For a more extensive education from an unlikely source, you should consider picking up a copy of Wicked Good Burgers by Andy Husbands, Chris Hart and Andrea Pyenson. If that title sounds vaguely familiar, this cookbook comes from the same team of Boston-bred Yankees who published Wicked Good BBQ after carpetbagging their way to Lynchburg and taking home the hardware at the Jack Daniel's Invitational World Barbecue Championship. I'm just kidding about the carpetbagging part. I really like the story of Husbands and Hart, and their barbecue book has given me some really good tips in the past.
Now they have turned their sights on the humble burger in an attempt to raise the level of creativity and technique of the average Joe. (Or Sully or Bubba) They address the art and science of making excellent burgers, from the actual grinding of the meat to cooking methods on your grill, smoker, griddle, frying pan or even sous vide apparatus if you have that level of kitchen. Being kind of a kitchen nerd myself, I appreciate the fact that the authors use very precise weights and measures (including, gasp!, metric) in their recipes.
Some of the burgers are truly over the top, like the $100 Burger that calls for Wagyu brisket and short ribs, foie gras and truffle powder, but most of the recipes look delicious and creative. There are also plenty of recipes for inventive side dishes and toppings like duck fat fries, grilled romaine and dilled salmon roe.
To whet your appetite, they were nice enough to share a couple of recipes that you can try out to kick off Burger Month. If these get your grill preheated, buy the book and check out the rest.
This winter I edited a cookbook that was so thrilling, so different, that I want to come out from behind the pages. Flavors of My World: A Culinary Tour Through 25 Countries by Maneet Chauhan has some of the most innovative recipes and exciting flavor combinations I’ve come across in 25 years of food writing.
I’m talking about ropa vieja made with seasonings used for rogan josh. Fish and chips flavored like masala aloo. Doro wat with Mangaloran spices.
In Nashville, Chauhan is getting attention because of her announcement that she's planning to open her first restaurant here: a gastropub with Indian-inspired cuisine, called Chauhan Ale & Masala House. (She's partnering with local restaurateurs Moni Advani, London Parfitt and Austin Ratliff, who co-own Anthem and Revelry in the Gulch. The new restaurant's site isn't determined yet, but it's expected to open by the end of the year.)
Nationally, Chauhan was probably best known as one of the judges on the Food Network show Chopped. Before that, she was executive chef at Vermilion in Chicago and New York for eight years, serving Latin-Indian fusion food that won loads of recognition and awards.
The cookbook is based on that fusion ethic, blending Indian flavor profiles with already interesting “ethnic” foods like spanokopita, risotto, soda bread, Spanish omelets and goulash. I was so bowled over that I kept an electronic copy of the edited document, with its original title, Indie Culinaire.
She starts with the basics, even including guides to choosing cookware, appliances, and pantry items. She also includes information on how to best shop for food. For example, she’s got a great section on oils — which to use for what type of cooking and which to avoid (and why). Shoemaker is not a vegetarian, but notes that the common denominator in the healthiest of diets in the world is an emphasis on whole grains and vegetables. Other food groups can be included, but in moderation and prepared in a healthy way.
And though it’s not explicitly a beauty book, Shoemaker does include tips in various sections on how to maintain your appearance and how what you eat affects your appearance. She notes, “ 'You are what you eat,' so imagine what you would look like on the doughnut diet” as opposed to a diet of the slender carrot. But she doesn’t condescend to readers at all, and every claim is backed up by a thorough set of references included at the end of the book.
The impressive cookbook includes recipes from 25 different countries made with an Indian influence and flair. Each country’s dishes are matched with an incredibly inventive cocktail as well. For example, the section featuring Ireland makes the country’s soda bread unique by adding anardana powder and candied Indian gooseberries. The accompanying cocktail transforms a Guinness Stout into a complex beverage featuring kokum, an Indian fruit that functions to gently sour many Indian specialties.
Interesting notes are made in each section that include history and trivia about each country’s cuisine as well as the individual recipes and ingredients themselves. All are accompanied by exquisite photography of each dish and cocktail. Many of the recipes may seem a bit daunting to the average home cook simply based on the exotic ingredients, but the chef and her co-author, Doug Singer note that components are easily found in Indian groceries as well as online (and they helpfully include links). Interesting local notes: friend of Bites and City Paper food writer Nicki Pendleton Wood edited the book, which was published by Favorite Recipes Press, an imprint of Nashville-based Southwestern Publishing Group.
In addition to the pop-up dinner book signing event, Maneet will be signing copies at Whole Foods in Green Hills Wednesday, April 24 from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
Also, if you’re intrigued by this book (and you should be), note that Beth is hosting a giveaway of the book on her blog. But hurry; the contest closes at 11 p.m. Tuesday. Luckily, chances of winning are really good right now. You don’t want to miss the chance to win this amazing cookbook.
Agents are very helpful for this, and the good ones (including mine!) assist writers throughout the process and help to keep the project focused and marketable. It's not easy to get your pitch in front of the best agencies and publishers, but The Lisa Ekus Group, a culinary agency that recently celebrated 31 years in business, wants to find new talent using a unique medium to accept pitches: Twitter.
As the big March Madness college hoops tournament is approaching, Ekus styled their competition in a bracket format. Contestants must pitch their best culinary nonfiction ideas to @SallyEkus via 140-character (or less) tweets and add the hashtag #SignMeSal from March 11-13. Here's what happens next:
On March 14th, 2013, the finalists will be chosen to participate in the playoffs and entries will be whittled down in subsequent days. Like the March Madness basketball tournament, 16 finalists will enter the playoffs. Remaining participants will then be asked to round out their proposals with further tweets that cover standard proposal elements, such as the book’s point of differentiation, the author’s promotional ideas, and the author’s credentials. The last two finalists will join Literary Agent Sally Ekus in a Twitter chat on March 25, 2013 to discuss their ideas as well as ask questions about agency representation and cookbook publishing in general. Contestants, who were previously eliminated, as well as the greater Twitter community, will be encouraged to join the Twitter chat to ask questions of the final two contenders. A single winner will be chosen and then work with agent Sally Ekus to develop a fleshed out proposal to pitch to editors at publishing houses.
The authors will be appearing at Parnassus Books at 6:30 p.m. this Tuesday, Feb. 12, in conjunction with the book's release. They'll be there to sign copies in addition to serving samples of recipes from the book as well as other snacks for the event. Get a preview of some of the recipes from the book (as well as bonus recipes and menu ideas) on their publisher's website.
Breakfast for Dinner Release Party
Tuesday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m.
3900 Hillsboro Pike
The book, a cookbook-meets-journal of sorts, includes personal entries with each dish and features cocktail pairings from her husband, John Cusimano. If you’re looking for a new cookbook or a holiday gift for your foodie friend, the $35 admission includes a signed copy of the book, courtesy of co-sponsor Parnassus Books.
The show starts 6 p.m. at Belmont's Massey Performing Arts Center. Call 953-2243 for more information.
Happily, there are still plenty of good cookbooks out there, and with the gift giving season in full swing, I thought I'd highlight a few that I've encountered recently. First and foremost is the reason that chefs Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel visited our town last week, Bouchon Bakery. Like all of Chef Keller's previous cookbooks, Bouchon Bakery is beautifully photographed and very precisely written. And you wouldn't want to drop it on your foot.
Filled with personal anecdotes about Keller's childhood experience of gobbling Oreos and baking Duncan Hines cakes with his mother, this is a surprisingly intimate book considering its size and the authors' statuses in the culinary world. Still, it has some really technical recipes that will challenge the most experienced pastry chef. Don't even think of buying it unless you already have a kitchen scale that measures in grams. Baking is in many ways a science, and scientists and bakers live within the metric system. Forget about your cups and tablespoons in this one.
Another child of the South, Bianca Phillips, found herself in a similar predicament. And when she moved from being vegetarian to vegan, she faced the horror of giving up macaroni-and-cheese and ranch dressing, too. A good Southern girl simply cannot live without ranch dressing! And thus, Vegan Crunk was born, a food blog dedicated to demonstrating that you can still eat great Southern food (sometimes with a nice twist) without any animal products.
Now, Bianca’s got a cookbook so that you can make Southern and Southern-inspired vegan dishes at home. Cookin’ Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South includes Southern staples such as a vegan Ro-Tel dip and country-fried tempeh steak (as well as the aforementioned mac-and-cheese and ranch dressing) to Southernized versions of more international cuisine such as black-eyed pea hummus and a Southern fassolada.
Each recipe is accompanied by helpful notes, nutrition facts and charming stories about the dishes and their inspirations. She also includes a useful section at the beginning of the book to help you stock essentials for the vegan pantry as well as a note on the appropriate pronunciation of “pecan.”
There are a number of recipes that I plan to try very soon. At the top of the list is making homemade seitan, which I hope will be toddler-approved. I’m also considering this recipe for Nutty Mushroom Quinoa, which might be making its way to my husband’s family’s Thanksgiving dinner:
Right now, the maypops are ripening, and if you can get them before the squirrels do, you can have a taste of this wonderful fruit. I’m saving mine for a jelly, though (and drying the leaves for tea). But combing through the vines adjacent to a church property has drawn attention from people who can’t quite figure out what I’m doing (or if they have; why I’m doing it). Some time in the last 40 or 50 years, apparently, we’ve become a society that thinks that if you don’t buy something at a store (or from a farmers market), it’s not worth having.
But that’s not true; a lot of great foods are growing all around you, but for a variety of reasons — most commonly, lack of commercial viability — they aren’t sold in stores. In fact, one of the most treasured items among hardcore foragers is the morel mushroom. It can be difficult to find and there are poisonous lookalikes, so most people who hunt them keep them for themselves because they are so delicious. When they are sold in stores, they’re often no longer fresh and good and also about $30 per pound. And wild asparagus is also really delicious … and available for just a ridiculously short period of time.
But before you head out to your yard or to the local park, it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for. And what you want to avoid. A field guide is a good reference to have for everyday use if you’re going to make a career out of it, but a great way to start is with The Joy of Foraging by Gary Lincoff. If you’re ready to get started on your own salad of dandelion greens and purslane with a persimmon vinaigrette but you’re not quite confident in your ability to stay out of the hospital based on what you read alone, I have good news. This Saturday, Oct. 13, master forager Alan Powell will be leading the Wild Edibles hike around Beaman Park Nature Center from 10 a.m. until noon.
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