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Food in Print, Across the Pond

Hello. My name is Bonnie, and I’m a foodmag/cookbookaholic.

You’re thinking: Me, too, Bonnie.

They’re stacked by my side of the bed. I can’t manage to donate or pitch the unfortunates published in certain eras, such as the ‘70s (bad for hair, bad for the way food was put together). And until yesterday, when I sorted the must-reads from the can’t-decides, the stacks o' summer titles were making my desk at work look pretty scary.

In addition to straight-up cookbook reviews in the Food section and posted here at AWCE, I plan to share my thoughts on occasional finds of all stripes.

Today I divulge my crush on British publications. Magazines such as the Observer Food Monthly have eye-catching layouts and reader-friendly features. The BBC’s Olive has a lot of energy and interactivity -- recently, “Munch Your Way Through the Credit Crunch.”

Specifically, I’ve been cruising through Allegra McEvedy’s “Leon: Ingredients and Recipes” (Octopus Books, 2008; about $32) and Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” (Kyle Books, 2009; $24.95). Both women have great chefs’ chops.

Elia has cooked in far-flung locales and ran the kitchen of London’s Delfina Studio Cafe. Now she's a food celeb on British TV. Her flavor combinations are unexpected and intriguing, such as a porcini mushroom and fennel salad with vanilla-infused oil, and a watermelon curry with black beans and paneer. She includes “staple” recipes, too; her Apple Raita has a smart twist of grated Granny Smith, ginger and red onion. She described it as perfect with anything that’s spicy, and so far she’s right.

Pretty pictures, good food. Keep reading to see a recipe from "The Modern Vegetarian." (Bill Webster -- The Washington Post)

And did I mention Jonathan Gregson’s amazing photos? It’s tough to do “mood food,” but his shots are lovely and appetizing. I think his single fruit or vegetable photos at the start of each chapter are my favorites.

McEvedy’s book is packed with info about ingredients and insights and whimsical graphic treatments that might not fly in U.S. cookbooks, such as punch-out stickers and a pull-out poster of European cheeses. It’s almost too much to process at once, which is why it has been my borrowed nighttime reading for several weeks. (Sorry, Roxanna, it’s coming back to you, I promise.)

Leon is the name of McEvedy & partners’ nine restaurants. They call what they serve fast food, but there’s nothing close to a burger and fries on the menu. Her country honored her as a Member of the British Empire last year, and her first book, “Allegra McEvedy’s Colour Cookbook,” earned an international IACP award. She has worked in high-profile restaurants on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the River Cafe in London and the Tribeca Grill in NYC.

In the Cheese chaper of "Leon," you get a pull-out poster. (Bill Webster -- The Washington Post)

She’s made this book (her second) one-stop shopping for recipes, stories of gardening, friends and family (lots of photos), which can segue into the history of pasta without missing a beat. It’s personal and a fun ride; in reading it, you’ll feel as if you’re part of her crew. Undoubtedly you’ll learn something about real food.

In truth, I wasn’t as compelled to try as many of the recipes as I bookmarked in “The Modern Vegetarian” (maybe it’s having figure equivalents for all those ml measures). But I’ve been spending more time with “Leon,” to be sure; it’s a buffet of modern British natural-food culture.

-- Bonnie Benwick

Apple Raita
4 servings

This can be made and refrigerated several hours ahead. It’s best served the same day it’s made. From Elia's "The Modern Vegetarian."

1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt (whole or low-fat)
1/4 seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into small dice (1/3 cup)
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and grated (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1-inch piece peeled ginger root, grated (1 tablespoon)
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of garam masala
Juice of 1 lime (at least 1 tablespoon)
Leaves of 1 or 2 cilantro stems (1 tablespoon)
Sea salt

Combine the yogurt, cucumber, apple, onion, ginger, spices, lime juice, cilantro in a medium bowl; season with salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Per serving (using low-fat yogurt): 32 calories, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 82 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar

Leon Aioli
Makes about 2 cups

This aioli is best served the same day it’s made, but it can be covered and refrigerated 2 hours in advance. (P.S.: Keep this in mind for serving with the Gastronomer's Bouillabaisse recipe, coming up on May 27.) From "Leon: Ingredients and Recipes."

4 or 5 medium cloves garlic
Pinch salt, plus more to taste
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1/2 cup safflower oil
Scant cup (7 ounces) low-fat Greek-style yogurt
Juice of 1/4 to 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon), or to taste

Mince the garlic with a pinch of salt, then place in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held mixer along with the egg and egg white. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is pale and frothy.

With the motor running, drizzle in the oil to form an emulsion. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a spatula to fold in the yogurt, then the lemon juice to taste.
Taste and add salt as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Per tablespoon serving (using low-fat yogurt): 42 calories, 1 g protein, 0 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 17 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

By The Food Section  |  May 22, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Books , Recipes  | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Maria Elia, cookbooks  
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Next: Hamburger Buns With a Pedigree


Love love love the Leon. It's my new bible. Such an accurate review. I might have to buy a is the perfect gift. Think mother and law and people you stay with this summer.
The Saucy Apron

Posted by: saucyapron | May 22, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

oops that's 'mother in law' above!

Posted by: saucyapron | May 22, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

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