Our Food Editor’s Favorite New Cookbook
One of the perks of being a food editor is the constantly rising tower of cookbooks on my desk. Piles of books come in on a daily basis, and I try to look through them all. Some inspire me, some teach me something new, some take me on a trip to an unfamiliar place, and some are just fun to look through. And then there are the books that actually earn a spot on my bookshelf at home—the ones that become dog-eared and spattered from heavy use. Now & Again, by cookbook author and food writer Julia Turshen, is one of those books.
As in her first cookbook, Small Victories, Julia has a way of creating ingenious little twists that make a familiar dish feel entirely new. Her Grilled Beef and Zucchini Meatballs with Tahini Dressing (she uses grated squash in place of breadcrumbs) are already in constant rotation in our house, and her Greek Yogurt with Fried Pistachios and Lemon had my family mopping their plates with pita bread. Now & Again is also filled with smart ways to make the most of leftovers—hence the title. While we didn’t have any leftovers (the downside of a delicious recipe!), the meatballs and yogurt could easily be repurposed into hearty pita sandwiches.
Winning recipes are enough reason to pick up a cookbook, but Julia’s comforting, friendly voice is what won me over. I probably could have have memorized the Caesar salad recipe (“Julia’s Caesar”) from Small Victories by now, but I reach for the book every time I need to make it, because reading the method feels like cooking alongside an old friend.
Although Julia isn’t from the South, her cooking has a Southern sensibility. Food is her favorite way to bring family and friends together, show love, and foster community. She’s also unapologetically thrifty and hates waste, and prefers to cook with the seasons—something any Southerner can appreciate. And her Virginia-born wife Grace, who introduced her to the joys of a good pulled pork sandwich, is one of her biggest inspirations, as you’ll see in these recipes from her new book.
Pickled Spring Vegetables
“Inspired by the plate of pickles Grace once enjoyed at Lantern, Andrea Reusing’s restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, these vegetables are transformed by a simple brine into amplified versions of themselves. Try any combination of vegetables or just a single vegetable, or you can even make pickled peach wedges or plums (both of which would be delicious with the pork). I like to make these at least a day ahead so they have a chance to take on a nice pickled flavor (plus you can cross them off of your to-do list).”
1 cup [240 ml] water
1 cup [240 ml] distilled white vinegar
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. mixed whole spices (I like a combination of red pepper flakes, allspice berries, and fennel, coriander, cumin, and celery seeds)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lb. [455 g] crunchy spring vegetables (such as spring onions, baby leeks, radishes, fennel, and/or asparagus), ends trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, spices, and garlic. Set the pan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool down for 5 minutes; it should be nice and warm but not boiling hot.
2. Put the vegetables into a tall, nonreactive container in which they fit snugly. Pour the warm brine over the vegetables (if they aren’t quite covered, add a splash of water). Cover the container tightly and give it a shake to help distribute everything evenly.
3. Let the container sit until it reaches room temperature and then either serve the pickled vegetables immediately or store them in the fridge for up to 3 days (if you end up storing them, give the container a shake every now and then).
Simplest Pulled Pork with Vinegar Slaw
“When Grace and I drive to Virginia Beach to visit her family, we sometimes take the long way to stop for pulled pork at Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que in Williamsburg, where Grace often went when she was in college, or head to Doumar’s in Norfolk for minced pork and slaw sandwiches. I’ve come to love these pit stops and now truly understand that one of the benefits of marriage is getting a whole new set of nostalgic foods. If you prefer to enjoy this pork and slaw as a sandwich, just serve them on soft rolls.”
1 3-lb [1.4-kg] boneless pork shoulder roast (cuts labeled Boston butt and pork butt will work, too)
1½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup [80 ml] water
1 lb. [455 g] green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about ⅓ small head)
½ cup [120 ml] apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. yellow or Dijon mustard
1. Preheat your oven to 275°F [135°C]. Sprinkle the pork all over with 2 tsp salt and the pepper and rub them in well with your hands. Put the pork into a Dutch oven or large baking dish and pour the water around (not on) the meat. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
2. Place the pork in the oven and cook, turning it every 2 hours (and remembering to cover it after you turn it), until it’s incredibly tender when tested with a fork and shreds easily, 5 to 6 hours.
3. Meanwhile, put the cabbage into a large bowl, add ¼ cup [60 ml] of the vinegar, and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Use your hands to scrunch everything together so the cabbage softens slightly. This can hang at room temperature for a few hours or in the refrigerator for longer.
4. Use tongs or two forks to shred the pork. Discard any large pieces of fat as you work. Stir the mustard and the remaining ¼ cup [60 ml] vinegar into the pork and its cooking liquid, sort of really whipping it all together to make sure the seasonings get well incorporated. Season the pork to taste with salt. Serve the pork warm with the slaw alongside.
Healthy, Happy Wife Cake
“The Happy Wife, Happy Life Cake in Small Victories, my first cookbook, was as much a simple cake recipe as it was a love letter to my wife. Seeing the recipe take on its own life in other peoples’ families and kitchens has been one of my most gratifying experiences as a cookbook author (and, real talk, as an out and proud gay woman). As these things go, though, life changed quite a bit between the time I wrote that recipe and when the book came out. During the interim, Grace was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and that beloved cake became more of a memory than something we regularly eat. I set out to make a new version that would meet all of Grace’s current health requirements and also be just as satisfying. After much trial and error, I landed on this recipe, which is great not only for folks with type 1, but also for anyone looking for a treat that’s kinder to the body than a typical cake.
The two cakes differ in a number of ways. This version is just a single layer rather than two layers (that means fewer carbohydrates per slice, plus the cake is easier to make!), uses coconut sugar instead of granulated sugar and less of it (coconut sugar is easier for the body to regulate), calls for almond meal instead of wheat flour (which makes it lower in carbohydrates and gluten free), and includes a hefty dose of cinnamon to add nice, warm flavor where there used to be sugar. I also use dark chocolate in the frosting and make just enough frosting to cover the top of the cake with a thin layer, instead of cloaking the whole thing. Lastly, I use a ton of fresh berries instead of jam, which eliminates a lot of added sugar and adds undeniable beauty. You can skip the frosting and berries and bake the batter in a loaf pan instead of a cake pan for a chocolate-almond tea bread.”
2¼ cups [250 g] superfine almond meal
½ cup [50 g] Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
6 eggs, separated
½ cup [70 g] coconut sugar
4 Tbsp. [55 g] unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
½ cup [120 ml] strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
½ tsp. fresh lemon juice, distilled white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
½ cup [90 g] dark chocolate chips (at least 60 percent cacao) or roughly chopped chocolate
½ cup [120 g] sour cream
1½ cups [200 g] fresh berries (preferably blueberries and raspberries)
1. To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-in [20-cm] round cake pan with baking spray and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper for good measure and set the pan aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, ¼ cup [35 g] of the sugar, the butter, vanilla, and coffee. Stir the almond meal mixture into the egg mixture, mixing well. The mixture will be quite thick, almost like a paste.
3. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a handheld electric mixer or a whisk and some elbow grease) and beat on medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With the mixer still running on medium-high speed, slowly add the lemon juice and the remaining ¼ cup [35 g] sugar and continue beating until the egg whites billow and turn into a fluffy, almost glossy cloud of stiff peaks, about another 2 minutes. To test if the egg whites are stiff enough, lift the whisk attachment. The whites that cling to it should stand nice and tall and not droop over (that’s a soft peak). If they’re not quite there yet, just keep mixing until they are.
4. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter. It’s okay if you sort of stir this one-third in rather than fold it in, as the cake batter is quite stiff and these egg whites will help lighten it. Add half of the remaining egg whites and gently and carefully fold them into the batter by cutting your spatula down through the middle of the bowl, scraping the bottom of the bowl, and then pulling the mixture back up. Think of it like cutting in the egg whites and folding them with the batter. This helps preserve the air you worked hard to create in the egg whites. Fold in the rest of the egg whites the same way. Use the rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and then smooth the surface so it is even.
5. Bake the cake until it has risen, is firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a couple of crumbs (and not wet batter) clinging to it, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature.
6. To make the frosting: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Put the chocolate chips into a medium heatproof bowl and set it over the saucepan (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water; if it does, pour some water out). Stir the chocolate until it melts and is smooth, about 2 minutes. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring between the intervals.) Remove the bowl from the saucepan and whisk in the sour cream. The frosting should be smooth and quite silky.
7. Use a dinner knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan sides and then invert it onto your work surface. Peel off and discard the parchment, then invert the cake one more time onto a serving platter. Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake and casually but thoughtfully arrange the berries on top. Cut into wedges and serve. Leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Recipes reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018