Cool Season Gardener
If you grow vegetables and live in the Puget Sound region, you need this book. Bill Thorness—contributor to this magazine and author of Edible Heirlooms: Heritage Vegetables for the Maritime Garden—has written a wonderfully comprehensive guide to extending our short summer season with a variety of sturdy crops that thrive in cool conditions. And don’t roll your eyes—this is about far more than kale.
Much of the book is about technique, rather than focusing specifically on varietals (although there is a good chapter that delves into cultivars). Some tips are simple, like planting both seeds and starts of the same vegetable simultaneously, to extend the harvest. There’s a great explanation of garden infrastructure, such as raised beds and cloches, some of which use salvaged material for very stylish results. And there’s a detailed section on organic soil building that’s useful in any season. The end result is an approachable, deeply informative text book that makes the most of our mild, occasionally frustrating, climate.
Seattle’s Plum Bistro is beloved for its high-quality vegan food—in fact, their soy and rice creams and cheeses are so rich, some diners believe they’re dairy-based at first taste. The cookbook starts off with a sweet introduction, on being a vegan and a locavore without intending to push any agenda.
The recipes themselves have a range of difficulty levels. You can find dishes as simple as a well-seasoned edamame or a roasted cherry tomato bruschetta or as complex as homemade pasta. Many are reliant on components covered in the first chapter—sweet and savory soy creams, a basil soy ricotta and soy-based cream cheese crème fraîche; they’re best made with a Vitamix but still workable, if softer, with a standard blender. There is a strong slant towards soy; this is delicious and versatile only for those without an allergy. More happily for those with dietary challenges, there’s a pleasing range of gluten-free flours incorporated into salads and breads.
The Secret Life of Baked Goods
Jessie Oleson Moore—she of the adorable anthropomorphized cupcake art at the CakeSpy blog and online store—has written a totally sweet history book. It’s also a cookbook, and you’ll find good recipes right alongside short biographies of desserts like Boston Cream Pie, Joe Froggers and Tunnel of Fudge Cake. The histories end up providing all sorts of fascinating tidbits, noting in the tale of lemon meringue pie that Spanish missionaries brought lemon seeds to California, or the ‘70s-era Better than Sex Cake owes its origins at least partly to the invention of Cool Whip (Jessie modifies the original recipe to use real whipped cream). The photos, by Clare Barboza, are absolutely delectable, and very few of the projects included are any more complex than that good ol’ American apple pie—which, by the way, dates back at least to the 1300s, and as Jessie writes, “is about as American as Winston Churchill.”