Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canning and Ebooks

This is a post ostensibly about canning but it is actually about ebooks (disclosure: making ebooks is my day job).

First, and most importantly, Workman has a special on canning and preserving ebooks for September, with six books on sale for $2.99. (There's also a free vegetable PDF-ebook for the low, low price of your email address.) Feel free to stop reading here.

I wanted Put 'Em Up. You get seven buying choices: Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google, Indiebound, Kobo, and Sony. I was going to read it on my iPad, but that still meant lots of choices. Which behemoth to support?

Apple is the obvious choice on an iPad, and it's the easiest: just open iBooks, find the book in the store, and Apple already knows your credit card information. You're reading within thirty seconds. Here's the sample in Apple's iBooks.

Amazon probably comes to mind first when you think about buying books, and many people use the Kindle iPad app to read Amazon ebooks on the iPad. To buy books from Amazon for my iPad, I have to switch to my laptop, but the book automatically is sent to my iPad.

I have a lot of quibbles with Amazon, including their insistence on their proprietary ebook format over the open EPUB standard. However, if you are intent on saving money at the expense of civilization, I should point out that the book is actually $2.51 at Amazon, a savings of an additional 48 cents. Here's the sample in Amazon's Kindle iPad app.

I buy most of my ebooks from Google, and here's why: through their partnership with Indiebound, you can buy ebooks from your local independent bookstore. So most of my ebook purchases are through the Harvard Book Store or Brookline Booksmith, bricks-and-mortar stores that I heart so, so much, and I consider the many extra clicks required to do that a reasonable tax on having such wonderful places in the world.

Here's the book in Google Play.

But wait, what's this? Google Play also has a "scanned pages" option that shows you how the actual book looks (like a PDF of the book). You can't zoom in or change the text size, but for me, this is the right way to experience a nicely designed cookbook.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tomato Seconds

The Copley farmer's market had "seconds tomatoes" (at the Atlas Farm booth) at twenty pounds for $12 on Friday, which was too tempting to pass up, even lacking the inclination to process tomatoes all weekend. Fortunately, I could only carry one box.

I got a new canning book (more on that to come), so I checked out the tomato section, with laziness my chief criterion. (Did you know you can just freeze whole tomatoes?) 

I settled on marinara sauce, which allowed food milling out the skins and seeds (no blanching and peeling here). My laziness did, however, extend to refusing to go out to buy the onions the recipe called for, so the "marinara sauce" is plain old tomato juice and pulp. (I'm thinking I can doctor it, Smitten Kitchen three-ingredient sauce style, when we eat it.) The recipe said to cook for one or two hours to thicken the sauce; I'm past three hours and still sadly runny. 

On the bright side, dinner couldn't wait, so we took the discarded skins and seeds, ran them through the food processor with an onion (we had one), garlic, and carrots, and cooked with some water and olive oil for a faster, chunky sauce. Nose-to-tail tomato eating.

P.S. Another personal recipe modification. Smashing partially cooked tomatoes with a wooden spoon? Not very fun. Crushing halved tomatoes with your bare hands? Amazingly satisfying.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Baked Corn Casserole

Here's a riddle: How do you buy corn for an eight-ear recipe, make the recipe, and still have eight ears left?

The Sunday Globe magazine (love the recipe section; hate the paywall) had an article on baked corn casseroles this week, offering variants with parmesan and basil, goat cheese, chorizo and red pepper, mushrooms and bacon, and salmon and leeks.

The recipe takes a little time and focus: you cut the corn off the cobs, then cook it on the stovetop, then cook an onion and garlic, then make a roux, which with milk and cheese becomes a sauce, then pour the corn back in, and then bake it for half an hour. So maybe it is not the smartest side dish to try for the first time when you are also trying to make a whole dinner. Just saying.

Here's a Pioneer Woman version that looks a bit faster and easier (no precooking the corn, no roux, no onions or garlic, made with cream).

I went to the Copley farmer's market to buy corn at lunchtime. The recipe called for eight ears, but I always round up for potluck (you never know who will show up), so I picked out twelve. Went to pay, and the seller pointed out that their baroque pricing scheme (discounts for buying seven ears or fourteen) meant I would actually save money by taking two more ears.

Came home with my fourteen ears, but only six ears worth fit in my skillet (we moved and have very few pans; digression, I am so close to just breaking down and buying this, which, in the smaller size, was Cook's Illustrated's best-value saute pan). So voila, delicious corn casserole, and eight ears left for next time. Might make a chowder.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Foodie Penpals: August

August was my first month trying Foodie Penpals, a blogger food swap organized by The Lean Green Bean. You send a package of foodie treats (spending limit $15) to a food blogger or food blog reader (mine went to Wanderlust Hearts, who wrote about it here), and someone else sends one to you.

The box arrived a day late for August reveal day, when all the recipients blog about what came in their boxes, but was an amazing surprise precisely in the middle of my moving day (which was also the moving day of approximately one billion other people in and around Boston). It was literally the best part of a day of waiting a couple extra hours for the previous tenants to leave the apartment, abandoning a box spring and bed frame that couldn't make it up the stairs, and discovering that we didn't own a shower curtain.

My penpal was The Baking Band Geek (check out her sex cookies), and she sent me an excellent box of mostly South American treats. Mango jam (YUM) and guanabana and papaya juice, two pieces of Panda licorice, two kinds of granola, freshly ground peanut butter, and an intriguing (flan-like?) eggnog-flavored gelatin dessert mix. The box was literally the first food (and at this point, pretty much only real food) to enter our new apartment.

Tomorrow will be our first day of not subsisting solely on takeout, and you can bet that there will be granola and peanut-butter-and-mango-jam-sandwiches. I may or may not have already scarfed the licorice while taking a break from the unpacking chaos in a closet.