Book Review

Book Review: Foodist by Darya Pino


I’ve been a big fan of the healthy eating blog, Summer Tomato, for the past two years. Along with The Nutrition Diva, Summer Tomato has been one of my go-to resources for trustworthy nutrition info. What I like about these two ladies is they both use science to back up their claims, they have a very balanced and non-extreme stance, they don’t buy into nutrition fads, and they recognize and celebrate food for what it is, not just as nutrients.

So, when I heard a couple of months ago that Summer Tomato creator Darya Pino got a book deal, I was excited. Her book came out in May and is called Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting (my Amazon Associates link). It’s written through the lens of weight loss, though it’s really about lasting lifestyle changes for your health. But I think it’s smart that it’s marketed as a weight loss guide–that’s going to help Pino get her message out. I would have never went on my own health and nutrition journey if it wasn’t for the fact that I was trying to figure out how to lose a little weight a few years ago.

The book doesn’t just talk about food. It covers a lot of topics that is part of the bigger picture that so many other health and weight loss experts neglect to mention–things like psychology and willpower, the importance of cooking your own food, mindful eating, non exercise activity thermogenesis (what I call “moving”), and the challenges of eating healthy in different social situations. A lot of what she writes about sounds like common sense but it’s all very solid advice. Besides, I think we all need a dose of common sense, considering all the fad diets and weight loss myths that are still floating around.

If you’ve never read Summer Tomato, I highly advise you to pick up a copy of Foodist. It’s probably one of the most trust-worthy and comprehensive guides to weight loss lifetime of healthy eating. It’s chock full of practical advice that works without stupid shortcuts or gimmicks, and it’s a well-written and well-organized book. If you’re already a loyal reader of Summer Tomato, a lot of stuff will sound familiar but I think there’s enough fresh content to justify getting the book. It’s also nice to have her philosophy and research nicely summarized in one place.

Book Review

Book Review: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

yes chef

I actually had a totally different book to review on the blog this month, so my decision to review Yes, Chef instead came as a bit of a surprise. The title was featured on the front page of  my library’s extremely limited eBook collection, so I checked it out on a whim. I thought it might be a fun read on my flights back and forth to New Orleans earlier this month, but I had other books in case I didn’t care for it. I’m not really into celebrity chefs and the restaurant scene so I wasn’t expecting too much. But there I was, the girl with a short attention span, reading Marcus Samelsson’s Yes, Chef (my Amazon Associates link) for most of my flight to New Orleans and pretty much the entire flight back.

For those who have never heard of him, Samuelsson is an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef who is known for work at New York City restaurant Aquavit, his current restaurant Red Rooster, being named “Best Chef: New York City” by the James Beard Foundation in 2003, as well as many other accomplishments. If none of that means anything to you, it’s OK. I feel you. I don’t really follow this scene either. And I probably only know of Samuelsson because I live in NYC. But none of that takes away from Yes, Chef.

I’m into food and cooking (duh), so naturally it was most fascinating to read about what goes on behind the kitchen doors of a restaurant and how someone who cooks for a living finds inspiration. But what really made this memoir engaging wasn’t the fact that Samuelsson is a famous, award-winning chef. It’s his story. He’s had a really interesting life with roots in different parts of the world, which is something I can relate to and why I also loved Luisa Weiss’ My Berlin Kitchen. He was born in Ethiopia and, along with his sister, adopted by a Swedish family as a child. Even though it sounded like this wasn’t a completely rare occurrence in Sweden in the 70s, growing up black in Sweden unsurprisingly still had its challenges. But the story never just ends there. Your identity changes as you grow up and move to different places, and that includes your racial identity. It’s definitely something I’ve found in my own life and while I’m of a different race, I found comfort and familiarity in Samuelsson’s journey of his identity unfolding as his career took him to other parts or Europe, New York City, and back to where he was born–Ethiopia.

I wanted to recommend this book because I don’t want others to dismiss it the way I almost did. This is a great read–one person’s story about cooking, identity, culture, tasting, career, growth, love, and family.

Book Review

Book Review: The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

the sharper your knife
I’m currently reading Kathleen Flinn’s The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry (my Amazon Associates link) for my online book club. It’s not nearly as emo as the title suggests! It’s a memoir of the author’s time at Le Cordon Bleu. So many people’s worst fear is to lose their job, but in reality, being fired can make people happier in the long run, because they were are given an opportunity to leave a less than ideal, but comfortable, situation and think about what they truly want to do. Flinn lost her corporate job, and with the encouragement from her boyfriend, being let go gave her a chance to pursue a long-time dream: studying cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. If you’ve ever been curious what culinary school is like, The Sharper Your Knife gives you all the inside scoop.

I’m enjoying the book so far, and it makes me think about taking a break from work and doing something for me. Though I’m in no financial position to enroll in culinary school for fun, it has made me think about how I want to spend the next few years. It made me reflect on the fact that I will soon be leaving a job of six years, and before jumping right back into another job I’m not passionate about, I should think about what my own dreams are. Culinary school does sound fun, I will admit. But that’s something I don’t need to pursue while I’m young…one day, perhaps! Flinn is a great writer and brings her culinary school and Paris experiences to life, drawing you into her story. This has been a very satisfying read so far, especially compared to the last culinary school memoir I read, which lacked the attention to detail and heart that this book has.

Most chapters in the book ends with a recipe inspired by her story. I’ve always wanted to make a quiche, so I went ahead and adapted one of Flinn’s recipe. It came out delicious. Enjoy!

Please check out our online book club, The Kitchen Reader.

sun dried tomato quiche

Sun Dried Tomato and Caramelized Onion Quiche

Pâte Brisée:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cut into pieces and chilled
4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon flour
6 to 8 sun dried tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon chopped or dried thyme
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

To make the pâte brisée:
Add the flour and salt to a food processor. Process for a few seconds. Add the butter. Pulse until you get coarse crumbs. Gradually add a bit of water ar a time until the dough forms and sticks together. You may want to use your hands and add more water if needed until you get a soft dough. Form the dough into a disk shape and wrap in plastic.Let rest in the fridge for at least half an hour or up to one day.

To make the quiche:
Preheat oven to 425. Melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and bay leaf for about half an hour, stirring every so often, until soft and brown. Remove the bay leaf, then add the flour and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2 more minutes, then take off heat and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, pour boiling hot water over sun dried tomatoes in a small bowl and set aside to plump for a few minutes, then drain tomatoes. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the garlic, drained tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of thyme, and Kosher salt for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Roll out the dough and press it into a pie pan. Set a large piece of parchment paper in the center and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove parchment and weights, and brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Return to the oven for 7 minutes. Remove and let the pastry cool slightly.

Whisk the 3 eggs and heavy cream in a large bowl. Stir in one third of the cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of thyme. Stir in the cooled onions and pour into the pastry shell. Arrange the tomatoes in a pretty pattern on top, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes until firm. Reduce oven heat to 400 and return to oven for another 15 minutes until firm, browned, and a little puffy.

Book Review

Book Review: The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten

So, this is the first time that the online book club I’m part of is reading a book I chose. We’ve reviewed some awesome books like Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal and Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m comparing it to these two awesome books, or if I just wasn’t in as big a reading phase lately (have been obsessed with podcasts instead), but I wasn’t quite as into this one.

Or really, it must have been the fact that I was expecting The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten (my Amazon Associates link) to be something it wasn’t. I guess I had stopped reading the book’s description mid-way and thought it was going to be a book about someone getting over their picky eating habits. So when the first chapter went into baking bread, I was like, “huh?”

But once I understood that The Man Who Ate Everything is a collection of articles based on one man’s experiences with food (who was in fact appointed food critic for Vogue), I could appreciate it a lot more. He talks about all his almost random adventures with eating, cooking, and culinary experiments. They are fun to read about because these are projects I would totally do, had I the time. His writing style is funny and entertaining, but some essays feel a little dated as I’m reading this for the first time in 2012 (the Montignac Diet..? What?!). But that’s not his fault. It’s not the most inspirational food-related book I’ve read, but it’s a good, digestible read for any inquisitive food lover.

Please check out our online book club, The Kitchen Reader.

Book Review

Book Review: An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler

I’m glad Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal (my Amazon Associates link) was next on my book club’s list. As I hate wasting food and love to stretch a dollar, I’ve wanted to read this book for a while now. Adler’s beautiful message is this: there is no real beginning or end to a meal. The leftover ingredients at the end of one meal are the first step of the next meal. Though I sometimes do not use them, I know that you can cook with things that you might think of as kitchen scraps–bones, beet greens, stale bread. What she talks about that I’ve never thought about using is the oil in canned food, the liquid your jarred olives sit it, the flavorful water you’ve made after boiling food. I noticed I already started incorporating her style into my cooking after only getting through the first chapters. I reserved the oil from my tin of anchovies, as well as the leftover liquid from my stewed collard greens. I threw my neglected pine nuts into a pasta dish that did not ask for them.

But this book isn’t just about being thrifty and using things up–it’s a lovely philosophy on cooking. As long as you have some staples like salt, olive oil, parmesan, and breadcrumbs, you can turn just about anything into a simple, elegant meal. She also gives you ideas on how to elevate your meal with things like vinegar and fresh herbs, and even how to turn food gone wrong into something very right. I’ve always classified my cooking into two categories–recipes I follow or create, or my “ghetto meals”. The latter is when I want to use up leftovers. I completely give up on the idea of making it tasty because I just need to consume fuel and not waste food. An Everlasting Meal has inspired me to never feel the need to make a “ghetto meal” again. With just a little effort, I can take my kitchen scraps and turn them into something delicious that I’m not ashamed to eat. I’m glad I read this book before Hurricane Sandy came to New York–I’ve made surprisingly delicious meals during the hurricane with canned lentils and chickpeas that have been sitting in the cupboard for over a year.

My only issue with the book is also really one of its strengths. I love that Adler floods you with ideas and lessons in beautiful prose. This makes it a lovely read. But on a practical level, my process-driven brain is screaming, ahhh! I need all these ideas and recipes written down in organized bullet points so I can refer to them later. I know that was probably the author’s intentions, but it’s a shame because I’d much rather make everything else she talks about than the actual step-by-step recipes in the book. That’s OK, though. It just means I’ll be coming back to An Everlasting Meal again and again.

Please check out The Kitchen Reader, and Sarah’s blog, Simply Cooked!

Book Review

Book Review: My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss

If you read the blog The Wednesday Chef, I’m sure you’ve heard blogger Luisa Weiss’ book My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (my Amazon Associates link) was published last month. I had actually never been to her website, but after reading about this book, I ordered a copy out of curiosity.

I was very disappointed in the last food-blogger-turned-memoir-writer’s book I read, but My Berlin Kitchen restored my faith. I could not put this book down. She brings all these delicious scenes from foreign countries to life, so you feel like you’re right there with her in Berlin/New York/Italy, etc. As a girl with dual citizenship living in a third country, Weiss’ story really spoke to me. I could relate to her struggles of not knowing where home really is, yet longing for it at the same time, and how food can transport you to another time and place when you’re feeling homesick. I highly recommend this My Berlin Kitchen.

There’s a also good selection of international recipes in the book that correspond to each chapter of her life. She talks about the best Niçoise Salad that she ever had, so I decided to try that recipe out out. The only problem was that I’ve never had a Niçoise Salad. Cooking a dish that you’ve never seen nor eaten is like taking a yoga class for the first time when the teacher isn’t demonstrating any moves. You’re being told what to do, but you’re not quite sure how it works or what it should look like. I don’t know if my salad came out right–it wasn’t irresistible. But it was tasty nonetheless. I liked the fact that there was so much going on on my plate and that the vegetables weren’t raw. Can’t wait to try the rest of her recipes!

Book Review

Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

I’m going to go ahead and admit I’m totally new to the foodie scene. I don’t know most famous chefs, cooking TV shows personalities, or food writers. Though I had heard of Ruth Reichl, I didn’t know anything about her career or what to expect from her memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic (my Amazon affiliate program link).

It appears that the general pitch as to why you should read this book is because of all the strange disguises and characters Ruth Reichl would create to avoid being recognized in New York City restaurants while she worked as The New York Times’ restaurant critic in the 1990s. While they were entertaining, I felt like there was so much more to the book than that. Reichl is a great story teller and she really pulls the reader in, even if you don’t know the first thing about the restaurants or food she’s talking about. Sprinkled throughout her memoir are the actual reviews she wrote for The New York Times, as well as unpretentious recipes for everyday home cooking. You might think being paid to eat at fancy restaurants is the best job ever (like I did), but Garlic and Sapphires is a thoughtful reflection on elitism, office politics, and one woman’s struggle with finding her real priorities and passions.

Reichl included a recipe for spaghetti carbonara, which is such a classic, yet I’ve surprisingly only had it once! And as much as I’d like to get my pork jowl on, I already had bacon in the fridge so I followed her lead and used that instead. So simple but so tasty.

On an unrelated note, this book reminded me of that 80s Steve Martin movie, The Lonely Guy. If my memory serves me correctly, his lonely guy buddy tells him he can eat out at restaurants by himself if he pretends he’s a restaurant critic. A silly movie, but I like this scene when he first walks into the restaurant:

Please check out the book club I joined, The Kitchen Reader, and Marian’s blog, Spelt for Choice.

Book Review

Book Review: Smart Chefs Stay Slim by Allison Adato

Guess what. I joined an online book club! I’ve wanted to post more reviews of food, nutrition, and cooking-themed books so this is the perfect opportunity to share some good reads with you.

A couple of weeks ago I was wondering how some chefs are so skinny. I wouldn’t say I’ve gained weight since learning how to cook, but I’ve definitely felt more gluttonous ever since I really got into it a half year ago. And I’m not even that good! I imagined that if I could produce top restaurant quality food myself, I wouldn’t be able to resist my own cooking. So it’s kind of perfect that the book club’s selection this month happened to be Smart Chefs Stay Slim by Allison Adato (my Amazon affiliate program link). The author is not a chef herself, but rather a journalist who once covered celebrity chefs at one point in her career, which led her to wonder about how chefs eat.

And there isn’t one answer. I like the fact that the book is a collection of thoughts and practices from different famous chefs rather than a follow-this-diet-plan nonsense book. I agree with some of their ideas, and disagree with others. But it’s interesting to read about their different strategies to stay healthy nonetheless, and you can pick and choose what might work for you. The underlying theme that I took from the book is to cook simple meals from whole and natural foods most days. You can treat yourself to decadent things you enjoy, but that’s not everyday eating…even for celebrity chefs! There are also lots of little cooking and eating tips in the book that were helpful, even for people who already know their way around the kitchen. Smart Chefs Stay Slim is an enjoyable, easy read.

Now it wouldn’t be a good book about celebrity chefs if there weren’t some scrumptious recipes involved, right? There are plenty of tasty but healthy recipes sprinkled throughout the chapters by different chefs. Here’s one I tried out:

The book has quite a few seafood recipes which is awesome because fish is one of the healthiest things you can eat, yet totally underrepresented in cookbooks and food blogs. I decided to make Laurent Gras’s Halibut Ceviche with Jalapeño and Parsley. I used cod instead because I happened to have a very fresh fillet I wanted to use. I love ceviche but have always been too nervous to make it, thinking I’d leave raw meat to professionals.  But it came out great and we didn’t die of food poising, yay! WIll be making a lot of ceviche this summer. How awesome is it to “cook” fish without having to turn on the stove or oven?

Check out the book club I joined, The Kitchen Reader, and the lovely Aileen’s blog, 300 Threads!

Book Review

Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

I never read fiction. Neverrrrr. As much of a bookworm I am, I am obsessed with learning and I get impatient when I don’t walk away from a book with a new idea for how I can better my life in some way.

But recently, I’ve been making an effort to incorporate more fiction into my life. Sometimes you need a break from learning and need to just enjoy a book for pure pleasure. Let’s be real. I will probably never read a play or poetry again. And probably will never get around to the classics of literature. But my life could use some novels or short stories.

I heard about The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake  (my Amazon affiliate program link) by Aimee Bender when it came out in 2010, and just got around to reading it. Maybe I liked it more because it’s literally the first novel I have read in a couple of years, but I really enjoyed it. It’s a somewhat pessimistic story of a girl who can tastes people’s feeling through their cooking, and I don’t want to give away much more than that. I was pretty hooked, forgoing the gym to read at my desk on my lunch break.

I don’t have much of an analysis or review for you, as fiction is still way out of my comfort zone, plus this book is only tangentially related to this blog’s topic. I was surprised it only got 3 stars on Amazon because I thought this was a well-written, fascinating read, and wanted to recommend it to all of you. If you like magic realism and you’re interested in food and eating, pick up a copy and let me know what you think!

Book Review, Growing Food

Book Review: Apartment Gardening by Amy Pennington

A couple of months ago, I moved into a different bedroom (same apartment) with a balcony. It’s a very decent-sized balcony and has a fun view of Manhattan, a cemetery, and an insane boulevard. What a privilege to have an outdoors space in the city! I’ve been patiently waiting out the cold New York winter to take advantage of it. While we were blessed with a mild winter, hanging outdoors is still no fun when it’s under 50 degrees. My balcony got no love the past three months. The only thing chilling out there was my roomie’s groceries cart.

But as Spring has started to arrive, I’ve been busy prepping for my plan to make the most of my balcony. I ordered chairs, moved the shopping cart to its new home under the couch, and began doing research on balcony gardening. I’ve never grown anything. I don’t even have an understanding of.basic plant care that may seem like common sense to most. I bought two indoor plants and killed them both within a week. (Overwatering…what is that?!) Needless to say, I’m intimidated, and need all the guidance I can get.

Amy Pennington started a biweekly series on how to start growing your own food, City Dirt, on a blog I read religiously: Food52’s The A + M Blog. I noticed she just published a book in early March called Apartment Gardening: Plants, Projects, and Recipes for Growing Food in Your Urban Home (my Amazon affiliate program link). I ordered a copy of the paperback version, thinking there would be a lot of photos. Turns out the book and is black and white with cute illustrations. So if you have Kindle, go for the Kindle version.

I like that the book is short and sweet, and doesn’t overwhelm a beginner like myself. Amy suggests a few vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers that are easy to grow, and includes directions and recipes for growing and eating them. (Yes, I’m comfortable with pretending I’m on a first name basis with authors.) As she lives in the Pacific Northwest, which has an even shorter growing season than we have here in NYC, I thought it would be safe to follow her suggestions on what to grow. I ordered seeds for strawberries, zucchini, and arugula. She didn’t recommend tomatoes, but as a) it’s warmer in NYC and I have a sunny balcony, b) I got a Topsy Turvy planter from my wonderful boyfriend for Christmas, and c) I effing LOVE tomatoes, I’m going to take a stab at it.

Amy  writes about what you need to begin your apartment garden, seed starting, how to take care of your plants, and DIY garden ideas for you crafty people out there. It’s a fun read and a good beginner’s guide. I recommend this book for new gardeners like myself. Experienced growers may not get as much out of it, unless you wish to learn more about organic/natural options, or want some recipes and DIY ideas. My only disappointment was that, given this was my first gardening book, I didn’t feel like it broke it down for me quite as simply as I hoped for. I really should have started with a Gardening for Dummies type of book. If you’re completely new to growing like I am, pick up a copy of Amy’s book, but be sure to continue to seek out other books and resources!