Gift Cards? Buy These Books from Independent Bookstores!

There are very few gifts that thrill me more than one of those teeny little envelopes containing a gift card, especially if it's from one of our many local independent booksellers. I received one from my sister-in-law this Christmas—she knows me so well—and that same day I was on the computer ordering a book I've had my eye on for awhile.

Here are a few I'd like to recommend for you readers out there. First up, two new books from local authors.

Truffle in the Kitchen: A Cook's Guide, by Jack Czarnecki

If you want to know about the fungus among us, there is no better guide than mushroom guru Jack Czarnecki, founder with his wife Heidi of the famed Joel Palmer House. Housed in a historic Victorian home in Dayton, Oregon, and smack dab in the middle of Oregon's renowned wine country, it is now ably helmed by his son, chef Christopher Czarnecki. The restaurant is ground zero for lovers of local truffles and mushrooms and provided the laboratory where Jack honed his skills in the science, lore and use of these elusive fungi.

His latest effort is a cookbook, for sure, full of simple-to-prepare basics like truffle butter and oil, as well as what he terms "atmospheric infusions," along with recipes for main dishes and even desserts. But it also delves deeply into Czarnecki's background as a bacteriologist, discussing his theories on the complex relationship between our physiology and how it interacts with that of the truffle.

Truffle in the Kitchen is an ode to one of Oregon's most intoxicating native ingredients, and a compelling story of one man's decades-long fascination with its mysteries.

Read more about my mushroom and truffle adventures with this remarkable Oregonian.


Instant Pot Cheese, by Claudia Lucero

No one I know has worked harder to spread the gospel of cheese and how easy it is to make at home than local cheese maven Claudia Lucero. An evangelist for what she describes as "milk's leap toward immortality," she sees it as her mission to empower people with the knowledge of how to make their own food rather than relying on industrially processed products to feed themselves and their families.

The viral success of the Instant Pot cooker got Lucero to thinking about how this appliance might be used to make cheese. After all, it can be used to do just about anything: caramelize onions, boil eggs, steam rice, so it seemed sensible to her that the cooker's accurate and consistent temperatures should make it an ideal tool for cheesemaking.

Instant Pot Cheese presents cheesemaking basics, then covers classics such as paneer, ricotta, goat cheese and easy cottage cheese before introducing more sophisticated options like burrata and feta, and even dairy-free alternatives. For multicookers with a "Yogurt" function, there are recipes for cultured dairy products such as buttermilk, ghee, and sour cream, too.


The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape, by James Rebanks

I first became acquainted with James Rebanks through, believe it or not, his Twitter feed, mostly on account of his enchanting photos of his beloved Herdwick sheep and the hills they roam in the ancient Cumbrian countryside of England. When I read he was not only a steward of his land and his sheep as well as a fine photographer, but also an author of several books, I needed to know more. 

Deeply rooted in the land Rebanks' family has farmed for generations, The Shepherd's Life describes how "his way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand. It hasn't changed for hundreds of years: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the grueling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the hills and valleys," according to one review.

Since his new book, English Pastoral, isn't yet available in the U.S., I thought it would be prudent to read this and get to know him just a wee bit better.

Katherine Deumling: Love Your Leftovers

"Food is beautiful. Food is nourishing and delicious and, yes, complicated.
However, food should be a joy, not elicit fear."

Teaching people to cook delicious food at home has been the life-long mission of Katherine Deumling, and is the driving force behind her business, Cook With What You Have. She has just released the third in her series of e-books, "Love Your Leftovers! Favorite Meals that Save Time, Money & Effort," which expands on her mantra of developing creativity and confidence in the kitchen so that you and your family can enjoy delicious, healthy food on a daily basis.

Author and educator Katherine Deumling.

Katherine spent her early childhood in West Germany, the daughter of a creative, efficient mother with a sprawling vegetable garden whose cooking centered around fresh produce and pantry staples, which became the inspiration for Katherine's own cook-with-you-have ethic. A post-college fellowship gave her the opportunity to travel to Italy and Mexico to study how and why people cook the way they do, then a decade of work with Slow Food—including a stint as Chair of Slow Food USA—expanded her awareness of food systems and regenerative agriculture, and gave her an enduring passion for the combination of pleasure and politics.

Her love of leftovers was born out of both necessity—her husband likes to take his lunch to work and she's the busy mother of a teenage son—as well as frugality. She figures that by using leftovers her family saves more than $1,500 per year by not buying lunches, plus minimizing food waste by using or repurposing perfectly good (and delicious) food. Then there's the time and effort saved by having lunches packed and ready to go the night before.

Cauliflower mac'n'cheese.

"Love Your Leftovers" continues Deumling's quest to give people what she terms "agency" in the kitchen, that is, to feel creative and effective when it comes to making food. The 17 dishes in the book, 13 of which are plant-based, are designed to boost cooks' personal satisfaction and to short-circuit what she calls "the tyranny of the recipe-based structure." If a recipe calls for a half-teaspoon of thyme, she said, some people give up because they don't want to make a trip to the store instead of simply leaving it out or trying another herb.

"Even smart people shut down in the kitchen," she said, because they've never been given permission to be creative and develop their own tastes rather than slavishly following the dictates of a recipe. Or as Deumling said, her aim is to encourage people "to beat the system" by making deliciousness part of their daily lives.

Cauliflower Mac'n'Cheese

Vegetables can make for great comfort food! This makes a lot and is even better the next day, heated up in a skillet with just a splash of olive oil on high heat. It develops a crust and is sublime!

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium cauliflower, stems & florets chopped (about 8 cups)
1 lb. pasta (penne, rigatoni, rotini, corkscrew)
1 1/2-2 c. grated cheese (sharp cheddar, gruyere)
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. chili flakes
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
Black pepper
1 3/4-2 c. hot pasta/cauliflower cooking water
1/2 c. bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400°.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until very tender, about 15 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer to a food processor or blender. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Scoop out 2 cups of hot, starchy cooking water and then drain the pasta and put it in a 9" by 13" baking dish or other similar baking dish.

Carefully process the cauliflower with the 1 3/4 cups of cooking water, olive oil, cheddar, mustard, chili flakes, nutmeg and pepper. (You may have to work in batches.) If the sauce seems too thick, add the remaining liquid or a bit more water—it will thicken when baking. Taste and adjust seasoning. You want it to be quite strongly flavored. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss, and spread mixture evenly in dish. (You can make the dish to this point, cover, and refrigerate for up to a day.) Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs or additional grated cheese. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs are browned, about 20 minutes if all your components were hot, 30 minutes if not. Pass under broiler for more browning if you’d like.

Serves 6

Photos by Shawn Linehan from "Love Your Leftovers."

Summer Reading List for Food-ophiles

Civil Eats, which I like to think of as a national version of Good Stuff NW (ahem…), has just put out its summer reading list of books about our food system, 21 New and Noteworthy Food and Farming Books to Read This Summer.

Included are a wide range of topics, from Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C., by Ashanté M. Reese; to Robyn Metcalfe's Food Routes: Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating. There are a few more traditional(-ish) cookbooks, too, like Indian(-ish): Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna with Ritu Krishna, and Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables, 100 Recipes and 230 Variations by Abra Berens. There's even a celebrity(-ish) tome from author and journalist Michael Pollan's mom and three sisters called Mostly Plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family.

I also contributed a review to this collection, of an engaging book from first-time author Stephany Wilkes called Raw Material: Working Wool in the West (top photo) that describes her transition from high tech executive in Silicon Valley to itinerant sheep shearer in the American West. My review said, in part, that she "brings to life the cast of the interesting characters and ornery sheep she encounters on her journey to understand the ranchers and the land they steward, and [to] discover the terroir of wool."