Category Archives: Cookbooks

#Pie Day with #UpSouthCookbook’s Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk Pie in Pie PanButtermilk Pie

I’ve been waiting for a while for just the right moment to post about this recipe. #PieDay seems like an appropriate time, donchathink?  This custard-like, fragrant concoction is a Southern staple, and I’d heard about it for years, although my mother didn’t make this kind of sweet really ever.  For all the desserts I’ve made, I’d also never tried my hand at this one until Nicole Taylor (aka Food Culturist) asked if I’d recipe test it for her Up South Cookbook last year.  Now, I’m hooked on it and can think of all sorts of events at which it would be perfect to bring to the table.

Buttermilk Pie in Tart Pan

Buttermilk Pie in tart form

The original pie in the photo that leads off this post found an audience at a shiva for a friend’s father.  The creamy, cool interior and flakey crust was admired and devoured by the assembled guests.  The photo at the top of this paragraph was a bit of a re-creation on my part.  For the annual #PieParty that is put together by a couple of fellow NYC food bloggers, I swapped out the pie plate for a tart pan and let it cook a tiny bit longer for some more color and a brûlée effect.  One of the chefs at our host location, the Institute of Culinary Education, happily consumed the few leftovers that remained, calling it one of the best baked goods he’d ever eaten.

UpSouth Cookbook

 Up South Cookbook

For my next cooking adventure with this recipe, I think I’m going to morph it even more and make tartelettes.  I have this great Nordic Ware pan that I’ve used to make mini crostate that I think will work out really well.  Nicole includes the pie crust recipe as well in her cookbook; it’s one that is super easy to pull together.  I’ll likely double that and make one batch of the filling, with its scent of cardamom, nutmeg, and vanilla that casts a lovely, warming perfume as it bakes.  That way, more guests can enjoy this taste of the South and of the regional hospitality that goes along with a slice of pie.

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Use the best-quality, full-fat buttermilk in this recipe.  It is so worth the end result to spend that bit of extra time and money to track it down.  In the NYC area, you can find Five Acre Farms products or visit the Union Square Greenmarket and pick up some from Tonje’s Farm Dairy.  

Dessert-apoolza at Baked Tribeca

Cookbook displayCookbook Display

On Thursday night, I dropped by Baked‘s new-ish Tribeca location for Dessert-apoolza, a cookbook signing and tasting event that raised moneys for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and Getting Out and Staying Out.  The former organization, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is one with which I have a personal connection, and, well, having dessert for dinner is just one of those perks of being a grown-up (the other is having dessert for breakfast), so this was right up my alley.  If you’re looking for some cookbook ideas for this holiday season, check out these ones that were at the sweets-fest last week:

Ample Hills ice creamsAmple Hills Creamery – Egg Nog and Drunken Thanksgiving Ice Cream

Samples of two seasonal flavors of this local ice cream company were available for tasting.  The Egg Nog was a creamy, frozen version of its namesake holiday party beverage.  The Drunken Thanksgiving combined pumpkin, gingersnaps, and bourbon.  This can take the place of pie at my holiday feast any year.

Baked - Tri-color Bars Wintermint CakeBaked – The Tri-Color Bar Wintermint Cake

The hosts for the evening put out this seasonal, festive mini-cakes for everyone to try.  They have several cookbooks as well as a range of baking mixes.  Really, though, stopping by one of their shops to pick out treats to take home (or to eat on site) is the way to go.

Baked Ideas displayBaked Ideas – Cookies

I’m a big, big fan of cookies, as I’ve mentioned in the past, so it was no surprise that I wanted to hang out at this table for a while.  Patti Paige had several different kinds of cookies, including gluten-free ones, available for the guests to try.  She even had decorating supplies for us to create our own designs.  My cookie frosting M.O., however, hasn’t changed since childhood and is just to slather on a glob of icing and to pop it in my mouth, which wasn’t exactly what I think she had in mind.

Butter & Scotch - S'mores PieButter & Scotch – S’mores Pie

Samples of the fabulous S’mores Pie and Bourbon-Ginger-Pecan pie from Butter & Scotch were available at this tasting, so I tried to limit my self to just one sample of each, along with copies of Allison Kave’s terrific book First Prize Pies.  Aside from Ample Hills’ ice cream, I’d take any of these pies on my holiday dinner table, as well.  Keep in touch with these ladies, as they’re opening up a brick & mortar shop in Crown Heights any week (day?) now.

Dorie Greenspan signing cookbooksDorie Greenspan signing cards

No discussion of the year’s best cookbooks, or must-have baking books in general, would be complete without mentioning ones by Dorie Greenspan.  I had a chance to talk to one of the women who worked on testing the recipes for her most recent volume, and she glowed as she raved about how delicious all of them were, including the Palets des Dames and Limoncello Cupcakes we could taste during the event.

Ovenly displayOvenly display

Two of my favorite kinds of cookies – Salted Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter – were on the table by the Ovenly folks on Thursday.  I always enjoy seeing their baked goods around town, as I know that they’ll be something special.  Fortunately, these were packed up for me to take away to save to eat later.

Buon appetito!

“The Dynamic Flavors of Beer – Tasting and Pairing” with John Holl at the 92nd Street Y

The American Craft Beer CookbookCookbook by John Holl

“We were a country founded on beer,” stated John Holl, the author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook at last Thursday’s talk with Kitchen Arts & Letters at the 92nd Street Y: The Dynamic Flavors of Beer – Tasting and Pairing.  The starting point of his mini-seminar was having us taste some of these beers so that we could see the range and nuances of several of the beers currently being brewed in the United States.  In his book, he tries to capture the stories of these and and others being made in this country at the moment and to highlight not only their diversity but also the variety of foods that we are eating with them at this point in time.  “Beer and Food have really come up together,” he told us.

Beers SampledBeers sampled at tasting

Before we delved into the matching up of beer and food, Holl explained to us the proper way to sample a beer.  “You don’t swish and spit.  You taste and swallow,” he said, pointing out the differences between a beer tasting and a wine tasting, noting that there were no dump buckets on the table for us to pour our beers into.  There are who different methods of experiencing the aromas of a beer, he told us.  “The Bloodhound,” where you do quick bursts of sniffing in the fragrance, and the “Drive By,” where you pass the glass back and forth across your nose, taking a deep breath as it goes by.  Just as with wine, mouthfeel plays an important roll in sampling beer as do the aromas and finish.

Food PlateFood plate

The questions he told us to keep in mind when trying the beverages we were tasting that day were: “Would you have it again?” and “Would you have another one after that?”  He also instructed us that the best way to get a beer into a glass was to pour straight down the middle.  Unlike what I, and others, have been taught all of our beer-drinking and -pouring lives, you do want a bit of a head on top of the drink.  It helps to build the aromas.  Here’s a list of the beers that we tried and the pairings that Holl did with them:

Golden ExportGolden Export by Gordon Biersch

This is a “standard American lager,” according to Holl.  It tasted just like the beers of my college years, light, drinkable, best served cold.  One of those beers that goes down smoothly on a hot summer’s day (possibly after mowing the lawn) or after a long shift at work.  It was a doable match with the pretzel on the plate.

Victory FestbierVictory Brewing Festbier

For me, this beer had quite a few dry cider notes, almost a cross between a lager and a cider, but not in a Snakebite kind of way.  (I have memories of those from my time living in the UK just out of college.)  It finished clean on the palate, which was nice with the pretzel that we tried with it, wiping up the saltiness on my tongue.  I could see some really great food pairings as it might play well with dishes with a bit of spice (as well as maybe using it to cook with for a buttery roast chicken.).

Boulevard Brewing Co Wheat BeerBoulevard Brewing Company Wheat Beer

This selection was a light, refreshing beverage, but I have to admit, I’m not generally a fan of wheat beers.  The Manchego that we tasted with it brought out some fruity, clove, and even ripe banana notes, which was kind of intriguing to discover about it.  During the Q&A at the end of the session, Holl pointed out that as it is often served with an orange or lemon wedge, it can also be a good match with briny seafood dishes, a pairing which might just change my mind about these beers.

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Great Lakes Brewing Co. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

I grew up with the lyrics to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” so I found it interesting that someone had named a beer after that incident.  This was the beer I was most looking forward to sampling all evening, just from a personal standpoint.  I’ve recently gotten into milk stouts and porters, as there are just those times when you really want something more complex and deep – velvety, darkly toasted with chocolate and toffee notes, which, by the way make this a great pairing for creamy desserts, or for the aged Gouda that we had with it that night.  As my friend who was with me said, its aromas reminded her of affogato al caffè.

Smuttynose Finestkind IPASmuttynose Brewing Co. Finestkind IPA

To end the evening, we sampled an IPA with a Maytag blue cheese.  For me, IPAs are intrinsically linked to Indian food.  As Holl pointed out to us, IPA is style that runs the gamut and can go with everything from the aforementioned spicy food to carrot cake.  It was definitely robust enough to handle the blue cheese and made me wonder how it would do with a steak in a gorgonzola sauce (a recipe for which is in his book).  That might be a project to bring some friends together for dinner and a few beers some time soon.  Hopefully, they wouldn’t mind my trying this pairing out on them.

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Kitchen Arts & Letters for inviting me to attend this event.  If you would like to drop by their store (which I encourage all cooks and cookbook lovers to do, as their selection and expertise is amazing), please visit their website for their current hours.  In addition, they are hosting several other food talks in conjunction with their neighbor, the 92nd Street Y.  Those talks can be found on the Y’s website.

“Cooking from the Heart” with Chef John Besh at The International Culinary Center

Chef John Besh adding crab bodies to fish stewChef John Besh adding crab bodies to pan

“I thought today might be a good day to cook fish heads,” Chef John Besh announced as he kicked off his culinary demonstration on Thursday, Halloween Day, at the International Culinary Center to a room packed full of students from all the programs as well as a few alumni like me and a couple of my classmates.  Taking advantage of a day off from the catering kitchens where I usually work, I slid into a seat in the front row, anticipating some delicious treats and looking forward to stories and tips from this celebrated chef, who was in New York City with his team, touring and promoting his new cookbook “Cooking from the Heart,” which talks about his own personal journey and growth as a culinary professional.

Fish Soup w RouilleSoupe de Poissons (Fish Soup) with Rouille

Regaling us with stories of his own (and his chefs’) cooking exploits, Chef Besh walked us through not just the process of making a classic Provençale fish soup and how layers of flavor are built at each stage of the cooking process.  Seared crab bodies lend a subtle nuttiness to the finished product.  “Fish heads add a great viscosity to the soup.”  The soupe de poissons is also the base for a classic bouillabaisse, so a good flavor profile in the base is important to the final dish.  He added lots of saffron to the broth as well as other aromatics: “using dried herbs and spices work well with long, slow braises,” he advised.  To accompany the soup, Chef Besh whipped up a classic rouille, a mayonnaise with garlic and harissa and served it to us with toasted bread rounds.

Chef John Besh making rouilleChef Besh making rouille

He also talked to us about his own personal development in becoming a chef after attending culinary school.  “It was important to me to know the stories behind the food,” he explained.  This journey took him to Germany to the Black Forest region and to Provence in France.  At each step he worked with trained masters of their profession who challenged him, let him make mistakes and learn from them.  He also spent time with home cooks in those areas, too, capturing even more of the feel of the local cuisines.  These stories and the recipes that he developed from these lessons are captured in “Cooking from the Heart,” a copy of which we received at this demo.

Cooking from the Heart cookbookChef John Besh’s latest cookbook

It was very clear from the demo and the passion and delight that Chef Besh’s showed in his cooking on Thursday, that this is a very special book.  It’s a fond look back at the road that a bright, young culinary graduate took in order to become a chef, a recognition of all the people and places that have inspired him along the way.  This is a book that makes you just want to curl up on the couch, as I did, and read it as a piece of literature.  At the same time, the recipes are also inspiring and heart-warming, the terrines, soups, vegetable dishes, and desserts that capture useful techniques and terrific tastes and are rooted in the heritage of the countries in which he studied, and can also translate to meals on your table for family and friends.

Pear ClafoutisPear Clafoutis

We wrapped up the demo with a piece of a Pear Clafoutis, another classic dish, and a simple and tasty dessert that is very easy to make.  It’s super flexible as well, as Chef Besh explained, as it can be made using almost any seasonal fruit that you have available.  Throughout the demo, Chef Besh highlighted the efforts of his team of chefs and discussed how he sends them to get further training with some of the same chefs who taught him along the way.  Of course, he also ribbed them a bit as well for their own culinary exploits, including one of them who had dumped a whole vat of soup on a prominent chef.  He ended the demo by recognizing the folks who work with him, “There’s no way that I could do the work I do, have the life I have, without this team.”

Buon appetito!

Normally, at this point, I might offer this book as a giveaway item on this site, but I’m hanging onto this one, folks.  You should put it on your holiday gift book list, too.  

We Have a “Make Your Own Soda” Giveaway Winner!!!

P&H Soda bookMake Your Own Soda” book

Congratulations to Jeremy whom the Randomizer selected as the winner for this prize!!!  A big “Thank You” to everyone who entered this giveaway!  Thank you, too, to Anton Nocito and his publishers at  for providing me with this cookbook and for allowing me to offer it to one of my readers in this giveaway.

Concord Grape Soda - P&H Soda Co.Concord Grape Soda by P&H Soda Co.

Root Beer seems to be a favorite of most of the folks who entered this contest, which was interesting to me, as I don’t really like it, except as an ice cream float (aka “Brown Cow”).  Sarsaparilla is one of the flavors that Anton makes, which is also a base taste in root beer.  I’m a huge fan of his Concord Grape soda which makes its appearance briefly at this time of the year, when the grape harvest arrives in this area.  I had a glass last week at the monthly New Amsterdam Market, which was the perfect way to kick off the day meandering around the vendors’ stalls, which I highly recommend the next time the market takes place the end of this month.

Buon appetito!

“Make Your Own Soda” Cookbook Giveaway

Anton making sodas at book signingAnton Nocito mixing sodas at his book release

One of the great things about the local NYC food scene that’s blossomed over the past several years, is seeing the growth of many talented individuals and their businesses.  One of these that has kept me hydrated and refreshed during my market excursions is P&H Soda Co., owned by Anton Nocito.  His seasonally-inspired syrups, which he turns into sodas at New Amsterdam Market and other venues, are some of my favorites in the city.

Anton making sodasAnton whipping up sodas

Growing up, soda was a special treat for me and my siblings, so I really savored every one that I was allowed to have.  Anton’s creations are wonderful and unique with flavors that would not have been among the selections that I was given as a child.  His Sarsaparilla made me re-think my dislike of root beer.  Hibiscus has become my new favorite flavor, not just in soda form, but also in Dough’s terrific donuts, so I thank him for opening up my mind and my tastebuds to it.  He’s even worked out a way to make a Candy Cap Mushroom and Toasted Almond Egg Cream.  It’s really delicious, believe me!

P&H Soda book“Make Your Own Soda” by Anton Nocito

I have one copy of his soda- and syrup-making cookbook, released earlier this summer, to give away on this website.  You can also read an interview I did with Anton here.  If you are in the NYC area, you can drop by the New Amsterdam Market this coming Sunday, as well, to sample his sodas for yourself and to become an instant fan.

The Giveaway Rules (There have to be some of these, you know.)

Eligibility: U.S. mainland residents only

To Enter: Write a comment on this post with the answer to the following question: What is your favorite flavor soda?

You must also have a valid screen name (NOT “Anonymous”) with a corresponding email address to enter this giveaway. I’ll need to be able to click on it in order to contact the winner. If you list “Anonymous” or do not have a valid email address with your comment, you will be disqualified. I do not share these addresses with anyone, and they are only for the purpose of entering this giveaway.

Deadline: Is Monday, September 30, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. EDT, based upon the date/time stamp on the comments. (I’m going to be very strict about this and make no exceptions.)

The Outcome: Only one winner will be chosen for this cookbook giveaway. I’m going to put all the entries into an online Randomizer (like this one) to come up with the winner.

Buon appetito!