Cookbooks and coleslaw: Reviews of Yummy Supper, The Bread Exchange and Bar Tartine

Posted Jan 18th, 2015 in Recipes, Winter Recipes, In The Kitchen

Cookbooks and coleslaw: Reviews of  Yummy Supper, The Bread Exchange and Bar Tartine

Erin Scott's recipe for watermelon radish coleslaw from her cookbook Yummy Supper is a fresh meal ideal for the dead of winter when these radishes abound.

I was 15 when I got my first cookbook.

It was What to Cook When You Think There's Nothing in the House to Eat by Arthur Schwartz. With its red- and yellow-checked jacket, and heavy, black serif typeface leaving no room for photos on its pages, this book's sales pitch was clearly in its title.

I pointed it out to my mom when I found it in the stacks of the W.H. Smith bookstore at Fairview Mall in Kitchener, knowing it would at least get a raised eyebrow out of her, if not a chuckle. It was a time in our lives when she was growing tired of the usual refrain that happened every day when she got home from work around 5 p.m.

"Mom, what's for dinner?"

"Can you give me a minute? I just got in the door. Besides, did you ever think I might like to come home to dinner already made?"

"But there's nothing to eat!"

Cue my mom's eye roll and her trip to the fridge where, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, she miraculously found the makings of dinner.

"Will you use it if I buy it for you?" she asked about Schwartz's book.

I promised I would. She made me promise again. The $20-asking price at the time was a lot for a woman whose disposable income for the past few years had been spent on a divorce lawyer doing her bidding in a long and messy battle. She laid down a 20-spot and some change at the cash register along with the expectation — the hope, really — I'd honour my word.

Problem was, when I got the book home and studied the recipes more closely, I discovered we didn't have the pantry miscellany needed — the egg noodles, lentils, lemons, or cabbage — to make what Schwartz offered in his book. We needed to go grocery shopping to be able to think we had nothing in the house to eat.

It wasn't until I was an adult and stocked my own pantry that I realized what a treasure of a book this was. I turn to it regularly when I'm feeling stumped after looking in my fridge or larder and seeing nothing cohesive. It has led me to many satisfying, albeit simple, meals since becoming a cornerstone of my cookbook cupboard.

Fast forward 23 years after that trip to the bookstore with my mom and I've found another Arthur Schwartz in Erin Scott. Her book Yummy Supper: 100 Fresh, Luscious & Honest Recipes from a {Gluten-Free} Omnivore (Rodale, $28.99) rings of an updated — and far prettier — version of What to Cook.

Shot of vegetables and a cookbook on a cutting board

Granted, the recipes in Yummy Supper, named after Scott's blog, are heavier on the fresh fruits and vegetables than what Schwartz espoused. But many of them are so simple that they seem to be more about the idea rather than adhering to exacting instructions for preparing your next meal.

Take Scott's recipe for a breakfast salad with soft-boiled eggs, arugula and toast. It's just what it says it is, pulling together ingredients I often have on hand, yet offering another way to serve them. It's about eating with intention rather than being on auto-pilot when staring down kitchen staples.

Even better, her recipes, inspired by her own upbringing eating whole and homegrown foods, are written without a shred of ego. She encourages readers to break out a pen and add their own notes and embellishments in the margins, using what she says as merely a guide. Scott's baked eggs on a bed of roasted cherry tomatoes, and French toast sandwiches with peaches and fresh mozzarella were two recipes I tried when desperately seeking breakfast and, in the case of the latter, recalled the huge sack of peach slices I froze this summer. Both easily adapted to what I had on hand, though I didn't have the heart to make note of my changes in such a gorgeous book.

closeup of a watermelon radish cut in half

Watermelon radishes from my CSA for the Yummy Supper Rainbow Slaw

While Scott talks about her own challenges with celiac disease and her need to eat a certain way as a result, the gluten-free angle of this cookbook seems secondary to offering up healthful meals that appeal to eaters of virtually any particular diet. If it weren't for putting gluten-free in the title, I'd likely never catch on. Even Scott's list of pantry staples and tips for avoiding gluten read more like suggestions for eating better rather than accommodating an autoimmune disease.

This book delivers what it promises: a yummy supper. Or breakfast and lunch. It's what to cook — anytime.

Closeup of rainbow slaw on a plate with a fork and on a green-checked placemat

Rainbow Slaw with purple cabbage, green apple, radish and orange

Serves 6

Rainbow Slaw with purple cabbage, green apple, radish and orange |

So if I were to break out a pen and write in the margins of this book, much to the chagrin of my elementary school librarian, I would say use only the juice of one orange, especially if what you have handy are giant navels. There was a lot of liquid in the original version. Local cabbage is easy to find right now at farmers markets and even the grocery store. Winter radishes, like the watermelon editions used here, also abound and I say feel free to swap the Granny Smith apples for some local russets.

Excerpted from Yummy Supper by Erin Scott. Published by Rodale Books Copyright © 2014. Excerpted by permission of Raincoast Books. All rights reserved.


  • 2 Granny Smith Apples
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded purple cabbage
  • 6 or 7 small red radishes or 2 or 3 watermelon radishes, sliced into thin circles, then quartered
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sea salt
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño chile peppers (optional)


Leaving the skins on, cut the apples into matchstick-size batons and place them in a large bowl. Immediately toss the apple batons with the lime juice to keep them from browning. Add the cabbage and radishes. Squeeze the orange juice onto the veggies. Pour on the vinegar and maple syrup. Add the cilantro to the slaw. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and give everything a good toss with your hands. Add extra salt, lime, maple syrup, or some jalapeño to your liking — you want the slaw to have a good fresh bite. Let the flavours mingle at room temperature for at least half an hour before serving..

by Erin Scott

The Bread Exchange

It's not often I'd say this — in fact, I don't think I've ever said this at all — but I might be willing to trade my life some days for Malin Elmlid's. The author of The Bread Exchange (Chronicle Books, $42) weaves together a gorgeous tapestry of stories, photographs and recipes in what is a treasure of a cookbook.

Truly, this is more than a cookbook because it tells a story and a brilliant one at that. Here's the plot summary: A stunning woman working in Berlin's fashion industry bucks her business's trend of eschewing carbs at mealtime when she sets out to bake the perfect loaf of sourdough bread. Lots of flour is harmed in the process but one day she nails it.

And she can't stop — won't stop — baking her rustic loaves of beautiful, chewy, tangy bread so she starts sharing her abundance with her colleagues. One day, someone offers her symphony tickets in exchange for some bread and The Bread Exchange is born. Elmlid creates her own gift economy with people trading recipes, stories and their own creations in return for one of her loaves, which take her two days to make.

She winds up travelling the world, sourdough starter in tow, baking bread in restaurant and home ovens throughout Europe, the U.S. and even in Afghanistan. All the while, she gathers vignettes and shares meals that make up her book, named after her project. Each chapter — the one on Afghanistan was my favourite — is filled with deeply personal writing that makes a reader feel as if they are breaking bread with Elmlid through her words.

The recipes are easy to follow and hold a mirror to the places and people she visits. I love this book for the escape it offers me through words and food. I feel like I'm Elmlid's co-pilot on her adventures, whether I'm reading her prose as I sit on my couch or she's helping me make something to eat in my kitchen.

Try now: Spinster Sister's kale salad, the maple-roasted pumpkin salad or buttermilk soup with horseradish mashed potatoes. All call for ingredients readily available locally at the moment. Local kale can be found at Bamboo Natural Food Market, grown by Victory Organic Greens, or in winter green mixes by Tree and Twig (also at Bamboo), or

Chez Nous Farms at the St. Catharines Market and their farm stand in Stevensville.

Looking for squash? Creek Shore Farms in St. Catharines has bins of them that overfloweth.

Try when you have time: The Bread Exchange Sourdough Bread, a jaw-dropping steely grey loaf, thanks to the addition of charcoal powder, with aromatic sage leaves arranged on top. If you need some starter, visit Jan at de la terre in Vineland or stop by the Morningstar Mill in St. Catharines where local wheat is ground into flour so you can make your own.

Photo of cookbooks stacked on a glass end table, next to a comfy chair

Bar Tartine Techniques and Recipes

My biggest regret from my trip to San Francisco in 2013 was that I decided to forgo dinner at Bar Tartine, sister eatery to Tartine Bakery, for Indian Food in the city's Tenderloin District.

I was three months pregnant and exhausted. The chana masala was only a few blocks from my hotel and reservations weren't required. It was easy and I chose convenience over a meal to remember.

Bar Tartine Techniques and Recipes (Chronicle Books, $50), by BT chefs Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns, is just salt on the wound when it comes to that regret-filled decision. To simply call Balla and Burns chefs almost seems to diminish the artistry that is their food. Everything they create pushes the boundaries of thoughtful cookery in this fascinating book they penned over three years. The contents of Bar Tartine are a reflection of the respect that Balla and Burns have for food and a nod to the influences wielded upon them by their travels and the kitchens where they've spent time.

This isn't a book that you will turn to when you get home from work to find inspiration for dinner. The black garlic and lentil soup alone requires at least two weeks' forethought if that's what you're in the mood for. That's the minimum amount of time needed just to prepare the garlic but Balla and Burns will lead you there, if that's where you want to go. Truly, this is a guide to turn to when you want to bring out the full potential of ingredients — and yourself as a cook — and have the time to do it.

It's the techniques section of this book more than the actual recipes that make it an invaluable resource. Balla and Burns insist Bar Tartine isn't a comprehensive guide to fermentation, culturing dairy or making spices. Still, the duo tells home cooks wanting to up their game how to do it in ways they may have never thought. From fermenting honey, and making butter milk and vinegars, to drying and grinding vegetables into powder (apparently parsnip is the perfect substitute for icing sugar), every technique honours the ingredient, showing each is a multidimensional character with an important role in the meal that ends up on your plate.

The recipes are a nod to the seasons and range from simple but elegant, like the beet and blue cheese salad or the hazelnut butter and strawberry jam cookies, to the more complex, involved, yet stunning candied beet and sunflower frangiapane tart or carob semifreddo with goat cheese, black walnuts and eucalyptus. But they all show an unparalleled respect for food and the lucky person who gets to enjoy the end result.

I think I need to check out flights to San Franscisco...

Try now: Beet and Blue Cheese Salad because local beets abound right now. In fact, they always seem to abound. If you froze some berries this summer and haven't worked through your stash yet (like me!), try those hazelnut butter and strawberry jam cookies.

Try later: Farmer's chop suey. Everything you need will be in your CSA basket at the height of the season to make this colourful and fresh medley of summer vegetables on a bed of homemade cottage cheese. The countdown to the growing season starts now.


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