First things first: I am curating (sorry!) a small collection of cookbooks that will be sold at Field & Florist, one of the coolest shops in Chicago. My friends Heidi and Molly own Field & Florist, which is a sustainable flower farm in southwest Michigan and, as of last summer, a flower shop/gift shop/art space in Chicago. They’re basically The Best. I picked out a selection of three recently released cookbooks which will be sold alongside some carefully selected vintage titles. I even wrote about why I love each of the books. I am super excited to be contributing to the Field & Florist dream/lifestyle in this small way. Please stop by and check it out, it would mean a lot to me. Tell them I sent you! Or maybe I’ll be there and you can tell me. The shop just opened for the season this weekend and there is so much good stuff.
Erik Hall is a dear friend and all-around-great guy who records and performs music under the moniker In Tall Buildings. His latest album, Akinetic, is wonderful and worth a listen. He’s also touring around a bit and I highly recommend catching him in person if he shows up in your town. I stayed up past my bedtime for his Chicago show.
What are you reading? I finished Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, which I can’t stop thinking about. It was so precise. And so far the only author whose inclusion of emails and instant messages hasn’t made me cringe. I learned a lot about writing from the book.
Helen Rosner on the strange and fascinating story of the food scientist (“scientist”?) who fought the Joy of Cooking and how the Joy of Cooking won.
There are two cookbooks that I am super excited about right now. One is Jessica Battilana’s Repertoire, which I plan to say more about soon. The other is Caravan: Dining All Day, from the all-day cafes in London of the same name. My friend Emily, who happens to own her own all-day cafe, recommended it and I’ve been cooking from it a bunch since it arrived. I’m especially excited to use it this summer when I have access to delicious fresh produce. Their Banana and Coconut Streusel Coffee Cake is one of the best things I’ve ever made, and the book would be worth it for that recipe alone. But I am also in love with the coconut bread recipe, which makes truly incredible toast (I’ve included that recipe below). I like it best fried, using a cast iron pan, and then given a smear of apricot jam.
Speaking of British books, I would encourage all of you to buy the original UK versions of cookbooks rather than their American editions. First of all, they usually have better-designed covers (why do American presses thing we have terrible/literal taste in book design?). Second, they are less likely to have errors—a problem that frequently plagues these books when publishers convert from weight to volume. This was highlighted recently by the disappointing release of Sweet and the need to reprint that book because of the huge number of errors. Obviously the best solution would be for the USA to transition to weight measurements for baking, but I’ve given up on that dream (though I will continue to work hard to convince each of you to get a scale). Assuming I am preaching to the converted and you have a scale, buy your Slater, Henry, and Ottolenghi books directly from the UK. I use Book Depository, which offers free shipping to the US.
I learned about Monty Don a couple of weeks ago when I randomly started watching Big Dreams, Small Spaces on Netflix. As the show keeps telling us, Monty Don is “Britain’s favorite gardener” and in the series he helps people create their dream gardens with limited money and space. The show is a true delight, and Monty is my new style icon/celebrity crush.
Coconut Bread (from the Caravan cookbook)
- 360g all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 180g caster sugar
- 135g unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 60ml whole milk
- 240ml coconut milk (full fat)
Preheat the oven to 170°C (or 350°F) and line a loaf pan with parchment paper so it hangs over long sides. Lightly spray with nonstick spray.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and coconut. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, vanilla, milk, and coconut milk, whisking lightly to break up and mix in the eggs.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix lightly until you have a smooth batter. Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50-65 minutes (the books says 45 minutes but it took considerably longer for me even at the slightly higher temp), until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.