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2016 James Beard ‘Oscars’

Each year the James Beard Foundation awards the food industry with the highest honor in America: The James Beard Award. Categories include chefs, restaurants, cookbooks, food journalists and more.

On April 26 the JBF awarded winners in the categories of book, broadcast and journalism. Other category awards will be announced tonight (May 2), but for me, the “Oscars” of the food world happened last Tuesday.

Below is the short list of winners in the cookbook and food lit categories, for the complete list visit jamesbeard.org

2016 James Beard Book Awards

American Cooking
The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook by Chris Fischer with Catherine Young
Little, Brown and Company, $35

This unassuming book inspires both cooking and farming. It’s a journey of beautifully simple meals using what can be culled from the five acres on Martha’s Vineyard bequeathed to chef and farmer Fischer by his grandfather.

Baking and Dessert
Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More by Sarah Owens
Roost Books, $35

Sourdough is more than just bread, but based on the principle that naturally fermented dough lends not only depth and flavor but also healthfulness to a variety of baked goods.

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding
Oxford University Press, $65

An exhaustive wine educational in its 4th edition that will have you feeling your inner sommelier in no time.

Cooking from a Professional Point of View

NOPI: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully
Ten Speed Press, $40

With his popular cookbooks, seemingly everything Ottolenghi touches turns to gold, including this beautiful, slightly ethereal cookbook with its gold foiled pages and immaculate design. If you never cook from this one, you’ll still thank yourself for getting your hands on this masterpiece from Ottolenghi and Scully, if only to inspire a visit to Nopi restaurant.

Focus on Health
Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome by Virginia Willis
Ten Speed Press, $24.99

“Classic Southern” cooking rarely inspires ideas of “light” or “healthy.” It’s a clear reason why Willis deserves the win: for bringing Southern flavors to even the most stringent diet.

General Cooking
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt
W. W. Norton & Company, $49.95

This door stop of a book provides an invaluable resource for home cooks and aspiring chefs alike. López-Alt has brought us a modern America’s Test Kitchen, complete with his own flavor of cheeky banter.

Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35

The creative efforts of Solomonov and Cook have also earned Zahav the 2016 James Beard Cookbook of the Year award. The book is both instructive and personal, but taste for yourself with the recipes that follow.

Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson
Photographer: Heidi Swanson
Ten Speed Press, $29.99

Swanson’s journal of stories and pantries from her world travels are as personal as her simple (and attractive) recipes. She deserves a double award for not only authoring this book, but serving as photographer as well.

Reference and Scholarship
The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks by Toni Tipton-Martin
University of Texas Press, $45

The Jemima Code gives voice to the African American women and cookbook authors who have shaped American cuisine, while remaining only marginally recognized. A timely win for Tipton-Martin with a book that I wish could have been mandatory reading in my Home Ec class.

Single Subject
A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood by Diana Henry
Mitchell Beazley, $29.99

Henry’s win is no surprise. Her birds are never “just another boring chicken dinner,” and I press this book into the hands of any and every meat-eating home cook.

Writing and Literature
Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning) by Marion Nestle
Oxford University Press, $29.95

The vast consumption of sugar in America is at a well-known high, but narrowing down the politics behind the liquid sugar machine is eye opening, if not disturbing.

Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian

V Is for Vegetables: Inspired Recipes & Techniques for Home Cooks by Michael Anthony
Little, Brown and Company, $40

Like the alphabet poetry of Edward Lear, V is for Vegetable happily encourages readers to cook through an alphabet of produce. And with a little hum-making room for “Pidy, Nice insidy, Apple Pie!”

2016 James Beard Book of the Year

Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook

2016 Inductee into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame

Deborah Madison, prolific cookbook author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and the more recent Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes, has inspired vegetarian and meat-eating chefs alike through her authoritative vegetarian cuisine and writing.

2016 James Beard Publication of the Year

Lucky Peach Magazine
Quarterly Journal of Food and Writing, $28/yr

Informative and often irreverent, the varied topics and authors of Lucky Peach, along with its art and design, make it a favorite of mine. Recommended for the home cook who likes a bit of cheeky with their offal.

Recipes from Cookbook of the Year, ‘Zahav’


Whole Fish in Grape Leaves

Serves 2

The first time I ever saw a whole fish cooked on the bone was in the kitchen at Vetri. I came from the school of medium-rare cooking, and it was an eye-opener to watch fish cooked well past this point. What I quickly learned was that cooking protein on the bone adds flavor as well as insulating the meat so that it doesn’t dry out. I wrap the fish in grape leaves to keep the flesh moist in the oven. The leaves come packed in brine, and their salt and acidity help to season the fish as it cooks. The grape leaves get super crispy in the hot oven and make addictive chips to snack on. We used to have this fish on the menu at Zahav, but it would bury the kitchen every time an order came in. The dish is better prepared at home,where you have the time to give it the attention it deserves and where it will make a big impression on your guests. More guests? Roast more fish!

1 whole branzino or other similar whole fish (about 1½ pounds)
Kosher salt
1 lemon, quartered
½ cup chopped fresh dill (1 bunch)
15 large grape leavesOlive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Salt the fish well (inside andout) and stuff the cavity with the lemon quarters and dill. Arrange the leaves in a rectangle nearly as long andtwice as wide as the fish and place the fish in the center. Wrap the fish tightly in the grape leaves, overlapping
them to help seal the fish, and transfer to the lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the leaves.

Bake until the fish is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. (Poke a knife into the flesh to make sure it’s cooked.)Peel the crisp leaves off the fish and set aside. With a knife and a spoon, pull the skin from the fish and discard.Then, gently remove the fillets from the bones. Drizzle the fillets with olive oil and more salt and serve with there
served grape leaves

Beets with Tehina
Makes 4 cups

Beet salads are frequently paired with something acidic to cut through the sweetness of the vegetable: goat cheese, yogurt, or a bright, citrusy vinaigrette. This recipe takes a different approach, using the slight bitterness of tehina to tame the sugar and heighten the earthiness of the beets. The combination is magical, capable of casting a spell on people who normally don’t like beets. This beet salad is one of a handful of dishes that have been on the Zahav menu everyday since we opened — we should post a sign that says, “Over half a million served.”

5 cups plus ½ teaspoon
kosher salt
8 medium beets
½ cup Basic Tehina Sauce
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for topping
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for topping

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread 1 cup of the salt in an ovenproof skillet or baking dish. Put the beets on the salt and cover with the remaining 4cups salt. Bake until the beets are tender, about 90 minutes.

When they are cool enough to handle, remove the beets from the salt and peel. Set them aside to cool completely.

Grate the the beats into a mixing bowl using the coarse holes of a boxgrater. Add the tehina sauce, lemon juice, dill, and mint and season with½ teaspoon salt. Mix well to blend. Top with more chopped dill and mint and serve at room temperature or cold

Basic Tehina Sauce
Makes about 4 cups

This simple sauce is one of my basic building blocks and is so versatile that once you master it, there are a million things you can do with it. The important step here is to allow the garlic and lemon juice to hang out for ten minutes after blending but before adding the jarred tehina. This step helps stabilize the garlic and prevents it from fermenting and turning sour and aggressive, which is the problem with a lot of tehina sauces (and therefore the hummus made from them). Because you’re making an emulsion (oil-based tehina incorporated into water and lemon juice), the tehina sauce can sometimes separate or seize up. Don’t panic! Keep a glass of ice water nearby and add a few tablespoons at a time to the lemon juice — tehina mixture while you’re whisking, until your creamy emulsion returns.

1 head garlic
¾ cup lemon juice (from 3–5 lemons)
2 generous cups tehina
½ teaspoon ground cumin

Break up the head of garlic with your hands, letting the unpeeled cloves fall into a blender. Add the lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Blend on high for a few seconds until you have a coarse puree. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to let the garlic mellow.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large mixing bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Add the tehina to the strained lemon juice in the bowl, along with the cumin and 1 teaspoon of the salt.

Whisk the mixture together until smooth (or use a food processor), adding ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, to thin it out. The sauce will lighten in color as you whisk. When the tehina seizes up or tightens, keep adding ice water, bit by bit (about 1½ cups in total), whisking energetically until you have a perfectly smooth, creamy, thick sauce.

Taste and add up to 1 ½ teaspoons more salt and cumin if you like. If you’re not using the sauce immediately, whisk in a few extra tablespoons of ice water to loosen it before refrigerating. The tehina sauce will keep a week refrigerated, or it can be frozen for up to a month

Excerpted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, ©2015 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Images (c) Michael Persico. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.


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