17 September 2022

3 Cookbooks for Sourdough Breads (Weekend Cooking)

I'm not telling you anything new when I say that interest in sourdough baking has skyrocketed in recent years. All three cookbooks featured today are focused on sourdough baking. Before I get to the books, I should tell you about my experience baking with sourdough. We love sourdough in the BFR household, and back when I used to bake bread almost daily, I had an active sourdough starter in my kitchen. At some point, when we stopped eating so much bread, I turned my attention to active dry yeast, which is where I've stayed for the last 20 years or so.

As sourdough has become popular again, I'm tempted to develop a starter and return to this style of baking. Perhaps this winter. In the meantime, I'm happy to read and learn from the many new sourdough cookbooks that have been published over the last couple of years.

Today, I introduce you to three that have caught my attention. Thanks to the publishers for the review copies of the following cookbooks. All three will be published in the next two weeks.

Book cover of Bread Head by Greg WadeJames Beard award winner Greg Wade oversees the bread program at Chicago's Publican Quality Bread. Wade is known for encouraging bakers to use organic grains and to support sustainable small farms. After taking note of the rising (heh) popularity of sourdough, he wrote his debut cookbook, Bread Head (W. W. Norton), with the goal of guiding and educating the newest generation of bread bakers.

Bread Head covers all the basics, offering tips on equipment, making sourdough starter, and buying and storing grains. Wade explains both the science and the art of bread baking, including details on how to use baker's percentages.

Besides sourdough bread recipes, Bread Head includes recipes for a few yeasted bakes as well as treats like doughnuts, galettes, and brownies. There's also a chapter on baking over wood or on a grill.

Some of the things I like about the cookbook are the glossaries of bread terms and grain types, the process guides (mixing, shaping, and so on), and great photos.

The recipes themselves are easy to follow and the ingredients are given three ways: weight, volume, and baker's percentages. The instructions are broken down by task (like mix, ferment, shape, proof) and include tips and help. Example recipes are Oat Cinnamon-Raisin Challah, Sorghum Blondies, Malted Rye Bread, Peach and Cashew Loaf, and Buckwheat and Thyme Loaf.

Recommendation: If you want to learn more about the art of sourdough bread baking, put Greg Wade's Bread Head on your list.

Book cover of Sourdough Breads from the Bread Machine by Michelle AndersonYes, I know all the purists' thoughts on bread machines, but I own one and use it often. When I worked 60+ hours a week, it was a godsend, saving me time and cleanup. I use my machine for only kneading and rising; I shape the loaves by hand and bake in the oven. I'm also very hands-on during the mixing phase.

Bread machine queen Michelle Anderson has written a number of baking books and has perfected techniques for relying on the machine, including the baking. Anderson's newest book, Sourdough Breads from the Bread Machine (Harvard Common Press), is perfect for home bakers who love and depend on their machines.

Sourdough Breads from the Bread Machine starts with directions for making several sourdough starters, including a gluten free one. Anderson introduces different flours and grains and discusses various add-ins, such as cheeses, seeds, nuts, and fruits.

I'm especially impressed with the chapter focused adapting sourdough techniques for the bread machine. Anderson gives specific advice on types of machines and their cycles, provides a step-by-step guide to baking methods, anticipates bakers' questions, and includes a troubleshooting guide.

Sourdough Breads from the Bread Machine starts with basic recipes and then moves to loaves that use non-wheat flours and call for a variety of flavorings. There's also a chapter for hand-shaped bakes, including sweet treats. Some recipes are Black Walnut Rye, Garlic and Black Olives, Chocolate Cinnamon, Bleu Cheese and Bacon, and Herb Swirl Bread.

Recommendation: Put Sourdough Breads from the Bread Machine by Michelle Anderson on your list if you're looking to ramp up your bread machine skills.

Book cover of Evolutions in Bread by Ken ForkishIf you do any kind of baking, then it's likely you've heard of James Beard award winner Ken Forkish. His newest cookbook, Evolutions in Bread (Ten Speed Press), is all about how he's adapted some of the breads and techniques from his Portland, Oregon, bakery for the home baker. His focus in this cookbook is on artisan pan breads that call for interesting grains and easy methods.

I love that most of the recipes in Evolutions in Bread are for only one loaf, perfect for small households and for those who like to bake often. The sourdough starter detailed in this book features Forkish's flour-saver method, which is easy to make and nurture.

The beginning chapters are all about ingredients, grains, milling, and equipment. Forkish clearly describes the needed methods and skills called for in the cookbook. His eight steps (with substeps) for baking bread are a gold mine of information for baking your best artisan loaves yet.

The chapters are divided by time and technique and include recipes for classic breads like Black Bread, Brioche, Pain du Levain, Country Bread, and Spelt Bread.

Recommendation: Pick up Evolutions in Bread by Ken Forkish to learn a unique starter and for an incredibly helpful guide to baking artisan loaves in a home kitchen.

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20 August 2022

Website Finds for Food Lovers (Weekend Cooking)

Happy Saturday. It's been a long, long time since I wrote a Weekend Cooking post that included links to current-ish foodie posts I've found in my wanderings around the internet.

a plate with falafel, hummus, and fresh vegetablesLast week, before the temperatures moderated, I put my air fryer front and center in my kitchen. I made chicken, stuffed peppers, creole shrimp, and this easy air fryer falafel recipe from the SkinnyTaste website. They were perfect for a hot summer evening, and I served mine in a pita with hummus, Greek yogurt, cucumbers, and some shredded cabbage. While these falafel aren't quite like the deep-fried ones you can get from a food truck or restaurant, they tasted good and made for a filling vegetarian dinner. The only hitch is remembering to make the "batter" ahead of time so you can refrigerate it for a couple hours before forming it into balls. Click the link for the recipe and watch the video for the general idea.

chocolate chip oatmeal cookiesI know you've heard about Half-Baked Harvest because several members of the Weekend Cooking gang have written about Tieghan Gerard, the woman behind the website and the cookbooks. If Half-Baked Harvest is new to you, head on over to the website, look around, and sign up for their email newsletter. If you're on Instagram, you should definitely follow Tieghan. Anyway, a recent email from the site included a recipe for Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. Okay, first off, I have a weakness for anything with brown butter. I also happen to like updated versions of childhood classics. This recipe hits both those buttons. Here are two more reasons these oatmeal cookies are my to-try list, they call for less sugar than traditional recipes, and Tieghan suggests topping them with flaky sea salt. OMG yum.

I'll finish up with four quick links.
  • Taste has an article about Kerala Cuisine from southern India and its rising popularity in America.
  • In case you missed the news, The Takeout has a piece on the brand new Girl Scout cookie: Raspberry Rally
  • Southern Living has turned its eye to fall with 12 cakes featuring fall flavors like nuts, pumpkin, and apples.
  • Eater has an article all about the "right amount" of garlic to use in your cooking.
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06 August 2022

6 Books for Food and Wine Lovers

Happy Saturday and Weekend Cooking day. Because it's been ridiculously hot here (as everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere), I haven't been overly motivated to cook or bake, and that has put me more than a little behind in my cookbook reviews.

Today I'm going to feature six food books that are on my radar. Three of these are for reading (or listening) and three are for cooking and baking. It may be a few weeks (or even into September) before I'll be ready to turn on the oven, but I should be able to tell you my thoughts on the foodie books before the end of summer.

Note that all these books were (or will be) published in 2022. I want to thank the publishers and publicists for the review copies. Because I haven't yet explored these books in depth, the following thoughts are based on my first impressions.

book cover of Mediterranean Small Plates by Clifford A. WrightMediterranean Small Plates by Clifford A. Wright (Harvard Common Press, August): Who doesn't love having substantial appetizers for dinner? In this cookbook, Wright takes us all the way around the Mediterranean Sea in small plates: from tapas in Spain to hors d'oeuvres in France; meze in Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans; and ending with mazza in the Mideast and North Africa. The opening chapters introduce us to the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, how to make a balanced small-plate meal, and a list of ingredients to have on hand. The chapters explore each region separately, providing recipes, background info, tips, wine pairings, and more. The cookbook ends with almost 20 menus for small-plate meals for entertaining. Pretty much everyone will find more than a few recipes that will fit their dietary plan; I was impressed with the variety of flavors and types of dishes. Note too that many of the recipes are easy and quick enough for weeknight dinners.

book cover of Ultimate Food Atlas from National Geographic KidsUltimate Food Atlas from National Geographic Kids (Hachette, June): I cannot wait to delve into this fun, colorful, and informative atlas. Each chapter focuses on a continent (the Australia chapter includes Oceania) plus there's a chapter dealing with climate change and the world food supply. Each chapter discusses a variety of topics pertaining to the continent (such as food production, festivals, and global issues) and includes descriptions and photos of regional foods. Instead of going country by country, the maps and sections home in on areas that share climatic, geographical, or ecological traits. Fun facts, recipes, activities, games, quizzes, and super graphics make the book a delight to look through and easy to read.

book cover of Bake by Paul HollywoodBake by Paul Hollywood (Bloomsbury, July): In this cookbook, the world's favorite expert on all things baking shares his recipes for classic bakes: cakes, cookies, breads, pastries, and other desserts. I love to bake and am looking forward to the fall when I can try some of Hollywood's versions of naan bread, shortbread, brownie cheesecake, orange brioche, sausage rolls, bread pudding ... and well, just about everything! Beautiful photographs (some showing a step-by-step process) inspire me to don my apron, get out my pastry board, and start baking. While waiting for cooler temperatures, I plan to read through the cookbook and learn Hollywood's techniques and tweaks and tips for achieving my best bakes yet.

book cover of To Fall in Love, Drink This by Alice FeiringTo Fall in Love, Drink This by Alice Feiring (Scribner, August): If you don't know, Feiring is a James Beard award winner for her wine journalism. Besides books and articles, she also writes The Feiring Line newsletter about natural wine (see her website for more). The essays and short pieces in this volume work together as a memoir. Among the stories Feiring shares are ones about her observant Jewish family and childhood, about how she discovered the world of wine, about winemakers and the industry, and about the men in her life. Her focus is on wines that are free from the many additives used in most mainstream wines. She also introduces us to various wine regions around the world and suggests wines to put on your to-buy lists. I plan to savor this collection, one essay at a time.

book cover for A Dish for All Seasons by Kathryn PaulineA Dish for All Seasons by Kathryn Pauline (Chronicle, August): I'm intrigued with the concept of this cookbook. Instead of dividing her recipes into four chapters (winter, spring, summer, fall), Pauline features a single dish and offers variations and transformations to fit the season. The main chapters are by meal or type of dish (breakfast, salads, sides); those chapters are organized by specific dishes. I'll illustrate the idea by focusing on one dish. Under "Mains" we find a section called "Sandwiches." Pauline describes her idea of a deli sandwich and then provides a grid for mixing and matching seasonal produce and flavors. Then she gives her best tips on how to create the "perfect" sandwich. Next she offers four recipes, one for each season. In this case, we find Shrimp Rolls, Boiled Corn, and Potatoes for summer, Falafel with Lemon Tahini Sauce and Lacto-Fermented Torshi for fall, a Meatball Sub with Caramelized Fennel for winter, and Bánh Mi for spring. Despite the examples I gave here, vegans, gluten-free eaters, and vegetarians will find plenty of recipes and seasonal combos to fit their needs. I'll likely use this cookbook before fall because I'd love to try some summer recipes while the farmer's markets are still in full swing.

book cover of Eat Up! by Ruby TandohEat Up! by Ruby Tandoh (Vintage, July): If the name Ruby Tandoh sounds familiar to you, it may be because she was a finalist in the Great British Bake Off or because you've read some of her articles focusing on the intersection of food and society and culture at large. In this collection of essays, Tandoh focuses on issues that are near and dear to her, especially how attitudes about what we eat, what we look like, and who we are entangled and difficult to unknot. She talks about body shaming, being gay, emotional eating, and food in movies. She isn't shy to praise or condemn the foodie elite and food snobs. As I often do with essay collections, I plan to read this one piece at a time, all the while, taking Tandoh's advice to enjoy what I'm eating and ignore the naysayers. Note that she has a cookbook coming out in November.

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23 July 2022

Abrams Cookbooks & a Winning Salad Recipe (Weekend Cooking)

Book cover of What's Gaby Cooking: Eat What You Want by Gaby DalkinBefore I get to the cookbook and recipe, I just want to let you know that my Facebook messenger was hacked and someone sent out bogus messages from me yesterday. If you got one, just ignore it. I still haven't figured out how to report the incident, but for now, I'm hoping this is a one-time event.

As you know I've been a member of the Abrams Dinner Party cookbook review group for a number of years now. You may wonder if I continue to use any of the Abrams cookbooks after I've reviewed them. I'm here to say yes. I cook from them a lot.

For example, I made the most delicious chocolate cake I've made in years for our July 4 cookout. That red wine chocolate cake recipe came from Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a Cookbook (which I reviewed last November). A week or so ago I made the chicken Parmesan from The Dinner Plan, an Abrams cookbook I first wrote about in December 2017. I shared the recipe for that chicken parm in September 2018, and it's still my go-to.

Anyway, my point is that when I rave about a cookbook, it's not just for the moment. I can usually tell if a cookbook will stand the test of time. Abrams cookbooks often do. If you want to be a member of the Abrams Dinner Party, the application for the next publishing season is live now. You have until July 31 to apply. Just click this link.

This past week has been HOT and next week will be even hotter. Turning on the oven is not high on my list of things I want to do. Thank goodness I own an air fryer, because it saved us from a hot kitchen on three nights (see my meal plan below).

For two dinners, I turned to another favorite Abrams cookbook, What's Gaby Cooking: Eat What You Want, which I reviewed in June 2020. First up was the Greek Chicken Trough, which is a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, chicken and feta cheese. I employed the air fryer here to cook the chopped chicken breasts so I didn't have to heat up my house.The other salad was The LA Chop (see photo from 2020). This one isn't for my vegetarian and vegan friends, but it absolutely satisfies the omnivore BFR household. I've shared the recipe below.

Note that I didn't include the recipe for the lemon vinaigrette needed for the following recipe. Just make a simple olive oil, red wine vinegar, and garlic dressing, substituting the juice of 1 lemon for some of the vinegar.

The LA Chop
Serves 4 as an entree

  • Lemon Vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce [sometimes I use romaine hearts]
  • 1 head radicchio
  • ½ small red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 pint (300g) heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 (15-oz, 430 g) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces (225 g) fresh pearl mozzarella
  • 4 ounces (115 g) provolone cheese, cut into medium dice
  • 4 ounces (115 g) Genoa salami cut into small cubes
  • 5 pepperoncini (stems discarded), cut into thin slices
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano for garnish
Whisk the dried oregano into the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the lettuce into 1/4-inch strips. Repeat with the radicchio.

In a large, wide bowl, combine the lettuce, and radicchio, tomatoes, chickpeas, mozzarella, provolone, salami, and pepperoncini. Season with salt to taste and toss to thoroughly combine. Drizzle 6 tablespoons (90 ml) of the dressing over the salad and toss gently to coat evenly. Taste and add more dressing as needed. Transfer to a large platter and garnish with the chopped oregano.

Note: The recipe is used with permission; all rights remain with the original copyright holders.

Last Week's Dinners
Saturday: Grilled salmon with roasted yellow wax beans (in the air fryer)
Sunday: Greek Chicken Trough salad (used the air fryer for the chicken)
Monday: Pork tenderloin and broccoli (cooked in the air fryer)
Tuesday: Tofu and vegetable stir-fry and rice
Wednesday & Thursday: Black bean enchiladas
Friday: The LA Chop salad

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09 July 2022

Milk Street: The World in a Skillet by Christopher Kimball (Weekend Cooking)

Book cover of Milk Street: The World in a Skillet by Christopher KimballI've gushed written about Milk Street cookbooks several times here, so you can imagine how happy I was to receive their newest release, The World in a Skillet by Christopher Kimball, from Voracious Books as part of their Voracious Ambassadors review program.

This cookbook is an especially good match for me because I love one-pot meals. When you don't own a dishwasher, anything that saves on cleanup is always welcome. The recipes in The World in a Skillet are based on a general everyday 12-inch pan. Though some dishes require the skillet to go from stovetop to oven, your pan can be stainless, no-stick, or cast iron.

The Milk Street team gathered skillet recipes and inspiration from more than 30 countries, so you can indeed travel the world via your cooking. Some of the countries represented are Lebanon, Japan, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Spain, Korea, Italy, and Peru. The World in a Skillet is a bit meat and fish heavy, but vegetarians and vegans will find some recipes to suit, like Braised Potatoes and Mushrooms with Garlic and Parsley, Hot-and-Sour Stir-Fried Cabbage, and Skillet-Baked Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mozzarella.

The cookbook is arranged first by time (60-, 45-, and 30-minutes meals) and then by other categories, such as "One-Pan Pastas," "Skillet Sides," and "Hearty Grains." Every recipe, in typical Milk Street style, includes extensive tips and notes, which expand your knowledge, offer possible ingredient substitutions, provide serving ideas, and lead to a great final dish.

Photo of a blue bowl with lentil stew in itI have so many recipes marked to try that I don't think The World in a Skillet is going to leave my kitchen for months. Here a few things I've made: Chicken Curry with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers, Lentil and Eggplant Stew with Pomegranate Molasses (see photo), Toasted Pearl Couscous with Zucchini and Herbs, and Georgian-Style Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Herbs. Everything was delicious. The recipes are easy enough for everyday dinners and tasty and impressive enough for company.

I have only one minor complaint. I had a hard time meeting the "start to finish" times provided for each recipe I tried. It took me 15 or so extra minutes to complete the dishes. This isn't at all a problem for me, but some cooks are pressed for time and need a 30-minute dinner to take no longer than that half hour. The issue may be that it takes me longer than it does Kimball to prep the ingredients. Or maybe my home stovetop and oven aren't as powerful as his professional or high-end appliances. Whatever the case, I thought I should point this out.

Note too that some of the recipes call for less common ingredients, like specialty spice mixes or sauces. I had no trouble buying what I needed at my local grocery stores, even here in a small town. So don't be thrown off by the berbere spice mix or the lemongrass: either you'll be able to find it at a store near you or you can use one of the suggested substitutions.

Broccoli and tofu on a white platterRecommendation: Most cooks will find a number of appealing dishes to try from The World in a Skillet by Christopher Kimball. The cookbook is a good match for those who like learn about new dishes, try new flavors and ingredients, and like to expand their culinary horizons. Vegans and vegetarians will need to look before buying.

The recipe I'm sharing today is one I haven't tried yet, but I hope to soon. The dish is inspired by Mexican tinga poblana, but can be completed (according to Kimball) in 30 minutes start to finish.

From the headnote: (1) Mexican oregano is often found with the other Mexican ingredients rather than in the spice aisle. Use equal amounts of dried marjoram if you can't find it. (2) Serve the meat in tacos or on tostadas. (3) Don't add the pork to the pan until the sauce is at a full boil to ensure quick cooking. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the pork is no longer pink, to avoid overcooking and toughness.

Pork Tenderloin in Tomato-Chipotle Sauce
30 minutes
Pork and Tomato dish in a skilletServes 4

  • 1¼-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • ½ medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems minced, leaved chopped, reserved separately
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon packed light brown sugar
In a medium bowl, toss the pork with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the oregano, cumin, and cilantro stems; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.

Stir in the chipotle chilies and adobo sauce, the tomatoes, broth, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are fully softened and the mixture is saucy, about 8 minutes.

Uncover, increase to medium-high and stir in the pork. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, until the pork is no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cilantro leaves.

Note: The recipe and scans are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photo is my own.

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2020. All rights reserved.



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