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HIT THE BOOKS: A new season of learning with the latest cookbooks

Back to school means back to the books, and I have a crop of inspirational new titles and recipes for creative cooks.



By CINDA CHAVICH


Nothing beats the joy of receiving a new book and cracking it open for the first time.

It’s always exciting to have a new book to read — and at this time of year, as the weather cools and a new school year begins, I’m drawn to those indoor pursuits, curling up with a new book and learning something new.

Of course, in the context of food and drink, it’s usually new cookbooks that feed my need for knowledge and inspiration. And there is always a new crop of fall books, from cooks and creative writers across the country, to spark my culinary curiousity.

So dive into the cosy season and hit the books with some of these new and exciting offerings, the latest cookbooks to cross my desk (scroll down for recipes, too!)



As families focus on the back-to-school season, kids can add this new cookbook to their book bags.

Created by a couple of Salt Spring Island creatives — photographer and writer DL Acken and home cook and stylist Aurelia Louvet, Let’s Eat is designed to inspired kids, like theirs, to get into the kitchen and cook, which is a topic close to my heart.

Healthy eating and smart, local food shopping starts with learning to cook, and eating well is a foundation for a good life, so teaching kids to cook and feed themselves well has long been one of my goals.

This colourful book is based on that premise, too.


“Lots of kids are eager to get into the kitchen,” writes this pair, who have collaborated on other books. “So why make them wait until they’re off at college facing the (gross) communal microwave in their residence lounge?”

Acken and Louvet leaned on their own six children, aged 7 to 17, to test and critique these 60+ kid-approved recipes which cover a range of tastes and skill levels. Kids can dip into the book to learn foundation skills – how to cook an egg, a pot of rice or roast a chicken – and graduate to breakfasts, snacks and full course family dinners.


Whether you’re a parent, grandparent or young curious cook, this is a collection to kick start a kitchen adventure with smart cooking practices, kitchen tool and pantry talk, and a glossary of techniques (defining braising, creaming, dicing and whisking). Kids will learn some “mother” recipes from these moms — think the basics of a classic salad dressing with variations, how to properly cook pasta or make sweet or savoury bread pudding — before diving into recipes for Creamy Pesto Pasta, Best Burgers, Sheet Pan Dinners and even seasonal fruit pies.

Instructions are clear and simple but the authors are focused on teaching skills, not simply shortcuts, so this is a book that can grow with children into adulthood.

As they say, Let’s Eat is a “choose your own adventure book” and one that’s filled with family favourites, with colourful photos of both the recipes and the kids who helped make it happen!




While you’re out enjoying the great outdoors this fall season, try your hand at a little free foraging in the forest or at the beach.

Foraging is a great way to get closer to nature and makes a great family outing. But where to start?

This new book from Victoria publisher Touchwood Editions offers lots of information and inspiration.

The Coastal Forager’s Cookbook: Feasting in the Wild Pacific Northwest offers lots of information and inspiration, a collection of creative recipes from Vancouver’s Swallow Tail Supper Club, Robin Kort’s company, specializing in pop-up dinners and events using an array of wild edibles.


In The Forager’s Cookbook, Kort reveals some of her favourite combinations — think Pineapple Weed and Wild Blueberry Panna Cotta, or Halibut with Fermented Birch Leaf Sauce — while literally walking readers through the best places and times to collect foraged foods, from wild mushrooms and seaweed to molluscs, flowers and evergreen tips. With seasonal beach and forest foraging charts, ideas for clammers and crabbers, and tips about seaweed harvesting, it’s sure to have you viewing those weeds, berries and beach walks with new eyes.





You might know Chris Nuttall-Smith as a food critic and dapper judge on Top Chef Canada. But in this collection, the Toronto journalist is heading off the grid with his ideas for “sensational prep-ahead meals for camping, cabins and the great outdoors.”

Nuttall-Smith likes to take his canoe out into the wilderness on paddling adventures in Ontario or an overnight hike in the Rockies, and Cook it Wild includes lots of ideas for chopping, cooking and freezing food at home before a trip, tips on packing a cooler, and which foods travel well.

But this is really a book for the food and drink lover, with recipes that go well beyond the survivalist style camper or casual day tripper — think breakfasts of sausages and Corn, Cheddar and Green Onion Skillet Cakes with spicy Gin Caesar Slushies (frozen in a soda bottle at home before heading out), Backcountry Dan Dan Noodles with Sichuan peanut topping, Fire Burst Tomato and Feta Dip or Miso Butter radishes, combined in a foil packets at home and roasted over campfire coals.



Nuttell-Smith includes lots of recipes for dry mixes and sauces to combine and bag or freeze before heading out, tips to bake chocolate cake or sticky buns in a Dutch oven, and easy supermarket hacks, like boil-in-bag curries and instant rice, foil-packed fish, instant miso or Korean noodle soups, OvaEasy Egg Crystals, and carrying along take-out soy sauce or vinegar packets. There are also specific sections geared to organizing your backpacking, canoe, and car/RV camp menus, choosing the right fuel and building a cooking fire.

I’ll be packing the camper van with his seafood-studded shrimp burgers and making his compound Reggiano butter to boost my next surfside risotto!


This compilation, published in 2021, includes stories and recipes from some of my favourite restaurants and chefs across Vancouver Island.

Long-time food writer and editor Sasvari and Edible Vancouver Island founder Postinikoff joined forces on this project (and another similar Okanagan Eats collection published in 2023), a book that profiles eateries up and down the island, and tells the story of the chefs behind some of their favourite recipes.

There’s lots to read and chew on here — a sort of diner’s travelogue to dip into when you want to learn more about eating at an island destination, whether it’s the Wild Nettle and Sorrel Soup from chef Lisa Ahier at Sobo in Tofino, Wild Pacific Salmon Crudo from chef Richard Benson at Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, the famed cinnamon buns from Kate Cram’s Old Town Bakery in Ladysmith, or the gourmet granola that you’ll find in your breakfast basket at Pluvio in Ucluelet, from chef Warren Barr.

Take Island Eats on your next road trip — or getaway in your own kitchen — and see where your taste buds take you.




A TASTE OF CANADA: A culinary journey by Rose Murray

We lost Canadian food writer Rose Murray in August this year, and I am thinking about her and all of the wonderful home cooking she shared with us over the years.

Any aspiring or experienced cook will find reliable and delicious recipes in any of Murray’s many Canadian cookbooks, including other titles like Canada’s Favourite Recipes (a book she wrote with Canadian food icon Elizabeth Baird and which won the Taste Canada Award) and the holiday staple, Rose Murray’s Canadian Christmas Cooking: The Classic Guide to Holiday Feasts.

Back in the day, Rose Murray did regular cooking segments on televison, wrote recipes for magazines like Canadian Living and Homemaker’s, and authored 11 cookbooks, contributing to 40 more. In 2015, she was inducted into Taste Canada’s Hall of Fame.

Whether you want to bake butter tarts, tourtière turnovers or raspberry Nanaimo bars, Murray’s well-tested recipes are some of the best Canadian classics you will find.

I also love her Hungry for Comfort and Comfortable Kitchen Cookbook, with its cosy soup pot sampler cover and family-style recipes. Whether its her classic scalloped potatoes, raspberry summer pudding or turkey and corn soup, they’ll soon be part of your own everyday repertoire.


COOK THE BOOKS: SOME NEW RECIPES TO TRY:


STICKY TERIYAKI BAKED SALMON

Here’s a sweet, sticky and super easy to remember recipe from Let’s Eat — perfect to serve with some steamed sticky rice, or atop a salad or noodle bowl. Try this recipe for chicken breast, too — just add 5-7 minutes to the cooking time and bake until a meat thermometer inserted into the breast reads 165 F (74 C). Serves 4.


¼ cup soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos

¼ cup sesame oil

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup maple syrup

4 salmon fillets


In a shallow dish large enough to hold the salmon without crowding, combine the first four ingredients. Add the salmon and turn to coat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30-60 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Remove the fish from the fridge and place on the prepared baking sheet. Place into the top third of the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the broiler on and cook another 3-4 minutes. Keep a CLOSE EYE on the salmon — you want it sticky and crispy but it can burn quickly if you’re not careful. Turn off the oven. Using oven mitts, carefully remove the pan from the oven and serve immediately.


FIRE-BURST TOMATO AND FETA DIP

Here's a make-and-take idea from Cook It Wild by Chris Nuttall-Smith. Cherry tomatoes, olives, feta herbs and red onion, wrapped up in a foil package and grilled over hot coals at camp, makes a lovely warm starter with toasted bread.


At home:

2/3 pound mixed cherry tomatoes

2/3 cup pitted black olives

¼ red onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves or 1 tsp dried

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp salt

2.5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

10 oz solid (not crumbled) sheep or goat milk feta

Freshly ground black pepper


At Camp:

1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

8 oz. sourdough or pita bread, brushed with olive oil


Cut a double layer of heavy foil, 20 inches long. Lay it out horizontally and, in the middle, combine tomatoes, olives, onion, oregano, sugar, salt and olive oil. Mix to combine.

Cut the feta into six or eight chunks, and nestle into the vegetables. Top with a good grind of black pepper.

Gather the long edges of the foil together, folding to create a tight seal, and seal both ends the same way.

Pack in a leakproof bag or resealable container. Refrigerate.

At camp, add garlic to package if using and reseal. Place the foil package on a grill over medium hot coals, and roast until its soft and sizzling, 8-10 minutes.

Brush bread with oil and grill to toast.

Carefully open the packet and serve with toasted bread. Serves 4.


OLD-FASHIONED SALAD DRESSING

This is a recipe from Rose Murray’s Comfortable Kitchen Cookbook. It's an old-fashioned creamy "boiled" salad dressing with no oil (akin to homemade Miracle Whip) and she uses the microwave (to save stirring on the stove). Perfect for cabbage, macaroni or potato salad.


½ cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp flour

1 tbsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup EACH milk and water

1/4 cup white vinegar


In a large, 8-cup microwavable measuring cup, combine sugar, flour, mustard and salt. Beat in eggs and stir in milk, water and vinegar.

Microwave on Medium-High (70%) for 6 minutes. Stir and microwave on High for 5 minutes longer, until thick and bubbly, stirring halfway through. Cool to room temperature, stirring often, the store in a covered jar in the refrigerator (up to 2 weeks).

Makes 2 3/4 cups (675 ml) of dressing.


BORJA’S SPANISH-STYLE CHEESECAKE

Island Eats author Joanne Sasvari recommends this simple but impressive cheesecake contributed by chef Kellie Callender of Melange in Nanaimo (who learned to make it from a man named Borja, from San Sebastian, who he met while running a restaurant on Gabriola Island). Connections make good cooks.


2 cups cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 cup whipping cream (33%) or heavy cream (36%)

1 Tbsp flour


Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch sprinform pan with parchment paper, crumpling the parchment a little to form it into the pan.

In a stand mixer, cream the cream cheese with the sugar at medium low speed. With the motor running, add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until set but still a bit jiggly in the centre. If desired, preheat the broiler and broil for 3-4 minutes, just until caramelized on top. Set aside to cool at room temperature then refrigerate overnight to set completely, before slicing to serve. Serves 8.


EVERGREEN ICE CREAM

From chef Robin Kort and The Coastal Forager’s Cookbook: Feasting in the Wild Pacific Northwest, here’s a lovely way to preserve the citrusy flavour or conifer tips (spruce or fir) when they first emerge from the trees in the spring. Pick only the tips from mature trees, just as they appear at the ends of branches, while the needles are bright green and soft. If you use older needles, blend the final custard until smooth before freezing the ice cream. Conifer tips are also great to add to sauces, salads and sprinkle over salmon.


1 cup milk

½ cup destemmed evergreen tips, divided

4 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream, chilled


In a saucepan, heat milk over medium heat to boiling then turn off heat and add ¼ cup of the evergreen tips. Set aside for 20 minutes to infuse.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar. Remove the tips from the hot milk, squeezing to release liquid, and pour slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens (5-10 minutes). Do not boil or it will curdle. Remove from heat when thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, then stir in the cold cream. Mince remaining conifer tips and add to the mix. Cool to room temperature then transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer/s directions.



©Cinda Chavich

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