Category Archives: Cookbooks and Books

Jerusalem, Cookbook Review

jerusalem

I am in love with this book beyond words. I love anything that has to do with Yotam Ottolenghi. A year ago, I wrote a review of Plenty, the vegetable cookbook by the same chef.
Plenty is my favorite cookbook. Everyone knows that bloggers should never say they have a favorite anything. I mean, we are supposed to not be able to choose, just like we can’t choose a favorite restaurant because it really depends on the mood but I can clearly say and yell to the top of my lungs. I love “Plenty” so friggin much.

I was incredibly excited when Yotam Ottolenghi came out with his second cookbook ” Jerusalem”. This time, in collaboration with Sami Tamimi. The story is sweet: an Israeli chef opens a restaurant in London with a Palestinian Chef. Together they collaborate, work beautifully together, feed hungry hearts and souls- a symbiose that can only be found over food. They end up opening more restaurants together and coming out with a cookbook that presents recipes from both backgrounds, colliding, high fiving each other with Mediterranean elements and every vegetable you can think of.

I have been to Jerusalem quite a few times but have never connected with the place. Mind you, I haven’t explored Jerusalem food in the last decade, my only memories of the place is that The Wailing Wall is beautiful and that it gets really really cold. I know I am totally wrong and I will take the time to explore soon but to me Telaviv is the place to go in Israel. Give me action. I like busy life, gay friendly, lots of colors, bicycles, markets and I am a happy camper. I could eat somewhere different every night in Tel Aviv and never get bored (post on Tel Aviv is coming soon).

The book, though called Jerusalem shows foods that will you find all over Tel aviv and all over Israel.

What to expect:

-In true Ottolenghi style, the recipes have a long list of ingredients. If you want your food to have all the flavor profiles of an Ottolenghi dish then you probably need to get most of them, if not all. His stuff is always worth it, every time.

-Lots of vegetables. He uses eggplants, tomatoes, fennel and lots of fresh herbs.

-Home Cooking. Culturally, home cooking is everywhere in Israel. Kids finish school early every day. They eat lunch at home. You walk into a house and you will always find pots on the stove. Lunch is usually some kind of meat dish and evenings are salad, eggs and cottage cheese or creamy cheese and bread. Even with people working many hours and having very busy lives, home cooking is everywhere. Grandparents are always bringing boxes of food over for their kids. Even if you go to the park in the afternoon, you will see parents with containers full of food, feeding their kids.

- Stories of what every food means to the authors and cultural backgrounds. This is the best part for me, learning about the foods and their stories. That is what cookbooks are for.

Some of my favorite recipes are the Marinated Sweet and Sour Fish, Mejadra (lentils with rice), the Musabaha (warm chickpeas with hummus) and the roasted butternut squash with red onion, tahini and za’atar.

If you like your recipes exotic with interesting herbs and spices, then you will love this book.

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River Cottage Handbook Book Review

Today’s post is by guest blogger Marisa Ingram.

Have you ever fallen head-over-heels in love with a cookbook? I’ve had just that experience with Pam Corbin’s Cakes (River Cottage Handbook.) From the moment I cracked it open and landed on the recipe for “Cornish Fairings, a close cousin of the gingernut” it was love. It is such a lovely and charming little recipe book (and it is little, part of a series of small handbooks from the UK’s River Cottage http://www.rivercottage.net) that I took it to bed with me the first night in favor of the novel in which I was currently engrossed. I read of such things as Welsh Cakes, Jammy Dodgers, and Golden Syrup Cake. And as a lover of all things British, this book stoked my Anglophile (is Britophile a word?) fires right along with my palate. This is a good time to note that this book is imported from the UK and so it follows that the recipes in this book are in the metric system and use some seemingly (to my American ears) unusual ingredients. But I was in luck as I took an extremely useful class last year at Book Larder http://www.booklarder.com called “Baking in Translation – How to Bake British Without Freaking Out” taught by Paola Thomas who blogs at mirrormirror.typepad.com. One of the key takeaways from that class (that will undoubtedly help you with any British baking book) was that the “self-raising flour” called for in British recipe books is NOT the same thing we see on American shelves called “self-rising flour.” Fortunately, for us Paola has spent some time perfecting a substitute that you can make right at home – 1tsp baking powder to one cup or 150g all-purpose flour. If you are unfamiliar with British cooking terms and metric measures, the plethora of information on the internet will be your guide.

River_Cottage_Cakes_Stock_2 (4)

Here are some of my top picks from Cakes:

- Flapjacks are an altogether different entity in Great Britain than they are in the US. A British flapjack is more closely related to a granola bar – a softer, chewier and much more indulgent version (although the instructions do note you may cook them longer for a crisper flapjack.) Do make sure you aren’t greedy and impatient like me though. Make sure to let these cool in the pan completely, otherwise they may fall to pieces.

- Rhubarb Pudding Cake with Custard is possibly my favorite recipe in the book. Served warm from the oven and drenched in a pool of custard (I made mine from scratch but feel free to cheat with Bird’s tinned custard powder) this is all that a cake should be. Not too rich, yet warm, cozy, and comforting. And the distinct taste of rhubarb added that extra oomph to brighten this up into a lovely springtime dessert. This is one that I will return to again.

- I’ve long been a lover of scones but was almost entirely unfamiliar with their Welsh cousin, so I was quite intrigued to try my hand at Welsh Cakes. The ingredients are very similar as is the preparation of the dough, however a Welsh cake is fried up in a griddle – just a few minutes per side until it is a warm golden color. It is also much thinner than a scone and surprisingly tastes almost like a scone crossed with a pancake. Quick and easy to prepare, I have no doubt I will be making these lovely little cakes again soon. Corbin suggests these may be eaten with a bit of butter or some jam but they were so tasty just as they were.

- Cardamom Cake, redolent with a warm, cozy spice, this doesn’t sound like a springtime cake. However the spice in this cake is so light and bright that I was proved wrong. The cake may sink a bit in the middle, but as Corbin says, “don’t worry, just think of this as another of its charms.” And let me tell you, it has many. One being this is an understated cake, in the very best sort of way. While it is a spice cake, the flavor is perfectly balanced – leaving a subtle spicy aftertaste on your tongue after the last bite has been (sadly) consumed. Secondly, this cake has a delightfully crusty exterior that gives way to a wonderfully moist and delicate crumb.

If you can’t tell – I absolutely adore this baking book. I have baked quite a few of its other treats and none have disappointed, and I have an ever growing list of not-yet-trieds. This book is filled with simple yet supremely tasty baked goods. If you are looking for something fancy, you will need to look elsewhere for it does not put on any airs. It is a book to turn to when you are looking for a slice of comfort – something that can be made quickly and with relatively few ingredients on those days when you are craving a homey treat. This book and its recipes will warm you up from the inside out and have you dreaming of a cozy English kitchen with an Aga in the corner and a cup of tea.

rhubarbcake

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About the author of this post:

Marisa has been an indispensable part of the Foodportunity team for the last two years.
She has a lifelong passion for home baking and a growing interest in all things fresh, local, organic, and seasonal. Though a native Washingtonian, a love for history took her to Charleston, SC where she obtained her degree in English from the College of Charleston. She works in human resources by day, but would love to give it all up for a life of travel.

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Real Snacks: Make Your Favorite Childhood Treats Without All the Junk

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Every once in a while I get a book from publisher that makes me want to run to my computer and type a review immediately so I can share the great news. This is the case with this book, Real Snacks: Make your favorite childhood treats without all the junk. This book is all about recreating childhood favorites in a healthier way with wholesome flours like spelt flour , buckwheat flour and whole wheat flour. No worries if you are not into whole wheat flour, I am not that into either (have you been reading ” Wheat Belly?”). All the recipes have a vegan and gluten-free version. I want to shout this part at the top of my lungs as this is all around awesome.

If you are eating gluten-free, you will want to check out Aran Goyoaga’s new book too as well as Gluten Free-Baking for Dummies by Dr.Jean and Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays by Jeanne Sauvage.

I am talking about making Twinkies, Goldfish crackers, toaster tarts, animal crackers and so much more.

I know the author Lara Ferroni. I will also put this out there for once and for all, I know just about every author coming out with a book in town but you can rest assured that if I am talking about a book, it is because I genuinely want to talk about (I don’t have much free time on my hands as you might imagine with 3 tiny kids.)

Lara is a pioneer in the food photographer world, she started taking photos with natural light and building an online community many years ago. The photos are beautiful and it is the kind of book that you will want to read on the couch or in bed or wherever you read your cookbooks. A great gift for moms or just food- conscious people who like to bake. It is also a handy conversation starter; people are always willing to talk about the snacks that remind them of their childhood.

The book is not out yet but you can get it on pre-order.

What is your favorite childhood snack?

Mine is definitely Pop Tarts. I really want to introduce them to my son but I know once I do, there will be no turning back. I think I will make him the version in this book first.

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Foodportunity, a Giveaway and an Announcement.

I just recently announced that Foodportunity is coming up and that there is an awesome line up. What I didn’t mention yet is that we will have a surprise guest flying in for the event.

We have featured authors and chefs at Foodportunity. This idea came out of my own personal need to connect with these people. When I started blogging, I wanted to meet chefs and cookbook authors but I was always intimidated. The first time I had to interview a chef, I was sick to my stomach, like literally so nervous I couldn’t sleep the night before (including sweaty palms and everything).

Fast forward five years later and I don’t get nervous anymore, I have met so many of the people I admire. Yes, practice makes perfect with everything in life. Even meeting new people.

Every Foodportunity we have featured authors and chefs. They hang out in the front room (a.k.a the lounge) between 6:30 and 7:30. And they are there just to talk to you. You can ask questions, beg for recipes if you want, get books signed (bring your books) or just say hi. On October 22, be there. You can meet Brian McCracken and Dana Tough (Spur, Tavern Law, The Coterie Room), Jill Lightner (Edible Seattle: The Cookbook), Leora Bloom (Washington Food Artisans, Cookbook) and Judith Dern (A Taste of Scandinavia, Cookbook).

And now for the surprise. Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille is coming to visit. Her photography is gorgeous, like heart pitter-pattering beautiful. Her recipes are delicious and inspiring. Little tarts, cakes and just so many desserts and dishes that are all gluten-free. You might have seen her on Oprah, Martha Stewart or when she was mentioned in Times Magazine, as one of their favorite bloggers. Just look at her blog and you will understand, her photography will make you swoon. She is coming out with her new cookbook the week of Foodportunity.

You get to meet her, talk to her and even win a book here.

The giveaway. Win the book. I have 2 copies!: Just leave a comment to enter the contest, share on Facebook (5 entries) or twitter for an extra entry. Just remember to comment and let me know. The contest is open to anyone in the U.S. but if you can make it to Foodportunity, you can get it signed. Winner will be chosen on Sept 20.
Update: The winners are Tamiko and Helen Anne.

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Savory Sweet Life Cookbook

I have this friend, Alice. She is the friend that came to my house when I was on bedrest and ordered me not to move so she could cook dinner for my family. She walked into my house with a bag chock-full of groceries and cooked up a stew and some greens and then she walked out. Just like that. To do this, she left her 3 kids, her work and everything because she wanted to make sure that we were not hungry. I know everybody is busy but Alice Currah will always make time for her friends even when she is writing books, managing her incredibly popular and award -winning blog and juggling her family. Alice has so many life lessons to share, a conversation on the phone with her will leave me grateful and full of ideas. She always reminds me to take a step back and savor the moments.

She recently came out with a book called “Savory Sweet Life, 100 Simply Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion” named after her blog. I love this book for many reasons but the number one reason is because her food is impressive for the eyes but really easy to make. Every time I make something, people think I have been slaving for hours but in reality, everything is quick and easy. I also love that the book is organized by life experiences with chapter headers like “Snow Day”, “Welcome Home” and “Lunch Between Friends” so you don’t have to start pasting together recipes but you can choose a section and just go for it. It helps that all the ingredients are easy to find and many times already in my pantry so all I have to do is pick a recipe and go. We have made everything in the Father’s day chapter numerous times because we are kind of obsessed in this house with the peanut coconut sauce and the coconut rice. The photos are gorgeous and she took them all herself. The book is a great gift to give to a mom or anybody looking to cook impressive but not having the time to slave over the stove. Her photography is beautiful and the photos of her family are inspiring. She is a super mom and it is nice to see that if you work hard, you can have a nice balance of family and work.

Of all the things that I love about Alice is the fact that she is always ” Keeping it Real”. She is an honest person, who worked hard to get where she is; a talented photographer, cake decorator and cook. And she is always there to give good advice. Pick up her book at any bookstore and enjoy a Savory Sweet Life.

Here we are signing books together at Barnes and Noble. This was fun.

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Katie Workman, author of The Mom 100 Cookbook Comes to Foodportunity, Alice Currah and More

I am starting to feel the Foodportunity vibe, partly because there are some things left to finish up but also because I can hear people saying things like “I will see you at Foodportunity” or “I will see you on June 25″. I am a proud mama and Foodportunity is my baby (well one of them) so I love hearing these things.

This is also your reminder to buy the books in advance to be signed at the event by your favorite authors.

This time you will have the chance to meet Katie Workman, the author of the “Mom 100 Cookbook”. She is visiting Seattle and will be available to meet you and chat with you at the event.

Mom 100 Cookbook

Katie Workman is the founding editor-in-chief of Cookstr.com. She writes about food and cooking for The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, AOL Food, KitchenDaily.com, AARP.com, New York Magazine, The Boston Globe, and more. Katie previously was at Clarkson Potter for more than 12 years, where she worked on high-profile cookbooks connected to brands such as Pillsbury and the American Heart Association. The book has become a favorite of mine already with so many ideas for putting together quick dinners including many different spins on chicken, Asian recipes, Mexican recipes and food your kids will eat. I also found myself chuckling while reading it because Katie has a funny way of describing the chaos in our every day lives. It is a great book if you need to learn how to make some new basics, get lots of inspiration and especially if you are in that mode where you are too busy to think about what to make and need some inspiration for dinner.

This week, Alice Currah, of the Savory Sweet Life website released her first cookbook “Savory Sweet Life”. Alice was named on Forbes’ list of ” Eight of the Very Best Food Bloggers“. The book features her gorgeous photography with recipes set up by life events; birthdays, Christmas etc. The recipes are easy to make, crowd pleaser recipes that will make you look like you have been working for hours in the kitchen. If you follow Alice’s blog or have ever seen her in action, then you will know that this is the real deal. This lady knows how to test recipes and make them taste really great, she knows how to have fun and it will make you want to be a part of her family. Alice will be at Foodportunity to answer your cooking questions.

Alice’s new book “Savory Sweet Life”

You will get to meet some more fabulously talented authors such as Cynthia Nims, Gourmet Game Night, Thierry Rautureau’s Rover’s Coobook, Jess Thomson, Pike Place Market Recipes and Michael Natkin of the Herbivoracious Cookbook. They will all be available for conversation between 6:30-7:30 pm in the lounge.

So here is your reminder, bring your cookbooks to be signed and come ready for food and inspiration because this is going to be a great opportunity.

Here they are again…

To cook with all the ingredients in Pike Place Market, you can get this.

Eat more vegetables and cook from all over the world with this.

Invite your friends over for a party using these recipes.

Learn from Seattle’s most famous French Chef and artist.

Amy Pennington, the author of “Urban Pantry” and TV show host on Check Please Northwest will be there. She is a master gardener and her recent book, “Apartment Gardening” assures you that you can grow plants in small spaces.

And with summer coming, the “Food Lovers’ Guide to Seattle” is the perfect way to discover Seattle! A perfect gift for locals and visitors alike. This is my book.

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Day 3 Foodportunity Giveaway, Networking Tips and Gourmet Game Night

One of the best parts about the Foodportunity networking event is bringing people who I admire together.

When I just began writing about food, all I wanted was to do was connect with people who inspire me and that is when I met Cynthia Nims.
She has written many books including authoring a book with Thierry Rautureau from Rover’s and Luc (the funniest chef in town). And she is incredibly down to earth and inspiring. It is such a pleasure to have them together at http://www.foodportunity. Thierry is hilarious and so incredibly talented and Cynthia has written many cookbooks including a must-have if you like to entertain called. “Gourmet Game Night” and “Salty Snacks” which has not been released yet. Here is my review of it. This one has been on my living room table for a while and even more lately since board games have been a way of bringing my family together after dinner. Today’s giveaway is a copy of Gourmet Game Night.

You can meet both Cynthia Nims and Chef Thierry Rautureau at Foodportunity. They will be available to meet guests and answer questions. Foodportunity is a food networking event that connects Seattle’s food industry. Come and eat from the best restaurants in town and taste from many local companies. Tickets on sale at Brown Paper Tickets for the June 25 event. More information here

Networking Tip of the Day: Talk to the person in the corner. At every event, there is a person standing in the corner of the room that might be having trouble talking to people. Go talk to that person. if You see someone alone, that is your chance to start up a conversation.

The giveaway!

How do you win? (Winner chosen tomorrow morning)

1) Comment on this post for one entry
2) Tweet about this for one entry and tag @foodportunityse (the more tweets, the more entries!)
3) Facebook share information about our event http://franticfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/foodportunity-june-25-you-are-invited/ (5 entries)
4) Pinterest: Repin 2 things from our Foodportunity board for an entry

Good Luck

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Herbivoracious, Michael Natkin’s New Cookbook

When I first moved to Seattle over 5 years ago, I was desperate to meet other bloggers. I didn’t know one person here so I started emailing the bloggers behind my favorite blogs. New friendships blossomed as well as the Seattle Food Blogger Events, my group that brings local bloggers together to talk about food. Michael Natkin of Herbivoracious was one of my first friends here (he came to the first meeting) as well as one of the first blogs that I started to read daily.

I know Michael Natkin from just about the time when he started his blog journey, I remember him staging at Cafe Flora, I remember the day that the restaurant got reviewed and his dish happened to be the one that the reviewer raved about. It gave me hope as a newbie blogger, it was a sign that if you reach for your dreams and you work hard, great things will happen. One of my fondest memories was an underground dinner that Michael invited me to. Michael taught me that vegetarian food can be complex in flavor, he made buckwheat blini topped with asparagus caviar and creme fraiche and a Panko crusted hard-boiled egg with smoked asparagus and sherry gastrique. This was before I was so deeply immersed into food, asparagus caviar was an idea that I had no idea could happen and his menu blew me away.


photo credit: Michael Natkin

photo credit: Michael Natkin

I watched over the years as Michael’s blog grew, his readership grew and now I am holding the galley of his cookbook (it is basically the pre-cookbook, not all the photos are in it but I get to read all the recipes and experiment.)

This book is really amazing. Michael knows how to make vegetarian dishes explode with flavor. I admit that I eat meatless quite a lot, mostly out of convenience. With 3 kids at home, my husband and I tend to divide up the tasks and he does most of the shopping because I do the cooking. I hardly plan my meals in advance so I cook vegetarian because it is convenient and fast. Michael seems to plug the things that I miss into meatless meals in here without missing even a bit of flavor. He gives you that exact ingredient that you need to make a meal pop and that is what it is.

Some of the things that I loved about this book:
– He explains cooking. I am a pretty good home cook but I have to say that sometimes I wonder what I need to add to make my dish pop. He gives explanations about how to add acid, salt and just what would make a difference.
-He doesn’t use fake proteins. There is tofu in it but you won’t find imitation meat or anything of that sort.

- He has some of my favorite Jewish recipes; I am sure that many would have no idea that they are Jewish because they are Sephardic (the polar opposite of blintzes or potato latkes), you will find recipes like Sabich and Mujadara (Middle Eastern rice and lentil pilaf). For me, these recipes
are much more comforting than bagels and lox, which people perceive as Jewish Food.

- There are recipes from all over the world; the recipes are influenced from Morocco to Spain, Italy to Israel, and the Southeast Asian and Indian regions.

- The recipes are tested by a dad of two. They are family- friendly recipes that you can make at home. And there are lots of explanations.

You can pre-order the book here.

Before I end this review, I am going to share his recipe for Sabich. The summer days in Israel (we visit a lot) are often so hot that you feel as though you never want to eat again. On those days, all I can find room for is watermelon and feta or popsicles but suddenly in the deep afternoon, the hunger hits and grabbing a Sabich on the street, a pita full of fried eggplant, egg and lots of vegetables is the best way to hit the spot. Amba, a pickled mango is found in every Sabich but it is indeed an acquired taste, I have always avoided it because it seems to come out of your pores which does not seem the least bit appetizing on a day of sweltering heat (my friend’s swear by it though).

Michael’s Sabich Recipe (with introduction)

Iraqi-Jewish Eggplant Sandwich (Sabich)

VEGAN OPTION
GLUTEN-FREE OPTION
MAKES 4 SANDWICHES
30 MINUTES

Sabich is a popular Sabbath food for Iraqi Jews, who, when they emigrated to Israel and set up a community in Ramat Gan, brought the sandwich with them. It has since gained widespread popularity, and of course, in typical Israeli fashion, there are 100 variations and 200 opinions about which one is best.
There is something about the creaminess of the egg and the fried goodness of the eggplant that works really well together. And the garnishes of Israeli salad (tomatoes and cucumbers with a bit of lemon juice), hummus, onions, pickles, parsley, and amba give your mouth the full workout of sweet, spicy, sour, herbaceous, smooth, and crispy.
Amba is a pickled mango condiment. You may be able to find it at a Middle Eastern grocery, or check the Internet for a recipe and make your own. If you can’t find it or make it, use a little harissa or other hot sauce instead.

Ingredients
2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
Half an English cucumber, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into generous 1⁄4-inch slices
4 large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled, and sliced (omit for vegan)
2 cups hummus (store-bought or make your own)
1 cup pre-seasoned tahini (sesame paste, also known as tehina or tahina) or 1 cup plain tahini seasoned with 1 clove minced garlic and lemon juice to taste
1⁄2 cup loosely packed fresh flatleaf parsley leaves
Half a small white onion, minced
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced or diced dill pickle
Amba (pickled mango; more information in the book)
4 pita breads (omit and serve as a salad for gluten-free)

Directions
1. In a small bowl, make a simple salad of the tomatoes, cucumber, and lemon juice, adding salt to taste.
2. Put the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant in batches until completely tender, turning to brown on both sides, about 7 minutes total; drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. (You can also grill the eggplant instead of frying for a different, lighter taste.) Transfer to a serving dish.
3. While the eggplant is frying, put the eggs, hummus, tahini, parsley, onion, dill pickle, and amba in small bowls so diners can build sandwiches to their own specifications.
4. Toast or grill the pita bread.
5. Serve it forth, preferably with a cold beer, and encourage everyone to make a gigantic sandwich

Recipe© Michael Natkin and used by the permission of The Harvard Common Press.

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Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, Loving Vegetables Again

Just like everyone else, cooking comes in and out of my life like a long-term relationship. Sometimes you are present; in love, obsessed, sometimes you are just in it and sometimes it is just a part of your life, your every day routine.

I don’t think that this is necessarily bad, being happy in a relationship is about the big picture, it is not about being too busy to see your spouse for a few days but it is about knowing that like everything in life, it’s a limbo, sometimes you want more of it and sometimes you just need less. Cooking is the same for me.

I cook just about every day but the amount of presence and passion in it varies widely.
Sometimes I spend my days, slaving over the food in the kitchen, I am happy to be there hours on end and on other days, I just want to get something on the table and call it quits. Once in a while a cookbook comes into my life and I am love-struck; carrying it with me everywhere, in my bathtub, on the bus and in every room of my house. Sometimes, that same cookbook will pull me into the kitchen and I might spend hours forgetting about all that I have to do.

“Plenty” has been that cookbook for me. It has been my kitchen renaissance. It has restored my love in cooking after 9 months of a difficult pregnancy including 3 months of barely being able to walk and bed rest and an adjustment to a life of 2 new nursing newborns that can only communicate by screaming at the top of their lungs and flashing me with their heartbreaker smiles and their chubby toes. And to add the mix, I have a 3 year old who has discovered that N-O spells No and my own business, www.foodportunity.com Don’t get me wrong, I love my life but finding the time to leisurely cook has not been my top priority lately.

That is until “Plenty” came along. Israeli- Born Yotam Ottolenghi’s book is a vegetable book by a carnivore. Just forget the vegetarian part because the book is truly everything in meat and more. Most of all in the first 2 weeks that I have this book, I have made a dozen recipes. Need I say more? Probably not, but I will.

What I love about this book…

- The Ingredients. Pomegranate Molasses, za’aatar and other spices that just rev up a dish to the fullest.

-The Spice Combinations. One of the things that I want more in a book is spice ideas. It is all in this book. Middle Eastern Spices meet vegetables. savory Spice blends, sweet ones. Books that are well-seasoned take the guessing out of cooking for me.

-Eggplants, Onions and others. Here vegetables like eggplants steal the show. It is so easy to keep cooking with the same vegetables but this book is a reminder that virtually every vegetable can go from good to wow!

- Search by vegetable. Need I say more? How easy can a book make me want to cook.

- Restaurant- caliber recipes. The recipes remind me that dinner can be as good as a restaurant good if you mix up the right ingredients.

- Lots of Ingredients. Some people don’t like this part but I love this, I pretty much have the whole every day cooking down pat but I really need food that is going to woo me.

And the photos. I just love the serving suggestions, photos etc. Just what I need to keep motivated.

Have you started cooking from “Plenty”? Which recipes have you tried and loved?

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Local Holiday Gift Ideas for Seattle Food Lovers

Shopping for food lovers this holiday season just got easier.
Sometimes a bar of chocolate or a new condiment can be an inexpensive way to spice up someone’s day.
A little goes a long way when it comes to food gifts. The great thing about food gifts is that they can be found everywhere and sometimes it’s easiest just to stop by your favorite market, late at night, when the kids are in bed or late after work where busy lines are a sign of the past.

This post is centered around Metropolitan Market, my favorite place to peruse in the evening hours. Metropolitan Market has kitchen products, specialty foods and lots of local snacks that make up the perfect gift basket. Choose your favorite vessel for your gifts and mix and match to come up with a special combination for your loved ones.

You don’t have to choose a basket for your gift set. Choose something that can be reused after, this makes the gift even more special. Here I used a cutlery caddie (18.99) for picnics or parties that comes in vibrant colors like this blue one. All the items in the basket are local except for the quince paste.

1. Theo Chocolate: Rich Dark and Spicy Chili Dark Chocolate
2. Dilletante Chocolate Marbled Espresso Beans
3. Corazon Del Sol Quince Paste: A thick jam made of the Quince fruit, when cooked it has a sweet flavor with a hint floral flavor. It tastes great with cheese
4. Fran’s Chocolates: Smoked Salt Caramels
5. Seattle Chocolates: Whidbey Wildberry Truffle Bar
6. Half Pops: I just discovered this amazing snack. Popcorn kernels that are half popped. The first time that I had them,I thought I might have to pop them. I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Then I absolutely got addicted to them. Just pop in your mouth. Both flavors , Natural Butter, Pure Ocean Sea Salt and Natural Aged White Cheddar are preservative free and have a natural taste without the chalky powders often found on snacks like these.

All products are local.
Bamboo Cutting boards (18.95 for 2 sizes)
1. Food Lovers’ Guide to Seattle (yes it is a shameless plug, my book). The ultimate guide to everything food in Seattle.
2. Boat Street Pickled Figs
3. Gourmondo’s Cypress Citrus Dressing: Local catering company Gourmondo makes this fabulous dressing made with all natural ingredients. It tastes great on vegetables salads, pasta salads or on grilled vegetables.
4. La Panzanella crackers
5. Beecher’s Fresh Cheese Curds: Melt these curds on homemade fries and add some gravy to make poutine, drizzle your favorite honey on them or serve to guests alongside some goodies from the olive bar.

Fashionable Food Lovers’ Kit

The ultimate gift for the foodie who lunches at work. This stylish lunch bag (25.95) is insulated and hardly looks like your average lunch box. Fill it with your favorite goodies and you are good to go. It even comes with a set of utensils. Here I added Ricotta Salata, a variation of ricotta that has a mild salty flavor similar to Feta cheese but with a firmer texture.

Mediterranean Gift Set

1. Preserved Lemons from Mustapha’s Fine Foods of Morocco: Chop these up and add them to your favorite salads or couscous.
2. Pomegranate Molasses: Pour this on fresh cheese or use it in your salad dressing as the ultimate sweetener.
3. Mama Lil’s Peppers: These Pickled Hungarian peppers are the perfect addition to pizza and sandwiches or just eat them out of the jar.
4. Metropolitan Market’s pita :Finally, pitas that are light and fluffy. A rarity in this city.
5. Ricotta Salata (see description above)
6. Garlic

What are your favorite local food products?

Here is a list of some upcoming events at Metropolitan Market.

(Press Release from Metropolitan Market)

Holiday wine tasting at Metropolitan Market
Join us for complimentary tastings featuring unique Washington wines and fine imported wines. Wines selected are pre-approved to pair perfectly with your holiday meals! When joining us for a complimentary wine tasting, you must be at least 21 and provide valid identification upon your one time entry to enjoy this event (no exceptions). Come raise a glass to the joyous season!

· 5-7 p.m. on Friday, December 2 at Sand Point

· 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, December 8 at Uptown

· 5-7 p.m. on Friday, December 9 at Admiral

· 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 15 at Kirkland

· 4-7 p.m. on Friday, December 9 at Proctor

Meet-and-greet special guests
Come meet Sharone Hakman of Haks BBQ Sauce, a finalist on Fox’s MasterChef, and taste his incredible BBQ sauce. Discover your perfect appetizer condiment, stocking stuffer or gift for the griller in your home!

· 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 6 at Proctor

· 12-3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 7 at Sand Point

· 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 7 at Kirkland

· 12-3 p.m. on Thursday, December 8 at Admiral

· 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, December 8 at Uptown

Co-owner Brooke Lucy of Bluebird Grain Farms will be showcasing their grain side dish ideas, such as the delicious whole emmer faro, for your holiday table and gift giving. Bluebird Grain Farms comes from Winthrop, Wash. Come taste local!

· 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 10 at Queen Anne

· 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 11 at Sand Point

· 3:30 – 7 p.m. on Sunday, December 11 at Kirkland

· 3 – 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 10 at Admiral

The Northwest’s lifestyle and entertaining expert, Alexandra Hedin, will be signing her book, Entertaining at Home: Inspiration, Recipes and Crafts for Creations for a Lovely Life. Come get your holiday inspiration from a true professional!

· 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, December 8 at Admiral

· 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, December 10 at Uptown

· 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, December 15 at Sand Point

· 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, December 17 at Kirkland

Savor the flavor of the season at one of our sampling events
Discover, taste, and learn how to put together your holiday meal! At tasting events, sample delicious dishes chat with culinary artists for recipes and ideas to make your holidays stress free and fun. Come and be a part of the merry time!

All Locations:
· 4-7 p.m. on Friday, December 9

· 12-2 p.m. and 3-6p.m. on Saturday, December 10

· 12-2 p.m. and 3-6p.m. on Sunday, December 11

· 4-7 p.m. on Friday, December 16

· 12-2 p.m. and 3-6p.m. on Saturday, December 17

· 12-2 p.m. and 3-6PM on Sunday, December 18

On December 23 and 24, the culinary artists will roll out the red carpet, trading their chef’s jackets for red coats and serving as personal concierges for customers. Red coats can be found on grocery aisles and will help with stress-saver tips, locating those hard to find ingredients on your shopping list, and suggesting the perfect recipes for your dining and party pleasure. For more information and online holiday meal orders, visit http://www.metropolitan-market.com.

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