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Summer Reading: 3 Mouth-Watering Cookbooks

by Laura Grimmer
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Jun 18, 2014

What better way to spend a lazy summer weekend than drinking a cold Arnold Palmer and flipping through a beautiful new cookbook? EDGE picks our top three summer reads that we hope will inspire good meals and good times.

"Itsu, the Cookbook"
Londoners will recognize Itsu as the local restaurant chain dedicated to light, healthy food with a vibrant Asian-inspired menu. Since opening the original location in 1997, the brand now boasts 50 shops where customers can indulge in detox soups, "hip, humble and healthy" salads and grab-and-go snacks.

"Itsu, the Cookbook" (Mitchell Beazley, June 2014, $19.99) captures the essence of its vision with a casual collection of 100 recipes.

The clean design and eye-popping photography by Anders Schonnemann makes it the perfect summer read, and you'll be anxious to get in the kitchen to experiment with dishes such as scallop salad with chile, scallions and crisp garlic; or seven veg & brown rice potsu with ithai sauce. And for those interested in making their own sushi, the book offers easy-to-follow instructions for a variety of maki and hand rolls.

"Back to Butter"

Tried low-fat to get healthier? Low-carb? Vegetarian? Vegan? Paleo? Well, maybe it’s time for "Back to Butter" (Fair Winds Press, March 2014, $24.99), by Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost, the daughter-mother team behind the traditional foods blog Organic Spark.

Chester, an organic farmer and a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute of Health and Culinary Arts, is a follower of the so-called traditional foods movement. In "Back to Butter," Chester explains that traditional foods are based on culinary and farming techniques that "kept primitive cultures, cut off from the processed foods and medicine of modern societies, healthy, happy and fertile."

The cookbook’s recipes rely on ingredients like grass-grazing animals, organic vegetables, soaked grains, nuts and seeds, and raw dairy products. And fat. Saturated fat, like butter, coconut oil, pork lard, olive oil and nut oils.

What I like most about "Back to Butter" are the in-depth explanations; in fact, the first five chapters are devoted to understanding and preparing traditional ingredients. The recipes that follow are as compelling as the text and pictures that accompany them, especially ones like Hot Onion Dip (Vidalia onions, Swiss cheese and homemade mayonnaise), Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Parmesan (anything that starts with bacon fat wins my vote) and Crispy Peach Cobbler (fresh-milled sprouted whole wheat pastry flour and honey).

"Artisan Bread: 100 Years of Techniques and Recipes"

Food doesn’t get much more traditional than artisan bread. New York’s Orwasher’s Bakery, located in the last vestiges of the Upper East Side that harken back to the area’s one-time thriving German, Czech and Hungarian roots, introduces "Artisan Bread: 100 Years of Techniques and Recipes" (Race Point Publishing, April 2014, $30.00).

With this book, owner and baker Keith Cohen gives a loving history of Orwasher’s plus beautifully illustrated examples of the most common forms of artisanal breads - pumpernickel, rye, ciabatta, focaccia, Pullman loaves, baguette, challah and sourdough - and a wonderful grounding in bread-baking technique and critical success factors for the home baker. Cohen also discusses local sourcing and old-world traditions that make bread taste good, but also are healthier than store-bought, mass-produced loaves.

The traditional breads are covered in detail, but interesting ethnic standbys like Potato Burger Buns, Pumpernickel Rolls and Salt Sticks are fabulous, as are Cohen’s "new" beer breads and artisan wine breads. Using starters made from fermenting wine grapes and baking techniques that date back to ancient Egypt, there’s nothing "new" about them. But Orwasher’s re-introduction of these gems back into the kitchen sure is.

Laura Grimmer is a private chef and trained sommelier based in New York.


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