It’s summer. And that means there’s a porch or hammock or couch and a stack of best cookbooks from recent months waiting for you. What are you waiting for?—Renee Schettler Rossi
Several years ago, I learned how to cure and smoke my own bacon from Meathead Goldwyn & Company. This was a life-changing event after which I needed to learn EVERYTHING I could about smoking meat. Since then, I have used his top-notch website, AmazingRibs.com, to guide me through all the potential pitfalls and victories of barbecuing. Needless to say, the moment I heard about his cookbook, Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, I preordered it on Amazon and waited months for it. So often we build something up in our minds only to be disappointed. This was not one of those times. I’ve had Meathead for two months and not a day has passed that I have not referred to it. It’s loaded with all the information you need to make a decision about which type of grill or smoker will suit your own unique needs, guides us through grill and smoker set up, fuel types (wood, gas, charcoal, etc.), and methods of cooking, and gives us the how tos and the what fors that are so often glossed over or simply overlooked in other books. There’s so much information, I discover something new at every glance, including the scientific side of things imparted by the great Dr. Greg Blonder, who busts generations-old barbecue myths and provides actual facts as opposed to wives tales. Did I mention that Meathead contains recipes? These are good, solid recipes for nearly ANYTHING that benefits from the marriage of fire and smoke. I love his Bacon and Onion Jam. I use his Meathead’s Memphis Dust and his Last Meal Ribs all the time. And I also LOVE the Big Bob Gibson’s Chicken in Bama White Sauce. If you cherish the ancient ritual of fire and meat, then this book is essential to your very existence.—Larry Noak, Recipe Tester
A SUPER UPSETTING COOKBOOK ABOUT SANDWICHES
A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches actually isn’t that upsetting (unless you take into account the sandwiches don’t come pre-made with the book). Tyler Kord, chef and owner of No.7 in New York City, has put together a curious collection of sandwich recipes served with a side of wit. Lest you wonder whether you really need a cookbook to make a sandwich, yes, you do. These creations go way beyond peanut butter and jelly or cheesesteaks. We’re talking sandwiches like Bacon Von Braunhut (shrimp), Taken 2 (falafel), even a Hot Patootie (meatloaf). I loved this cookbook from the first page. Not knowing where to begin, I decided on Broccoli, Egg & Cheese. It was, hands down, one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a loooong time. Kord even gives you a blueprint on how to construct the perfect sandwich. In addition to recipes for sandwiches, there are also recipes for components that go into sandwiches. I’m talking sauces and toppings and condiments of all sorts. The Genius Russian Dressing (I’m not giving away its secret) is actually genius, works great on roast beef, and goes terrifically on a burger. I also suggest trying the Special Sauce (it’s not what you’re thinking) and the Spaghetti Squash Salad (yes, on a sandwich). Intrigued with the Pickled Blueberries, I put together a batch and used them on my own sandwich concoction of ciabatta with melted burrata and speck. Mmmmm! And actually, I was super upset when I finished the sandwich, but there are many more to try. And I can’t wait. —Kim Medalis, Marketing Intern
Let’s be practical for a moment. Who could stand some inspiration in terms of how to simply and pleasantly and perhaps even creatively introduce more vegetables and whole grains into your life? I certainly can. And that’s exactly what Allison Day helps us do with Whole Bowls: Complete Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Meals to Power Your Day. Perhaps you’re familiar with the whole bowl trend? Essentially your entire meal is contained within a bowl and boasts varying tastes and textures and colors and nutrients. We’re not talking about a bowl of bran flakes with a handful of blueberries. We’re talking breakfast bowls of oat risotto with hazelnut dukkah or muesli with figs or yogurt swirled with pureed cherries and toasted cinnamon oats or black rice coconut porridge. And that’s just the first chapter. Subsequent sections of the book are tidily organized by type of meal, including salad bowls that comprise radicchio with beets, sweets, feta, and balsamic dressing or kale Caesar salad with sweet potatoes and quinoa. There are also entree bowls, such as the cookbook’s cover image that initially drew me to the book and straight into the kitchen, comprising purple cabbage, radish, brown rice, hazelnuts, and cilantro. And, yes, you even get dessert bowls such as peach buckwheat crisp, Mexican-spiced avocado chocolate pudding, even a big bowl of vegan cookie dough intended to be consumed by the spoonful with an ingredient list that may initially throw you but wait till you taste it. These are largely plant-based bowls that make you forget you’re not eating meat though of course a little grilled chicken or seared ribeye wouldn’t harm any of these if that’s more your style. And if tofu or tempeh aren’t your thing—and it certainly isn’t mine—then just flip on past the occasional mention of it to the next recipe. Or the next. Or the next. There’s ample inspiration here in the various components of each recipe to see you through months of not years of exquisitely healthful but not ascetic eating.—Renee Schettler Rossi
Okay, let us just say, WOW! We love Infuse: Herbal Teas to Cleanse, Nourish, and Heal for its aesthetic beauty, its breadth of knowledge regarding the use of natural substances to help heal, soothe, and nurture our bodies, and, quite plainly, for the invaluable gardening resource that it is. Like many of you, we’re turning back to more natural, less processed foods for our family. The knowledge that what you and nature have nourished in your garden can not only feed your family, but soothe a cough, ward off allergies, or help you sleep? That’s power. Infuse is a lovely culmination of herbal teas, remedies, and expert advice. Did you know that fennel passes into a mother’s breast milk to help soothe a colicky baby? You do now! The Herb-pedia in the back of the book is an extensive directory of herbs, plants, and flowers that describes the active properties and health benefits of each ingredient. It also includes contraindications and when to avoid particular herbs. The one thing that may deter some folks from trying the recipes is getting your hands on the herbs. We were disappointed to find many recipes impractical due to the relative uncommonness of the ingredients. But the book also includes shopping and sourcing information for those herbs you’re unable to grow in your own garden, so no worries. If you or anyone you cook for are pregnant, nursing, or taking a medication, consult with your physician before taking any herbs.
—Diana F, Social Media Intern, and her herb-lovin’ mama, Karen Mencel, RN
“Food can engage our senses, our minds, and our emotions just as profoundly as carefully chosen words or brush strokes. Arguably, our relation with food is even more intimate because we consume it directly. So there is no fundamental reason that food cannot be art—it has all the right prerequisites.” This quote, taken from a seminal essay by Nathan Myrhvold (it’s okay, I had to Google the guy, too), can be found in American Foodie: Taste, Art, and the Cultural Revolution, and it sorta perfectly encapsulates the the thought-provoking and eloquent defense of taking pleasure at the table in everyday life. Don’t be led astray by the title of the book. This is not a dissection of the eating habits of bearded Brooklyn hipsters. This is a text that explores and sanctions the practical, intellectual, and sensual pleasure taken from food. And rightly so. In a series of essays, philosophy professor and blogger Dwight Furrow postulates without pretention as he explores and defends the ascension of food from the realm of the practical to the aspirational. In so doing he muses on the attachment created to food by tradition, invokes the teachings of Kant on beauty and aesthetics, and distills the distinction between intellectual and sensory appreciation of creations such as music, art, and, he posits, food. Regardless of whether you ever took Philosophy 101, I dare say you’ll find that the author thoughtfully and evocatively sets forth the foundation for his assertions. And unlike some philosophical texts, only very occasionally is there anything that could be construed as uppity.—Renee Schettler Rossi