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.


Book Reviews: Italian Cookbooks

I’m happy to announce the return of book reviews from Kristina Gill. Her book review column has proven to be quite a great lil resource for books, her selections knock it outta the ballpark each and every time. And having just released my own book, well, I’m realizing that one must share the booklove as much as possible. Take it away, Kristina!

I stumbled across a nice book 15 years ago called Sua Maestà, il Raviolo (“Her Majesty, the Raviolo”). It was a book about ravioli from every region in Italy. That book, in 1996, introduced me to Slow Food, and the Slow Food publisher in Italy. I have been a member of Slow Food Italy off and on since…longer than I can remember. I have slowly bought most of the Slow Food recipe books, as they’ve been released, region by region (most of them anyway), including the four monothematic volumes. A new one on Pasta was just released. I think these books are, hands down, the best Italian cookbooks out there (they have no pictures). They are thin paperback volumes, and include socio-cultural notes about the origin of the recipes, ingredients, and people. Nothing excessive, just a sentence or two, here and there explaining what’s what. The recipes are often from the osterie which appear in the Slow Food annual restaurant guidebooks. If you can read Italian, or even feel your way through it, they are worth having a look at, especially the monothematic or raviolo book.

If you can’t read Italian, but are looking for something authentic or just inspirational, there are a few choices out there which I believe produce great results that you will be happy with. That’s what this week’s reviews are about: great Italian cookbooks. This list is by no means exhaustive!! I have many others, but today, these are at the front of my section.

Italian Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America by Gianni Scappin, Alberto Vanoli, Steven Kolpan (Wiley 2011; photography by Francesco Tonelli)

Wiley has been doing the “At Home with the Culinary Institute of America” series for a while now. I think they are excellent books. This Italian cooking one is no different. It is a comprehensive collection of the most common Italian recipes– carbonara, ragù, polenta, gnocchi, antipasti of all sorts, soups, fresh pasta. This is a big book, kind of formal, but right on the money for your classics. This is for someone who wants a solid reference of Italian cooking.

The River Cafe Classic Italian Cook Book by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers (Michael Joseph, 2009; Photography by various photographers, including Jonathan Gregson and David Loftus) This book offers a similar range of Italian classics, but a bit more modern if I may. The classics are interspersed with “typical” Italian preparations, mainly Tuscan. It goes beyond the sampling of dishes that a one time traveler may know and gets into the boiled octopus with potatoes, penne con stracotto (penne with beef braised in Chianti), and roast guinea fowl stuffed with lemons. That is to say, it gets into what you might find on the table for lunch on a Sunday afternoon at your Italian mother-in-law’s house (not my Italian mother-in-law, though). Of enthusiastic note, this has a section on gelato (gelato al gianduiotto anyone?) and desserts including strudel, panettone, and ricciarelli the Siennese almond meringue! Again, this is for someone who wants a solid reference of Italian cooking, home style.

Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo (Quadrille, 2011; Photography by Christopher Terry)

This is a book to accompany the BBC series of the same name, which I’ve never seen. However, how can anyone resist an Italian cookbook with a perfectly baked Neapolitan margherita pizza on the back cover?? Two giants of the Italian cooking scene in the UK take readers on a feeding frenzy around Italy. In addition to the recipes which have little overlap with the previous two titles, you have lots of notes on socio-cultural aspects of Italy and its food and dining culture. Like The River Cafe Classic Italian Cook Book, this book has a very ‘home cooked’ feel to it, which I like a lot. This doesn’t have the range of recipes that the River Cafe book has, but it has an excellent and numerous selection. This would be the perfect book for someone leaving on a first time trip to Italy, or someone who has just returned and wants to keep the memory alive.

Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph 2005; photography by David Loftus).

This book is Jamie’s interpretations of the food he ate and cooked with people during a trip around Italy. I wouldn’t say it has an “authentic” feel to it, at the same time, I think it is solid enough to stand in this round up of reviews, and because of Jamie’s ability to transmit his enthusiasm, it’s one of my favorite non-Italian Italian cookbooks. Jamie’s no-nonsense style of cooking and Italian food are a natural marriage. That’s why I recommend this book to anyone who wants to feel quite at ease about trying out Italian food, but who doesn’t want to get bogged down in detail. Jamie is also fun, has a great writing style, and David Loftus shoots all his books. What’s not to like? This is a great book for anyone interested in good food (and great pictures of good food).

Eat Ate by Guy Mirabella (Hardie Grant Books, 2010; Chronicle Books in the USA; photography by Earl Carter).

I felt like including this book because it is a very nice book, especially aesthetically. It is by an Italo-American-Australian cafe-owner and artist named Guy Mirabella. Honestly, I think the most Italian thing about the book is the author’s set of maternal grandparents from Sicily. But I love his spirit for telling his family history and childhood memories related to extravagance, generosity, love, tradition, life, and food, the chapters of the book. This is probably a more “modOz” take on Italian food, but that shouldn’t detract from the great flavors the author puts together in his recipes: pumpkin, ricotta and herb pizza, chicken, capsicum, and leek couscous, roast pumpkin and asparagus lasagne (lots of pumpkin in this book), chargrilled calamari, fennel, and Asian herb salad. This is a book for anyone who wants to serve ‘grown-up’ food that you won’t find on any other table.

On A Stick! My new book is out today! And a giveaway!

My sister Angela got her book yesterday. Thanks Amazon!

Well whatddayaknow? Today is the relase of our first book, On A Stick!

I’m thrilled, elated, a bit nervous but happy that this book hits store shelves today. It was an incredibly fun project that required some state fair visits, tons of research and plenty of taste testing and you should know I gave 150% of myself to this book. Especially the tasting part :)

On A Stick! is a book about – wait for it, wait for it – FOOD ON A STICK. Ok, I’m being silly and knew you’d figure that part out, but this book is where high brow meets low brow, where favorite recipes meet new fangled ideas in some fun and silly ways. Are you seeing the parallel between me and the book? God I sure hope so!

When I began to discuss the idea with Quirk, my publisher, I knew there’d be so many fun moments in store but I also knew it’d be quite a bit of work to produce a cookbook. While I’ve photographed several books for others, this was the first that landed on my shoulders but you should know it was a team effort. None of it would have been possible without my rock, my live-in stylist and my husband Adam. And the same goes for Jenny Park, my tester, writer and assistant stylist. And also to Haley White, my intern at the time, who kept me company and provided valuable assistance and feedback during the process.  And also to our friend Eddie Vasquez who helped me sample item after item after item at a State Fair last year. Who says I don’t take my work seriously?

Top: Adam and Eddie conduct serious research at the San Diego State Fair last year and yes, they are Fine Art. Bottom: Adam enjoys a Hot Dog Covered In French Fries in Seoul, South Korea last week. The work never stops!


But back to the book!


I did my best to cover all my favorites on a stick, from party food to street-fair food to appetizers and desserts. And because there’s that natural thing that happens when you have food on a stick – you simply must dunk or dip it – I included several recipes for dips, marinades and sauces.

And then there are the photos. Fresh off of Susan Russo’s The Encyclopedia Of Sandwiches, I began to rub my eyes and pound my fists a few times as the challenges of photographing food stuck on sticks began to wear me down. It wasn’t easy! Luckily Margaret McGuire, Editor Extraordinaire, was there every step of the way to assist and inspire me with words of encouragement. And with Adam’s styling I think we pulled it off.

Let’s have a look at a few of the book’s images, shall we?

Chicken and Waffles On A Stick.  If you aren’t familiar with the concept of Chicken & Waffles then you need to get up on this! Based on the dish I love at Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles I wanted to put it on a stick and drown the whole thing in syrup. Oh. My. God. No, you shouldn’t eat this everyday but for something different on a stick I do love it.

Coconut Shrimp. Not everything in the book is on a giant long stick reminiscent of state fair cuisine. These tender shrimp are dipped in shredded coconut and fried, a flavor combination creation in Heaven above. Serve with mango salsa and you have yourself a cute little appetizer. They pair wonderfully with cocktails, I’m telling you.

Fried Pickles. Oh puhleeese quit looking at me that way. You know you want some. And if you love them already then you know where I’m coming from. Again, excellent with cocktails or beer. Not that I drink all that often.

This Panzanella on a stick was the very first recipe I wrote and tested. I took them to a 4th of July bbq last summer (it’s been that long already!?) to test on a crowd and you know what? They loved them. It’s fresh, summery, with enough chewy croutons to give these skewers some substance. Secret admission: I was kinda hoping people didn’t like them so I could eat them all myself. I’m serious.

Popcorn Balls. Is there anything better than a sticky face and sticky hands? Not really. When we shot these I told Adam to leave them on my computer stand just in case I needed to photograph them again. I AM SUCH A LIAR! I left them there to eat over the course of the day which I did. Sticky camera and mouse be damned.

Fruit Salad Skewers. These make me happy. They’re easy to assemble and great for kids, but you know the best part about them? The fluffy sweet sauce that they’re dipped in. I’m going to leave it at that and encourage you to make them. And invite me over.  I’ll bring extra sauce.

Spaghetti & Meatballs On A Stick. When I traveled around with my advance copy of the book this photo was always met with laughter. Was it good laughter or bad laughter? No one would tell me. But go ahead, laugh if you want, this dish is delicious, silly, a bit labor intensive but guaranteed to make you, um, smile. C’mon, it’s on a stick. Enjoy and delight in the silliness of it all! Besides, it’s the only time you’ll be able to eat spaghetti and meatballs with one hand while holding a glass of red wine in the other. Another drink reference, must I see someone about that?

There are so many more recipes in this book, not all silly, either.

To celebrate the release of On A Stick!, I’ll be giving away 5 autographed copies! All you have to do is leave a comment below, it can be stick related or you can tell me how much you love corndogs, I’m easy! Just leave a comment and next Monday, May 9th I’ll pick 5 winners and write sweet nothings in your book and mail them to you! EASY! Unfortunately you must be in the United States to win and must leave your comment by 9am PST time on Monday the 9th. I’m so excited to send some lucky winners a book that I may just throw in a few secret surprises!

Visit to buy your copy today!

Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen

I met Sara a few years ago in the Bahamas and quickly discovered she is the kind of person everyone knows. As the owner of Foster’s Market in Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Sara is the author of several cookbooks and has numerous appearances on Martha’s show as well as the Today show. I have yet to make it to her market but in the meantime I’m so happy to have this book. Her latest, Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen: Soulful, Traditional, Seasonal, is filled with traditional Southern favorites as seen through Sara’s kitchen. It’s a book that you can’t help but get hungry from just looking at it as it’s packed with Southern favorites that I want to eat this very second. All the classics are there with contemporary twists like Shrimp Jabalaya, fried chicken, brisket and spare ribs. Now can you see why I’m all about this book?

Because I’m anticipating summer mode I wanted to try a few things so I could hit the ground running once it warms up a tiny bit. I’m in love with Sara’s skillet-fried corn and can only imagine how fantastic it will be when I make it with summer’s best corn. Still, even using the corn I used it was still delicious and remarkably simple. Corn, butter, basil, salt, and pepper (plus a few pieces of summer squash and zucchini just like the photo in the book) are so delicious that I really can’t wait to serve this outside with some ribs, a few burgers, I can bet it’s fantastic with just about anything. And the combination of basil and corn is completely new to me and it’s fantastic. Make sure to check out the recipe at the end of this post.

Sara’s familiar tone in writing really makes you feel as if you’re there and have known her for years, which I love. I also love her glossary of Southern pantry essentials, should you need a brush up. But the thing about Sara’s Southern Kitchen that really makes me hungry is the food photography from Peter Frank Edwards. The food is gorgeous, real, and captured in such a way that it truly feels as if you’re just sitting down to enjoy a meal with Sara and the family.

Luckily for us Sara’s husband Peter created this video as they were working on the book. I knew I had to share it!



Skillet Fried Corn from Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen: Soulful, Traditional, Seasonal
Shuck 6 ears fresh corn and cut the kernels directly into a bowl. After removing the kernels, hold each stripped cob over the bowl and scrape with the back of the knife to release the juices. Cut 4 fresh basil leaves into thin strips and set aside.

Heat 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat until foamy. Add the kernels and their juices, rinse the bowl with ¼ cup water, and add the rinsing liquid to the skillet. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and cook and stir until the kernels are tender and the liquid thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the basil and serve warm.

Matt says: You can add sliced of summer squash and zucchini to this dish for color. It’s heavenly. Photo by me.

Heidi’s Super Natural Every Day

I’m at a loss for words as I sit down to write a very quick review of Heidi Swanson’s latest book Super Natural Every Day. There is nothing that could come from me that would tell you what you don’t already know about Heidi and her writing and photography.

It’s perfect.

For once I’m not trying to speak in superlatives here and I really mean it when I say this book is perfect.  I’ve been carrying it around showing it to friends and family and find myself saying something over and over again.

“It feels good, doesn’t it?”

When I think about it, I’m not sure how to explain my statement. There’s the tactile element, similar to her last book in that the soft coated stock wraps around the beautiful images printed on uncoated paper. There’s the graphic design and typography that adds but never distracts, and then there are the photographs.

Oh, those photographs.

They inspire me. They take me places. They make me dream of soft light and quiet conversations, something I’m all too short on as I try to do way too many things all over the world.

This book makes me catch my breath.

And of course there are the recipes. Heidi writes recipes that are blend of comforting flavors and good-for-you ingredients, all with dashes of global influences that keep me (and millions of others) yearning for more. There’s nothing I don’t want to eat from this book, and I’m not the least bit embarrassed to tell you that I began with the alcoholic beverages first. Ok, maybe I’m slightly embarrassed.  But light Heidi says, they’re light and fizzy, not hard and heavy. I like that.

There are no ways around this next sentence: YOU NEED THIS BOOK. You must have this book. If you don’t already, that is. It inspires me and I hope it does the same for you. I’m pretty confident it will.


Chickpeas & Dandelion Greens
One of the first recipes I made from Super Natural Every Day was the Chickpeas & Dandelion Greens. I’m a greens freak and I’ve been on a chickpea kick lately so it seemed like a natural combination. It’s simple yet filling, and anything with lemon zest, salt and red pepper flakes is going to make me smile. Heidi recommends using any green that looks tender and fresh so if you can’t get dandelion greens then don’t worry.

2 cups / 10 oz / 280 g cooked chickpeas (see page 215), or 1 (15-ounce / 425g) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Fine-grain sea salt
3 or 4 handfuls of young dandelion leaves, stems trimmed
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Put the chickpeas in a medium bowl.

Take out a large skillet, and, while it is still cold, add the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 2 big pinches of salt. Stir over medium heat until the garlic starts to sizzle; it should not begin to brown. Toss the dandelion greens into the skillet and stir until they begin to wilt, 15 seconds or so. Stir in the lemon zest.

Pour the greens over the chickpeas and toss. Taste, and add a bit more salt if needed. Transfer to a platter and seve warm or at room temperature.

serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish

Tinto de Verano
Heidi calls this drink sangria’s “dressed-down cousin”.  Made of only three things, cheap red winem, sparkling lemonade and plenty of ice, I knew I had to give this recipe priority in anticipation of plenty of summer entertaining. It does not disappoint and is the perfect warm weather sip.

Ice cubes
1 (750ml) bottle inexpensive Spanish red wine
Sparkling (naturally sweetened) lemonade or any not-too-sweet lemon-lime beverage
Fresh lemon slices

Heidi says: Fill each glass with as many ice cubes as will fit. Add 1/2 cup / 120 ml wine and 1/2 cup / 120 ml sparkling lemonade to one glass, then stir. Taste. It should be light and refreshing and not overly “juicy.” Sometimes the cheap wine you get here in the States is very concentrated and grape-y. If that is the case, you’ll need to dilute your tinto with a bit more sparkling lemonade. Fill the remaining glasses, stir, garnish with lemon slices, and serve.

serves 4 to 6

Both recipes reprinted with permission from Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen by Heidi Swanson, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.





Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan

This quick book review will most likely be biased. I’m cool with that. And I’m owning my bias in a big way, here’s why:

  1. My husband works out of state several weeks a month.
  2. I am from Texas. Mr. Yonan is from Texas.
  3. Mr. Yonan is affable, sweet and smart, and has a chapter on tacos.
  4. Tacos.

While 1 through 4 are major reasons why I love this book so much, they’re not the only reasons why Joe Yonan’s Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures In Cooking For One. is currently rocking my kitchen. I met Joe, the Food & Travel editor for The Washington Post, in person last year at IACP when I was presenting a talk on food photography. You can imagine my surprise when we started chatting about being from small Texas towns, and if you’re from a small Texas town there are some things that only others could from Texas could understand and appreciate. Plus Joe spent time in Austin, my 2nd hometown, so you can see the affinity I have for Joe.

But let’s talk about his book. Beginning with a very amusing story about a Facebook comment Joe received about his “Cooking For One” column in The Washington Post, this book celebrates something many of us do on a regular basis when we sit down to a meal created for ourselves. And I’m of Joe’s mindset: there’s nothing wrong with having a wonderful group of friends and family to share meals with, but when you are alone you needn’t be without good food. And this is why (along with #1 above) that this book resonates so much with me. I cook for myself more than you would possibly realize.

For me, cooking solo relies on some of my favorite things to cook: stir fries, grains and beans, anything with tortillas and plenty of roasted or grilled vegetables. Now that Joe’s written a book on this subject, well, I’m elated that I’ll be able to cook from it and still be treated to so many of my favorites: sandwiches, tacos, a whole chapter on eggs (YES!) as well as pizzas and pasta. I’m a huge fan of making pizzas when I’m home alone and plan on diving into the pizza chapter today while the other half is working in Chicago.

And yes, the recipes are written in quantities meant for one, with plenty of information on ways to put leftovers to great use and how to dress up the meal with condiments.

Did I mention there’s a chapter on tacos?

I still haven’t decided what I love most about Serve Yourself: the variety of stellar recipes or Joe’s humor that opens and closes the book. I couldn’t stop laughing about the stories of his relationships past, all shared with humility and humor and I’d probably be the first person to buy a book he wrote on that subject alone. Joe is hilarious.

Joe’s Spicy Hummus

With all my banter about tacos you’d think I’d pick a recipe from that chapter. Nope. I can’t get past his recipe for Spicy Hummus which I not only had at the studio when I photographed it for this post but have made 2 times since then. It’s delicious with a slight kick, I’ve been digging it with sliced cucumbers as my choice of dipping vessel, spread on toasted lavash and also on everyday sandwiches. I am officially in chickpea mode and this hummus is perfect.


Makes about 2 cups

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
2 cups cooked chickpeas, preferably homemade (page 45), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chickpea cooking liquid or water, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons tahini, plus more as needed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 plump clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Pour the oil into a small skillet over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, sprinkle in the red pepper flakes and pimenton. Cook, stirring or shaking the pan frequently, until the spices are very fragrant, about 30 seconds. (Be careful not to let the spices burn.) Turn off the heat and let cool.

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, cooking liquid, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Pour in the oil and red pepper flakes from the skillet. Process until smooth. Taste, adjust the salt if necessary, and add more cooking liquid or water if you want the hummus thinner or more tahini if you want it thicker.

Eat immediately, or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Reprinted with permission from Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One by Joe Yonan copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.


10 Things: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

I would like to tell you how much I love my job.

I love it thissssssssssssssssssssssssssssss much. Why? Because not only do I get to work with food almost every day and with people I love, but because once in a while there are projects like Susan Russo’s The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches that just make life so deliciously fun.

Susan, of the lovely blog Foodblogga, asked me at the beginning of last year if I would photograph her upcoming book on sandwiches. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate a sandwich, including myself, so I immediately said yes.  I was really looking forward to working with her and Quirk and I was also really interested in the challenge of photographing over 125 sandwiches for one single project.

It is an encyclopedia, after all!

Here are the 10 things I learned while photographing this book:

10.  When Food Stylist Extraordinaire Adam Pearson Uses Real Ingredients, The Photographer Can Eat Every Sandwich.

I take what I do seriously and felt it was my duty to taste every single sandwich after photographing it. What did I learn? That I love almost every sandwich. Some more than others.

9. Putting Butter On Bread And Layering French Fries Across It Is God’s Way Of Telling You The World Is Just Right.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the Chip Butty. I don’t really need to tell you any more, just look at it. Love it.


8. You Can Never Appreciate Fantastic Teammates Enough. You Just Can’t.

An ambitious shooting schedule takes work but with experts in the kitchen it’s nothing but smooth sailing. I’ll sound like a broken record yet again when I say working with Adam and Jenny is a dream come true. Thank you both!


7. It’s Ok To Eat The Same Sandwich All Day Long.

There was a late addition to the sandwich book in the form of Campanile’s Fresh Burrata Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Chickpeas, burrata and prosciutto on one sandwich? YES PLEASE. Not only did I gobble down the photo sandwich but we went home and made it for dinner. I suggest you try it.

6. I Wish I Didn’t Love This So Much.

It’s ham and swiss with jelly (and/or mustard) on a doughnut.  That’s right, that’s what I said. And I freaking love it. No shame in my game, y’all. For the record I made myself mighty uncomfortable by eating 3 of these in a row and I don’t suggest you do the same.

5. I Laugh Like A 3rd Grader Every Time I Say “Hot Brown”.

I’m gonna leave it at that. **UPDATE** I totally don’t mean to malign a delicious sandwich, please don’t take it that way! I’m just juvenile, that’s all.


4. Working With Quirk Books Is A Dream.

This was my first project with Quirk, the book publisher from Philadelphia. It was a dream. Gracious editors, fun designers, and a working relationship that I valued tremendously. In fact, I even did another project with Quirk Books after The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches. Maybe I’ll tell ya about it sometime :)


3. I Greatly Improved My Sandwich Shooting Skills.

You’d think shooting a single-subject book with very specific design parameters would be limiting. It’s quite the opposite and I enjoy the challenge of trying to see the same things in new ways. It really keeps me on my toes!

2. Bacon Does Make Everything Better. On A Sandwich It Makes It Exponentially Better.

I know, let me tell you something you don’t already know.


1. See Number Two.


Thanks to Susan, Margaret, and Jenny for allowing me to work on such a fun book! And with love and respect for Adam and Jenny, my team for their talent, dedication and culinary chops. Working with you two helps me to be a better photographer and person. I mean that. And I’m not just saying that because I’m married to the stylist!


Hey Food Friends! Want a review copy of my new book?

Well it seems just like yesterday that I was sticking stuff on sticks and making photos of them! It sure does! But now that it’s here — well, almost here — I’d like to extend a very special offer to you, my food blogging friends. Would you like a review copy of On A Stick!, my new cookbook? What? Stuff on a stick? Yes, you say? Please say yes. Because I would really love you to have a copy,  it’d make me really really really really really happy.

So, this book. Well, it makes me smile. It’s all about food on a stick and I had the best time working with Adam, Jenny and an assorted cast of characters in bringing you a book filled with some of my favorite things as well as state fair staples, some deep-fried goodies as well as some quick and easy things for everyone. It’s not all fried stuff (even though I would have been happy making a book called Fried Stuff On A Stick a/k/a Watch Matt Work Suspenders Like Nobody’s Business a/k/a The Ever Expanding Matt or just plain Hi, My Name Is Fat).

The day my advance copy of the book arrived made me muy muy muy happy.

While I’m on the subject of words, remind me to hug the copywriter at my publisher Quirk for saying “gleefully lowbrow treats”.  No, really, you make it sound respectable and I love you for that. I really do.

So, what’s inside On A Stick!? 80 recipes for party food, street-cart food, some real personal favorites of mine like Vietnamese Bo La Lot as well as moments where I really tested the limits of what could be put on sticks. And you know what I discovered? Things seem to taste better on a stick, and like I say in my book, you’ve got a built-in fun factor. You gotta love that.

And of course there’s the photography, something I hold quite dear. I wasn’t going to create a book unless it offered a visual bang and I hope that’s what I accomplished. Of course I can’t take credit for the photos, I had two amazing food stylists making beautiful food, all the while yelling “QUIT TWEETING, THERE IS FOOD ON SET” and “WE ARE NOT GOING TO REMAKE IT IF YOU MISS YOUR SHOT. TURN OFF STACEY Q AND QUIT DANCING AROUND THE STUDIO AND PAY ATTENTION.”

Anyway, I’d love you to be one of the first to have your own copy of On A Stick! My mother hasn’t even seen the book yet. That’s heavy.

Of course I have one copy at home sent to me hot off the presses (see exclusive pre-TMZ photo above) , but you wouldn’t believe who decided to have their own reading just last week.


That’s Moxie, Cho and Bindi, our dogs. I totally missed their Tuesday Yoga For Beginners Class followed by an On A Stick! book reading, I do hope they forgive me. And return my yoga mat free of Chihuahua hair.

So to get your own review copy, here’s what you can do:

  1. Email Eric Smith at: eric AT quirkbooks DOT COM. Send him your blog name, the URL and your name. He’s nice. Very nice. You’ll like him, I promise.
  2. Post a review of the book on your blog anytime during the months of April and May.
  3. Please link to the On A Stick! Amazon page, to Quirk Book’s website and to me, yours truly at


That’s it! I do hope you like the book and I do hope you don’t blame me for eating too many Page 142’s*. Lord knows I sure did.

Please note that there are a limited number of books available for review so make sure you email Mr. Eric as soon as you can!

* Well you’ll just have to get a copy of the book now, won’t you?











Piquant Pulled Pork from The Sriracha Cookbook

Photo by Yours Truly. And yes, feel free to add extra sauce!


I would love to take a moment to review The Sriracha Cookbook that arrived last January. I would also like to take a moment to tell you how much I love the book. But I can’t. I won’t. Why? Because I’m too busy stuffing my face with this recipe.

Let’s say this will be the shortest book review in Mattbites’ history. I’m going to be lazy and point you to what others have said about Randy Clemons’ book appropriately titled The Sriracha Cookbook from Ten Speed Press.

(It’s a fantastic cookbook, and if you’re crazy for the flavors of that certain chili sauce then you really need the book. Really. It’s wonderful.)

But about this pork. Oh damn, this pork. Forget calling this  “slow-cooked”: you’ll need an overnight brine plus an additional 12 hours of cooking time. Let’s try “half-a-day-cooked-but-well-worth-the-time-invested”, ok?  But Randy lets us know there are no shortcuts to these types of flavors and he’s right–it’s worth it.

You’ll need pork shoulder, spices, Sriracha and plenty of time. Then you’ll need an appetite, your mouth, some sauce and that’s about it. Marvel at how quickly the pork disappears, drizzle more Sriracha on top if you need it. And that’s it folks. Because there’s really not much more to say about this perfect recipe for Piquant Pulled Pork.

Piquant Pulled Pork from The Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemons

Spice Rub
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

¼ cup kosher salt
4 cups cold water
¼ cup freshly packed light brown sugar
1 medium red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves

6- to 8-pound bone-in pork shoulder (Boston butt) roast
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/3 cup Sriracha
½ cup cold water

To make the spice rub, in a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. Reserve.

To make the brine, in a small bowl, dissolve the salt in the cold water. Add 2 tablespoons of the spice rub, the brown sugar, onion, garlic, and bay leaves, stirring to combine. Put the meat in a large bowl or ziplock bag and pour the brine over, making sure that the meat is completely submerged in liquid. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning, drain the brine, reserving the pork and onion. Pat the roast dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard and Sriracha. Using your hands, rub an even coating of the mustard mixture all over the pork. Sprinkle the remaining spice rub evenly over the entire roast, pressing it into the meat, making sure it adheres.

Put the reserved onion in a crock pot. Pour in the cold water. Place the pork on top of the bed of onions, with the fattier side of the roast facing up. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours. At  this point, the meat should simply flake away with the slightest touch. Remove the roast from the crock pot, and let rest for 45 to 60 minutes. This will allow the meat to cool slightly, which will in turn make it easier to shred. Pull the meat apart using two forks, discarding extra fat and other less-than-palatable bites. Serve hot.

Power Foods

You’d never know by looking at my chubby exterior, but during the week we focus on a variety of healthy meals at home in an effort to balance the overindulgence, tastings, and big dinners that usually fill our weekends. And even if it weren’t for this health focus, if anything it’s to give my palate a rest from overactivity. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy sacrificing flavor because I do not; I need meals that incorporate great tastes as well as make me feel fantastic.  When I read that the editors of Whole Living Magazine were compiling their best recipes that feature the healthiest ingredients possible I knew I’d be in for a treat. And Power Foods doesn’t fail.

The book contains recipes that incorporate key ingredients that are not only delicious but good for you — things like berries, tomatoes and nuts. These foods have a tremendous impact on our health but none of that means a thing if you can’t find ways to actually prepare them and like them, a key to maintaining a successful diet. Power Foods gives you hundreds of ideas, but a favorite thing for me is the inclusion of the book’s Golden Rules, a collection of best practices for shopping and the kitchen.

The book begins as a guide to these foods, providing a visual glossary as well as information on buying, storing and eating these healthy ingredients. From there the book is packed with recipes and so much valuable information. And it covers almost anything you’d be looking for, from breakfast and soups & stews to main dishes and desserts.

I had a few minutes to chat with Alex Postman, Whole Living Editor-In-Chief, about Power Foods, some of her favorite recipes from the book as well as our mutual love of kale.  Thank you, Alex!

Matt: What are your favorite recipes from the book?

Alex: One recipe I love is for breakfast: the egg, kale, and ricotta on toast (p. 82). It’s a delicious, nutritious way to start off the day with vegetables, especially one that can be a bit challenging to incorporate beyond dinner!

Staple you’re eating this winter:

Lentil, carrot, and lemon soup with fresh dill (p. 152)
It works for me because it’s only five ingredients, it takes just 30 minutes, it gets its fresh flavor from lemon juice and dill—so healthy! And fiber-rich lentils lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. You can make a double batch and freeze it. My kids eat it too.

Winter salad: oranges with olives and parsley (p. 174)
It’s so easy to make and the surprising combination of oranges, olives, and paprika gives citrus a whole new level of taste.

dinner: roasted salmon and parsnips with ginger (p. 208)
I rarely cook fish but this one is so easy and versatile, as are many of our dressing, sauce, and marinade recipes. This one’s tamari-ginger dressing is great to have on hand for fish, vegetables, and tofu.

Any specific power foods you love?

Well, again, I love kale. I didn’t always love it, but now I know how to cook it right. It’s low in calories and super dense in nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, and K, and fiber, iron, and calcium. It’s also versatile: you can bake it and make chips, eat it raw shredded in a winter salad, blend it in a smoothie, saute it as a side. The options are endless.

I must admit that I wasn’t always a fan of kale. During my early years cashiering at Whole Foods I kept my distance from it, it seemed too tough and leafy. But like you I know how to cook it properly and do love it! What else?

Quinoa is my new favorite. Believe it or not, quinoa is one of the most highly searched terms on—I think this seed (it’s not a grain) is having a bit of a moment! It’s the only plant-based complete protein, and it’s high in vitamin B and magnesium, two nutrients that can help reduce the frequency of migraines. Plus, one cup packs more than 5 grams of fiber. And it’s gluten-free since it’s technically not a grain.

Any that you weren’t eating enough of but now incorporate into your diet?

Quinoa (benefits above). I’ve also found that it’s a great food for any time of the day, especially breakfast when you can cook it like oatmeal: Simmer the quinoa with milk and top it whatever fruit you have, and then sprinkle with cinnamon, nuts, and honey.

These power foods are all nutritional superstars, yet the book never once feels like a “health” book. How do the editors create recipes that seem so obviously flavor-driven yet good for you?

Our philosophy lies in creating balanced recipes comprised of whole, nutritious ingredients. Once you stop focusing on low-calorie this and zero-sugar that, and start eating real, unprocessed foods, you can let the recipes speak for themselves. Plus we wanted to make the photography really mouthwatering.

Amen to that! What is the best way to incorporate these key power items into everyone’s daily diet?

The beginning of the book lists “the golden rules” for wholesome eating. (Download, print, and post them on your fridge: These are what the editors see as the ten pillars of maintaining a healthy and conscious diet, including when to insist on organic, buy grains in bulk, and think of fruits and vegetables in terms of the rainbow—and eat them often!

The book is right up my alley, I love to cook and I love every single incredient (there’s nothing Power Foods that I do not want to eat!)  However, what do you say to those who proclaim that they’re too busy to cook, to make the recipes in the book? Any advice to get them into the kitchen?

It all starts with meal planning. If someone gets off work and still has to schlep to the grocery store before she can make dinner, ordering takeout is probably the more appealing option. Find recipes in the book that you’ll actually want to cook (not hard!) and shop for a week’s worth of meals. Once you have everything you need, many of our recipes take 40 minutes or less in the kitchen. And new cooks won’t feel intimidated by lengthy, exotic ingredient lists; our recipes typically call for easy-to-find pantry staples.

We just said goodbye to 2010 and all those crazy holiday meals. Going forward, what is the best way to enjoy Power Foods and make sure we are cooking and eating the right stuff when the holidays want us to overindulge?

All of our healthy recipes emphasize fresh ingredients that are naturally detoxifying—low in sugar and full of fiber and antioxidants—and are therefore a good option to balance the gluttonous holiday months. We need to learn that feeling “full” doesn’t need to feel like being stuffed, and that we don’t always need sugar at the end of the meal. Use the months before the holidays to build a strong habit of cooking and eating healthy ingredients. Your body and mind will feel so good that you won’t even be tempted by that second slice of apple pie at Thanksgiving—or, even better, you won’t feel guilty about it if you’ve been eating well all year.

Thank you Alex!

Papaya, Endive, and Crabmeat Salad from Power Foods. Serves 4

Matt says: I love the combination of sweet and crunchy with seafood, and this salad hits the spot. I also love how the sweet crabmeat tempers the slight bitter note of endive’s flavor. There’s no cooking and it’s simple to prepare, you’ll only need to slice-n-chop a little bit. I probably don’t need to mention the health benefits like vitamin C and beta-carotene, right? This salad uses grapeseed oil for its dressing, known for its vitamin E and flavonoids. Score.

1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
coarse salt
1/2 large papaya (Mexican or Solo, about 1 pound), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Belgian endive, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into matchsticks (about 3 cups)
1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
3/4 cup jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over and rinsed

Whisk together ginger, lime juice, grapeseed oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add diced papaya, endive, cucumber, and crabmeat; gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Reprinted from the book Power Foods from the editors of Whole Living.  Copyright © 2010 by the editors of Whole Living.  Photographs copyright © 2010 by Romulo Yanes.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.