.
John Becker: Yeah. Speaking to what you started talking about, we really did... I mean, joy is a cookbook of many parts, and we basically examined each one of those parts, just to see where we could improve. If there was anything lacking in our coverage, either of culinary technique, or ingredient information, or actual recipes that we felt like, "Oh my God, I cannot believe that this isn't in joy." A lot of that response we had to "classic American recipes", like a Chicago style deep dish pizza, or say the St Louis specialty gooey butter cake. Those were ones where we were kind of scratching our heads like, "Oh, I cannot believe that we do not have this now."
But also including more international recipes, things that really kind of, I wouldn't say that they capture the changing demographics of America, but it's a gesture towards that. We really tried to be as inclusive and respectful as possible, with that aspect of things, adding new international recipes that have been brought here.
Suzy Chase: Did you retest existing recipes?
John Becker: Oh yeah.
Megan Scott: We did. Yeah. We had tested, by the time we actually started the revision process, we had probably tested 1500 existing recipes, and then we continued to test more as the process went on.
Suzy Chase: So Megan, tell the story of the pancake batter, and the difference you found between 1975 and 1997.
Megan Scott: Yeah, Well this happened when we were very new working on the book. So this was probably 2010 or maybe 2011, and we were just testing the-
John Becker: Well didn't we get a... We received a complaint from a reader about our pancake recipe. It's like, Oh!
Megan Scott: Yeah we did. But I think I had tested the recipe before, and I thought the batter seemed runny, but in my naivety I was like, "Oh, I'm just going to add more flour and get on with it." But then we got a complaint from a reader who was like, "This pancake batter is way too runny." Then I was like, "Okay, well this is obviously a recipe problem that we need to fix." So we have all these recipe test notes from when the book was professionally tested back in 2006 and 1997, and we found probably about half a dozen test notes for the pancake recipe alone. It was really interesting because they found the same problems that we had, in that the batter was too runny. The 1975 edition recipe for pancakes was better, but for some reason the change was never made in the manuscript. So we, in this edition, we took the pancakes back to the 1975 quantities, and have restored it to its former glory.
John Becker: That's basically one of the reasons why we wanted to do all of the testing in house, and wanted to kind of take it back to the methodology that Marion and Irma used, to produce what are best-selling classic editions. There's very little opportunity for something getting lost in communication, when the same people that are testing the recipes are the same people that are writing them in the book, or in the manuscript. I think that the distance between kitchen and manuscript, was kept to an absolute bare minimum. I think it's very important, especially for a book of this size, where it definitely seems like something that you need to live and breathe in order to do right.
Suzy Chase: What sorts of recipes did you remove and why?
Megan Scott: It kind of runs the gamut. There were some recipes that we tested them, and we're just like, "This is just not very good." For example, there was a sweet potato stuffing, it was called a stuffing, but it was really just mashed sweet potatoes with sugar and some stuff in it, and baked in a dish, and it was just kind of gummy and not very good. So we cut that. Another example is that we did try to streamline some things. So for example, again in the stuffings chapter there were six different variation recipes on the basic bread stuffing. So what we did was we made the basic bread stuffing kind of the master recipe, and then we include a list of editions that people can play around with, to add to the stuffing, instead of providing six different specific options. Then there were some recipes that just kind of felt outdated, kind of like the golden glow salad. We had to get rid of that one.
John Becker: Yeah. Something about, what was it? Pineapple, lemon gelatin and chicken stock.
Megan Scott: Yeah. It was like chicken broth. So it was like a sweet and savory gelatin. I don't think that... I mean cool if you like that kind of thing, but I don't think it's as relevant to these days.
John Becker: But then there were even some more contemporary recipes that were added later, that were not like 1950s jello mold throwbacks, that we felt like just had to become a little dated. For instance, this edition, we don't have any recipes in the sandwich chapter for wraps. We don't have, there was a pesto cheese cake that was added in the '97 that we decided, you know, this feels a little, I don't know, we just-
Megan Scott: Yeah, it felt dated.
John Becker: It felt dated.
Megan Scott: Also that we got rid of the recipe for tequila shots, because first of all everyone knows that, also there's a lot of really great tequilas and mezcals, on the market that you can just sip and you don't need a chaser. Like not everything has to be a shot.
Suzy Chase: I read that you took out shrimp wiggle. What's that?
John Becker: It's an odd one, it was actually brought back. So our last edition, the 75th anniversary edition that was released in 2006, there was a concerted effort made in that edition to bring back some of the recipes that had disappeared pretty early on from our publication history. Ones that were taken out by the 60s even, so shrimp wiggle, I want to say that it's a bechamel that has been fortified with ketchup.
Megan Scott: ... and clam juice.
John Becker: ... and clam juice.
Megan Scott: ... and it has peas, green peas in it, and obviously shrimp, and then it's served over toast.
John Becker: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: Oh!
Megan Scott: Yeah, exactly.
John Becker: Yeah, that did not test well.
Suzy Chase: Irma fought tooth and nail, not to publish photos in this cookbook. How come?
John Becker: Well, at the time, so this was in the lead up to the 1951 edition. At the time the person that the publisher at the time, Bob's Merrill, had decided that they wanted to do the pictures, had absolutely no experience with food photography, and actually happened to be, I think a brother of one of the editors that was working on that edition. So that was definitely part of it, is that they felt maybe this wasn't the right guy to do it. But also, they resisted it later. Marion especially resisted it later, just because she felt like it would date the book. I mean, you look at older Betty Crocker editions, and you can kind of see the validity of that concern.
I mean even in the 90s, well in the late 90s early 2000s, we actually did come out with a series of single subject books called the All About series. There was food photography done for those, the smaller volumes. Even that photography it's still fairly decent. The color temperature seems a little off. You could definitely tell, even books that are really not in the large scheme of things, that old, that the aesthetics of food photography, or even of props and all of that stuff, it changes so fast. We only publish every 10 years or thereabouts, I mean, ideally every 10 years. So it definitely seems like by the time a new edition rolls around, that food photography is probably going to be looking a little stale. Plus, we have so much to communicate.
Megan Scott: Yeah. If we did have food photography, which we did actually, we talked about for a hot minute for this edition, but we ultimately decided against it because it would have been just a couple small sections of the book, with a handful of photos that can in no way represent an 1100 page cookbook like Joy of Cooking.
Suzy Chase: When you're out and about, what are some fan favorites that you hear over and over again?
Megan Scott: Well, definitely the pancake recipe is a big one. We actually have a friend who has memorize the pancake recipe when he was a kid, and still can do it from memory. But yeah, we hear about that one all the time. Then the chocolate chip cookies, the brownies. What are some other things that we hear about?
John Becker: For some reason, the pot roast and the beef stew recipes have a big following. I'm really happy that people enjoy those recipes. But yeah, it definitely seems like, people get really excited about the basics. Oh yeah, the banana bread.
Megan Scott: Oh yeah banana bread and carrot cake.
Suzy Chase: I was wondering why this edition was so massive. It's much larger than past editions. Then I read about the task of your father, Ethan, updating joy in the mid 90s, and the regrets after that was released. Talk a little bit about that.
John Becker: So Ethan had been wrangling with publishers, primarily McMillan, for years. He actually in the mid 80s I think that he had a manuscript for a new revision, that was pretty close to being finished, but was unable to publish it because of disputes with the publisher. This kind of thing continued for quite a while, and I'm sorry to say, so I guess it was the cookbook section of McMillan. I'm not exactly sure how, unfortunately I was really young at that point, so I'm not exactly sure what the machinations were, but we ended up with a new publisher, Simon & Schuster/Scribner imprint.
Our agents at the time were really trying to make sure that the book got the revision that it deserved. So a very well known, well-connected, very talented editor was brought on, Maria Guarnaschelli, and she commissioned quite a few of food writers that she knew, up and coming as well as established food writers, to help revise the book. It was a massive undertaking and they really tried to, let's just say that they started from scratch in some areas, where they just made it very hard for... They set themselves a very difficult task. By the end of it, the manuscript had just ballooned to a ridiculous length, and a lot of stuff got lost when it had to be edited down.
The real problem was that we lost the canning chapters, we lost the frozen dessert chapters, we lost the cocktail chapter. Which is really sad, because the first recipe in the first edition, was actually for a gin cocktail. Irma published during prohibition. A little bit of the spirit of the book was lost there and then-
Megan Scott: Essentially it was just, it was more of a rewrite than a revision. So I think a lot of joy readers were really disheartened, because the book seemed to have lost its personality, which is something that really resonated with a lot of folks. So I think there were just a lot of disappointed people with that edition, in spite of the fact that a lot of really talented people worked on it.
John Becker: A lot of the recipes that were added during that edition are some of my favorites. You know, it was a necessary update. The book hadn't been given any TLC in over 20 years by that point. A lot of the international recipes that were added in the 90s are really, really wonderful. So with the 2006 edition, the last one, Ethan and the editorial team, tried to bring back the best of the '97, well to incorporate the best from the '97, but also bring back a lot of that older legacy material from the 1975, for the 75th anniversary edition.
Megan Scott: But something we tried to do in this edition was, we didn't want to rewrite the book, we wanted to modernize it without making it too... We didn't want anything to be too trendy or of the moment, we wanted it to be what the older editions of joy are, which is really classic and kind of timeless. We want people to be using this edition, you know, 20, 30, 40 years down the road. So we tried to update it in a really thoughtful, measured way. We weren't interested in going back to a bygone age, nor were we interested in doing something so trendy that it will be a little bit out of date in five or 10 years.
Suzy Chase: In 2017 Bon Appétit wrote an article entitled, the obsessive sport of shopping for a vintage Joy of Cooking. People obsess over finding old editions, a first edition can fetch anywhere from $1500 to $15,000. Do you have a particularly interesting story of a first edition that someone found, or has been handed down over the years?
John Becker: Actually, my father Ethan recently visited, and brought with him two first editions, first printing, the original printing. One of which was signed by everybody, it's signed by Irma, by Marion, by Ethan. Really did feel like kind of a passing of the guard moment. It's just something I'll treasure forever. But yeah, I mean we really don't have too many stories regarding first editions, because they are super rare, as their prices would seem to indicate.
Yeah, I mean finding one with a dust jacket intact, is extremely difficult. In fact, we have a fragment of a dust jacket for only one of our copies. Luckily, there was a facsimile of the first edition that was published in 1998. So for those that are curious as to what Irma put into the original edition, those are available for a much more reasonable sum. I mean most of the interesting stories that we have about older editions of joy, are not like the collector's type stories.
They're more like, for instance, I think it was maybe last year or the year before, we received a paperback edition, which it's the 1963 edition. That was the one that was turned into a paperback, a two volume paperback as well as a single volume. It was in a Ziploc, I mean it was just completely destroyed. It came with this incredibly sweet note from someone. She was about ready to go into the nursing home, and she wanted us to have the book because she said that it had seen three marriages, and help her raise six children. She just detailed what this book had been through with her.
Megan Scott: She was worried that her children wouldn't know the value of it, and they would just throw it away. So she wanted us to have it. That was a really, that was an amazing thing to receive.
Suzy Chase: This week I made two recipes out of the cookbook. Wanda's Stewed Cranberry Beans on page 212, and Rombauer Jam Cake on page 732. Can you describe these recipes and the inspiration for them?
Megan Scott: Well the Wanda's cranberry beans, Wanda is my grandmother. So I have come from a farming family, and my grandmother and grandfather grew cranberry beans every year, and they would shell them. We would all get together in the late summer, and shell them and freeze them for the winter. So she would cook these beans every single Sunday for as long as I can remember. It's really just a ham hock in it. Really, really, really simple, but kind of one of my favorite things to eat. Then the Rombauer jam cake is an older recipe, and it's kind of like a spice cake, but it has raspberry jam in the batter. Usually when I make it I like to use, there's like a brown sugar icing that you can make to drizzle over it, that I really love.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called my favorite cookbook. And this, it's crazy asking you this, but what is your all time favorite cookbook and why?
Megan Scott: I don't know if I can pick one because there are a few that I'm thinking of, that were some of the first cookbooks I ever bought, and that really taught me a lot, or that I just really loved reading through. One of them was Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. That is an amazing book, and I think it was just recently revised, like maybe last year. But also I remember getting A Platter of Figs by David Tanis, and that kind of... I grew up in the South, so I didn't really have any experience with California cuisine, and that book was really influential for me.
Suzy Chase: And John?
John Becker: You know I, again, our cookbook library is gigantic and it's really hard to pick a favorite, but I am going to have to say A Super Upsetting Book About Sandwiches, just because it's really, really funny. Obviously the recipes are fantastic, but yeah, by Tyler Kord of No. 7 Sub. Is it No. 7 Subs?
Megan Scott: Yeah.
John Becker: I remember, not knowing what to expect when I picked it up, but it was definitely one of those ones that I kept on going back to, to read.
Megan Scott: Yeah, it's pretty delightful.
John Becker: I'm surprised you didn't say Joy of Cooking for your favorite cookbook. Oh, I thought that, that was off limits. Otherwise I would have to say that, because not only family loyalty, but it's also the one I know. I mean it's obviously we know that book really well. I guess we didn't touch on this, but when we were testing recipes when we first started, we were doing for each one that we tested, we did these genealogies for each one to see like what edition it was added to. Yeah. I mean it's definitely our favorite. I mean, it's my favorite cookbook because I just have so much invested in it, and I know it so well. But yeah, for some reason I thought that was off limits.
Suzy Chase: Well, I usually say, what's your favorite cookbook other than this cookbook? But I thought, come on. I mean.
Megan Scott: Yeah, I didn't think we could say Joy of Cooking, but joy was one of the first books that I ever bought for myself, and I did not grow up in a Joy of Cooking family. So my mom never had, she didn't have the book. I just kind of, when I moved out, I knew that Joy of Cooking was this amazing kitchen resource, that I just needed to have. So I bought it for myself, and yeah, loved it. That was before I met John.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Megan Scott: We are on Instagram at The Joy of Cooking, and Twitter The Joy of Cooking, and on Facebook it is just Joy of Cooking.
Suzy Chase: What a treat it was chatting with you about the most popular American cookbook. Thank you so much for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Megan Scott: Thanks so much for having us.
John Becker: It was a pleasure.
Outro: Subscribe over on CookerybytheBook.com, and thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Nov 18 2019
Almonds, Anchovies and Pancetta
By Cal Peternell
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the book podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Cal Peternell: My name's Cal Peternell and I'm the author of most recently, "Almonds, Anchovies and Pancetta." I also wrote "12 Recipes" and "A Recipe for Cooking," and I'm the host of the "Cooking by Ear" podcast.
Suzy Chase: Growing up in the late '70's and early '80's, it's my understanding that meat was the center of the American plate. I mean the message, beef, it's what for dinner got drummed into our heads. Talk about the idea of being vegetable focused.
Cal Peternell: You know, if you go farther back than that, because I know what you're talking in the beef, it's what for dinner campaign and all that. But if you go farther back, all the way back, people have been eating this way for a long time. Where they eat a lot of vegetables, grains, greens, beans and they use a little bit of the right kind of meat, mostly cured pork or cured fish, to add a little flavor to it. And also, it's an economical way to eat, where you don't have to have a big roast, you can have just a little smoked pork, like a ham hock or something like that, that you throw in with the greens or a little bit of cured anchovies that you put in your salad or you put ...
So that you can feed a lot of people with a lot of vegetables and just add that little extra deliciousness with a small amount of the right kind of meat. And it's really the way that I like to eat and my family likes to eat now. And I think a lot of people like to eat that way.It's not that we're vegetarians, it's just that we really love vegetables and we want to eat a lot of them.
Suzy Chase: Take me through the thought process of narrowing down this cookbook to three main ingredients.
Cal Peternell: Well, I always had this fantasy about opening a restaurant that would be called Anchovies and Pancetta because those would be the only kinds of meat that were served there. That we'd be doing, like I say, lots of vegetables and salads and stuff and just be seasoning them with the meats like that. And I was actually at an event in New York at the 92nd Street Y, and I was talking about that and I said maybe I could write a cookbook like that and my editor and agent were both in the audience and they both perked up and we talked about it afterwards and we came up with this idea that we could come up with a book that had three chapters for each of those ingredients, so it's almonds, anchovies and pancetta.
And I guess the way I chose them is there's more than those three ingredients flavoring the dishes in this book. So there's almonds in the almond chapter, but also other kinds of nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts. And in the anchovy chapter there's also things like bottarga and shaved bonito and fish sauce and of course in the pancetta chapter there's all kinds of cured pork. But those are the ones that I use the most to deliver a little extra fat. Of course, anchovies and pancetta deliver salt as well. But there's something more that they bring, because you could just add salt.
I've come to believe that they represent a certain amount of time and also if you think about in a way as sort of like an artifact of the time that it took for it to either grow on the tree or the fish to reach maturity in the ocean or the livestock, the pork, the pigs on the farm. But then if you cure fish or pork, there's extra time that's going into it. It's sort of a short cut, because I love to do long cook dishes, like last night I cooked a pork shoulder and I seasoned it the day before and then I brought it to room temperature for a couple of hours and then I braised it for a couple hours and I love that.
But you don't always have time for that. So by using these ingredients that already kind of, one of the things that they have in them in addition to salt is time. Not the herb, but actual hours. And so you're kind of short cutting. You're getting that depth of flavor that you might get from long cooking, but you're just doing it in the moment, because that pancetta has already got the time in it. That gives it that depth.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of salt, you say cooking is so much about salt. Why is that?
Cal Peternell: Well, these ingredients, of course, the nuts aside, there's so many things are considered delicious delicacies now that are born out of the ability to use salt to preserve food. So that when you have an abundant catch, you eat all the fish you can right now, but you can't eat it all now, so you have to figure out a way to make it last, in case tomorrow there's no fishing in that. And salt is what allows you to do that. And the same with pork. There's a scene that I've always loved from "Grapes of Wrath," when the Joad family is packing up their farm and getting ready to head west and they have a couple of pigs and they slaughter them and they keep the chunks of meat and they pack them in these barrels full of salt. And then they roast the rest of it. The ribs and the bones and the stuff that won't really work being salted and they just have a feast of pork.
But they can't eat it all, so they pack it in salt and bring it with them and eat it over the months on the road. And I feel like that, salt is what makes that kind of thing possible and these foods that we all love, things like baklava and umeboshi and on and on, were born out of that kind of planning ahead, being sort of thrifty and they only can happen because of salt. I think also then, on a flavor level, salt, as my friend Samine says, salt makes things taste more like what they are.
Suzy Chase: Yep.
Cal Peternell: It sort of emphasizes their own innate flavor and I think that sometimes people are a little shy about salt, about using salt. Or they feel like they're not that confident, they don't know quite how to use it. Which leads one to my one rule about cooking, which is that you always need to taste your food and one of the things you're often tasting for is salt.
Suzy Chase: I just got maldon salt. What's the one way you use maldon? Because I'm not sure exactly what to do with it.
Cal Peternell: Yeah, I think maldon is great. I love maldon salt. I actually kind of ... you've probably done this too. You frame one of those beautiful little pyramids and you do a snack on it.
Suzy Chase: That's the only thing I've done with it.
Cal Peternell: Yeah. I mean, maldon of course, you're not going to throw a handful of maldon salt into your pasta water because it's all about the texture of those little crystals. It's a finishing thing and I think, I like to put it on, like if you were ... Hard boiled eggs is a great place to put it. If you butter a piece of bread and put a slice of radish on it, like french style, that's a great place for that kind of salt. And there's maldon, there's other salts that are being produced like that now.
They're about the texture, so you want to use it in a place where you're going to notice that texture. So just finishing things and also, it's quite beautiful, so you want to be able to see it.
Suzy Chase: So I'm always striving to become a more instinctive cook. How can this cookbook help us home cooks with that?
Cal Peternell: What I try and do with my cookbooks is set a tone that allows you to relax and really cook and I really try to be not too demanding of my reader. I find some cookbooks, even ones that I really admire, there can sometimes be this kind of demand for ... you have to have the right piece of equipment or have to have just the very best ingredients that can sometimes actually be a barrier to cooking. So I always say, you should cook with what you have now. You should think about those ingredients and think like, you know, I should try and get better turnips, these were okay, but next time I'm going to ... I saw those really beautiful ones at the farmer's market I'm going to try and get those or if you only ... so many dishes start with onions, carrots and celery and if you're missing the carrot, it doesn't mean you shouldn't go ahead and cook with onions and celery. But you should think about like, what does the carrot bring to it? What am I missing here and maybe next time I should add some carrots. They last a long time in the fridge, I'll just make sure I have them.
Likewise with equipment. If all you have is a thin aluminum pan, it doesn't mean you shouldn't cook dinner tonight, but you should start looking when you're at the flea market next time for some nice cast iron that's going to make you a better cook. And as far as being ... I think that also, I often offer alternatives to ingredients. If you don't have this, you could use this. Or if you don't ... In this book, if you don't love anchovies, than honestly I think if you think that you don't love anchovies, you actually do love anchovies, you just haven't really had them the right way.
You can use the almonds often in the place of those. So I think being instinctual cook comes down to ... The honest truth is you have to cook a lot. You have to find the pleasure in cooking that will encourage you to keep cooking and that will eventually make you a better and more instinctual cook, because you've already done it before and you're remembering, oh yeah, the other time when I did this it worked that way so it'll probably work that way again. Or it didn't work out and so this time I should to do it a little bit differently.
I don't think people should cook a recipe just once, I think they should cook it a couple of times until they feel like they kind of really get what's happening with that combination of ingredients.
Suzy Chase: In the almond section you have a recipe for almond butter and cucumber sandwiches with shallots. Describe this and why is this recipe personal and private for you?
Cal Peternell: I think we all have our guilty snacks, our guilty pleasure thing that maybe we don't ... we try to run out of the store before anyone sees us with it in our hands. I have mine. They're salty snacks, I won't say exactly what they are, but-
Suzy Chase: Cheez It's?
Cal Peternell: Yeah, it's something like that.
Suzy Chase: Okay, go on.
Cal Peternell: But then we also we have that thing. I don't know if you have it, but definitely these things that, especially when I'm working and I'm by myself and I'm just hungry and I go in the kitchen and I start looking around. And those little sandwiches came out of that. Out of having that combination of ingredients and just thinking, oh that could come together in a really great way that would satisfy what I need right now. Some nice bread, I like to use the dense, grainy bread that I think of as being more Northern European kind of bread and either toasted or not. Spread it with some nice almond butter. A couple slices of cucumbers, a little bit of shallots or scallions that you squeeze a little lemon or lime juice so it tempers them a little bit and you put that on top there and it's like a little open faced sandwich.
It's the kind of thing that it felt like, oh this is my snack and nobody else would really go for this, that combination of things. But then I started to think, you know, actually I think probably everybody has something like this. And so, I included that in the book, not only because I think it's delicious and I think other people might too. But just to encourage people to try to get back that instinctive thing that's ... And something we talk about on the podcast is we think people have gateway dishes that they're afraid to cook. They feel like they don't have the instinct for it. But if you can show them that one thing that they can make and have success with, it can give them the confidence to like, oh if I could make that little sandwich that good, maybe next time I could do something more with it. Or, you know, it's not that far off from another dish. That I should try that. And you build on that and your confidence grows and you become better.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. I think a lot of cooking is confidence.
Cal Peternell: Yeah. And I think every time I take a lift, you know ride, I always ask my driver, do you cook? And a lot of times they'll say now and I push and I'm like, well really? Because it's hard for me to imagine someone who never cooks anything. And you know, usually they'll admit, they might say, yeah no, I don't cook. And I'm like what about toast? Do you make toast? And most people will admit that they do. And I feel like, that's cooking. That's a step. In my first book in 12 Recipes, the first chapter is about toast, because we've all had toast, it's just okay, and then you also, hopefully you've had that time where you're like, oh my god, this is something really different. And it might be because the bread was really great of it might be because someone swiped a clove of garlic over it and poured on some delicious olive oil.
Or it might be just because you're really hungry. But thinking about what you're ... Being attentive to what you're doing. Being present with the ingredients that you have, I think can start to give you that confidence of like oh, I get it. I get what's happening here in the kitchen and can lead to more confidence and eventually to a certain amount of innovation.
Suzy Chase: So moving on to the anchovies section, you have a recipe for artichokes and new onions baked with anchovies and bread crumbs. Talk about how you and Russell Moore used to make this dish together at Chez Panisse.
Cal Peternell: Russ and I go way back. We were chefs together at Chez Panisse for many years. And we also would cook a lot together at my house or his house with friends. There was something that would happen when he and I would cook. And there's a few other friends who are cooks that this same kind of synergy happens where we know each other well enough. We've cooked together well enough that we truly collaborate and kind of flowed together. It's almost like, I don't know if this sounds goofy but it's a little bit like a dance.
Sometimes we don't have to talk too much, we just kind of have this thing where we're really on the same page and if you've ever had that kind of an experience of crafting something together with someone, it can be kind of profound and really comforting in a way. That you have a kindred spirit. And in the book I talk about how my wife and I cook together and I guess we have something similar, but she ... It's not really her thing. I mean, she likes to be with me and we like to chat while she's spinning the lettuce and I'm making the vinaigrette or whatever. There's just something more that happens with someone who's really on the same page with you. And that's a recipe that Russ and I came up with when we were still cooking at Chez Panisse and we just wanted to make this little bundles of ... you know. It was spring, the artichokes were beautiful, the new onions were amazing. I don't know if you are familiar with new onions, but they kind of look like a giant scallion.
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Cal Peternell: They're just a great thing to eat raw, to fry, to roast. They work so many ways and they're really lovely too, sometimes they're kind purple. So we roast the onions, we cook the artichokes and we curled the onion around the artichoke and put a little bit of anchovy on there and some bread crumbs. Of course, we put lots of olive oil and baked it and you know, bread crumbs and anchovies all kind of come together and there was like this little loose bundles that we served with grilled lamb. But they're great any way.
They do take a little bit of work because there's artichokes involved and whenever you're cooking with artichokes there's a certain amount of prep. But it's totally worth it and the season for them is coming up. You know spring time is when those ingredients are at their best.
Suzy Chase: So you mentioned your wife, Kathleen Henderson, who's an artist. And I'm going to read a blurb from "Art in America." It says Henderson's scenarios generally take place against a stark background of blank white paper. That made me think of you plating food on a blank white plate. Do your artistic styles converge at all?
Cal Peternell: They do. And maybe not though in the way you might expect. It's interesting that you point that out, the white plate, white paper thing, because I do think that ... it just makes me think about ... It's something I said to Alice Waters when I was still at Chez Panisse and when we travel we'd eat in all the restaurants that are getting the buzz and stuff. And I came back from a trip one time and I said Alice, I think the fact that we're just putting food on a regular flat ceramic plate is an incredible innovation right now, because if you're eating at these places where food is served on a stone or a log or a little dish that you carry and you have to hold in your hand and pull the pin before you eat it or someone's spraying bubbles at you. I ate a dessert one time that was served on a pillow full of lavender smoke. So it's funny to think about food being just served on a plate and what that's like. No one's doing that.
Suzy Chase: So for the pancetta section of the book, I made your recipe for brusselsssprouts with pancetta, ginger and cilantro on page 147.
Cal Peternell: Oh, great.
Suzy Chase: So let's talk about that dish.
Cal Peternell: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: First, can you describe it?
Cal Peternell: I came up with this recipe for brussels sprouts that includes a little pancetta. You could use bacon too. But that it brings in some Asian flavors like ginger, cilantro and basically you roast the brussels sprouts. If they're big, which they usually are, a little bit too big to roast whole, I cut them in half, I toss them with a little oil and salt, put them in a nice hot oven. Sometimes you got to splash a little water on the tray if things are starting to get too dark before they get cooked through, because to me, I want them to cooked all the way. I don't want to be crunching so much on them.
And then you just saute a little bit of pancetta, like I said you could also use bacon and in fact, if you were vegan, you could use almonds here for vegetarian. You cook the pancetta a little bit. You throw in a little bit of ginger, let that sizzle. Maybe do this thing that I love to do with herbs, so many times herbs are added right at the end, but cooking herbs in the pan does an amazing thing. It kind of infuses the flavor into the fat that you're using. It also fats the color. So I throw in a good handful of cilantro and let it sizzle in there with the pancetta and ginger and then throw the brussel sprouts that are already cooked in. Toss it around. Squeeze on lime juice. Taste it, see if it needs a little more lime juice. And that's it. And it's kind of, it's both familiar but also a little exotic because it's got a little ginger and cilantro.
How did yours come out?
Suzy Chase: It was amazing. I'm going to make it for Christmas.
Cal Peternell: Oh yeah? Good, perfect. Yep.
Suzy Chase: The cilantro and the ginger is so unexpected. You just don't, you're like, what is that, oh my gosh.
Cal Peternell: Excellent. I'm so glad to hear that. And it looks nice too, right? It's sort of-
Suzy Chase: It's so pretty.
Cal Peternell: Yeah. And you could put a little, I don't know if it's in the recipe, I don't think it is. But you know, like so many things, a little bit of hot pepper flakes if you want something a little spicy would be nice in there too.
Suzy Chase: So, you have a podcast that I adore called "Cooking by Ear." Can you tell us about it?
Cal Peternell: So "Cooking by Ear" is a podcast that my partner, Kristina Loring, my podcast partner and I came up with. We had this intention to find a way to make a podcast that could teach you to cook. That you could actually cook along with in real time. And I called my guests or I'd send them email and we'd agree on ... and I asked them, what would you like me to teach you to cook? And we come up with a dish that works in the time that we have and I show up at their house and the guest is sort of a proxy for the listening audience, because we felt like we need to make it ... I have so many years of experience cooking and I can get a little too chefy maybe sometimes.
Like with the books, I wanted to be very approachable and inclusive. And so having a guest who's not a professional cook brings me back to the level of the lay person who's cooking along. They keep me in line a little bit if I'm going too fast or if I'm not explaining something enough. So we get ourselves set and when you download the episode of "Cooking by Ear," you also get an ingredients list, a shopping list. So when you have your ingredients together and you're in the kitchen and you got air puffs and fans and you're ready to go, you hit play, and you cook along with us in real time. The episodes are 40 to 50 minutes.
For example, the first episode was with the actress, Frances McDormand, who's just wonderful and funny. So we went to her house and while we cut the onions you cut the onions. And then while the onions are cooking, it takes a little while, so we talked to Fran about how she decided to be a pig in "Mom" or we talk about how her husband, Joel Coen, loves to make pies. And then when the onions are done and we start cooking the risotto you do the same. And then while simmering along we talked to Fran about the way her mother would make these salads or whatever.
And at the end of it, you're cooking along with us, of course you can hit pause if you're timing is off or if you get called away for something for a second. But the idea is, 45 minutes later, you've not only heard these funny stories about Frances McDormand and got to sort of get to know in a more intimate way because you're in her kitchen with us. But you also have a pot of risotto done and you've learned to make it. I don't know if you've heard the one with Fran, but it's hilarious and there's a lot of other ones that are really funny and sometimes sad and poignant. And worth a listen.
Suzy Chase: I did. I loved that she gave you a tour of her kitchen. So in my head I have this visual of her kitchen.
Cal Peternell: Yeah, yeah. And she showed us some of her favorite plates and things like that.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. Uh huh.
Cal Peternell: Yeah, and we've been really lucky and for me, I've learned as much from our guests as hopefully they have learned from me. But we've been really lucky with getting amazing people to join us in the kitchen and I found that when you are around food and you're eating and you're cooking, you have a task, that it opens a door a little wider into people's lives. In season one, we also cooked with the amazing poet, Tommy Pico. Director Mira Nair who made "Mississippi Masala" and "Monsoon Wedding." We cooked with Alexander Payne who made "Sideways" and "Downsizing." He was really hilarious.
We went to New Orleans and switched the format up a little bit and the hip hop artist, Big Freedia showed us how to make her booty pop and potatoes, which was-
Suzy Chase: Okay, stop. What else did she show you how to do?
Cal Peternell: She gave me a lesson, I'm not going to say that she taught me how to twerk, because I absolutely cannot twerk.
Suzy Chase: Oh my god.
Cal Peternell: She gave me a twerking lesson and I can tell you, she summed it up ... actually she got very excited because she said that we gave her a new hook for a song.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, then she had to write it down.
Cal Peternell: Yeah, she ran and wrote it down and she ran and told the boyfriend that she just got it and goes like this. You put your hands on your hip and you arch you back. You put your booty in the air and you shake it like. Or twerk it like that.
And it turns out I can't really get low enough. I need to do much more Pilates or something in order to deal with it.
Suzy Chase: Squats?
Cal Peternell: In order to be able to twerk right. Have you ever tried to do it?
Suzy Chase: No.
Cal Peternell: No. Yeah. I thought like, oh my god, I'm going to hurt myself, they're going to have call 911.
Suzy Chase: Throw something out. Well I think it's great. There are so many food podcasts out there just talking about food. But I think it's so brilliant that you're in the kitchen and we can hear your conversation and the cooking sounds. I love it. So that takes me to my segment called my last meal.
Cal Peternell: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: What would you order for your last supper?
Cal Peternell: I was thinking about this and it's a dish that I've been a little bit obsessed with and I'm not alone and it's spaghetti cacio e pepe. Do you know cacio e pepe?
Suzy Chase: Yeah. You know it's funny, I interviewed a cookbook author yesterday and she said the very same thing.
Cal Peternell: Okay, well that's because it's the most delicious and comforting. I would demand that it's spaghetti cacio e pepe and it's made with one very, very long strand of spaghetti that just goes on and on and on. And I would slurp it up slowly.
Suzy Chase: Never ending.
Cal Peternell: And I'd ask for a glass of cheap red wine to go with it.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web, social media and where can we find your podcast?
Cal Peternell: My website is calpeternell.com. On social media I'm @calpeternell, one word. And the podcast is available everywhere you get your podcast, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, you know, all the podcast places.
Suzy Chase: Wonderful. Well thanks so much Cal for coming on "Cookery by the Book" podcast.
Cal Peternell: Yeah, thanks for having me, it's been a real pleasure.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram at cookery by the book and subscribe at cookerybythebook.com or in Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening to "Cookery by the Book" podcast, the only podcast devoted to cookbooks since 2015.
Jan 14 2019
Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book 17th Edition
By Jan Miller & Jessica Christensen
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
Jan Miller: I'm Jan Miller, the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens 17th edition of the New Cook Book.
Suzy Chase: I don't think there's another cookbook that's a good friend in the kitchen like the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. They're all more like a collection of recipes.
With the iconic red and white plaid, you don't have to put a title on the cover of that cookbook, people already know. Was the cover always red and white plaid?
Jan Miller: No, it wasn't. In fact, the very first book that was done in 1930, was sort of a greenish and had had a black square on it. It was not very cookbook looking and it started as a premium for the magazine. So if you ordered a subscription of the magazine, then you got this wonderful little collection of recipes from the Better Homes and Gardens Tasting Test Kitchen.
Suzy Chase: Was it a pamphlet? Or was it a regular size?
Jan Miller: They did do a quick little bind up of just a few recipes that was a pamphlet that you could get for like 10 cents, and then it did grow. I think they had great response from that, so the very first book that they did was, like I said in 1930, and it was a ring bound right away and it was a full size book.
And it's interesting, I love the editor's letter from that first book because she's really talking to the woman of the home, I mean, she's saying "you are an efficient, home business woman", and so the reason that we created this book in this format is if you stand that book up on its spine and you see all the tabbed chapter openers, those little tabs, then that was like their filing cabinet. And so they encouraged women to punch holes in other recipes and to add to this book, and that was the reason, initially, for the ring bound.
Suzy Chase: Oh! I thought it was so it would lay flat on your counter?
Jan Miller: It absolutely did that as well and that was the other reason that women loved it, but it was two-fold, it really was. They wanted it to be very functional and, honestly, as the years went on and the book just gained in popularity, the magazine did start to have little perforated lines to indicate that you should cut your recipes out of your magazine and punch them and put them in your cookbook.
Suzy Chase: I love the tab dividers. How come you got rid of those?
Jan Miller: Well, this 17th edition really took an entirely right turn. I think what people maybe don't think about this book is every time we redo a new edition, we're trying to make sure that we're speaking to the home cook today.
And it's a book that you receive, maybe when you have a life change or you're getting your first home, you're leaving the house, you know, just to get your own first apartment. There's a lot of times that this is definitely a gift purchase, and so, we know that oftentimes it's a younger cook who uses this book, so we do a lot of research and talking to young cooks of the day, as we're trying to update the edition. And I had so much feedback from some of the folks. We do informal and then we also do very formal research as well, so you get quantifiable research but I also love the gut and I love research that you get and I love just talking to other people as well.
But they really wanted a book that felt like they could leave it on their counter, that would really line up nicely with all their other cookbooks on their shelf, and the format just started to take on a life of its own. They wanted this heavy book that felt a little bit more modern. And so that was the reason for going to the hardcover this year, as opposed to the ring binding.
Suzy Chase: In the 17th edition, you've concentrated on what we're eating today. What are some of the modern trends that are included?
Jan Miller: Oh my goodness. We really picked up on ... there's a lot of bowls. You know, [now that 00:04:46] we're eating so many things in a bowl. There's grain bowls, there's noodle bowls, there's a smoothie bowl. We've included some of the boards. My Instagram is so full of all the boards, food on a board, and so we did a few of those.
I would say the section that probably got the most love and the most updating was our meatless section. I mean there's so many great things out there, not just plant-based, but some of the other alternatives for protein and so, that just got an overhaul and a refresh.
Oh, for the first time, we also included fermenting in this book. And so how to make kombucha and kimchi, and there's a really yummy fermented whole grain mustard in the book.
Those are the biggies. I would say also more global flavors. All the big three: the Latin flavors, and Asian flavors and Italian flavors, those feel so assimilated into our regular eating. But more Middle Eastern flavors and some Moroccan, Indian influences now are starting to creep into the book, which is how it should be. We really have a greater demand for more interesting flavors, as we're eating out too, so people are wanting to definitely bring those into their home.
Suzy Chase: This has been the go to cookbook for more than 80 years, and a crazy fact is that the one millionth copy of the New Cook Book was sold in 1938. That boggles my mind.
Jan Miller: Isn't that amazing?
Suzy Chase: That's crazy!
Jan Miller: I mean, I think we're somewhere in the 37 to 38 million now.
It started, like you said at the start of this podcast, it really has an emotional tie to it. Mothers love this, they write in the pages, they send it, they pass it on to their daughters. Or grandmothers to their daughters, on to their granddaughters. There's just so much love that is associated with the book, that it just kept it going.
We get letters even from people that, if they've been in, I don't care if it's been the hurricanes or just a personal loss of the book, so many people want their edition replaced because there is that tie. So it's got a great story and a great history.
Suzy Chase: One thing that I read was Better Homes and Gardens really pioneered exact measurements. None of the "little bit of this" or "little bit of that" or "bake until done". I love that one, "bake until done". Okay.
Was this because housewives were fed up with vague measurements?
Jan Miller: Yes. I think housewives ... once again, they were really trying to speak to the woman who was in charge of her house. I mean, this was part of her just being on top of things and so, yes, exact measurements were so important to help make sure that she didn't have any more, you know, fails.
I will tell you though, still in the first edition, there is a lot of "bake until done", and there was a level of knowledge that the home cook just knew then. We can't say that now. We can't say-
Suzy Chase: No. Uh uh.
Jan Miller: You have to practically say: take it out of the oven, put it on the counter, take the lid off, take the temperature-
Suzy Chase: Turn your timer off.
Jan Miller: Yeah. There's so much now that we have to tell.
But exact measurements, and they did speak to that in that first editor's letter too, saying you can follow directions for mixing and handling and time and temperature, and we will also give you all exact measurements. And that was part of the test kitchen that started that.
It used to be called the Better Homes and Gardens Tasting Test Kitchen, and that drove a lot of that language in the book.
Suzy Chase: Let's go over some highlights of the different eras.
Jan Miller: Okay. [inaudible 00:09:03].
Suzy Chase: What was the original publishing date of the very first cookbook?
Jan Miller: 1930.
Suzy Chase: And then first in the '40s, during the wartime era, there was rationing. How was this dealt with in the cookbook?
Jan Miller: You know, it's interesting, as I can look through the collection of the books, you can see where they did different printings of the editions. Even, they would keep the guts of the book the same, but then they would add in certain things. And some of them were free little standing pamphlets that were tucked in. And so, you could see where they did things on victory gardens, at the end of the war, and some rationing pamphlets throughout. So, I would say, all of the recipes were always very efficient and used ingredients that were appropriate for the day, and so you see that reflected in just the general collection in the books back in that day.
There's a lot of dates. There's a lot of nut breads in the dessert times. You can see there's a very practical nature about the meat recipes. Nothing fancy or over the top. And you start to then see some of that change as you get into the '50s. And what I loved about the '50s, we started to add grilling in 1950, because that started. The backyard barbecue.
So it is fun to flip through all of the editions and see. It's definitely a reflection of what was happening in our homes.
Suzy Chase: In fact, during the '50s, Better Homes and Gardens coined the term "tossed salad". I thought that was funny.
Jan Miller: Yeah. Yeah.
You know, it's funny, we talk about that and, I will be honest with you, I'm not sure we have had good luck going back to get the full story on the background of that. We see it in our pubs but I wish there was more detail there. And there just hasn't been. I wish I could find it.
Suzy Chase: On to the '60s, where housewives started getting interested in foreign food and gourmet meals. Also, the cook at the table phase and fondue were two biggies.
Jan Miller: Oh my gosh.
Suzy Chase: Describe the at the table phase.
Jan Miller: At the table, that was a big deal. That's the thing that I love about this at the table phase, it's reflected in the pages of some of those cookbooks and the tables are so done, you know with the different serving pieces. Fondue, you know what you're expecting, with the forks and the trays of the things to dip and everybody's around the table. But, I'm trying to think of what examples of the some of the food, but it just is amazing at the level of serving pieces.
And the themes that we started to see, I think that's when some of that became very prominent in our "entertaining". You saw tropical themes, you saw Spanish themes. It's very fun and some of the photos, I feel like, look like illustrations from that time period and I just love them.
Suzy Chase: I think of Doris Day when I think of that time.
Jan Miller: Love that, me too.
Suzy Chase: I love her.
Jan Miller: Me too.
Suzy Chase: So, in the '70s, women started going to work because of inflation, so the cookbook introduced microwave meals. Talk a little bit about that.
Jan Miller: Yeah. Well, that was the big deal. That appliance was huge and so women wanted to know how to use it. And I think, when microwaves came into our world, they just thought that we were going to use that as our meal prep for the entire meal, and so they needed more guidance on how to not ruin a good piece of meat if you were going to do it in the microwave.
So the testing in our test kitchen really was pretty extensive then, in that you had to have a variety of microwaves, a variety that had different watt levels so that you could give your home cook time ranges depending on what the wattage of their microwave was. And so baking was a big deal. There were so many things that came out to help people try to brown their baked goods in the microwave, so there was a lot of testing around that.
Just a lot of guidance was required because there's good reason why now we just use our microwaves to pop popcorn and boil water and maybe bake a baked potato -
Suzy Chase: Totally!
Jan Miller: Because it just was not the best food. And again, so much help needed to navigate that. And we did whole cookbooks on that as well, so yes, certainly it was part of the New Cook Book, yeah.
Suzy Chase: I remember in the '70s, when my mom divorced my dad, finally, and my dad had this bachelor pad and he had this brand new white microwave and I was mesmerized by it.
And he was like, "Suzy, how do I work this?"
I was like, "I don't know."
We didn't even know how to work it. Ah, the good old days.
Jan Miller: But, it was the rage and everyone had one.
Suzy Chase: It was.
So onto the '80s, there was increased interest in low fat meals and nutrition information was added. And also, my favorite, table setting information was dropped. How come?
Jan Miller: Oh my gosh. You know what? You'll be happy to know that that was added back in not long after that.
Suzy Chase: Oh good.
Jan Miller: And we did include it in the new edition too because so many people want to know how to set their table. It's important.
Suzy Chase: It is. It is.
Jan Miller: The '80s were ... we definitely felt like we needed to look at our cholesterol and our sodium and fat. You know, fat was the big, bad nutrient. So people wanted to know what was in their food, and I would say the recipes weren't severely restricting of those nutrients, but as time went on, they got more so. I would say in our ... Oh my gosh. By 1996, that edition was very healthful and there was a section on health, and the recipes were ...
Oh my gosh, well, I worked on the 12th edition as a very young editor here at Better Homes and Gardens, and so that was the edition that followed right after that '96 edition. And I remember us all sitting around taste panel saying, oh my gosh, we've got to put the flavor back in some of these recipes. Where is the butter? Where is the salt? Where is the pepper? We're going to be okay here, we've got to do something.
And so, I would say that was the mark of just sort of walking away from that a little bit, but not entirely because to eat a healthful meal, makes everyone feel good. You know, moms feel good about putting wholesome nutritional food on the table and there's so many ways to accomplish that, and so I think, through the years, even from that point, when I kid about adding more flavor, we try to be very conscious about good, wholesome food and know that there are times that we want to splurge too and so there's certainly a lot of splurge recipes in the book as well.
Suzy Chase: So the '90s, you added preparation times to keep up with the fast-paced lifestyle. How did you figure out you needed to add that?
Jan Miller: You know, it's funny, we also added numbered steps for recipes. You just don't think about those things until you start to compare. But I think we just knew, and Meredith, we've always done a lot of research and known ... we've had a lot of conversations with our readers over the years and that just became so important to them. There was only so much time that they felt like they wanted to spend in their kitchen on a weekday, especially as both parents were working. And it got to the point where we knew that that's sort of how they started to filter some of their recipes of what they were willing to cook through the week.
And so it needed to be included and it needed to be at the top of the recipe so that they could see it and use it as a "Mmm, I'm not going to do that one tonight, but maybe that's a weekend recipe."
Suzy Chase: Now, for the first time, the 17th edition has a photo with every recipe and helpful guidance. Talk a little bit about that.
Jan Miller: Think about how our world has changed, just in terms of how we look at recipes. There's so much. We, admittedly, do a lot online. Instagram is such a visual social media outlet. But we knew that the formatting from the past years, home cooks when they had more skill, as well, they didn't necessarily need a photo of a finished food and they certainly didn't need as much step-by-step photography and so, as the years have gone on, we just know that step-by-step photography was needed in places where you just needed an extra helping hand.
And so, there are so many more how to images that have language about how to work through that step if it's really a key step. We tried not to put things in that were how to that just were how to images to fill a page because we wanted people to see what they really needed to see, when they needed to see it.
But we did commit to a finished food image with every recipe, and that is no easy task in this book.
Suzy Chase: I can't imagine. How long did it take to put this book together with all of that?
Jan Miller: It really is a year of solid work. And I know that our edit team spent probably more days down in our studio than they did at their desks, so it was a process. But, you know, it's an awesome process because it's another chance to look at the recipe, because we test it up in our test kitchen and then the editors that are working on the project, they also are down on the photo shoot too, and so it's kind of fun to see, to get the reviews even from the studio staff, because we all tasted it, tasted things at the taste panel, we knew some of the things that we loved that were some favorites and it's good to hear all the love come back upstairs too, when they're eating. Because we prepare the food like it is written for camera.
We do some things like maybe take back the amount of sauce, so you can see through, so that you see ingredients very well, but for the most part, our food stylists are preparing the food according to the recipe.
Suzy Chase: So you work out of an incredible test kitchen in Des Moines, Iowa. Give us a little background on the test kitchen, or as they used to call it the Taste Testing Kitchen.
Jan Miller: Yes, well that really has evolved as well. But I believe that we are the first test kitchen of this level and the length of longevity, I would say maybe we are the longest living test kitchen. But that started as just a way to give another stamp of endorsement. I think women, again, were needing a little bit more guidance and they wanted to make sure that they knew that they could trust a recipe.
It's funny, some of the first images from our test kitchen were illustrated. I mean, back in 1926, I think, the first images that they put in the printed magazine, to show off the test kitchen, they were illustrated and it was just a small little crew of maybe three to four home economists, but they worked so hard, those women.
Our Meredith Campus here in Des Moines, there's two buildings and the older building originally housed the test kitchen. And they would talk about how some of the executives would smell what was happening down in the test kitchen and take a wander down their way. There's so many wonderful little stories.
But it has, of course, evolved and grown and now there's eight kitchens for, I think we have six full-time home economists and they all test about five recipes a day. We have people who shop so that time isn't taken up by them being out and about shopping, and they can test more recipes. We have a multiple array of appliances that the home cook would have in their own home, so that we know that we're not testing on anything that's too high end or not going to be a similar experience to the home cook. It has to be that we're using appliances that they would use and brands of pretty much everything.
And I love that we're in Des Moines, Iowa because I think even when we're testing recipes for ingredients, we're a good example of what you can find across the US, in terms of ingredients.
So that kitchen is a key to our success here, definitely, and we couldn't do this book without them, for sure.
Suzy Chase: If you're including classic recipes in cookbooks, do you still have to run through those in the test kitchen?
Jan Miller: Yeah. We do. We do. Because it's funny how, our expectations maybe change of what that should be. So nothing is, I guess, assumed that it's going to be good enough for that new edition. There's times where we have put just a good old basic chocolate cake ... I mean, there was one day we had four chocolate cakes side by side, because I don't think you really sometimes know the nuances of the difference between a recipe until you taste them side by side, so we did quite a testing to make sure that we had the best chocolate cake. It was not painful to do, but it's just what makes the book relevant every year.
I mean, the best pumpkin pie. We've sometimes messed with our chocolate chip cookie formula, even to help with longer storage. So there's things that I think every classic recipe is up for a scrutinization, every time we do a new edition.
Suzy Chase: Have you seen on Etsy where people are patching and renovating their five ring binder Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book to make journals?
Jan Miller: Oh my gosh, I haven't but now I want to.
Suzy Chase: Oh my goodness! I went down the rabbit hole with that the other day on Pinterest. It's darling. It's so cute, you've got to look it up.
Jan Miller: Oh my gosh, I will.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called My Last Meal. What would you have for your last supper?
Jan Miller: Oh my goodness. I think ... We did, this is going to sound crazy-
Suzy Chase: No, it's not.
Jan Miller: Maybe. It might.
We did this incredible fattoush salad. Doesn't that sound nuts? It sounds nuts maybe. There's just something about the fresh and the ... Oh my god, I just loved that thing.
Suzy Chase: Describe the fattoush salad.
Jan Miller: Let me find it for you. Well, I think probably what gets me is ... well of course, there's a little pita bread in it, and so it's like a twist on a panzanella. But it's got a little pita bread in it and then the dressing is olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, and we did include a little bit of sumac, which was really yummy because it kicked the lemon up a little bit. And it had torn romaine, and cucumbers, and radishes, and green onions, and then ricotta salata cheese. It was delicious.
I don't know. I just love that. And then the herbs were mint and parsley, and I just love that mint parsley thing. I don't know what it is.
Suzy Chase: That's perfect.
Jan Miller: But that was delicious.
And then I would end on a double chocolate cake, because if you ever ask me, I'm always an eat dessert first kind of person and I just could never turn down a great piece of moist chocolate cake. So, if that doesn't tell you you can trust the chocolate cake in this book, I don't know what does.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook on the web and on social media?
Jan Miller: So if you just go to bhg.com and search red plaid, there is a link to purchase the cookbook. Otherwise, it's available anywhere ... this is our standard, anywhere quality books are sold, so you should find it on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, at Costco and big box stores, and Walmart. I think everybody's carrying it this holiday.
Suzy Chase: Who knew a cookbook born in the lean and difficult years of the Depression would become America's favorite cookbook.
Thank you Jan for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Jan Miller: Thank you for having me. I so enjoyed the conversation.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram at @cookerybythebook and subscribe at cookerybythebook.com or in Apple Podcasts.
Thanks for listening to Cookery by the Book podcast. The only podcast devoted to cookbooks, since 2015.
Jan 07 2019
One Dish Leads To Another
By Niki Segnit
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast Cookery by the Book with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Niki Segnit: My name is Niki Segnit and my new book is called Lateral Cooking: One Dish Leads to Another.
Suzy Chase: And here's the followup to your hugely successful 2010 book, The Flavor Thesaurus. This is a cookbook full of open-ended recipes, a dense... and that's a bit of an understatement... 610 page cookbook. Lateral Cooking is organized into 77 starting point recipes divided into 12 chapters, reducing the variety of world cuisine down to its bare essentials. I can't stress how unique this cookbook is. Can you talk a little bit about how one dish leads to another?
Niki Segnit: The book was originally conceived as a book about how to flavor lots and lots of different kitchen classics, so that was a very common sense follow-up to The Flavor Thesaurus. It would just be here's how to flavor ice cream or risotto or gnocchi in countless ways. It would be a kind of interesting directory for anybody who just wanted to maybe be a bit more ingredient led in their cooking. But in the years that I was researching it and going through, I mean thousands and thousands of recipes, I started to take notice of all the, if you like the patterns of how different recipes that we, you know, things that we might have thought of being very different to each other actually were very similar.
And what happened was I suppose I ended up deconstructing loads and loads of dishes from all over the world. I mean just, I guess there are thousands in the book and putting them into family groups. It's like a family tree of recipes. And what you get when you tuck into the reading of it, is that you'll see how lots and lots and lots of things are connected. And not only is that quite interesting if you like reading about food, but if you like cooking and you've always thought that maybe something was out of your confidence zone, when you see if it's quite close to something that you've made dozens of times before you can start to feel like, "Oh yes I can do that. It's close to something that I can make. So why wouldn't I give it a go?"
My overriding mission, as I got later into writing the book, was to also create a book that people could read if they wanted to learn to cook without using recipes. And so the whole book is written with that in mind, with that aim of people who want to become intuitive, who can just tug down a bowl from the shelf and get going on something because they know what to do.
Suzy Chase: In the early stages of Lateral Cooking, you drew up a list of the best things you had ever eaten. What were some of the items that were on that list?
Niki Segnit: So yeah, I mean so many of the things that are on that list are a broth and stock base, so they were butternut squash risotto, which I ate in a restaurant in London. A kind of sausage-y pasta I ate when I was on a business trip to North of Italy. A fantastic coq au vin that I once made, and in fact ended up putting in sandwiches, and that is a meal that my husband maintains is the best thing he's ever eaten. coq au vin sandwiches if you can believe it. Things like a chicken... I think you call it pollo con arroz... just chicken with rice which I ate in a beach in the South of Spain, that was just made with the darkest chicken stock I have ever, ever seen. That wonderful red braised Chinese pork. It just kind of came to me that so many of the really, really wonderful, deep, memorable things that I've eaten in my life are to do with starting with a good stockpot.
Suzy Chase: You have some obscure or counter-intuitive suggestions. Talk about one example with ice cream.
Niki Segnit: Yeah, I mean it's really funny. I think when you think of writing a book like this and you're thinking about flavoring different classics, ice cream is one of the things that has been really pushed to the limit everywhere. Don't you think? I don't know if there's any flavor that you haven't heard of. I mean I chose mainly 10 different examples of a lot of the classics and the olive oil one I chose to include because I ate it in a Spanish restaurant after having an argument with my husband, which I think I recount in the book because the book has quite a few stories and it's quite a chatty book. I mean but all you have to do to make an olive oil ice cream is to make a typical ice cream base and then whisk some good olive oil in it.
I think there's a description of it in the book that says something like it was the whole thing because it's so fruity and grassy, it tastes like a frozen picnic. It's absolutely fantastic. But you do have to choose a really good olive oil before you do that. So you just taste it on a spoon and if you think oil before you think olive then you had to choose another olive oil.
Suzy Chase: So yeah, oftentimes I find cookbooks to be so serious. And I love that you brought humor into this process and your stories.
Niki Segnit: It's the only way I know to be really. I have a slightly privileged position as a writer of cookbooks and this was the case for The Flavor Thesaurus as well, which is I'm just an amateur cook. In fact I'm a very keen amateur cook and I've cooked a lot of things and I've tested all the recipes but I'm not a chef. I'm not somebody who can preach on high or feels the need to take a very serious authoritative position. I do think, as you know, I'm talking to somebody who's in my kitchen who likes cooking like I do, who considers it a really good fun thing to do. There's never anything in my book that's trying to cajole people into making things or persuade them that, "oh come on, you can do this."
I know that the people that I'm writing for, this is quite... this is a book for keenies . This is a book for cooking geeks and people who just, who think about cooking all day. So I can talk to them about irritating incidents with cooking equipment or like where to get certain ingredients and stuff with a chatty flourish, I think.
Suzy Chase: Using bread as an example, talk a bit about committing a formula to memory as opposed to trying to remember 10 recipes.
Niki Segnit: This goes for quite a few of the chapters in the book, but bread is one of the smoothest as far as this is concerned because when I put in all the recipes together in continuum so they're linked up, what I've tried to do is not only keep the quantities the same wherever possible, but also to keep the language that's used to write the methods the same so that things become super familiar rather than it feeling like doing something different every time. So with the bread continuum, the first starting point on that line is unleavened flatbread which is just as simple as adding enough water to flour and a bit of salt in order to make a dough. And that's a very basic thing, but the flavors and variations in that section take you into so many interesting different places.
So actually it's the same thing to do if you want to make matzo crackers or if you want to make Scottish oatcakes. If you mix up that and grate a coconut you can make a Sri Lankan flat bread called pol roti. Or if you put some chickpea flour and actually some chopped up spinach and nigella seeds then you can make missi roti, which is a popular bread in Rajasthan. You can even make buckwheat Japanese noodles with the same dough. Okay, but we start with two cups of flour and about two thirds of a cup of water. And from there you can make so many different things and that's before you even kind of open the cupboard up and start looking at all the different flours that you've collected over the year because you've been buying all these kind of wonderful and interesting different flours from around the world.
And then as you progress along the bread continuum, the next thing we go to is biscuits and Irish soda bread and cobbler. And they're all made with the same formula. But again, I use the same two cups of flour and about two thirds of a cup of water so that it stays consistent. And in fact it stays consistent all the way through breads. So the next thing we have is leavened bread, so using yeast instead of using a chemical leavener. And then you have buns where you use milk instead of water and maybe a little bit of egg so you are enriching the dough. But in fact when you look at the proportions of those things, you're still using the same amount of liquid to flour. It's just that you're using it in beaten egg rather than water and milk in some places. And then the same with brioche.
And then finally that continuum ends up with babas and savarins. And that is where you take that too and you use some milk on top of water and you end up with a batter instead of a dough. But when you see all the different formulas written next to each other, so similar that all you have to do is just learn the little tweak that makes one thing another. So it's my contention that anybody can learn to make pretty much every bread from around the world in a week or less.
Suzy Chase: God, that's so clever.
Niki Segnit: It's always so interesting. I just thought it has revolutionized my cooking because when it comes to standards like that, when it comes to things that are like custards or breads or cakes and cookies, just being able to say, "Oh I want to make that so I'm going to get started," and don't have to consult anything. I cook like somebody who knows how to cook. Whereas previously I really was a recipe robot. Even as I was writing The Flavor Thesaurus I was someone who learned to cook by following recipes and cook like someone who learned to cook following recipes, because I didn't have any flexibility in me. I didn't have any confidence in my intuition and it hadn't occurred to me that actually you can learn to have intuition.
It sounds, I know of course it sounds ironic, but that's exactly what you'd do if you were a musician, you learn how to play the notes and then you can improvise, and that's what got me so excited about writing Lateral Cooking. It took eight years, which is a phenomenal amount of time to work on one project very deeply every day, but it was never boring because it's just such a fascinating thing to find all these amazing little connections between all these things that you want to eat or you want to try.
Suzy Chase: I don't know anyone who doesn't love a homey chicken or vegetable stock, so I would love to drill down on your brown chicken stock recipe that's on page 208. I made it over the weekend and I have so many questions. First off, what's the difference between stock broth and consomme?
Niki Segnit: I don't know if there's a really definitive difference between a stock and a broth, but I think there's a very useful one that comes up quite often, and it helped me decide how I was going to position them in the book. And that is with stock you throw the ingredients that you're using to flavor the water away and with broth you eat them. So that one's clear. With consomme of course you're doing that incredibly magical thing where you take the stock or broth, it's probably more likely to be a broth but it could be a stock, and then you clarify it and make sure it's flavorful enough in order to serve it as a soup on its own. I mean sometimes with consommes they're layered with... you'll make a stock and then you'll actually add some more flavors to it and then you might add something else because you're aiming for something that is, if you like, perfect in itself, you're not going to be serving it with anything else. Just that zinging clear soup.
Suzy Chase: So next to the ingredients are tiny letters that correspond to leeways. Tell us about leeways.
Niki Segnit: This came up as I was coming up with all these different flavor variations of recipes because I was collecting dozens of recipes for each of the starting points. I also started to note down, well what happens if I want to make this cake and I don't have that many eggs or I've only got baking soda and not baking powder, well those kinds of things came up. And so what I've done for each of the 77 start points is put little notes by all the ingredients, or some of the methods as well, just saying look if you don't have this, you can do this. This is how to make a buttermilk if you don't have any buttermilk. This is a standard amount of sugar but it would be absolutely fine to cut it down to a certain level or whatever you want.
So it's full of practical tweaks as well, if you like. I mean, I'm sure if you're a professional chef you never run out of anything. But of course for most of us home cooks, we don't necessarily have a perfectly stocked larder. So it's useful to know how to change things up if you're short of something or if you have certain dietary requirements. I try and talk about where the gluten is important and where it doesn't matter, that kind of thing.
Suzy Chase: This stock recipe starts off with browning the chicken pieces. Why brown?
Niki Segnit: Because it's a brown chicken stock we're going to brown them, so we're going to create more flavor. It's just as simple as that. So lots of people in some dishes, like our risotto, sometimes will call for a White chicken stock where you just don't bother with the browning at all. But this is just about adding depth of flavor.
Suzy Chase: And this calls for one onion but we shouldn't peel it. Why leave the peel on?
Niki Segnit: Again it's flavor and color. I mean, I think one of the great things about making a stock, and getting used to making stock, is that you realize that this is not like making a casserole or a start dish. It's about just kind of getting it in and getting it going, so. And the onion, if you ever made just an onion stock or vegetable stock, you know the onion peel adds a nice kind of brownie, appealing, flavorful looking color.
Suzy Chase: Then we can add tomato paste, wine or vermouth. What does this bring to the flavor profile?
Niki Segnit: Tomato puree, you're certainly going to to get some sharpness, and some umami in with the wine and vermouth. The Vermouth in particular, very aromatic. So if you're making something kind of Frenchy, chicken maybe, a blanquette if you know that dish, then something like vermouth is going to add some herbal flavors, some like very light floral flavors, a touch of bitterness in those instances. You can leave them out if you don't know what you're actually going to be doing with your chicken stock. If you're just making it maybe for a chicken noodle soup or you don't know kind of quite what you're going to do that yet, you might leave it plain, but I think if you're taking it a certain direction, you might want to add some of those kinds of different taste profiles.
Suzy Chase: So why should we start off with cold water as opposed to hot?
Niki Segnit: Down to the scientific side of things, if you put cold water in and you bring it very slowly up to a simmer and then don't let it boil, just keep it at a very slow simmer whereas just one bubble breaking every now and again, then you get that beautiful clarity that you see sometimes in chicken stock. For most of us when we're making chicken stock, if we're using it for risotto, using it for a soup, chicken noodle soup, or just distilling it down to use it on pastas, it really won't matter because you're not going to see that. It's really only if you've got something in mind where that clarity is going to be particularly beautiful.
Suzy Chase: So talk a little bit about the scum that rises to the surface.
Niki Segnit: So, I mean this is just the impurities coming off the chicken and the bones. So your job is to skim and skim and skim and-
Suzy Chase: Skim again.
Niki Segnit: And skim again. But if you're fussy, I mean again, it's not essential to do that. It's not going to cause any problems with your stock for most of the things that you use it. But if you skim it, if you were to sort of be more along the lines of a Larousse and you skim it, then you can then add a little bit of cold liquid, maybe a bit of cold water to the stock and that will actually create a bit more of the impurities; help them come to the top and then you can skim them off and you skim it off. So if you're making a consomme you're going to go through those kind of very sort of professional French kitchen kind of steps if you want to do that. And if you're making like a few steps along the continuum where you've got veloute, then you might, again, you might do that in order to make the sauce a little bit more refined.
Suzy Chase: It was interesting to see that there's an option to simmer uncovered, which we're all used to doing, but you have another option where you can pop it in the oven at 200 degrees for three to four hours. So does that have the same outcome as simmering?
Niki Segnit: Well, I mean it will have a fairly similar outcome. You get a much more beautiful stock. I mean in terms of the uncloudiness, that is one way if you do want something to look sort of crystally clear, if you put it in the oven. Just because I suppose you manage to achieve that low heat. You will still of course then end up with a big stockpot full of heat and you'll probably need to reduce it because you've managed to keep that heat quite low and you're not going to reduce it as much as you would do necessarily on the hob unless you're using a diffuser, which I don't think most people do. If it's the choice, I would always put it in the oven instead because it just comes out just looking so glorious.
Suzy Chase: I liked it because you can walk away from it. You don't have to hover.
Niki Segnit: It's the same with bread. I feel like this about bread, that I now know because I know so much about how to make bread, you know, how simple it can be. I know when I've got the 10 minutes to throw it together and get that dough going and let it do its thing. Like let it do its rise maybe in the fridge very slowly, so that you don't have to be there for when it's kind of taking it's hour and a half or two hours to get to twice its size. If you put it in the fridge to do that, then you can come back to it in six or seven hours and then continue. I try and keep those things included in the book because it's great. I love cooking but I also have to fit it into a real life.
Suzy Chase: Describe clarifying stock. What does that entail and why would we do it?
Niki Segnit: That's a good question. Why would you do it? [crosstalk 00:18:44]. Are you getting the impression I'm actually quite a slutty stock maker. I very rarely need beautiful clear stock so I'm always, you know, I'm the person who makes the roast chicken on Sunday and then I make my stock the next day just with one carcass, and then have chicken noodle soup the next day. It doesn't need to be really beautiful. But if you want to clarify your stock or you want to scare your children because it looks so kind of repulsive actually, you can whisk up some egg whites and then stir them into the stock. And what happens is they congeal, and they rise to the surface bringing with them all the little bits and bobs that have been floating around the stock. So they make a raft that floats on the top and then you should be able to lift it off and then underneath you have a beautiful clear stock.
There's a lot of ways of trying to make your stock clear when I'm saying you don't really need it, you probably don't need to do it. But there is a downside as well with doing that. So you can, unfortunately, you can take a bit of flavor off the stock if you do that clarification thing. You lift off some certain amount of flavor with the egg. So if you're a fussy French chef what you might do is you might mix that egg white with some of whatever the flavor of your stock is. So you might use some minced chicken with the egg white and then so that's actually going to cook into the stock and replace some of the flavor that's going to disappear, and just enrich it a bit further which is always... a really rich stock is a wonderful thing.
Suzy Chase: What's great about this cookbook is you've thought about all of these steps to put into making stock that I have never thought about.
Niki Segnit: It's options, it's options along the way. I mean the thing is is that you'll see that the method for all the starting points is written bigger. And then underneath there's a little aside. Sometimes it will say you're doing this because of this, or the reason that you're doing this, or you don't have to do this. So you kind of, as you use the book a bit more often, which you don't need to necessarily read the little notes because they're just telling you, they're kind of an aside.
Suzy Chase: Well if you love to read cookbooks, you're going to want this cookbook because it's a really great read too.
Niki Segnit: Well I mean, thank you. The thing is, is I say I'm not a professional chef. I'm somebody who loves to cook, but I write these books because I like to write. When I decided that I wanted to write The Flavor Thesaurus and give it a go, it was because I love MFK Fisher, and I love Elizabeth David, and I like Nigella Lawson's How To Eat. I like those books that you can sit down and read and that kind of give you a bit of an opening onto the context of the food. Where did you eat it? Where did you try it? A little story around it.
Sometimes I might do something that you don't normally do in cookbooks, which is to say I'm not crazy about this. I don't particularly like it. So it's very subjective. It's very chatty. Yes, I don't hold back on when I think something is funny. I work hard to describe things. So certainly that was the thing when I wrote The Flavor Thesaurus is I set myself the task of never saying it's mysterious or it's hard to put your finger on or anything like that. I had to get in the ring and describe what something tastes like. And so the same as with Lateral Cooking, it's not just sketchily thrown off. It's a very written book. There's a lot of consideration gone into what's being said and overall the idea that if people are going to read this much about food and you want to pick up all this interesting stuff, it needs to be entertaining in order for people to sit there with it on their lap and get stuck in. It's got to be rewarding.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called My Favorite Cookbook. So aside from this cookbook, what is your favorite cookbook and why?
Niki Segnit: Well, I'm a serial monogamist when it to favorite cookbooks. Am I allowed to choose a piece of writing that would definitely be my overall ever, ever favorite, and that is from MFK Fisher. I think it's from The Art of Eating and it's called, I Was Really Very Hungry. It was what was in my head when I was writing The Flavor Thesaurus, is something that would be a beacon to what I would like to achieve. And it's a piece about her going to a restaurant in France where she's on her own. She's in Burgundy, it sounds like she's been out for a long walk, and then she goes to this rather fancy restaurant at lunchtime and she's the only person in there and she's having a meal. But she's constantly being talked to by the waitress who is just a food fanatic. And there's this chef in the kitchen who I think is called Paul, and she just keeps kind of, the waitress keeps coming in and saying, "Oh, he's got this, and he made this."
And it's just the most wonderful piece because it's very, very appetizing. The food sounds fantastic, but it's also a really great character study. What was great about it was that she takes us into this passion she has to food, and this scenario where she's really enjoying this incredible meal. So she really sets the table for you. You're there. That is, I would say, by far my favorite piece of food writing as far as food books, cookbooks are concerned. Well you know, it's terrible isn't it? But I just end up with such a flirtation for a while with one and then another.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Niki Segnit: Okay, so I believe I have a website called nikisegnit.com. My name is N-I-K-I S-E-G-N-I-T. But the place that I use the most is Instagram. So I sometimes Instagram things that I've been making, things I've been doing. And that is just Nikki Segnit.
Suzy Chase: Thanks so much, Niki, for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Niki Segnit: Thank you so much for having me.
Outro: Subscribe over on cookerybythebook.com and thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Dec 09 2019
By Priya Krishna
Intro: Welcome to The Cookery by the Book Podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Priya Krishna: Hi. My name is Priya Krishna, and my cookbook is Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family.
Suzy Chase: This is not your traditional Indian cookbook. This is a love letter to your trailblazing mom who is depicted as Rosie the Riveter on the cover. When did it hit you to organize this family project?
Priya Krishna: Well, the book really wasn't, honestly wasn't my idea. I never thought about doing a cookbook about my family recipes. I'm very much like a utility cookbook kind of person. Then I was approached by a cookbook editor who'd worked on the cookbooks for Lucky Peach where I'd previously worked and my mom had contributed a few recipes. I told her some stories about how amazing and put-together and just accomplished my mother was. She came to me, and she was like, "I'm interested in a cookbook that not only tells this really modern story about what it means to be a working mother, what it means to grow up in a family where your parents are immigrants but also that provides a really accessible point into Indian cuisine." She was like, "I don't think that there's a cookbook like that for young people that people can flip through the recipes and not but intimated by the ingredient lists."
That totally is my mom's food. This is the food that she learned to cook when she immigrated here and that she had to cook when she only had 20 minutes to put dinner on the table on a weekend. It all fit together beautifully, and once I started writing the proposal, I realized that there was really something there.
Suzy Chase: By the way, we all miss Lucky Peach. Just had to throw that in there.
Priya Krishna: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'm looking at my collection right now. It was really special.
Suzy Chase: They're so expensive on eBay, by the way.
Priya Krishna: It's so funny because I feel like that was the founder's vision that the magazines would be collectibles, but maybe not perhaps in this exact way.
Suzy Chase: Why do you think there's a myth that Indian food is hard to make?
Priya Krishna: I have no idea, to be honest. I don't know where this came from. I think maybe it's because of the spices people get very intimated by, but I don't know. I mean, I suppose that most of our knowledge about Indian cuisine was shaped by the British. The British were some of the first people to codify Indian cuisine for the west. I suppose that they sort of exoticsized it in a way and perhaps made it seem a little bit esoteric, but do you know, it's so funny because I grew up with Indian food as my everyday food. This was the food that we threw together the last minute. It wasn't complicated. Every dish had two or three spices in it, but it's no different than a soup that calls for bay leaf and rosemary and peppercorns, and now, I'm so happy that grocery stores now have these full suites of spices, so you can really get most of the ingredients at your average grocery store.
Suzy Chase: Indian-ish was never supposed to be the title of this cookbook, but the title seems so perfect. What other titles were you kicking around?
Priya Krishna: Really terrible ones. I remember sitting on this bench at my gym and having this mini brainstorm session. There was one that was like Cool Mom Recipes or Mom and Daughter or Indian Mom. It was just, I had, they were just terrible, terrible ideas, and finally, I just gave up. I slapped Indian-ish on the proposal, and I wrote "better title coming soon" below, and then we went into all of these meetings with publishers, and every single one was like, "My favorite part is the title. If we buy that book, that title needs to stay." It just stuck.
Suzy Chase: I love it. You describe your mom's cooking as 60% traditional Indian, 40% Indian plus something else, and mostly vegetarian. Talk a little bit about this.
Priya Krishna: Yeah. I mean, so my mom, her mother didn't really care much for cooking. In my mom's age, it was traditional for women to learn how to cook. My mom never learned how to cook, so she arrived in American, and all she really knew was how to make roti. She started watching PBS cooking shows, people like Martin Yan and Jacques Pépin and combined that with her memories of her mother, her grandmother's cooking, the flavors that she loved. She basically was learning to cook while she was in America, while she was having this job as a software programmer for the airline industry that was requiring her to travel around the world. She was learning how to cook as she getting all of these influences. While her memories were rooted in the Indian food she had growing up, she was tasting pesto pasta and pizza and spanakopita for the first time. Obviously, when you're having all those experiences, you can't help but incorporate that into your cooking.
Suzy Chase: You kicked off this cookbook with frequently asked questions like why are there no curries in this cookbook and what are your thoughts on peeling things, or the last question is, why should I trust you?
Priya Krishna: Yeah. I love a good fake FAQ. Yeah, it's actually inspired by Mindy Kaling. Her very first memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and other questions, she started out with a fake FAQ, and I just thought it was so funny. It was sort of a chance to preempt, it was her chance of preempting haters, and I kind of loved that concept. I started writing what are the questions that I want people to ask so I can shut them down? That was how the fake FAQ was born.
Suzy Chase: So why should we trust you?
Priya Krishna: The first half of that is my mother who is not only a gifted recipe writer, but just an insanely talented cook. I really do feel like there are cooks who've gotten good because they practice a lot, and there are cooks who are just intuitive in the kitchen. My mom has unbelievable intuitions. This is food that reaches that illusive middle point between accessible and hyper-flavorful and creative.
The second thing is I worked really hard at these recipes. They have been tested me, my mom, retested by me. I had like over a hundred recipe testers, all amateur cooks test each and every single one of these recipes, and the ones that didn't get good feedback or nixed, every single recipe was sort of finessed and zhooshed over and over and over again. Whenever I do any kind of project, I feel like I am the person who's going through the fine-tooth comb, so this definitely feels like that, and these recipes feel airtight to me.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. You had two whole pages of thanks to your recipe testers in the back. That's-
Priya Krishna: That was-
Suzy Chase: ... crazy.
Priya Krishna: ... one of my favorite parts. Yeah. Yeah.
Suzy Chase: I would be remiss if I didn't bring up your dad. Who needs store-bought yogurt when we have the recipe for your dad's yogurt? Describe this.
Priya Krishna: We have been eating my dad's yogurt basically for as long as I can remember. My dad has been making it homemade using a culture. He's been perpetuating for over three decades. There is nothing like his yogurt. I think my dad once described it as yogurt that tastes alive. It has this chunkiness, this tanginess. It is just so good. I'm like, my mouth is watering right now thinking about it. The house was never without homemade yogurt. I mean, if you try store-bought yogurt, and you try my dad's, it's not even a comparison.
Suzy Chase: Your dad wrote in the cookbook, "My yogurt is fabulous. I have a cup a day. It keeps my system nice and regular. What more could you want?"
Priya Krishna: He's a guy of simple taste. He loves his yogurt, and he wants to have a regular system.
Suzy Chase: Don't we all?
Priya Krishna: I love that line. That essay is one of, another one of my favorite parts of the book is just my dad at his most earnest. It's just, I love it.
Suzy Chase: He looks so happy in the pictures.
Priya Krishna: Yeah, I love... That also was everyone who are part of the photo shoot. My dad needed no, he needed no direction. He just got on camera and just immediately just knew what to do.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of yogurt, talk about the idea of putting yogurt into a sandwich.
Priya Krishna: This is a recipe that is very much one of those... I mean, it's like a grilled cheese sandwich, that sort of back pocket recipe that a lot of Indian moms and Indian dads have when there's nothing else in the fridge. The idea is you mix yogurt, once you mix yogurt with cilantro and onion and chilies, you spread it on sourdough bread, and you griddle it. What happens is the yogurt retains its tang but also takes on the flavors of those other things you've mixed in. It becomes thick, like almost like a thick-strained ricotta. Then you griddle it just like a grilled cheese. Then you top it with curry leaves and mustard seeds that have been tempered in oil. This is called bhaji toast, and it's one of the most famous breakfasts in our house. I like think of it as an Indian-ish grilled cheese sandwich, but it's so much better.
Suzy Chase: One of the many things I learned from you is something called chonk, which his one of the fundamentals of Indian cuisine. What is chonk, and what do you put it on?
Priya Krishna: Chhonk is basically the idea of tempering spices and/or herbs in oil or ghee to bring out their flavors and aromatics and to give texture to a dish. It's something you finish a dish with that you pour over the top. It adds richness. It adds flavor. It's just amazing.
To answer your second question, I think a better question's like what can't you put chhonk on? As I've experimented throughout the cookbook the process, I found that chhonk tastes good on pretty much everything. Obviously, I put it on dal, I put it on sabzi, but I also put it on top of salad, like on top of raw vegetables. I'll put it on top of roasted vegetables, noodles, nachos, a steak, like instead of a compound butter, put a chhonk on top. It is sort of just this ingenious Indian cooking technique that has near-universal applicability.
Suzy Chase: I heard you say once, "Chhonk is life."
Priya Krishna: Yeah. Yeah. It is. It is our life. I mean, it's so funny too because it is something that I totally took for granted when we were growing up. My mom would, it's called chanko, she would chanko the dal, and that meant the dinner was already ready, and I only cared about chhonk. So far as when she was making chhonk, it was almost time to eat, and I'd usually be starving.
But then as we got older, I realize chhonk is this, it's really just such a smart idea that once you've flavored a dish, you've got something and you want to add just another layer of interest, you add chhonk. Indian food, especially like dals and stews, it can often have a very homogenous texture, and so you add chhonk so you get a crunch of cumin seed or a chili partway through. It's just very satisfying.
Suzy Chase: Last December, you had a recipe in your Indian-ish column in Bon Appétit, which was one of your party tricks: a vegetarian sloppy joe called pav bhaji. I'm probably killing the pronunciation, but I've never seen an open face sandwich quite like this. Can you describe it?
Priya Krishna: Sure. It's basically a toasted buttered bun topped with a gravy made of cauliflower, potatoes, peas, and tomatoes. It is just a very classic Indian street food. You'll find it in Bombay. Putting things on buttered buns is very standard practice on the streets of Bombay. Once you put the gravy on, you top it with lime, you top it with onions. It's sort of this beautiful marriage of bright, spicy, hot, tangy flavors. It is just addictive. My aunt Sonia makes absolutely the best pav bhaji I've ever had. Thankfully, I was able to get her recipe.
Suzy Chase: It sounds so good.
Priya Krishna: It's a great vegetarian entrée, and it's a carb on a carb, which, what more could you ask-
Suzy Chase: Hello.
Priya Krishna: ... for?
Suzy Chase: When making cilantro chutney, what's your moms philosophy about using stems and the leaves?
Priya Krishna: She is pro-stems, one, because she is anti-wasting anything, two, because the stems have water that helps get the blades going, and the stems actually have a lot of flavor. Discarding the steps, the stems sometimes have even more flavor than the leaves do. I feel like sometimes people hate the texture of the stems in your mouth, but when you're making cilantro chutney, it's all getting whizzed around in a blender anyway, so... and it makes your job easier. You just dump everything instead of having to pick the leaves off.
Suzy Chase: What is one recipe in the cookbook that isn't a riff of something else, one that's uniquely your mom's?
Priya Krishna: I would say her bhindi, which I love. It's okra. Okra's a very standard sabzi made in Indian cuisine, and it was one of those special occasion-only dishes that she made. We loved it. I feel like okra has this reputation, it's slimy, it has a weird-
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Priya Krishna: ... texture, but when my mom cooks or, or when most Indian cook it like a sabzi, they doing something like dry-frying it a bit. You're just cooking it on really, really high heat with oil. It chars and crisps. It loses all of that sliminess, and it gets coated with these lovely caramelized onions and seasoned with ajwain, which sort of tastes like earth and oregano. It is just so delicious. That is one of those recipes that is a total classic and we did not want to mess with at all.
Suzy Chase: Immigrants come to this country and can't find ingredients they're looking for, so they find substitutes and beautiful discoveries like your mom's saag paneer, which I made over the weekend. Talk about the idea to replace paneer with feta.
Priya Krishna: When my mom came here, she... You can make paneer, but it takes a little bit of time, so she was always looking for substitutes. She found mozzarella. She found tofu. Then my family went to Greece, and my mom had Greek salads, which had those huge hunks of feta, and she just loved that briny, salty taste. We... Spanakopita, which has spinach and feta, and she thought spinach and feta are sort of a match made in heaven, so she tried making her regular saag, and then instead of putting paneer or tofu or any other substitutes, she tried putting big cubes of feta. The feta not only salts the dish, but it just adds this totally other layer that you're not expecting. I was so skeptical when I first tried it, but it got to the point where I like saag paneer, but I just adore saag feta. I dream about it. It is just so addictive.
Suzy Chase: I've never drizzled lime juice over spinach. Is that the usual ingredient in saag paneer, or did your mom do that?
Priya Krishna: We just are a family that loves acid. I think that a lot of Indian dishes lack that bright acid component, and they just feel a little too, don't want to say heavy, but just a little too rich in terms of the spicing component. I'm not sure what's traditional or not traditional, but we tend to go pretty heavy on the lime.
Suzy Chase: I also made your recipe for chickpea and tomato stew on page 153, what makes this a shortcut recipe?
Priya Krishna: Cholay traditionally is just made from dried chickpeas. It takes hours and hours and hours. It's not a quick thing, but I love cholay so much. When I was in college and I was craving my mother's cholay, she developed this recipe that I could make in my teeny, tiny apartment. One winter, she sent me this, and I bought all the ingredients, and I just made this cholay and over and over again. It only takes about 30, 35 minutes to put together. It's a really filling meal, and it sort of just became my go-to. It has all these great tricks to it, like she boiled cholay down to its essential spices, so it's got all of the complexity of the really standout spices of the dish.
Then instead of waiting for the chickpeas to thicken, which takes hours, she mixes in yogurt, which naturally adds that thick, luscious element that you get from chickpeas that have been cooking for a really long time, and she uses a can of chickpeas, which works totally fine in this recipe, and who has time to stare at a pot for hours as chickpeas cook.
Suzy Chase: Cholay is life. That's my new saying. I also made Anvita's dump cake on page 207 and-
Priya Krishna: I'm so glad you made that.
Suzy Chase: You wrote, it made me laugh, you wrote in the book, "You're probably wondering why in this book of pseudo Indian foods is there a recipe for 1940s-era American dessert, and who the heck is Anvita?" Talk a little bit about this dish.
Priya Krishna: This dish is so near and dear to my heart. I knew the minute I signed the book proposal that I needed this recipe. My aunt, Anvita, she's my mom's cousin, she, when you used to visit her in Michigan, this was the dessert that she would make all the time. It was taught to her by another family member as something that was really quick that served a crowd that didn't require dirtying up more than one pan. You could use pre-made cake mix. It's so funny. I don't love nuts in my dessert. I don't love that artificial-tasting pie filling, but somehow, in this recipe, all of these things work so nicely and served with a scoop of vanilla, it is just perfect.
Suzy Chase: I couldn't find canned cherry pie filling so I used blueberry, but it was still really, really good.
Priya Krishna: Yeah. I mean, I imagine with any berry filling, that would taste great.
Suzy Chase: Now for my segment called My Last Meal. What would you have for your last supper?
Priya Krishna: I would probably have a first course of dosa, and the dosa would have on the side probably all of my mom's greatest-hit sabzis like her sweet and sour squash or her paneer, her saag feta. There'll probably be a course or roti pizza, which is in the book. Then after that, I think it would just be noodles of the world. There'd have to be an Indian course, but then I just want noodles. I want a Cacio e Pepe. I want a khao soi with those thick noodles. I want soba. I want some ravioli. I just want carbs. Basically, the theme of this meal is carbs in many forms: dosa, followed by to roti pizza, followed by noodles.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Priya Krishna: Well, so my website is priyakrishna.me, but the easy, best way to find me is on Instagram or Twitter, and I'm @pkgourmet, P-K-G-O-U-R-M-E-T.
Suzy Chase: This has been so much fun, Priya. Thanks for coming on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Priya Krishna: Of course. Thanks for having me. It was great.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram @cookerybythebook and subscribe at cookerybythebook.com or in Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening to Cookery by the Book Podcast, the only podcast devoted to cookbooks since 2015.
Apr 29 2019
The Saltwater Table: Recipes from the Coastal South
By Whitney Otawka
Intro: Welcome to the #1 cookbook podcast Cookery By The Book with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Whitney Otawka: My name is Whitney Otawka and my most recent cookbook is The Saltwater Table, Recipes from the Coastal South.
Suzy Chase: There's nothing I love more than a cookbook that inspires me to visit a destination, and this is one of those cookbooks. I am dying to hear about the story of Cumberland Island, Georgia and why you up and moved there in 2005.
Whitney Otawka: Okay, so I didn't move to Cumberland in 2005, I actually moved... Well, I moved to Georgia in 2005, and so I actually moved to Georgia with an ex-boyfriend. I was living in California, and when I got to Georgia, it was sort of love at first sight with the food. I instantly fell in love with the culture of food, the history of the food here, and sort of part of my natural exploration of place beyond cuisine was also visiting... This is how I get to know a place. Anyways, I was visiting a lot of the state parks. I came across Cumberland Island, actually on a PBS series on the national seashore here. I was living in Athens, Georgia at the time. I was so curious about it, so I traveled to the island, stayed a night at Greyfield Inn and just fell in love with it.
Whitney Otawka: It's very remote, very removed, very unique. As my culinary career evolved in Georgia, I kept going back to this island, this place that mesmerized me early on in my discoveries in the South. At the point in which I was ready to become an executive chef, I just couldn't get this place out of my mind, so I wrote the owners a letter. I really saw this place as a unique culinary destination. I saw something that could be built here. I wrote them a letter and I came down. I cooked a dinner and they hired me as their executive chef.
Suzy Chase: Oh my gosh. So you moved to Georgia in '05, when did you move to Cumberland Island?
Whitney Otawka: So the first time I moved here was in 2010.
Suzy Chase: Oh.
Whitney Otawka: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: Interesting, oh my gosh. When you got there, what was the thing that you did, or saw, or ate, that made you think this is my spot?
Whitney Otawka: I talk about... Well, first of all, it was the nature. This island is... There's something sort of mysterious and also balancing about it all. If you work in professional kitchens, that you don't have windows. You don't know what time it is during the day unless you look at your watch. There's no natural light. Oftentimes, you're working 15 hours. You're not stepping outside. You're not in touch with the things that you're cooking. So here is this really unique opportunity to be around the things that you're cooking, and to be inspired by the place.
Whitney Otawka: There's a window in the kitchen, however small it may be. When we grill, when we cook over wood, we step outside to do that. If we want shrimp, it's coming out of the intercostal waterway, which is literally 25 paces from my kitchen door. I mean this place is an incredibly dreamy place to create food. That will always inspire my approach to creating a menu. There's just endless sort of opportunity to be creative and have access to your ingredients.
Suzy Chase: Now do you see wild pigs and horses?
Whitney Otawka: Yeah, so there's wild horses all over. The herds stay in different parts of the island. We a very specific herd on this property, and there's a ton of them right now, and tons of babies. The pigs are very skittish. Oftentimes, I'll most likely see a pig when I'm jogging, especially away from the main properties. They tend to stay away. It's very rare that you see one on the Greyfield property. I've seen maybe one mama with maybe a couple of little piglets on her side.
Suzy Chase: In your opinion, what are the most iconic southern meals? No pressure.
Whitney Otawka: Well, I mean for my region it's a lot of the low country, right? My book touches on two areas that I combined into the idea of the tropical south. Most people think of the low country, right, as being the dominant flavor profile of the Carolinas and Georgia. We have dishes like shrimp and grits, which are incredibly, incredibly iconic. I do a spin on my book on fish and grits, which I think is equally iconic and maybe not as known, but I do a play where it's shrimp and fish and rice grits. You have pello's. You have Hoppin' John, which is a rice and a pea mixture. You have ingredients like okra. I mean, gosh, tomato sandwiches, those are so very southern. There's just a million iconic dishes I can think of off the top of my head that fall in southern food.
Suzy Chase: What exactly is The Saltwater Table?
Whitney Otawka: One thing that I noticed pretty early on is how salt infuses into everything when you live on the coast. It's heavy in the air. When you sweat, it comes out in your skin. It's sort of part of the food. The saltwater is where we get our fish, our seafood. That is sort of what the saltwater table is. It's that infusion of the environment and what it brings and how it influences the way we cook.
Suzy Chase: "Early spring 2015, I found myself staring out at the vast Atlantic ocean. I had waded out into the choppy current to collect seawater. I wanted to make salt." You wrote in the introduction. Talk to me about that moment.
Whitney Otawka: Sure. I mean, I really like that story of coming back here, so I worked here, like I said, in 2010. I came back. I left after I did Top Chef and I came back in 2015. Let's see, they closed two restaurants and coming here, and I was a bit of a wounded animal, I would say. As much as I didn't want to talk about it or feel that, out of my own control had lost two restaurants. I came back to this place that I'd always been in love within the first place. I'd taken over as chef and I wanted to do something fresh. I wanted to approach this island with a different perspective. And so I took on this project of making sea salt. I talk about in that introduction about how incredibly therapeutic it was because it was this crazy process.
Whitney Otawka: When you read about a project like making saltwater or salt, you're like, oh, I can do that. But the realities of the situation, first of all, there's not a lot of cars on this Island, so lugging saltwater over sand dunes, getting gallons and gallons of saltwater back to a place to even be safe to dry, is its own crazy challenge. It was this process of distilling the saltwater, cleaning it, laying it out to dehydrate. It took weeks and weeks and there was times when, rain would blow in because I didn't have it protected well, and it would get washed out or all the sand gnats around here with land in it. It was this process of renewal for me. Taking on and being able to create something again, it was sort of therapeutic, so it was very important.
Suzy Chase: You said in the book, "What truly great adventure goes as planned?" Isn't that the truth?
Whitney Otawka: I mean I just spent a whole summer traveling and my favorite moments are the times when everything goes wrong. Not in the moment, but afterward, they make the best stories.
Suzy Chase: I find with most of these southern cookbooks, the authors are from the south and you grew up in the Mojave desert. What sorts of foods did you grow up eating?
Whitney Otawka: The Mojave desert was literally a food desert. It was not a place where there was visible locality. I didn't grow up near anything that was farmed. I didn't see agriculture, which is maybe one of the reasons I fell in love so very quickly with southern cuisine. My family didn't have a lot of money, but my mother was a good cook and my mother took on cooking from scratch for us. She would make bread. I grew up loving packaged hollandaise on my broccoli.
Suzy Chase: Didn't we all.
Whitney Otawka: She cared enough to put a lot of effort into that. The one thing, there wasn't amazing restaurants around us. There was no fine dining. I thought Olive Garden was the greatest thing ever. But there was from scratch Mexican cooking around us and that's one of the things that really I loved to eat. It influenced how I thought about food. You could get freshly made tortillas in the desert. You could get homemade salsa. I tasted mole at a very young age growing up in the Southern California Mojave Desert, which was really intense for me. But to be able to be exposed to from-scratch cooking of such quality was really important and shaped my palette, I think early on.
Suzy Chase: You're the first chef I've met that tells a story of being taken by surprise that you were becoming a chef. Talk a little bit about that.
Whitney Otawka: Yeah, I mean so I originally was going to be an archeologist. I had decided that pretty early on in my childhood that I wanted to be an archeologist. I wanted to go to Berkeley for my undergrad. I wanted to go to Brown. Egyptology was what I was most interested in. I also was in love with the French culture. I think a lot of young women, especially a woman like me that grew up in a very isolated environment, the idea of living in Paris and France, I just was obsessed over it. At Berkeley, I was taking some French classes. I wandered in and found a flyer for a little French restaurant and that's how I made my way into restaurants.
Whitney Otawka: It wasn't intentional. I didn't intend to go work in that restaurant and work in a kitchen. They put me in the kitchen because they didn't think I had any front of house experience, but I was really good at it. From the beginning. I was really good at it. I loved taking care of ingredients. I loved thinking forward as in like anticipating the needs of what Eric Laroy, who was the owner, and he wouldn't have called himself a chef, but very much was a chef. I loved anticipating the needs of when an order was called, what he needed, being ahead of it. I would do everything from prepping the food to washing the dishes, to being the barista, to dropping the check to clearing the table.
Whitney Otawka: I was sort of like, I did everything in that restaurant and I loved being active in that way. I loved running around. I loved sitting down to talk about food at the end of the night. I got sucked into restaurants and I kept denying that this is what I was going to do. I kept denying it until I think I was 26 when I finally admitted it to myself. It was the move to the south when I finally sort of realized that I was all along the way, was discovering food through the lens of this love of history, and anthropology, and archeology, but it was sort of morphing me into becoming a chef.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of archeology, buried in Cumberland Island soil, are relics of at least 4,000 years of human history. What's the most interesting thing you've dug up?
Whitney Otawka: So we, and when I say we, it's my husband, Ben and I. We have found two Spanish coins. Those are some of our treasures that we love, that we've personally found, but there's really amazing treasure hunters is what I call them, but they're family members. They've grown up on this island and they know where to look. Gogo Ferguson in particular, she's an amazing jewelry designer, and she goes out, and she finds amazing pottery shards from the Timucua Indians that lived here. She has found dinosaur bones, like a wooly mammoth molar.
Suzy Chase: That's so cool.
Whitney Otawka: Yeah and megalodon teeth, like extinct giant sharks. I'm in awe every time I see these amazing because I don't have the eye. My husband has a better eye than I do. You know, the people that can walk and be like, "Look at that." I'm like, "Rock, rock." I literally was standing on an arrowhead one time and somebody else was like, "What's under your foot?"
Suzy Chase: Your culinary exploration of the south was combined with love and friendship. Talk a little bit about Ben.
Whitney Otawka: Ben and I met working at Five & Ten under Hugh Acheson in Athens, Georgia. We started working together. He started actually a month after I did. He had worked at Blackberry Farm. He came in, and he actually moved to pastry. I was a day prep person because I was going to culinary school at night. In the kitchen during the day time, it would literally just be the two of us or maybe one other prep cook in there. He grew up in the south. He grew up in a small town, Washington, Georgia, in a much more... He was younger than me too. He had a much more traditional southern family. Their family had been in the same town since maybe the 1820s, so he had this very traditional upbringing.
Whitney Otawka: I was from California, and a little more wild, and I had gone to Berkeley, but we just instantly became best friends. It was just, I don't know. I can't put words into it, but we were best friends immediately. We had this great year and a half of building an amazing friendship and then we along the way were falling in love. We've been working together, gosh, what? 13 years now in the same kitchen. We've lived most of our relationship on a deserted island, where we only have each other's company, but he taught me a lot about southern cuisine. You can learn a lot in a restaurant, but I think you learn so much more in the home from the people's traditions. The way that they eat. The way they celebrate. The way they mourn. The food that they serve on these occasions. I think those things have really crept into the soul of how I understand southern food. It's that gathering point around the table, the conventionality of it all.
Suzy Chase: I went to a Hugh Acheson dinner the other night here in New York City. It's like you, he's from Canada, but he sort of embraced the south.
Whitney Otawka: Yeah. He was an interesting mentor to have. He's very intelligent, very witty, very dry.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. He was fun to listen to.
Whitney Otawka: Yeah, he was always fun to listen to in the kitchen for sure. I mean it was a very close-knit team those early days at Five & Ten because he was still in the kitchen. It was before he'd gained fame. It was a great place to grow as a cook, honestly.
Suzy Chase: Tell us the story of Greyfield Inn, which is the only commercial establishment on Cumberland Island and it has such a rich history.
Whitney Otawka: It was in the 1880s that Andrew Carnegie's brother Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy Carnegie, first visited Cumberland Island. The Golden Isles became this interesting location for these northern industrial tycoons to come down and get away from the cold northern winters. Cumberland sort of struck Lucy's fancy. It was Lucy that really fell in love with Cumberland. They bought, I think it was like 80 or 90% of the Island. On this original hunting lodge, they built Dungeness. So Dungeness was the first house that's located on the north end of the Island. Lucy, being a very Victorian aged woman, wanted to have her children as close to her as possible.
Whitney Otawka: So, for her married children, she built each of them a home on Cumberland Island. One of those houses being Greyfield. It was originally Grazefield. So Greyfield became the house she built for her daughter Margaret, who became Margaret Ricketson in marriage. It was passed down through their family. In the 60s, there came a point when a lot of these beautiful old homes that were so large and so hard for the families to keep up, were sort of run down. It was the family that convinced Lucy Ferguson in the 60s to turn it into an inn. I want to say it was 1965 that they decided to make Greyfield an inn. It started really small. I think they only had four rooms. It was all of Lucy's grandchildren who sort of took the charge and it's evolved over that time.
Whitney Otawka: I mean it's been open for a good number of years now. It's really changed with the times. Yeah, that's Grayfields history, but there's some of the old houses still, as well, that are located here. Plum Orchard is now in the park system. Dungeness unfortunately, is in ruins now. It's The Dungeness Ruins. It was... This is an interesting story. Supposedly, in the 50s, there was a caretaker who had shot at someone that was poaching and hunting near the house. Supposedly, that man came back and set the house on fire.
Suzy Chase: Oh my gosh.
Whitney Otawka: The person was never caught, but the person is still in Fernandina, and alive, and brags that they were the one that set the house on fire. The Dungeness is in ruins. There was a house near there called The Grange. I believe it was also part of the original five houses. Yeah, it's amazing. I mean you drive along this dirt road on this nearly deserted island and you come across these 100-year-old mansion. They're just so striking and a bit spooky in their own way too.
Suzy Chase: The only local produce you have access to is Grayfields two acre garden. What grows in your garden?
Whitney Otawka: Oh man. We grow a lot of beautiful produce. Right now we're in between seasons because it's so hot in the months of August and September that we hardly could grow anything. We still have a little bit of okra coming in. We oddly get to bring back a little bit of summer produce when the intense heat settles down. We're looking for a second crop of tomatoes and cucumbers to come in right now. Leafy greens. We can grow everything from broccoli to cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, sweet potato greens. We had some beautiful sweet potatoes come out this summer. We have [inaudible 00:19:37] carrots, high curry turnips, beautiful fairytale eggplant, arugula, little gem lettuces. I mean it's absolutely stunning what we can grow in this amazing garden.
Whitney Otawka: That credit really goes to the different teams that have come through and farmed. It's usually a couple, sort of like Ben and myself. I think couples do well in this isolated environment, but they're out there every day like we are in the kitchen. It's great too because we can go out there and be picky about things. Like, "Oh this is perfect the way it is now." We see it a different way sometimes then a farmer does. It's being involved and being able to walk out into the garden and know that it's being produced specifically for your kitchen. It allows you the opportunity to really choose when it should be harvested.
Suzy Chase: Like a lot of cookbooks, you break up the chapters by season but your seasons are different. Can you tell us about those?
Whitney Otawka: Sure. Yeah. It was an interesting process. It was funny. It was literally the first thing I thought of. It's based on the ecology of this island. It's based on the most prolific feeling of each season. The first chapter is Oyster Season. We have wild oysters that grow here on the island. We do oyster roast in the wintertime. It's the cold water. The water doesn't get super cold here, but the coldest waters produce really delicious oysters, as far as their briny and wild. The second season is vegetable season. That's a really great time for us for growing in the garden. It's that early spring to late spring, where we have so many amazing crops that run together. We still have tender [inaudible 00:21:19] carrots running into the first harvest of cherry tomatoes. It's pretty amazing the combinations we can get, so that's the second chapter.
Whitney Otawka: The third chapter is Shrimp Season and shrimp is, I mean if you've been to the coastal south, shrimp is king, especially on the Georgia coast. It's a main part of the economy here. We still have shrimp festivals, we have the Blessing of the Fleets. It's one of the things that you can find easily that's caught locally. I mean everywhere you drive, there's a guy that's selling shrimp on the side of the road. And then there's heat, which is if you've ever been to the south in summer, you know what I'm talking about. It's this heavy blanket of humidity that drapes over everything. The sun is so saturated. The light is so bright. It dominates how you cook, how you feel. You have to take breaks in the afternoon. It's just really intense. And then we celebrate the breaking of the heat with smoke and cedar and that's when you can go back outside. That's the idea of preservation. That's when you're building fires again and sort of celebrating the years. That is the seasons.
Suzy Chase: On Sunday night, I made your recipe for Low Country Boil on page 176. Can you describe this recipe?
Whitney Otawka: Oh sure, yeah. I mean low country boils are so very popular in this region. I really think in the coastal south, everywhere from Louisiana to North Carolina, there's a version of a low country boil. For us here, like I said, shrimp is the king of our low country boils. We throw in shrimp. We throw in corn. We throw in potatoes. It's just this one-pot meal. I think it's pretty easy. Did you find it pretty easy to make?
Suzy Chase: Yeah. What was interesting was I thought that the orange and then the tomato juice were surprising ingredients. Are they normally in low country boils? I'd never made one before.
Whitney Otawka: I grew up making Frogmore Stew, which is a low country boil when I worked for Hugh Acheson and we always had tomato broth in ours, which I loved that flavor. And then the orange is for us here. We have a lot of citrus trees that grow on the island, so it was natural for me to reach for an orange as opposed to a lemon, which would be the obvious go-to. I love that addition of the orange to it. It was just that Cumberland Island feeling that I brought forth in the book. One last thing about that is that I love that you just throw it down and you eat it with your hands. There's not the pomp and circumstance of needing a knife and a fork.
Whitney Otawka: I think the joy and I try to express this in a book a lot. There's something about eating with your hands that I just love. I love that feeling. Washed hands, I think I say in there, but I love that. It's just there's this casual nature. People instantly relax when they're eating with their hands, as opposed to at a table, with a white tablecloth, perfectly set with silverware. It just creates a different atmosphere. That's one of those meals that really creates a cultural memory and sort of gives you a sense of real people.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called, My Favorite Cookbook. Aside from this cookbook, what is your all-time favorite cookbook and why?
Whitney Otawka: I'm madly in love with the Hartwood Cookbook. It is one of those books that takes you to a destination and I just love everything about it. The storytelling, the writing, the food, the photography. It's so rich and so lovely. I call it sort of my little guidebook. I would keep it around when I was working on my book. I know the books are very different, but it was such an inspiration for me. Even the story Eric Werner and his wife. The story of going away and running away from New York to Mexico and to Tulum to open this project, I just love it. I love everything about that story. I love adventure and the food is beautiful, and the culture of the food there is incredibly impressive. Yeah, that's got to be one of my favorites.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Whitney Otawka: I mean, everything's my name spelled out. I'm on Instagram. I'm on Facebook. I have a website, which is just whitneyotawka.com and I have a lot more recipes that I put on there. I have great intentions to do so many things, listing more of our travels. I do travel frequently. A lot of people ask me where to eat when I travel, so I'm trying to get those posted online as well. So, whitneyotawka.com.
Suzy Chase: Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your life and for chatting with me on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Whitney Otawka: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much.
Outro: Subscribe over on cookerybythebook.com and thanks for listening to the #1 cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Nov 04 2019
Bigger Bolder Baking
A Fearless Approach to Baking Anytime, Anywhere
By Gemma Stafford
Intro: Welcome to the number one Cookbook Podcast, Cookery by the Book, with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
Gemma Stafford: Hi, I'm Gemma Stafford, and my new cookbook is called Bigger Bolder Baking: A Fearless Approach to Baking Anytime, Anywhere.
Suzy Chase: So I have to start off by saying a huge congratulations to you. You have a bun in the oven, so to speak.
Gemma Stafford: Thank you.
Suzy Chase: That's so exciting. When are you due?
Gemma Stafford: I'm due early February.
Suzy Chase: Oh my God, that's right around the corner.
Gemma Stafford: I know. I know. Tell me about it. At the time, at the beginning, time stood still, and now it's going really fast, so I don't really know where I am.
Suzy Chase: Yay. I'm so excited for you.
Gemma Stafford: Thank you.
Suzy Chase: So, you have a line in the cookbook that goes, "I watched my mom create spectacular desserts from just a few simple ingredients." I feel like this is your philosophy, too.
Gemma Stafford: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I worked as a professional chef for 10 plus years, and I trained, I studied professional cookery in college. I went to two different cookery schools, and definitely the more, especially as I look at the book, my biggest influence and my first teacher was really my mom.
Suzy Chase: Now what exactly is bold baking?
Gemma Stafford: So being bold is about taking risks, and it's about trying something different, and it's about being fearless. And that's what I do in my recipes. I try and take away the unnecessary steps that people don't need that might confuse you, that sometimes, in baking, people can have very long winded recipes.
Gemma Stafford: And what I like to do is just get straight to the facts and show you how you can make over the top desserts, but still using very simple techniques and very simple ingredients.
Suzy Chase: Long winded recipes are so much fun to read, but so hard to follow.
Gemma Stafford: Yeah. I can't. The reason we've had such great success with Bigger Bolder Baking is because bold baking is about taking risks and it's about being fearless. And I really try, and with my millions of fans all around the world, try and give people the confidence to bake anytime, anywhere.
Gemma Stafford: And in the book, it's a collection of recipes where you can do that using simple ingredients. The majority of recipes are less than 10 steps. They're really finely edited just to give you the exact information that you need, and anytime, anywhere baking really ... We heard this from our audience.
Gemma Stafford: We have 5 million bold bakers all around the world, and we heard from them that they want to bake, but they're students in a dorm. They want to make a cake for somebody, but they live in, maybe, an older facility, and they don't have access to a kitchen, or they only have a microwave, and things like that. And we didn't, I didn't want that to restrict people from baking.
Gemma Stafford: So in the book, I broke the chapters down into different pieces of kitchen equipment that you would need, and tools. So there's a whole section in my baking book where you do not need an oven to make frozen desserts, to make mousses, to make chills desserts, to make chocolate Tiffin cake, all of these sorts of things, and trifles you don't need an oven for, and just really make it as simple for people as possible to make, to be able to bake no matter what their equipment or their circumstance.
Suzy Chase: Your bold baking journey started at Ballymaloe Cookery school. That is incredible. Tell us about that, and what skills did you learn there?
Gemma Stafford: I hold Ballymaloe very close to my heart. I had a really lovely time there. When I was young in the 80s, we used to watch, my mom and I used to watch Darina Allen on a Monday night on TV, and she was ... This was a long, long time ago, where she was the only chef, really, on TV, and then she was Irish, and she ran this cooking school, and I was just fascinated by her.
Gemma Stafford: And my mom told me that when I was older, I could go to the cooking school. So after college, I studied professional cookery in college, and I was in my first job, and the opportunity came up to go to Ballymaloe Cooking School, and it's really special.
Gemma Stafford: I don't know if I can describe it well enough. It's a really amazing experience. It's such a special place. For people who don't know, it's a cooking school on kind of like, almost like now, a farm, because I know that they have a lot of their own animals and bees and and things like that. But they have ... It's a little cooking school down in East Cork in a place called Ballymaloe.
Gemma Stafford: I'm sorry, the school is called Ballymaloe, and run by a lady called Darina Allen, and her whole ethos is very, I would say, typical of a lot of Irish people, which is good ingredients in, and amazing out. And so the thing about Darina is that she does recipes from all around the world.
Gemma Stafford: It's not, as people often say to me, meat and potatoes from Ireland. It's a little bit of everything. And just to be there, to be at the school, and to be with students who come from all around the world to do her courses, it's really incredible.
Suzy Chase: Did a Diane Keaton movie really inspire you to move to America?
Gemma Stafford: It did.
Suzy Chase: Which one?
Gemma Stafford: I know, it's crazy. So, a lot of people have seen, or are big fans of us, baby boom in the late eighties, like '87 or so. So I was ... I would have been ... We always get everything later. At that stage, we got everything like a year later than America did. So it was on TV in Ireland in maybe '88 or something like that. So I was only a child.
Gemma Stafford: And I saw it, and for those of you who haven't seen it, it is about, long story short, about a kind of high powered exact woman in New York. She has a really busy lifestyle, and she gets landed this baby, and she has to move out of the city.
Gemma Stafford: She buys a farm in Vermont, and she, her lifestyle totally changed, and she starts making applesauce and selling it in local shops in Vermont, and it becomes really big, and I just, I was fascinated by it. I just thought that this was the most amazing thing ever. That this is what I want to do. I wanted to move to Vermont and make applesauce.
Gemma Stafford: And you know, it always, it stuck with me. I must've been like six or seven when I saw it, but I made kind of a promise to myself then and there that when I was 25, I was going to move to the United States, and I was going to marry an American man, and I was going to be in America for the rest of my life.
Gemma Stafford: And yeah, it was. I was 25, actually, when I did end up moving here. But yeah, it always stuck in my head, and the thing about it is, I never told anybody, which was so funny. So when I was in my twenties later, and I decided to go to America, I think they were kind of surprised, but I always knew in the back of my head that this was part of the plan. I was going to do this.
Suzy Chase: It was your vision.
Gemma Stafford: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: Wow. So, for busy home cooks, you also have a few mug cake recipes in this cookbook. Describe these.
Gemma Stafford: So the mug cakes are some of my most popular on Bigger Bolder Baking, and they are really, they're little tiny single serving, I shouldn't say tiny, but they're a small single serving cakes that ... This is where kind of anytime, anywhere bacon comes in. We heard a lot from people who, like I said, don't have kitchens, don't have ovens, but still want to bake.
Gemma Stafford: And there's a whole world of microwave recipes out there for cakes that I have in the book, and then savories that I have on my website for things like pizza, mac and cheese in a mug, and things like that that can all be made in the microwave.
Gemma Stafford: So in the book Bigger Bolder Baking, I shared three recipes of some of my most popular, and they're an amazing ... They're really great recipes, because there are only a handful of ingredients. So even if your kitchen is bare, all it is is a little bit of raising agents, some flower, a little bit of oil. You might need an egg, but not even all of them need an egg.
Gemma Stafford: Most of it is just standard cupboard ingredients. And you can have a mug brownie, a funfetti cake in a mug, or even a donut in a mug, which is a really popular one. And they're just a really amazing way for somebody to make a single serving treat fast with very little wash-up. And then you're not left with cake or cookies or whatever it is. You got to just have exactly what you wanted, or what you needed.
Suzy Chase: I do love how you've included so many microwave recipes in this cookbook, because I feel like the microwave is a little passe right now. But it's so convenient.
Gemma Stafford: Yeah. You know, the thing I explained, because I get asked this a lot. I've been a professional chef for many years now, and a lot of, when I first started doing microwave recipes, I talked to myself, "Should I be doing this? Because I've worked in [inaudible 00:09:41] restaurants now. Should I be making recipes in a microwave?"
Gemma Stafford: Because people question you. And the thing about it is, it's not about the microwave. It's about, it is, these recipes are another way for some people to feed themselves, to make something from scratch, what I like to call real food fast, not fast food, with just a few ingredients, with very little waste.
Gemma Stafford: And when we started making them, we were doing the cakes, we heard from a very much younger audience. Then when we kind of ventured into savory, and we started doing things like ramen in a mug and pizza, which was one of my favorites, pizza in a mug, and lots of different things like that, we heard from all around the world.
Gemma Stafford: And heard from truckers, we heard from people living in elderly facilities, people who had been widowed. I just got an email from a man in Australia yesterday, 87 years of age, who was asking me about ... He just got the same microwave that I did, and he was asking me about the recipes so he'd be able to feed himself.
Gemma Stafford: So it's much bigger than making food in a microwave. It's giving the people independence and confidence to be able to create their own meals, and that satisfaction and pride that you take in that.
Suzy Chase: Gosh, that's so smart. Good for you.
Gemma Stafford: Thanks.
Suzy Chase: You also included mug net. What's that?
Gemma Stafford: Yes, that's a donut in a mug. is a little kind of a cinnamony, kind of a cake with a little bit of jam in the middle, and eaten all together, tastes just like a donut sprinkled with some cinnamon sugar. It's just a fun little take on a donut.
Suzy Chase: If I'm going to teach people to bake, why not online Guess who said that. Your YouTube channel has almost 2 million subscribers. Tell us about your channel, and how was your husband involved?
Gemma Stafford: My husband is the driving force behind us. So, we started Bigger Bolder Baking five, five and a half years ago, as a YouTube channel. Long story short, myself and my husband, I still worked in food. I worked, I had a catering business. My husband worked in tech. Sorry, he did marketing for a tech company, but he also had a lot of experience in the entertainment industry, because he'd worked for Lucasfilm and Pixar.
Gemma Stafford: And we got married, and we joined forces. We decided, how can we come work together to join both of what we're passionate about, which is food and entertainment? And Kevin said that he wanted to do more of the production side of entertainment, because he always did the marketing side.
Gemma Stafford: So we came up, he said, "Why don't we create a cooking show?" And you know, five and a half years ago, YouTube was very much a different playing field. There wasn't a saturated ... There wasn't as many baking channels, and it was just a different ballgame. And you know, we quit our jobs in San Francisco.
Gemma Stafford: We left behind paychecks and healthcare, and we moved to a city that we didn't know anybody, down to Santa Monica in LA, and we just started creating videos out of our kitchen. We went all in. We financed it. All of our time, all of our effort, we were working around the clock.
Gemma Stafford: And the thing about it is, we didn't doubt ourselves. We knew that we were kind of crazy for doing it, but we never doubted ourselves. We knew that we were onto something good. And it took some time, and blood, sweat and tears, but it started to pay off really fast, and slowly but surely, we started to garner this audience of what we call, and what they call themselves, bold bakers.
Gemma Stafford: And within a few months, we had some videos go viral. Our subscribers just doubled. And from then on, we've just, in the last, sorry, five and a half years or so, we've gotten to 2 million subscribers on YouTube. And then with our Facebook and Instagram, and our website included, we're around 5 million people all around the world.
Suzy Chase: What's the most popular recipe on your channel?
Gemma Stafford: Most popular recipe, I would ... So there's two that are kind of tied. The mug cakes are some of my most popular, it's kind of what I'm known for. And then also, what's actually, I had to include this in the book, is my no machine ice cream. It's just a few ingredients, cream, condensed milk, and some vanilla extract.
Gemma Stafford: And you can make a base of kind of a vanilla ice cream. But then you can add any flavor you want. And I actually think, Suzy, you tried one of the ice creams.
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Gemma Stafford: And so it's just a really fun recipe. But that was another one that resonated with our audience, going back to it's not about the microwave, it's not about the utensil. It's the fact that you were able to make something without the traditional methods.
Gemma Stafford: So the ice cream is made whisking together, you can do it by hand, or you can do it with a stand mixer, but you don't need an ice cream machine to make ice cream. And that video was just huge for us. So we had to include that ice cream and some different flavors in the book.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, I made your raspberry swirl cheesecake ice cream on page 239.
Gemma Stafford: Yeah, that's one. I love cheesecake ice cream.
Suzy Chase: Ice cream has always been so intimidating for me.
Gemma Stafford: Yeah. And because you have to make a custard base, and you have to, there's different steps, and it just, it can be laborious. And there's a chance that you curdle your custard, and then what do you do? But this is, for want of a better word, it's foolproof. And it's really, it's awesome, because also, we don't, we have a large audience.
Gemma Stafford: It's kind of funny, but we have a large audience who are, who don't eat eggs, for dietary reasons, for religious reasons. So this ice cream doesn't include any eggs. It's only cream and condensed milk. And so it really ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of our fans. So that and the mug cakes are some of my most popular recipes with tens of millions of views on YouTube.
Suzy Chase: For Christmas, are you going to be doing your 12 full days of cookies again?
Gemma Stafford: I am.
Suzy Chase: Oh, yay.
Gemma Stafford: Yeah, we're doubling down on cookies this year. I started making them in August.
Suzy Chase: Oh, my gosh.
Gemma Stafford: So we're planning. We're getting kind of our team, we have a team now. At the beginning, it was just Kevin and I, my husband. And then, a few years in, we were able to start building out a team, and so our team are working on those campaigns. So 12 days of Christmas, and all the things around holiday baking.
Gemma Stafford: We're also going to do a holiday baking hotline where I go live. It might be on ... One time we did a hotline on the website, on biggerbolderbaking.com, where I was, what do you call it? I popped up and I answered people's questions live, the day of Thanksgiving.
Gemma Stafford: And then we also use an app called [inaudible 00:16:59], where ... It's like a voice mailing app where people can leave me a voicemail, and then I answer them back straight away. And it's just a really fun way to do it. And the holidays can be, it can be challenging. And you face, you come across things in the kitchen that you didn't know were going to happen and you need help fast. So we also do that and that's a lot of fun.
Suzy Chase: So I also made your recipe for 10 minute vanilla refrigerator cookies on page 44. Can you describe these?
Gemma Stafford: Those cookies are, they're one of the first cookies I remember making, and they're really simple, because they're a plain vanilla cookie. It's a little bit crisp, it's also a little bit soft. But it's a recipe that, since the book has come out, I'm just, I know what recipes mean to me.
Gemma Stafford: They have certain nostalgia to me, but I keep on getting photos on social media of these cookies, and it just, I don't know what it is about them, but they really resonated with people. But they're just a plain little cookie. And the best thing about it is, is you keep the dough in the refrigerator, in a log, and then you can just slice it whenever you want to bake some off.
Gemma Stafford: And it also is kind of a good blank canvas. If you wanted to add in chocolate chips, orange rind, different flavors, some knots, it really is versatile, and you can add anything you want to it.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called My Favorite Cookbook. Aside from this cookbook, what is your all time favorite cookbook and why?
Gemma Stafford: Oh my gosh, that's a really good question. I'm going to have to say there's not a lot. I have a huge collection of cookbooks, as I'm sure you do as well, Suzy, and I treasure them. But there's very few that I've read kind of front to back, and the one that my mom ...
Gemma Stafford: My mom used to get me cooking books or cookery books for Christmas, and one year, when I was a student in my teens, I was probably 17 or something, she got me the Ballymaloe Cookery School three months course in a book, because Darina's course at Ballymaloe, her longest one is three months, and they compiled what you learn in that course into one big, thick book.
Gemma Stafford: And I went through that book like nobody's business. I tried recipes, everything from salads to dressings, to cookies, to cakes, to breads. I went through it page to page, and I still use it as kind of my go to Bible of today. I still go to it for my Asian pork salad, and she has a Tennessean citrus cake, and it's just, it has a little bit of everything. And I just absolutely adore it, and it brings me back to that time of Ballymaloe as well.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Gemma Stafford: So you can find me on my website, biggerbolderbaking.com, and then on Facebook and Instagram, it's Bigger Bolder Baking.
Suzy Chase: Wonderful. Thanks, Gemma, for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Gemma Stafford: Thank you, Suzy. It was lovely to talk to you.
Outro: Subscribe over on CookerybytheBook.com, and thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Oct 28 2019
The Way I Cook
By Dorie Greenspan
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book Podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Dorie Greenspan: Hi, I'm Dorie Greenspan and my latest cookbook is Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook.
Suzy Chase: It's so nice to chat with you again. Last time we talked it was about Dorie's Cookies. Now Everyday Dorie is similar to Around My French Table but not French. Talk a little bit about that.
Dorie Greenspan: It's so not French, Suzy. In fact, so many ... I realized as I was looking at the recipes that I'd collected for this book that my cooking has really changed over the years. So Around My French Table was published in 2010. So, that's eight years ago. And over that time, I've been living more in Connecticut. I still live part-time in Paris. I still live part-time in New York City. But I'm really spending a lot more cooking time in Connecticut where I am so far away from a supermarket. And I don't have ... There's one specialty store but it's kind of a trek. And so, I realized that my cooking has become simpler and way more practical, that I'm really depending on all those great condiments that I got from the supermarket that are sitting on the refrigerator door and the stuff that I've got in my pantry. So this is truly, when I say everyday cooking, this is everyday cooking.
Suzy Chase: Reading cookbooks makes me happy. Writing cookbooks makes you happy. What about writing cookbooks makes you happy?
Dorie Greenspan: Suzy, everything. I love creating new recipes. My husband says that if my editor didn't say, "Okay, time's up, you've got to turn them in," I would just be constantly working on tweaking recipes. I love creating recipes. I love writing them. When I'm writing them, I'm thinking about the person who's going to be in the kitchen making them. And I like to think of writing recipes as a conversation that I'm having with a home cook. And that's a pleasure for me. And I love sharing what I've done. I love knowing that what I've worked on will be made by someone else and that person will share the food at his or her table. Every step of the process of writing a cookbook has its own kind of pleasure.
Suzy Chase: Talk about how you sneak in a little surprise in everything you make.
Dorie Greenspan: I love, I love when a dish has something unexpected especially when you think you know the dish. So for instance, meatballs and spaghetti. It took me years to make meatballs and spaghetti because every time I would make the meatballs, my husband would say his mother's were better.
Suzy Chase: Oh no.
Dorie Greenspan: We've all been through that, I think. But the truth is, I didn't love meatballs. Take a meatball, take a bite of it, take another bite, all the bites were the same. And so, the surprise that I snuck into the meatballs, walnuts and oats. So the oats kind of make the meatballs a little fluffier. They make some space in the meatballs. And the walnuts are a change in texture. And so, now when you have this meatball, every bite is a little different.
Or one of my favorite recipes in the book is called Oven Charred Tomato Stuffed Peppers. I love this dish for a million reasons. The surprise is, okay, when you look at it. It is sweet bell pepper. I cut it in half. And what you see are halves of cherry tomatoes all over the top of the peppers. And they're drizzled with oil and there are some herbs thrown on top of them and they go into a really hot oven. And they become soft and sweet and melty and charred. But what you don't see is that little surprise tucked under the tomatoes. It's a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture. And so, you taste the peppers and you taste the tomato together and you think that's what you're getting, you're getting tomato and pepper. And then, you get something more. It's a great dish. It's beautiful when it goes into the oven. It's beautiful when it comes out. You can make it ahead. You can serve it hot, warm, or room temperature. So for me, that's like my ideal. That recipe, I think, is the spirit of my new book.
Suzy Chase: So you split time between New York City, rural Connecticut, and Paris. Where will you be celebrating the holidays this year with your son and new daughter-in-law?
Dorie Greenspan: My new daughter-in-law, I'm so happy for our whole family. The joy of having a new daughter in law is having a jointly expanded family and yes, we will all be together. She's been in our family for a few years now and we celebrate holidays and birthdays together.
So we will be having Thanksgiving as we have had for the past few years at a friend's house in New York City. And we split the cooking. Well actually, everybody who comes brings something. One of her friends always brings lasagna because that's what she had for Thanksgiving growing up. And so, there's a turkey. And I always make a cranberry sauce and I'm in charge of dessert. I make a soup. And this year, I think I'm going to make the roasted butternut squash soup from the new book. And I'm going to surprise everyone because in addition to my usual pumpkin pie, I'm going to bring a dessert from the book which I just think it's going to be perfect for Thanksgiving. It's called the Triple Layer Parsnip and Cranberry Cake.
Suzy Chase: Perfect.
Dorie Greenspan: Yeah. I think it's going to be just the right ending for the dessert. It's a three layer parsnip cake. Think carrot cake but parsnips. It has cream cheese frosting and filling and it has a cranberry jam that you make in a flash. And I put it between the layers and so you get that beautiful pop of color with the really comforting cake.
Suzy Chase: I like the trend in cookbooks where if you're a more seasoned cook, you can swap items in a recipe. And you've constructed all of your recipes so ingredients can be swapped. Give me an idea of what you would swap in, let's say, your Warm Squid Salad.
Dorie Greenspan: Oh, I love that salad. That's a really simple salad and squid cooks in a minute so it's a great spur of the moment salad. But you might not have squid at the spur of the moment. So, that's a salad that could easily take shrimp instead. I always keep some shrimp frozen at home. You could also use the base in the salad for some leftover chicken if you had it in the refrigerator. So I like, as you said, when you can play around with a recipe, when you can make your own choices, when you can do at home what I do at home which is look at what I've got and find a place for it. As I said, this book is truly my most practical cookbook.
Suzy Chase: You have a book you've talked about called L'Art de Couper le Fromage, The Art of Cutting Cheese. What is the proper way to cut brie and around cheese like Camembert?
Dorie Greenspan: That book was given to me when we first moved to ... Actually, I bought it when we first moved to Paris about 20 years ago because I realized that I wasn't cutting a ... A cheeseboard would be passed around at a friend's home for dinner and I was looking left and right to see how people were cutting their cheese because I knew that I didn't know that rules.
If you've got the whole cheese that's round, then you want to cut a pie shaped wedge out of it. If it's being served as a wedge, never, never, never cut off the nose. Don't cut off that tip. You want to cut a slice from the long end of the triangle. And what you're really aiming for is to cut cheese so that the last slice of whatever cheese it is looks like a little mini version of what the whole cheese was. It's not always easy. And that's why I bought the book. There are rules for pyramid shaped cheeses and for square cheeses. But with a brie or a Camembert, the reason you don't cut the tip off is, well, it doesn't look so pretty afterward, but the tip is the best part of the cheese.
Suzy Chase: I know.
Dorie Greenspan: Right? So if you cut it off, you're considered selfish.
Suzy Chase: Oh no.
Dorie Greenspan: So you want to cut the cheese so that everyone gets a bit of that tip.
Suzy Chase: The pressure.
Dorie Greenspan: I know. That's why I bought the book.
Suzy Chase: I think we all need that book. And then, I heard that it's impolite to go back for seconds.
Dorie Greenspan: The way a French dinner party works is you compliment the host or hostess who's cooked the meal by complimenting the food that he or she has made and you are allowed to ask for seconds for everything that's homemade. But the cheese was not made by your host and so you get to go around once. You may take as many pieces of cheese as you want and as much cheese as you want, you just aren't supposed to take seconds.
Suzy Chase: Okay, I'm going to write all this down.
Dorie Greenspan: Call me if you need help.
Suzy Chase: Oh gosh, I will. I'll call you tomorrow. So I heard you say, "Had I been born French, I wouldn't have learned to bake." Talk a little bit about that.
Dorie Greenspan: You know, I'm convinced of that. It's not ... The way we bake at home in America is so different from the way French people bake at home. French people rarely bake at home. In part, it's because there are so many pastries available and there's so many pastry shops that are ... I think it's like a zoning regulation that every other street has to have a pastry shop. And so, there's pastry everywhere. And there isn't, for a long time, ovens weren't reliable. I mean, my first apartment in Paris was an adorable apartment and it didn't have an oven because it was in a building that was so old that the electricity and gas lines ... well, there were no gas lines ... couldn't support everyone having an oven. And this is still true in some places in Paris. So baking wasn't the pastime that it is in America.
Also, French people do bake but they bake very simple things. The most popular homemade dessert is a yogurt cake and that's made ... Almost every French person can make a yogurt cake and can recite the recipe from memory because it's based on the size of the yogurt container. I don't know it by heart but it's like one container of yogurt, two yogurt containers of oil, three yogurt containers of flour. It's a very simple, incredibly delicious cake. But the tradition of home baking is not as strong in France as it is here.
Suzy Chase: Julia Child once said to you, "We're so lucky because we work in food and that means for the rest of our lives, we'll be learning something new." What did you learn while putting this cookbook together?
Dorie Greenspan: Well, as I said, I learned something about myself and the way my cooking has changed. And I learned, Julia was so smart. And I learned about boosting flavors. I learned about getting the most out of each ingredient, that you don't need a long, long list of ingredients to make a dish flavorful. You need the right ingredients. You need the right combination of ingredient. I learned a lot about flavor working on this book.
Suzy Chase: Let's say I'm coming to your house in Paris. What do I get when I arrive?
Dorie Greenspan: If you come to my house in Paris, what you get when you arrive is the same thing you get if you come to my house in New York or Connecticut. You get gougeres. So gougeres are cheese puffs. They're made with the same dough that you would use to make cream puffs but they're savory. They have cheese in them, a mixture of cheese. And that's become my house special. So I make the gougeres. I think last Christmas my husband said that I made about a thousand gougeres.
Suzy Chase: A thousand?
Dorie Greenspan: This year I'm going to ... Oh, I think so.
Suzy Chase: Oh gosh.
Dorie Greenspan: Because I was making a hundred at a time. This holiday, I'm going to make the little marks on the tile behind the oven and keep count of how many gougeres I make. So aside from the fact that they are so delicious, they're the perfect welcome bite because you make the dough. I scoop the dough using a little cookie scoop. Scoop out the dough and freeze the gougeres unbaked. I freeze them on a little cutting board or something. And then, when they're frozen, pop them into an airtight container. And then, whenever company arrives, you just pop them directly from the freezer into the oven and you have ... the whole house smells cheesy, warm, delicious, inviting. And you've got this hot, I was going to say warm, but they're hot, these hot cheese puffs to serve with champagne, sparkling wine, or white wine. Which is the other thing that I would give you as soon as you came through the door.
Suzy Chase: I love it.
Dorie Greenspan: So I've been making gougeres forever. And in Everyday Dorie, I actually changed my recipe. Something I hadn't done in, I don't know how long but we were talking before about having a surprise in a recipe.
Suzy Chase: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dorie Greenspan: I put a little bit of Dijon mustard into the batter. The batter is fairly neutral. It's a holder for all that good cheese that you put in it. And so, I put some mustard in to kind of perk up the flavor. And I also put some toasted nuts into the gougeres. It can be walnuts. It can be pecans. So again, you have that element of surprise. You have the custardy, cheesy puff and then every once in a while you get a little bit of the chew and snap from toasted nuts.
Suzy Chase: The other evening, I made your recipes for Fresh Off the Cob Corn Chowder on page 72 and your Dark Chocolate Pudding on page 294. So the chowder is a complete meal. I think all you just need to add is a crusty roll and you're set. I read your Playing Around box on that recipe because I was out of bacon. So, I used shrimp instead.
Dorie Greenspan: Someone once said that my Playing Around box just gives people permission to play around, to make changed in the recipe. And that's what I really hope that people will do. If you find a recipe you like, I hope you'll make it your own. Shrimp is a great addition to this.
So the chowder is ... it has potatoes because chowder. It has corn. And you're actually taking the corn off the cob but you're using the cob to flavor the soup. And one of the things that ... Well, I couldn't stop playing around with this because I was thinking you could add a little cream or half and half to it. Or you don't have to. You could drizzle a little oil over the top, like chili oil just to add some pop to what is a really soothing, comforting dish. Pesto would be good with the chowder. Grated Parmesan would be good. Ham instead of bacon. I mean, just shrimp or lobster instead of or in addition to any of the ingredients. My mind just keeps going after I've created a recipe and I think that about all the possibilities. And so, I provide the Playing Around box in the hope that it will get you thinking and obviously, Suzy, it did.
Suzy Chase: It sure did. So the Dark Chocolate Pudding made me a little nervous because the recipe said to whisk energetically. And the liquid starts out so watery. So you really have to have faith that if you energetically whisk, it's going to firm up into a pudding and it did.
Dorie Greenspan: I was just waiting for the, "And it did."
Suzy Chase: It totally did. But I was just like I've got to be energetic.
Dorie Greenspan: Well, you know, when I'm writing the recipes and working on them, I work on them after I've developed them and I've written them, they get sent off to Mary Dodd, my recipe tester, and she works on them and we go back and forth. But I'm trying to, as I said, think about the home cook, think about ... I try to be with the cook cooking the recipe but of course, I won't physically be there. So I try to give you as many keys to success as possible. And so, the word energetically is there so that you'll pay attention and do that.
Suzy Chase: I did. And it said energetic whisking for about five minutes or so. So I was like here we go.
Dorie Greenspan: Did it say it will be your workout for the day?
Suzy Chase: No. No, you need to add that in the next printing of the book. No, it was incredible and it definitely thickened up as pudding should and it was so good.
Dorie Greenspan: Oh, I'm so glad. I'm so glad. I love that pudding.
Suzy Chase: I, like you, feel like pudding is a very American thing. What do your French friends think of this pudding?
Dorie Greenspan: To them, they think it's French. If I said this is American chocolate pudding, they would say oh, no. This is just like our creme au chocolat or it's a little bit or very much like crème patisserie, like pastry cream. They would recognize this pudding immediately and take it as their own.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called My Last Meal. If you had to place an order for your last supper on earth, what would it be?
Dorie Greenspan: I don't have to have a typical meal. And while I always told Joshua, our son, that he had to eat his meal before he got dessert. This is my last meal so I don't have to do that. I would have as much ice cream sundae as I wanted. That's what I would have. With hot fudge, with toasted nuts, with vanilla ice cream, with coffee ice cream, with chocolate ice cream. Maybe with some mint chocolate chip. I could have anything, right?
Suzy Chase: All the things. Where can we find you on social media and the web?
Dorie Greenspan: I am @doriegreenspan, D-O-R-I-E Greenspan. On Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram. And my website is doriegreenspan.com.
Suzy Chase: It's always a pleasure chatting with you and I'm so excited to see you tonight at the 92nd Street Y.
Dorie Greenspan: Oh good. Good, good, good, good, good. Thank you, Suzy.
Suzy Chase: Thank you for coming on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Follow me on Instagram at Cookery by the Book. Twitter is @IAmSuzyChase and download your kitchen mixed tapes, music to cook by, on Spotify on Cookery by the Book and as always, subscribe at Apple Podcasts.
Oct 23 2018
The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes
By Joe Yonan
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book, with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Joe Yonan: Hi, I am Joe Yonan. I'm the food editor of the Washington Post and my latest cookbook is called Cool Beans.
Suzy Chase: For more Cookery by the Book, you can follow me on Instagram. If you enjoy this podcast, please be sure to share it with a friend, I'm always looking for new people to enjoy Cookery by the Book. Now, on with the show. You're the food and dining editor at the Washington Post. You have multiple James Beard awards and an ICP award, and you're the best thing to come out of West Texas since Buddy Holly. So I met you last April when I was at WaPo meeting Bonnie Benwick, and we chatted briefly about this cookbook and I'm so excited to talk with you about it today on my podcast.
Joe Yonan: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Suzy Chase: So when you started writing the first drafts of this cookbook, could you see the bean trend on the horizon for 2020?
Joe Yonan: I mean, I felt something coming together, but I can't say I knew exactly and was incredibly confident that it was going to come true. I certainly have been in love with beans for so long, but I certainly felt that with the growing interest in plant-based cooking and then with the exponential growth of interest in a little appliance called the Instant Pot and then continued interest in Heirloom Beans companies like Rancho Gordo. I did start to sense that the timing might end up being really good.
Suzy Chase: I love that beans are starting to play a starring role in American dishes.
Joe Yonan: Yes. I mean, I feel like one of the reasons that maybe beans have the reputation or have had the sort of fusty reputation that they have had here has been that, in our own cooking, they've been associated a lot with the past and with maybe with the '60s and '70s and maybe the health food movement. Whereas in other countries, of course, they've been the bedrock of cuisines for centuries.
Joe Yonan: And I think we in America sometimes have historically paid more attention to the really high-end cooking from other countries. The classical cooking, the celebration cooking. And beans have for so long been really an everyday ingredient or they've been the source of sustenance for people who were trying to make ends meet, but who knew that they could depend on this incredible shelf-stable source of nutrition and they knew how to cook it in really delicious ways. And I think we've been paying more and more attention to that kind of cooking over the last few years.
Suzy Chase: You wrote in the cookbook, "My own bean journey took a turn about a decade ago." What happened then? It sounds so mysterious.
Joe Yonan: Right. A little fork in the road. It actually was very gradual. I started realizing that I was... It's like that horrible song from a couple of decades ago, I think I'm turning Japanese. I started realizing that I thought I was turning vegetarian. And it caught me off guard a little bit. I remember I was planning dinner, a dinner party over the weekend and I was trying to decide what to make and I opened up my freezer and fridge and was looking through my pantry, like you do, and I noticed that in my freezer there were all of these pounds and packages of really beautiful, humanely raised meat that I hadn't been cooking at home.
Joe Yonan: I had been waiting for the chance to make for other people because I wasn't really cooking meat at home for myself. And that's when I started realizing that I was really moving toward a plant-based diet instinctively and I was feeling better and better as I did. So I just kept moving in that direction. And beans were always part of it. I also write that I'm not sure I would have actually continued along that path if was not for discovering beautiful heirloom beans by Rancho Gordo. Really they changed the way that I thought about beans.
Suzy Chase: You touched on this a few minutes ago, but in Cool Beans you teach us home cooks how to cook beans in a slow cooker, on the stove, and in the Instant Pot. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Joe Yonan: I'm just puttering around the house. Certainly, I will just put a pot of beans on the stove or even in the oven and cook them really gently. I like to bring them to a boil for 10 or 15 minutes at the outset and then lower the heat as low as it can go and cook them really slowly. And that's beautiful. The house fills up with that beautiful smell of beans cooking and it's wonderful. I'd sometimes even cook them in this clay bean pot that a friend gave me and that's an incredible way to cook them as well.
Joe Yonan: But on any given weeknight when I really want a pot of beans pretty quickly and I should say more and more, even on the weekends, I do turn to my trusty Instant Pot. There's nothing easier than the whole set it and forget it thing. You don't have to wait and watch until it comes up to pressure and then adjust the heat, you don't have to set a timer to know when it's done and then turn the heat off or down or whatever you're doing. You just set it. And what happens is, you get these really nicely cooked beans, but I do think that the key with an Instant Pot is to cook them uncovered for maybe another 10 or 15 minutes after you cook them. It concentrates the broth. The Instant Pot, like other pressure cookers too, is so sealed up tight that there's no evaporation of liquid when the beans are cooking.
Joe Yonan: So unlike when you have it on the stove top or in the oven where it's cooking slowly, the water just stays in there. And so it can be, the broth can be a little more lackluster than when you cook it on the stove top. As Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo puts it, "It breathes life back into the beans." The instant pot proves that you don't really have to soak beans. There's reasons why you might, which I'm sure we can get into, but you really don't have to and it makes beans a product that you can, an ingredient, a fabulous ingredient that you can make any day of the week.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of broth, I always thought that you needed to throw in a ham hock or some chicken broth to make beans flavorful. So you're saying the beans make up the flavorful broth on their own?
Joe Yonan: Absolutely. You need salt, of course, like you do with any good cooking. But yeah, the beans, especially I would say, if you haven't soaked the beans, soaking, there's lots of reasons why you might want to soak, but if you soak you definitely lose some of that flavor, especially with a thinner skinned bean like a black bean. Try them side by side. Soak a pound of black beans and cook it next to a pound of black beans that you did not soak and just be prepared to marvel at the difference. One is inky black and full of flavor and one is grayish, pale lavender and not as much flavor.
Joe Yonan: Yeah, I really wanted to prove to people in this book that you don't need that ham hock. That I think that when beans are cooked from dried, especially if they're high quality beans, but even really good supermarket beans, I talk a lot about Rancho Gordo and companies like Camellia, but I also really like Goya if you're getting supermarket beans. And if you cook them from dried with salt and with kombu, which I like to use, it's a dried seaweed from Japan and it helps actually soften the beans and maybe a bay leaf, an onion and garlic and you cook them until they're really tender.
Joe Yonan: I think that that broth rivals anything that you can get from a chicken. Honestly. I mean I've cooked with chefs who might cook with this fabulously talented Mexican chef, Mexican-American chef, Christian Arabian here in DC. And the first thing that he did after he cooked this incredible pot of black beans, before he did anything else with it, was pour out two cups of the cooking water, the cooking liquid, and we sipped it like a soup. That's how delicious it was. There was nothing else in it.
Suzy Chase: So the USDA categorizes beans as a protein and a vegetable.
Joe Yonan: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: And even the folks living in the blue zones where people live the longest and eat the healthiest eat one cup of beans per person a day. Can you talk a little bit about the nutritional aspect of beans?
Joe Yonan: People know the song, right? Good for your heart.
Suzy Chase: Why don't you sing it?
Joe Yonan: I'm so sorry to inform you that I happen to be coming down with a cold so I won't be able to fulfill your-
Suzy Chase: Oh shoot.
Joe Yonan: singing request Suzy today, any other day.
Suzy Chase: Okay.
Joe Yonan: Well, they, so what I find most amazing about beans, I mean certainly the nutritional benefits include antioxidants and fiber really is the big one. But yes, they also improve our gut health. There's some school of thought that the very thing that we find difficult to digest, the oligosaccharides also is feeding our gut biome. So maybe when it comes to flatulence, we should all just give each other a break, open some windows and get used to it. The page in which I talk about this in the book, I headline, let the music play. With the idea being that it's really not that big of a deal unless you find it uncomfortable.
Joe Yonan: And I know some people certainly find it actually uncomfortable. And for those people I want, certainly want them to try to do what they can do to reduce it. But beans also, they help stabilize your blood sugar. They might lower your cholesterol. One of the most interesting things that I came across in my research for the book was that there have been studies published that meals based on beans are actually more satisfying than meals based on animal proteins, meaning that people were full longer and reported a higher sense of satiety.
Suzy Chase: I find that too, don't you?
Joe Yonan: Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Suzy Chase: And you don't feel as weighed down.
Joe Yonan: Right. They're simultaneously satisfying and, and yeah, I mean, to me they're energizing, so I always feel great when I eat them.
Suzy Chase: So I can't get into aquafaba.
Joe Yonan: Okay, want me to help you?
Suzy Chase: Yes please.
Joe Yonan: Well, I would say you should try a recipe like the chocolate mousse recipe in Cool Beans. It's really easy and shows off how easy it is to use aquafaba the way you would use egg whites. It's based on Julia child's classic chocolate mousse recipe and I wish I could tell you that I labored and tested and retested and tweaked and all of this to make it work. But the fact is it worked the first time, it's just, aquafaba was "discovered" by a, I believe it was a French vegan pastry chef who was looking for something to substitute for eggs and had canned chickpeas around, as you do and realized that the liquid and the viscosity of the liquid reminded him of egg whites. So he just thought, "Oh, I wonder if they wouldn't whip up like that." And they do. I mean you can whip them and add sugar to them and they turn silky white and glossy and they'll hold stiff peaks.
Joe Yonan: Especially if you use a little cream of tartar, which I did in the mousse recipe. It stabilizes them the same way it stabilizes egg whites. I only use it in a couple of places in the book for that recipe, and then I make a margarita. That's sort of a twist on one that Jose Andre serves at a restaurant here in DC that has what he calls salt air on top, which is this layer of salty foam that I'm sure they're putting through a nitrogen canister or CO2 canister or something to get the foam, but I do it with the aquafaba.
Suzy Chase: Yesterday I made your recipe for Texas-Style Bowl O’ Red Beans.
Joe Yonan: Excellent.
Suzy Chase: On page 112. Can you describe this?
Joe Yonan: I am a Texan and when you're a Texan, then you find yourself telling people all the time, "That's not real chili, that's not real chili." Because real Texas chili doesn't have beans. It doesn't have tomatoes. It's really just chili con carne ne, right. It's chilis with meat. Well, when you are a Texas cook, who used to be a purist but find yourself not eating meat anymore, you have to give all that up. Don't you, Suzy?
Suzy Chase: You aren't really giving anything up.
Joe Yonan: No. I guess what I'm mean is you have to give up the purism.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Joe Yonan: That's the only thing you're giving up is the sense that like this is the only way to cook a pot of Texas chili. But then when I was researching the book, I thought, I really love the straightforward nature of that Texas bowl of red they call it. It's just so complex in flavor, but it's so straightforward and you just treat the meat in that recipe so wonderfully that I thought, "Why don't I just all of that same technique and ingredients but use beans?" So that's what I do in this recipe. It's mostly kidney beans, red kidney beans, and a smaller amount of black beans. I like the combo together.
Joe Yonan: I don't usually cook different varieties of beans together. But this is one where I thought that it worked and you cook them for so long, either on the stove top or you can certainly do it in the pressure cooker for a much shorter period. And they just get really, really tender packed with flavor. I like to mash a little bit of them in the pot and leave some of the other ones whole. And then you've got this incredible flavor and it's all beans. And you do the same thing you would do with a purist Texas chili and serve it with those simple accompaniments on top.
Suzy Chase: So I was nervous about using dry beans and I thought it wouldn't be as creamy as canned, but oh my goodness. After five hours of simmering, I had the best pot of glorious beans. I can't wait to put it on my eggs tomorrow too.
Joe Yonan: Great.
Suzy Chase: I'm so excited. Yay. Now for my segment called my favorite cookbook. Aside from this cookbook, what is your all time favorite cookbook and why?
Joe Yonan: Wow, that is a question. All time favorite?
Suzy Chase: All time.
Joe Yonan: All time. All time. All time. There's been a lot. I've had a lot of time. Well, I'll tell you, I'm a huge fan of Amy Chaplain's work. She wrote Whole Food Cooking Every Day, and I think her recipes are stellar. And whenever I cook out of a book, I met, I know Amy, she and I are friends and I'm so jealous of, I don't know, her effortlessness in the kitchen. She's Australian and she's got that incredible palette and everything she cooks is incredibly bright, flavored and everything comes together so wonderfully and it feels so, I don't want to say healthy, it feels nourishing, which I think is a different feeling. But God, there's so many others that I feel like I could mention. I mean Madhur Jaffrey's books. I'm a big fan of Anna Jones, the British Vegetarian Cookbook author. Oh God, I'm leaving out a million, million people.
Joe Yonan: But I would say off the top of my head, if I had to pick one, even though it came out recently, it would be Whole Food Cooking Every Day.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Joe Yonan: I make it so easy for people. So everything about me is just Joe Yonan. So it's www.joeynan.com. It's Twitter handle @joeyonan. It's Instagram, Joe Yonan. It's Facebook Joe Yonan. No fancy names. Just me.
Suzy Chase: This has been so much fun. Thanks Joe, for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Joe Yonan: Thank you for having me, Suzy. I loved it.
Outro: Subscribe over on CookerybytheBook.com and thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Mar 02 2020
By Abra Berens
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery By The Book Podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
Abra Berens: My name is Abra Berens. I am the chef at Granor Farm and author of Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables.
Suzy Chase: Vegetables can be exciting, delicious, and the star of the plate. In the introduction of Ruffage, Francis Lam wrote, "Yours is a smart way of cooking. A curious, thoughtful way of cooking, but most of all, a cooking of good spirit." What a lovely compliment.
Abra Berens: Yeah, so I was lucky enough to meet Francis my final year of college at the University of Michigan. There is a program at U of M called NELP, which is the New England Literature Program. A handful of students go and you study transcendentalism while living in the place where it was written. It's a very immersive course, and so you're at this camp and you're cooking together and reading together, and there's a physical rigor combined with it.
Abra Berens: The very first day that I arrived, you know, well before I was ever a cook in any sort of real setting, I of course found my way into the kitchen of the camp, and Francis was there making something for dinner. I just introduced myself and I was like, "What is that?" It was this beautiful red stem with the kind of purple green leaves that chard can have sometimes, and I had never seen Swiss chard before. I was like, "What is that?" He just gave me a taste of it. I distinctly remember saying something along the lines of like, "Oh, it's like if celery and spinach had a baby." Then he was like, "Yeah, pretty much."
Abra Berens: I was like, "Okay, see ya. I got to go jump in the lake now," because one of the things the very first day that you get to NELP, spoiler alert for any future NELP-ers, is you have to so this swim test, which is really, like, a preposterous situation, because it's one of their kind of made up challenges where you arrive in this camp in Maine and then are immediately told you have to jump in this lake and do a swim test, and it sort of mimics the discombobulation that you feel at sort of being sort of plopped into this new environment. That whole day just kind of felt like a wonderland. I will always remember Francis just calmly being in the kitchen and feeding me fresh chard, yeah.
Suzy Chase: In 2009, you started Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport, Michigan with your friend Jess. At the end of your first year of farming, you were as poor as you'd ever been, but you were eating some of the best meals of your life. Describe this.
Abra Berens: You know, I'm sure anybody that started their own business can attest to the fact that, without securing outside capital, you're really putting all of your own resources in, and that includes time and money and emotional energy, all that stuff. By the end of the season, it was kind of this really quiet time. I had taken a side job just for some extra cash, and so I had a couple of weeks where I had committed to them before going back to Chicago, because we were done with the farm for the season and I was going to move back. I had always been based in Chicago, and then would move up to Northport for six months and then farm all summer, and then move back to Chicago and cook in the winter.
Abra Berens: Yeah, I really just didn't have any money. We had some carrots that were still in the ground. We had planted these kale plants that had lived all summer, but then got super aphid-y in the fall, so we had cut them down to the nubs, but all the energy that was stored in those deep roots were putting up these little tiny baby kale leaves every day. We had some chickens that year, but they had moved to my business partner's wife's farm for the winter, but I still had some eggs left before they moved, and all those things.
Abra Berens: It was really, you've got quiet nights, it was super cold in the cabin where I was living, but the meals were so great. It was, you know, every night, the carrots would get frosted over, so they would get sweeter and sweeter. It was kind of there that I realized, I was making all of these different meals, and so it never felt redundant even though it was the same primary ingredients.
Abra Berens: For me, it gets to a little bit of this conversation about the value of food versus the worth of food, and how those are really simple ingredients, but the meals felt very celebratory each night. Maybe it's because they were the event of the day. I was just kind of doing other sort of closing up the farm tasks during the day, or kind of puttering around or reading, so it felt like an activity and it was such a nice time, despite being on the outside very underwhelming in terms of my financial time.
Suzy Chase: I think all home cooks need to hear this. Ingredients can be repetitive, but meals need not be. In Ruffage, you have 100-plus recipes and 230-plus variations. Talk about not being redundant.
Abra Berens: Again, it comes from seasonal eating in the northern Midwest, and the way that that sort of started for me was realizing there is a trajectory for the season that we go through every year, whether you're farming or just eating seasonally or just you have any sort of connection to the outdoors in this part of the country, and I think that's mirrored in other parts of the country as well. The point is that, every spring you get asparagus, and it's the same asparagus every year, but the ways that you present it can change and feel very new. It's really about having sort of creativity, with a slightly more limited palate.
Suzy Chase: Give us some tips to change our thinking surrounding vegetables. In the book, you talk about equating decadent foods with sinfulness, and vegetables with moral fortitude. I know growing up in Kansas, I have a hard time changing my mind about vegetables.
Abra Berens: I think there's two ways to think about that. One, the bit in the book about equating, there's a false equivalency between rich foods and decadence and, you know, piousness with vegetables, I think part of that is we live in a culture that is really full of shoulds right now. Like, you should eat that, you shouldn't buy this, that thing should give you heart disease, or something like that. I think that that's a lot of noise. That's well intentioned noise, but noise nonetheless.
Abra Berens: I think there's an element of people choosing to eat a salad when they really want fried chicken because they think it'll make them feel better. I would say that it depends on the situation. You know, like, if you've been working outside all day, the reason fried chicken tastes better to you is because you have burned through those calories. At the same time, if I've had rich meals, a salad actually makes me feel better. I think it's about being honest with yourself about what you really want in that moment, and not feeling bad about your choices. Just make the best choices that you can, and kind of putting the shoulds on a shelf.
Abra Berens: The other point that you were talking about is changing your perception of vegetables. I think that the Midwest still, for better or for worse, has sort of a meat-starch-veg plate. I think that's what a lot of people are still eating. I still cook that way, I still eat that way sometimes. I think that the way that things changed for me with vegetables was by both recognizing what each one had to offer, and then sort of letting go of that everything on one plate mindset, and taking inspiration from other cuisines that have vegetables more at the forefront.
Abra Berens: Maybe instead of having three things on a plate and it feels like there's no star if there's not a meat based protein or an egg based protein or something like that, or even just a really fancy vegetable. I think that you can kind of decentralize the stars of the plate. If you have three, or really extravagantly five dishes, you're not doing any more work than you would do to have three things on a plate, but you're having three different textures. You could have like, a spinach salad with bacon and egg is a pretty classic spinach combination, at least around here. Then some roasted veg, like a big pile of roasted carrots with a slick salsa verde or something like that over the top.
Abra Berens: What else would I put with that? Probably something really creamy, like a squash puree, or maybe in the summertime like, a creamless corn puree, and that gives you some richness and those [inaudible 00:09:15] to pair against the brightness of the greens. I think that it's that inter-play, to me, that has started to become more interesting than the excitement of a big piece of meat. But, don't get me wrong, I still cook big pieces of meat and I still eat meat and I like it. But, I think it's about kind of appreciating those different characteristics and what each ingredient is showing and letting it live its best life on your table.
Suzy Chase: This cookbook is so easy to navigate. Talk about how it's laid out.
Abra Berens: Yeah, it was really important to me to have Ruffage organized alphabetically, and there's a couple reasons for that. One, is that I really wanted it to be a reference book, and I find it confusing in books when things are organized like appetizers, main courses, sides, soups, all the different things, because my brain just doesn't work that way. I wanted it to be a way for people to kind of invert the way that they think about a dish, which parallels the inversion that happened for me when I was cooking at Bare Knuckle, which is look at your ingredients and then find something that you want, a recipe that you want to use to showcase your ingredients.
Abra Berens: If that means that you're going to a farmer's market and you're super excited about the kohlrabi that's there, then buy the kohlrabi and know that you have some resources at your back to turn that into something. Or, if it means that you're tight on money and that asparagus is on sale in January and that's what's best for the family, buy that and know that you have these resources at your back. I wanted to kind of take the sourcing issue out of it a little bit. Then, also make it easier for people to find the recipes to link back to those ingredients.
Abra Berens: The other reason I wanted to organize it alphabetically, I have a ton of respect for books that are organized seasonally, but I also remember the very first time I was reading, I think it was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which is a great book, but Barbara Kingsolver was talking about having asparagus in early April or late March or something, and I remember being like, "Well, good for you. We don't get asparagus until June in northern Michigan." May, if we're lucky in Chicago and southern Michigan. I didn't want anyone to feel left out, and I think a lot of people think about the Midwest in terms of our winters, and people always say like, "Oh, you can't eat locally in the winter," and that is not really the case anymore.
Abra Berens: In addition, I was just visiting some friends in Florida, and right now which is mid-April, it's the height of their tomato and strawberry season, and they were talking about their frustration that when all of the tomato recipes come out in the food magazines, their tomato season is over. By the middle of summer, they have okra and peppers and eggplant, and that's it. Fresh greens are gone, even corn isn't really there. Their winter squash season is like, I can't remember now exactly, but I think it's like, in May or something.
Abra Berens: It's a funny thing, seasonality, because it doesn't account for the regions. While this book is Midwestern-based, because I am, I didn't want it to be Midwestern exclusive. I wanted to be sure that people in Florida or Arizona or the UK or Montreal could all find use in it.
Suzy Chase: One of the best things about this cookbook is that you can either swap ingredients in and out from the base recipe, or you can evolve the original recipe into a totally new meal. For example, let's say a big squash. What are some variations on a big old squash?
Abra Berens: When I was thinking about the variations, I wanted to really showcase kind of two primary branches of how to vary it. One is, if you take the ingredient and prepare it the same way, and then just swap out the flavor accessories, is it presents a very different dish. For me, the beet factor really represents that the best, where you've got steam roasted beets and the recipe is for a salad with smoked white fish and sour cream and sunflower seeds, and it's very classic eastern European. Then, the variations are you take the same steam roasted beets, and put them with oranges and feta and some mint, and that takes it to a very different place. Or, you could put it in a very Midwestern fall dish with apples and cheddar and walnuts and parsley. Those dishes present very differently, even though the structure is the same.
Abra Berens: Then, the other way to look at that is how to use the same thing and make totally different meals with it. The beet puree or the squash puree that we were mentioning, you know, you're making this base of a puree. Then the recipe for that will be one thing. Like, for the beets, it's you take pasta and dress it in the beet puree. It makes this beautiful bright red beet pasta with pickled raisins and poppy seeds. Again, very eastern European. Or, you can take that same puree and blend it with white beans and a little bit of olive oil, and then make it like a beet hummus and put it with a crudite platter, like, a veggie platter.
Abra Berens: Or, you could take that and cook risotto, and then bind the risotto with it and makes this beautiful pink risotto that is really lovely. I can't remember what the toppings are for that, but if I were making it today I would put walnut oil and some Parmesan and maybe a little bit of orange, because beet and walnut and orange go really well together. Or, you could thin it down and make a soup with it and make kind of a play on borscht. All of those things, and the same is true for squash. The same is true for any of the celery root puree, the cauliflower puree, all of those things. It's a little bit of a deeper dive into batch cooking, like, large batch cooking, which I think everybody has done the thing where they make a gallon of lentil soup, and by the end of the week they're like, "If I have to eat lentil soup one more time I am going to cry."
Suzy Chase: Yeah, exactly.
Abra Berens: Wanting to say like, you can dial that back a little bit and make it less specific of a prep, and then have more options. Maybe instead of making the gallon of lentil soup, you can cook up four quarts of lentils, and then you can make a soup with some of the lentils or you can add them to a salad or you could would do with lentils. You know, crisp them up in the oven to make like, crispy lentils for snacking, all those things. That was kind of the point of the variation.
Suzy Chase: Let's talk about the word glug, G-L-U-G. This shows up quite a bit in the cookbook. Talk about the word glug.
Abra Berens: Well, it's a little bit of a funny thing, because my first interaction with the word glug was my mom cooking from my grandmother's recipes and being so irritated by the word glug. It was literally, a glug is when you pour, often it was like a glug of milk in a batter. A glug was like, how long it took to tip the gallon of milk and have it literally go "glug" as it came out before it would hit the top and it would stop or whatever. My mom, it made her crazy because she's a very scientific person and so she like, measured out. She's like, "If you have a full gallon of milk a glug is much smaller. If you have a very empty jug of milk, it's much larger because it takes more time for it to hit the top of the container," or whatever.
Abra Berens: For her, it was like, a quarter cup, that's what she would translate it to. In some ways, I wanted to return to that phrase, mostly to indicate that a lot of times measurements don't have to be super exact. I think there are certain realms of the cooking and baking world where you do need to have very strict proportions, and all of the recipes in Ruffage are very, very flexible in that way. The glug is sort of representative of that. Saying like, you're just trying to get some oil in the pan, so that's where glug comes from. It's been amazing to see how some people find it very liberating and some people find it moderately infuriating. Maybe that's how things should be.
Suzy Chase: I love it. I found it liberating. I used it on my Instagram story on Saturday when I was making your peas.
Abra Berens: Nice. Yeah, how'd the peas come out, by the way?
Suzy Chase: Oh my gosh.
Abra Berens: Were they okay?
Suzy Chase: They were amazing. I made your recipe for peas with parsley, thyme, butter, and onions on page 319. They came out so sweet, and the butter gave kind of like a hint of saltiness and creaminess, and the herbs, and I had it again last night for dinner, I mean, as a side dish for dinner. It's so good.
Abra Berens: I'm so glad, because one of the funny things about the book is, there's a handful of recipes that seem very, very simple, and I was like, "Are these too simple to go into a cookbook?
Suzy Chase: No, it's really good. But, you don't like peas, do you?
Abra Berens: Yeah, I know, I don't really like peas. It's funny, Francis told me that his first draft of the forward for the book was simply about berating me for not liking peas, and then he decided to go a different direction, thankfully. I feel like everyone loves them. They sort of infuriate me, because it's really difficult to know when they're ripe, because each variety shows differently, and they'll present differently on the plant.
Abra Berens: You'll have from the same plant, one that is perfectly ripe, and then also one that's under-ripe and one that's overripe, and they all look exactly the same. Then you pick them, and there's such a short time period for when the sugars that are in the pea, for it to convert to starch. You basically have to pick them in the morning before market, which, when your market starts at 8:00AM means you have a very early day. Or, you have to pick them in the afternoon and then get them into cold store.
Abra Berens: It's just this, I find them to be a very fickle plant. I love pea shoots and I really love frozen peas, because that, I think, is one of those times where the industrial model, especially the organic industrial model can work to our benefit. Where, they're being harvested. They're probably all harvested at the appropriate time of ripeness. They're immediately flash frozen. They're super reliable. They're really dependable, all of those things. I know, peas, I want someone to teach me how to like them more, but it hasn't happened yet.
Suzy Chase: Those darn peas. What's your favorite vegetable?
Abra Berens: Cabbage I think is, by far and away, and again, that's again a reliance on the sort of every day hardworking vegetable in my kitchen, as opposed to some of the "she-she-ier" darlings, you know, that are only around for a little bit of the time. I mean, I love tomatoes and I love sweet corn and all of those things, but cabbage is the vegetable that is in my fridge 90% of the time, and makes such different meals.
Abra Berens: I really rely on purple cabbage in the winter to be eating something that's colorful. I really love making the version of golumpki, which are the Polish cabbage rolls. Unfortunately, I trimmed a bunch out of that cabbage chapter, just because the book is long enough as it is. Some of those slower cooked cabbage recipes or the cabbage rolls and stuff like that didn't quite fit into the structure of the book at that point. But yeah, she's such a versatile friend and I rely on cabbage a lot, so that makes her my favorite.
Suzy Chase: I love cabbage too, but here's my problem with cabbage. I live in New York City, and I don't have the largest refrigerator. Cabbage always takes up so much room.
Abra Berens: Kind of greatest strength/greatest weakness. There's so much food in those heads of cabbage, but then greatest weakness, there is so much food in those heads of cabbage and it takes up a lot of space, yeah. I mean, cabbage does hold up if you cut it and then store it in a plastic bag or something. Eventually, it'll start to brown on the cut side, so I generally leave it whole and just cut a little wedge off when I need it, but yeah, it can be a big beast.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called my last meal. What would you order for your last supper?
Abra Berens: Oh, wow.
Suzy Chase: Peas?
Abra Berens: Yeah, one last shot. In terms of the last meal that is the most representative of my life would probably be some sort of weird salad that I tend to make when it's just me home for dinner, and I eat it straight out of the mixing bowl, that I find a lot of comfort in. That would be something like Swiss chard that has some warm green lentils over the top, and then like, shaved cauliflower and roasted beets. Maybe some tuna mayo with that, or something like that. Something that's really representative of the food that I really truly enjoy and rely on on a daily basis.
Abra Berens: But, if it's like a celebratory last meal, probably fresh pasta. You know, like a fresh pasta with maybe like a million different types of fresh pasta, like a filled pasta, a hand cut noodle with a really nice ragu and slow cooked sauce. I mean, I just got the chance to eat at Misi, Missy Robbins' restaurant.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Abra Berens: The pastas were so, so delicious. I've been really fixated lately on these daily luxuries, these things that, you know, like we were talking about living on a pretty tight budget means that I have kind of turned to find luxury in some of these more simple things, and a really beautiful plate of pasta is certainly one of those.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Abra Berens: Every thing is @abraberens, which is A-B-R-A B-E-R-E-N-S. My website has the most up to date information in terms of book events and the dinners that we're doing at Greener and information about the cookbook. Then social media, I don't really use Twitter that much that I'm there, I guess. Then, Instagram is my preferred platform.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of book events, I am so excited for our live cookbook chat at LizzYoung Bookseller in Brooklyn on Thursday, May 2nd from 6:00 to 8:00PM. I can't wait.
Abra Berens: Oh, it's going to be so fun.
Suzy Chase: Yes, and you can find all the details on my Instagram. Thanks, Abra, for coming on Cookery By The Book podcast.
Abra Berens: Thank you so much for having me. Truly, it means a ton that you've enjoyed the book and I hope that your listeners will too.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram @cookerybythebook, and subscribe at cookerybythebook.con or in Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening to Cookery By The Book podcast, the only podcast devoted to cookbooks, since 2015.
Apr 22 2019
My 2018 Cookbook Year in Review with Bonnie Benwick, deputy food editor and recipes editor of The Washington Post.
(Photo credit Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
Intro: Welcome to The Cookery By The Book Podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Bonnie Benwick: I'm Bonnie Benwick, deputy food editor and recipes editor of The Washington Post Food Section.
Suzy Chase: So you're the deputy food editor and recipes editor of The Washington Post, where you've worked since 1989. How old were you when you discovered your love of cooking and cookbooks?
Bonnie Benwick: I think cooking, definitely when I was about nine years old. My mom was a nurse and so she wouldn't be at home when I came home from school. There was an afternoon help to sort of, it was not quite a babysitter, not quite a maid type person, but just someone who was around because it made my parents feel better about that. But my mom would leave instructions or she would call me from the office and say, "Take this out of the freezer." She was a big freezer cook. Defrost vegetables, put them in a pot, do this, do that. I was kind of her prep cook from very early on.
I remember when I was nine I also had my first experience with a pressure cooker, you know those scary kinds with the-
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Bonnie Benwick: Reports things landing on the ceiling, which never happened to me, by the way. But my father really liked tongue and that's kind of one of the scummier things to cook in a pressure cooker, I think, but I was all in. That was my job. Also made borscht for him. He came home almost daily to have lunch and borscht was his thing. So between that and whatever, I was totally ... I'm just in love with making things in the kitchen, creative and fun and you get to eat it.
Cookbooks, I think I ... That's a little harder to pin down for me. My mom had an old settlement cookbook that we might talk about later that she got when she was married. I used to look through that a lot and ask her questions, but she wasn't really a cook by the book kind of a person. I had an aunt who devised her own recipes and everything that she made, she would label it with Aunt Sally's best blueberry muffins, Aunt Sally's best lemon pancakes. I just thought naturally, everything she made was the best.
So that was kind of a segue to looking in books that had really good recipes. I guess I landed in this ... That's a scary number, 1989, isn't it? I came to The Washington Post part-time and then went full-time when my kids got a little older. I've been in the food section for almost half that time that I've been at the Post and that's really where I wanted to be. Luckily, I've just landed in this job where I get to look at all the cookbooks I want all the time and talk to the people who put them together, which is always kind of been a little thrill for me.
Suzy Chase: In the first line of you December 11th piece in The Washington Post, you wrote, "To be honest, we compilers of Best Of lists are never quite sure about what you, dear readers, want most from the cookbook division." Could you take us through the process, like how many cookbooks do you start with usually and what's the criteria?
Bonnie Benwick: Well as you know since you have a cookbook podcast, they tend to come out in publishing clusters during the year. There's a spring graduating class and there are some in the summer that have to do with summer cooking and grilling, but the fall is really, heading into September, that's really the big crush where people tend to remember books most, and give them as gifts, and book reviewers like myself will test out of them quite religiously because we get these advance copies, galley copies way ahead, months ahead of pub dates.
So I try to remember the ones that come earlier in the year, but people tend to hold off and really wait. The big crush of them, like I said, is that fall time. I think I must look through several hundred books a year. I don't obviously get to write about all of them, but I can see a little bit about trends in publishing and what people were after. It wasn't hard to spot the dozens and dozens of instant pot titles this year.
Suzy Chase: Oh yeah.
Bonnie Benwick: So specific that it got down to six ingredients in 20 minutes in your so and so kind of instant pot. It was just like every ... And I think it's going to keep coming, by the way. But then the next sort of round, the books that I tend to stockpile on my desk, or under my desk, or in a special closet that we have.
I'll put Post-It notes. I'm a Post-It notes person. I'll tag recipes that I'm interested in, and if a book has got a hefty number of them, I set it aside for a possible best of the year, and try recipes. You also probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that not all recipes in cookbooks work very well.
Suzy Chase: Yep, exactly.
Bonnie Benwick: Yep. For one reason or another, so we we just make sure that a book that I recommend to people I've been through and spot tested enough that I feel confident that they get good use out of it. I also tend to like a practical, tend to recommend a practical book, something that I think people will not just ... It's not really based on a trend or anything, but it's something that actually teaches them something, kind of a life skill like a bread book, for example, a bread baking book.
They've just gotten much better describing things and giving you step by step photos and sort of eliminating a lot of the anxiety in that process, I think, for a lot of people, or trying to eliminate what seems like a hard time and hard work and this that and the other thing.
Suzy Chase: I find I'm super interested in the story, if the cookbook comes with a story of a region or a culture.
Bonnie Benwick: You mentioned that you like, your Nick Sharma's Season is your favorite of this year?
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Bonnie Benwick: I think a lot of what his success was, he had this column in The Chronicle, but other than the beautiful brown hands photography that he did that had such depth to it, I think, it was not only the cuisine that he was cooking, but the story of his life, and what food means to him, and what goes into it when he's cooking. Don't you think?
Suzy Chase: It was so heartfelt, and so real, and so honest. I think it's a story that we haven't heard before. That's what got me.
Bonnie Benwick: Yes. It seems this year there were more voices. I went for ... I always try to have a more inclusive list in my list of the year, Best of the Year lists tend to be longer than everybody else's. I know I was kind of complaining about, how could I narrow it down, but it seemed to be echoed in several other end of the year lists that I've seen so far. It's like they're all, cookbooks are just getting better.
It's not necessarily that they're getting edited better, but we're just hearing from more voices and there are more cuisines out there that are more accessible to people because of the way we shop, or available things online, or that we're all so interested in. There are more people who are reading cookbooks for the stories they tell, not just for recipes that they give you.
Suzy Chase: Can you describe the overall quality of cookbooks released this year?
Bonnie Benwick: I was pretty impressed. Even the instant pot books, they went after trying to show you specifically what I think is the cuisines that call for a lot of long, slow cooking, Mexican, Indian, even French, all the braises that happen in French cooking, just translate really well to the instant pot. You have to know what buttons to push and how long to do certain steps. The fact that you can sautee chicken before you stew it for minutes instead of hours, that kind of thing.
I thought that was pretty good and there's also those books like the Japan book that I recommended. It was just to me a really beautiful attempt at picking and choosing Japanese recipes that are not intimidating, that don't call for a lot of ingredients, that don't have you making your own dashi every five minutes, although there is some of that. But I just thought it was a beautiful attempt at, and this has nothing to do with appropriation culturally.
But the author, Nancy Hachisu lived there long enough that she was able to study the cuisine and cook with different Japanese cooks and chefs. So I felt that she had that western sensibility to translate and explain those recipes and choose the ones that she thought would appeal to people like me. So if you've been to Japan, if you're in love with the culture, if you like that way of eating, I thought it was a really nice entrée. Plus, it's just a beautiful book.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. I find that all Phaidon books are beautiful, like coffee table books. It's interesting to hear how that cookbook rose to the occasion for you because sometimes I feel like they aren't really that practical, that they're more pretty to look at.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah, definitely. They care about the packaging of the thing, and usually there's some, I wouldn't call it a marketing device, but there's something about the way that they present the material and there's always so many recipes in every Phaidon book, right? There are like-
Suzy Chase: A million, yeah.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah, and that you can't really, unless it comes with one of those little ribbons, how are you going to keep that open?
Suzy Chase: Well, some of them come with two ribbons.
Bonnie Benwick: That's true, I remember Spanish Foods or something from years ago. Yeah, but again, it's not like I've cooked out of a lot of them. So this was a bit of a surprise to me. They always look really pretty, but unless I'm totally wrong about this, it seems like those are kind of giftable. Is that a word? That's not a word.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, I think it is a word.
Bonnie Benwick: They're good for gifts. It's a book that you present to somebody else. I'm not sure that I've ever seen one that someone has just demolished by cooking through it and breaking the spine and doing something like that. So coffee table sounds about right.
Suzy Chase: Cookbook sales soared 25% this year. Does that surprise you at all?
Bonnie Benwick: You know, my editor Joe Union and Cathy Barrow, who is the author of Pie Squared, was also on my list and she's a columnist for us and a friend of mine. Full disclosure, she lives in DC. We're talking about this recently and I think that number might be a little skewed by the overall sales, but the book that's really crushed everybody else, and I'm talking Ottolenghi, and Ina Garten, and Dory Greenspan, and all the people that you think sell really well, 10 times over their heads, five times over their heads is the Joanna Gaines Magnolia Table.
Suzy Chase: Really?
Bonnie Benwick: Have you looked through that?
Suzy Chase: Yeah. I've just flipped through it. Wow.
Bonnie Benwick: Well, it's almost like food is an afterthought to this empire that she and her husband and their multiple children have built. It's that lifestyle branding, I think, that maybe she took a page from Gwenyth Paltrow or something, but it really seemed to click in. She has far outstripped Pioneer Woman, a distant second she is. But I think Joanna Gaines, I think for just fall numbers for her, I heard something like she had sold a million copies.
Suzy Chase: Wow.
Bonnie Benwick: That's just in September. Yeah.
Suzy Chase: People love her.
Bonnie Benwick: That's crazy.
Suzy Chase: They make pilgrimages to that darn place in Waco that they have.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah, I think she made it a whole, revitalized the industry, and more power to her. I just don't know really where her recipes come from. I haven't researched it enough and I haven't cooked out of the book, although it's on my desk at work. I feel like I need to give it a shot because people are buying it for some reason, right? That alone I think has skewed the overall numbers. If you look at Publisher's Weekly stats, it tends to be not that much different from last year if you take her off the top.
Suzy Chase: In the same vein, it's no shocker that I'm not a fan of celebrity cookbooks, so tell me about Cravings: Hungry For More, Chrissy Teigen's latest cookbook. That was on your list too.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah. The thing about her is I think she's funny. I do believe that she likes being in the kitchen, but the thing that she was really smart about is she got a very smart recipe developer-
Suzy Chase: Adeena Sussman, yep.
Bonnie Benwick: Absolutely. Don't we love her? We love her.
Suzy Chase: We love her.
Bonnie Benwick: Right. So you know the recipes are gonna be okay and it looks like and sounds like, by all accounts, they have a really good time when they're in the kitchen together. Plus, she's kind of, I'm a little bit of an evangelist in that if Chrissy Teigen has made it easier for some people to do more cooking or to see that there's a simple joy in it, then I can go there.
She even included, I came across one recipe in her book that she said, the head notes really are entertaining, as she is, that she said something like, "Yep, this recipe was in the last book. It's so good we put it in here again. Sue me." It was just a whimsical thing. She can do it. She's a super celebrity star, mom, whatever. I don't know, it just kind of tickled me.
Suzy Chase: I went to the book launch that she did with Twitter here in New York City. It was packed. The line was out the door and people were just excited about her food, about listening to her talk. She has a whole thing like Joanna Gaines going on too.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah. Does she have her own line of lamps, and sheets, and towels, and stuff like that though? I don't know if she's gonna do that.
Suzy Chase: I think she has her own line of pots and pans at Target.
Bonnie Benwick: Well, yeah.
Suzy Chase: So there you go.
Bonnie Benwick: We're just envious. We want our own line of pots and pans too.
Suzy Chase: We're just bitter.
Bonnie Benwick: Like I said, I'm happy for her and at least in celebrity cookbooks for sure, you're gonna come across 25 pictures of them in the pages of the cookbook? But hers are obviously staged and they're funny. Plus, she's kind of beautiful so it's something for everybody to look at.
Suzy Chase: So onto Nigella, it's her 12th cookbook. What was special about this one, At My Table?
Bonnie Benwick: Up front, I have to disclose I'm a total anglophile. Usually during the year, I troll BBC food, I read the columnists, I'm in love with Diana Henry. Ever since Nigella's first book, it seems like I've been following her. I think when the first one came out, the domestic goddess one, I was working in the commentary section, the outlook section of the Post, and it just so happened one of the editors had gone to Oxford with her and was a roommate with her for a time.
So she told me this story about how Nigella used to throw these dinner parties all the time when she was in college. It seemed authentic. It seemed like her love of food and the fact that she was this homegrown cook, not a chef, was doing her own thing. She's got such a love of ... She's such a good writer. I love the way that she plucks words out of the air, that she'll call something squidgy and she makes it sound like a million bucks.
She does have kind of an economy of language when she's writing recipes and head notes, but they tend to conjure these images that you get. I just like that she's keeping on, keeping on. It seems when a new book of hers comes out, and they haven't all been fabulous. I wasn't a huge fan of Nigellissima, whatever, her take on Italian food and stuff, but I just appreciate that she's still around and still doing her thing so well.
Suzy Chase: I used to love that show.
Bonnie Benwick: Do you like her?
Suzy Chase: Yeah, I loved her show. Remember that show?
Bonnie Benwick: Oh yeah.
Suzy Chase: What was it called? Something ... I don't know. But she was a lot curvier.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah, she was in the kitchen. Yes, and she-
Suzy Chase: And she loved to eat.
Bonnie Benwick: But she's also had this ... Yes, that sort of late night thing in the fridge was just genius, right? Who else was doing that?
Suzy Chase: We all do that, yep. I was so excited to see seven of the cookbooks on your list were featured on my podcast this year, which is super exciting.
Bonnie Benwick: Don't we have good taste?
Suzy Chase: Look at us. What about Secrets of the Southern Table by Virginia Willis? Talk a little bit about that.
Bonnie Benwick: Have you ever met or been in her presence?
Suzy Chase: She was on my podcast.
Bonnie Benwick: That's great. How long ago?
Suzy Chase: She kicked off season four in September.
Bonnie Benwick: That's really great. I totally admire her. I've known her for a long time. She has these kind of bona fides that I really admire. She's a trained chef, she did the classic French training thing, but she also very early on got into the business of making it accessible for people through television. She worked at Martha Stewart, she worked at the elbow of Natalie Dupree. She learned how to present food to people in a way that I think is not chef-y even though she's a very good chef.
She understands how real folks cook and in this book, she was explaining origins of southern food in a way and did a lot of research and traveling around for it that I'm sure she told you about. One story that I was particularly taken with was this almond pudding that you make very simply with almond milk and gelatin. It's a southern thing, but it was actually Chinese. She explained how the Chinese people came to the south, and how they learned to cook, and how their tradition sort of got melded into southern culture, which I really hadn't read much about.
So I appreciate the fact that she did the homework and is passing along information like that. For me it enriches, like you said, it enriches the story of a cookbook, don't you think?
Suzy Chase: I learned so much from that cookbook. I think she needs to do a companion PBS series just on what she learned traveling around in the south, the history of food in the south.
Bonnie Benwick: That would be great. She's really great on television. Plus, if you talk to her for three minutes, I end up sort of saying, "Well, hey," you know.
Suzy Chase: Hey, y'all.
Bonnie Benwick: Picking up her lovely Georgia accent. Yeah, she's just great. Plus, years and years ago she did a Thanksgiving menu for us that included her mom's pecan pie. Joe and I think it's the best one. It holds up year after year. It's the best recipe we've ever made. The ratio of goo to nuts is perfect and also, this blackberry cobbler, which is kind of genius, that she does in a skillet, very easy. Pour in the batter, pour in the fruit. It's kind of a perfect recipe. I think it got included in the Genius Desserts book by Kristen Miglore this year.
Suzy Chase: I'm gonna have to look up that pecan pie recipe because I always find that there's more goo than pecans and it always makes me mad.
Bonnie Benwick: Exactly, but this is, I'm telling you, this is the way to go.
Suzy Chase: I love Jessie Sheehan and that darling cookbook, The Vintage Baker. With all of the baking books on the market, why this one?
Bonnie Benwick: I just thought it was sweet. She doesn't overreach. I like the fact that it wasn't 800 recipes. Again, I like where she's been baking and how she learned it. But in this one, you're tricked a little bit. It's vintage baker but she's applying modern methods and tweaking very traditional recipes in a way that I think makes them, reintroduces them to us. So I appreciated that. I just think she has a nice feel for things. She doesn't make things too fussy, don't you think?
Suzy Chase: And yeah, she is modern. You feel like you're gonna be flipping through grandma's baking book with her refrigerator cakes, but it's not. It's so modern. I think she's onto something.
Bonnie Benwick: I tend to lard this end of the year list with a lot of baking books. Could you tell? I do. I like all forms of cooking and baking in the kitchen, but really, baking is kind of my jam. So when they come out in full force, all the cookie books and the ... There were fewer cake books this year, I noticed. I thought that was kind of interesting.
Suzy Chase: What is one cookbook trend or type of food you'd like to forget in 2018?
Bonnie Benwick: I'm gonna get in trouble for saying this. Cauliflower.
Suzy Chase: Thank you.
Bonnie Benwick: I've never liked it and just this year it turned into flower, and rice, and microwavable cup things where normally they would have some starch, they used cauliflower instead, which must smell so horrible to me, from the microwave. I can't even tell you. They made cheese crackers out of it, like fake cheese crackers out of it.
Suzy Chase: Those are awful.
Bonnie Benwick: And even ice cream. Have you had those?
Suzy Chase: Yeah, they sell them at Trader Joe's. They're awful.
Bonnie Benwick: Please. I really just would like that to go away.
Suzy Chase: What about kale?
Bonnie Benwick: Kale doesn't bother me. It got overworked a little bit, but I think it's settled back down into a happy place where people just aren't writing about it, but I think they're still using it. I like a good massaged kale salad. I like the way that it's a rich green. I like the way that it's a hearty green that will hold up in a soup. I like kale better than chard, I think. So for those Italian wedding meatball soups and things, I started using kale in it and I like it.
Suzy Chase: Well, okay.
Bonnie Benwick: I'm sorry.
Suzy Chase: You know who Mimi Sheraton is?
Bonnie Benwick: Oh yeah.
Suzy Chase: She hates kale. Hate, hate, hates it.
Bonnie Benwick: She hates maple syrup.
Suzy Chase: She hates everything. I love her.
Bonnie Benwick: She's funny when she hates it.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Bonnie Benwick: She actually wrote this essay for us on why she hates the taste of maple. It gets overused this time of year. You should look it up. It's very funny. She gets so ... Talk about click bait. Everybody was just, what are you talking about? Now every time we use maple in a thing we're like, "Sorry, Mimi."
Suzy Chase: What is one trend you see on the horizon for 2019?
Bonnie Benwick: Probably already half trended out. Fried foods maybe? People are gonna rediscover them based on ... The re-tweeted food media seems to have picked up on the air fryer and they're all over it. They think that by spraying their food with cooking oil spray and basically putting them in a convection oven, which is pretty much something you can do in a convection oven, I think, is going to turn the tide. So we'll have fried zucchini and sweet potato fries.
Suzy Chase: Fried cauliflower.
Bonnie Benwick: Sure, all the time.
Suzy Chase: There you go.
Bonnie Benwick: At home. For me, it's not ... I think frying foods in general is something that people avoid maybe for the wrong reasons. They say they don't want a lot of overused oil, but I have this theory that in the vast middle of America, take away the coast, but I think people know how to fry. I think they reuse the oil and they strain it, reuse it. I think once you get a feel for it, it's not like it's in there soaking up buckets and buckets of oil. It's in, it's out. You have to learn how to do it, right?
Again, it's the sort of thing where I think if you know how to do it, you're not gonna buy an air fryer. If you, all the times that you maybe go out and you're guiltily ordering the fried mozzarella sticks or something, it's just funny to me that it's opened up this world of possibilities where there was a world of possibilities already there. But I could be totally wrong about this too.
Suzy Chase: We'll see. What cookbook is sitting on your bedside table right now?
Bonnie Benwick: The one that's on the top of the list is not a new book, it's an old book. It's a 2003 book called Cooking 1-2-3 by Rozanne Gold. Do you know it?
Suzy Chase: No.
Bonnie Benwick: It's like a game-changing book. She gloms on very early to this, it doesn't take a lot of ingredients, and if you want to get dinner on the table, this is how you do it. So the one, two, three is a minimal amount of ingredients, but it's just also very easy steps. I tend to have it on my bedside every now and then when I'm looking for inspiration for my Dinner In Minutes column, which is quick weeknight meals. Usually, there's something in there that I can start tweaking or playing off of.
You should look it up. She's very good in a very simple way. She's one of those people that might be under the radar for people who aren't on the east coast, but I have a lot of respect for her and what she's done. She's done several cookbooks, nothing recent. I don't know if she does that anymore, but she's also I think a driving force behind the cookbook section that was donated or created or something for New York Public Library. I'm getting that wrong, for New York University.
Suzy Chase: Oh yes. I've been to that.
Bonnie Benwick: I think it's called the spine collection or something. Have you? Yeah.
Suzy Chase: The Fales Library?
Bonnie Benwick: Fales, that's it.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. It's incredible.
Bonnie Benwick: Then let's see, something that I have current on here is a galley for Solo, which was on my list. Was that on your list, by Anita Lo?
Suzy Chase: No, but I'm dying to talk to her.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah, I think she'd be a really good interview. I remember when she appeared on top chef she was someone you wanted to listen to. Every couple of years, people remember that people aren't cooking for groups of 12. They come out with a cooking for one book. Years and years ago, I think just after Joe had come to the food section, we came up with the idea of a cooking for one column and he did for several years. We started off with getting different cooking for one constituencies to author it, like somebody who runs and eats food for fuel, basically.
Obviously someone who was a widower who hadn't been cooking and then just had to start it up and give her her own life. Then Joe sort of glommed onto it and made it things that he likes to cook. It was very popular. What Anita has done in the Solo book is first of all say it's not all about her being by herself because she is in a relationship, happens to be, but even if you're living with other people, every once in a while you cook by yourself and these are empowering recipes that she'll give you that you can treat yourself well without making a whole big deal out of it.
Suzy Chase: I think she lives in my neighborhood.
Bonnie Benwick: Well, lucky you. You should definitely get together with her.
Suzy Chase: She had a restaurant a couple streets over. I cannot think of the name right now, but it closed and everyone was so sad.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah. Was it Annisa?
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Bonnie Benwick: Anyway, sure. Her restaurant closed and everybody is sort of waiting to see what she's gonna do now.
Suzy Chase: What is your favorite vintage out of print cookbook?
Bonnie Benwick: Probably that settlement one that I mentioned, just for sentimental reasons. The 1949 edition, again, was when my mom got married. That was the year my parents married. I downsized about six months ago and I had so many cookbooks that at some point, I just thought if it's in a box and I haven't looked at it in such a long time, I'm not even gonna open the box. I donated about 12 boxes to a local DC organization that teaches cooking skills and also provides food for the city through city support residents, and I gave it away. I don't have it.
Suzy Chase: Oh no.
Bonnie Benwick: When I opened up the books that I took with me to my apartment, it's gone. I feel bad about that, but she had written notes in the margins. I think I would just like it back in my life for comfort. I can see ... I've gone online before and looked for this edition, and it's hundreds of dollars through somebody who understands how sentimental somebody can be about it. It's really very solidly about the memories and not so much about everything that we made out of it.
Suzy Chase: It's interesting. I was just talking with Jan Miller, executive editor of Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook yesterday, and so many people feel the same way about their really old Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. It's like an old friend.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah. Did the old ones used to have that red and white gingham thing on the cover?
Suzy Chase: Yeah, and the tabs.
Bonnie Benwick: Tabs, yes.
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Bonnie Benwick: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: Aw.
Bonnie Benwick: There were also those, there were a series of, I think it was by Workman, those 365 Days of Chicken or something else books. I don't know if they're really out of print or not, but they were the same size and they came out in the same era that The Silver Palate came out in. It's the paperback book but it's kind of longer size. That 365 Days of Chicken might have been in the same format as Better Homes & Gardens where it had a hard cover and you could open up the pages, but there were some pretty good simple chicken recipes in that book. I think I dipped in and out of that quite a lot. That's another one that I let go.
Suzy Chase: I have an oddball question. Why aren't cookbooks critiqued? There are book critics but why aren't cookbooks critiqued?
Bonnie Benwick: You know, I should start something, Suzy.
Suzy Chase: You should. You're welcome.
Bonnie Benwick: Kind of interesting. I think for one, if you're gonna critique it, you can sit down even with a big fat book and read it and then you're done, but with a cookbook, you really need to cook your way through it to critique it honestly, to assess its abilities, and then you have to weight it against other cookbooks and maybe some people just don't have the historical background of reading so many cookbooks and working with so many.
I used to write regular reviews of cookbooks in the earlier days of the food section. Then we had other people writing them, and then we just stopped running them. Nobody said a peep. There wasn't one reader who wrote in and said, "What happened to those great cookbook reviews you used to have?"
Suzy Chase: Oh really?
Bonnie Benwick: No.
Suzy Chase: Huh.
Bonnie Benwick: When I went on social media and just asked for general feedback, not about us, but about in general, where did people read reviews, or how did they know what cookbooks to choose, overwhelmingly, they said they just read what's on Amazon. I just thought, well, who's writing those? You don't even know.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. What pro is writing that?
Bonnie Benwick: It's like the Yelp of cookbooks or something. It's like people find their names and they seem authentic, but it could be Russian trolls for all I know. I don't even understand why that's a good thing to go by. I think more than that, these days, people probably just gravitate toward bestsellers. Don't you?
Suzy Chase: Definitely. Look at Joanna Gaines. On every episode this season, I've been asking cookbook authors what their last meal would be. So, what would you have for your last supper?
Bonnie Benwick: It would be shrimp. I would have different kinds of shrimp. I like those pinky red ones from Maine that they can't seem to get out of the sea these days. I like glass shrimp, which I've had marinated a little bit as an appetizer. I like garlicky shrimp scampi type stuff, really low brow basic stuff. I like just caught gold shrimp that have been poached in a court bouillon and maybe I would just dip it aioli because it would be my last meal and I wouldn't care about anything that was happening to my insides.
But I grew up in a kosher eating two sets of silverware kind of house. I think I must have been in high school or college the first time I really had shrimp. I just went out or went off the reservation and I've never looked back. I never get tired of it, I can't eat too much of it. It makes me sad when it goes into the oven and comes out an hour later and it's just dry and rubbery and horrible in a casserole or something. But I'll always give it a try. I like sucking heads out of shrimp. So there you go. I’d be full of shrimp.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Bonnie Benwick: I would love for everybody to come and chat with us online every Wednesday from noon to one EST at live.washingtonpost.com. We have an online chat called Free Range and we have a lot of faithful followers and a lot of lurkers who can just look at the questions and answers afterwards. It's a really fun hour. Typically if there's a guest who's written something, we'll have people on there. Had a whole lot of cookie experts on the week that our annual holiday cookies issue came out, and that was fun.
People have questions and sometimes they start with, "This is a really dumb question but," and I'm like, "There's no dumb questions." It's all about being non-intimidating. I also have a Dinner in Minutes column. It's been doing a weekly quick meal column since, I don't know, maybe 11 years or so. That now appears in our vertical called Voraciously. I don't know if you have seen it, but it's about a year old and you can get it through Eat Voraciously or washingtonpost.com/food. That'll take you to another link that you can get in.
It's basically about non-intimidating learning basic skills. It's brought in a whole new audience for us. I like [inaudible 00:38:57] my column I maybe even come up with a set pantry so that if you buy into the pantry and if you stock what I stock, then you'll never have to go shopping to make the recipe that I've given you for that week. So that seems to be good.
On Twitter, it's just my name, first name and last name. On Instagram, I'm @bbenwick. I am not on Facebook. I got hacked a couple years ago and never went back on. Now it doesn't seem like a really good thing to do, does it? Although I think Facebook has Instagram too, but I don't share a whole heck of a lot of my personal life on Instagram, just mostly things I eat and make.
Suzy Chase: This has been so much fun. Thanks, Bonnie, for coming on Cookery By The Book Podcast.
Bonnie Benwick: Thank you. It’s been fun.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram, @cookerybythebook, and subscribe over on cookerybythebook.com or in Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening to Cookery By The Book Podcast, the only podcast devoted to cookbooks since 2015.
Dec 21 2018
Every Day Is Saturday
By Sarah Copeland
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
Sarah Copeland: This is Sarah Copeland, and I'm so excited to share my new cookbook, Every Day Is Saturday.
Suzy Chase: I think we all want to keep that start of the weekend feeling where anything is possible. How can we keep the weekend cooking mentality going all week long?
Sarah Copeland: Well, for me it's about really tucking things away on Sunday. Sunday, you're ... You know, Saturday is such an exciting beginning of the weekend, and you're kind of feeling loose and easy, but even by Sunday afternoon, I think the mentality of, "Oh gosh, it's coming," is creeping into our mind, and so that is a day that I'm already tucking away, "How can I make this week feel great?" And in terms of cooking, that means whatever I'm making on Saturday and Sunday, I'm tucking away a little extra for the week ahead. So if I'm baking a banana bread, I'm always baking two. If I'm making a chocolate snacking loaf for kids that are coming over on the weekend, I'm making some for after school snacks for my kids later in the week or something to tuck in for my 2:00 work break in the afternoon.
Sarah Copeland: So I'm always kind of thinking ahead, but not thinking ahead in, "Oh jeez, here it comes," but thinking ahead in terms of packing away little moments for delight that you enjoy on the weekend or making sure you have them on the weekdays too.
Suzy Chase: Carla Hall was sold on Every Day Is Saturday as soon as she read the names of the chapters. Tell us about the chapters.
Sarah Copeland: I love that you ask that question because this is really the way we eat today in a modern world. Of course breakfast and lunch and dinner still stands, but the fact of the matter is we are so busy, families are so different, families are integrated and made all different kinds of ways, and everybody has activities.
Sarah Copeland: So the chapters are divided up in ways that you can blend and eat any time of the day. So for example, chapters ... Well obviously we have Breakfast and Brunch, but obviously brunch you think of as a weekend thing, but if you work from home, maybe you get started at your desk for two hours, and then you eat breakfast or brunch around 10:00.
Sarah Copeland: Toast and bread is a wonderful chapter that's just really quick things. So these are things we eat a lot for breakfast, but I might eat on a workday as a midmorning thing, or if we can guess ... I might just put out as a little bit of a snack. Midday meals, grazing platters, those are wonderful things to invite company for, but again they work for the family, they work for any time, and grazing platters I think is just something that we're all so into these days. It's the magical meal board where everything is there, you have very little prep work, and you can just make this beautiful display that everyone kind of gets what they want.
Sarah Copeland: I did include mains and sweets, but then there's this Cooking for Friends section which is really loose also. It's menus. It tells you what you can make when you have a lot of friends coming over, and again it's always things that you can pack away or tuck away in advance so that the moment when people arrive at the table, whether that's just your family or a big group of friends, there's not a lot of work for you as the host.
Suzy Chase: So you just brought up grazing platters. Describe your Hungarian Snacking Tray.
Sarah Copeland: Well my husband's Hungarian, and so in Hungary when you go there, there wouldn't be ever a formal sit down meal, almost never. So what they do instead is a snack ... You know, I call it a snacking tray, and basically what it is is tons of meats and cheeses, and there's soft cheeses and hard cheeses of course like we would do here, but there's even more meats than we would ever think to put on. There's soft ones and dried sausages, and they always have pâté, but one thing that's really unique is that they really blend sweets into all of their kinds of meals. So I think it's a very distinctive thing that you would also find little pogacha which are homemade cheese biscuits, or you would find strudel or beigli which is kind of more of a breadlike yeasted strudel, and you would find fruits and pickles, and pickled eggs, and hardboiled eggs.
Sarah Copeland: So truly you could sit there for hours and hours and just graze over that board, and everyone kind of has what they want, and the children dip in and out. The fun thing about that is, over there it's so different than here we're always saying, "Eat your vegetables, eat your vegetables, and then you can have a piece of cake or an ice cream," and in their culture it's just very integrated. You just eat it all in any order you want.
Suzy Chase: I like how you weave ease and grace into this cookbook, something you normally don't think about in terms of cookbooks. But believe you me, there's so many nights when ease and grace go right out of the window.
Sarah Copeland: That is so true.
Suzy Chase: Right?
Sarah Copeland: Well, when you've got kids and they're running around at your feet, it's really challenging, and I think the ease and grace comes from thinking ahead a little bit, and of course I've worked for a woman's magazine for about 15 years, and we spent many times preparing these great lists and meal plans and months of meals for everybody, but the fact of the matter is, if you are not uber organized, if you are not super structured, those don't work for every kind of family, and they don't work for my family.
Sarah Copeland: So the ease and grace for me is that you're always kind of tucking something away, and you're always kind of keeping it light. That's not easy, obviously, but it is a mentality. It's thinking that yes, it's Monday, or even Tuesday is here, gosh we're barely just getting started on the week, but you can sit down and make a meal a little bit more like a Saturday afternoon by turning on the music and deciding that it doesn't have to be a meat and potatoes plate at dinner tonight. It can be a snacking tray, or it can be something a little bit easier. Just a bit bowl of soup with lots of nice bread. And so just taking our mindset to a different place is so important. I think it keeps it fun.
Suzy Chase: You started out your career working from home, writing cookbooks and recipes for magazines, and then what prompted you to take the position as food director at Real Simple magazine?
Sarah Copeland: Well, it's such a good question. It was really a dream job. I have to say it was a coming together of all the different walks of life. So I'd worked in magazines before, and I'd worked at The Food Network, and I'd been a private chef, and I had a journalism degree, and so I had a lot of history with magazines, but when I left my last full-time job to write my first cookbook, I really thought I would never go back.
Sarah Copeland: But Real Simple was just really an embodiment of exactly the place I was in my life at the time. I had one two-year-old child, and I was starting to simplify my life. I really wanted to connect with an audience of women who were high achievers and had a ton of high standards for their family life, but also knew that it's impossible to do at all and to do it all perfectly.
Sarah Copeland: And so I liked that the mentality there was not about perfection. It was about simple beauties and simple pleasures. That is so important to me because I feel like ... in an Instagram world, we're all striving for perfect, perfect all the time, but the simplest pleasures are really the most gratifying ones. You know, whether that's siting on a picnic table with your child and listening to them babble on, or just having a really easy meal where everyone's relaxed. I think that's true luxury.
Suzy Chase: So now you're back working from home. Is that your dream scenario?
Sarah Copeland: It is. Since we moved out of the city, we live in a really sweet little town. It's very ... it's kind of like an old European village, and from my office window where I'm sitting right now, I can see our grass and where the kids play, and I can see my own garden. My garden is definitely a muse for my life, and so are my children. So you know, as much as I loved being in a fancy office and having the comradery of being with all of these super inspiring women, mostly I really ... I'm really happiest at home, and I'm happiest creating with my hands every day.
Sarah Copeland: And so I get to dip in and out of editor world, and writing world, and into my kitchen, and into my garden every day two or three times throughout the day. That's perfect for me.
Suzy Chase: You have a next level ingredient list that includes one of my recent discoveries: castelvetrano olives. Am I pronouncing that correctly?
Sarah Copeland: Oh you're saying it so much better than I can. I can spell it, I can cook with it, but I still can't say it.
Suzy Chase: I had to sound it out, but I love them.
Sarah Copeland: You nailed it.
Suzy Chase: Other than snacking, what are some interesting ways you work them into dishes?
Sarah Copeland: Oh, they are the best. They're wonderful for snacking. I put them on all of my grazing platters, but they're also great in salads because they're so meaty. So I put them in a lot of ... I put them in radish salad, I put them in all kinds of different salads throughout the book, and I also love to cook them with fish or even chicken. So if you cook them ... I have a dish that's a super simple baked fish dinner, and you put olives, and capers, and on the vine tomatoes in with whitefish and you bake it, and the whole thing is ready in about 25 minutes, and you can use any olive, but castelvetrano ... can you say it for me? The meaty green olives that we all love are great in that fish.
Suzy Chase: Yes, we'll call them the meaty green olives.
Sarah Copeland: The meaty green olives. And there's another one, cerignolas, which is an Italian ... And they're just a little bit bigger, and I usually buy them with the pit inside because they're usually more flavorful that way. And those work as a great substitute as well. They're super meaty and just juicy, and they have a little bit of a tang and a brininess, but they're not that puckery brininess that you get from a dark olive like a kalamata or a niçoise.
Suzy Chase: You have a whole section entitled Ode to Avocado. A clever tip you wrote was, "Avocado halves, or quarters, are perfect vessels." I never thought about that.
Sarah Copeland: That's so great because you know, if you just scoop out the pit, and even if it's a half or a quarter, you have this little dome, and it's great for olive oil, and sprinkling Maldon sea salt or a little bit of soy sauce or sriracha. You know, I think one thing that we get caught up in in our cook conversations about the best way to eat, people say, "Oh, I'm not a good cook." A lot of what makes me seem like a great cook is I'm a great shopper. I'm a great preparer. I'm great at gathering the right things in my home, and therefore my time in the kitchen can be a lot easier and breezier, and this is a perfect example of that.
Sarah Copeland: So if you know how to shop and you know how to select a perfect avocado when you press your thumb and it gives just a little bit, not too much, and I give you those kinds of tips in the book because I really do ... I want it to be easy. I don't want to be that person that's like, "Oh well she's really ... it's just easy for her." I want it to be easy for you too. I want it to be easy for all of us, and a lot of that is just not making it quite as difficult as we thought it was in our minds.
Suzy Chase: So on page 17, you have your 10 favorite foods list, and I love when cookbook authors do this because my 10 favorite foods just vary from day to day. So let's go through a few of them.
Sarah Copeland: Okay.
Suzy Chase: Your number one is oats.
Sarah Copeland: Yeah, oats are so great because I ... You know, I throw oats in a lot of my breads, homemade breads, so a quick break like banana bread which is ... You know, I grew up with my mom's delicious banana bread, and it was certainly amazing and delightful, but maybe it didn't have that long lasting energy that we need for our busy lives, and we know so much more about nutrition now. So I add oats into my banana bread. They're great in smoothies. If you have a Vitamix, they just basically disappear. You can add them into cookies. You can make muesli. Muesli is one of our daily breakfasts around here because it's a lot less sugar than granola is, and also you can add whatever fruits are in season any time of the year. So it's very, very versatile. So I love oats; we always have them in the house.
Suzy Chase: So then you have avocados, eggs, artisan bread, yogurt, and then you have smoked salmon. Talk a little bit about that.
Sarah Copeland: Oh gosh. We love smoked salmon. We love smoked fish of all time. I actually have a cured lox recipe in this book in my projects section, which I forgot to mention earlier. The projects section is things that you would make on a weekend and tuck away for the week like pickled onions, cured salmon, spinach pie, homemade nut milk, things like that. Because salmon is so great, and smoked salmon you can make a little tartine, you can immediately, if you have good smoked salmon in the house and bread or bagels, you can invite friends over. It's just one of those elevating things that is so simple and so nutritious and helpful. My kids love it. My whole family loves it.
Sarah Copeland: But it's just really beautiful and elegant, colorful, but again it's about procuring a good ingredient and then not having to do much yourself once you get home.
Suzy Chase: Okay, the next favorite food is cheese, one hard, one creamy, and then greens and herbs, crunchy vegetables, and last but not least, a giant bowl of fruit. So what do you put in your bowl?
Sarah Copeland: Well my kids are total fruit fanatics. So right now there are two entire huge bunches of bananas in my house which can be used in smoothies and make my banana bread when they get brown, and just packing the lunches and things like that. But we also have berries, we always have apples. We're in a really great farm region here so it could be different all the time, but we have ... We don't leave out strawberries and little berries and stuff like that because they go bad quickly, but I just am such a believer that you make good food accessible to your family so that they don't grab for other things to snack. So there's always a giant, wooden bowl on my marble kind of island area that the kids, or my husband, can just pop in and grab whatever they want.
Suzy Chase: Your summer macaroni recipe on page 114 was a revelation for me. What did Martha Stewart have to do with the creation of this recipe?
Sarah Copeland: You know, I don't know if she was the very first person to write a one pot pasta, but that's the first place I saw it. I remember this great article that was like Twelve Genius Dishes or, How to Be a Better Cook, or something like that, and as a magazine editor you're seeing hundreds and hundreds of stories, and you're creating them yourself, but every once in a while, one is so good that you tear it out, and you tack it to your board, and you hang onto it.
Sarah Copeland: At the time I was the food director at Real Simple magazine. I was creating with my team 20 new recipes every month so I didn't really have time to cook from any other magazines, but I remember thinking, "That's super smart. I should try that just for myself at home when I have time." And so when I was writing the book, it kind of was in the back of my mind, but I didn't necessarily think I would put a recipe like that in my book because hers was just so classic and perfect. It was pasta, and tomatoes, and olive oil, and maybe some basil. Really can't get much better than that, but this one really came together impromptu because I had friends over, and I'd made a giant grazing board, and they were here at like 3:00PM.
Sarah Copeland: They were like, "We're just going to pop in for an hour," and come 5:30, they're still there, I've got like nine kids in the backyard and four adults who are all hungry, and I just said, "Keep talking," and I was able to run in the house and throw pasta, and zucchini, and onions, and basil from the garden, and a little oregano, and olive oil in a pot. Literally stirred a few times, go back out, chat, come back in and check on it, and added the cheese at the end, it was like really creamy and delicious, and my kids right away said, "Oh mama, is that macaroni and cheese?" And I'm like yes, because I didn't know if they would eat it if I said, "Oh, it's one pot pasta, and there's zucchini in it," for example. Everyone just devoured it. So then that became a habit in our house to do that like once a week just as a super easy dinner.
Suzy Chase: What cheese do you use with it?
Sarah Copeland: Well, you can use parmesan or pecorino. That's what I do for the kids, something that really melts, or even manchego. People I think ... manchego is one of those underutilized cheeses, and I have a source where I can get a nice big chunk of it, and I just have it on hand all the time. I actually use manchego in my meatballs as well. It's so creamy, but it has that saltiness of pecorino or parmesan.
Sarah Copeland: But when I serve this to adults, sometimes I do dolloped fresh ricotta cheese on the end, and then a drizzle of olive oil, and some good Maldon salt because that just kind of elevates the dish and makes it feel a little bit more special.
Suzy Chase: I love the combination of black and white and color photos in the cookbook. Talk a little bit about the design aspect.
Sarah Copeland: Oh, that's such a good question. Well, Andrea Gentle and Martin Highers who shot this book, I actually met them like 15 years ago. One of my first jobs out of journalism school, I was an assistant photo editor at Oprah Magazine when the magazine launched, and we used to hire them to shoot all kinds of thing, but food photography but as well as beauty and other things, and they were just kind of like the ultimate. So my dream was to have them shoot this book, and we worked together on it, and it was so wonderful because it was just very intuitive and natural. They came to my house three separate times. We just shot me and my kids. Of course I would prep and make all the beautiful food, but then they would just capture my kids and I in our natural environment. So having a picnic at our favorite orchard, Westwind Orchard, or going to our favorite swimming hole and eating watermelon. They just really captured us in our home life up here, and I think they did it so beautifully.
Sarah Copeland: Of course I really wanted the food to shine in this book, but the idea of Every Day Is Saturday is a lifestyle even more than just a way to cook. It's about embracing the little, simple moments of life, and not letting them pass you by which is very easy to do.
Suzy Chase: Another unique feature in this cookbook is the special diets index. What prompted you to include a special index?
Sarah Copeland: I love that question. I'm so happy with this detail. A friend of mine ... Actually, my former intern who worked on my first book with me, her name is Lindsay Maitland Hunt, and she wrote a great book called Healthyish last year, and she had a special diets index, and I thought, "That is ... We've got to have that," because if you're dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian, you can go to this on page 248 and 249, and there are literally 60 or 70 recipes for each of those diets.
Sarah Copeland: So it makes me so happy. Yesterday I was doing a preview advanced book signing, and people would come up, and they'd say, "Oh, I love your book. It's so, so beautiful. Oh, but I'm vegan. It's probably not going to work for me."
Sarah Copeland: And I can say, "Actually, there are 38 recipes in the back that are naturally vegan. They're not using vegan or vegetarian substitutes, but they're just foods that are naturally vegan or vegetarian or naturally gluten-free or dairy-free because I'm such a whole foods based cook, and there's so much that nature provided for us that I don't believe we have to really, truly bend over backwards to eat in these special diets. I mean, it's all available for you in this book as well.
Sarah Copeland: So I'm really happy with that, and that was actually something we squeezed in at the very last minute because I asked for it and asked for it, and we didn't think we were going to have the page count, and at the very last minute a genius researcher that I worked with at Food Network for years was available to help us index it, and we squeezed it in. So I'm very happy to have it.
Suzy Chase: Yesterday I made your recipe for Magic Pork Shoulder on page 157. I was wondering why it wasn't in the projects section because it does take a bit of time putting spices on and letting it sit.
Sarah Copeland: No, that's such a good question. Well, one of the things that you maybe don't notice outrightly is at the end of every chapter ... So in the Breakfast and Brunch chapter, at the end of the toast chapter, there's a mini-chapter, and it's basically a one or two pager or spread, sometimes it goes into two spreads, where I give you one kind of either list or write the recipes ... Like in Breakfast and Brunch, it's migas versus chilaquiles, and I talk about what are migas, what are chilaquiles, how you can just make this magical, delicious breakfast with some leftover tortillas and a few extra ingredients.
Sarah Copeland: I wanted to end every chapter with this, "Here's one great thing you should learn by heart and do over, and over, and over again," and so in this section, Cooking For Friends, it's the Magic Pork Shoulder because I never really just make it for our family. I make it for friends, and because it's a huge pork shoulder, I always have enough to serve. I serve this at both of my kids' birthday parties, and my husband's even vegetarian so this is ... I'm not making it for him, I'm making it for all of our guests that are coming over, and we stuff it into tacos, we eat it all summer long, but whenever I make it, there is always at least a little small Tupperware left over for me and the kids for the rest of the week.
Sarah Copeland: And so it's magical in so many ways. It's magical that you have to do very little work, and the work is being done for you in a low, slow oven. And it's magical because it feeds so many people, and everyone always raves about it, and it's also magical because you're almost guaranteed to have a little bit left over, and that's going to make, let's say, your Tuesday night feel really special when you're like, "Ooh, it's a hard week, but I've got that juicy pork shoulder that I can pull out and throw into tacos or put on top of pasta or just eat with coleslaw on the side or a big, leafy salad," and it's just so satisfying that you don't need to do much else.
Suzy Chase: I can't wait. Tonight I'm going to shred it and put it with your pickled red onions that I also did yesterday and make tacos.
Sarah Copeland: Yum. So good, right? On a Monday night, how exciting is that?
Suzy Chase: Perfect, yes.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called My Last Meal. What would you have for your Last Supper?
Sarah Copeland: Oh gosh, that's a good one. Well there would for sure be watermelon, and I think right now I'm in a protein, fruit, and chocolate mode of my life. So I think I would actually have possibly the meatballs from the book which I love which are on the cover. I'm a really latecomer to enjoying ground meat and meatballs and all things of the kind so I'm making up for it. I'm making up for lost time. Probably the meatballs because I just love the idea of Italian cooking and the whole ... just there warmth and the inclusiveness that goes with it and the love that's usually poured into something like that.
Sarah Copeland: Then there would be watermelon. There would be a huge leafy green salad, and probably it would be the Ravenwood Salad from this book which has got tons of kale and shredded cabbage pepitas. I love a salad with tons of texture. You can put pepitas and sunflower seeds, and on its own it's amazing, but it's wonderful before or even after any other course.
Sarah Copeland: Then we'd have like half of a watermelon all to myself. Then I would have either the flourless chocolate cake from the book or the chocolate snacking loaf. Both really satisfy in that super fudgy chocolate way with a sprinkle of sea salt, and there probably would have to be, oddly enough, a glass of milk because I do love a glass of milk with something chocolatey.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Sarah Copeland: Okay, I'm @EdibleLiving on Instagram. My website is EdibleLiving.com. My Twitter is @EdibleLiving, and Pinterest, I love Pinterest, is EdibleLiving. So it's all under there, and I'd love to connect with people there.
Suzy Chase: A weekend state of mind is just a recipe away. Thanks, Sarah, for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Sarah Copeland: Thanks for having me, Suzy. It was so great to talk.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram @CookeryByTheBook, and subscribe at CookeryByTheBook.com or in Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening to Cookery by the Book podcast, the only podcast devoted to cookbooks, since 2015.
Jun 10 2019
By Marion Nestle
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cook book authors.
Marion Nestle: I'm Marion Nestle. I'm Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health Emerita in New York University, and author of the recently published Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.
Suzy Chase: Professor, you are a consumer advocate nutritionist, award-winning author, and an academic. I'm sure I'm leaving so many things out. But to sum it up, you are our public health hero, and I'm honored to have you on my podcast.
Marion Nestle: Glad to be here.
Suzy Chase: You love the intellectual challenge of figuring out what we eat, and how diets affect our health. How hard was it to separate the truthful information from the lies?
Marion Nestle: Well, I've been at this for a really long time, so it didn't happen immediately, but I started out as a basic scientist, and approached the study of nutrition from the standpoint of somebody trained in science. And so I looked, right from the beginning, at what is the science that backs up dietary advice? And I could se immediately that there was going to be a big problem in that, because it is impossible to do the kinds of studies about diet and health that we really need in order to come to firm and compelling conclusions. And so this gets us into a gray area, which I like very much and find very exciting and intellectually challenging, is how do you find out what people eat, and how do you find out how diets that are extraordinarily complicated affect our health? Big questions.
Suzy Chase: So in Unsavory Truth, you kick off the book with story after story about Coca-Cola. Give me some examples of how Coke influences nutritionists, journalists, and other researchers.
Marion Nestle: Well, it's interesting that you mention that, because in today's New York Times, there's a front page story about how Coca-Cola worked with scientists in China-
Suzy Chase: In China.
Marion Nestle: ... of all places, to make sure that Chinese policy focused on physical activity rather than diet as a leading cause of obesity. Obesity is the result of calories that you consume in food, and calories that you expend in physical activity. But because physical activities doesn't take nearly as many calories as you think, and it's really easy to overeat, if you wanna lose weight, you've gotta eat less. There's really no other way to do it. And what these scientists who were funded by Coca-Cola and worked very closely with Coca-Cola, through an organization called the International Life Sciences Institute, or ILSI, what they did was get the Chinese government to focus on physical activity as a way to prevent obesity. Physical activity is hugely important for health, but for body weight, not so much.
Suzy Chase: Do you feel like Coke is kind of losing their grip in America, so they need to find other markets? Is that this whole Chinese thing, do you think?
Marion Nestle: Oh, there's no question about that. Sales of sugar-sweetened beverages started falling in about the year 2000, and have fallen steadily since then, so that they're now at least a third below what they were in the year 2000. That's a huge loss in sales. And in order to make up ... And the reason for that loss is that the public health message about sugar-sweetened beverages is out there. Everybody knows you're not supposed to drink your calories, and you're not supposed to eat a lot of sugar. That's really quite well known across the general population. So for Coca-Cola to keep its sales up, it has to find other markets, and it has gone into the developing world big time, even though people in the developing world don't have a lot of money, they've got enough to buy sugar-sweetened beverages. And they can make it up in volume. And the major soda companies have invested billions of dollars in marketing in Asia, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and so forth. And I wrote about all of that in my book, Soda Politics, that came out in 2015, and that's very well-known. And it's been interesting to watch what's happened with Coca-Cola since.
I take on Coca-Cola a lot in Unsavory Truth, mainly because its activities have been so visible. And the activities of the other companies which may be equivalent, are not as visible. They're quieter, they're just not made public. One of the reasons why we know so much about Coca-Cola's activities has to do with investigations like the one that's reported in the Times today, but also because of emails that emerged in various ways over the last couple of years that demonstrate Coca-Cola's very close involvement with researchers, its focus on research to demonstrate that physical activity is more important than what you eat or drink, and what you way, that any evidence to the contrary that links sugar-sweetened beverages to type II diabetes, obesity, and other such diseases is so badly flawed that you don't have to pay any attention to it. And that in fact, there's no evidence that links sugar-sweetened beverages to obesity, type II diabetes, or any other problems. And those research studies, which ... And we know they were funded by Coca-Cola, because the investigators have to say that in the papers that they write, and there have now been many analyses of Coca-Cola's funded research as compared to equivalent studies done by independent researchers to show that industry-funded research almost invariably comes out with results that favor the interest of the sponsor.
So we know a lot more about Coca-Cola than we do about other companies, and I'm sure they're quite unhappy about that.
Suzy Chase: Well, and now they've launched their whole transparency thing on their website. And I was reading that, and they gave more than $2 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Now, are they trying-
Marion Nestle: Isn't that nice of them? Isn't that nice of them?
Suzy Chase: They're so thoughtful and generous. Is that them trying to get brand loyalty from children?
Marion Nestle: Oh, of course.
Suzy Chase: Oh.
Marion Nestle: Of course. If you're selling a product, it doesn't matter what the product is, you want an audience for it. You want people asking for it. You want children asking for it. You want children to understand that Coca-Cola's a treat from the time they're very, very young. You want them asking their parents for it. You're wanting them to associate Coca-Cola with wonderful, entertaining, fun activities with music that you like, with sports that you like, so that it becomes a normal part of your childhood, something that you're going to look back on with great fondness when you're an adult, and hopefully drink the product through your entire life.
Suzy Chase: God, that's so insidious.
Marion Nestle: It's normal business practice.
Suzy Chase: So you mentioned some emails. How do you feel being monitored by Coke?
Marion Nestle: Well, I start Unsavory Truth out with story that just completely blew me away.
Suzy Chase: Me, too.
Marion Nestle: In 2015 and '16, when there was the election of, when Donald Trump was running against Hilary Clinton for President, and there was all of this business about getting the Russians involved and the Russians' hacking of Hilary Clinton's emails as part of her campaign. While all that was going on, the emails were being posted on the Wikileaks site, but also there was a set of them that got posted on a brand new site called DC Leaks. And I heard about that. I wasn't paying that much attention to the email, but I got messages from two people who knew about my work, who wrote me and said, "Marion, you're in the Hilary Clinton emails!" And I thought, "That's impossible. How could that possibly be?" I didn't have anything to do with Hilary Clinton's campaign. But in the emails that had been picked up, there was a cache of emails from a person who worked with Hilary Clinton, a woman named Capricia Marshall, who, while she was helping Hilary Clinton with her campaign, was also consulting for Coca-Cola and getting a retainer of $7,000 a month from the company, for whatever work she was doing with them.
And those emails, amongst other things, talked about ... They were emails between her and an executive of Coca-Cola, and they talked about a lecture that I had given at the University of Sydney in Australia, when I was working as a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney in early 2016, just beginning the research for Unsavory Truth. I had just published Soda Politics, and I gave a lecture on that book to the Nutrition Society of Australia, and I remember that somebody came up to me, and it was a small group, it wasn't a very big group, but somebody came up and said, "You know, there's a representative from Coca-Cola here. Is that a problem for you?" And I said, "Of course not." I had just published this book about the sugary drink industry, and I assumed there was somebody from that industry in every talk I gave. They would be interested in what I was saying. Well, it turns out, this person took notes, very good notes, actually, on my talk, and sent them up the chain of command and they landed, the notes on my lecture landed in these emails.
Suzy Chase: Wow.
Marion Nestle: And the notes were accompanied by a recommendation that Coca-Cola monitor my activities in Australia and also monitor the activities of Lisa Bero, the scientist at the University of Sydney that I was working with. So that was kind of amazing. That's how I started the book. And those emails also talked about Coca-Cola's attempts to influence journalists, attempts to influence researchers and other kinds of things that are germane to the things I discuss in the book.
Let me just say one other thing about the emails, 'cause this came out much later, was that the DC Leaks site that had all those emails was taken down, but before it was taken down, it was copied and all of those emails are available at the University of California at San Francisco, in their food documents library. So that was a lucky break, that they copied them just in time.
Suzy Chase: Oh, totally. Did that make you think, "Okay, I'm doing some really, really good work. It's all paying off since Coke is monitoring me?"
Marion Nestle: Oh, I was just terribly flattered.
Suzy Chase: Yes, totally.
Marion Nestle: You know, "Really? I turned up in Hilary Clinton emails? That's amazing!"
Suzy Chase: Little old me?
Marion Nestle: Yeah, little old me, really? The idea that anybody thought I was important, you know, I'm an academic! I teach students. I thought it was just amazing that anybody thought I was important enough to track.
Suzy Chase: So even Hershey and the Almond Board of California funded a study promoting dark chocolate and almonds in the Journal of the American Heart Association. So I guess chocolate went from candy to a health food?
Marion Nestle: Well, I think everybody thinks that dark chocolate is healthy and good for them. I mean, I ask audiences about this all the time, and say, "Is dark chocolate good for you?" Every hand goes up. And it's really Mars that spent a fortune trying to demonstrate that chocolate is a health food. It's a plant extract, after all. Nevermind the sugar and other things that get added to it. And the effort to market chocolate as a health food, it seems to me, to be a very good example of how industry funding skews this kind of science. Mars did hundreds of millions of dollars worth of studies over years to demonstrate that the anti-oxidant flavonols in cocoa had anti-oxidant activity that would reduce heart disease risk, and they never could really prove that. And they certainly couldn't prove that eating chocolate had the same effect, particularly because the flavonols are destroyed in cocoa processing into chocolate. And then eventually, they found a way to stop the flavonols from being destroyed, and they're now marketing flavonol supplements derived from cocoa, and have changed their marketing so they're no longer marketing chocolate as a health food, and instead, are trying to market these supplements.
But that's a long story that the FDA got involved in, but the word is out, and everybody believes that dark chocolate is good for you. Well, it might be if you ate pounds of it, but then that wouldn't be so good in other ways.
Suzy Chase: In the 1950s, the tobacco industry executives were aware of the link between cigarettes and lung cancer.
Marion Nestle: Well, this is an old story, and a very depressing one. When the information started to come out that cigarette smoking raised the risk for lung cancer, and that information was available in the early 1950s, the tobacco industry got together and said, "We gotta fight this." And the first thing you do, is you cashed out on the science. So they funded their own studies to show that no, cigarette smoking didn't have anything to do with cancer. And then they did other things. They funded scientists, they funded professional associations, they funded arts organizations, they funded physical activity associations. They did everything they possibly could to redirect attention away from cigarettes as a risk factor for cancer, and sort of made the whole thing confusing and muddy, and it was decades before the research was so overwhelming that everybody had to accept the idea that that cigarettes were harmful.
So I think the cigarette industry was responsible for a great deal of illness during that period, and they were perfectly well aware of it. There's a huge amount of documentary evidence also at the University of California at San Francisco, which collects this sort of thing that demonstrates that the cigarette companies were well aware of the problems, which simply gets much more complicated, because people don't eat just one food, they eat many, many different kinds of foods. Diets vary from day to day, from week to week, and differ enormously from person to person. So it's very hard to pin down a health problem on one particular food or ingredient. But this has certainly been the attack of Coca-Cola, which is a sugary beverage, to deflect attention from the sugar. That was certainly an aim of a lot of that research.
And now, we see a vast amount of research coming from healthy foods that are simply trying to get a marketing advantage by funding research that will show that they have appropriate health properties.
Suzy Chase: How dos nutrition research differ from food science?
Marion Nestle: Well, food science is about making and selling food products. It's about studying the ingredients of food and what they do, and developing food ingredients that can be put into processed foods that people will eat it. I mean, it's a much ... It's a food industry. It's actually an arm of the food industry. It's the food industry's research arm to help it develop products that they can sell. At least, that's what it's been, historically. Only recently have food scientists started to look at food ingredients in health, which gets them much more into the nutrition research area, and puts them at risk of conflicts of interest.
Nutrition research is about how to make people healthier through diet and finding out what the health properties are of ingredients. So these are two different fields. They're almost always in different academic departments, and sometimes different schools in universities. And attempts to unite food science and nutrition departments have never worked very well.
Suzy Chase: In terms of the latest dietary guidelines, how accurate are these guidelines, and can we take them at face value?
Marion Nestle: Well, I'm not sure accurate is the right word to use to describe dietary guidelines. These are meant to be general statements of principle about what healthful diets include, and these principles are so simple that the journalist Michael Pollan can do it in seven words: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I mean, it's really that simple. You wanna advise a largely plant-based diet. And dietary guidelines have always promoted eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And when they are talking about what you should eat more of, they talk about food. But when they talk about what you should eat less of, salt, sugar, saturated fat, they refer to the nutrients, not the foods that are the main sources of them, because if they talk about those foods, they get into too much trouble. It's just politically impossible to suggest to the American public that eating the main sources of saturated fat, which are animal products, it would be better if people ate less meat and dairy foods, that's not gonna go over very well, because there are groups that are responsible for raising dairy cattle and beef cattle in every state in the Union. And every state in the Union has two senators, and they have a lot of power. These lobbying groups have a lot of power.
So the dietary guidelines are stated in euphemisms, when it comes to what you should eat less of.
Suzy Chase: At the end of Unsavory Truth, you have ides on what needs to be done with researchers, food companies, reporters, and eaters. What is your advice for us eaters/consumers?
Marion Nestle: Well, first of all, recognize that who funds the research has a great deal of influence on what the outcome of that research is. The general findings about industry-funded research are that industry-funded studies generally come, not always, but most of the time, come out with results that favor the sponsor's interest, that that the size of the gift matters, the more funding you have, the more likely you are to produce results that favor the sponsor's interest, and that the influence, and this is the really tricky part, the influence is unconscious, largely. People don't realize that they're being influenced. Researchers who take food industry money don't believe that it has any effect on the way that they design, conduct, or interpret the research, even though lots and lots of evidence shows that the influence is there, whether they recognize it or not. That makes it really difficult to deal with.
So I say for the public, if you see a study that has a result that seems miraculous, it's probably not, because science doesn't work that way. If the results of a study favor a single food or a single ingredient, you wanna raise the question of who paid for the study, because useful studies about diet and health don't focus on individual nutrients or individual foods, they focus on dietary patterns, the collection of foods that people eat on a day to day basis. And if, whenever you hear, everything you thought you knew about nutrition is wrong, that one should send a huge red flag in the air to be especially skeptical, because again, that's not how science works.
Suzy Chase: What are some of your food predictions for 2019?
Marion Nestle: Oh, 2019, we're gonna have lots of politics, clearly. And there will be continued efforts to relax any kind of discussion on what people would be better off not eating. The big food issues are what's gonna happen to SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program, the one program that we have left that supports food assistance for the poor, that's gonna be a big one. We're gonna have new dietary guidelines, and committees being appointed. And there will be a lot of discussion once that committee is appointed, about what that committee is going to do, and how it is going to review the research. I expect to see lots about that. And food will continue to be a front page story, as it has been. A full employment act, for me, I'm happy to say.
Suzy Chase: You're not retired.
Marion Nestle: No, I'm not, actually.
Suzy Chase: Now, to my segment called My Last Meal. What would you have for your last supper?
Marion Nestle: Oh, dear. Well my favorite food is ice cream. What can I say? Vanilla, but a really good one.
Suzy Chase: Perfect. Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Marion Nestle: My website is foodpolitics.com, and I do a blog post once a day, almost everyday during the week, where I talk about food issues of various kinds, and that goes out automatically to my Twitter feed, @marionnestle. And that's the extent of my social media, these days.
Suzy Chase: Well, this has been so informative. I cannot thank you enough for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Marion Nestle: My pleasure.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram, @cookerybythebook, and subscribe at cookerybythebook.com, or in Apple Podcasts.
Thanks for listening to Cookery by the Book podcast, the only podcast devoted to cookbooks since 2015.
Jan 22 2019
The Italian Table
By Elizabeth Minchilli
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast. With Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
Elizabeth: Hi, I'm Elizabeth Minchilli and my latest cookbook is The Italian Table.
Suzy Chase: The Italian Table is glorious, from the recipes to the photos. The first thing you see when you open the cookbook is the stunning kitchen with rustic blue and white tile, and blue and white plates hung on the wall. Is this your kitchen?
Elizabeth: Oh, I wish! That's a kitchen in a beautiful castle outside of Rome. Although I've spent a lot of time in it.
Suzy Chase: Oh, that tile is to die for.
Elizabeth: Beautiful. And you know, a lot of the kitchen, I didn't get into all the kitchens in the book, but the particularly beautiful ones I tried to include since they're so inspirational.
Suzy Chase: I can't figure out what's more beautiful in this cookbook, your writing or your photographs. What do you love more?
Elizabeth: Well, you know, for me, since the kinds of books I've always done have been so image-driven, I can't imagine one without the other. And I see the photographs as giving a different dimension to the words. And that's always been my response to cookbooks, you know. I love, obviously, recipes that work, but I love the story behind them. But I also like the visual inspiration, whether it's actually the food or the place settings or the tiles on the kitchen wall.
Suzy Chase: Me too. So I found it interesting that each chapter captures a specific meal that you experienced in Italy. Describe how this cookbook is laid out.
Elizabeth: Well the way, I was trying to decide how to combine my competing passions for, you know, interior design and setting and history with food. And I realized that it all came together at the table. And once I decided that, I wanted to share as many different kinds of meals as possible to show my readers how Italians really eat. I mean you know, most people imagine certain dishes with Italy, whether it's pasta or pizza or gelato. But people aren't eating those things all day long, and they're not eating them perhaps in the way that people think.
So while the settings are beautiful, these are really the way people eat, whether it's at the beach, whether it's on a coffee break, you know, grabbing a slice of pizza in Rome. Whether it's in a summer vacation villa outside of, in Umbria. So I wanted to have a great range and that way to be able to explore both the setting and the food on the table.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, I notice that you really drill down beyond the ingredients, beyond the cooking technique. Like you'll get the pasta and the bowl, but what about the bowl, or the tool used to get the pasta from the bowl to the plate or even the linens that cover the table. I love that part.
Elizabeth: Yeah, that's my ... I love that part too. And not just because it involves shopping opportunities. What I really love about it is that it really, you know, 'cause when you go to a place you might have a great meal and you might support the local restaurants, in a way, but there's other ways that you can learn more deeply about a region and that's by visiting its artisans. And you know a lot of people will see pretty, you know, ceramics from Italy and stop there, knowing that they're from Italy. But I really like to, you know, drive home why this certain kind of plate shows up if you're on the beach in Positano, why a different kind of bowl shows up if you're in a small town in Puglia, and what those mean. And explore a bit about the people who are actually making those bowls, who are often the people that are eating those dishes anyway.
Suzy Chase: Here's the question I'm dying to know the answer to. How did a girl from St. Louis end up in Rome as an expert on Italian cuisine?
Elizabeth: Well, that goes back to the fact that when I was 12 years old I was living in St. Louis and my parents took a vacation, and they went to Italy and they did Florence, Venice, Rome. And they came back and instead of getting back to our life they packed up our house, sold the business, and we moved to Rome for two years. And although we only stayed there for two years and then moved back to the States, we always came back in the summer. And so I always felt at home whether it was in Italy or Spain or France, trying to get a way to get back, and that way came back in graduate school. And in the late '80s I decided if I picked a, you know, my dissertation topic correctly, I could get somebody else to sort of fund my permanent vacation, and I did. And I ended up in Florence working on sixteenth century gardens.
And then along the way I met my Italian husband and started having Italian babies and Italian dogs and that's when my new career really shifted gears from academia to publishing. And at the beginning I was writing predominantly about art and architecture and design, but almost really really shortly thereafter I also started writing about food. But always in a cultural context. You know, when I was writing for Bon Appetit or Food & Wine or Town & County I would write about restaurants but more, not just as a place to find good food but as a way to dive deeper into the culture.
Suzy Chase: Tell me about where you live.
Elizabeth: I currently divide my time between Rome and Umbria. Umbria is a region located just north, in between, let's say, Rome and Florence. And my main house is a little apartment in the old section of Rome called Monti. It's a little, I'm now talking to you from my office on the roof of our building. We've been living here, my husband had the apartment when I met him, my kids have been born here, and it's right, I mean, if I walked out, I just now walked down the street and my cash machine, my ATM, is in front of the Colosseum. Which is kind of nice.
Suzy Chase: Oh, wow.
Elizabeth: And then our house up in Umbria, which is on the cover of the book, actually. We spend the summers there and have a big vegetable garden and we have olive trees so we make our own olive oil and that's where we live.
Suzy Chase: How old is your house in Umbria? It looks like it's stone.
Elizabeth: It's made out of stone. And the house itself is, I would say parts date back to the sixteenth century.
Suzy Chase: Wow. That's gorgeous.
Elizabeth: And you know, like all of these houses, they're built onto over the years, and we restored it. My husband's an architect, and his specialty is restoring these houses into inhabitable places. And in fact two of my books talk about restoring houses in Italy.
Suzy Chase: Talk a bit about how the Italian food words are the hardest to tackle. Like, cicchetti, in Venice, if I'm pronouncing that correctly. What is it, and where would we eat it?
Elizabeth: Well, cicchetti is a word that yeah, exists only in Venice. Took me a really hard time to figure out what it means, because people translate it into tapas, you know? 'Cause we think we know what that means. Or little bites. And they kind of are both those things. But when you say to a Venetia, they know exactly what it means and it has a sort of social context. It means, little things to eat along with a glass of wine so you don't get too drunk 'cause that's not the point. The point is actually meeting your friends and having a drink. And the food is sort of secondary. And you know all this stuff I just said, it's hard to put down in a one word translation. But it's funny you ask that because I mean, food in Italy is so difficult to translate and this past week I just did food tours as well, and Melissa Clark was just here and we were doing-
Suzy Chase: Yes. You had your Awful Tour.
Elizabeth: We had our Awful Tour. And it wasn't awful at all, it was wonderful. But it did deal with innards. And one of the things that we both learned, you know, we were both in Umbria, in Rome, and in Florence, is you know, the same little part of an animal can have, you know, ten different words depending where you are in Italy. And for me, that's sort of the fascinating thing. There's always something more to learn. You know, you said I'm an expert in Italian food, but I find it hard to believe that anybody's an expert. I think that there's always something to learn.
Suzy Chase: Well since you brought up Melissa Clark, tell me about your food tours and your daughter Sophie.
Elizabeth: So, when I first started my blog I didn't really know, you know, back in the early days of blogs, I didn't really know what it would lead to and how it would make money. 'Cause blogs don't make money. And so one of the things that it led to was doing food tours. And people started asking me for food tours and I didn't quite know what they were at the time. Nobody was really doing them in Rome. And so I started doing them, and I did market tours around several different neighborhoods in Rome on my own, and was immediately very busy doing these tours.
And I was doing it on my own for a few years and then luckily my daughter, Sophie, graduated university. She was going to school in London, came back here, and I convinced her to work with me. And so now we both got sort of more work than we can handle. She's doing, handling the day by day tours here in Rome. I do some of them as well. But my time is mostly focused on our week in Italy tours. And those are deep dives into different regions. We're currently doing tours in Rome, in Florence, and in Puglia. And we do them on our own, they're usually six nights. We do them on our own, sometimes we partner with people. I've partnered with Melissa Clark twice and Evan Kleiman, who's located in LA. She's a cookbook author and host of Good Food.
Suzy Chase: The best.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And then in July we're doing one with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love.
Suzy Chase: Oh cool.
Elizabeth: Yeah. We're doing one in Puglia. So it's a fun excuse to collaborate with friends, and also see Rome and Italy in general from a different point of view.
Suzy Chase: What influence did Anna Tasca Lanza and her cooking school have on you?
Elizabeth: Well I just remember seeing the book really early on, you know, when I first moved to Italy, working on my dissertation. I can remember picking up the Marcella Hazan books, cooking through them, and then there were these books also by Anna Tasca Lanza. And these beautifully illustrated books. And Sicilian food at the time, even in Italy, people weren't really talking about it. And I just found it fascinating. And when I started writing about food and getting sent on press trips, I found myself at the Tasca d’Almerita estate. And seeing these pictures of the food processes that were going on in both of the houses on the estate. And there was one house that sort of focused on the wine and then there was Anna Tasca Lanza at the other villa. And I would see these pictures of like, women pouring tomato sauce on wooden planks in a sun drenched courtyard making tomato paste, and her recipes talked about these really romantic memories of the house cook sort of teaching her how to make things, and with the ingredients from the land. And it always was something that stuck in my head, and over the years I've made it back there as many times as possible and I'm really happy to recreate a menu inspired by my time there.
Suzy Chase: You have a gorgeous porchetta in this cookbook. What is the key to a good porchetta?
Elizabeth: Well obviously the key to any of these dishes is getting great ingredients. And the other thing is that you have to sort of, a lot of these recipes that people love are often eaten in certain places. For instance, porchetta is most likely eaten at the side of the road, you know, as you're driving through Italy there's a porchetta stand and he's got, you know, this 200 pound pig on the side of the road that he's cutting thick slices off of. I don't think anybody that's buying my book has an oven big enough to fit a pig in it. And so the challenge of my recipe was creating a porchetta that you could cook at home. And in that case it was something that would fit in your oven, have all that crispy skin, have all the nice juicy fat, but not get dried out in the middle. And so I, working with my local butcher in Umbria, I came up with that recipe. So it has all those things. And it's just super easy. Once you get the really right kind of meat, you barely season it. I mean, you season it correctly, tie it up correctly, you put it in the oven and you walk away. So, and I have to say, most of the recipes in the book are sort of, you know, not a lot of work.
Suzy Chase: I can't talk about porchetta without bringing up fraschetta. Describe a fraschetta.
Elizabeth: A fraschetta.
Suzy Chase: Fras-, yes.
Elizabeth: Sorry! They're all really hard. Everybody mispronounces my name, too, because the C and the H and all those things are really hard to get in Italy. So, a fraschette.
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Elizabeth: A fraschetta is a restaurant located in the town of Ariccia. It's south of Rome and it's known for its porchetta. And these fraschette were originally just little shops, like hole in the walls that would sell wine. And people would sit outside and to provide shade the owners would put up a few branches to provide shade, so its leaves still attached. And those are frasce. And so these places became known as fraschette, where you could go get sort of table wine. And bring your own food. Eventually these places started serving their own food, turned into restaurants, but they're still called fraschette today. And one of the places that actually, Sophie and I visit a lot, is la Selvotta in Ariccia. And the pictures in the book come from our experience there, which is one of my favorite ones because it's actually located in a leafy sort of forest.
Suzy Chase: It looks heavenly.
Elizabeth: It is. And the food is just, you know, it's what you want to sit down at a picnic bench and eat. It's like, mozzarella and salami and olives. And then you always have a few cooked things included. Porchetta, maybe, some sausages. It's fantastic.
Suzy Chase: So last night I made some of your recipes out of the menu for a late summer dinner under the pergola. Even though it's the dead of winter here.
Elizabeth: I saw that, I saw that! I saw that. You put them on Instagram. They looked perfect. Well, I have to say when people are asking me what's my go-to recipe in the book, it's the bean soup recipe. It's just so good.
Suzy Chase: It's two minutes.
Elizabeth: I know. It's two minutes. And people really think you put a lot more effort into it than you did.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Elizabeth: I mean, if you start out with dried beans and soak them, it does become, you know. And I do suggest you do that. But I'm not gonna tell anybody if you use canned beans, that's okay.
Suzy Chase: Okay, thanks.
Elizabeth: But I have to say, it's a great winter recipe, but then I find that in the summer if you serve people soup they really appreciate it. It's like something they don't expect and they're sick of eating cold food.
Suzy Chase: Describe the story that went with this menu, how you became a good Italian momma immediately after your daughters were born.
Elizabeth: Well one of the things, one of the many things that I realized, is that being an Italian momma has lots of sort of unspoken rules. And one of them is that while you stay in the city with your kids during school year, the minute the school year ends or the weekend comes, you head out to a country house. And I don't know how it is, but everybody seems to have a country house. Whether it's your Nonna, whether it's, you know, your friends, you go out to the countryside. And so I would pack up the kids and go up to the country. And so that's where, you know, even though we live in Rome, I learned to cook a lot and entertain at our house in Todi. And you know I learned to cook, you know, meals according to the seasons as well, which is something that's, I think, really important.
Suzy Chase: So moving on to my segment called My Last Meal, what would you have for your last supper?
Elizabeth: You know, it has to do with place as well. So I think I would have to say, maybe a plate of carbonara at one of my favorite Trattoria, Perilli in Rome. Just because for me that sums up sort of everything. It sums up the place I would go for Sunday lunches with my family, it has my favorite waiter Valerio, it's a place that's always been there before I got there, it will exist long after I leave. And the plate, you know, the carbonara goes without saying.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Elizabeth: On social media, I'm eminchilli at Instagram. And I am Elizabeth Minchilli on Facebook, and eminchilli on Twitter. And my website is elizabethminchilli.com. And I also have an app, Eat Italy, which is guides for eating your way through Rome, Venice, Florence, Puglia, Umbria, and more and more cities every day.
Suzy Chase: Thanks Elizabeth, for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Elizabeth: It was great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram, @cookerybythebook, and subscribe at cookerybythebook.com or in Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening to Cookery By The Book podcast, the only podcast devoted to cookbooks, since 2015.
Mar 18 2019
Dining On A Dime Cookbook
By Tawra Kellam and Jill Cooper
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book, with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Tawra Kellam: Hello. I am Tawra from LivingOnADime.com, the author of the Dining on a Dime Cookbook where you can eat better, spend less. I wrote it with my mom, Jill. We have sold over 500,000 copies, so we are considered a bestselling cookbook now, which is pretty cool.
Suzy Chase: You are a friend in my head. I've been such a fan of your Facebook and YouTube videos for over a year now. I even went out and bought your cookbook, Dining on a Dime. So, supermarket shortages and job losses because of the Coronavirus pandemic mean lots of us are changing things up to make the best of scarce supplies and tighter budgets. You know a thing or two about leaving the grocery store with only necessities and we need your wisdom now more than ever. So let's kick things off with a little background about you and your mother. You are frugal before frugal was cool. Talk a little bit about that.
Tawra Kellam: Well, we were frugal out of necessity. My mom was a single mom. My dad left my mom with $35,000 of debt that her name was on, so she had to pay it. She worked three jobs, got it paid off, and then we became sick with chronic fatigue syndrome and I also got fibromyalgia. My mom, my brother and I all got what we thought was the flu and we never got better over 30 years ago. So we did it out of necessity because my mom only had $500 a month to raise two teenagers. Even back in the late 80s, early 90s, $500 a month was not anything. I mean, that was most people's grocery bill, and that was our entire budget. We didn't have food stamps, we didn't get any assistance like that. That was just the $500 a month that we had. And right before we got sick, my mom had sold a business that her and my dad had started and that's what we were living on. Actually, for three of those years, we lived off of $8,000 total, not each year, but $8,000 got us by for three years.
Tawra Kellam: So that's kind of where this came out of. I was on frugal living groups when I was pregnant and on bedrest with my first child and everybody kept asking me questions, "Well, how do I save money on this?" And I always had an answer for them. So that's kind of how it got started.
Suzy Chase: How did the Dining on a Dime cookbook come about?
Tawra Kellam: So while I was still in that same bed rest, I was reading The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn, really kind of the first book of its kind. Miserly Moms was out too, but Amy's was the first big so to speak book on how to save money. I was reading her book, I was like, "Man, we do all this stuff and more." And at the very end of her book, she said everybody keeps asking her to write a cookbook but she didn't like to cook, and she knew that in order to write a good frugal cookbook, it needed to be really comprehensive and she didn't want to do that. And just right then and there, I thought, well I can do that. Well, did I know what it would turn into? When I told my husband, he was like, "Oh, she's going to make a nice little collection of recipes that we'll give to the family or whatever" He had no idea.
Suzy Chase: So on page eight of the cookbook, you have some useful basics of frugal living. One suggestion is don't get discouraged. I feel like we're all discouraged right now.
Tawra Kellam: Well, don't be. Here's the thing, I know it's bad right now, but I'm a suck it up kind of a person. A lot of people say I'm too harsh, but the reality is, Americans are extremely fortunate. I mean, we are extremely fortunate. I went to the grocery store just yesterday... as of yesterday, it'll have been two weeks since this whole thing kind of started, and there is a lot, still a lot of food on the shelves. There may not be toilet paper, there may not be flour, there may not be sugar, but there's still a lot of food on the shelves and we really need to be thankful for what we do have.
Suzy Chase: So for the folks that have lost their jobs, what is one thing they can do immediately to cut their grocery bill?
Tawra Kellam: Stop spending it on junk. So immediately, the majority of alcohol consumption needs to stop. That's a huge expense. If you want to have a glass of wine or something, that's fine, but really need to cut those alcoholic beverages out, they're super expensive. The next thing, sodas. All of those beverages that are like soda and kids' juice boxes, all those kinds of things, that's another huge expense. The convenience food items that don't have any nutritional value, all the fruits, snacks, jello type things, all of those don't have any nutritional value. So go for things that are like granola bars. Even Pop-Tarts are better than some things. I know there's people out there saying uhhhhhh, but if that's all you have on your grocery store shelf, a Pop-Tart is like eating a doughnut for breakfast. That's really better than nothing. So go for things that will fill you up and not just things that are empty calories.
Suzy Chase: Another suggestion is to drink water with your meals. Talk a little bit about that.
Tawra Kellam: So I was really shocked when I went to the grocery store that all the bottled water was completely sold out. I was like, "What is-
Suzy Chase: Why is that?
Tawra Kellam: I don't know, because here in Colorado, we have really good water here in Colorado. So I'm like, "What is the reason for that?" There's literally no reason in Colorado unless someone has an allergy to chlorine or something. I get that. But here's the thing, 98% of the country and 98% of people can drink tap water. I get it. I have lived in Texas and Kansas where I literally had bad water that I could not drink. I get it, but that is not the majority of the country and those are not the people that I'm talking about. Now, if you just don't like the taste of tap water, one of the best tips that my mom has used for years is she will fill up a jug and let it sit overnight in a refrigerator with the lid off and the chlorine evaporates. The number one reason people don't like tap water is because of the chlorine taste. Then you don't have the chlorine taste in the water anymore.
Tawra Kellam: So that's the number one tip for making water taste good without adding anything, is just to leave it sit overnight in the refrigerator with a top off and the chlorine will evaporate.
Suzy Chase: You make it a habit of cooking what you have on hand. I read that you make 10 meals on a regular basis. Can you describe this?
Tawra Kellam: Okay. So people make meal planning way too complicated. As a matter of fact, we've kind of had problems with our website because people ask for meal plans all the time and I'm like, "I don't do meal planning." My mom wrote a whole bunch of meal plans that we have on the website, and they're great, but really mom and I don't meal plan. What we do is we cook from what we have on the pantry. So I keep a consistent supply of things in my pantry, my refrigerator, my freezer. So I always buy chicken, I always buy roasts, I always buy green chilies, I always buy applesauce, peaches, pears, those kinds of things. Then instead of planning a meal for the week, I plan by the day on what I have on hand and what I need to use up. So let's say I have cucumbers that are getting ready to go bad. Well, I would make my side dish around those cucumbers instead of what I had planned because I need to use up those cucumbers.
Tawra Kellam: So what I do is I have 10 meals that I consistently make all the time, or variations of those meals, and I always keep those ingredients on hand. Eating the same food three times a month really is not that often. And I throw in a new recipe once or twice a month. So it's really two to three times a month, you're eating the same thing. Kids love tacos. It's okay to eat tacos twice a month. We love green chili. It's okay for us to eat green chili two or three times a month. People think that you're going to get tired, but what I do is I rotate a fall winter menu and a spring summer menu. So I basically have 20 separate meals divided up between the four seasons, so spring and summer, and then fall and winter, and then I just rotate around those. My family doesn't complain, they love it, and it keeps my dinner planning easy. I don't spend an hour a week planning meals and I really don't spend more than 20 minutes cooking dinner every night.
Tawra Kellam: And usually, more nights than not, it's like literally five minutes cooking dinner, because what I'll do is I'll make a roast on Monday, which takes me three minutes to prepare, and then I'll save that roast and use it Monday as roast and potatoes and carrots. Then on Tuesday I'll make beef and noodles. So it takes as long as five minutes to boil the noodles. Then the next day I'll make beef stew out of it, which takes me five minutes to cut up the carrots and potatoes and throw it all in the pot. So really, I have chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, I do not have the energy to be spending half an hour or an hour in the kitchen. I just can't do that.
Suzy Chase: What's green chili?
Tawra Kellam: It's a Colorado thing, but it's really good. It's probably my favorite. I would say it's probably my favorite main dish. So it's chicken broth, onions, green chilies and garlic, and then salt and pepper of course. And then you just simmer it and you thicken it with corn starch and scoop out the meat and put it in the middle of a tortilla, wrap up the tortilla, like a burrito, and then you put the sauce over the top and you serve it with sour cream and lettuce and cheese. It's really yummy.
Suzy Chase: That sounds amazing.
Tawra Kellam: It's really good, yeah. It's in our Dining on a Dime cookbook. I won't give you the page number because we have several versions out there, but it's in our Dining on a Dime cookbook and on our website livingonadime.com.
Suzy Chase: What are some good ideas for sweet treats that we can make from pantry items?
Tawra Kellam: So you can make pretty much anything. Right now, everybody's going crazy on our Facebook page over our fudge brownies. That recipe is at Living on a Dime too. So many people have been saying over and over, "I always thought I had to have a brownie mix to make good brownies." They were like, "Your brownies are delicious." So, in Dining on a Dime, what we did was we went through and we tested every single recipe to make sure that it had ingredients that were on hand. Most people have all the time, easy to get cheap ingredients. So we have, how to make a white cake. We have, how to make fudge brownies. We have, how to make donuts. Any of those basic recipes, homemade tortillas, all of those, even taco seasoning, homemade taco seasoning, homemade ranch dressing, all of those are in there. We have people, they said, "My family will not eat any ranch dressing but yours. Yours is the best."
Tawra Kellam: I'm not trying to sound prideful, but it really is the best ranch dressing I've ever had. But that's what I do. We go through and we find recipes and we use them as a place to start. But then we go through and we tweak them and change them until they really are the best recipe, because there's nothing more frustrating than going into a cookbook and making a recipe and having it flop and you've wasted all that time and all those ingredients. So we really make sure that the recipes do taste good and people can make them. Even if you're not an experienced cook, they're really simple.
Suzy Chase: So your latest YouTube episode is so informative. It's called, What to Eat When They Buy Out All the Food! - Surviving Panic. You talked about what to do when bread is all sold out. Is there a hope if the bread is sold out?
Tawra Kellam: Yeah. So here's the thing with bread. People panic about bread, but there are so many more things that you can use instead of bread. So first of all, when you're at the store, the bread aisle may be sold out, but go check your bakery. Here I've been to four different stores, and every single one, the bakery was completely filled, but the bread aisle wasn't. Now, those breads aren't going to last quite as long as the regular loaf breads, but you can freeze bread pretty easily. So if you bring home a loaf of French bread... like yesterday, they didn't have anything but French bread at my store. So I got a couple of loaves of French bread. And then just slice it up, take out a few pieces, put the rest in your freezer. It's freezes really, really well. But now I know I'm going counter to pretty much every single YouTuber on the planet, but now is not the time to be learning how to make bread.
Suzy Chase: Really?
Tawra Kellam: Everyone keeps saying, "Oh, I'm showing you how to make bread." And I do have a super simple foreign ingredient, no need bread recipe that I'm getting ready to do a video on. But here's the thing, if you don't already know how to make homemade bread, now is not the time when you can't find flour to be experimenting with a little bit more difficult recipe of making bread. If you've never kneaded bread or anything like that, it can be intimidating. So what can you use instead? Use some rice. You can use potatoes, you could make muffins, which are super easy. You could make biscuits, which are fairly easy. You could use pretty much anything that's a starch, like corn tortillas, flour tortillas, if you can find those. So don't get just stuck thinking you have to have bread, you don't have to have bread. I know bread is what sustains life, but there are so many other options out there that right now really if you've never made bread before, I would not suggest wasting valuable flour on bread.
Tawra Kellam: Another thing on that is, homemade bread tastes really good. I mean, it tastes really good. So what happens in my family, they will just eat the whole entire loaf right away. Where my muffins and biscuits, they're tasty, they're really tasty, but they don't eat them quite as fast. So make foods that your family will be able to eat, but they don't just eat it all in one sitting and it's gone.
Suzy Chase: I remember growing up with a single mom making many a sandwich out of a hot dog bun.
Tawra Kellam: Yeah, hot dog, hamburger buns are really great. We use those all the time. If you have them leftover, you can put some butter and sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar or garlic powder on there and broil them and they're super tasty. Yeah, you can toast them and use them instead of hoagie buns too
Suzy Chase: In your grocery store, it was crazy that the lunch meat was all sold out, but the deli was all stocked full of meats and cheese.
Tawra Kellam: 10 feet away. I know. I was just like, "What is wrong with you people?" Right now, we're in the middle of a crisis, but any time. That's one reason why my family isn't panicking, because I have never just done one thing. When prices went up several years ago from... What's it? I think it was 9/11 maybe. Grocery prices went up. Everybody was totally freaking out. I wasn't freaking out. I just didn't buy boneless skinless chicken breasts. I used other things. I used chicken quarters. We didn't eat chicken. We ate beef because beef was cheaper then. We ate ham because ham was cheaper then. So I've always been one of those people that, when you don't have one thing, what can I use to replace this instead? That's where people need to start turning their thinking, is, "Okay, what can I make instead?
Tawra Kellam: I don't have bread, but there's something else that I can make instead." It's actually very easy. You just need to get into the habit of thinking that is more what it is.
Suzy Chase: There's one particular supermarket tip in the cookbook that caught my eye. It's buy the smallest packages. What exactly does that mean?
Tawra Kellam: Well, so everybody says, "Buy in bulk." Mom and I think that's probably some of the worst advice you could have, because here's the thing, you go to these big warehouse stores, that mom and I are not fans of, let's say you get this huge package, five pounds of cheese. Okay, that's all well and good, but can you really use five pounds of cheese before it spoils if you're an average three to four person family? If you can, that's totally fine. But the majority of people don't. So what we have found is that people actually save more money when they don't buy in bulk because they're not wasting food that spoils. They're not dealing with packages that are big and bulky and heavy and they're dropping them and wasting food from dropping them because they're hard to handle. I mean, those two, three pound, I don't know how many pounds they are, containers of peanut butter at the big places. It's like, "Seriously, who has room in their cabinet to store that?"
Tawra Kellam: And the price, actually now a lot of times the big bulk ones are actually more expensive than the cheaper ones, especially if you want for sales. So we don't recommend buying in bulk. We recommend actually buying smaller packages. And if you want to stock up for times like now, that's fine, but I'll tell you, all my peanut butter is in little one pound containers because I don't buy great big packages of food because I don't want it to spoil.
Suzy Chase: With boxes of pasta overflowing in so many cans of beans, I'm thinking about flavor more than ever. How can we save money on herbs and spices?
Tawra Kellam: Well, first of all, if you're thinking of prepping for situations like right now in this pandemic that we're in, stock up on salt and garlic powder and onion powder. If you get just those three spices, that will take care of 90% of your seasoning meat. Get garlic powder and onion powder instead of garlic salt and onion salt, because you can always add salt and the garlic powder and onion powder go further. Don't think that you have to buy these great big, once again, massive things of spices. I see people who have two people in their family and they have a one pound jug of taco seasoning, and there'll be dead before everything else is. It's just like, okay, this is crazy. People buy these humongous things but it's actually not cheaper. And I'll the honest, I get all my spices at Walmart or Dollar Tree, they're a lot cheaper.
Tawra Kellam: I get them once again in the small little containers, but they're a quarter of the price. That's the way I save on spices. I don't have a lot of spices. There's no reason to have 50, 60 spices in your spice cabinet? I have more than I normally would use because I'm recipe testing, but I normally have about eight, maybe 10, maybe not even that many, closer to eight I think, spices that I use on a regular basis and that's it. Then the three, salt, garlic, and onion powder, those three I use 90% of the time. When we were at the store yesterday, I was shocked that really people aren't buying salt. Guys, if you are going to be going through something, you need to have seasoning, and salt is the best seasoning that you can buy to make your food taste good.
Suzy Chase: You have recipes for everything in this cookbook. It's more than a cookbook, lip balm, window cleaner, laundry soap disinfectant, and even skunk smell remover. I love it.
Tawra Kellam: I wanted to make sure it was comprehensive. And it's over 600 pages, but it's still not comprehensive enough to the point where we have volume two coming out in a couple of months. But I wanted to be sure that if you could get basic items, you could make whatever you needed to help you get by. So that's kind of why we put lip balm and laundry detergent and all yogurt, all those things in there. That's to help you make it at home when you need to.
Suzy Chase: How are you testing recipes for your new cookbook and can you tell us a little bit about it?
Tawra Kellam: Well, so thankfully, I got 90% of my recipe testing done before this pandemic hit. But I will tell you, I am having a little bit difficult time because I don't want to waste ingredients right now. So I'm being very careful. Instead of testing five to 10 recipes a day, I'm only testing one or two that we are actually using to eat with our dinner. If the recipe doesn't quite turn out like we had thought, we're still eating it, I'm going to doctor it up. I made a pizza crust the other day for my gluten free dairy free cookbook that's coming up and didn't really taste that great honestly. But I was like, "Boys, we are not wasting food."
Suzy Chase: Dig in.
Tawra Kellam: Yeah. It wasn't horrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't the wonderful fluffy pizza that everybody's used to. So right now, I'm just testing with things that I already have. As I go to the store, if I happen to see it, I have something, I will pick it up. But it is a little bit harder right now, but I'm still getting one or two recipes tested today, which is pretty good.
Suzy Chase: Now for my segment called, My Favorite Cookbook, aside from this cookbook, what is your all time favorite cookbook and why?
Tawra Kellam: I'll be perfectly honest, it's my cookbook. I'm not just saying that, I truly do not use any other cookbook at all. I don't even have them in my kitchen. This is the only cookbook I have. And I wrote it because it had all the recipes that I wanted to make on a regular basis. So I truly don't use any other cookbook. When I'm recipe testing, I have a question about something, I will go to Betty Crocker. If I need to look up and cross-reference and see, okay, wait, these directions don't sound right, how did Betty Crocker do it? If I didn't have Dining on a Dime, I'd probably do Betty Crocker. But I truly I don't use any other cookbooks. I don't want to have any others that I use. I don't.
Suzy Chase: I love it. That's a good testament to your cookbook. So where can we find you on the web and social media and YouTube?
Tawra Kellam: We're all over. We're livingonadime.com. You can go get our Dining on a Dime cookbook there. We are on YouTube, Living on a Dime To Grow Rich. We are on Facebook, Living on a Dime. We just recently changed our name because we want people to be encouraged that you're not living on a dime to wallow in your misery, you're living on a dime to move yourself forward to financial freedom. My husband and I are completely debt free. Our YouTube videos or Facebook page or Pinterest page, we have a huge Pinterest page, and our website are all geared to help people get out of debt and become financially free so that they are not stressed out about money.
Suzy Chase: Oh my gosh! Thanks, Tawra. We needed you. Thank you so much for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Tawra Kellam: You're welcome. I appreciate you having me. Thanks so much.
Outro: Subscribe over on CookerybytheBook.com. And thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Mar 27 2020
Saffron in the Souks
Vibrant Recipes from the Heart of Lebanon
By John Gregory-Smith
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book with Suzy Chase.
She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
John: I'm John Gregory-Smith, and my new cookery book is called Saffron in the Souks. It's packed with vibrant recipes from Lebanon.
Suzy Chase: The first line in this cookbook says, “When I was writing my first cookbook in 2010, I went to work as a chef in Beirut.”
Let's go back for a minute, and tell me how you got to that point in 2010, in Beirut?
John: So, the landscape was very different then. Social media was a completely different beast back in 2010, I think. I don't even think Instagram was really a thing back then. I was more like Facebook and Twitter. I'd read an article on a restaurant, very old school, like in the newspaper, that was like a community kitchen.
The guys set up this place called Tawlet in Beirut, where they had a really good front of house, really good chefs, and they would invite people from local regions of Lebanon to come and cook their local cuisine. The landscape there was a bit, let's say, challenging outside of the city. It was still a bit dangerous. A lot of the people with the money who were living in Beirut weren't traveling anywhere. What you wanted to do was encourage people to come and cook, they could take home a bit of cash. Just do good things via food.
I thought it sounded incredible, and I also thought it sounded like a very smart way to go to one place and learn about all the regional cuisine of the country. Lebanon is not a huge country anyway, but it wasn't a great place to be traveling around. You could just go to the city and stay there.
I emailed them and they got back to me and said, “Yeah, come out. That would be great, we'd love to have you.”
I basically was there for a couple of weeks. I'd go in every morning and do the morning shifts, and help the guys prep for lunch service. The way they eat in this restaurant is just beautiful. You go and you pay a set price, I think it's about $30 or whatever. You have this ginormous banquet laid out for you of hot and cold [mezzes 00:02:21], and then amazing stews and meats, and amazing vegetarian food from the different regions.
The ladies who would come in from the regions would spearhead what they wanted to cook, and then the chefs would help them prepare it. It was really quality food, really interesting menus, and it was changing all the time.
The desserts, oh my God, they were so delicious! They'd have this huge counter laid out, with opulent desserts. It was just incredible.
I learned so much. Really, really enjoyed the city as well. It was a very vibrant place to be, there was a lot happening, it felt like it was really exciting. I was very much advised to just stay in the city, for my own safety. I don't speak Arabic, and that was ... When the locals tell you to do something, you tend to do it, do you know what I mean?
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
John: So, I had this incredible time, kept in touch with everybody in the restaurant. They were saying, "Oh, you know, the country is changing, it's really opening up, it's a lot safer now. You should think about coming back."
I did, I just decided that's what I wanted to do. I went back, hired a car, and drove around for a few months on my own. Tapped into these lovely ladies who'd helped me originally. It was so nice, going to revisit them, and going to stay in their homes. Spend time with them properly, and cook with them on their own terms. It was just phenomenal.
Suzy Chase: Now, years later when you went back, did you go thinking about writing a cookbook, or did you just go back, just to revisit it?
John: Absolutely writing a cookbook. I got the green light that I could ... Basically, I said to the guys I'd stayed in touch with in the restaurant, if I come back, the way I write books is I need to drive around, I need to be on my own, I need to soak things up. I need to feel that I can go anywhere, do everything, meet everyone. Is that doable?
They were like, “Absolutely.”
So, I spoke to my publisher. I felt if I could do it, go for it. They were quite supportive.
Suzy Chase: Did you have a translator?
John: Yes. My Arabic is dreadful. It's a really hard language.
Suzy Chase: Yes.
John: I'm very bad at languages, anyway. I can speak three words of French. Arabic is a very different beast. I can say hello, and thank you. Most of the times when I say that, people don't really understand what I'm saying. I would very much have a translator.
Actually, what I found when I was there is that most of the guys would speak a bit of English. I could get around it quite easy. It was nice when I did have a translator, because I could get the beautiful stories, and the nuances of the food quite a lot better.
Suzy Chase: Tell me about the title, Saffron in the Souks? It just rolls off the tongue.
John: So, what I like to do is, when I go to these countries, I get incredibly overexcited. I'm quite an excitable person. I charge around, full of energy. I see everything, do everything, and I tend to just love it all.
What I want to do is communicate that to everybody, really. It has to be through the recipes, through the writing, and the title. What I was trying to come up with was something really evocative, and beautiful, and that would inspire how the country had inspired me, really.
Saffron in the Souks just felt like it had that lovely hint of something exotic. It felt perfect for it.
Suzy Chase: It's nice. You could even name a restaurant Saffron in the Souks.
John: Yeah, it's gorgeous. I love it.
Suzy Chase: It's really pretty.
John: Trademarked, by the way, so you can't.
Suzy Chase: Oh, darn. I was going to do my new Twitter handle, Saffron in the Souks.
Suzy Chase: What is typical Lebanese street food?
John: So, the really good stuff would be kebabs. Amazing kebabs, they eat them meat over fire. You wouldn't cook it at home because you don't have a huge fire pit. That is served everywhere. Any town you go to will have a really good kebab shop. They make everything from chicken sheesh, which is the very basic marinated cubes of chicken, to more elaborate lamb kebabs, and ground meats.
The other thing is, again, because they don't have ovens, you use communal bakers. Even in the tiny villages, they'll have a local baker. The baker will obviously cook the bread, but they also do these really wicked things called manouche, which is a flatbread that's cooked fresh with zaatar. Zaatar is a spice blend of different dried herbs. Sumac, which is a red berry that grows in dry areas. It's ground and it's got a very tart flavor. Then, finally, sesame seeds. It's quite a sucker punch of flavor. They drizzle oil and put the spice mix over the raw dough and bake it. You eat that as breakfast on the go, and it's just divine.
Suzy Chase: Tell me about picking fresh zaatar in Nabatieh? How do you pronounce it?
Suzy Chase: Nabatieh.
John: Yeah, that was really interesting. Actually, that was right in the south of Lebanon, by the Israeli border. I was advised not to go there. I think people just felt it could be a bit risky, basically.
Anyway, I was with the guys who I'd been working with the whole time, who ran this kitchen. I was say I really want to go down there, but I've been told not to. They went, “Listen, we know this brilliant farmer there. He's really lovely. Let's call him and see what he says.”
We called this guy, he's called Abu. Abu was so lovely. He went, “Look, it's completely fine at the moment, it's really safe. It feels like it's been safe for quite a while. Why don't you come down to the farm?”
I went with a friend of mine, she actually drove me. Now, I did drive everywhere in Lebanon, and it was only out of laziness she decided to drive. It also meant that the journey, which probably would have taken me maybe four hours, because I drive so slowly, took about an hour because they drive ... She drove so fast.
We went there, and it was exquisite. It was a really vibrant, green part of Lebanon. Beautiful, it was springtime. Wild flowers everywhere, and this herb called zaatar grows there. If you buy this blend called zaatar, say in America, it will probably have thyme or oregano in it as the herb. In Lebanon, they actually have a herb called zaatar. It's native to their country, and it's got this incredible perfume.
Abu was this wonderful man. Really just so much energy and life, he was gorgeous, grew this herb commercially. When he first started growing it, everyone was like, you're insane. This just grows wild everywhere, we can just pick it. He basically knew that he had found the best zaatar plants. He had the last laugh, because now is zaatar is very coveted all over Lebanon and beyond.
Suzy Chase: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: I think he even stocks some restaurants in London now with it. He was just so lovely.
We strolled around his farm, and he took me down to this incredible river that was in this gorge. It was just so beautiful. I was thinking I was so lost in the whimsical beauty of this place. I was like, my God, we're actually in a really dangerous part of the world. Who would have thought this kicks off here? It's just too beautiful.
He developed ... He was such a canny old man. He developed this technology, this machine that could spin the herbs. He would dry it and spin it, and it would remove all the little bits of grit, and separate the lovely top bit of herb from the grit. I'm like ... the journalist in me was like, I want more information. Tell me about this? How does it work, what does it do? He was really funny, because it was all through a translator. I could just see his face, he was very serious while she was talking. Then, he'd just roared laughing. I even understood what he was saying.
He was like, “There's absolutely no way that I'm telling you how this works. This is my trade secret. Back on your horse.”
It was just so wonderful, it was such a lovely experience. I'm really glad that I went down there. I felt completely safe, and it's great for me to be able to report back on it. I'm not saying everyone should run down there immediately, but if you choose to and it's right for you, it's pretty fabulous.
Suzy Chase: I love the photo of him on page 139.
John: Yeah, it's amazing.
Suzy Chase: There's just so many stories in that face of his.
John: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, he's amazing.
Suzy Chase: Describe the Lebanese seven spice?
John: Lebanese, they do use a lot of spices, but actually it tends to be, in general, quite herb heavy and fresh. It's more the old, Arabic dishes that they use spices in.
One of the blends is called seven spice. It's typically more than seven spices, that's what I came to realize when I was there. I was like, that's not seven, that's about 12. People would just look at me, very blankly. It tends to be quite heavy, woody spices. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, those sorts of things. They add in this incredible spice called mahleb. Mahleb is actually cherry stones, so the pits or the seeds from a cherry, and they're ground, which sounds disgusting. You'd just be thinking, why would you want to grind a gross old stone after you've eaten it? But it has the most incredible sweet perfume. Actually, in Syrian cuisine, they use it a lot in desserts. Lots of pastries and baklava, they'll add it too.
It goes into some seven spice mixes, and you can smell the ones that have it. It can be quite hard to find. I think America is very similar to the UK, in if you order it, you get it, but that can be a bit of a faff. I think you can get a mix called [baharat 00:12:17]. I know, for example, in Whole Foods, you can buy baharat. That's a sort of similar style blend. I've tried to put that in. Everywhere I've said seven spice, I've put that in, just so you can stay on top of the cooking.
Suzy Chase: How do you spell that, if we want to look for it at Whole Foods?
John: Oh, let's try. I'm quite dyslexic, but I'll give it a go.
Suzy Chase: Okay.
John: I think it's B-A-H-A-R-A-T.
Suzy Chase: Okay.
John: That's it.
Suzy Chase: So, it's spelled like it sounds?
John: Yes. I think so. Maybe check on Google just in case-
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
John: -I've got it completely wrong.
Suzy Chase: Well, just look in the Bs.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Suzy Chase: I found it interesting that Beirut used to be called The Paris of the East.
Suzy Chase: Talk a bit about that?
John: So, Beirut was originally a very Liberal city, a coastal city. Beautiful beaches, beautiful people, beautiful drinks, beautiful food. It was a French doctorate for quite a long time, Lebanon. It had a massive French hangover, almost. The architecture there was very Parisian, beautiful wide streets, very unlike typical Arabic. It would have wide balconies, beautiful French windows. Things were very open on the facade, whereas if you go to a very Arabic city, everything's very closed because they like to do things behind closed doors. So, it had this beautiful architecture, really good art scene, and it was known as being a quite decadent city.
There's a city outside of Beirut called Baalbek, which is an extraordinary city near Syria. Baalbek used to have ... It's famous for Roman ruins, actually. It's got the most incredible Roman ruins. The temples look like the Acropolis. It's the Temple to Dionysus, which is the God of Booze. They used to do these incredible festivals there in the forties, where all the Hollywood greats would go. It was a real roaring place to be.
Unfortunately, just because of politics, and religion, and strife, it took a massive turn for the worst. The people who live there remember that, and they hold onto that, and they treasure that. What's really lovely now is that people are like, “We want that back, and we're going to get it back.”
You really feel that when you're there now. Beirut has so much energy when you're there. Really amazing, all along the coast, really rocking beach bars where you just hang out all day. Really creative artsy side of the city as well, so lots of poets, and musicians, and artists, and they're really injecting life back into it. Fingers crossed that they can do it, because it's certainly a cool place to be.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of Dionysus, when you think about an Arabic country, you would assume no one drinks or parties.
John: Exactly. Boy, do they drink and party there.
Lebanon is a very small country. It's near, obviously, Jerusalem, so it has ... During the Crusades, it was always quite a hot spot. That coast was very dominant. That whole area has always been ... What's a nice way to put it? A slight tussle between the different religions, let's say.
Suzy Chase: A tussle.
John: Yeah, really top line way of saying it.
When you're there, there's obviously a massive Christian community still there. In this small country, you've got big Christian community, there's a big Arabic community. They've got Drus, they've got Jews, they've got loads of different communities there. A lot of those communities are very happy. Arabs do party, but they just party in a very different way. There's a lot of them there who certainly like to party with a good drink in hand.
The interesting thing about Lebanon is they have, to the east valley called Becker Valley. Becker Valley is the wine region, so it's filled with vineyards. They make some exquisite wines there.
Suzy Chase: So, describe the sour tang that the Lebanese palette is so partial to?
John: Yeah, right. It's extraordinary.
They love sour. When you're cooking with Lebanese, there're certain ingredients that their eyes light up, and they love the taste of sour.
Pomegranate molasses, which is essentially just pomegranate, which we know are full of those pits with that lovely bejeweled bit of fruit around each one. They just squeeze the juice out and simmer it down. The natural sweetness turns it into this very sticky molasses. They will shove that in salads, stews. They'll make vinegarette and sauces out of it. It gives this very sweet sour tang.
The lemons there are incredible. They are tart, but they're not like really horrid, bitter lemons that make you wince. They're more like Amalfi lemons. They're huge, slightly sweet flavored. They're gorgeous, and they will really go for it with that.
The other ingredient, I think I mentioned earlier, is the sumac, which is the ground red berry. Quite often, they'll use all three.
For example, when they make fattoush, which is a classic Lebanese salad, which is essentially chopped ingredients with bits of crispy fried bread. Just deeply pleasing. They'll make the dressing with pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and sumac, and then they put in their gorgeous olive oil. It's very, very sour.
It's interesting when you're cooking with someone who's palette's a bit more developed in that direction than you. I'd be like, oh, just a little hint. They're like, "What are you doing? Keep going, keep going."
Actually, it does work. When you're using really lovely fresh ingredients, they can quite often take a sour that's lovely.
Suzy Chase: When I think about Lebanon, I don't think about exciting produce. Talk a bit about that?
It's a funny old place. Again, for such a small country, it's got the most incredible different terrain. You've obviously got the Mediterranean Sea to one side, so you get all the coastal food. Then, you've got the mountains in the North and the South. Really, you've got a band of band mountains in the middle, and then a valley on the other side. It's very fertile, it's incredibly fertile country. They grow everything from fruit and vegetables to amazing herbs. Really, really amazing herbs. Rice grains, everything grows there.
They get really good seasons. You get really long, hot summers. You get good autumn, good spring, where it's a lot cooler. Then, cold winters so things can regenerate. You do get this incredible, incredible turnaround of produce there.
What's lovely is they don't have a culture like, say, mine or yours, where we're so used to going into the supermarket and you get whatever you want, whenever you want. There, they do have supermarkets in the cities, but everything is just seasonal. You just get what you get, and it is really lovely. They'll be certain things at certain times of the year.
For example, strawberries. Well, they'll just go bad for it. Or, in the spring, when the green beans come, farva beans. They just love it. You see little stalls popping up everywhere, selling just one ingredient. The farmers will come, we've got a glut of them. Everybody gets really excited about it, it's so sweet. They may only be around for a couple of months.
I don't have that. I've just grown up in London where you go to the supermarket and get what you want. I just love being around that excitement over something so simple. It's really gorgeous.
Suzy Chase: One recipe that was surprising in this cookbook is the Garlicky Douma Dumplings. Is it Douma?
John: Oh! Yes! They're so good.
Suzy Chase: Tell me about those.
John: Douma is this beautiful little Christian village. It looks like you're in Tuscany, it's in the hills before you get to the mountains. It is so beautiful. Really, it's extraordinary. I took my parents there, and they couldn't believe it. You've got these little villages with huge churches in. Everything is dome, tiled roofs. It really looks like Italy, it's really weird. All the olive trees going around.
In the villages there, they make these dumplings. They almost make a pasta dough, and they fill them with meat. They actually look even like little tortellini. They serve them in a yogurt sauce.
When I first got given this bowl of joy, I was so overexcited. Because I'm such a geek, the first thing I wanted to do was take a photo. The light was really bad. I was in this beautiful old house, with this amazing kitchen, and these lovely women cooking and chatting. I got given this bowl of food and yelped, and made a run for what had been the door to go outside.
I hadn't realized that someone had actually closed the glass door, so I just ran into it, into the glass door.
Suzy Chase: No!
John: Luckily, nothing bad happened, but the whole bowl of food just flew all over me. I was like, turned around covered in these dumplings dripping down my face. They were all just in utter hysterics.
Suzy Chase: Oh, my.
John: They thought I was weird enough anyway, and that was definitely the cherry on top.
Suzy Chase: Just pushed you over the top.
John: It was so funny. They are absolutely dreamy.
They're quite easy to make, because the dough is ... There's actually no egg in it. Unlike pasta, there's no egg in that dough, so it's super easy to work with. They are delicious.
Suzy Chase: Last weekend, I made your recipe for Beirut meatballs on page 111.
John: I saw!
Suzy Chase: Now, this is a traditional recipe named after an Ottoman name Daout Basha
Suzy Chase: How have you adapted this recipe, and how did this guy get a dish named after him?
John: So, funnily enough, the woman who told me this story, it was really funny. She was this incredible woman, she was so glamorous and cool. I met her in the restaurant in Beirut. I didn't meet her 10 years ago, I met her this time around because I kept going to the restaurant for lunch. Whenever I was in the city, I'd always pop in to say hi to everyone.
I met her. We got on like a house on fire, and actually went to her house. She showed me how to cook these. She was like ... You know how when you meet some people, you're just naturally drawn to them?
Suzy Chase: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.
John: They've just got something about them.
She'd been through really bad cancer. She was so full of life and energy. Her son was an opera singer. They were just really cool. I'm a bit obsessed with pasta and meatballs, and for some reason we were talking about that. She was like, “Oh my goodness. There's this dish that I've got to teach you.”
She showed me how to make them. They're sort of like sour meatballs in a ... There's a lot of onions, and pomegranate, and it's very perfumed. I was asking her, where is this recipe from? She gave me that story, that this Turkish guy had come. This was named after him.
I said, why? She just went, “Well, it just is.” That was the end of the story.
Suzy Chase: Okay.
John: I was like, oh. Can you give me any more detail than that?
She's like, “No, they're just named after him.” I've Googled it, and spoken to other people, and they all said the same thing.
Whoever he was, came over, and left this dish. That's it. Regardless of the slightly stunted story, they are delicious. They're really, really nice.
Suzy Chase: I even made my own pomegranate molasses, which was so easy.
John: Wow. That's really top marks. You win. That's amazing. I would never do that.
Suzy Chase: It was really easy.
John: Really? How long did it take to cook down?
Suzy Chase: About eight minutes. Not that long.
John: That's so good, that's amazing.
Suzy Chase: I didn't need that much.
John: Is that because you couldn't find a bottle?
Suzy Chase: Yeah, I couldn't find-
Suzy Chase: I used pomegranate juice.
John: Oh, that's great. How intuitive of you.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, look at that.
John: Look at you.
Suzy Chase: Look at me cooking.
I also made the recipe for roasted carrots with tahini and black sesame seeds on page 51.
John: Yeah, that's nice.
Suzy Chase: Describe this dish.
John: Obviously I said earlier about the way the produce works, and the way things are just eaten in season. They have an innate love of vegetable. They just love veggies. They do them really, really well. Most meals you go to, actually, will have ... Actually, quite a lot of people will eat vegetarian food quite a lot of the time, certainly in the more rural areas where they've not got so much cash. Even if you eat a big meal, it will tend to be a little meat or fish, then loads of veg.
This was just one of those dishes that was very simple, and it makes the vegetables sing. What you want is ... Do you have the word ... You do have the word heritage for vegetables in America, don't you?
Suzy Chase: Yes. We call them heirloom.
John: Okay, so heirloom carrots.
Suzy Chase: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: You want the nicest carrots that you can get. All different colors, all different flavors. You just roast them up with a bit of cumin. The lovely bit is the tahini. Carrots have that deep sweetness that you get from a root veg. Tahini is almost like a peanut butter, but it's made with sesame seeds. It's a ground sesame seed paste, and it has a wonderful, rich sweetness that just compliments the carrots. It's just two ingredients that work so well together, and I just love it.
Suzy Chase: I also made the Akra smashed Lemon Chickpeas on page 16.
Suzy Chase: How is this different from hummus?
John: Okay, hummus is chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon. That's how you make classic hummus.
This recipe, it's called Akra Smashed. Akra is the name of the restaurant in Tripoli. Tripoli is this fabulous, old Venetian city on the coast, north of Beirut. It really is buzzing, it's brilliant. I think, actually the best street food in Lebanon is in Tripoli. There's this ginormous restaurant called Akra. It opens really early in the morning, like six o'clock, maybe even earlier, and it stays open until about two. All they serve is hummus. It's got about 350 covers, it's packed the whole time. The point being, you basically get a whole bowl of hummus for yourself, with a little bowl of pickles, veg, and some pitas. That's a snack or a light meal. Actually, it's not that light because you eat so much of it.
They serve the classic hummus. They serve a thing called hummus ful, spelled F-U-L. That's made with fava beans. It's quite an acquired taste, actually. Then they make this other style of hummus that I copied in this book. It's basically the same ingredients. You've got your chickpeas, your lemon, your garlic, and your tahini, but it's blended so that it has a bit more texture. It's more lemon juice than you would normally serve, so it tastes a bit fresher, a bit lighter. It's got a lovely texture to it. It's not that silky smooth complexion of hummus, it's a bit more chunky. Like a guacamole or something.
What was so nice about it is you get that sort of texture, and almost dryness from the chickpeas. It feels like it's gagging for something. What they did is they drizzle it with a chile butter, a very rich chile butter, and then loads of roasted nuts. You get all the things in it missing, and it's just divine.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment this season called my favorite cookbook.
Suzy Chase: Aside from this cookbook and your others, what is your all-time favorite cookbook and why?
John: Oh, all-time favorite book, that's really hard. Can it only be one?
Suzy Chase: Yes.
John: Yes, because that was the question, wasn't it?
Oh my God, that's really hard. What would be the one book that I would hang onto?
I would be Delia Smith, How To Cook. Delia Smith is a stalwart British cookery writer and TV chef from the ... She was really massive ... She's still huge here now, but she was really big in the seventies and eighties. It was before cookery was cool, so on telly. It was a bit like a school teach telling you how to cook. Her recipes really worked. It was everything from how to make an omelet to how to make a roast chicken. I taught myself how to cook with that book.
My mom had a copy. The cover, Delia has the most extraordinary, coiffed 1970s haircut you've ever seen. It looks like someone's put a weird bowl over her hair, tilted it backwards, and cut around it.
Suzy Chase: I love it.
John: It's extraordinary. If you Google it, it will just make you roar with laughter.
That book, I learned how to cook from it. I think that would probably be the one book I feel so nostalgic about and hang onto.
Suzy Chase: In interviewed James Rich, who wrote the cookbook Apple yesterday.
John: Oh, yeah, right.
Suzy Chase: He said the same thing!
John: Did he?
Suzy Chase: Yes!
John: That's so funny. That is so funny.
Suzy Chase: Okay, so you've done Turkey, Morocco, and Lebanon. What's next?
John: I'm entirely sure, actually. I came up with a brilliant, very hair brained idea. I like really weird and wonderful, I love weird and wonderful a lot, and I my publisher thought my idea was way too weird, and perhaps not so wonderful. They've asked me to rethink.
Yeah, I definitely want to continue with the Middle Eastern thing. I feel that I want to dip into another country there, because I just love it around there. I've got a trip coming up, actually. I'm going to Gaza in a couple of weeks, which is going to be very, very interesting.
Suzy Chase: Oh my gosh.
John: Yeah, I'm going with a charity to look at child nutrition out there. It's all quite intense. I think it will be incredible, I think it's going to be really extraordinary going to pretty much a war zone to see how people eat. Yeah, it's going to be quite an intense trip.
I would love to go somewhere ... I love the Eastern Mediterranean, it's beautiful. I'd love to do a book in Iranian food, but I don't think now is the time to be going to Iran.
Suzy Chase: What does your mom say? Is your mom freaking out?
John: Yeah, completely. When I said the G word, they made that teeth wincing noise. She went, “Oh, my baby. What are you doing? Why are you doing that?”
I said, I want to go because it's this amazing charity and we're going to help children. It means this tiny thing I can do to contribute could be a really good thing. She was just like, “But why there? Why don't you pick somewhere nicer?”
I'm dead excited. I think it'll be great.
Suzy Chase: So, where can you find you on the web, and social media?
John: So, I use Instagram an awful lot, much to the annoyance of my family. My Instagram handle is @JohnGS. I've got a lot of content on there, I do a lot of free content. I'm trying to stick a couple recipes out every week for people to copy.
Then, everything on my website, which is just JohnGregorySmith.com.
Suzy Chase: As the Lebanese people say, Sahtain, which means double health. Thanks so much for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
John: Loved it, and love you.
Outro: Subscribe over on CookeryByTheBook.com.
Thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Sep 30 2019
Keep It Simple
Easy Weeknight One-Pot Recipes
By Yasmin Fahr
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast Cookery by the Book with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Yasmin Fahr: Hi, I'm Yasmin Fahr. I'm the author of Keeping It Simple, which is full of easy weeknight one pot recipes.
Suzy Chase: If you enjoy this podcast, please be sure to tell a friend. I'm always looking for new people to enjoy Cookery by the Book. On with the show. You're on trend for the new year if you're cooking at home more than you used to. Today, 82% of the meals Americans eat are prepared at home, a much higher percentage than a decade ago. With Keeping It Simple, we will have dinner on the table in the time it takes to drink a glass of wine or two. Tell us about that.
Yasmin Fahr: Well, first, I came up with the recipes because I was writing a column for Serious Eats that was easy weeknight dinners in one-pot. At a time I was writing it, I was working as a hotel inspector, so I was traveling all over the world for two to three weeks of every month, so I needed to make recipes that were easy enough to do because I was super tired from traveling, but also were good for me because I've been eating out all the time. I took that same approach to the book because even if you're not traveling a lot, I think we're all really busy and want to make delicious, fun, beautiful meals, but don't always have the time to do so. That's really the need I was trying to meet with this book.
Suzy Chase: Okay. Before we get on with the book, what is a hotel inspector?
Yasmin Fahr: Yeah, so it does sound like an interesting job-
Suzy Chase: I'm sure everyone asked you.
Yasmin Fahr: ...and it was. Yeah, it's definitely unusual. Basically I was working as a luxury hotel, restaurant and spa inspector. I would travel to these properties, stay there, and then evaluate them and then write a report. We were trying to figure out if they were five or four star properties. That's why I was going. It was kind of an amazing job to be paid to travel the world and eat and stay in incredible places. Definitely a dream job.
Suzy Chase: These recipes in this cookbook are faster than delivery. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yasmin Fahr: Yeah. I think going back to that same idea of people wanting to make really good meals, but not having a lot of time, I was thinking, okay, so delivery probably takes what, 30 to 40 minutes by the time you figure out what you want and order, and then I want these recipes to be ready in that same time to be really simple and approachable, but also fun and beautiful.
Suzy Chase: Describe the four recipe icons sprinkled throughout the book.
Yasmin Fahr: Yes, I really love these. Thank you for asking. We have four and the first one is the efficiency moves, which is basically tips on how to approach the recipe. I think a lot of times when you have something you haven't made before, it's kind of overwhelming to know where to start and what to do. This really tells you how to approach the whole thing, what to do during downtime, whether it's drinking a glass of wine or cleaning up. You can totally ignore this if you don't like to be told what to do. I get that, but it's meant more to be helpful.
Yasmin Fahr: Then there's recipe notes which are just small tips on good things to know for the recipe, and then we have swap out some variations, which are for seasonal ingredients or if something is kind of hard to find or let's say you hate cilantro, you get tips on what to switch it out with. The last one is leftover notes. A lot of times you may have some extra [inaudible 00:03:27] the recipes, so it's ways to be kind of creative and use them for lunch or dinner the next day.
Suzy Chase: Let's talk meatballs.
Yasmin Fahr: Yay.
Suzy Chase: Tell me the story about how meatballs got the better of you.
Yasmin Fahr: It's kind of embarrassing. I love meatballs, so I guess it first started when I went to the Little Owl in New York City in the West Village, and they have these amazing gravy meatball sliders that are so good. I even wrote an article or a research paper at NYU about spaghetti and meatballs because I wanted to figure out how the dish come to be because it's a very American thing because in Italy they have them as two separate courses. Obviously I've been obsessed with meatballs for a while and I went to this event at the Food & Wine Festival called Meatball Madness. Obviously I was super excited and I tend to get... I mean, I love food, but I tend to get really excited. When I saw it was meatballs, I was like, "Oh my God."
Yasmin Fahr: I just ate so many in a really short amount of time. While I love them, I don't eat that much meat all the time. I think my body was like, what did you just do? I definitely didn't feel great after. The meatball recipe in the book is a little bit lighter than the ones I was eating at that time.
Suzy Chase: Okay. The Little Owl is around the corner from me, and I've never had their meatballs. What is so special about those meatballs?
Yasmin Fahr: Oh, you have to go. I'm obsessed with them. They're made veal pork and beef, and they have this incredible kind of lightly spiced tomato sauce, and they're on... I think it's a Parmesan bun and then with a little bit of [inaudible 00:04:57] You just bite into it. The sauce kind of drips down and they're like the perfect size. They're more sliders, but small and bite size. They are so good, and that restaurant is just one of my favorites. It's super beautiful. I love the show Friends, so the fact that it's in the Friends building, all of it. I was like, oh, this is meant to be. Yes, I highly recommend them.
Suzy Chase: It seems like everyone has a go-to meatball recipe. I would love to discuss your baked chicken and ricotta meatballs on page 41. What's the backstory of this recipe?
Yasmin Fahr: Yeah, so obviously I have a thing for meatballs, but during the week night I want something that's a little lighter and not quite as heavy. I made ones with chicken, which tastes a bit lighter, and ricotta, which is super flavorful and adds a really like creamy and light texture to the meatballs, and then serving it with broccolini and lemon slices. It's really bright, tons of vegetables, and it's really easy to eat and make on a week night.
Suzy Chase: What's the first step? What's the first thing we do?
Yasmin Fahr: First, we take the sheet pan and toss the broccolini with the lemon in olive oil and set that aside, and then we make the meatball. In a mixing bowl you, beat the egg, add the garlic, ricotta, the seasonings like parsley and pepper, breadcrumbs, and meat, and then gently mix it together. Something for meatballs to always know is you don't want to squeeze it really tough or tight or it makes the meat really dense and tough at the end. You want to use your hands to mix it and just make sure that the ingredients are kind of all intermingles. You'll still see bits of meat, but just kind of lightly colored with the herbs.
Suzy Chase: I didn't know that. I always tried to squeeze my meatballs together like a golf ball.
Yasmin Fahr: Yeah, no, that's fine, but you want them to be kind of like loosely tapped, so not like super dense and tight.
Suzy Chase: What does ricotta bring to the flavor profile? I know you said it brings some creaminess, but what does it do for the food?
Yasmin Fahr: Well, I think the flavor is really light and mild, but soft. I think it adds kind of an airiness to the overall bite of it, and also it's really nice because you don't really overcook it when you have ricotta in there because it won't get quite as dense or tough as it would if you didn't have that. But if you didn't like ricotta, you could also add some Parmesan anyway or some chili flakes because meatballs are like really personal, so you can kind of make them your own.
Suzy Chase: I noticed that you didn't use any onions in this recipe. How come?
Yasmin Fahr: I was like, why didn't I use onions? But I think you actually could use some red onions on the sheet pan if you wanted to. They'll get really silky and soft and be really delicious. I think that's a great idea. Next time I'm just going to call you for recipes. I'll be like, "What do you think about this?"
Suzy Chase: Oh god. I'm just here to learn.
Yasmin Fahr: Right. You're doing great. Good question.
Suzy Chase: Then we nestle the meatball. I love how you wrote nestle. We nestle the meatballs between the broccolini and lemon slices for how long and at what temperature?
Yasmin Fahr: You want the oven to be hot at about 425, and you're just cooking them for about 15 to 20 minutes until they're cooked through and just turning them over halfway. You can always take a meatball and cut it open to see that there's no pink inside and it's done, but it's a really quick recipe and you want the broccolini also to be crispy. But yeah, it'll be ready really, really fast. Faster than delivery. There you go.
Suzy Chase: In the recipe you wrote, use this time to clean up and set the table and have a glass of wine if this stressed you out in way.
Yasmin Fahr: Yeah, I know. Well, I think sometimes cooking can be stressful for people and I really want it to be fun and enjoyable. Yes, I'm all about having glass of wine and enjoying yourself during the process.
Suzy Chase: How do we freeze these and how can we use leftovers?
Yasmin Fahr: Yes, you can definitely freeze them in kind of an airtight container, and then for leftovers, there's so many ways. I love taking a broth or a stalk and then adding some greens like kale or chard and then some noodles and then putting the meatballs and at the end to warm up, or you can eat them over like cooked greens or quinoa, rice with some maybe spinach stirred in and then the meatballs on top with some lemon zest. Yeah, there's a lot of ways that you need them, but they're great.
Suzy Chase: In the cookbook, your philosophy says, "Pantry staples will pull you out of your cooking rut."
Yasmin Fahr: I definitely believe in that. In my fridge, I have a ton of pastes and condiments like miso, Thai curry paste, dijon, and then outside I always have different rice and noodles, and then I also have fresh herbs and lemons, garlic, onions, these kinds of things. Because I think especially with pastes and condiments, they are such great tools to add a ton of flavor without a lot of time. In cooking, you really build flavor over time and that's a beautiful thing, but we don't always have that time on weeknights. These really do the work for you, which is what's so wonderful about them.
Suzy Chase: I've heard you say you can't live without your microplane. Talk a little bit about that.
Yasmin Fahr: Yes, it's such a great tool. You can use it for so many things. In the book, I use a lot for grading garlic because it's really quick. You don't really need to mince it or your hands will get smelly, but it's wonderful for lemon zest, Parmesan. You can even use it for ginger. I've also used it for like nutmeg or chocolate to finish like wintery boozy cocktails. Just a really great tool. It's about $15, so it's not super expensive, and it'll will last a long time.
Suzy Chase: If we search your recipes online, we will find a common theme. What is that?
Yasmin Fahr: Definitely feta. I feel like if you even read some of the comments, if there's a recipe that doesn't have feta, someone's like, "Wait, Yasmin, there's no feta in this recipe?" Clearly people have picked up on it. Yeah, there's an essay in the book called, "I have a thing for feta because I just grew up eating feta and I love it so much." Definitely it's in a lot of the recipes in the book, but I had to take it out of some because my editor was like, "Yasmin, this is not a feta cookbook. You can't have feta in every single recipe." But yeah, so definitely feta.
Suzy Chase: That's hilarious. Too much feta. Enough with the feta.
Yasmin Fahr: I know. Exactly. Stop.
Suzy Chase: What's your favorite kind of feta?
Yasmin Fahr: I love Bulgarian feta. Bulgarian feta... Greek feta is technically a protected designation of origin, so it's kind of like champagne that can only be made in champagne discerned specifications. Anything other than Greek feta is supposed to be called a feta style cheese. But the European laws don't really apply as much here, so we still call them Bulgarian feta. Bulgarian feta is always... Oh, can be a mix of sheep's, cow, and goat's milk, but it's usually mostly sheep. It's really creamy and tangy and often found in the brine, which is the kind of salty like murky liquid you see it in. Greek feta is a least 70% sheep's milk and no more than 30% goat's milk. I don't know. I think the flavor of Bulgaria is just something that I grew up with and I really love.
Yasmin Fahr: I feel like it adds so much to the dish, like it really can add the creamy component, but it's also really light, and it has a ton of flavor. I say go Bulgarian, but if you can't find that, feta in the brine is equally as good.
Suzy Chase: Is Bulgarian easy to find?
Yasmin Fahr: I mean, it's going to be at Whole Foods. It'll be at like Cheesemongers, but sometimes in supermarkets you tend to only find those kind of packaged like cryovac feta that's really dry and caky and doesn't have that creamy crumbly texture that you want. I would say try to avoid those if you can.
Suzy Chase: What's your favorite recipe in the cookbook with feta?
Yasmin Fahr: Oh, that's so hard. I would say the baked feta is one of my favorites. It's in the oven to table chapter. Everything's made in a sheet pan. You put it in, walk away, and then it's ready. This is one that's cooked with kale and chickpeas, some spices, and then blocks of feta. Kale gets really crispy, so do the chickpeas, and then the feta gets even like creamier. It's really delicious. I don't even know how to fully describe the taste of it, and it makes for wonderful leftovers that you can mix it with eggs, again, with grains. This is one I make all the time and even swap out the kale for broccolini, broccoli, mushrooms, and you can change some of the spices for cumin. Just a really easy, simple dish. Once you master the technique, you can definitely make it your own.
Suzy Chase: On Monday night, I made your recipe for Miso Ghee chicken with Roasted Radishes on page 28. Can you describe this dish?
Yasmin Fahr: Yay. I'm so happy you made it. I love that one. Basically I make a miso-ghee like compound butter. That's when you take a butter and you mix it with herbs or spices. I'm using ghee set of butter in this one. You make it and you put it outside of the chicken, and you kind of lift up the chicken skin and make this little pocket and tuck it in there, so it infuses the chicken with this incredibly intense aromatic nutty flavor. It's just so wonderful and it makes the skin really crispy. You cook it in there, and then halfway through, you add radishes. What I love about radishes is that they taste like potatoes when they're cooked. You get that tasty delicious flavor, but it's a little bit lighter for the weeknight.
Yasmin Fahr: Then you can finish it under the broiler and you top it off with some scallions and sesame seeds, and you have a really easy dinner.
Suzy Chase: Yes, I don't love radishes, but they totally turn into potatoes when you roast them.
Yasmin Fahr: Right?
Suzy Chase: It was crazy.
Yasmin Fahr: It's so cool. I'm always on the fence about radishes too and someone told me about that and I was like, "This is incredible." Yeah, I've definitely become a fan ever since.
Suzy Chase: The miso ghee combination made it so crispy.
Yasmin Fahr: It's so good. It just smells so incredible too. If you even take miso and ghee and toss it with soba noodles and some spinach like wilt in there with some scallions on top, it's such an easy weeknight meal and it smells unbelievable.
Suzy Chase: My 13 year old said, "miso good." He was trying to be funny.
Yasmin Fahr: No, that's cute. Did he like it?
Suzy Chase: He loved it.
Yasmin Fahr: Oh my God. I feel like having a 13 year old like it is huge.
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Yasmin Fahr: That's fantastic, right?
Suzy Chase: You've done your job.
Yasmin Fahr: That's a big compliment.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Yasmin Fahr: Yeah, exactly. Job well done.
Suzy Chase: What does this recipe have to do with your holistic facialist?
Yasmin Fahr: That probably sounds sort of funny. I started seeing this holistic facialist in Brooklyn about seven or eight years ago and she's so incredible. She really is someone who look at your skin and say, "Oh, you're not..." For me, she was saying, "You're not eating enough meat at this time because you don't have enough minerals." She basically tell my diet just by looking at my skin. She was the one who told me to start drinking bone broth about seven, eight years ago before it kind of became a thing. She says that ghee and butter are really good fats for your skin to kind of keep them plump, and so I began cooking with ghee. Now I use ghee probably as much as I use olive oil. That's how I got hooked on ghee.
Suzy Chase: Now for my segment called my favorite cookbook. Aside from this cookbook, what is your all time favorite cookbook and why?
Yasmin Fahr: Pellegrino Artusi, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. It's from the late 1800s. The way he writes is just so funny and beautiful, and it's really interesting just to read how recipes were written back then.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Yasmin Fahr: My Twitter and Instagram are Yasmin Fahr, so Y-A-S-M-I-N F-A-H-R, and then my website is my full name dot co, rather than dot com.
Suzy Chase: Well, thanks, Yasmin, for chatting with me on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Yasmin Fahr: Thank you so much for having me. This was so fun.
Outro: Subscribe over on CookerybytheBook.com, and thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.
Feb 24 2020
The Nimble Cook
By Ronna Welsh
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Ronna Welsh: Hi. I'm Ronna Welsh, and my cookbook is The Nimble Cook.
Suzy Chase: Your philosophy is there are three steps to making a meal. How can we be nimble in three steps?
Ronna Welsh: The first is to take stock of what we have. For me, that means, when you open up your refrigerator looking for something to eat, you see the things that you would normally be blind to. That includes things that are on your refrigerator door, the things that are pushed to the back of your fridge. It also might include things in your pantry that you've just ignored because they aren't on spoiler alert. The other thing about taking stock of what you have is to think about the time, who you have to feed, how much counter space you have. All those things should drive what you do. After we take stock of what we have, we want to create what I call starting points. That's really basically saying, "What do I do with what I have?" There's a lot less pressure involved in making one small move from, let's say, a raw ingredient to a raw ingredient cut or a raw ingredient washed or a raw ingredient roasted than there is from taking said raw ingredient and turning it into a soup, a risotto, a dish for which many of us might need a recipe or at least more motivation than we might bring to the kitchen on an average Tuesday. When you have these things that are started already, so maybe it's an onion that's already chopped for you or maybe it's you pulled all the loose bags of pasta out of your cabinet to reckon with on your counter, then the next thing to do is to put things together to eat, and that's plating. That could be as simple as take the avocado you cut in half, drive a spoon into it, and then that really nice hazelnut oil that you haven't used yet because it cost more than your salary, you open to pour on top. That's the making of a meal. It's sort of this three-step process that can be carried out over the course of a week if you are a planner and you like to do things like cut an onion while you're waiting for your pizza delivery, or it's actually itself compressed into one moment, the way in which we go from, "There's nothing to eat," to, "Great, I'm sitting down for dinner."
Suzy Chase: I thought it was so interesting that you mentioned your refrigerator door. You really never think of that.
Ronna Welsh: It's true. The things that we have on our refrigerator door are the ... they're collections, almost memories of dinners that we've had. It's the barbecue, or the time we made Thai food and the fish sauce is there to remind us, or the jar of tamarind paste, those things that don't go bad. It's the seven jars opened of mustard. It's the jalapeno peppers, all those things that are preserved and buy us time to look elsewhere, so we do. One of my favorite recipes in the book is for something I call Refrigerator Door Relish. I take everything on my refrigerator door, which in my case being a lover of things salty, are green peppercorns, capers, anchovies, and I put them all together. I do a big dump. I pull them all off my shelves, and then I reckon with what I have to clean once I've cleared the space. Then I put them in a food processor with some oil, sometimes some red pepper flakes, sometimes some lemon, but usually just those things, and they become a relish. What's done from there is you can take that relish and then grab all that mustard that's in your door and mix it together, and then it becomes this really spicy interesting condiment. I do other things with it, but the whole point is not so much that I have bought more time, because these things weren't going bad in the first place, but I put them into this more recognizable form, more of a convenience food. Then what I do is, when I take that relish or that mustard, I don't put it back on the side of the fridge. I put it in front of me, maybe in front of the milk even so that the next time I go into the refrigerator, I see it in front of me, and it says, "Hey, over here. Maybe I can be of help." What I just proposed is nothing profound. It's simply that it's one step in a direction that sometimes we need to take in order for us to think about ingredients becoming a meal.
Suzy Chase: Okay. How on Earth do we make risotto from scratch in two minutes?
Ronna Welsh: Right, so this is actually something that I learned working in restaurants. The best of the Italian restaurants do actually take 20 minutes to make your risotto, so when they request that on the menu, it's no lie, but risotto from start to finish elsewhere, I learned, and certainly in my home, happens by taking each specific step and then pausing at the moment that's right for you. But then here's the key is carrying forth from that moment, and I'll give you and example in a second, carrying forth from that moment all the stuff that makes risotto risotto into the next moment. For example, let's say we are making risotto which starts with this Arborio rice, and we ... well, that's the rice that goes into it. It actually starts with shallots, let's say shallots and butter, and we're sauteing those things. Then we add to that our rice, cook that for one or two minutes, and then you add wine. This is sort of just a very classic procedure for making risotto. We let the wine cook down. Then what we do is we begin to add stock. The stock is actually added while it's hot, so you have this other pot on the burner of stock, and you add that little by little to kind of eke out the starch from the rice, and that's what makes risotto creamy. Let's say you get to the point where you're maybe 18 minutes in, right, and it's still not done. That's one of the places where I might stop. In order to stop but to still make sure that my risotto, when I pick it up a day or two later, is as good as if I was making it from scratch, I need to take all of that creamy but not quite done rice in the pot, and I need to pour it out onto a sheet pan or a cookie tray. What that does is it stops the cooking immediately. I spread it out, but I also make sure to take a rubber spatula and scrape every bit of starchy goodness from inside that pot and put it on the tray. Then, absolutely, when that is cool and ready to go into a container in my refrigerator, I scrape every bit of that delicious gooey starch into the container because if I don't do that, then all my effort is short-changed.
It's about knowing how to pause, how to keep all of the essential elements that make cooking really good in place so that, when you're ready to pick it up, you just kind of resume with the same attention and forethought as you had when you were starting the risotto initially.
Suzy Chase: Did you just describe the 20-minute or your 2-minute one?
Ronna Welsh: Sorry. I just described the up to about 18 minutes where it's not quite done, and then you stop the cooking. Then what happens is, once everything is cooled down, and let's say you store it, you come back to it two days later. I decide that, instead of making risotto for four because, lo and behold, it's only me cooking for myself that evening, I might take a scoop out of that container of par-cooked risotto, so not fully cooked but most of the way cooked, and I'll put it in a pan. I'll kind of warm it up a little bit. Then I set in place all the other elements for making the risotto that I kind of interrupted from two days before.
Suzy Chase: Okay.
Ronna Welsh: I'll put the remainder of my stock on the stove. What happens is, as soon as I add that warm stock to that small single serving of risotto in the pan, the creaminess comes back instantly, and so I finish a portion of risotto in time for me to eat in two minutes, but what I've done is I've kind of preserved the care and the attention of the other 18 minutes but just pushed them forward to when I needed to eat.
Suzy Chase: One thing I love about this cookbook is that most dishes are written for a single serving size. Talk a bit about that.
Ronna Welsh: Yes. That was highly controversial, that is in the cookbook publishing world, but I was insistent on it, and here's why. I have a family of four. I never cook for four. There are families of five, families of three, people who cook just for themselves. For one thing, I wanted to make a cookbook that did not speak to this generic four-to-six-person dinner. The other thing is, even though I have a family for four, I'm not cooking the same thing for everyone at all times. To me, this idea of who we had as eaters really was outdated. The other thing is when you have an approach to cooking that is ingredient-driven, and that is you're focusing on what you have, using what you have given your circumstances, time, how it's best expressed rather than focused on, let's say, making a soup for which there will be leftovers if you have it feed four to six, then what you do is you can cook out of anything you have on hand. If I have one leek, I can still make something with it for me to eat rather than worry about going to the store to get four more leeks to make a recipe for soup that feeds four. The way that my starting points are set up ... The book is divided between starting points and explorations. Basically, that's just saying I have an ingredient, let's say leeks. With that ingredient, I do one thing. In this case, maybe I braise them. That just means I cook them slowly with some aromatics and wine and water, and they're delicious and soft. From that container of braised leeks, that container with those leeks which are edible just with a fork in my underwear at midnight, there's also the ability to take a small portion of those leeks, heat them in a pan, mash them up with maybe a cooked potato that I also have, and there I have soup for one that required no planning and zero waste. That's really what's behind this method is the idea that, if you use what you have, you should be able to turn small bits and pieces into plates of food. There's also one other thing that goes into this, and that is that I think we need to reckon with the fact that mealtime doesn't have to or really doesn't ever look the way it does as cookbooks suggest. We rarely have a platter as a main entrée and then a platter of vegetables and then a platter of starch and have all that food be gone by the end of the meal. Instead, sometimes I think meals need to look like the family that's eating them, so it needs to look a collection of ideas and interests and tastes. Sometimes, for me, a meal might be the potato-leek soup that I kind of sort of mocked together in those two minutes, but somebody else in my family might eat that half of an avocado with that really beautiful oil and a spoon. As long as we're sitting together and we're eating from what we have, that's the meal.
Suzy Chase: Jacques Pepin said you cook the way he does: efficiently, vigilantly, skillfully, and frugally. Was this way of cooking second nature to you, or did you have to develop these skills along the way?
Ronna Welsh: It wasn't second nature, although I think it's the most intuitive way to cook, but for me, no. I grew up in a household of convenience foods. I was the kid who ate the mashed potatoes out of the packet, the green beans out of the can. It wasn't until I was older, went away, and then after graduate school started to cook that I understood the skillset I was missing. Even then, though, being a new cook and then working my way through the restaurant world, there I started in Austin, Texas and then came to New York, I learned how to cook by dish. That means that whatever we were serving, whatever was on the menu, we would prep our ingredients for that particular dish. We would mise en place a dish in order to execute it perfectly well and in keeping with the rigors and the timing of the kitchen. I've always been focused, I think like most cooks, on the dish, the recipe, and then the execution of. It wasn't until I stepped out of the kitchen, which is when you had my first daughter, and then two years following my second, that I reckoned with the fact that all of my experience in the professional world did little to prepare me for cooking at home. I've always cooked at home for friends. I always loved spending days off doing really ambitious things, but making a cassoulet serves no purpose in feeding a toddler. It was feeding kids that proved to be my greatest challenge as a cook. I had to come up with a way to cook for them that was as sort of fly by the seat of my pants as parenting always is. The way for me to do that was not to stock up on chicken fingers and boxed mac and cheese. If I credit my professional background at all, it's that it made me stubborn, and it made me unwilling to make those choices of convenience and forced me to find another way.
Suzy Chase: What two ingredients do you use most?
Ronna Welsh: Olive oil and salt.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of salts, you have a Spice, Salts and Rubs chapter. The bay salt recipe has renewed my interest in bay leaves, which I normally think are like nothing, flavorless. Talk a bit about that.
Ronna Welsh: Right, so one of the things, when I started teaching, I realized is that people are wary of their spice rack. Of course, it's really easy for spices to go old. It's really for us to overlook spices that we bought for one particular dish. Also, many of us don't use spices beyond the specific instructions in a recipe. One of the problems, I think, is that we are told to check out our spices by opening a jar and then sticking our nose in the jar, but you know what? Spices all sort of smell the same. They smell dusty after a while. They smell a little bit like shoes, and so you can't actually taste a spice by smelling it, which sounds obvious, except that's what we've all been encouraged to do. Then the next step is to say, "Well, what if I just lick my finger and stick it in the jar?" because that's the way we roll in my house, and then put my finer in my mouth. Well, if you do that for cumin, which is a spice I use all the time, you'll get a sense of what it is, but you'll also then taste that it's somewhat metallic and off-putting. That doesn't open up ideas for what to do, so the key is to provide a medium through which you can taste the spice, and one of those is salt. What I tell people to do is take spices out of your spice rack and, in a little bowl, put some of that spice and salt, mix it up, and taste. Then you'll see the possibilities of that one spice. Spice salts, for me, are the key to your spice rack. Bay salt came about because I had this, I guess for over a period of months, I just kept buying bay leaves, and so I had these individual packets of bay leaves and not enough soup to make, right? We always put sort of the bay leaf in the soup for this elusive, we're not quite sure what flavor. I took them all because, for me, my choice was trash or opportunity, so I took them all, I put them in a spice grinder with some salt, and that became bay salt. The thing about bay salt is it tastes like nothing else, and it goes on absolutely everything. Whereas the bay leaf that cooks for a long time in a soup or a stew provides a kind of backbone that we can't quite describe and so we don't even know it's gone, really, if it's not there, but the bay salt then sits right on your tongue. I use it as a finishing salt. It might be that you would take chicken soup that normally, I guess, maybe you could cook with a bay leaf but, instead, I just add some bay salt to the end.
Suzy Chase: Sticking with the salt subject, on Saturday, I made your recipe for Salted Roast Chicken on page 253. At first, I thought, "This is a lot of salt," and then it was so moist. It was so crispy on the outside. How does the salt contribute to the moistness of the chicken?
Ronna Welsh: Well, in this case, the salt is put on the chicken as far as 24 hours in advance. The salt is different than other kinds of, let's say, spices. Salt worms its way into the meat, and so then you begin to season the meat from the inside out. The case with salt is its magic is that it's not imparting its own flavor, although it will if you use too much, but that it brings out the flavor of the thing that you've salted. The idea is that you've seasoned the meat from the inside out. The salt itself aids in the moisture of the meat, but I also think that has to do with the way it is cooked so that the skin is dried out in the fridge overnight. You cook the chicken on super high heat, crisp the skin, and then let it bathe in all of its fat at a slightly lower temperature to finish it. The other thing I like about that chicken dish is I shove the chicken in a roasting pan, a snug one, so every bit of juice and fat just collects on the bottom of the pan. That helps also to keep the chicken moist because it sits in a bath of its own making.
Suzy Chase: I also made your Roasted Cucumbers With Caraway Seeds and Scallions on page 126. I have never had roasted cucumbers or even thought about roasting cucumbers. This was crazy. Describe this dish.
Ronna Welsh: Sure. Roasted cucumbers is now my favorite thing. I have a couple of different recipes for them, but the idea behind the roasted cucumbers is to treat them as a vegetable in the way that we might treat a zucchini squash. They have a lot of water in them, so you have to reckon with that. One of the things I do in the roasting is allow the water from the cucumber to contribute to a sauce. It's put in a dish with butter and caraway seeds. Salt is important. Roasted so that they turn that kind of dull green. You can cut them with a fork, they're that tender, but they're rather substantial, which is something that surprised me. Then they're beautifully paired with a sour cream but even, actually, salty meats. The roasted cucumbers came about because when I was thinking about things I could make with cucumbers. My thought process goes like this, and this is what I encourage for everyone is to say, "Cucumbers. What can I do? I can bite into it raw. I can slice it. I can peel it and slice it. I can grate it. I can blend it. I can ..." Then you begin to insert other options, things that maybe you've never done before. "Can I steam it? Sure. Can I roast it? I don't know." Then if you say, "Well I want to find out," then you can even look up other recipes for roasted cucumber, if they exist, or you play around yourself. To me, that's the beginning of the process of improvisation is to ask yourself, "What do I do with what I have?" You might arrive at a really interesting pairing of ingredient and technique that you hadn't thought of before.
Suzy Chase: Now for my segment called My Least Meal. What would you have for your last supper?
Ronna Welsh: First, I would like to say that I would like to be able to take this back at any point in my life and offer another answer, but I think perhaps my last meal would be a huge cassoulet. It might be because I mentioned that word 20 minutes ago but, honestly, think about it. When you have a cassoulet and you break into the crust, you have days worth of labor, and it's that magic moment where you aren't sure is it going to be really good? It's such a gift to me. It's such a one-pot gift that I like to enjoy by myself. I will share it with other friends if they're on the island, but I suppose it's the category of things like, to me, cassoulet and terrine, things that require so much finesse and care and time. Those might be the kinds of things that I'd have for my last meal.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web, social media, and in Brooklyn?
Ronna Welsh: The name of my cooking studio in Brooklyn is Purple Kale Kitchenworks, so you will be able to find me and also a little bit more about the book at purplekale.com, purple like the color, kale like the vegetable dot com, and on social media as well would be purplekalekitchenworks.
Suzy Chase: Everyone is a better cook in The Nimble Kitchen. Thanks so much for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Ronna Welsh: Thank you.
Outro: Follow Suzy Chase on Instagram @cookerybythebook and subscribe at cookerybythebook.com or in Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening to Cookery by the Book podcast, the only podcast devoted to cookbooks since 2015.
Apr 02 2019
One Tin Bakes: Sweet and Simple Traybakes, Pies, Bars and Buns
By Edd Kimber
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
Edd Kimber: I'm Edd Kimber and my brand new cookbook One Tin Bakes is out now.
Suzy Chase: If you enjoy Cookery by the Book, please tell a friend I'm always looking for new people to enjoy the podcast now on with the show. Food writer, baker four time cookbook author, and winner of The Great British Bake Off first season in 2010. Can you believe that's 10 years ago, by the way,
Edd Kimber: I know it's crazy. To me it feels like minutes ago, but then 10 years a lot has happened in the last 10 years.
Suzy Chase: Because of the show you were able to leave your job as a debt collector. What advice do you have for home bakers who are thinking about competing on a cooking show.
Edd Kimber: A lot of those shows are very different when they become more established. I think I was very lucky to be on an early season, the first season, and it gives you different opportunities and it could be better or worse depending on your viewpoint. But for me, the reason I think it was better is it didn't quite have the same attention, you know, the press didn't have this odd British vendetta against anything that's popular and the criticism that the contestants get, because it's such a big show now with social media, wasn't there. So for me, I was able to go on the show and it was enough to give me a little stepping stool, to be able to take a risk and try and do this as a job, whereas now much more high pressure. So I think if you're going to go on the show these days, you have to really think about what you want and how you think you will achieve that. Because now that the show is every year and people are used to that kind of roll out of new contestants, their attention spans are incredibly short. And unfortunately, if you don't make some form of impact very quickly, then you will be forgotten sadly within the next year. And so I think it's much, much harder now to actually have success on those shows. So what I would say is, you know, I learned a lot about myself on the show. It gave me a lot of confidence and really helped me define what I wanted to do going forward. If I was going into it now, and I pinned all my hopes with my future career on that show and the success it might bring to me, it could be incredibly difficult and disappointing when that just doesn't happen because there's so much competition out there. So I would say try and just enjoy it for what it is. It's a fun thing to do. All of these shows can be fun to film.
Suzy Chase: Before we dive into the cookbook. I'd love to chat about the title One Tin Bakes. I interviewed Lola Milne a few months ago and she wrote the cookbook Just One Tin. She changed the name to Just One Can for the U.S. Version. Did you ever consider the name change for the American market?
Edd Kimber: Yes. So I initially when my publisher and myself sat down to talk about doing this book, I suggested to make it more international. The book should be called One Pan Bakes. However, it was decided the word pan doesn't sound very nice in the context of a title. Whereas One Tin Bakes has a slightly nicer lilt to it. And because we live in a slightly more international world these days, most people will understand that tin and pan are interchangeable, but it is really tricky with those words. And I have the same thing when translating recipes from, English to American having to choose which wording to use. And to be honest, I actually used the word pan completely interchangeably. When writing the book, I would often slip into writing pan because it's just often why use, I sometimes will call a Bundt pan, a Bundt pan, and I would never call it a Bundt tin because it just doesn't sound right to me. So in the end it doesn't seem to affect it too much, but there has been a few people who've been a bit snarky about the English title and the fact that English ingredients are listed first and American ingredients are listed in brackets. Some people have not liked that.
Suzy Chase: That's hilarious. I was talking to Skye McAlpine last week and she kept saying, I heated it up on the hob. And I'm like the hob?
Edd Kimber: We have the same thing with grill because obviously grill here means something very different in the U.S. so when I say cook something under the grill, that might be very confusing to someone who's like, do I put it under the grill? No, no, no. It's under the broiler, which to me just sounds like a very unattractive where to broil something sounds. It sounds so gray and I don't know, there's just something very disappointing. And I don't know, just something very sad about the word broil and I don't know why, it's just how it reads to me, but, yeah, there is always a slight difficulty I've realized over the last 10 years that you really cannot please everybody. And unfortunately, I've also realized I don't want to, because if you try and please every single person you're making something, that's not going to be interesting. So my kind of rule is I always try and please myself first, because I think I write from a place of trying to write what I would have wanted, you know, a decade ago or two decades ago for the home baker. And hopefully if I find it interesting, that means other home bakers would find it interesting too. And I also try never to talk down to my audience, to my readers. I want to help uplift their skills. So I try and make something that's interesting from my point of view and hope that people are along for that journey, which most people are, which is good.
Suzy Chase: So in One Tin Bakes what is the exact tin that you recommend?
Edd Kimber: So it's a metal 9 by 13 pan. It's just made incredibly well, it will last you a very, very long time. So if you want the exact tin I recommend that one from Nordic Ware is my preferred tin. But in reality, especially in America, so many people will already have a 9 by 13 because it is for brownies you know, it's a very classic pan so if you want to use what you already have, that will be absolutely fine. That was the reason we chose, or I chose a 9 by 13 tin when my publisher came to me and said, we kind of were thinking about this idea you've been talking about baking everything in one tin and we really liked the idea, but we don't know what that would be. So I went away and fleshed out the idea more than I had in the past and I settled on a 9 by 13 because I thought it was more flexible than anything else out there really and a lot of people would already have it because it's so popular for brownies.
Suzy Chase: The reason this book exists is because of the Milk Chocolate Caramel Sheet Cake on page 12. Can you tell us that story?
Edd Kimber: The whole kind of Genesis of this book stems from this one cake. So people who have followed my work, read my website and follow me on Instagram will recognize that cake hopefully because I published it now, I can't remember how long ago it is now a year? No must be more than that, I did it a long time ago, basically. And I posted the sheet cake recipe that I'd been working on for awhile and I absolutely loved it. It was just something so delicious to me and sheet cakes really, aren't a huge thing in the UK. We have this thing called tray bakes, which I don't really like as a term because it conjures up to a lot of people, old fashioned boring, kind of things your grandma would make, but not in a kind of cool nostalgic kind of way. And so I kind of tried to avoid that term, but sheet cakes were not really a thing of the UK. I really like them because I find my approach to making fairly international and I've been working on this recipe for awhile. I posted it thinking, Oh, I think it will do well. It's chocolate, chocolate always does well for me and the frosting was to my mind, just ridiculously good, but the response to it kind of blew me away and the recipe went completely viral I had hundreds of people making it the first weekend. They posted it. And within a couple of weeks, thousands of people had made it and posted pictures of it. That was the original thinking for the book. And after that happened, my publisher kind of got me in and said, this is the thing we think we should be talking about. And so after this recipe did so, so well, we decided this should be the thing. And that kind of was the starting point for the book. So, I love the recipe so much. I made a version of it quite often.
Suzy Chase: And I've read somewhere that this cake is the best way you know how to make friends. Oh my gosh.
Edd Kimber: Cake is always the best way to make friends. I think all of my friends at some point have been bribed into friendship with me through baked goods. I think that's basically a descriptor of my life.
Suzy Chase: Tell me about your love of chocolate. You have so many chocolate recipes in this cookbook,
Edd Kimber: Someone wrote a negative review of the book saying there's too much chocolate. And I really thought is there? Who hates chocolate? Also, I am a very, as my partner would say, I'm a very, very sensitive person. And so when someone leaves me really quite aggressively negative reviews, I have to go through the book and prove it to myself that they're wrong. I went through the book and I remember thinking, but it's very well balanced. There's a real breadth of recipes. But to me, chocolate is something that I love working with because it's a never ending source of inspiration. There's so much you can do with chocolate. There's different styles, obviously there's different origins or the flavor profile is different. It's just a completely fascinating product. And I think, you know, I've been doing this for 10 years and I know with baking what is going to be popular and chocolate is always going to be most people's favorite thing. So for me, chocolate is something I like using, because I know people are home like using it. And for me, that has always one of my guiding principles is I want to make things that people will actually want to make. I think you look at say, very chef led or, you know, high-end cooking books for me. They can be a great source of inspiration for me, but I think for most people at home, those books are so alien to them because the styles of recipes or the amount of effort put in there, or the ingredients, or just the level of complexity can be very, very off putting. And I would never want to do that. So everything I put into my books I think is doable by the home baker and something a home baker would want to do, and that will vary in skill level. So you'll have people who are very, very new to baking and just want something that's a one bowl cake that you can whip up without thinking about. But then you'll have people who have been baking for decades and wants something that's exciting from an ingredient point of view or a technique that they've not heard of before. But that's kind of the lens I always view my recipes in. So chocolate will always be in my books. I refuse to apologize for that. It's something that people just love. So, I'm sorry if you don't like chocolate, but there's 70 recipes in this book and I think maybe 15 are chocolate. So, I think there's plenty if you don't like it too, but if you don't like chocolate, I'm not sure we can be friends.
Suzy Chase: So, one thing that's not chocolate is you have a distinct memory of when pop tarts made it to the UK. It cracked me up. Cause you said when you were young, you saw pop tarts as exotic and cool. Talk a little bit about that.
Edd Kimber: Neither of those things are true. So I am basically, I, I grew up in that kind of period in the nineties when there was a big real push in the UK to kind of towards American things. And that could be, you know, American TV when I was a kid, Friends was the biggest show ever, and people were absolutely wild for it. But then also it was the period where a lot of American ingredients were, brands at least, we're trying to make in the UK, this new thing that seems so different to a British tastes seems so different and interesting and cool. And it turns out that pieces of sweet cardboard and I remember trying one, and it was one of the more wacky flavors. And I just thought this is so disappointing on every level. But the main reason they are bad to me is the pastry or whatever actually is made from is such an odd, unusual texture that it's just not good. So I love this idea. I have the Poptarts in my head and I wanted to go, okay, let's make a really, really good hand pie that just happens to look like a pop tart. And I love, love, love that recipe.
Suzy Chase: It's on page 74, if anyone wants to make it.
Edd Kimber: Yeah. And it's a really adaptable one. You can really use it as your template and recreate your favorite if you do have one pop tart or just let your imagination go wild and choose whatever filling you want really just don't make it too wet because it will end up making the pastries quite soggy. So something that's a little bit thicker.
Suzy Chase: I have a heck of a time lining a pan with parchment paper. There's always one corner that looks crazy. Can you talk about your genius clip technique?
Edd Kimber: I've been doing this clip thing for years and years and years, and I didn't realize that other people didn't do it because it seemed so obvious to me, but the reason I started doing it is, and I know this is not as common in the U.S., most modern ovens in the UK are fan ovens and they have quite powerful fans sometimes. And so you're making a batch of brownies and you've lined the tin so that excess parchment comes up the side so you can remove the brownies really easily later. I was finding very often that and would blow into the brownie and bake itself into it. And it would be really annoying cause you'd ruin the look and it would be messy and hard to use. So I would clip with a kind of just bulldog clips really. And they just hold the parchment in place along the side of the tin. And it's really something, I only do for square or loaf pans or 9 by 13's, round tins that I'm not normally lining the sides very much. So it's not really an issue, but in the book I give a number of different ways to line a tin with parchment because depending on the recipe, there's different ways you'd want to do it. But the way I do most often is instead of lining all four sides with one giant piece of paper where you will get really kind of ugly corners, if you don't cut it so it sits neatly. I basically cut a long strip that will go across the entire base and then up both of the longer sides of the tin and it kind of acts as a slang. So when the recipe id done all you need to do, depending on the recipe is just use a blunt knife just to kind of separate it from the top and bottom sides, the smaller sides. And then you use the sling of parchment just to easily lift out. And it's very, very straightforward. And then sometimes you won't need to line it at all because it's something that just pops out easily. And then sometimes I want to serve the recipe in the tin, because that's kind of the joy of a 9 by 13. You can make it in the tin, serve it in the tin and so for those occasions, sometimes I just lined the base so that you've not got kind of ugly parchment showing. So there's a whole range of ways of doing it, but the clips is a very useful way to just hold that in place. But what I would say is if you're going to buy some clips, make sure they're not plastic coated because the plastic will melt in the oven. So I try to find one side just metal, no coating on them whatsoever.
Suzy Chase: Your photos in the cookbook are just as flawless as your recipes. Did it take some time to master the art of food photography?
Edd Kimber: Yeah, so I've loved photography since I was a kid, really, I studied art at one of our kind of school things called an A Level, it's kind of a bit like your diploma. And I have learned just by being, alongside some amazing photographers over the years that I've picked up many tips. And I've also over the last 10 years of doing my website. I've kind of developed what I think of as my own style. And so when my publisher had approached me to potentially shoot this book, as well as write it, I had been in a position where I was trying to do more photography work professionally anyway. And that actually interestingly changed London during our lockdown because I ended up shooting for multiple magazines from home because I was one of the only food stylist in London that could also photograph. And that meant I was a hot commodity, but that would be very useful. But having the confidence to do my own book took a long time because I'm so enamored when I get to work with incredible teams, like my previous book Patisserie Made Simple, I got to work with one of my all time favorite photographers and just the most incredible team of a food stylist and a prop stylist and then myself. And it was just the most joyous six week process. Whereas doing this was much more different because I was at home and I was shooting on my own with no assistance, no stylists, no nothing. I did the whole thing. And so it was a very, very different process. But the thing that enabled me to do was to shoot as I wrote, which was a massive benefit because I try and write a seasonally as possible. So I don't really like shooting with strawberries from December or, you know, stone fruit in January. I try and use the best. So it looks like a look when you use it and the benefit of doing it as I wrote the book rather than one block after it was finished meant it was much easier to do that, but it was a really interesting process and something I actually loved, like looking through the book at the finished product I'm so, so proud of how it looks and how the feel of the book has a noticeable style. My boyfriend says to me all the time, well, that would be a very Edd Kimber shot because it's got a certain look to it and a certain style to it because I'm not one for propping lots of things. I like things quite clean and simple. I also like very graphic shots of closeups of the food, because that's what the book's about. It's not about pretty tablescapes. I was very, very proud of the finished look.
Suzy Chase: Last week. I made your recipe for Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars on page 53. Can you describe these?
Edd Kimber: So the Tahini Chocolate Bars were one of the last recipes I developed actually for the book, I get told of