Edible Reads

In-a-Nutshell_978-0-393-06558-9In a Nutshell: Cooking and Baking with Nuts and Seeds
By Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian
W.W. Norton, Aug. 2014, $29.95

As the chill in the air reminds us of celebrating the abundance of the fall, seasonal eaters will delight in the pages of this cookbook, where authors have squirreled away among recipes a feast of 16 nut and seed profiles with fascinating detail, the nutritional facts of these powerhouses (rich in vitamins and minerals) and how each is harvested. Descriptions range from ancient culinary lore and histories of harvest and cultivation to “modern culinary flair”—almonds planted by California pioneers, coconut water’s health-food status, peanuts’ pre-Columbian origins and their introduction at the 1893 Chicago Exhibition, the Stone Age heritage of pine nuts and the Texas and Georgia pecan. Alongside recipes, readers will discover the stuff of symbols, legends of the gods and mythology of the Pueblo, Aztec, Navajo and Hopi. How poppies are known as the “flower of joy” not just for their cheerful blooms but for the plant’s opiate potential, while sesame seeds are known for good luck and giving access to Ali Baba’s mythical cave à la the magical incantation “Open Sesame.” And how locally growing sunflowers may have had their genesis in seeds scattered by 19th-century Russian immigrants throughout the Midwest.

Each of the 16 chapters—from Nibbles, In the Soup…On the Salad and Greens/Beans/&Grains to Saucing It Up, Meatless Mains and Sweet Grand Finale—begins with a Nuts & Bolts essay with helpful hints. Over 250 traditional and international recipes, from “ready-set-go” quick and easy bites to special-occasion desserts, are listed at the beginning of each chapter and include the prep and baking times, yield and useful equipment needed. Headnotes add tidbits while numeric detailed instructions make for ease of preparation.

The authors, instructors at the Institute of Culinary Education, have researched these versatile, nutritious ingredients and share an array of the smooth, crunchy, savory and sweet possibilities for vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike. From around the world with Middle Eastern Shakshouka (brunch dish), West African Peanut Soup, Brazilian Feijoada (national dish of Brazil, a stew of black beans with sausage and smoked meats) and Croatian Cupavci (chocolate coconut torte) to everyday burgers, barbecue and brittle—In a Nutshell abounds with ideas for including nuts and seeds in breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy-hour snacks. In each chapter, delightful color photographs are scattered here and there.

 

French-Comfort-Cover-02French Comfort Food
By Hillary Davis
Gibbs-Smith,
Aug. 2014, $30

While the doors of a few outstanding Omaha French restaurants are closed, the memories of delicious food served linger on. Happily, now just in time, the French Comfort Food cookbook arrives loaded with incredible photographs of people, places and food, alongside heartwarming recipes. Collected by author Hillary Davis while living in France, the recipes are the gift of mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers from every region of “the essence of the country.” Begin the culinary journey with Welcoming Starters and Savory Nibbles and progress to Brunch French Style, Soups, Sandwiches and Simple Pleasures, Family-Style Recipes, Supper for Friends and Sweet Dreams. Then start cooking at Cheese Soufflés in a Mug and continue through to Brie Melted in Box with Brown Sugar for Two.

Davis, a blogger and cooking instructor, includes over 80 recipes that illustrate, describe and celebrate the food of the regions. Scenes are set and nostalgia and memories are evoked. You can almost smell the garlic or kirsch (cherry liqueur). And you may find yourself perusing these pages at a table with a fresh flower or seasonal herb on the napkin, reflecting on the culinary map of the country.

Each recipe with titles in English and French includes charming headnotes, special equipment needed (équipement en place), prep and cook instructions along with ideas and substitutions. Whether you choose to top a crusty baguette with melted chocolate, slather with orange butter, chickpenade, salmon pâté or oozing with local butter, you’ll find page after page of delicious ideas for every season of the year and every time of the day or night.

Reviews by Lois Friedman, a food and cookbook expert who has hosted her own radio show, taught cooking classes and has had her Read It and Eat cookbook reviews featured in publications across the country. She lives in Omaha where she enjoys exploring new restaurants and unusual food shops.

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