Eat It Up!

Eat It Up!

Whole-food cooking is like foraging in your own refrigerator. It’s seeing the leaves you looked past before, noticing the silver (or strawberry, or mustard) lining in a jar you thought was spent. It’s putting more of those bits and pieces to work in the kitchen rather than in the compost pile.

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The Yellow Table cover So, you want to write a cookbook? Join us on the Kitchen Workshop and learn how to publish your own!

Host Mary Reilly, editor and publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley is joined by Anna Watson Carl, the author of The Yellow Table Cookbook. The path from inspiration to publication has many steps and Anna leads us through the path she followed. This is a great sneak-peek at the cookbook production process for potential authors and cookbook enthusiasts alike. 


The Yellow Table Cookbook was released in late 2014 and its first print run of 3,000 copies sold out in under two months! Anna is currently preparing to reprint the book in 2015, check in at The Yellow Table for updates.




The holidays are stressful enough, but cooking for friends and family with food allergies shouldn't be. Mary talks with Jenna Short about her book Cooking Allergy-Free.  On this episode of the The Kitchen Workshop, Jenna helps us navigate the challenges of preparing delicious food for friends and family while safely managing food allergies.

Jenna is the owner of Shortbread NYC, a boutique events focused on gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, Kosher, and sugar-free goods. 



covernewclassicsKitchen Workshop host Mary Reilly, editor and publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley is joined by Helen Rosner. Helen is an editor, writer and photographer. She is also a contributing editor at Saveur magazine, where she was responsible for wrangling over 1000 recipes into the book: The New Classics Cookbook.

In this action-packed podcast, Mary and Helen cover home-made spice rubs and blends, including a fresh poultry seasoning that will change how you cook chicken. Then they discuss the similarity between sandwiches and home construction, get salty discussing the classic dish: Sh** On a Shingle, the relatively unknown Schnitzel and the perfect Italian Beef Sandwich.

Recipes for Homemade Fresh Poultry Seasoning and Schnitzel below.



Homemade Fresh Poultry Seasoning

Our fresh poultry seasoning blend puts the jarred stuff to shame. This pungent, lively mix leaves out salt, so you can add it directly to turkey, stuffing, or chicken without fear of overseasoning.  


  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped thyme
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped sage
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped marjoram
  • ½ tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika

Combine thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, pepper, celery seeds, nutmeg, ginger, and paprika in a bowl or jar and mix well. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 


Schnitzel Sandwich

Serves 4

Schnitzi Schnitzel Bar, in Brooklyn, New York, makes nine different types of schnitzel—a breaded chicken sandwich popular in Israel and in Orthodox Jewish enclaves in the U.S.—and serves them with 13 varieties of homemade sauce. This recipe is an adaptation of the restaurant’s chile-flecked “Spanish” schnitzel, one of its most popular variations. 

Edible Pioneer Valley note: Don't get discouraged by the number of ingredients and components listed. The sauces can be made ahead or you can substitute other sauces and spreads of your choice.


  • 61⁄2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted 
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup roughly chopped roasted red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1½ tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped oregano
  • 1½ tsp. crushed red chile flakes
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley


  • 4 cups flour
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups dried bread crumbs
  • 1⁄2 cup crushed red chile flakes 
  • 12 1⁄4′′-thick chicken cutlets
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced lengthwise 
  • 4 12′′ French baguettes, split
  • Sweet chile sauce, to taste
  • 4 cups loosely packed shredded romaine lettuce 
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1⁄2 cup sliced dill pickles

Make the pesto: Combine basil, oil, nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until smooth; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Make the chimichurri: Clean the food processor, then add oil, peppers, white vinegar, salt, wine vinegar, paprika, oregano, chile flakes, pepper, cumin, garlic, parsley, and 1⁄4 cup water. Process until smooth; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Place flour, eggs, and bread crumbs mixed with chile flakes in three separate shallow dishes. Season flour and chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, coat cutlets with flour, shaking off excess. Dip in eggs, then dredge in bread crumb mixture. Set aside.

Heat oil in a 12′′ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add cutlets and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 4–6 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Once all cutlets are cooked, add half the onions to skillet and cook, stirring often, until soft and caramelized, about 8 minutes.

Place 3 cutlets on bottom half of each baguette and cover with sauces, to taste. Top each with lettuce, tomatoes, remaining raw onions, cooked onions, and pickles. Cover with top half of baguette.


How To Cook Everything FastKitchen Workshop host Mary Reilly, publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley speaks with Mark Bittman. Mark is probably most famous for his cookbooks How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and Vegan Before 6. He is now an opinion columnist for the New York Times and many other publications. He focuses on policy, agriculture, health, the environment as well as cooking and eating. He’s an outspoken advocate of the idea that we all just need to cook more. His new book How To Cook Everything Fast is in bookstores now.

Mary and Mark discuss the simple changes we can all make to improve our diets. Mark also outlines the many ways we can take action outside our own kitchens.

You can find links to Mark’s books, videos and columns at Look for How to Cook Everything Fast at your favorite bookseller. 


Watch Mark’s keynote address at the 2014 Edible Institute. 


A Bountiful Bookshelf: New England Chefs Inspire Seasonal Cooking

By Louisa Kasdon

Other people get rowdy and riled at the start of football season. For me, it’s the harvest of new cookbooks that arrive in time for holiday giving and winter hunkering. This year, it’s a bumper crop.

book_1The New England Kitchen, Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes

By Jeremy Sewall and Erin Byers Murray (Rizzoli)

When you get a new cookbook and instantly start prepping the first three entrées you come across, you know you’ve got your nose in a new classic. I hadn’t even read the introduction before I started rummaging in my fridge, freezer, and pantry to see if I could make the Steamed Mussels with Pilsener, Garlic and Fresno Peppers. I moved on to the Mushroom Ragout and the English Pea Soup before I admitted that I was getting very excited about ingredients that wouldn’t truly be available until early spring. So I thumbed deeper into the book and made Sewall’s recipe for Seared Sea Scallops with Creamy Turnip Purée and Crisp Shiitake Mushrooms. That held me for a while.

Jeremy Sewall, a prodigiously talented and remarkably humble New England chef, teamed up with writer Erin Byers Murray, the author of Shucked. The two, who share a connection to Island Creek Oysters, seamlessly present a voice that is warm, confident, and so infused with New England roots that you can hear the broad vowels as you read. But there’s nothing provincial or backward-looking in The New England Kitchen. It is stocked with food you want to eat because you are in New England in this century. Razor clams. Pot roast. Fried clams. Lemon tart with lavender cream. Pan-roasted hake. Roasted duck confit. You sense our local bounty and want to make the most of it. Each recipe is illustrated with a gorgeous photo by Michael Harlan Turkell that makes you believe you can deliver on the promise of a perfect meal. Need a new cookbook to get you through the Ne
w England winter? This is the one.


Kale, Glorious Kale

By Catherine Walthers (Countryman Press)book_3

This is a book to make you joyful that there is so much kale in your world. It’s in your CSA, in your smoothies, and always in the news. For some of us, it’s the vegetable we wish would take a breather from its minute of fame. But this book made me excited about kale again.

Did you know that there are 50 different varieties of kale, according to Seed Savers? There is so m
uch demand for kale that there is now a worldwide shortage of seeds for some varieties. Three years ago, kale was the overwhelming vegetable in your CSA share, and now kale has gone Hollywood. And after leafing (hah!) through this book, you’ll know it’s only a matter of time before superstar kale gets its own star on the sidewalk.

Martha’s Vineyard–based Catherine Walthers has written a definitive and fun book about kale. You’ll learn how to discern the difference between the crinkly, the curly, and the downright “frilly,” and which kind ofkale works best for which recipe preparations. The first section of the book is a sort of kale user’s manual—tips for shopping, prep, and cooking, and kale fun facts. Like the origin of the “kale chip,” and how best to “massage” kale with olive oil to make uncooked kale edible. Early on in the book, I discovered I’d been stripping the kale leaves from the kale stalks all wrong. And there are the recipes. Lots of them. From kale margaritas to kale latkes, kale pizzas, main dishes, soups, and salads. Beautifully photographed by Alison Shaw, they make you want to snap up a few sheaves of late fall and winter kale and get to work.


Soup of the Daybook

By Ellen Brown (Running Press)

Winter is soup season. I know there are cold soups. I even make some of them with delight. But it’s the hot, bubbling, bursting with aroma soup that makes a straight shot to my comfort zone. Ellen Brown’s new book of 150 soup recipes is a page-turner-cum-travel-book for the soup lover. Based in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown souped it u
p across the country, perfecting for the home cook recipes from the nation’s top restaurants. There’s a curried cauliflower and fennel soup from Slurp in Santa Fe, a squash blossom soup from Haven in Houston, a corn zupetta with lobster and buffalo mozzarella from Osteria in Philadelphia, an Old Charleston she-crab soup from South City Kitchen in Atlanta and chicken soup with matzoh balls from Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor. There’s even Senate Bean Soup that has been on menu in the United States Senate dining room for over a century. Brown’s own recipes for soups are great too, written with enough spunk to make you want to haul out your favorite pot and check what’s in your pantry. Truly this is a book that you will use. Full of recipes, some familiar, some bracingly new, encouraging in terms of time and prep, and levels above the tomato-stained old soup book on your shelf.


book_4The National Geographic Kids Cookbook; A Year Round Fun Food Adventure

By Barton Seaver (National Geographic Books)

The book was in a stack on the counter in my kitchen when Ben, my favorite 11-year-old, came by to pester me. Within minutes he was reading me the recipe for “Ghoulish Guacamole” (green goo for Halloween!) and wondering why I didn’t have a few ripe avocados around so he could begin. His eye moved across the page to the “Edible Weather Report” and he shared with me the fact (new to me) that Chile is the largest blueberry producer in South America. He flipped next to the Refrigerator Pickles and thought they might be a good project for the afternoon. Did I know that salt was once used as currency? (I did.) And then he read me the column on the opposite page, “The Truth About Food Waste.” Think about that, Ben said sagely.

Barton Seaver, a newly Maine-based chef, activist and National Geographic Explorer has written and edited a terrific and very green cookbook for school-age kids. It’s full of recipes they can make with minimal supervision and a zeal for a project. But it’s more than that. Green consciousness is front and center and presented in kid-sized bites. Fun “factlets” about food, farming, fishing, sustainability, and gardening bounce onto every page so the book is fun rather than righteous. It’s very much in the style of Nat Geo Kids. Perfect for the grade school crowd. Colorful, full of smart graphics, oddball but interesting facts, and projects that might not occur to the typical overwhelmed parent. Who wouldn’t want to make an edible birdbath? Or start a reality TV-show-like family chef competition to ward off summer boredom? “Huh,” says Ben again. “You can make your own hummus. Who knew that?”


The Tastes of Gloucester; A Fisherman’s Wife Cook

Written and Compiled by the Fishermen’s Wives of Gloucester (The Cape Ann League of Women Voters)

Here’s what I love about this delightful community cookbook: There is not one single ingredient that you won’t find at your local grocery store. Outside of Tabasco and mustard, the most exotic flavors come from fresh parsley and garlic. The fish recipes are like the casseroles of my youth—lots of Parmesan and breadcrumbs, eggs, noodles, and sour cream. All made with fish from the local fleet so there’s lots of sole, scrod and flounder, clams and lobsters, scallops, perch and halibut. I love the homey simplicity of these recipes. And the names: Friday Casserole, Mariner’s Stew, Shrimp and Scallop Skillet. This is the eighth edition of the cookbook; it was first published in 1976 and lists all the names of the Captains of the Gloucester Fleet, then and now. For this edition, the wives have contributed a few recipes for under-utilized fish. Note Grilled Marinated Herring Filets, Cape Shark Soup a la Lovasco, Squid over Pasta with Chunky Tomato Sauce, and Minted Grilled Mackerel. All sound interesting but my next meal from this book will be the Fish Sticks on a Raft or the super easy, super fast Cioppino.

 Woodman’s of Essex; Five Generations of Stories, 100 Years of Recipes

By Winslow Pettingell (

As a kid growing up in Boston, a visit to Woodman’s was an annual family pilgrimage. Up to the North Shore to a rustic, noisy “clam shack” (well, it was a lot bigger than a shack but that’s what we called it), bursting with the briny aroma of lobsters and that special flavor sense—after salty, sweet, and umami—of fried.

Fried clams were my weakness, and I was not alone up there in Essex, scrounging the last golden nuggets from my tray. And voila! In this charming keepsake cookbook, full of Woodman family lore, here is the original recipe for Chubby and Bessie’s Fried Clams, a dish invented at Woodman’s, and the story of its happenstance evolution from a corn fritter. The ingredients: 26 ounces of belly clams, 12 ounces of evaporated milk, 4 cups of corn flour, and some lard or Crisco for frying. For the rest of the recipe, you’ll have to buy the book. The book is full of New England classics, from Lobster Newburg, baked beans, and Auntie Mad’s baked stuffed lobster (secret ingredient: Ritz Crackers), to coleslaw (secret ingredient: Red Hot Sauce) and Grape-Nut Custard, which was my grandfather’s absolute favorite dessert, right after Boston Cream Pie.


book_2The New Charcuterie Cookbook; Exceptional Cured Meats to Make And Serve at Home

By Jamie Bissonnette (Page Street Books)

A home-run for Jamie Bissonnette, superstar chef of Toro and Coppa.

This just might be the perfect DIY book for any serious, gutsy home cook. Although I am betting that a fair number of young professional chefs will buy it too to see if they can add charcuterie to their repertoire. Jamie Bissonnette has put together an invitingly, yes-kids-you-can-try-this-at-home book about making cured meats. Given that I thought you had to be Italian or possibly German to do this, and live in a house with a damp cellar of a cave, I am suddenly finding myself toying with the idea of making saucisson sec chez moi.

Bissonnette makes charcuterie sound ridiculously easy, and maybe it is. You don’t need any fancy equipment, he says, just a good scale, some measuring cups and a good pair of rubber gloves. He’s not suggesting that you make your own casings (he buys his from So with a little adventurous shopping and an afternoon or two to spare, you could be making “house-made” charcuterie instead of watching the snow pile up.

He’s divided the projects into Cooked Charcuterie (lemongrass and green curry sausages, Lebanese lamb sausages, slab bacon, goat merguez with cheese, habanero and maple breakfast sausages, rabbit mortadella). Then, there’s a section on Offal-y Good Charcuterie (using all the weird stuff that we don’t buy plastic wrapped at the grocery store, like beef heart pastrami, headcheese, smoked tongue bocadillo, sweetbread, and tripe sausages). And on to Hide the Salami, a section on cured meats, including duck prosciutto, coppa, classic saucisson sec, miso cured pork tenderloin, foie gras torchon—and even an arctic char gravlax and tuna bottarga. Bissonnette cautions that preparing cured charcuterie is a little more complex than using cooking as a preservative. But he makes it all sound do-able. Chapter four is Confit and Fat. Wouldn’t anyone want to make a rockin’ version of foie gras at home? Or a stellar cockscomb? Chapter five, titled Hoof and Snout Mafia, is the whole animal story. The tripe, and pig’s foot, bone marrow and oxtail, BBQ kidney and pig ear terrine. As he says in his introduction, “we go through so many pork loins and chicken breasts, where’s the rest of the animal?” And here it is, for your dining pleasure.

This is the holiday gift for every foodie guy on your list. Though why do I say that? I’m already thinking about a weekend of making merguez and saucisson sec. Heck, I’ve got a big basement and an extra refrigerator.


Get Back, Stay Back; 2nd Generation Back-to-the-Landers

by Joseph F. Conway (www.getbackstayback.comProlific Group, Winnipeg,

Moving to Maine as a young man, Joseph Conway became curious about how the New England back-to-earth movement that began in the 1970s found its epicenter in Maine. Beginning with Scott and Helen Nearing, deepened by Eliot Coleman, Maine has become a place where young, idealistic ex-city folk have come to live and make a living that is intimately threaded with the land.

But not all the young people farming in Maine  are newcomers to the soil. Conway decided to chronicle a special phenomenon: the second generation of back-to-the-landers, the children of the original flower children and Whole Earth Catalogue-carrying pioneers of the ‘70s and ‘80s. He has done a marvelous job of it. He profiles 12 young farmers and their families who were raised on the land, studied it hard, went to ag schools and universities, and decided to make a go of rural life rather than reject the choices of the counterculturists who raised them. The introduction to the book is an excellent personal narrative that captures in a very personal way how the back-to-the-land movement began, grew, and changed the entire demography of rural New England.

Louisa Kasdon is the author of more than 500 published articles about food, restaurants, health, and business and the winner of the M.F.K. Fisher award for Excellence in Culinary Writing. She was the food editor for the Boston Phoenix/Stuff Magazine and a regular contributor to Kasdon is the founder and CEO of Let’s Talk About Food, an events-based organization that brings community and the public together around issues in our food system. She can be reached at


Dorie Greenspan – Photo by Alan Richardson

The Kitchen Workshop Kitchen Workshop host Mary Reilly, editor and publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley, speaks to Dorie Greenspan about her latest book Baking Chez Moi, Recipes from my Paris Home to your Home Anywhere. Listen and learn about falling in love (with pastry), the intricacies of working with French butter in American kitchens and the secret of “The French Bake”.

Learn more about Dorie Greenspan

Order the book from a local, independent bookseller:

Shop Indie Bookstores


We discussed success with cream puffs on the show. Here is Dorie’s recipe for Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling

Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling
Makes 15 puffs

For about twenty-four hours, I thought I had invented chocolate pâte à choux, and those hours were pretty sweet. I’d never tasted chocolate cream puffs, I’d never seen them and I was so tickled that I’d made them. And then chocolate cream puffs seemed to pop up in books and magazines, pâtisseries and restaurants everywhere. Had I just never noticed?

While everything made with pâte à choux is dramatic, these are both dramatic and sexy. It’s the magic of that vixen, cocoa. There’s not much of it in the dough, but it’s enough to transform the traditional cream puff, to turn it dark, dark brown and to give it a true chocolate flavor.

The puffs make wonderful Profiteroles and they’re fun with a crackle top, but I like them most filled with something velvety, like chocolate mousse or a mix of mascarpone and whipped cream, as in this recipe. Consider going totally romantic and adding a little rose extract (available online) to the mascarpone filling, maybe even tinting it pink, and then surprising your Valentine with a platter piled high with puffs.

For the cream puffs

½ cup (68 grams) all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk
½ stick (4 tablespoons;
2 ounces; 57 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the filling
½ cup (113 grams) mascarpone, chilled
½ cup (120 ml) very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or ½ teaspoon pure rose extract, preferably Star Kay
White, or rose water to taste
Red food coloring (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting To make the puffs:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Sift the flour and cocoa together into a small bowl.

Put the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the flour and cocoa all at once, lower the heat to medium-low and, using a wooden spoon or sturdy heatproof spatula, stir like mad. The mixture will come together in a ball and there will be a film on the bottom of the pan, but don’t stop stirring—give it another minute of energetic beating. Transfer the hot dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer, and let it rest for 2 minutes.

Beat the dough for 1 minute, then add the eggs one by one, beating very well after each egg goes in. You’ll have a smooth, shiny dough.

Place mounds of dough on the baking sheets using a small cookie scoop (one with a 2-teaspoon capacity, my tool of choice) or dropping the dough by small spoonfuls; leave about 2 inches between them.

Slide the baking sheet into the oven, then immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midway point, or until the puffs feel hollow and lift off the paper or mat easily. Cool to room temperature on a cooling rack before filling.

To make the filling:

Put the mascarpone in a medium bowl and, using a flexible spatula, stir it gently to loosen it. Beating makes mascarpone grainy, so go easy.

Whip the heavy cream in a small bowl just until it starts to thicken. Beat in the sugar and vanilla or rose extract and continue to whip until the cream holds medium peaks. If you’re using red food coloring, add a drop and mix it in, then add more coloring, if needed. Continue to mix until the cream holds firm peaks. Stir a spoonful of the cream into the mascarpone to lighten it, then gently fold in the remainder.

(The cream can be made a few hours ahead and refrigerated.)

To fill the puffs: Just before serving, cut or carefully pull the cream puffs apart at their middles. If you’d like, you can hollow out the base of the puffs by removing the custardy interior. (I like the creamy center and always leave it.) Spoon or pipe some filling (using a pastry bag with a plain tip or a zipper-lock plastic bag from which you’ve snipped off a corner) into the base of each puff; replace the tops. If you’d like, the puffs can be chilled for about 30 minutes.

Dust the puffs with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.


The puffs should be served at room temperature or slightly chilled. If you want to go deliciously overboard, you could pass some chocolate sauce at the table. Storing: The cream puffs can be scooped and frozen for up to 2 months before baking—bake them from the freezer, no defrosting necessary. And the cream filling can be made a few hours ahead and kept refrigerated. However, it’s best to fill the puffs just before serving.


EDIBLE RADIO: Michael Dietsch and Shrubs

Shrubsi1.cvr.DesCompKitchen Workshop host Mary Reilly, editor and publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley, speaks to Michael Dietsch about his book Shrubs, An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times.

Basically, shrubs are an acidulated fruit syrup. Originally enjoyed as a thirst-quenching non-alcoholic drink, they are now enjoyed in cocktails as well. Michael fills us in on the history of shrubs, from antiquity to today, and shares ideas for several ways to prepare your own versions.

Here’s a recipe for an Apple-Cinnamon Shrub to enjoy this fall. Pick up a copy of Shrubs for more inspiration.

Cinnamon-Apple Shrub

3 medium apples, quartered (no need to core or seed them)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup turbinado sugar
2 cinnamon sticks

apple shrubUsing a box grater or a food processor, shred apples. Add shredded apples, cider vinegar, sugar and cinnamon to a nonreactive container. Cover and leave in a cool place on the countertop for up to 2 days. After 2 days, place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Strain apple mixture. Squeeze or press apple mixture to remove any remaining liquid. Pour liquid into clean mason jar or glass bottle. Add lid or cap and then shake well to combine. Place in refrigerator. Discard solids. Shrub will keep for up to 1 year.





BOOK REVIEW: Defending Beef: Nicolette Hahn Niman's Call for a Third Way

Defending Beef: Nicolette Hahn Niman's Call for a Third WayDefendingBeef

By Kurt Michael Friese, Chef, author and advocate

Because I am at once a writer, a cook, and an omnivore, I have been confronted many times by a zealous band of culinary evangelists know as vegans, and their somewhat less-strident cousins, the vegetarians. Let me say at the outset that I begrudge them nothing, despite having been repeatedly labeled "unethical," "stupid," "uncaring," and "Satan-spawn" (really) because of the fact that I eat meat. Also, there is no doubt that it is only a small, albeit vocal, subset of them who are so militant in their execration of the meat-eating set. Aside from the occasional gentle ribbing or playful joke, I'll make no disparaging comments about them in return.

A vegetarian diet can be a perfectly healthy way to eat, and can have less of an impact on the earth when compared with some carnivorous diets. The same is true of vegan diets, although complete sources of protein can prove to be more challenging.

Having said all that, I do wish that some of the more passionately vocal vegans and vegetarians would come to see that there are others in the world who do not see that world in the same way, and that fact alone does not make them worse people in any way. I think that is what Nicolette Hahn Niman was driving at in her first book,Righteous Porkchop, and in her new follow-up, Defending Beef.

Contrary to the dogma of many environmental and human health advocates, beef is not inherently bad for either the earth or our personal well-being. Like so many things in our modern world, though, the over-production and over-consumption of it can be. The same can be said for production that is apathetic toward outcomes other than profit, and toward cooking and eating wherein the only motive is caloric intake.

On those last two points, however: profit-centered production and careless preparation of vegetables can also be wasteful and damaging. Just as concentrated animal feeding operations can poison our waterways and create a less-healthful product, so too can chemical-laden corn-planted fence row to fence row eviscerate our soil and add pollutants to our waterways (witness the recent drinking water problems in Toledo, Ohio).

So the underlying dilemma is not one of "do eat this and don't eat that," so much as it is an issue of caring enough to know which actions are harmful and which are helpful, and making our food decisions accordingly. As Niman points out, properly managed herds of cattle are essential, for example, "in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants that once covered the globe."

Would it have been nice if we Europeans had not virtually wiped out the bison herds of North America? Sure. It happened, though, and cattle can be what many ecosystems need to regain lost balance. The sort of wishful thinking that would summon back the bison herds is the same that says that cattle and pigs and chickens would continue to exist if humans did not farm them. Wave a magic wand and turn everyone vegan, then those animals would survive only in zoos, if at all.

Niman, an environmental lawyer by training, and a long-time vegetarian who now raises cattle in California, makes the purpose of the new book clear in her introduction: "This book is at once a defense of cattle and beef, and an indictment of many aspects of the modern diet and modern culture." Hopefully, when the book is in wide release in November of this year, it can serve to build bridges between thoughtful omnivores and their vegan and vegetarian brethren, leading to working together, convivially, to refashion the food system into one that Slow Food USA calls "good, clean, and fair." 

Follow Kurt Michael Friese on Twitter:

Edible Reads Review: Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Good and Cheap Teaches Home Cooks How to Eat Healthy, Inspired Food for Just $4 a Day.

By Samantha Marsh



Eating good food is not always as easy as I would like it to be. My busy life often take precedence over putting a healthy meal on the table, and I end up spending our well-earned dollars on food that is fast, convenient, and much more expensive than I’d like.

There are so many barriers when it comes to food: accessibility of quality ingredients, the prevalence of “food deserts,” increased rates of diet-related illness, etc. In an effort to make sure that a tight budget or a lack of confidence in the kitchen do not get added this list, Leanne Brown has created a cookbook geared specifically for those living on a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) budget.

The 29-year-old food studies scholar started writing Good and Cheap as a capstone project for her master’s degree in food studies at New York University. Soon, the free PDF (available on her website went viral, and Brown started a KickStarter campaign to fund the printing of hardcopy cookbooks for those without internet access. A huge success online, Good and Cheap will soon be available in print.

The cookbook includes recipes for eating healthy, creative, and delicious meals for under $4 a day—an amount equivalent to the SNAP budget in New York City, where Brown resides. Unlike the uninspired, canned-soup-laden pages of budget cookbooks past, Good and Cheap offers recipes using fresh ingredients that are appealing to everyone. Brown’s tips for eating well on $4 a day include stocking your pantry with items like grains, dried beans, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and spices, and spending little to no money on store-bought beverages.

Good and Cheap is not a vegetarian cookbook, but Brown emphasizes using vegetables as the focus of the dish. Each recipe includes the total price per recipe and per serving. Brown maintains a friendly, nurturing tone throughout, empowering readers and reminding them that they too can cook healthy meals for themselves and their families, no matter what their budget may be.

“Learning to cook has a powerfully positive effect,” Brown says in the book’s introduction. “Good cooking alone can’t solve hunger in America, but it can make life happier—and that is worth every effort.”

cauliflower tacos

cauliflower tacos

Cauliflower Tacos

This is one of my favorite ways to use roasted cauliflower other than eating it straight. It’s a delicious change from the usual vegetable taco offerings. Just look at all those crunchy bits!

Roasted cauliflower (recipe below)

6 tortillas

½ cup cheese, grated

½ to 1 cup salsa (recipe below) or sauce of choice

Warm up the tortillas in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or on a hot griddle or skillet, or put them in a warm oven covered with a towel while you prepare everything else.

Place 2 or 3 tortillas on each plate and fill with a generous serving of cauliflower.

Sprinkle the grated cheese overtop and drizzle with salsa or sauce of your choice. Enjoy!

2–3 servings, $6 total, $2–$3 per serving

Smoky and Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted veggies are always delicious, but there’s something magical that happens to cauliflower in the oven. It gets so crispy and nutty, and that flavor is brought out even more with the spices here. I’m happy to just eat a bowl of this for dinner, maybe with an egg on top.

1 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces

2 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a medium-sized roasting pan, arrange the cauliflower pieces and the unpeeled cloves of garlic. Pour the butter over the cauliflower and then sprinkle the spices over the top. Use your hands to thoroughly coat the cauliflower with butter and spices.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how crispy you like the florets. Squeeze the roasted garlic throughout and trash the skins.

Serves 4, $3.40 total, 85 cents per serving


Summertime salsas combine a load of fresh tomatoes with smaller amounts of choice vegetables and fruit. In the winter, cook canned tomatoes for a few minutes first.

Apart from its usual use on tortilla chips and tacos, this salsa is a wonderful topping for fish or chicken, as a sauce for cold noodles, or as a finishing touch on a savory breakfast.

½ medium onion, finely diced

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced

1 lime, juiced

¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Salt and pepper 


Diced mango, peach, plum, or pineapple

Cooked beans

Corn kernels


If you like raw onion, go right ahead. Otherwise, take the edge off by simmering the onion with a bit of water in a pan over medium heat. The onion is ready once the water has boiled off. If you aren’t a fan of cilantro, substitute another herb: mint, savory, or lemon balm work well.

Mix the onion, tomato, and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Be sure to add enough salt and pepper!

Taste the salsa. You’re looking for a balance of spicy from the peppers, sweet from the tomatoes, and bright and fresh from the herbs and lime juice. If something’s out of balance, add the appropriate ingredient to bring it back into balance.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Fresh salsa won’t last as long as store-bought salsa because it doesn’t have any preservatives, but it’s so tasty that I’m sure you’ll finish it fast! 

Yield: 3 cups, $2.25, 75 cents per cup

Visit to download a copy of Good and Cheap, pre-order a hard copy, or donate to make paper copies of the cookbook available to people without internet access.