10 great pacific northwest cookbooks, plus extras

IMG_6522

I’ve done some thinking on Oregon and greater Northwest cookbooks and other food books after receiving such interest in the cookbooks section of my annual holiday food gifts post.  I thought I’d share them for you, my dear last-minute gifters.  These are books that are not just local, but actually provide singular and excellent recipes and/or comprehensive techniques (not the case with the still-in-print for its baffling popularity, A Taste of Oregon cookbook).

If you can’t get your hands on The Oregonian from 1942 or some of our earliest and most rare cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th century — like the Web-Foot Cook Book (1885), A Portland Girl at the Chafing Dish (1890), or the Washington Women’s suffrage fundraising cookbook (1909) — and you can’t make a visit to the UO Knight Library Special Collections, might I suggest:

  • Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast is a comprehensive system from the esteemed Portland (and former Eugenius) baker/restaurateur.  It provides the intermediate-and-above home baker with techniques to make various starters and big, beautiful loaves.
  • The Paley Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley is one of the classics of PNW regional cooking.  As I wrote in a review in 2009 for Eugene Weekly, “The gorgeous photos and high quality paper make the coffee table-sized [book] a visual treat. […] Some fabulous dishes that can be recreated by the creative home cook, like lamb shoulder on hay and lavender, are just the beginning. I found myself marking so many pages: homemade cranberry juice, ricotta cheese, summer corncob stock for light soups … wow. A section called “Hazelnuts Make Everything Taste Better” and portraits of wild salmon fishermen and mushroom foraging stamp this book as a PNW classic. Some very complex dishes, such as the elk shoulder, are interspersed with simpler preparations, like a mint and fava bean pappardelle or a side of peas and carrots with bacon.”
  • The Grand Central Baking Book, from the same review: “I had to wrestle it out of my editor’s floury fingers. She was muttering something about gingerbread, so I thought quick and baked up some delectable oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and a rosemary bread pudding before she could renew her strength and overtake me. This one’s a delight. Piper Davis, the co-owner of Portland’s celebrated Grand Central Baking Company, has partnered with pastry chef Ellen Jackson in a beautifully produced collection of breads, cakes and sweet and savory projects, all outlined with clear instructions and images on beautiful paper.”
  • James Beard’s tome, American Cookery, is not exactly a PNW cookbook, but it includes recipes distilled from years of writing a column in The Oregonian.  One might likewise check out The Oregonian Cookbook, which has a full chapter on Beard’s recipes, plus another good chapter on recipes by local chefs.
  • Beard’s good friend Helen Evans Brown’s West Coast Cook Book, is the best cookbook from the 1950s I’ve seen and perhaps the only truly regional/locavore one from ’round these parts written in that era, full of historical sources and then-contemporary recipes from up and down the left coast.  She’s witty and has a good palate, too.
  • Scio, Oregon-based Linda Ziedrich’s twin preservation cookbooks, The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Preserves and The Joy of Pickling, are undoubtedly the two books I turn to most often for preserving local produce.  Everything from rosehips to peas to prunes, with most techniques based on her Master Food Preserver training, are covered in the books.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda for the Register-Guard a few years ago.
  • Modernist Cuisine at Home, by a massive team led by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, will delight the science/molecular gastronomists in your home.  This isn’t really my style of cooking, but everyone who enjoys it seems to be thrilled by this giant handbook.  It’s a less giant and more home-oriented version of the 6-volume monster version for the professional cook, which I have perused and written about and exhibited and pondered at length, so I can predict with some authority that the little brother is likely beautiful and precise and gel-dust-sous vide-foamy.

And here are two more for your consideration, not cookbooks but still excellent for the PNW food and bev lover:

  • Lisa Morrison’s Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest came to my attention after taking her class on beer glasses in Astoria, and I did a tiny interview with her for AAA’s Via magazine.  She’s part owner of Portland’s Belmont Station, and knows the PNW beer scene better than almost anyone.  The book provides breweries, beer lists, and pub crawls.
  • The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe, a seed steward, agricultural activist, and Harvard-trained scientist whose vegetable lines are grown by local Willamette Valley farmers to great acclaim.  The book sets out a plan for improving your garden’s health and heartiness by cultivating the most nutrient-enriched foods, like squash (Carol’s own breed of ‘Oregon Homestead’ sweet meat squash, which I wrote about in Eugene Magazine this fall), beans, potatoes, corn, and reaping the best from small livestock, like her heritage Ancona ducks.

And these were the cookbooks I mentioned earlier, just for completion’s sake:

  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book, one of the only cocktail books out there to offer a solid, technique-based guide for the home bartender.  Expect to understand principles and classics, not fancy trends.
  •  Boat, a Whale & a Walrus by Seattle chef Renee Erickson, whose restaurants — modern, chic, vibrant, briny — embody perhaps the epitome of contemporary PNW cuisine.
  • Not a cookbook, quite, but Heather Arndt Anderson’s new book about the food history of our fair City of Roses to the north, Portland: A Food Biography, promises to be filled with fun facts and even some descriptive recipes.  Her Tumblr page is fascinating and reflects her research acumen; be sure to click through to buy the book directly from her or the publisher. It also has a chapter on vintage Portland and Oregon cookbooks.
  • Anthony Boutard’s Beautiful Corn, the best treatment I’ve seen on the science and culinary merit of corn from a mellifluous farmer/writer in the tradition of Wendell Berry.
  • Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home by my fellow Eugene locavore, Elin England, whose second book concentrates on the local Renaissance of staple crops we’ve been experiencing.

Disclaimer:  Apart from the two books I reviewed for EW, I didn’t get any of these books for free, dang it.  Doing it wrong, as usual.  But the pleasure in the purchase is all mine.

 

Advertisements

600 years of recipes – rare books exhibit opens tuesday!

invitation gingerAll my readers are warmly invited to the opening of “Recipe: The Kitchen and Laboratory in the West, 1400-2000,” an exhibition of rare books and ephemera in the collections of the UO Special Collections and University Archives in Knight Library on the U of O campus.

The opening will take place on April 22 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. downstairs in the Browsing Room of Knight Library.  We’ll take tours up to Special Collections at 4:00 and 4:30.  There will be short presentations by Vera’s students in the Honors College, who helped craft the labels for the early part of the exhibit, a presentation by Rebecca Childers’ letterpress students, who made us an accompanying letterpress booklet inspired by botanical illustrations with botanical ink, and me, discussing the curating of the exhibit.  This event is free and open to the public.

The images below are a teaser: one shows the nutritional wheel for bread, bread, bread, and bread, and the other is a hand-colored illustration of wood sorrel, a plant still being served on wildcrafting menus– you might find it in town right now!

IMG_5631
The exhibit covers 600 years of documenting the practice of experimentation — ranging from extraordinary illustrated works cataloging botanical materials for medicines to photographed cakes tracking the effect of baking soda for home economists.  Prof. Vera Keller (Honors College) and I have been working on this for most of the year, and we’ve found some really amazing stuff buried in the archives. You will see a stove invented by Benjamin Franklin and stoves used in queer communes in Southern Oregon, not to mention incredibly rare volumes featuring some of the most beautiful plant images I’ve ever seen; soursop seeds; a jerboa; vegan punk johnnycakes; the infamous blue blazer cocktail; a nude lady; and the bakery that put Eugene on the map with its sanitation practices!

IMG_5826
We’re honored to have the sponsorship of Party Downtown, who will help us celebrate this history with recipes inspired by some of the cookbooks, and Brew Dr. Kombucha, serving Just Ginger kombucha, a brew that already has a strong relationship to the SCUA with proceeds going to the Ken Kesey collection.

Can’t make it to the opening?  The exhibit will be open to the public and free of charge during SCUA’s opening hours through June.

Images are mine, taken from two works in the exhibit: Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (London: J. Haddon, 1815), RB 580.1 C899, and Raymond Hertwig, “Bleached White Flour Wholesome,” Vitality Demands Energy: 109 Smart New Ways to Serve Bread (n.p.: General Mills Corp., 1934), Bernice Redington Papers, AX92.3.

 

 

just ducky

Duck, duck, larb!  I spent a couple of days spattered in duck fat, playing with gorgeous, fresh, delicious ducks from former Eugenians Boondockers Farm, now located outside of Portland. I had offered to do a bit of recipe testing for Hank Shaw, the wild foods expert that visited us at the University of Oregon about a year ago.  He’s coming out with a new cookbook for duck and geese, much to the delight of us all. You can read more about it at his award-winning blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

Just to give you an idea of what he’s pondering, I made a very simple duck tagine with chestnuts, and the aforementioned duck larb, which is a Lao/northern Thai herb and meat salad.  Thank goodness he eschewed the traditional duck blood and raw meat in the larb!  Instead, I sliced the meat at medium (seared the big, meaty Saxony ducks a bit too long, but the smaller, more flavorful Ancona breasts were perfectly medium rare).

It was the first time I had broken down a duck, and it’s been a few years since I’ve disassembled a chicken, even, so it was kind of cool to do it.  Bodies fill me with awe;  there’s no better sense of how muscles and bones work together than by feeling your way down the contours of a spine, along a strip of fat, across and around a joint.  You can get a sense of how beings move, and how humans are connected with other species. For me, it’s a powerful experience to work with meat.

And if anyone ever tells you cooking is just domestic drudge labor, hit them on the head with an anatomy book.

Anyway, the ducks were fantastic, and I’m so thrilled I now have carcasses for duck stock and a mound of duck fat to render down and use all winter long.  Boondockers grow two very rare species of heritage species ducks, Ancona and Saxony.  Ancona are smaller, and have wonderfully rich flavor.  Saxony are big and meaty, with clean, moist, ducky flesh.  You can buy slaughtered and vacpacked roasting birds or ducklings to raise your own.  The Ancona, especially, as an endangered species would be a terrific addition to your backyard flock.  They also sell duck and chicken eggs, occasionally duck fat, Delaware chickens, and heirloom seeds.  And they raise Great Pyranees dogs, too!

Farmers Rachel and Evan are both fierce, eloquent advocates of farming and conservation, two of the best examples of the young farmer movement I’ve seen.  I met them a couple of years ago, before their landlord raised the rent and effectively made them leave our area, and they supply restaurants all along the Willamette Valley with their products.  They really want to keep their Eugene ties, so please do let them know if you’re interested in a Eugene delivery, and they should be able to work something out.  You must check out their blog at the very least, or visit their gorgeous new farm in Beavercreek.  They are offering farm tours on September 23 and 30.  Let them know you’re coming!

Hank’s cookbook should be out some time next year with Ten Speed Press.  Anyone who’s a fan of his previous cookbook, Hunt Gather Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, knows we’re in for a treat.  Stay tuned and good luck, Hank!

culinaria nightshade: tomatoes and peppers 2012

Hello from Cambridge, Mass!  I spied this strawberry and tomato-growing system in the Harvard Community Garden.  I’ll write more about this later, but for now, I just want to share that I’m spending a week at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute, studying old cookbooks under the sage guidance of Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, culinary historian and honorary curator of the culinary collection at the library.  I can’t believe my good fortune, honestly.

I also can’t believe my good fortune in having Jeff’s Garden of Eaton back at home.  Jeff grows hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and sells them out of his home off River Road every afternoon, and at farmers markets.  As wonderful as Territorial and Log House Plants are for providing sound, delicious varieties of the nightshade family (and you shouldn’t overlook the grafted tomatoes), Jeff has them soundly beat for variety.  Last year, for example, I grew Ethiopian ‘Berebere’ peppers and Sichuan ‘Facing Heaven’ peppers from his starts.  The commercial market wouldn’t support these niche peppers, but Jeff does.

If you’re interested, you can see the tomatoes and pepper varietals I grew from Jeff’s garden in 2011 (tomatoes and peppers) and the ones I grew from Territorial in 2010, plus comments about what others were growing.

Here’s what I managed to stick in the ground this year in the week I had back home.  Hope they make it! I finally broke my Hungarian pepper obsession this year and opted for many Central American varieties to make mole.  But my tomatoes leaned Russian.  Pinkos and reds, you see.

Tomatoes

  • Amish Paste x 3 (my go-to paste tomato; last year I had several 1-pounders)
  • Carol Chyko’s Big Paste (sounds promising as another meaty non-Roma paste)
  • Japanese Black Trifele
  • Rose de Berne (this is tragic — I snapped off the entire stem of this Swiss heirloom while transplanting and had to replace with Black Krim, thanks to a last minute run to MOC!)
  • Sungold
  • Jean’s Prize
  • Indigo Rose (the new, much-hyped purple tomato developed by Jim Myers at OSU)
  • Nyagous (Russian variety, black, cluster, crack-resistant)
  • Azoychka (3-inch, slightly flat orange-yellow tomatoes, another Russian variety)

Peppers

  • Padron x 2
  • Facing Heaven (my seed from London) x 3
  • Facing Heaven (company stock seed as comparison)
  • Piquillo Pimento
  • Esplette (Basque)
  • Chilhuacle Amarillo
  • Chilcostle
  • Serrano Tempiqueno
  • Mulato Isleno
  • Tennessee Cheese
  • Negro de Valle (like Vallero)
  • Berebere Brown

the exchange of two baked goods, a morality tale

On the day I baked M. F. K. Fisher’s War Cake (below) to fortify my culinary literature students working on their final papers, a former student stopped by my office to give me a lovely loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.  Better to receive than give, in this case! I turned it in to a simple bread pudding with cream and walnuts (above).

Fisher’s War Cake is a coffee cake-style sweet loaf with raisins cut into pieces to resemble currants.  She adapted it slightly from popular World War I ration-friendly cakes that she had eaten in her childhood.  I found one almost identical recipe in Amelia Doddridge’s propagandistic cookbook, Liberty Recipes (1918).  The name of the cake in that book — Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Cake — kinda gives you the idea of the studied joylessness with which Doddridge crafts her recipes.  The first step, boiling shortening and sugar together with the raisins and spices, softens the fruit.

Even renamed the slightly less bleak War Cake, this is not Fisher’s finest moment.  Without any binding agent, the cake crumbled to bits when I tried to cut it.  Luckily, I teach kids forced to eat dorm food, so they didn’t mind eating the crumbs.  I substituted currants for the raisins and used local whole wheat flour for a bit more flavor, but held off as hard as I could and didn’t add nuts or butter, even though I was sorely tempted.  And I felt pretty bad that the class before mine had a giant box of Safeway donuts for their last week treat.  War, huh, yeah.

What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

But back to that raisin loaf.  My plan was to serve the pudding with some homemade crème fraiche and brandied apricots, but I realized I must have drunk myself into forgetful oblivion with the last of the apricots when I was on that bender a few weeks ago.  The crème fraiche stubbornly refused to set up during the day, too, so we ate the pudding with slightly sour cream and some rather deliciously fizzy and/or possibly poisonous apricot-brandied cherries.

The crème fraiche, by the way, had set up beautifully by the time I woke up this morning, and it was amazing with leftovers.  I strongly recommend making your own.

joy of linda ziedrich

I am so proud to announce my latest article in the Register-Guard: an interview with Linda Ziedrich and cookbook review of her stellar preservation books, The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves and The Joy of Pickling.  Linda was kind enough to invite me to her farm, and we spent several hours talking about the world of Willamette Valley produce and the terribl(ly delicious) things you can do to it.

One recipe we didn’t have space for was the one I’ve been loving all over.  Raynblest Farms still has big bags of dried Brooks and Italian (aka Fellenberg) prunes for sale at the farmer’s market, so you might want to grab a bag before last year’s crop is gone.  I recommend our native, big, plump Brooks prunes (front and left, versus the less fleshy and more tangy Fellenberg, back and right) for this recipe.  Trust me, it will be worth it.  Once you eat one, you won’t be able to stop.

I tried this recipe side to side with the one posted over at NPR by the author of the blog Orangette, since Molly’s recipe follows that of the terrific artisan picklers from Boat Street.  Let me just say this: the quart of Dolores is gone; the Orangette quart is still mainly full.

The problem with the latter is that you really need more neutral liquid to plump up the prunes when cooking, so Dolores’s addition of poaching water to the vinegar works better to flesh out the fruit so the pickling can infuse it.  The experience isn’t as puckeringly sweet/sour when you eat the prunes as it is when you eat the Orangette version.

Don’t get me wrong, the Orangette prunes would make a great addition, chopped in pieces, to salads and quick breads, perhaps.  The taste is good.  But they can’t be cut in half and wrapped with a piece of bacon and eaten in dangerous quantities because they are the most delicious morsel you’ve ever tasted.

No, they just are no Dolores, our lady of prunes.

Dolores’s Pickled Prunes

Excerpted from The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich. (c) 2009, used by permission from The Harvard Common Press.

2 ½ cups (about 1 pound) unpitted prunes
¾ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices

Put the prunes into a large nonreactive saucepan and cover them with water.  Bring the contents to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Simmer the prunes for 15 to 20 minutes.

Empty the saucepan into a sieve set over a bowl.  Return 1 cup of the cooking liquid to the saucepan (if there isn’t 1 cup liquid, add enough water to make 1 cup).  Add the sugar, vinegar, and spices to the saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and reduce the heat.  Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes.

Add the prunes to the saucepan.  Simmer them for 5 minutes.

Put the prunes and their liquid into a quart jar and cap the jar.  When the jar has cooled, store it in the refrigerator.  After a day or two, the prunes will be ready to eat.  They will keep well for several weeks, at least.

pnw cookbook reviews 2009

I had the great pleasure of reviewing new Pacific Northwest cookbooks for the Eugene Weekly‘s annual Procrastinators’ Gift Guide, out on the stands today.  Check out the latest in home cookin’ ’round these here parts:

  • The Paley’s Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley;
  • Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest by Tami Parr;
  • The Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson;
  • Rustic Fruit Desserts by Corey Schreiber and Julie Richardson; and
  • The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table and The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally by Ivy Manning.

Vitaly Paley commented that he found Oregon similar to France, respecting and sustaining local products and traditional methods.  I couldn’t agree more, especially after reading these beautiful books.  I’ll admit that I’m a cookbook junkie, and will read them cover to cover like novels.  In fact, I probably read cookbooks more than any other book.  But it’s been many years since I’ve seriously considered American cookery.  I’m drawn more to ethnic cookbooks, just because I need more help with the ingredients and methods.  These cookbooks made me change my mind.  Ouch, I was seriously bitten by the cookbook bug.  I’d love to do more reviewing in the future — publishers, authors, readers, got anything in mind that MUST be reviewed for 2010?  I can’t make any promises, of course, but I’m interested in hearing from you.

Check out Tami Parr’s cheese blog or Ivy Manning’s cooking blog if you like the style and theme of their books.  I’m new to Ivy’s blog, but have been reading Tami’s for quite some time for PNW cheese events and reviews. Right now, she’s featuring a compelling selection of cheeses for holiday giving.

I’m sad that my copies of the fabulous The Joy of Pickling (rev. ed.) and The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Preserves arrived too late to be included in the EW review, but I plan to make amends.  :)  In the meantime, check out author Linda Ziedrich’s preservation blog and browse these lovely cookbooks at your nearest bookstore.  They’re a wonderful addition to the Ball Blue Book preservation repertoire, which is great but rather old-fashioned.  Ziedrich stresses food safety (with some exceptions) much more than the French preservation cookbooks with unusual recipes, and she also includes many international recipes from the Middle East and Asia, so you’ll find many unique recipes.  And her PNW cred is impeccable — it was so nice to see a recipe for home-grown medlar jam, for example, and a meditation on particular fruit varieties that are cultivated in Oregon.

Technically, The Paley’s Place Cookbook came out in late 2008, and The Farm to Table Cookbook came out a bit earlier, but who’s counting?  Each of these cookbooks had its inspirations, and testing recipes even provided me with a chance to play with my new KitchenAid mixer.

Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got my own procrastinating to address…cookies, cards and presents, oh my!