Adventures in Pickles
I have never once tried to make my own pickles. I haven’t made quick pickles. I haven’t made fermented pickles. I haven’t put something in a jar with a vinegar solution once in my life, that is until I picked up Smoke and Pickles as our August 2019 cookbook of the month. Bless Edward Lee and his simple pickle recipes for people like me to try out. So far, we’ve started the process for pickled garlic.
We began on August 11th by placing as much garlic as I could fit into the small jar I bought for this purpose and soaking it in vinegar for five days per his instructions. It just sat in my refrigerator, doing whatever it is vinegar does to garlic. Then the 16th came, and that was the day to change it over to a more flavorful pickling fluid.
You can get the recipe from the cookbook, of course, but the pickling liquid is primarily soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. I was so pumped about it that I opened the pop up jar I use the next day and spilled half of it out of the garlic and on my table. My husband watched me cry on the floor about my own failures before running out to get me more soy sauce and rice wine vinegar so I could make the pickling liquid again. I made the pickling liquid again and tossed out what little I had left of the old liquid before covering the garlic again.
Good Eats: September
August comes to a close, but has brought with it the long awaited Good Eats: The Return. To honor this auspicious event here at Eating Normal, September’s cookbook of the month is Good Eats 3: The Later Years. When I ordered this 2011 cookbook from Amazon, I didn’t know what to expect. Good Eats was formative for my early cooking experiences, but its been so long. Let me tell you, this cookbook is a tome of knowledge.
Most of the books we have covered this year are equally as thick as Good Eats 3, but what matters is the condensed information. Each short section is broken down by season and further to episode. You get the recipes, but you also get all of the science-y goodness that Alton Brown brought to us during the Golden Age of Food Network. It’s packed tight with information that very well may make this one worth reading cover-to-cover in order to extract every bit of food science.
Smoke and Pickles
Three years ago, I stumbled onto the show Mind of a Chef, a PBS show that found its way onto Netflix after several seasons. David Chang opened it up in season one, and I was in love. I was introduced to many inspirational chefs through the seasons including Sean Brock, April Bloomfield, Magnus Nilsson, Gabrielle Hamilton and David Kinch. Not to be forgotten is the author of the August Cookbook of the month, Edward Lee. This month, we explore Smoke and Pickles.
For years, I have walked past this book on the shelf of every bookstore I have ever been in. The fact that it’s been everywhere tells me that I ought to remember it, and now, during a lull in new cookbooks that catch my eye, I’ve finally made the time for it with good memories of this chef at the front of my mind. His passion for his roots was so evident in Mind of a Chef, and as a midwestern woman who has sat through years of disparaging comments on steak and potatoes, I love that shit.
Where Cooking Begins Finale
I’ve been reviewing cookbooks here on Eating Normal for a year and a half, and I can say with a full heart that July is a lucky month for me and cookbooks. Last year, we did Dining In by Allison Roman, a cookbook I revisit at least once a month. This year, I picked up Where Cooking Begins by Carla Lalli Music, and I know that I will be wearing its pages out month after month. I’ll get oil stains on the pages, and I’ll wear it down with the deepest love.
At the beginning of the month, I looked into this cookbook and was excited by the options listed for every recipe. Nothing was truly set in stone except for the technique, and given that so many things are sometimes absent in one grocery store and not another, this addition makes it all more accessible to a regular home cook. The ability to mix up a recipe yielded some fun combinations, one of which is now a regular meal.
Deep in the pages of this cookbook, I discovered the recipe for one big ass lamb patty served with marinated cheese and herbs. The beauty of this recipe is in the simplicity of its cooking. You can marinade the cheese, something that holds up like a queso fresco, in spices like fennel seeds and green onion with pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. It marinades just long enough for you to flatten out a pound of lamb in a pan, flip it, and call it a day. The olive oil and spices used for the cheese go over that cooked patty with the split up cheese. I’ve made few things I enjoyed more as a main course.
The last meal we made from this cookbook came as something of a revelation. We are deep into fresh sweet corn season here in Delaware, so when I stumbled upon clams with fregola and sweet corn, I was hooked. Fregola pasta is a hard one to get out here, and as with all of her other recipes, Carla has options for that situation. We made ours with orecchiette pasta, and the pesto is mostly parsley. My outdoor basil plant couldn’t handle being the majority of the pesto base, but it certainly helped out.
Littleneck clams are available year round at my preferred grocery store, so I didn’t struggle there. This might be the hard piece in the rest of the country. Frozen mussels can also be used, though she recommends that clams still take up most of the shell space.
If you’re someone like me that enjoys having options. Where Cooking Begins is an ideal cookbook to add to your collection. The spin ingredient options are often things you can find with more success than what the recipe would otherwise call for, and I do not believe the cook suffers for using sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin seeds, or orecchiette instead of fregola. You can go on an adventure through each recipe, returning to it more than once to find your ideal combination for your go to meals.
I have yet to be let down by cookbook recommendations from Bon Appetit magazine, so we can hope that trend continues for so long as there is a cookbook of the month. You can get Where Cooking Begins wherever cookbooks are sold, but I purchased my copy through Amazon.
Have you been cooking along with me this month? Let me know how your experience with the July cookbook went.
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Where Cooking Begins
I mentioned earlier this month that our July cookbook of the month would be from yet another member of the Bon Appetit staff. This time, we’re checking out the brand new Where Cooking Begins by Carla Lalli Music. If you spend much time watching cooking videos on youtube, you’re probably familiar with the author. She does a ton of videos for Bon Appetit’s youtube channel, and she often makes appearances on their podcast.
It just so happens that on the day I started writing this article, I discovered that Carla had starred in a video covering a recipe from her new cookbook which also appeared in a long ago issue of Bon Appetit, pork steaks with snap pea and scallion salsa. The recipe she did on the youtube video does not include this salsa, but it is an adaptation of the same techniques. As with any time we discuss a Bon Appetit book, it’s a good starting point to decide if you’re interested in this cookbook. Check it out here.
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