Thursday, February 18, 2016


One of the joys of library membership is the opportunity to bring home cookbooks of all kinds and leisurely scan them for inspiration 

On New Year's Eve morning, when I was at the library to pick up a book on hold, I took the opportunity to scan the shelves where new books are displayed and, what do you know, I hit a goldmine. Four wonderful new cookbooks to bring home and drool over (not literally - put your mind at ease!) for the next three weeks. 

These four were all so different, I decided to share them here. Please note that I did not try any of the recipes. (Yet)

The Urban Homesteading Cookbook
Forage, Farm, Ferment and Feast for a Better World
Michelle Catherine Nelson

The Urban Homesteading Cookbook

This is one of the strangest cookbooks I've ever looked through. The Canadian author is a passionate ecologist with a Ph.D. in conservation biology and sustainable agriculture. You might think that she lives out in the wilderness, but no, she and her partner live in a Vancouver city-centre high-rise one-bedroom apartment. In this book, she explains how she came to be interested in how it is possible to feed ourselves in a sustainable way even while living in a busy city. 

The cookbook is divided into sections: 

Foraging: finding, identifying edible creatures and plants, especially invasive species, and then using them in the kitchen and on your plate. Such plants as stinging nettles, Japanese knotweed (lots of this invasive species to be found on Ferndale Rd. in Muskoka), evergreen tree tips, cattail shoots and sorrel. Invasive creatures such as garden snails, frogs and deer. Enjoy recipes such as Brown Butter Fiddleheads with Caramelized Cattail Shoots, Tree Tip Syrup and Roasted Japanese Knotweed Panna Cotta 

Keeping: the author suggests keeping/raising small farm animals in the city - chickens, rabbits, quail, even geese - for the purpose of eventually eating not just the eggs, but the animals themselves. She also recommends raising small insects such as bees (for honey, not to eat), mealworms and crickets. There are recipes for Rustic Roasted Rabbit, Honeyed Coconut Granola, Insect Flour (using boiled mealworms or crickets) and Dark and Stormy Chocolate Cupcakes, using Insect Flour. Be brave!

Growing: everybody knows we can grow plants in the city. Look at all the backyard, balcony, and rooftop gardens there are. Many people have solariums in their apartment and even those that don't can use lights to grow greens year-round. Sprouts, micro greens and herbs are all possibilities and adventurous gardeners could also try mushrooms and edible pond plants such as Azolla (have you even heard of this plant?) lotus and watercress. Try recipes such as Roasted Sunchokes with Honey Balsamic Glaze, Rabbit and Kale Stew, Fig and Fennel Clafoutis and Smoked Chili Water Lotus & Taro Root Chips with Lemony Herb Dip.

Preserving: tips and how-tos for things like making jam, canning deer, drying herbs, making fruit leather, and duck confit. Enjoy Burdock Lavender Bitters and use it to make a Bees Knees Cocktail. Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Rosemary in Olive Oil is one of the more approachable (for me) recipes. There is also a section on fermenting where we can learn how to make a sourdough starter, or beer and cider, along with recipes to make pickled beets, cucumbers, seaweed and cabbage. Finally, there are recipes for making and using yogourt, kefir, ricotta, paneer, queso fresco and mozzarella cheese. Use the ricotta and mozzarella cheese in the recipe for Chive & Cheese-Stuffed Daylily Buds.

There are lots of photographs and many basic tips for the newbie. One of the photos shows the author snuggling a rabbit and I have to confess I found it a bit disturbing, given there are North Carolina grand-bunnies in our family. I know people eat rabbits, but I'm not one of them, especially after giving my heart to them. That is one of the contradictions of being a meat-eater, I know. For me, it wouldn't really be a big step to vegetarianism, but it would be an annoyance for the rest of my family, so I'm saving that life choice for the future. 

In spite of my preferences, I would say this book has many excellent ideas for adventurous cooks who are interested in living sustainably and who have time to indulge in foraging, gathering and animal care.

True North
Canadian Cooking from Coast to Coast
Derek Dammann and Chris Johns

True North

This book is authored by two of Canada's foremost culinary heroes, Dammann, a chef extraordinaire and Johns, a well-respected food writer. They are joined in this culinary tome by photog, Farah Khan whose photographs are spectacular, worth having the book out from the library just for those. But wait, the recipes are also so exciting.

The book is organized into areas: 

Orchard and Vineyard

Canada has such a diverse geography, it seems sensible to divide it up in this way to organize the recipes. So we go from things like Clam Chowder and Mortadella-Stuffed Squid to Wild Garlic Pasta and Wild Pheasant with Immature Juniper, Speck and Pine Mushrooms; from BBQ Lamb Shoulder and Smoked Caribou Carpaccio to Swiss Chard Gratin and Beer-Battered Beans; from ....well, you get the picture. interesting recipes to look at, but not for the average cook. Fun to look at though!

Thug Kitchen
Party Grub for Mother-****ers
by who knows? Maybe they were ashamed to put their name to this book?

Thug Kitchen Party Grub

Okay, this cookbook was definitely off-the-wall. It offended even me with all the swear words. I suppose the publishers were trying to appeal to the younger demographic, which is interesting since it is inscribed at the front with a quote from Julia Child. 

I don't want to put anything off-colour onto this blog, so here's a tamed-down list of the chapters:

Breakfasts and Brunches
Small Bites, Dips and Stuff to Throw in Bowls
Salads, Sauces, and Sides
Potluck Staples and Main Dishes
Desserts, Drinks, and Sides of Sweetness

If you manage to get past the language and don't mind being called "a mother-****er" more than once (not my cup of tea!) you will actually come across some decent recipes. Who knew!!

How about starting off your day with Lazy-Morning Frittata and Savory Tomato and Nectarine Cobbler? If you're planning a party, the Roasted Beet Hummus looks yummy or maybe you'd like to try baking some Spring Rolls. Instead of deviled eggs, why not try Deviled Chickpea Bites? 

Surprisingly, the entire cookbook is vegan. Who knew vegans would have that kind of foul mouth! The Carrot Dogs and the Tempeh and Spinach Calzones were both tempting. And the desserts all looked yummy too, if only you could see past the potty-mouthed language. Who really needs that in a cookbook?

150 Irresistible Desserts in
All-Time Favorite Flavors
Tish Boyle


Now this!! I've saved my favourite for last. This is a cookbook to really value. One that will definitely be coming to this home again and again because there are so many helpful hints and fabulous recipes to try. I just hope not too many other library patrons discover the wonders of Flavorful ;)

Tish Boyle is a US Florida-based pastry chef and food writer. She has a ton of experience and she's not afraid to put her name to this beautiful book. The only downside is the dearth of photographs. The few photos that are included, however, are outstandingly drool-worthy.

This cookbook starts with the Basics (things like tempering chocolate and toasting and candying nuts) and continues on to 

Berries and Cherries
Sweet Cheese

OMG! There are so many recipes I'd like to try. I need my kids to move home again with their families so I can feed them all these treats!

Vanilla Tres Leches Cake
Creme Brulée Cupcakes
Sweet Cherry and Peach Crisp
Apple and Almond Tart
Key Lime Pie
Espresso Macarons
Better-than-Hostess Cupcakes

Those are just a few that got my attention. There are many more! 

Seriously, my waistline can't stand all the recipes I have my eye on. But I'll try a few now and again because I can bring this book home as many times as I want and I get to keep it for 3 weeks each time! Let me know if you're coming and I'll bake us a treat!