Win a meet & greet with Buddy!

We are super excited to welcome TLC’s beloved Cake Boss,  Buddy Valastro, back to Toronto for a special signing! Not only is he a master baker, he’s also a great cook—the boss of his home kitchen as well as of his famous bakery, Carlo’s Bake Shop. Buddy’s new cookbook, Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss is packed with 100 delicious Italian- American recipes from Spaghetti Marinara to Veal Saltimbocca.

Are you a Cake Boss superfan? Dying to meet Buddy in the flesh? Enter to win our Cake Boss sweepstakes and be one of 3 lucky winners to get a personal meet & greet with Buddy before his signing on Nov 10th, 2012 in Toronto. You’ll get a copy of his new book and can even bring a friend! Contest ends November 8th.

Cookbook Review: Fire in My Belly

We’re delighted to introduce Sarah Ramsey, a longtime bookseller in Toronto, to our blog.  Sarah will be sifting and blogging her way through some of our cookbooks – and we can hardly wait.   When she’s not cooking or reading, you can find her volunteering with Farmers Feed Cities (farmersfeedcities.com) or crafting in her favourite materials – butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.  You can follow her at @juliaschild.

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Kevin Gillespie was raised in Locust Grove, Georgia and is executive chef at Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, although he is probably best known for having appeared on the sixth season of Top Chef, where he cooked with quiet confidence and heart that demonstrated his simple approach to food. He, rather shamefully, I think, didn’t win the title of Top Chef, but won the coveted ‘Fan Favourite’ distinction.

His approach to food is simple, seasonal and sustainable and his enthusiasm is evident in Fire In My Belly. In it, Kevin crafts the story of his culinary awakening as a child and his play with the traditional Southern dishes he lovingly remembers. He states  “…I read a review of my cooking that described it as ‘modern Southern food’. It’s true that I was cooking sophisticated food with a distinctly Southern feel. But in my mind, I was just exploring the food that I really cared about. I wasn’t ‘modernizing’. My dishes were springing from food memories, often from my childhood.” That idea really resonated with me. My best memories in childhood are those spent watching my grandmothers (and great-grandmother) cook and bake; food, to me, is a gift and an expression of love.

I read the book from cover to cover, and loved that I felt I was having a passionate conversation about food with the author (and shared this sentiment to my Twitter followers. @topchefkevin replied with his thanks and “That is exactly what I hoped for.”) Kevin starts the book with his belief that “good cooking starts with good ingredients” and argues that “cooking is, at its root, figuring out the great qualities of any food and then making those qualities shine”. He primes us for cooking with an introduction to some ingredients, techniques and equipment he frequently uses. My favourite is his use of the word plucky, meant to describe bright acidity, something sharp or piercing but not unpleasant.

The well-constructed (and beautifully photographed) recipes start with Foods You Thought You Hated, including asparagus, beets, broccoli, mushrooms, and salmon (things I have always enjoyed) and oysters and sweetbreads (which I think I may never enjoy). Next, Kevin shares his Southern dishes (such as boiled peanuts and cornbread pancakes with sliced brandywine tomatoes and bacon mayonnaise) and revisited world classics (including salad Lyonnaise and eggs Benedict), as well as recipes for grilled foods, spicy foods and junk foods (hooray!).

I was drawn to the One-Pot Hog Supper on page 83 for a few reasons. First, it has a wonderful story: as Kevin’s Granny first prepared it from a jumble of ingredients on hand, her brothers teased her, saying, “What’s this? Some slop you feed the hogs?” I think some of the best cooking has sprung from using one’s imagination with a handful of ingredients at the ready. And in my experience, a grandmother’s recipe will never fail. Never. Secondly, the meal is slow cooked, and I really enjoy slow cooking. It’s deeply satisfying and I get a lot of pleasure from it. And lastly, how can one go wrong with fatback?

I was late coming home from the shop, frazzled by my frustratingly long commute and hungry. Ravenous, actually. But, I had committed to trying this recipe. I was excited and had been thinking about it all day. I walked in the door, greeted my husband with a kiss and pulled out my mandoline. I washed up the potatoes and peeled the onion and garlic, then sliced them thinly. I sliced my fatback and laid it in my Dutch oven, then tore up some cabbage and sliced some fat, fragrant heirloom tomatoes. When crispy and golden, I removed the crackling from the pot and drained some of the fat, then carefully layered the potatoes, onions and garlic, cabbage and tomatoes in the pot, seasoning each vegetable generously with salt and pepper. Then I covered the pot and waited for the magic. Our little kitchen was aromatic and warm. My tummy was rumbling.

After forty-five minutes, as per the recipe, I uncovered the pot and allowed the dish to simmer. I tore up some fresh celery leaves, tarragon, chives and parsley and tossed them with some fresh lemon juice and a sweet, fruity olive oil and dressed this herb salad with the crunchy crackling. I also toasted a few slices of a fresh boule.

Although it was past nine o’clock when the supper was finished simmering, I took a photo or two of the dish after I spooned it on to my plate and nested the herb salad atop it. I had hoped my patience was about to be rewarded. I dove into the dish; the vegetables were soft and rich and seasoned simply and perfectly. The accompanying herb salad added balance and texture and I used the toasted bread to clean my plate. I took a moment to post to Twitter to say, “It is late. It is rainy. But I am eating @topchefkevin’s delicious One-Pot Hog Supper & I am SO happy.”  I attached one of the photos. (Kevin responded to my Tweet: “I love it! What a wonderful picture. So glad you are enjoying one of my cherished family recipes.” I was thrilled.) . The dish was wonderful and I have been recalling the experience of cooking it fondly to friends and family; they tell me I have a twinkle in my eye when I describe the construction of the dish and the taste and the simple joy I derived from eating it.

I plan to try many more recipes from Fire In My Belly. I’m terribly impressed by Kevin Gillespie’s food philosophy, his flavours and rich and personal culinary history. It’s a beautiful book and one of my new favourites.

 

Canada Day Menu

Looking to spice up your menu this Canada Day? Throw out the plain hot dogs and dry potato salad, and give these mouth-watering recipes a try for the holiday weekend.

From RachelRay.com

White Peach Margarita – Refreshing and thirst-quenching.

Mayan Chicken Soup – A hearty starter with fresh lime juice and cilantro.

Tuna Tailgating Sliders – The perfect size and a nice alternative to beef.

Cheesy Squash Casserole – Easy to prepare and squash is in-season.

Beach cookies – Finish off the feast with these fun themed treats!

From chefchloe.com

For more recipe ideas, check out these cookbooks from the chefs’ who inspired our menu:

Bobby Flay’s Grilling for Life
The World Wine Guys’ Fire Island Cookbook
Rachel Ray’s The Book of Burger
Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible
Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Kitchen

Get Your Eat On with Summer Cookbooks

With each season comes a new menu. Whether it’s a barbecue, picnic or sunset dinner, these books have great recipes for summer dining.

The Book of Burger

Are burgers not the official food of summer? Food Network chef Rachel Ray has created the ultimate burger book, including tips on what ingredients to include in your patty, how to grill it perfectly, and what to top it with. But it’s more than burgers; it also features recipes for hot dogs, sliders, sides, sloppies, fries, sauces and more.

Good Food to Share (Williams-Sonoma)

Summer is a great time of year to share food with friends and family. This book features recipes that are perfect for just that, from starters to dessert and everything in between. Mouthwatering recipes include brined pork loin with apricot-onion mostarda, maple-glazed sweet potato wedges and grilled peaches with cardamom cream, to name a few.

Adventures in Grilling

The start of summer means firing up the grill again. Whether you’re a novice or grilling enthusiast, this book offers an adventurous approach to the craft. In addition to telling you what to grill, from veggies to meats to seafood, this book also teaches you how to grill using the right tools and techniques.

Ice Pops

Who wants chocolate or vanilla when you can have bright watermelon and lime, rich chocolate layered with raspberries, green tea with pomegranate, or champagne-infused mimosa? This book is the guide to homemade ice pops, with everything you need to know about ingredients and freezing and unmoulding techniques. With over 40 recipes, there’s something for everyone.

The Book of Burger

Now that the weather is nicer, there is nothing more enjoyable than heading outside to fire up the grill. But there are so many more options than just plain old burgers. This June, Rachael Ray authors a new cook book that ensures we never eat a boring hamburger ever again!

Whether you’re cooking for one or for one hundred in your own backyard burger bash, The Book of Burger has you covered for bringing family and friends together for the love of burgers! Please ’em all—big and small—with everything from burgers to sandwiches, hot dogs, fries, sliders, and sloppies, and so much more.

Start with Rach’s “Big Spicy Mac,” tempting you from the cover, or go with the heavenly French Onion Burgers. And if beef isn’t your thing, there are plenty of chicken, pork, salmon, veggie, and lamb patties. Want a mind-blowing sandwich? Whip up the BEST one Rachael has ever made: the 7-Hour Smoked Brisket Sandwich with Smoky BBQ Sauce. Rachael even shares her legendary pickle recipe and her own homemade burger blend. Want a fun, cute, tasty bite-size treat to pass around? Rachael is slider obsessed and you will be, too: try the Mexican Pulled Pork Sliders.

With more than 200 recipes to choose from, you could make a different recipe every night of the week!

The book isn’t in stores until June 5th, but you can try out a few recipes for yourself right now! If you make one of the recipes below, please email us at audrey@simonandschuster.ca or comment on this post and let us know how it went!

Sage-scented burgers with fontina and roasted squash

Messy Giuseppe

Indian-spiced patties with yogurt sauce

Bourbon BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches and green apple slaw

You can follow Rachael on Twitter, find her on Facebook or visit her website.