Archive for the ‘Cookbooks’ Category

Bucks County Taste has moved! See this post on our new server. 

By guest blogger Susan Sprague Yeske

As partners in a business that transforms chefs’ cookbook dreams into reality, it’s good to share a common vision. It’s also good to like the same kinds of food.

Shared tastes and a love of the culinary world prompted local food experts Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer to step beyond their role of crafting other people’s books and create one of their own.

Christopher Hirsheimer, left, and Melissa Hamilton in their Lambertville loft studio

Christopher Hirsheimer, left, and Melissa Hamilton in their Lambertville loft studio

Volume one of Canal House Cooking was published this month, the first in a series of softcover cookbooks that focus on seasonal cooking.  In the book the two moms, who live in Hunterdon and Bucks counties, share the summertime recipes they make at home.

The 80 recipes in the book focus on foods in season and feature summertime fare such as tomatoes, plums and zucchini. Every course is covered, from seasonally appropriate mixed drinks to dessert.

The two authors are former magazine food editors with credentials that include years spent at Saveur and Metropolitan Home. Christopher has collaborated on four other cookbooks, including three for Saveur.

Melissa is well known in local culinary circles for co-founding Hamilton’s Grill Room in Lambertville with her father, Jim Hamilton.

Canal House CookingCanal House Cooking costs $19.95, or $49.95 for an annual subscription of three books and can be ordered through the website thecanalhouse.com.

Next will be a book on fall and holiday cooking, then a winter/spring edition. In addition to the website, books are available at amazon.com, Farley’s Bookstore in New Hope, Pa., and the Hamilton’s Grill Room. The books will also be sold at other private bookstores in the U.S. and through Anthropologie stores.

This recipe from the book is a great way to enjoy the fresh local tomatoes just coming into season:

Roasted Tomatoes Studded with Garlic

serves 4


½ cup diced pancetta
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pasta
2 anchovy fillets
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
4 tomatoes, tops sliced off, seeds scooped out
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
small handful fresh thyme, parsley, or basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
½ pound spaghetti


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fry the pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp around the edges. Use a slotted spatula to lift the pancetta out of the skillet to a plate. Leave the rendered fat in the skillet.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the anchovies to the same skillet. Use a wooden spoon to mash the anchovies until they dissolve. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, until they are golden.
  4. Put the tomatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish and slip some garlic into each tomato. Mound some bread crumbs into each tomato and scatter pancetta and herbs on top. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil over all.
  5. Roast the tomatoes in the oven until they have browned a bit and the interior is supple but the tomatoes haven’t collapsed, 1–1½ hours.
  6. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain.
  7. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in some olive oil and some of the oily tomato juices from the bottom of the tomato roasting dish.
  8. Serve the spaghetti with the roasted tomatoes and their juices spooned on top.

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I opened up the Bucks County Courier Times/The Intelligencer yesterday to the Food Section (of course). I’ve become a follower of Betty Cichy. She does great, creative articles on local food people, restaurants and stores. I wish I could link to more of her stories but the newspaper doesn’t post Lifestyle/Food pieces online. Hmmn. I think there’s a letter to the publisher in my future.

Mastering Art of French CookingBetty is running a contest involving food and blogging. How could I not like it? If you haven’t heard, a movie-based-on-the-book is coming out in August called, “Julia & Julie.” It tracks the famous cook and TV chef Julia Child’s beginnings and career. For those of you not old enough to remember anything before the Food Network, Julia WAS THE FIRST. The book was written by blogger Julie Powell, a New York office worker, who decided over the course of a year to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and blog about it.

Now Betty has thrown down the potholder, so to speak. She is challenging folks to try a Julia recipe and blog about it. Here are the contest rules:

We’d like you to be like Julie on a small scale. Pick a recipe from one of Julia Child’s first four cookbooks, follow it step by step, and blog about your experience. Choose a recipe that challenges or intrigues you in some way …

Make your post as interesting and personal as you can. Tell us why you chose that particular recipe. Describe the problems and disasters you had along the way, from shopping to serving. Look back over the experience and reflect on what you learned from it, and whether you think the recipe is worth making again. If you did make it again, how would you change it? Are there ways you’d update or simplify the recipe for 21st century cooks?

Take some pictures and notes as you follow the recipe, and when you’ve finished, tell us how it went in a post on the Julie/Julia blog we’ve set up on phillyBurbs. When all the entries have been posted, readers will be able to go online and vote for their favorite blogger.

As for judging, the top vote-getter and two bloggers chosen by a panel of experts will compete in a cook-off at Manny Brown’s in Neshaminy Mall on Aug. 5. Each of the three finalists will put on a little cooking show, demonstrating key steps in the recipe and then showing off the finished product.  A panel of judges will choose the grand-prize winner and two runners-up. Then the contestants and the audience will attend a free screening of “Julie & Julia.” Go to the newspaper’s website for the full contest rules.

I must admit, I’m intrigued – and intimidated. I started cooking in the ’80’s and by that time classic French cooking was considered passe, and Julia Child, well, I think Saturday Night Live took a few jabs at her (or was it she just sounded too much like Terry Jones from Monty Python?) I will admit, publicly, that I don’t even own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But I’m seriously considering it. I mean, after all, what kind of food blogger would I be? I’ll keep you “posted.”

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Early summer has presented us with many bounties. Greens, certainly, and now, for the first time this season, squash flowers appeared at the farmers’ market. So here’s a couple of recipes to get you cooking.

The first is one I’ve been dying to try out. Sharon Schwartz recommended it from the cookbook Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger, but I didn’t want to publish it until the flowers were available. If you’ve been wandering the farmers’ markets the last few weeks you’ve also seen lots of spring greens, including some you’ve probably never heard of. Here’s a simple recipe that I’ve been using that works for all of them. It’s fast, and even Mark – who is not known for his love of vegetables – loves it.


Zucchini FlowersRicotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4 to 6


1 cup ricotta, fresh if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
12 – 16 fresh zucchini flowers
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
1 tbsp. minced fresh basiL


  1. If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.
  2. Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag (you can also use a disposable sturdy plastic bag and simply cut the tip off the end). Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.
  3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Placed the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and place the pan over the highest heat. When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the flowers are hot, stemed by the moisture of the ricotta. Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper, sea salt, minced basil, and the remaining oil.

GreensSpring Greens & Garlic

The amounts are approximate, depending on how many you are feeding and how much garlic you like. The general rule with greens is make lots, and then double it. When they steam and cook, they shrink tremendously.


Greens – chard, collard, spinach, kale, bok choy, beet greens, dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, etc.
Garlic, smashed and minced
Onions, or shallots, or, if you’re lucky enough to find them, garlic scapes, sliced thin
Olive oil
Kosher salt or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Hot pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Clean and wash the greens but you don’t completely dry.
  2. With flat-leafed greens (like collards), lay several leaves on top of each other, then roll them together, kind of like a cigar. Then cut the greens at an angle, at 1 inch intervals. For spinach and smaller greens, just tear into bite-size pieces.
  3. Now here’s where opinions differ. Some people like to steam the greens in a skillet, gradually adding water and/or stock. That’s fine. But I’m a little lazy. So I steam them, putting the tougher greens or stalks towards the bottom, and the more tender ones at the top (won’t need as much steaming). Just for a few minutes, to soften them, then remove the lid and let them breath.
  4. While the greens are steaming, start warming a skillet. Add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add garlic and onions, but being careful not to burn. Turn the heat down and let the garlic/onion mixture gently cook.
  5. Add a bit more olive oil and let it warm up. Then add in the greens, gently tossing. Season with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes, if you like, and then serve.

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I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to book clubs. I don’t like being told what to read, and, well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really care what other people think about the book. I’m a woman of strong opinions, I guess. But…I think I may have found a book club even I would like.

Côté & Co. is sponsoring a “Cook’s Book Club.”  The next gathering will be on Thursday, April 30th at 7:00 pm. The book for this meeting is “Pomegranate Soup” by Marsha Mehran. There will be a lively discussion and, of course, a book-inspired menu for the occasion. The book can be purchased at Cote & Co. or Doylestown Bookshop for 10% off retail. You can register for the gathering and the light-fare menu ($12) by emailing Kristin Perry at kristin.perry@me.com. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention – it’s BYOB. Didn’t I tell you this is a book club I can like?

See more details about this event and others at our calendar,
Food Events in Bucks County.

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Beyond Foodie

I remember a piece Elaine Tait, the former food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote 15 or more years ago. She predicted that in the year 2000, people who cook for themselves would become minor celebrities. Amidst all the convenience foods popping up in supermarkets in the 1990s, Tait saw the demise of home cooking. And this before Wegmans ever came to Pennsylvania!

I often think about this prediction. On one hand, I disagree. Who could’ve foreseen the success of the Food Network? Or that cooking would become a spectator sport? Americans seem more into cooking than ever.

Then, on the other hand, part of me agrees with Tait. At the risk of sounding immodest, I sometimes cook or bake things that people don’t believe I actually made. “Where did you buy this?” they ask. “You made it? No!” I think I’m a decent cook, but I’ve eaten in enough fine restaurants, not to mention in the kitchen of my brother, a former professional chef, to know my place in the standings.

And then there’s Sharon.

Sharon in her kitchen

Sharon in her kitchen

Sharon Schwartz isn’t just a good cook. She’s not just a foodie. Among our friends, her cooking is legendary. An invitation for a meal at her house is always accepted. I hope you’re fortunate enough to have a friend like this, the kind of person Elaine Tait may well have been thinking of when she wrote “minor celebrity.” In Sharon’s case, anyway, the moniker fits.

When I sat down to interview her a few weeks ago, Sharon provided for lunch an exquisite Greek lemon soup, made moments before, followed by a simple but perfect Greek salad. Mark was jealous. All in a day’s work for me.

I wanted to interview Sharon for several reasons. She’s lived in Bucks County for twenty five years and has seen the changes to its food scene up close. She’s also evolved from someone who simply likes good food to a discerning, semi-professional cook.

Professional chefs live in a different world from the rest of us. Their kitchens are set up for cooking. Their equipment is top-notch. They have studied. They have sweated. They are not like the rest of us. Really. Just watch the Food Network.

So I was fascinated by Sharon. How did she make the transition from Mom-cook to Wow-cook? I also wanted to pick her brain about where to get the best ingredients in Bucks County, but that will have to wait for another blog, a kind of “Sharon Schwartz: Part Two.”


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Winter Spice (in the Meatloaf)

So, times aren’t great right now, but to avoid getting anyone depressed I’ll skip the litany of challenges going on in the economy. While the sad truth is the macro picture is beyond the control of any one of us, there’s much we can do to make ourselves feel better.

Two words: “Comfort cooking.”

Jill Andresky Fraser, a financial writer whose blog EconoWhiner draws its name from (thankfully) former Sen. Phil Gramm’s labeling us “a nation of whiners,” asks, “As we all face a long-term financial winter that begs for moments of comfort, blissful denial, or commiseration, is there a better way to forget our troubles than putting together a dinner for family and friends?”

Putting on some favorite music, gathering our ingredients and a sharp knife, all while sipping on a good glass of wine, and we are off on an adventure that always ends around the table.

This is so spot-on. For me, a cold winter’s day can be tempered by neat bourbon with the smoked mozzarella from Altomonte’s, followed by the meat loaf from one of my favorite cookbooks, Real Beer and Good Eats: The Rebirth of America’s Beer and Food Traditions, by Bruce Aidells. Yes, I’m a meat-and-potatoes guy. The meatloaf and its accompanying spicy gravy calls for many vegetables, coarsely chopped, and I’ve found winter days can be tempered by time in the kitchen, cutting up onions, red peppers, green peppers, celery, carrots and garlic while listening to music and chatting with the dog. The beef will come from Haring Brothers, the beer for the gravy will be Yuengling, and by the time the meatloaf goes into the oven, the house will be infused with the smell of good things simmering. Because the recipe makes two loaves, and for some reason I hate halving recipes, the only question will be who we can invite for dinner.

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Shoppers are cutting out luxuries, scaling back on dinners out, and cooking at home again. Fortunately, there’s a silver lining in the timing of this recent market meltdown:It coincides with the start of soup season. Keith Blalock, the chef and co-owner of Pennsylvania Soup & Seafood House in Doylestown, takes the Courier-Times’ Betty Cichy shopping at Doylestown Produce Outlet, then back to his restaurant to meet the challenge: Could he come up with several meals that could satisfy four hungry diners — for $10 or less?

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