Cookbook Review: Cookie Love

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There are a lot of cookbooks written by professional chefs who seem to have no memory of what it is like to cook at home. They often include complex recipes full of ingredients that are only available foraged from the forests of Northern California. Some of these books are perfectly lovely books and can be enjoyed for other reasons, but they’re unlikely to get much use in my kitchen. They’re aspirational, which I’m okay with—sometimes. More often, I want a book I can and will use regularly. On the other end of the spectrum there are books specifically designed for home cooks that include uninspired recipes for things like chocolate chip cookies or roasted chicken. Apparently, they’ve never heard about the internet. It is some seriously boring stuff. The current cookbook landscape leaves one feeling a bit like Goldilocks, looking for just right.

Mindy Segal, Chicago’s most iconic pastry chef, released her first cookbook, Cookie Love, this week. Segal is a James Beard award-winning (and frequently nominated) pastry chef who has been pushing sweets at Hot Chocolate, her restaurant/dessert bar, for the past decade. I learned to love pastry at Hot Chocolate. I lived near the restaurant for years and was a frequent and enthusiastic patron. The sweets she made were progressive and exciting, as well as totally satisfying and familiar. She never served a dessert so weird that you could not relax and enjoy it; her focus was on pleasure. She used salt and acid and temperature in her desserts, the way a savory cook might (and the way all pastry cooks should!). It lead to some incredible stuff. I have often hoped she would write a book—I was desperate for her secrets. About a year ago I learned that a book was finally happening, and that it would focus on cookies, the uncontested highest form of dessert. A food writer I admire, Kate Leahy, signed on to write the book with Segal. She has past experience translating the work of chefs to the home kitchen. Their book, published by Ten Speed Press, turns out to be exactly what this Goldilocks has been looking for. read more+++

Black Pepper Grapefruit Meringue Pie

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I ate a lot of good food on our recent trip to Detroit, but the best thing I ate was the pie from Sister Pie. I’d heard about them through one of their bakers, who kindly wrote and offered me some advice when she heard I was traveling to Detroit. At the time, you ordered pies online and picked them up from the charming Parker Street Market . But soon Sister Pie will have their own beautiful shop, thanks to one amazing dance party, lots of hard work, and the support of the community. It is one of many reasons that I will soon return to Detroit.

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Vegetable and Soba Salad with Mapled Tofu

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I’m going to keep this one simple: This is our current favorite thing to eat. It is so delicious, full of the flavors and textures that we often crave. And unlike salted caramel pound cake, it is actually healthy. It comes from the new book Bowl and Spoon by the smarties over at The Sprouted Kitchen, Sara and Hugh Forte. I like the food they make, and I like their books. This one is full of delicious recipes that are served in (#?)bowls, large and small. It feels just right for spring, and I have a lot of recipes bookmarked to try. read more+++

Salted Caramel Pound Cake

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Occasionally I come across Martha Stewart’s baking show on PBS. It is strange for many reasons, not the least of which are the lighting (there seem to be multiple suns in her world because the “natural” light coming in through windows is coming from all sorts of directions), and her pronunciation of the word pretty (priht-tea, with a strong emphasis on each syllable). The whole thing is mesmerizing. I would probably join a cult if Martha Stewart started one. Maybe I already have. read more+++

You’re Boring

I’ve always really enjoyed The Piglet, the tournament of cookbooks that Food52 hosts each year. In it, cookbooks are pitted against each other using a bracket system until a winner is crowned (it’s like sports!). Though the quality of the reviews varies , I appreciate that there is a venue for criticism of popular cookbooks, something that I think is sorely lacking. This year, Adam Roberts wrote a review of Mimi Thorisson’s cookbook that has created some controversy, and Food52 proved to everyone that they can’t actually handle criticism. read more+++

#KALE

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Did you ever imagine I’d be writing about kale chips? I sure didn’t. I might be going through some sort of a weird food phase. I’m bored? It feels adolescent, like I should be yelling at you: It’s not a phase! I’ve been making a lot of vegetarian food that you might find on Pinterest. Like, I actually made one of those pizzas on a cauliflower crust (It was really delicious, but had absolutely nothing to do with pizza.). I also made this vegan olive shake that Kenji wrote about over on Serious Eats (It’s great!). We normally eat vegetarian food at home, but it’s usually the same sort or salad/bread/cheese/veg combos. Lately I have been tackling recipes that are fussier, veganier. I’m just trying to keep things interesting.

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(Maybe it is a phase.)

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Detroit

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I recently visited Detroit. It was either snowing or below freezing the entire length of our stay, and yet I had the best time and fell in love with the city. Like all modern cities, Detroit is complicated. It seems impossible to talk about Detroit without acknowledging its struggles, which are certainly evident to visitors. But they’re not what I will think of when I think about this beautiful Rust Belt city. I’ll think about all of the friendly people we met, the beautiful things we saw and the delicious food we ate.  Its coolness and potential seem unmatched in American cities. I can honestly say it was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited and I cannot wait to return. It is another reason to love the middle of our country.

We packed a lot into two days, here are some of the highlights:

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Caramelized Crepes Filled with Fresh Cheese

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On one of our first Valentine’s Days together, Bryan and I decided to go out to dinner. He made a reservation at a local French bistro that we ordinarily enjoyed. The thing I remember most about that night was the embarrassing horror of it all—of the spectacle of public displays of romance. We were surrounded by couples trying desperately to have a romantic dinner, everyone was wearing red and awkwardly pulling out chairs for each other. There was this hope in the air that this would all begin to feel really romantic. Which is, of course, that last thing that is going to happen at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Romance rarely happens when it is supposed to (the exception perhaps being sunsets?), especially when there are dozens of other couples there trying for the same thing. We survived the dinner, and I remember being really happy that Bryan also found it objectionable. We vowed that year to never go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, unless we were going to Taco Bell or some other place that can’t help but feel romantic. read more+++

Cranberry + Sage Pie

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I am here to suggest you make someone you love a pie. Maybe it’s a friend, maybe it’s a member of your family, maybe it’s Jamie Dornan—I don’t really care who it is (unless you actually know Jamie Dornan, in which case please send my regards along with the pie). It’s February. Love is in the air and what better way to show it than with a homemade pie? read more+++

Flour Tortillas

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I know it’s not cool to like flour tortillas. I don’t care, I love them. I would go so far as to say I prefer them to their corny siblings. Lump it into the pile of uncool things I enjoy, like early dinners, certain One Direction songs, and thinking about what foods are or are not cool.

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