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The Blog: Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate

The URL: www.southernplate.com

Who Writes It: There is a big hint in the title of the blog: Christy Jordan, who works as a magazine writer and editor among other gigs, creates the food and writes the eponymous blog. She lives in Huntsville, Alabama. She also has written the cookbook Come Home to Supper, which Workman published in 2013.

Why I Like It: One of the first things you learn in the cookbook business is that there are more Southern-cookbook authors than there are Southerners. It makes no sense demographically, but so it is. While it always is hard to have to reject someone’s cookbook proposal, it’s often particularly hard for Southern cookbooks: We have to say no to some good ones just because there already are so many available. It’s interesting that Christy and her book publisher did not use the word Southern in her book’s title or subtitle. I suppose that is partly because of the overcrowded market, but I also think that as the country’s population center has drifted southward, so too has the picture of what counts simply as American food in the wider sense. I like Southern Plate because it captures a down-home, diner-style comfort food that we all like, wherever we live. It’s a style that children often find appealing—simple cuts of meat, with gravies and sauces that tend to be one color and don’t appear to kids to be concealing something objectionable. Vegetables appear usually as sides and generally are not built into in the main course—again, just the way the short set prefers it. Christy serves up a tasty and wide-ranging menu of Southern-accented weekday dinners, reliably rendered as recipes and with clear and cheery photos throughout.

Three Recipes Worth Cooking:

All in One Biscuit Bombs: We trust Southerners for biscuit recipes, with good reason. This no-knead recipe one is at once traditional and contemporary.

Granny’s Oven Fried Chicken: Oven-frying isn’t frying, of course, but the expression has a long history in the South.

Redneck Cordon Bleu: An awesome recipe name, so good that I think it licenses me to include a second chicken recipe in this list of three.

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Bottom of the Pot

October 16, 2014

We use the word accessible a lot in the cookbook trade. It means that the recipes in a book, or a proposal for a book, are not a chore for the non-professional home cook. Often it means specifically that you don’t need to find an ethnic market—which your town or part of town might not have—in order to buy obscure ingredients. As I poked around in Naz Deravian’s excellent blog it struck me how accessible Persian cooking ought to be for U.S. cooks. For most of the recipes, very slightly out of the ordinary spices like saffron and fenugreek are about as exotic as it gets. It’s also accessible in its techniques; as with Indian cooking, a lot is done in a stovetop sauté pan, skillet, or stockpot, with extended timings that don’t have to be measured precisely.

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My Kitchen in Spain

October 14, 2014

At conferences for food bloggers, of which one is held about every other week, there always is a workshop or two devoted to how bloggers can become cookbook authors. There’s never a session for how cookbook authors can become bloggers. Still, even in the absence of this kind of educational offering, a number of great writers from the dead-tree era have launched their own very fine blogs. Janet Mendel, who started the blog My Kitchen in Spain in 2009, is one of these writers.

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The Baking Bird

October 10, 2014

An odd locution you might hear in one of our acquisitions meetings at HCP, as we review a cookbook proposal, goes something like this: “This is one of those Seattle-Portland-Brooklyn-Austin books.” One of the serendipitous gifts we in the cookbook biz have received over the past decade or so is that the cool kids have decided it is, well, cool to cook and bake. The avant garde of cool kids who like to cook live in one of those four cities I just named and a disproportionate number of cookbooks written by 20- and 30-somethings come from those places. (San Francisco used to be the fifth town on the list, but everyone there now seems to be so consumed with prepping and scheduling their IPOs that there is no time left for kitchen and stove.) Perhaps not since the Moosewood era has what you cook, and what kinds of ingredients you use, been such an essential piece of generational self-expression. We like that. The S-P-B-A food culture is about natural, unprocessed ingredients; about shopping at farmers’ markets and otherwise buying from local producers, from picklers to craft brewers; about DIY things like canning and jam-making; and, perhaps above all, about baking—you need something to eat with all that great coffee. Kylie Antolini’s fine blog, from Portland, captures the S-P-B-A baking style in an accurate and appealing way.

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Autumn Makes and Does

October 8, 2014

Lately, during and after a trip to the grocery store, I always have a feeling that I have seen out of the corner of my eye many labels and stickers that say “Gluten-Free!” that are affixed to products no one ever thought contained gluten—like bottled water, frozen peas, or fresh oranges. The label makes a whole lot more sense on something, a loaf of bread, say, that typically has gluten. You want the label to have some news value. In gluten-free food blogs, too, you often find glutenless versions of things that never had gluten, but the better gluten-free blogs focus on recipes for which the absence of gluten is a pleasant piece of news. Autumn’s blog offers up plenty of these recipes, in breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, and more. Autumn also is interested in cocktails (there is some debate in the celiac community about whether some distilled spirits contain gluten), in canned and otherwise preserved foods, and in ice creams, curds, and custards.

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A Couple Cooks

October 6, 2014

After an hour or so of puzzling over whether the word Cooks in the blog’s title is meant to be a noun or a verb, at the end of which I reckoned it’s both, as in a pun, I took a close look at the food and decided I liked this blog quite a lot. This is the kind of food you choose when you want to eat healthier but do not want to follow any particular Diet with a capital D. Sonja and Alex cook with lots of beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and with essentially no processed foods. The recipes are largely but not entirely vegetarian. Many are Mediterranean or Asian in origin or spirit. Others are Latin/Mexican or U.S regional. Sonja and Alex like to cook with eggs, which I think is great; outside of their appearance at the breakfast table and in baked goods, eggs are underused and underappreciated. The vegetarian food here is rich in protein without being drenched in melted cheese. A Couple Cooks reminds me of our Harvard Common Press author Michael Natkin’s pioneering vegetarian blog Herbivoracious. Michael’s recipes, however, lean a little more in the direction of ambitious weekend cooking, while Sonja and Alex’s food is more streamlined for the weekday grind.

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Coconut and Berries

October 2, 2014

The docs and dietitians tell us to eat fruits and vegetables in a range of colors. I like this advice, mainly because it is easier, and more fun, to follow than trying to keep track of where you are getting your various vitamins, minerals, fibers, sterols, and so on, and how much of each this tomato or that banana contains. If you, too, follow the ROYGBIV diet, let’s call it, Coconut and Berries is a terrific site to visit. Simply put, this is the best-looking vegan food in the blogosphere. Outside of fussy high-end restaurants, you rarely see dishes where color composition appears to have played much of a role in the recipe creator’s work. Emma, however, does think about color schemes as she crafts her dishes—at least it appears that way. Yet this is not showy restaurant food. It would cook up quickly and look (and taste) good on your family’s weeknight table, and there are plenty of ideas that would be perfect if you want to serve a fancy weekend dinner for company. This is a promising young blog with a lot of original recipes.

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Like Mam Used to Bake

September 26, 2014

If someone offered me a million bucks to name five Irish dishes right away, I’d walk away without the money. I really should know more. I did have a vague inkling that the Irish are good at baking. I am familiar, of course, with Irish soda bread, which I find uninspiring; my local Whole Foods gives away big chunks of it every Saturday, as if they want it out of the store once and for all. Happily, I can say that Rosanne Hewitt-Cromwell’s sweet and well-produced blog opens up a tastier expanse of baked things from Ireland. Mam is mom, as you probably knew, and Rosanne’s blog leans in a traditional direction, as the blog’s title suggests. The strength of the recipe list is in breakfast items, the kinds of things you’d be served in a nice B&B here or in Ireland.

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The Curvy Carrot

September 24, 2014

Health and Special Diets Blogs that focus on healthy eating and on special diets, from vegan and gluten-free to allergen-free, paleo, raw, low-fat, and more.  Every other Wednesday. The Blog: The Curvy Carrot The URL: thecurvycarrot.com Who Writes It: Shanon Lacy, a dermatologist from Milwaukee who blogs on nights and weekends. Why I Like It: [...]

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Kitchen Simplicity

September 22, 2014

Aside from baking blogs, of which there are many, too few food blogs have much of a focus or topic. They cover everything the blogger cooks, which creates an accurate diary of sorts, I suppose, for the blogger, but doesn’t help readers understand why they are visiting the site. That said, there are, of course, some good wide-ranging general-cooking blogs, and their proliferation might be one of the reasons the grand old Middle American cookbooks, like Better Homes and Gardens, Joy of Cooking, and Betty Crocker, don’t sell like they used to sell. Cheri Neufeld’s Kitchen Simplicity is one of these blogs. I like it because Cheri hews faithfully to her title, emphasizing manageable ingredient lists, straightforward techniques, and quickness. Other general-cooking blogs do this, too, but usually by delivering predictable dishes for which we already have a recipe or don’t need a recipe. Kitchen Simplicity offers up surprising turns on familiar things. It’s a good place to go for dinners that you can make on a busy weeknight but haven’t seen a hundred times before.

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