Cooking the Books: Summer’s 3 Best Cookbooks

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Summertime cooking is special. It’s less about cooking and more about assembling, using that good farmer’s market produce while the season lasts. The phrase, “thrown together,” comes to mind. For a few blissful weeks, I organize all cooking and eating around stone fruit, basil, sweet white corn, heirloom tomatoes, and all my other favorites.

An ideal summertime cookbook lets you do this. Its recipes are both produce-heavy and flexible enough to accommodate whatever whims you’ve had at the market that day. Here are the three I’ll be using (and probably staining with tomato juice) all season long.

What's Gaby Cooking
Photo: A Cozy Kitchen

What’s Gaby Cooking: Everyday California Food

Gaby writes the type of recipes that inspire al fresco dinner parties with friends and Margaritas on random weeknights (which is basically the point of summer). They’re cravable, colorful, and all about using as much fresh produce as you can get your hands on.

Salad for President
Photo: A Cookie Named Desire

Salad for President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists

I love jumping into Julia Sherman’s colorful, artistic world where food becomes art and salads receive main-dish status. I’ll make her Heirloom Tomatoes with Crunchy Polenta Croutons until the tomatoes disappear for the season.

river cafe london
Photo: Blackbook

River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant

The River Cafe’s simple recipes and focus on good ingredients make this book especially good for summertime, though I’ll use it year-round. I’m also excited to dig into Ruth Rogers’ inspiring words on 30 years running a landmark restaurant, breaking ground for women in food along the way.

5 Things You Don’t Know About…

Edie

Edie Horstman

Our #CookItCrew comprises staff, influencers, brands, agencies, designers, photographers – all the amazing people we work with. Today we’re checking in with our talented Account Manager, Edie Horstman. We asked what we don’t know about her!

5 Things You Don’t Know About Me

  1. I’m Mexican-food obsessed, and I credit my mom. In 2005, she opened a small taqueria in the Bay Area. Fast forward 13 years later, and she has five Mexican restaurants called LuLu’s. Talk about inspiring!
  2. My favorite late-night snack is a scoop (or two) of So Delicious ice cream. Any flavor.
  3. The one cookbook I’d save in a fire (God forbid!) is Oh She Glows Every Day — Angela’s recipes are delicious, satisfying, and encourage me to get creative with veggies!
  4. I love live video (weird, I know)! My secret is practicing beforehand. Notes are also key.
  5. The strangest thing in my pantry is Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies. What can I say? I’m a little kid at heart.

The Brand Biz: What’s Your Story?

brand biz

At CookIt, we talk about “story” all the time. As consultants working to help you define your brand, crafting your story is our first step. Without that key piece, you are rudderless in a vast ocean of competition.

The good news is that, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you always had the answer. Finding your story is the process of seeing that it was there all along.

Crazy talk, right? Don’t just take our word for it, try it. Follow this road, and let us know how it goes.

Picture your readers.

Who are they? What’s important to them? What’s really hard for them? What keeps them up at night? Once you feel like you know these things about your audience, go to the next step.

How can you help them?

Within your area of expertise, how can you help them? How can you solve a problem for them? What do you have to offer them that others don’t? Answer those questions, and go to the next step.

Why you?

What is it about you that qualifies you to be the authority your reader needs? Is it education? Life experiences? Values? Find that answer, and you will better understand your role in the story we’re writing. And then…

What’s so important?

Once you have a better understanding of who you’re talking to, how you’re helping them, and what it is about you that they trust and value, it’s much easier to grasp the importance of what you do. It may sound simple — it may be that they look to you for inspiration, for the motivation they need to stick to their goals. But that’s big for them. And that’s where you’ll find your story, and your opportunity!

What’s Cooking: June 2018

tomatoes

Our favorite past time? Talking about food, of course! Our team is always discussing the latest recipe, restaurant or cookbook we’re into. Here’s our list for June…

What We’re Cooking:

  • Anything and everything that involves heirloom tomatoes.
  • Everything from Alison Roman’s “Dining In” Cookbook. Can’t get over her recipe for Crunchy Chili Oil. I put it on everything now!
  • Currently making the basil vinaigrette from What’s Gaby Cooking every week!
  • Peaches with burrata, heirloom tomatoes and basil… anything that doesn’t require the stove!
  • Soba noodles! I’m a lover of all noodles, but in the summer I prefer cold broths over hot. I love keeping it simple or adding edamame, chicken, and nori.

What We’re Into:

  • Summer herbs. For our wedding, we were gifted an herb garden seed kit from Williams Sonoma. Thankfully, my basil is flourishing. And I’ve recently potted chives, parsley, mint, and cilantro. Wish me luck!
  • Making pies! Love using all the beautiful market bounty like juicy peaches, perfectly tart cherries and plump berries.
  • Car picnics, especially before a concert at Red Rocks

Where We’re Eating:

  • Denver’s Barcelona Wine Bar. I’ve been an embarrassing number of times since they opened a few months ago — as in, the manager knows me by first and last name. Everything is amazing, including their white wine sangria and roasted cauliflower with romesco sauce.  
  • The LGBT sandwich (a Pride Month special) at The Walrus and the Hedgehog, a pop up in the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, and one of L.A.’s best caterers!

 

5 Things You Don’t Know About…

Netanya Rommel

 

Just when you think you know everything about the people you work with, you learn something new. Here’s 5 things we never knew about CookIt’s Social Media Manager.

5 Things You Don’t Know About…

Netanya Rommel, our Social Media Manager

Hi there, it’s Netanya here! I spend a majority of my day on my phone (shocker!) running the CookIt Instagram and working with brands, developing their social media strategy and managing their accounts. Everyday is different and I love the creativity that comes with the job!

  1. I grew up in Seattle and, on a bit of a whim, decided to move to New York a couple months ago. I’m so glad I took the risk!
  2. I have a never-ending travel bucket list. Next up: Thailand, Israel and South Africa. But ask me tomorrowI’m sure I’ll have another one to add!
  3.  I volunteered at the The Pantry, a cooking school in Seattle, for five years. I learned everything I know about cooking from them!
  4. If I had to choose a favorite cuisine, it would be Malaysian. It has all the flavors: sweet, sour, spicy, umami. My favorite Malaysian restaurant is Kedai Makan in Seattle, and I don’t care if I have to wait in line for hours.
  5. I lived in Paris for four months when I was in college, and have always wanted to move back for a bit. Mostly, I want to eat croissants and walk by the Seine every day.

The Brand Biz: Meet Your Reader

gathering
Photo by Ditte Isager

When it comes right down to it, there’s really only one thing you need to know about creating a successful brand: You need to know who you’re doing it for. We like to call this your Target Audience.

Without a strong sense of who your reader is, and what their problems (or “pain points”) are, it’s hard to know who you are. The trick is to understand your value through the lens of your reader, delivering content that both informs and inspires them.

But how do you find your Target Audience? Here’s how we like to do it!

4 TIPS FOR FINDING YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE

1. Check out your competitive set

Get to know the brands and blogs that share content similar to yours. Who are their readers, and how are they helping those individuals solve their problems?

  1. Determine what makes you unique

How are you different from the brands in your competitive set? Can you create a niche for yourself and envision an audience that needs you and your unique skills/perspective?

  1. Get to know your current readers

Study, stalk and talk to your loyal fans, the ones who subscribe to your emails and follow you on your social networks. What do they love about you? What do they ask you for more of?

  1. Create a persona

Combining characteristics of your loyal fans with those of your potential readers (those who will appreciate you for what makes you unique!), draw up a profile of your target reader, including the kinds of details that help you identify why she needs you!

What’s Cooking: May 2018

 

focaccia
Salted Focaccia. Photo by Alex Lau.

We can’t help it, we’re so food crazy! Here are the CookIt Crew’s most recent recipe/restaurant/cookbook/cookware obsessions.

What We’re Cooking:

  • This unbelievably delicious, crispy, salty focaccia (photo above) from Bon Appétit (twice in the past month!).
  • This go-to appetizer from The Modern Proper is always a crowd-pleaser.
  • For mornings when we don’t want a caffeine rush, we keep My New Roots’ golden milk spice blend ready to go. It’s surprisingly energizing. (This coming from a bunch of coffee addicts!)
  • All the spring dishes from the Love and Lemons cookbook! We swoon over Jeanine and Jack’s photography.

What We’re Into:

  • Herriot Grace has some of the most beautiful kitchen goods and homeware. We’re obsessed, and can’t wait to pick up a few of their beautiful stoneware plates for summer dinner parties!
  • Atmosphere mists (room sprays) from Fig + Yarrow. We could spend hours in that store. If you aren’t already following their Instagram, you can do that here. You’re welcome.
  • The 2-qt. non-stick ceramic Green Pan saucepan. It’s the perfect size for rice or scrambled eggs, and cleans up so easily. We’ll always love our All-Clad babies, but….
  • The Forest Feast’s cookbook— Gatherings. It has us so ready for outdoor entertaining!

Where We’re Eating:

  • The Bombay Bread Bar, a new restaurant in New York serving Indian cuisine in a Wes Anderson designed space.
  • Just Be Kitchen, a haven for health gurus and paleo-eating Denverites, is now open for dinner! And, they have a new spring-summer menu.
  • Saturday morning at Din Tai Fung is becoming a favorite new brunch tradition.
  • Rosaliné in West Hollywood. One word: ceviche!

The Brand Biz: Mind the Gap

Brand Biz
Belathée Photography, www.belathee.com

We’re not big on marketing speak, but there is one term we use a lot: Gap Analysis. To us, it’s a really useful technique for identifying the gap between your competitive set (basically, those influencers who create content similar to yours and appeal to an audience like yours) and your brand. There is something unique about you, and once you zero on that characteristic, it will help you see the “gap” in the marketplace. And that gap is yours to fill!

But how do you find that unique characteristic, that thing that will become the DNA of your brand? Here are a few tips to put you on that path to discovery:

Analyze your current brand position

  • What are you?

  • Who do you it for?

  • What do you do?

  • Why is it important?

Analyze your competition

  • Who are they?

  • What do they do?

  • Who do they do it for?

  • What are they doing right/wrong?

Identify your opportunity

  • What is unique about you?

  • What can your offer your readers that no one else can?

  • How can your unique characteristic inform your content?

  • How can your unique characteristic help your reader?

What’s Cooking: April 2018

Toast

Fun fact about the CookIt Crew. By day, we’re a bunch of brand consultants, social media pros and account managers. By night, we’re cooks, the kind that think chopping an onion is meditative. So, in every issue, we’ll share some of our cooking/chef/restaurant/recipe obsessions – thinking you might be a lot like us!

What we’re cooking:

  • Zuni Cafe ChickenOn our way out the door recently, the hostess at Zuni in San Francisco handed us type-written copies of the original recipe, bread salad and all. Best way to roast chicken ever.
  • Haven’t met aSmitten Kitchen recipe we didn’t like, especially her recipe for these chocolate peanut butter cookies!
  • We’re obsessed with Athena Calderone’s Cook Beautiful. The photographs are gorgeous, and they’re making us jazzed to eat our veggies.
  • Paleo Gluten Free Eatsis a great resource for creamy and savory Whole 30 recipes!

What we’re into:

  • The Joule sous vide–omg, sous vide carrots and beets, who knew?
  • The Hazy Jane cocktail atTusk in Portland. Reyka vodka, almond, lemon, yogurt, cinnamon, black cardamom and rose water. We’ve been known to have more than two
  • The Joyfull Bakery Parmesan Cheese Crisps, which we first tried at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last month. One word: dangerous!

Where we’re eating:

  • Kismet, a cozy corner of a restaurant in East Hollywood serving an eye-opening take on modern Middle Eastern Cuisine
  • Our favorite little spot in the West Village calledBar Sardine. Great cocktails, atmosphere, and small plates.
  • Highland Park’s Côté Est: an up-and-coming LA neighborhood, and one of the most beautiful patios in town. Don’t miss the steak frites.