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Summer’s usually a quiet time for me, work-wise, but I kept writing stories throughout most of this one.  In terms of testing, I think my two favorites were DIY soda and this one – because who can complain about having to eat fresh homemade ice cream in July, for work?

There’s a gazillion ice cream books out there, and the fact is that I don’t use many new ice cream recipes myself – I’ve got some tried-and-true favorites I tend to stick to. But I usually learn something from each new book, whether it’s a better technique for cooling the custard or using cream cheese for texture or whatever.

Today’s the first day of school, which is probably the last day of ice cream season.  All my homemade ice cream is long eaten, but I noticed a leftover store pint of something in the freezer.  And nobody here knows about it but me.

Click here to read today’s DIY ice cream story in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On October 27th of last year, the men of my family came home very late from a trip to upstate New York. “Route 9 was blocked off,” said my husband as he came in. “And you could see smoke coming up from somewhere.”

The smoke, it turned out, was rising from the Norwottuck Shoppes mini-mall in Hadley. A dozen businesses burned to the ground, including three of our favorites: Banh Mi Saigon, International Food Market, and Mi Tierra Mexican restaurant.

It was a total loss. But over the ensuing nine months, the owners and the community have made a heroic effort at rebuilding, and this fall a new Mi Tierra will rise on Route 9. To my very great pleasure, I got the chance to cover the story of Mi Tierra‘s return for the Boston Globe – a story of perseverance, good food, hard work, and some hyper-local heirloom corn tortillas. [Since filing the story, I've heard that Banh Mi Saigon is returning to business too.]

Click here to read the  Mi Tierra story in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

Dora Saravia & Jorge Sosa, re-building their business out of their Springfield kitchen.

I’m sure there are those who can resist a Southern cookbook, but I am not one of them.  With his 2009 Real Cajun, Donald Link had already convinced me that he was the rare restaurant chef whose recipes could translate effortlessly to the home kitchen (though in this I’m sure his co-author, Paula Disbrowe, should also be given credit).

Southern cookbooks often make me cry for the ingredients I can’t easily get here in New England – the tasso ham, the lady peas, the crayfish – and this one was no exception.  Still, I found enough doable recipes to make for one flavor-forward, porky, and very satisfying week of testing.

Click here to read today’s review of  ‘Down South’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘Down South’ review

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find write-ups of 250+ of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Charm.  It’s an elusive quality in cookbooks – and when it works, it’s a heady combination of good storytelling, intriguing recipes, and great book design.

Kim Sunée’s new book exudes charm – great, billowing waves of charm that overwhelm your senses and hijack your judgement.  It’s the kind of book you fall in love with in the store; when you bring it home, you make the recipe that looks most mouthwatering to you, and you love it.  From that point on, the book holds a cherished place in your heart – even if you try another recipe and it fails (it must be my fault! you think), or if you try no more recipes and it becomes one of those one-dish books we all have.

But when you test a book for a week and live with it, you get a slightly different perspective.  And after that dazzling first date, you may find a different personality hovers just beyond view.  And for me, A Mouthful of Stars turned out to be a book of many faces – a true mixed bag.

Click here to read today’s review of  ‘A Mouthful of Stars’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘Mouthful of Stars’ review

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find write-ups of 250+ of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Icy! Fizzy! Sparkling! Sweet!

Doesn’t that sound good?

Thanks to a new SodaStream Source and a sleek Mastrad PureFizz, our household has been enjoying much-needed liquid refreshment lately.  In my latest story, I cover a few different soda cookbooks that will have you on your way to bubbly nirvana in no time.

You might not think you want one more appliance to clutter your kitchen – that’s a song I sing all the time myself – but on these sweltering July afternoons, you’ll swear it was worth it.  Really!

Click here to read today’s  DIY soda story in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

I know you’re wondering, so let’s get right to it: “B. T. C.” stands for “Be The Change,”  and you know right away that the story, when you get to it, is gonna be a heartwarmer.

And so it is.  The tale of the Little Grocery That Could – and several other small businesses that did – made it to the New York Times, which told a tale of rural revitalization in tiny Water Valley, Mississippi.

The story’s great, the design charming, the ethos both retro and sustainable.  The recipes?  Mixed bag.

Click here to read today’s review of  ‘The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocry Cookbook’ review

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find write-ups of 250+ of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Tandoori chicken. Falafel. Pad Thai. Gnocchi. Souvlaki. Goulash. Roghan josh. Empanadas. Pastitsio. Baklava. Gado gado.

It’s good to live in a melting pot, isn’t it?  Practically everything we love to eat comes from somewhere else.  After reaching these shores, it usually makes a stop for a while at somebody’s little first-generation restaurant, hanging out there for a few decades before the native-born have the nerve to try reproducing it in their home kitchens.

Cooking Light Global Kitchen may not pass the newness test, but it doesn’t have to.  These are streamlined – but not dumbed-down – versions of global classics.  And they do the most important thing a recipe can do when it comes to cuisines you’re not that familiar with: they work.

Click here to read today’s review of  ‘Cooking Light Global Kitchen’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘Cooking Light Global Kitchen’ review

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find write-ups of 250+ of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Today’s post is good for you and bad for you!

We’ve had a bounty of asparagus from the garden for the last 4 weeks.  Little did I realize when we planted them, in two batches some 10 years and 4 years ago, that we’d be talking about one bunch a day right through spring.  Finding new ways to prepare asparagus has taxed my ingenuity – but I’ve shared some of my favorites in today’s story.  After it went to press, I discovered I also love asparagus lightly oiled and grilled…not that you even need a recipe for that.

Then, some of the most memorable testing in months happened a couple of weeks ago when I tackled Fried & True - an entire book’s worth of fried chicken recipes.  My editor took pity on me and said I didn’t have to fry chicken all week, but I still did it twice (plus one oven-fry), and tested a whole bunch of high-octane sides for good measure.  Many thanks to our good friends Mark, Mark, Cindy and Bella for helping us make our way through glistening heaps of poultry.

Click here to read today’s asparagus story and review of ‘Fried & True’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version of asparagus story or PDF version of Fried & True review

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Hooray for summer cookbooks!

 After a year’s budget-induced hiatus, NPR is back with the summer roundup!  10 new and juicy, sun-kissed, wave-splashed cookbooks for the well-intentioned and the self-indulgent alike.

Click here for the official NPR summer cookbooks roundup.

Here’s a quick and dirty rundown in case you just want to check out the list:[Please note that I'm taking a leaf out of Stephen Colbert's book this month to show solidarity with those publishers struggling with Amazon's monopolistic recent moves: This summer roundup list features Powell's affiliate links instead of Amazon links. Powell's has excellent prices, fantastic customer service, and ethical business practices, so shop with confidence.]

Top 10 Summer Cookbooks of 2014

And here’s the shortlist:

Because Kale Is Only the Beginning
Brassicas, by Laura Russell.

Memoir/Cookbook for Lovers of Whimsical Food Writing
Slices of Life, by Leah Eskin

Slightly Less Guilty Pleasures
Honey and Oats, by Jennifer Katzinger (Sasquatch)

Best Barbecue Book by a Former Baseball Star
The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook, by Nolan Ryan (Little, Brown)

Because Backyard Chickens Don’t Take a Vacation
Egg,  by Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown)

Most Empowering Buttercream Book Ever
Sensational Buttercream Decorating, by Carey Madden (Robert Rose)

Eye-popping Tropical Savories from Our Island Neighbors
Caribbean Potluck: Modern Recipes from Our Family Kitchen, by Michelle Rousseau and Suzanne Rousseau

Now that NPR’s Kitchen Window series has come to its bittersweet conclusion, I’ve found myself once again with a little more time for local food reporting.  My first foray back on the beat took me an hour north to New Hampshire, where I spent the afternoon at a dairy farm owned by a family that’s lived and worked there for 200 years.

The realities of small farming being what they are, the family has diversified into cheese and small-batch ‘switchel’ vodka.  Never heard of switchel?  It’s a traditional farmhand drink also known as “haymaker’s punch” – and unique to New England.

Food reporting is a little more involved than cookbook reviewing, but I enjoyed learning about switchel – not to mention sampling it after – and seeing some less-well-known corners of the region.  More food-beat-cop work to come.

Click here to read today’s Boggy Meadow Farm story in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

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