What I’m Reading

Below are a few book recommendations  (posted nearly a year ago). However, I now maintain a list of favorites at http://www.goodreads.com under my author dashboard: Dina Cheney.

American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen: I’m currently reading — and highly recommend — this beautifully-written, fascinating, well-researched series of essays. After researching the subjects for my first book, Tasting Club, I’m particularly enjoying the chapters devoted to varietal honey, apples, and chocolate (and intend to order some of the products listed in the Resources sections of the various chapters soon).

The Spice Necklace by Ann Vanderhoof: Gorgeous, poetic, highly engrossing memoir that transports you to the Caribbean. Impossible to put down and full of tempting-sounding recipes to boot.

King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking (The Countryman Press, 2006) and Good to the Grain (Kim Boyce, Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 2010): Ever since experimenting with the South Beach Diet a few months ago (to kick-start the loss of weight gained during my second pregnancy), I’ve been slightly obsessed with whole grains. Sure, I still enjoy mild, tender, cloud-like focaccia and buttery cake, but baked goods prepared without whole grains now taste a bit flat to me. I’ve also noticed that my energy level is more constant when I ground my diet with whole grains.

That’s why the above two books are currently on my bedside table. King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking (from the highly-regarded baker’s catalog company) is a tome, a Bible, full not only of recipes (of which there are plenty, a mix of the healthful, like Simple Spelt Pancakes, and the seriously decadent, like Hazelnut-Espresso Coffee Cake), but tips as well. For instance, did you know that it’s often a good idea to let whole grain dough and batter rest? Why? It takes longer for whole grains to absorb moisture. I’m especially eager to read the last portion of the book, which offers profiles of and usage tips for several whole grains, like buckwheat and spelt.

Meanwhile, Good to the Grain is sensual and inspirational, full of gorgeous photos and incredibly innovative recipes, such as Apple Graham Coffee Cake, Coconut Cookies, and Quinoa and Beet Pancakees. I love how author Kim Boyce (formerly pastry chef at Spago and Campanile, in LA) devotes each chapter to a different grain, introducing it with a profile and tips, then segueing to recipes incorporating it. She clearly has put a lot of thought (and love) into figuring out the best uses for each type of whole grain.

Incidentally, both books feature chocolate chip cookie recipes free of white flour. How’s that for a teaser?

Cat Cora’s Classics with a Twist (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010): With four young children, I don’t know how Cat Cora finds time to cook at home! (With my two, I find it a challenge!) However, this new book shows that she does — it’s loaded with beautiful photographs of Cora and her children, plus dishes her boys love, such as crispy baked fish sticks with honey mustard dipping sauce and tropical pop (though I’m amazed that they’ll eat salmon!). The overall concept is tweaking classics, usually with intense ingredients, such as chipotles or lemongrass (as with lemongrass coq au vin).

That goal, combined with Cora’s Greek heritage and obvious concern for her family’s nutrition, makes for some delicious-sounding fare. Some of the innovative ideas I was intrigued by: Greek nachos (with pita chips, feta, roasted red peppers, and olives), tea sandwiches with smoked salmon and wasabi cream cheese, black and tans (a dessert version, with chocolate cake, ice cream, and whipped cream, but no beer), pizzas made with lavash for speediness, and lime tortilla chips (which she makes by squeezing fresh lime juice over briefly-baked packaged tortilla chips).

Other dishes, such as curried orange lentil soup, baked apples with Cheddar crumbs, cantaloupe soup with crispy prosciutto, and carrot cake cookies with vanilla bean cream cheese icing, just sound really tasty. And, I might need to make the no-bake chocolate ganache tartlets (with cocoa, flour, maple syrup, butter, and salt in the crust) asap!

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