12.16.13 More Holiday Treats (& a Cookbook Giveaway!)

Books 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
Look at that stack of cookbooks: It's for you! This is the latest installment in Glutton for Life's Grand Holiday Gift Extravaganza. Occasionally, I get review copies of cookbooks I have already bought or pre-ordered for myself, and sometimes my collection just grows to the point of needing a little weeding, though I can scarcely bear to part with any of my tomes. Knowing that these will go to a loving home gives me some relief. Interested? Just leave a comment below by midnight on Wednesday the 18th telling me about your favorite cookbook and you'll be in the running to win these 7 books. As for the winner of The Shizzle and accompanying Mirena Kim salt cellar? It's Diane Lindsay. Diane, send your mailing address to me at gluttonforlife@gmail.com.

The celebratory spirit is reaching a fever pitch, so I have to ak you, Are you having fun? I committed to way too much last week and I came down with the flu. Ugh. I sensed that things were beginning to veer out of control for me and yet I just couldn't slow down. The challenge now is to have compassion for myself rather than seething inside that I am not strong enough or healthy enough or something enough. I'm in my red flannel nightie with my Uggs, gazing forlornly out at the fresh snow, where I wish to be frolicking on snowshoes. For now, I'm trying to focus on visions of dancing sugarplums.
Crack 790 xxx
totally addictive
I'll use that segue to tell you about a few more treats that you can share with family and friends at home, and that are quick and easy to make for last-minute gifts. The first is a snack I have dubbed Crack because it hits that addictive trifecta of sweet, salty and spicy. Big crunchy mounds of buttery popcorn stuck together wiith maple syrup, spiked with cayenne and studded with toasted pecans and dried cranberries—it actually sounds pretty healthy, no? It might be, if you could stop yourself from eating the entire bowl. Pack it into tins or wax baggies tied with a ribbon and know there's not a soul out there who won't be grateful. The recipe is here.
Fruit leather 790 xxx
are you into leather?
Friends wax poetic about the rolls of fruit leather I give away. They look adorable wapped in parchment paper and tied up with a bit of kitchen twine. Here are a couple of inspired recipes from my pal Janet; and here's one of mine. It works with any fruit, really; I even love making fruit leather from dried fruits, like figs and apricots. You can roll up entire sheets or cut them into smaller several-bite-sized pieces that are especially good for kids.
Jar 790 xxx
bright idea
Partial to something savory? It' not too late to do a little canning. Use what's available, like the voluptuous cauliflowers you can still find at farmers' markets. This recipe is from Kevin West's Saving the Season, which came out this fall. You make a vinegar brine infused with a pinch of saffron and some curry spices and pour it over lightly blanched florets. Process in a hot water bath and voilà. (Note: I increased the sugar by 2 tablespoons because I think it needs that, but you don't have to. Don't have those spices on hand? Ad lib with whole cumin, coriander, fennel, black pepper, turmeric...)
Cauliflower pickle 790 xxx
golden opportunity
Crunchy, tart and intriguingly spiced, with the unexpected addition of raisins and black sesame seeds, this golden pickle emerges from the jar ready to eat with cheese, with Indian food—I love it with papadums, those lentil wafers that puff and crisp when you hold them over your gas burner—with curries, with roast chicken...it's quite versatile. One size fits all. Not to mention it looks gorgeous in the jar. What more could you want in a gift?

Curried Cauliflower Pickle

lightly adapted from Saving the Season
yields 4 pints
  • — 2-lb head cauliflower
  • — 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for blanching water
  • — 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • — 2 cups water
  • — 5 tablespoons organic cane sugar
  • — 4 teaspoons hot curry powder (or 2 teaspoons a mild curry powder and a couple of crushed dried red chiles)
  • — 24 saffron threads
  • — 4 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • — 4 cloves garlic, peeled and split
  • — 4 teaspoons black sesame seeds
  • — 2 teaspoons nigella (black onion) seeds
  • — 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • — 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Wash and drain the cauliflower head, then cut the florets from the stem with a pairing knife, starting at the base. Try to keep the pieces more or less the same size.

Working in batches, blanch the cauliflower florets in heavily salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain.

Combine the salt, vinegar, 2 cups water, sugar, curry, saffron and cardamom in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes; then bring the syrup back to a boil.

Evenly divide the garlic, sesame seeds and nigella seeds among 4 prepared pint jars. Pack the cauliflower into the jars and layer the raisins throughout. Ladle the hot syrup over the top, leaving 3/4" headspace. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into each jar, seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cure for at least a one week before opening.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


My most frequently used and favorite cook book is still "The Joy of Cooking" (1997 edition), even with a broken binding and pages starting to fall out. I tried to get it repaired, but the $130 estimate was more than I was willing to pay...
Jack on December 16, 2013 at 11:25 am —
I'll bet you can find a new version for less online - but yours is probably full of notes, right?
laura on December 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm —
Sorry you're sick! I love these healthy yummy gift ideas you posted. Thanks! My favorite cookbook right now is Chris Karr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen. I haven't made a ton from it, but that's because I loved the first two recipes I made so much that I keep making them over and over again -- no time to try anything else :-) These two faves are a vegetarian bean chili and a coconut lentil soup that I'm eating right now. They have kept me fed at lunch all fall, and probably all winter, too!
Pamela G on December 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm —
Sounds like I'll have to add it to my collection..uh-oh...
laura on December 16, 2013 at 5:09 pm —
We use the old Time Life International Cookbook series all the time. I keep my eyes open in antique shops and garage sales for those small spiralbound babies. Hard to believe items from the 70's are vintage, but it's really a terrific series if you can find them. Feel better, Laura!
Ronnie on December 16, 2013 at 5:32 pm —
I know that series! And I have a couple of ancient cookbooks from Time Life that I adore. The visuals are so rich!
laura on December 16, 2013 at 5:44 pm —
My favorite cookbook is one I found in a used book store years ago! It's called "Great Recipes from Los Angeles" Favorite dishes of the city's leading restaurants by Burks Hamner and it was published in 1971 I believe! There are amazing recipes from famous Hollywood and Beverly HIlls restaurants that mostly don't exist anymore but I still get a thrill cooking something from that book and its era, which includes Chasen's Chili, The Brown Derby real Cobb Salad, Scandia's Veal Oscar and Trader Vic's Crab Crepes. It also includes my very favorite salad "the La Scala Boutique" Salad which has been an almost impossible recipe to find even with the restaurant still in existence. I think we can learn a lot about our city's past by its restaurants and the food people loved at the time! Feel better, Laura! Louise
Louise K. on December 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm —
Old cookbooks really encapsulate an era, right? I found this article from the LA Times with a few classic recipes, including La Scala's chopped salad! http://articles.latimes.com/1989-04-27/food/fo-1540_1_chasen-s-chili-restaurant-times-food xo
laura on December 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm —
Feel better Laura...!!! hang back, meditate..and feast on all your wonderful goodies..
Julie Gross on December 16, 2013 at 6:32 pm —
I'm having grapefruit and ginger sorbet and it's hitting the spot!
laura on December 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm —
I concur on Jack's favorite...The Joy of Cooking gets the most use around here, other than on line sites like yours, Food 52 and 101 Cookbooks!
Diane Lindsay on December 16, 2013 at 6:48 pm —
Thanks for the article! The recipe in the cookbook for La Scala Salad also had a few Greek olives, a couple of peperonicini and slightly different amounts of ingredients for dressing which is exactly the way Jean Leon made it. He gave the restaurant to his daughter and she changed it with the years which is what the LA Times has. God bless the LA Times for something at least - a great food section!
Louise K on December 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm —
You''ll have to make that for me sometime...
laura on December 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm —
It used to be Joy of Cooking, I have several generations worth of copies. Lately it's been the How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I'm also a sucker for preserving books, Saving the Season is on my list!
Una Walker on December 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm —
How to Cook Everything is sort of the new Joy, right?
laura on December 17, 2013 at 8:24 am —
I have several favorite cookbooks, one of them being 'The Silver Spoon' by Phaidon press. It has so, so much and has taught me some important standard recipes. I highly recommend it! Also has recipes for every level of cook, from very beginner to expert.
Chantal on December 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm —
I own this book but have never really cracked it open. Thanks for the nudge.
laura on December 17, 2013 at 8:25 am —
I love cookbooks, and can spend hours reading them which inevitably leads to fantasizing about future dinner parties. My bookshelves are lined with them, and I often take them out from the library. I'm a junkie for food magazines, as well, and still have some earmarked issues of Food and Wine and Gourmet from the '90s. My favorite cookbook is the first one I ever received, Marion Cunningham's edition of The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. It was under the Christmas tree, from Santa, the first winter I was on my own living in New York. Pre-internet, it was my go to source. I love it for sentimental reasons, it ushered me into adulthood, and experimenting on my own in the kitchen. Feel better, Laura.
Maria on December 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm —
I had that in a little paperback version that became quite dog-eared - such a handy cookbook!
laura on December 17, 2013 at 8:26 am —
My favorie cookbook is both a cookbook and a description af a travel through a beautiful landscape filled with culunary adventures. The name is "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine" by Elizabeth David.
Rita on December 17, 2013 at 3:50 am —
So glad you brought Elizabeth David into the conversation!
laura on December 17, 2013 at 8:28 am —
I hope you feel better soon! Tea and rest and movies.. I change out the cookbooks I keep in my kitchen, to inspire me, but my favorites are the ones I refer to all the time. Staff Meals of Chanterelle by David Waltuck. French Farmhouse Cooking (like my Meme's kitchen!) by Susan Loomis and, of course, The Greens Cookbook and The Savory Way by Deborah Madison. Then there is Spice by Ana Sourtun and Artichoke to Za'atar by the Maloufs... I recently picked up Burma by Naomi Duguid and I'm loving it..
tamika on December 17, 2013 at 8:50 am —
I do the same, Tamika. Those are great picks! Burma is a lot of fun.
laura on December 17, 2013 at 8:53 am —
For books I'd have to call a tie between my crumbling 1950's Larousse Gastronomique (technique and lore - as interesting as ingredients to me) and Child's The Way to Cook - not quite so derelict, but so bespotted in key places as to have merited rewriting recipes in the margins (or URLs where they can be found on-line). I have also saved a large number of old Gourmet magazines from the days of Fred Ferretti, Barbara Kafka and Laurie Colwin - amazing food writers all meticulously and lovingly edited. The recipes through the late 90s are incredibly reliable; the Dec. 1990 parmesan puffs get trotted out every holiday season and are being handed off to a third generation this year.
Mac on December 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm —
You had me at Laurie Colwin. And now I can't stop thinking about parmesan puffs...
laura on December 17, 2013 at 7:04 pm —
If I consider all of the recipes I’ve tried from various cookbooks I’d say the Joy of Cooking is my favorite. My favourite cookbook should be the one I’ve learned the most from and in grade 5 I made bread for the first time from just the very detailed, instructions in TJOC. In the following years I made so many things from that book, except sadly I never made squirrel. The squirrel recipe always filled me with a conflicting sense of repulsed curiosity.
Celina on December 17, 2013 at 3:19 pm —
Everyone's comments inspired me to order a vintage (1975) copy of The Joy of Cooking on Etsy! I wonder if it will contain the squirrel recipe—which I will emphatically not make!
laura on December 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm —
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi is my fave for so many reasons. The photos are gorgeous, and I love vegetables, which is the premise of the book. He uses amazing combinations of flavors, and even if I can't find one of two of the ingredients, I can usually sub in something else. It's a keeper :)
Liz on December 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm —
Love that book, as well, the flavors are so addictive!
laura on December 19, 2013 at 8:23 am —
My favorite go-to cookbook is also "The Joy of Cooking" but I collect antique cookbooks, mostly for entertainment value. They are such fun reading with all their talk of aspics and such! My favorite is Toulouse Lautrec's "The Art of Cuisine Cookbook." It is of such a different era. Each recipe starts with something along the lines of, "Procure a fatted calf…" Ha ha! What fun.
Ginger on December 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm —
I adore old cookbooks, finding them both hilarious and inspiring!
laura on December 19, 2013 at 8:24 am —
OK here goes: Zuni cafe, Judy Rodgers, My Mexico, Dianna Kennedy. Also love the old Silver Palate Cookbooks, China Moon ,Barbara Trott. I love a cookbook with stories AND recipes.....my newest fave is Poor Man's Feast - Elissa Altman, what a great read!
Cindy on December 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm —
China Moon! Haven't thought about that one in a long time.
laura on December 19, 2013 at 8:25 am —
I seldom dive into an entire cookbook. Instead, for me, there's usually a single recipe or technique that boils down the essence both of the book and the writer. I'm thinking of Diana Kennedy on making a pot of Mexican beans: Don't throw away the soaking water, she says. Throw away the book that tells you to do this. Or Thomas Keller instructing you, in his French Laundry book, for his Salad of Petite Summer Tomatoes, to blanch and peel "four to five dozen" Sweet 1oos or Green Grape tomatoes. And I still have to look up, every time, his tricky way of trussing a chicken with a single yard-long piece of twine. A salute to Sam Sifton, in his Thanksgiving book, for adding onions and celery, two thirds of the mirepoix, to his turkey brine. One book that speaks to my soul and gave me multiple ideas is Francis Mallman's Seven Fires. Highly innovative, short on details but long on imagery, this book introduced me to the beef braid, which is just what it sounds like; the butterflied pork tenderloin; and his salt and olive oil-heavy chapa bread for the grill, which I've made 20 times and is a hit at every barbecue.
Angel on December 19, 2013 at 12:47 am —
Damn, you are a good cook. Wish we lived closer!
laura on December 19, 2013 at 8:25 am —