Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Tomorrow we’re heading to NYC for a few days. It’s what we call our Let’s-Go-To-NYC-And-See-Folks-And-Catch-Up kind of trip. I suppose that’s what’s called networking, right? We try to make the trip a few times a year, although this past year has flown by with work and travel and this is our first visit to the city in 2011. And man oh man are we looking forward to it, even if Irene caused a slight reschedule. I’m no stranger to being uprooted due to hurricanes and hope everyone is safe and well. I’m glad to see my friends are ok.

I realize I haven’t been blogging much lately and for that I apologize. I feel as if the blog has been a wee bit neglected and that saddens me. To be completely honest I’ve been busier with the photography side of my life more than I ever thought I would be. Two cookbook projects, a wonderful holiday shoot for Food Network & Cooking Channel, even a very special photography project for a company you might have heard of have occupied every single minute of my day for the past 6 weeks. And I am so not complaining! I feel blessed to be doing something that I love and fortunate to work with amazingly creative people.

Oh, and I just signed another book deal. But more on that later. It should be fun.

As a way to celebrate a copious amount of completed work we thought we’d make a cake. With New York on my mind I thought back to my last visit in November when I joined my friends from Spice Islands at a taping of The Martha Stewart Show. One of Martha’s guests was Michael Kors, fashion designer and apparently a baker of cakes. Who knew? He made a Pineapple Upside Down Cake, a family recipe from his Grandma Bea and from my very special seat in the front row (Thanks, Martha!) I could smell the cake’s sweet pineappley goodness. Oh my god, I thought, I haven’t had a Pineapple Upside Down Cake since 1978. I was a child and I remember stuffing my face with it. Sweet and warm, sticky and crunchy on the edges, this was the cake I’d make when I needed to make my next cake. Which isn’t that often, ya know. I realize food falls in and out of fashion but I do miss Pineapple Upside Down Cake’s glory days immensely. With the exception of a few places making it for nostalgia’s sake you just don’t really see it. Of course if you do will you please let me know about it?

So Grandma Bea and Michael Kors, thank you for this recipe. It made me miss my mom’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake and also made me feel like I will need no sugar for the rest of the year. Seriously folks, this is one sweet cake. But since this is a family recipe I will not modify it here but let’s just say that next time I might reduce the sugar just a weeeeee bit.

 

Grandma Bea’s Pineapple Upside Cake from Michael Kors The Martha Stewart Show, November 2010

Matt’s notes: I’m pretty sure you could reduce the amount of white sugar in this recipe to 1 cup and still have a delightfully sweet cake. I was trying to run it by Mr. Kors but he hasn’t returned my phone calls yet.

1 (20.5-ounce) can pineapple rings in juice
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup lightly packed light-brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Drain pineapple rings and discard juice. Place pineapple on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, turning once, for 5 minutes.

Melt 6 tablespoons butter and transfer to a 9-inch round cake pan to evenly coat bottom; sprinkle brown sugar evenly over bottom of cake pan and top with an even layer of pineapple rings and pecans, if using. Set prepared cake pan aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla until well combined; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat remaining 6 tablespoons butter with granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternating with egg mixture; beat until batter is just combined.

Pour batter in prepared cake pan and transfer to oven. Cook until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Run a small sharp knife around edge of pan to release cake. Place a plate on top of cake pan and invert cake onto plate; serve.

Recipe reprinted from Martha Stewart.




Street Food in Korea and Stuff On Sticks!

There is no shortage of quick and tasty food in Seoul and Jeonju. In fact, it’s hard to not stumble into a stand somewhere serving bubbling ddeokbokki or frying up the small disks of hoddeok, the sweet pancakes ready to be consumed on the spot.

I’m not quite sure I can make this point enough regarding street food.

It is everywhere.

The sheer number of carts, food stalls and ad hoc restaurants is only matched by the Korean appetite. It seems insatiable and I felt so completely at home. Walk up to any stand or vendor and you’ll most likely be greeted with a smile and an urge to stop and enjoy their offerings. In more crowded markets like Gwangjuang Market in Seoul you’ll even feel the competition for your business as stall operator after stall operator gently pleads for you to have a seat.

You can choose to be overwhelmed or you can choose to tackle it head on. I bet you can’t guess which one we did.

Not to make anyone dizzy, but here’s a quick slightly sped up video of my walk through Gwangjang Market. I don’t think I could even keep track of the amount of food stalls.

 

Our pop-up has nothing on pojangmacha

See this? Take a food truck, add a tent, some seating, amplify the concept and experience and you have pojangmacha. You can stop in for a bite to eat, drink some soju or makkoli, all relatively inexpensively. I love this.  Will we be seeing pojangmacha pop up in Los Angeles, I wonder?

Not wanting to miss a thing, we made sure to hit the street food not only in Seoul but in Jeonju as well. Walking through the streets, the sights, sounds and smells of Korean food was enough to send me into overload. It was the perfect late night meal.

Plenty of ddeokbukki, one of my most favorite dishes on the planet. It’s sliced rice cake and fish cake cooked in gochujang, the Korean chili paste. It’s warm and spicy, chewy and filling. Our meal also consisted of deep fried vegetables and soondae, Korean blood sausage. If you are a fan of Spanish morcilla you’ll enjoy soondae. We finished it off with pieces of kimbap, Korean rice rolls which I could eat every single day.

 

You’d think after rolling me back to Seoul I would have had my fill of street fare. Absolutely not. We hadn’t even begun to sample Korean food on a stick.

 

YES. ON A STICK!

 

I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

 

There’n even a stick section at the convenience store!

And lastly, I thought I’d close out this post with one of the most beautiful, happiest things the planet has ever seen. A French Fry-Wrapped Hot Dog. On a stick. Yes. I’m crying. Look at it. Love it. It was as every bit of delicious as it should be.

I can’t wait to go back.

 

 

 

 

Bloggers Without Borders and helping Jennie

Earlier this month, food writer and blogger Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie’s Kitchen lost her husband suddenly from a heart attack. Many of you may already know that the food blogging community came together for Jennifer and her daughters by sharing Peanut Butter Pie through a series of blog posts. It was one of her husband Mikey’s favorite things. Now I hope we can all come together again and support Jennifer and her daughters in this very difficult time, both emotionally and financially.

A fund has been started so that we may all easily donate directly to Jennifer. Called #afundforjennie, it’s being organized, maintained and facilitated by Shauna James Ahern of Gluten Free Girl and Maggy Keet of Three Many Cooks. Maggy has been working tirelessly to launch Bloggers Without Borders, a non-profit organization of bloggers for bloggers. Bloggers Without Borders is now collecting money for Jennie’s family and have made it super easy to donate.

 

Donate to Bloggers Without Borders

There will also be various auctions held by bloggers to raise money, check back for details on that. I speak for Shauna and the entire blogging community when I say your generosity, thoughts and prayers are appreciated more than anyone could ever say. Now let’s help out Jennie’s family and please tell someone you love how important they are to you.

Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan

Oh Busan, how much did I enjoy you? Thisssssssssssss much. And that’s a lot. Located at the Southern tip of South Korea, Busan is the second largest city in South Korea and one of the largest ports in the world. It’s modern, bustling, shiny, coastal, impressive, and home to the largest single department store in the world known as Shinsegae.  As a retail veteran I find this very important, ya know. And if you’re a shopper you’ll feel as if you’ve died and gone to heaven. But you’ll certainly want to visit Shinsegae’s food court which apparently is so beautiful and grand that I was mesmerized and forgot to grab my camera for photos. BAD PHOTOGRAPHER, BAD! But hey, I had my iphone! But it’s right on par with Harrod’s in London and Le Bon Marche in Paris, if not a bit more orderly and pristine.

If you want it you’ll find it here. There were beautiful wood-fired pizzas, hamburgers, gorgeous pastries, wines, coffee, dumplings, cakes and just about everything else. We sat at a juice bar and had fresh-squeezed juices while doing some amazing people watching. It was faaaannnncyyyy!!!!

All that shopping really took it out of me so we headed back to the Paradise hotel for an evening of rest. The next day I went on an early morning walk once I realized we were right next to the beach. The buildings are so tall, so sparkly, so modern that it’s easy to forget what’s immediately behind them.

I felt like the luckiest man alive as I strolled along the empty beach snapping photos. Blessed with warm soft light and cool temperatures, I shared the path with early morning joggers and bike riders.  I knew I needed my exercise and strength to get me through an afternoon stroll of Jagalchi Fish Market. This is Korea’s largest fish market and I’m not exaggerating when I say it goes on forever. I don’t think we even saw every single stall. It was next to impossible. Located right on the water, Jagalchi is stall after stall of fresh and dried fish with small food stands tucked away between them every few yards. Manned mostly by women, the stalls sold fish I have never seen before, piles of creatures whose names will forever escape me. I tasted things exotic and fishy, sweet and spicy, with a few pieces of shark cartilage through in for good measure. And rather than even try to name all the other things at the market I think it’s best to let the photos speak for themselves.

Next up: Matt makes kimchi! And gets in trouble.

A Tale Of a Changed Mind. And a Burnt Tongue.

This week I continue the posts on our recent South Korean trip. SO MUCH FOOD!

Stuffed and sated without the ability to eat even one more bite – or so I thought – we headed to Hwang Hu Sam Gye Tang restaurant to experience Samgyetang, a hot bowl of bubbling chicken soup made with one very important ingredient: ginseng.

Ushered upstairs to the second floor of this elegant and glistening airy restaurant, we were seated next to a vast window overlooking a rainy busy side street below. We passed walls that were lined with photographs of celebrity and everyday patrons, leaving the menu to appear even that much more sparse. Hwang Hu Sam Gye Tang doesn’t offer too many things other than chicken and ginseng soup, a fact I’d later forget about once the scorching hot liquid touched my tongue.

The chef and host suggested that they bring our food to the table before cooking purely for photographic purposes. “Please, do not go through any trouble” I said to our guide, watching my translated words make their way to the chef. The chef wouldn’t have it any other way, his face said everything I needed to know. Once a boiling hot soup is brought to our table I would see none of the ingredients; steam and bubbles would make sure of that. I acquiesced and like a good guest I let them set out bowls of food to photograph.

A traditional Korean cast iron bowl was set before me and my camera, filled with a straw-colored pale broth and strips of green leeks resting on top of stark white chicken, skin attached. The bowl of soup clearly doubled as an optical illusion. Inside the innocuous yellow liquid would be the flavor of a thousand chicken soups, purely a contradiction to a person who always thought soup needs to be dark, unctuous and forever cooked to coax out such rich flavors.

The uncooked soup bowl was returned to the kitchen to be cooked as we drank beer and had a quick lesson in pronunciation. When the soup made its way back to the table it was alive and bubbling with frenetic energy, leaving me to wonder if Koreans are the only people on the planet that put their tongues in such obvious jeopardy. “Wimp,” I muttered to myself as I used a spoon to cut open the young tender chicken to reveal the jujube and tender chestnut that had been cooked inside the bird. As I broke the chicken apart I noticed my hand became wet with steam at the same time the smell of the soup reached my nose. Earthy. Hot. Ginsengy. But not in a walked-into-a-dusty-medicine-shop kind of way; rather an exciting, fragrant, tasty kind of way that reinvigorated my appetite almost immediately.

I have never loved chicken soup, mothers and folklore be damned. Too thin for my tastes, the idea of clear broth cooking rubbery chicken with swollen skin never appealed to me. Where was the char, the crunch, the browning, the culinary processes that occur in other stews, soups, and braises I adore so much? Besides, if we are to enjoy a soup when we are feeble and infirmed then what does this say about the soup? Exactly.

Samgyetang was bubbling in front of me, provoking me to change my mind about chicken soup. It succeeded. It was exciting, rich, layered with flavor and depth I’ve never experienced from a pale broth. To eat it you’d pluck pieces of chicken out of the atomic caldron and place in a small individual bowl, topping with broth and a sprinkle of coarse salt. My notions of chicken soup disappeared as I placed the empty bones into a small container. The cooked jujube, eaten with broth, reminded me of prunes slow roasted with chicken, the chestnut lent a potato-y taste and texture as well. The chicken? It couldn’t have been better– tender and beyond delicious. The entire dish was exotic and Asian while simultaneously familiar and perfect. I continued to slurp and eat this tender white chicken and leeks, my mouth happily filled with ginseng broth, until there was no more left. I could have easily done it over and over again.

 Next up: A visit to the fish market in Busan.

 

 

 

Tea in Seoul

We couldn’t have picked a better day to immerse ourselves in Korean tea shops than a day filled with brisk temperatures and a slight chilly rain. It made our check ins of tea houses much more cozy even though we were on a seriously ambitious mission to sip and sit in a combination of traditional and modern establishments.

We started at Miss Lee, a colorful and playful tea house washed in bright colors and natural woods. If I was looking for a quiet austere place for tea this sure wasn’t it! We arrived for an early lunch of bento boxes with a variety of teas. There’s something to know about the world of Korean tea:  it’s not necessarily always based on traditional tea plants and their leaves. It’s a world that encompasses fruits, seeds, twigs, roots and leaves, not to mention some grains and barley and rice. The flavors of a rainbow are all here, from sour and astringent to candy-like and sweet. One of my favorites was Omijacha, made from the dried berries of the Schisandra chinensis and called the Five Flavors tea because it has sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent notes. Served either hot or cold, Korean teas are consumed for health and vitality but to me some are just plain fun: give me a cup of Yujacha (citron) any day for dessert and I’d be a happy man.

I’m a quick learner and noticed you can’t really head out for any kind of social activity without food being involved. It reminds me so much of my childhood and my culture that this whole Korean thing makes total sense to me. With an endless “BRING IT!” attititude we ordered lunch as well as some snacks to enjoy with our tea. My favorite? A Korean-style bento box with rice, seafood, egg and sausage. It was fantastic but it was the yakgwa that rocked my lil world. A soft, semi-chewy cookie made from wheat flour and sesame oil, it’s formed into assorted shapes (often a flower) then fried before being dunked in honey. The result is chewy sticky cookie that is perfect with tea. They’ve since moved to the top of my cookie list for sure. A fried cookie? Come on now, really!

After Miss Lee we visited a few other tea houses, each markedly different. Over various glasses of iced omijacha and warm herbal tea we absorbed the environment as many others did – relaxing and catching up, laughing, exchanging stories. It was heavenly, I’m telling you!

We ended up at Old Tea Shop in Insa-Dong, a location that couldn’t be more quintessential tea shop if you tried. Walking up creaking old stairs to a dark cozy room, we took a seat at a table that nestled you in a way that made you feel as if you’re never leaving or you’ll want a nap, whichever comes first. Over cups of citron and cinnamon tea, we had a few more snacks as we listened to the shop’s birds sing in the window.

Our afternoon tea excursion had to be one of the sweetest, most relaxing afternoons I’ve spent in recent memory. It made me realize how wonderful it is to slow down, visit with friends, eat more snacks, laugh, smile, and really enjoy ones surroundings. And it helped me to brush up on Korean phrases. Practice makes perfect!

Speaking of practicing languages, later in the day we were approached by students working on an assignment. The task? Find a Westerner, interview them and complete a form in English. Being a short and brown man you’d be surprised how easy I can blend and adapt in surroundings. Try that when you’re a tall redhead with tattoos and you can see how you might stick out. Score one for the students!

I will also share this in case you are in need of a good reason to get your heart to melt: take elementary school students, put them on a field trip, stick Adam in the vicinity and see what happens. They flock to him, practicing English words and phrases like “Hello!” and “How are you?” along with tons of waves from across the street. The Big Red Head stops to practice phrases with them, smiling the entire time. Talk about Cuteness Overload.

Visiting The Republic Of Korea

As an avid traveler I keep a very short list of places I’d jump at the chance to visit. This short list includes Sydney, Melbourne and The Yarra Valley (at the top, mind you!) as well as Africa, particularly a few spots on the continent’s southern tip. But just last spring I was able to make some space for new locations by removing a country that I’ve wanted to see for years: South Korea. And it was a dream come true.

Those around me know my preoccupation with Korean food, a fixation that began later in life when I was a teenager in Texas. The first bites of Korean food sang so directly to me that I haven’t stopped eating and enjoying it since. Years later I’m fortunate enough to live near large Korean neighborhoods, filled with restaurants and shops, and you better believe it’s something I take advantage of quite often. If Korean food is not on the menu at home at least once or twice a week then I begin to feel a bit antsy. It’s truly soul food.

What is it about Korean food that rocks my world? First, there’s an affinity in the flavors of Korean food with those that I grew up eating. Red chilies are ubiquitous in Korean food and it feels familiar and homey to me. Second, there’s a balance of flavors and textures that really get me going: spicy, sour, tangy, mellow, crunchy, soupy, cool and hot… they’re all there within Korean food.  And I love them all.

And then there’s Makkoli. More on that later.

As a guest of the Korean Tourism Organization I was ready to absorb as much Hansik as humanly possible in the week we were there, and this meant covering many miles within South Korea. There’d be no meal I’d miss, no ingredient I pass up, as this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity surely wouldn’t come around again. So I packed an empty stomach, 3 cameras, memory cards galore and headed to Seoul directly from Los Angeles via Korean Air.

Did I mention it was the trip of a lifetime?

Seoul, The Special City

For those of you who have never been, let’s just say this: Seoul is big. Huge. GIANT. With a population of over 10 million people, this megacity is all that and then some. It’s modern, ancient, beautiful, comfortable, bustling, and just about every single thing in between. There’s a serenity found in this metropolis that I’ve yet to discover in any other city of comparable size. It’s safe and orderly, giving you just a glimpse of what lies just outside the city center. We were fortunate enough to spend time driving throughout South Korea and also experienced Jeonju and Busan– more on those amazing places coming up.

So what did I learn traveling throughout South Korea? I learned that there’s no Korean mother or grandmother on the planet that will ever let you go hungry, kimchi is more than a side dish (thank god!), street food reigns supreme and that Koreans are some of the most food-focused people I’ve ever met.

And the best thing I learned?

“You’ve got a Korean tongue,” said our guide Young Sun.

I put that tongue into overdrive during our visit. Check out my upcoming posts about South Korea over the next week. It was too grand and too large to fit into one single blog post!

A special thanks to Korean Air for their generosity and for providing a wonderful travel experience from Los Angeles to Seoul and back with good food. And trust me, I know about this. In fact, give me a bowl of bibimbap any day on a flight and I’ll be a happy man. The best parts? TRAVEL SIZE GOCHUJANG and USB POWER AT EVERY SEAT!


 

Next up: Tea In Seoul

Good Bite’s Weeknight Meals: The Cook Book

We photographed a book last year for Good Bite as well as contributed a few recipes along with some of our dearest friends. Now that the book is almost here I wanted to share a wonderful ‘lil video about the project.Please excuse the fact that my head looks ginormous.

http://youtu.be/Xx48cMOSwFM

 

I’m lucky enough to have an early copy (Thanks Justin!) and it’s a very beautiful book. It’s available for pre-order at Amazon. Thanks to Adam and Emily for the amazing food and prop styling as well as agreeing to work with me. I hope you still like me.

Cookbook Reviews from around the world from Kristina! Welcome back!

This week sees the return of my dearest Kristina Gill. I always love her reviews and they receive accolades from authors and book lovers alike! Yay! And as I prepare to embark on an entire month of cookbook and recipe photography with the world’s best team this seems super fitting. Take it away, Kristina!

I have been MIA.  I am sorry.  I always have great plans for projects during the summer, and then oppressive heat and other crises get in the way.  The crises take up my material time, but they don’t stop my daydreaming of  “If I won the lottery” vacation destinations.  Honestly, except for a few war torn places, and places that Americans aren’t welcome, I’d go anywhere if you handed me a sweaty wad of cash and said “Go travel for a year.”  And to be truthfully honest, I’d probably go those other places too, if it were possible!

This week’s books are my way of getting to the places I’d like to go, but haven’t yet had time (or money) to get there and see the country the way I’d like to!  They are a second round of Non-Western cookbooks.  The first round we did back here.

The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat (2011Ten Speed Press Photography by Todd Coleman and Jun Takagi)  One look at the cover, and if you’re a meat eater, you’ll be sold on this book.  {Only about a quarter of this book is vegetarian}.  Why I like this book?  It goes through different foods and offers Japanese preparations:  Yakitori, Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Meat, Vegetables, Yai Onigiri, and Side Dishes.  It starts with an explanation of ingredients, secrets of grilling and a temperature chart.  If you don’t have access to a store which sells ingredients like Yuzu kosho, sansho, tobanjan, ume paste, karashi mustard, shiso, you won’t be able to get the maximum out of the book, but you can still get loads of satisfaction.  The Crispy Chicken Wings with Seven-Spice Powder Marinade uses just sesame oil, shichmi togarashi (red pepper blend), soy sauce, and salt.  This book is for someone who loves to grill and wants different flavors, someone who loves Japanese food, and definitely someone who loves beautifully photographed meat.

Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode and Shelley Wiseman (2011 Wiley; photography by Romulo Yanes)  I really shouldn’t be doing this review, Matt should.  But lately I’ve gone on a Mexican food hunt.  I started in London with the chain Wahaca by Thomasina Miers (whose book and TV program Mexican Food Made Simple is a perfect complement to Truly Mexican because hers is more street food).  And then I picked up Paletas by Fany Gerson and can’t put it down.  And then I saw Truly Mexican.  It’s everything I could ask for in a Mexican cookbook.  Because I avoid preparing foods I perceive to be complicated, I was happy to see how this book breaks it down into something so simple for me (I found a video from the book! and he’s using a mud australia pebble bowl!!).  It is comprehensive, including every single detail on what you need to know from choosing ingredients, substitutions, storage, cleaning, and preparation.  The recipes focus on the sauces of Mexican cuisine and how to use them.  Recipes have notes on where you may have difficulty and how to avoid those pitfalls.  The chapters are:  Basics, Salsas, Guacamoles, Adobos, Moles and Pipianes, More Ideas for Using Mexican Sauces, Sides.  Within each chapter there are recipes which use the salsas, guacamole, adobos, etc.  The carnitas tacos are calling me!    This is a book for anyone who wants a comprehensive book on Mexican flavors, in particular the sauces. Photography in this book by THE Romulo Yanes.

A Month in Marrakesh:  A Food Journey to the Heart of Morocco by Andy Harris (2011 Hardie Grant; photography by David Loftus)    Andy Harris is the editor of Jamie Magazine.  I love his work on the magazine, and was intrigued by the concept behind the book.  It’s a travelogue.  He and David Loftus went to Marrakesh for a month and documented their food, went to the markets, tried their hand at making traditional recipes and other their own recipes inspired by the ingredients they found.  The result is an amazing collection of Moroccan recipes accompanied by photos which make you feel as though you were walking through the markets yourself.  As with many of my cookbooks, as soon as a colleague saw this one, he took it home, made the lamb artichoke and broad bean tagine, came back to the office and ordered the book.  I have my eyes set on the stuffed potato croquettes, roast pumpkin salad, chickpea dip, and stuffed baby vegetables.  This is the kind of food that is even better the next day.  For a look at the design process of the book, visit this blog entry by InterState graphic designers.  I found it quite interesting to know what went into making the final product.  This is a book for anyone who loves North African cuisine, anyone who wants to be inspired for their next travelogue, and of course, David Loftus photography fans.

Turkey:  Recipes and tales from the road by Leanne Kitchen (2011 Murdoch; photography by Leanne Kitchen)  Murdoch Books has had a very strong cookbook collection for the past few years (although their newspapers don’t seem to be faring well…), and I’ve reviewed a few of them here.  I am therefore very interested in any large recipe volume they produce because I know it will be a quality job.  I was also intrigued by the title because I do not have a book of Turkish cuisine!  Quite similar in style to A Month in Marrakesh, Turkey is Leanne’s travelogue of her journey through Turkey.  Not surprisingly, the food is a mix between Mediterranean and more ‘Middle Eastern’ cuisine.  There are small ravioli, topped flatbreads (very similar to pizza), pickles, fried fish, kebabs  (hello Swordfish Kebab with Celeriac, Orange and Walnut Salad!).  Even more interesting to me is the section on desserts (though I’ll skip the candied watermelon!).  Leanne has beautifully photographed her book as well.  In the US, you will probably have to order from the UK.  This is the perfect book for anyone who has a hankering for Turkey, or someone like me who has never been, would love to go, and wants to get a head start on what to look for when I finally do go!

Whispers from a Lebanese Kitchen: A family’s treasured recipes by Nouha Taouk (2011 Murdoch Books; photography by Johan Palsson)  Ever since Bethany Kehdy, the food blogger behind Dirty Kitchen Secrets, started her Taste of Lebanon culinary tours, I have agonized in envy at everyone who has been able to participate.  I’ve read a a handful of features over the past few years about Beirut being the must-stop destination in its region for food. This book, by a Lebanese-Australian author, is a nice balance between personal story and recipes.  Like my Turkey book, I was so intrigued by the topic of Lebanese food that I couldn’t resist a peek at Whispers.  There are recipes for falafel (no leavening agent!), fried turnovers, kebab, salads, pickles and cheese.  The style of the book is to me quite evocative of what it was like growing up in the author’s family.  I like it when there is a very personal feel to a cookbook.  This is a book for anyone interested in Lebanese cuisine, and anyone who enjoys the personal side of recipes.

Paletas by Fany Gerson (2011 Ten Speed Press; photography by Ed Anderson)  If I had to tell you what books to pick up for the summer, and were forced to choose JUST three, I’d recommend: On A Stick! by Matt, Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson, and Paletas.  I’m not going to write too much about Fany’s book, except to say that the recipes are wonderful, it is beautiful beautiful beautiful, and I use it every week.  It is a very nice simple popsicle book, but also has aguas frescas and raspados.  Who knew you could make rice based refreshing drinks like these!  My husband even shows the book to everyone who comes over, and tells them they must make something from the book.  I enjoy these books so much, I have ordered multiple copies to give to people I know will enjoy them.