Monday, September 27, 2010

EDIBLE: A CELEBRATION OF LOCAL FOODS--Stories and Recipes Showcase the Rich Diversity of Locavore Culture

As a publicist, it was a privilege to work on EDIBLE: A Celebration of Local Foods by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian.  I wanted to feature the book on, but I make it a policy not to review books I'm working on, so I asked my good friend Jennifer McCord to write the review for this site. She obliged and then provided me with a gorgeous jpeg of the finished Corn Chowder she and her husband prepared from a recipe in the book.  

Growing up with a mother who was herself raised on a farm in Minnesota meant that I learned a lot about food at a young age.  This information included how food grew, was harvested, taken care of and preserved. I was back in Minnesota recently and the memories returned of picking tomatoes, corn, gathering eggs and trading butter for honey.  I still have a sensual memory of how the earth smelled when it was hot from the sun. 

My parents cared about what they ate and the sources of their fruit, meat, poultry and vegetables. We grew some of our own food but we also visited local and regional farmers to buy fresh.  We’re near The time of year for peaches to can or freeze and searching for apples and winter squash. My mother would often go out in the fields to talk with farmers about the food they were growing and selling.  We also picked our own vegetable and fruit. As a teenager it was not unusual for me to drive over to the local farm to pick up the vegetables that had been ordered by phone a week earlier.  My parents were early foodies but we didn’t know it then. They just liked to have fresh good food to serve to family and friends. 

EDIBLE: A Celebration of Local Foods (Wiley; $29.95; ISBN:  978-0-470-37108-4), embraces this expanding sense of locally sourced foods in a lavishly informative cookbook that is entertaining to read. Compiled by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian, cofounders of the Edible Communities Publications, the stories from each of the various regions of the country that are covered in this book offer the reader and/or cook insight from all points of view about all kinds of local food—from farmers and fisherman to chefs and food artisans. This reviewer is making a list of places to visit or foods to watch for when she travels to these regions.  It is a worthwhile endeavor to find out how this special group of people take care of and supply food. For example, I learned how Rutgers University is restoring a variety of Jersey tomato, what kind of berries make up marionberry and what university created the honeycrisp apple.

With the Seattle area having a particularly cool summer, and today with a high in the low 60’s, it was a perfect afternoon to try one of the recipes in the cookbook as the local farmer’s market is open today too.  The morning was spent at the local farmers market picking up most of the ingredients from fresh corn on the cob, to carrots, onions and potatoes. We chose the recipe called Rich Corn Chowder. It is from Robin McDermott, of Edible Green Mountains, Vermont.  The bacon we used was from a local store that specializes in double smoked bacon.  The recipe required us to cut off the corn kernels—uncooked and use the cobs to make a golden broth.  While it was bubbling away, there was an intoxicating smell of corn cooking.  My husband, Murray, and I ended up working together to cut up the other vegetables, fry the bacon and then add them in the order called for in the recipe. The aroma of the soup reminded us both how much we like to cook.  Two and half hours later, the soup was done. As we sat down to eat, there was still a bit of warmth in the air on this cool day in Seattle. The soup was an excellent meal in itself, and I will surely make this recipe again.

Jennifer McCord made her first cake when she was nine years old. Even though the cake did not turn out as she expected, the experience began a life long love of cooking. She read M.F.K. Fisher in her late teens and decided to follow her advice. Cook with the cook whose food you have found delightful. Therefore, she has cooked with a host of cooks from bakers to restaurateurs following her palate and learning how to better her own cooking.  
Jennifer has her own publishing consulting company where she operates as an editor, publishing management consultant and book packager. She and her husband Murray, live in Settle, Washington. Jennifer can be reached at

Rich Corn Chowder

Courtesy of Robin McDermott/ Edible Green Mountains (Vermont)
Makes 8 servings

It is not surprising that sweet corn frequently appears on Vermont menus during the few weeks it’s in season. This luscious corn chowder uses the whole vegetable—cob and all—to create a dish that is satisfying and distinctive. If you choose to preserve some of the summer bounty for use throughout the year, frozen kernels (and cobs) work very well in this recipe.

Corn Broth, optional
4 medium ears corn
8 cups water

4 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice, optional, or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped celery root or celery
5 medium potatoes, chopped
4 cups corn broth (above), chicken broth, or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

MAKE THE CORN BROTH, IF USING: Stand an ear of corn up against a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, and running the blade downward between the corn kernels and the corn cob, cut the corn kernels from the cob, rotating the cob until all kernels have been removed. Transfer the corn kernels to a medium bowl. Repeat with the remaining 3 ears of corn; set the corn kernels aside for making the chowder.

In a medium pot, add the water and the cobs from which the corn has been removed. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer until the water has become rich and golden, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl; strain the corn broth. Set the corn broth aside; discard the solids.

MAKE THE CHOWDER: In a large pot over medium heat, add the bacon, if using. Cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. If not using the bacon, in a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in the carrot and celery root and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the potatoes, corn broth, water, salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved corn kernels, bring the chowder back up to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender or a potato masher, lightly break up some of the potatoes and corn in the chowder. Do not overprocess or you will lose the rustic texture of the chowder.

Stir in the cream and the reserved bacon. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you may need to add more salt to balance the sweetness of the corn broth and bring out the full flavor of this soup. Serve hot.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Stovetopreadings announces the arrival of guest reviewer, Jennifer McCord. The Seattle resident is a publishing veteran (see below) who loves to cook and is an avid collector of cookbooks. When I asked her if she wanted to write about some of the books we cover, she enthusiastically said yes. Her first entry is Rick Bayless's brand new cookbook, FIESTA AT RICK'S.

I had just returned from a family reunion in Minnesota, where our culture includes smorgasbords. Reading Rick Bayless’ FIESTA AT RICK’S: Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends (WW Norton & CO.; $35.00; ISBN: 978-0-3930558-99-4) reminds this reviewer of what it means to celebrate good food together with friends and family. This cookbook makes it easy to imagine creating one’s own festival with Mexican food. The pictures are so enticing that you know the food will be scrumptious. There are many interesting chapters: Guacamoles, Nibbles & Libations; Ceviches, Seafood Cocktails and Oysters, Small Dishes for Party Snacking (Mexcian Tapas); Inspirations from Taquerieas, Mexican Diners and Street Vendors; Live-Fire Fast and Slow to Sweet Inspirations from Street Stalls, Bakeries and Ice Cream Shops. Bayless provides menus for four distinctive and memorable parties each denoted under the appropriate section. Each party comes with its own complete game plan, including a music playlist.

Bayless also includes basic helpful information. For instance he writes about the various kinds of avocados and limes providing useful and effective ways to store and use them. His tips on how to heat up store-bought corn tortillas were also a hit in my household this week.

The guacamole recipes provided me with some new insights into flavors and ideas as the fall approaches, such as Grilled Garlic and Orange Guacamole. The posole fiesta really grabbed my attention. Posole is one of my favorites. My mother and I cooked this dish during my visits home. We would get out the old recipe and then decide what new additions or deletions we might make this year. Should we add a little more of this spice or a little less, or just cook like it we always did? The decision depended upon the time of year and what peppers we could get. With the local farmer’s markets showcasing the various peppers available right now, this would be the optimal time to try some of the recipes in this book. We tried Bayless' recipe for his Classic White Posole. You serve the posole and everyone gets to make their own finishing touches with such extras as cabbage, radishes, ground chilies, lime wedges and oregano. What a feast!

FIESTA AT RICK’S stimulates the eyes with many gorgeous color photos, and the palate with intoxicating tastes that have made him the go-to expert on Mexican food for three decades. Enjoy.

Jennifer McCord made her first cake when she was nine years old. Even though the cake did not turn out as she expected, the experience began a life long love of cooking. She read M.F.K. Fisher in her late teens and decided to follow her advice. Cook with the cook whose food you have found delightful. Therefore, she has cooked with a host of cooks from bakers to restaurateurs following her palate and learning how to better her own cooking.
Jennifer has her own publishing consulting company where she operates as an editor, publishing management consultant and book packager. She and her husband Murray, live in Settle, Washington. Jennifer can be reached at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


About four years ago I became gluten free.  At the beginning of this journey, I started reading Shauna James’ blog, “Gluten-Free Girl.”   I became a fan.  I told a lot of people about her -- my doctors, strangers who were buying gluten-free foods at the market, and just about anyone who was interested in food.  For those not familiar with Shauna’s blog, followers have enjoyed the delight of accompanying her through dating The Chef (the amazingly talented Danny Ahern), their romance (only to be out-adored by Calvin and Alice Trillin), working together, marriage, and family, with the addition of daughter, Lucy.  Shauna may be a gluten-free girl but more importantly she’s a girl who has said yes to food and life in a way few can inspire.   

Shauna’s first book, Gluten-Free Girl, a memoir accompanied by recipes, chronicled her realization that she had celiac disease and how she dealt with it.  In the next installment,  GLUTEN-FREE GIRL AND THE CHEF (Wiley; $29.95; ISBN: 978-0-470-41971-7), Shauna is joined by Danny, giving this book a bit more of a professional cookbook veneer.   It is a wonderful story studded with mouth-watering photography and recipes.  There are many reasons people gravitate towards Shauna and Danny but for me, their approach to food encompasses so much more than gluten-free.  They are about high quality, fresh, fabulous food; sourced locally, when at all possible.  They delight in every aspect from the purchasing and the preparation, to pure enjoyment of the final product.  This book should appeal to either the gluten or non gluten- free. 

For most gluten-free people, pasta and bread products tend to be at the top of their really-missed-foods list.  I’ve always been tempted to make homemade pasta (and in fact had a long-ago-gift of a pasta maker tucked away in a cupboard) but have never done it.  I had faith that I could be successful here.  Out came the KitchenAid stand mixer, the pasta maker (with only Italian directions) and all the flours and ingredients needed for the pasta.  I defrosted some Bolognese sauce made from the end of a pork roast made earlier this summer, and had a good piece of Parmesan ready to grate. 

I had to feel my way through this recipe – but only because this was all so new to me.  The recipe itself is very straight-forward and easy to put together.   The result was lovely ribbons of summery yellow fettuccine graced with a slightly nutty flavor from the quinoa flour.  Quick to make (yes, even in my case with only Italian directions for the pasta maker) and cook (I found 3 ½ minutes to be just right), my friends and I were very happy with our dinner.  I will definitely make this pasta again.
I loved reading this book,  and I know I will use it a lot.  I hope in Shauna and Danny’s next book there is room for more of a traditional cookbook format, if only to make it easier to find recipes in specific categories.  I would also like to see more of their helpful notes such as the “go for a Play Dough feel consistency when mixing together the ingredients” that was part of the pasta recipe.  These are like a GPS guide for the cook especially when one is venturing into uncharted territory.  

Fresh Gluten-Free Pasta
     When you find out you cannot eat gluten, one of the first foods you worry about living without is pasta. There’s a certain mourning involved, imagining a trip to Italy without a mound of fresh fettuccine.  
     Guess what? The Italians make great gluten-free pasta, since many of their citizens have celiac sprue. You can buy a package of gluten-free pasta at the farmacia and take it to the best restaurant in town, where they will make the pasta of the day for you.
     When we first started making pasta, we tried our favorite gluten pasta recipes with gluten-free flours, without much success. It took us about fifteen different recipes and wranglings with flour combinations before we figured out the right ratio of flours to liquids. Now, at least once a week, when we want a quick meal, we pull out flours and make homemade pasta.
Feeds 4
2/3 cup (70g/2.5oz) corn flour
1/2 cup (70g/2.5oz) quinoa flour
1/2 cup (60g/2.125oz) potato starch
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
4 egg yolks from large eggs
Combining the flours
Sift the corn flour, quinoa flour, and potato starch into a large bowl. Add the xanthan gum, guar gum, and salt and stir. Sift the entire mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Forming the pasta dough
Put the eggs and egg yolks into the bowl of dry ingredients. Run the stand mixer on medium speed with a paddle attachment until the dough feels fully formed, about 3 minutes. The final dough should feel firm yet still pliable, a little like playdough.
Making the pasta
If you are using a pasta machine, cut the ball of dough into quarters and roll out each piece of dough to about a 1/2-inch thickness. We like to roll out each piece between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Lightly flour both sides of the dough with a bit more potato starch. Run the dough through the machine, increasing the setting each time, until the dough is paper-thin and long. If the pasta sheet starts to break, it is thin enough.
If you are making the dough by hand, we suggest you cut the ball of dough into 8 pieces, and then cut each of those pieces in half, so they are about the size of golf balls. Roll out each piece of dough as thin as you possibly can.
For fettuccine, use the fettuccine setting on the pasta machine. If you are cutting the dough by hand, you want ribbons of pasta, about 1/4-inch wide. For spaghetti, use the spaghetti setting on the pasta machine. If you are cutting the dough by hand, you want thin strings of pasta.
For ravioli, cut the rolled-out pasta into 2-inch-square pieces. Dollop the filling in the middle of a square of pasta. Brush the edges of the pasta with an egg wash. Place another pasta square on top and press down, crimping the edges. (Having a ravioli cutter on hand helps with this process.)
For lasagna, leave the pasta in long sheets.
To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the pasta shape of your choice into the boiling water. When the pasta rises to the surface, take a little piece and taste it. You should be able to bite into it without it falling apart. (With gluten-free pasta, it’s a fine line. One moment it’s al dente, and the next it’s one big ball of mush, so watch the pot.) Cooking times will vary for the different shapes. Fettuccine generally takes 4 to 5 minutes, spaghetti 3 to 4 minutes. Ravioli takes a little longer, about 5 to 6 minutes. The cooking times will differ in each kitchen, depending on how thin you were able to roll out the dough. Let your taste be the judge.
You have some wiggle room with different flours here. Tapioca flour works as a replacement for the potato starch, as does cornstarch. You might try sorghum or brown rice if you cannot eat corn. However, be sure to substitute by weight instead of volume.
You can easily double or even triple this recipe for more pasta. Work with the pasta in batches if you do.
Tricia Gibney comes from a family where food is very important.  Since childhood the Gibney Girls were encouraged to read about, talk about, shop, make, eat, share, and enjoy great food.  According to Tricia, "this is a book that will make you want to do all of those things.  Or as my sister Mimi summed it up:  “It’s my favorite.  It’s exactly what I wanted.  It’s the best you ever made it.”  When not in the kitchen, Tricia is a top PR professional who has worked on many high-profile products and corporate brands.