I’ve been waiting eagerly for Elisabeth Prueitt’s second book, “Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook.” The book is full of recipes Prueitt cooks in her own home on a day-to-day basis. The recipes are diverse and pull from a variety of cultures, making use of now readily available once specialty ingredients.
Her goal, she writes, is to create a cookbook that might be to modern cooks what Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker’s “Joy of Cooking” was to home cooks of the past. One that “inspires experimentation and delivers gratifying moments of success.” High aims, but at first glance, the book sure looked capable of inspiring the devotion I have to my tattered copy of “Joy.”
As I read, I was surprised to learn that Prueitt has a severe gluten sensitivity and, because of this, most of her recipes are gluten-free. Given my own allergy to gluten grains, I experienced something akin to the immediate flush of first love.
There are actually five cookbooks inspired by Prueitt and husband Chad Robertson’s San Francisco bakery, Tartine. She and these books are award-winning, so I felt I was in good hands.
I decided the best approach to reviewing “Tartine All Day” was to treat it like I do its inspirational predecessor, and my utility cookbook, “Joy of Cooking.” “Joy” is as useful as a paring knife and as helpful as a textbook. It’s what I seek out when I have fish roe and don’t know how to cure it, need to make yogurt or, after looking over Gill Meller’s “Gather,” want to know how to skin a squirrel.
I had too many ripe bananas, so I started with Prueitt’s go-to banana bread with streusel topping. As I dove in, the recipe was a bit too complex, and not friendly to the typical adaptations I put “Joy’s” recipes through. The flavor was good, but with the inclusion of almost a cup of sugar with the overripe bananas, the bread fell on the sweet side. Quick breads are typically one of the easiest to alter to accommodate my allergies, but I chalked my failure up to “It’s not you, it’s me” and moved on.
The next day my son requested pancakes, so I tackled Prueitt’s “any day” pancakes. The recipe worked perfectly and I only had to substitute hazelnut meal for the almond flour. Prueitt frequently uses almond flour in her baking recipes, but I’m horribly allergic. Fortunately, this is a nominal swap and the recipe handled it just fine.
I later reworked the recipe to fit my other allergies, and with a handful of changes, we had pancakes I could eat. My final recipe didn’t look anything like Prueitt’s, but she gave me a head-start by introducing gluten-free flours at the go. I’m happy to say I now have a pancake recipe that bumped my regular recipe to the side.
Later in the week, I picked up a half flat of strawberries and decided to make Prueitt’s strawberry-orange jam. This time, I followed her instructions perfectly. Well, except for one point. The inclusion of orange is to provide a natural amount of pectin to the jam. You cook the orange in water to release all this jelling goodness and then add it to the jam. My tweak was to pulse the orange after cooking and before adding it to the mixture because I wanted a less chunky jam. This should not have affected the outcome.
I obeyed Prueitt’s foolproof method by cooking the jam to a specific 221 degrees. It seemed to be ready for a perfect set, only it didn’t.
Left with that let down feeling of recipe failure, I read over Prueitt’s following, much fuller-detailed blueberry jam recipe. Here she says that sometimes, for whatever reason, the jam just won’t set. I wanted to take this as what had happened to me, but I was curious as to what “Joy” had to say. The book explained that despite reaching ideal temperature, the jam still might not be ready until more cooking time has passed, suggesting instead stirring to keep the temperature where it belongs, and to use an asbestos pad to pull away the heat.
I’m not using asbestos anything, so old school loses out on that point, but I was happy to know I wasn’t losing my mind.
I still had more strawberries and wanted a light and summery way to serve them. I opted for Prueitt’s champagne gelee with strawberries, which is just a combination of four ingredients and sounded perfect. I followed the instructions to the letter, then ran into a problem: chunks in my gel. The recipe says to dissolve the gelatin in a small pan on the stove with a ¼ cup champagne. I did so. Then it says to add this to a bowl of champagne and sugar, then mix together.
Despite my champagne being room temp, once the gelatin mixture hit the liquid, a gelatinous mass formed on my whisk and incorporating was impossible. I grabbed a larger pan and poured the whole lot in, then heated and whisked until the gelatin dissolved. I still had a few little lumps, so I poured the mixture through a strainer and into my pan.
How did I mess up Jell-O?
In sticking with my theme, I consulted “Joy.” This again turned out to be very informative. In a method matching Prueitt’s, a bit more liquid is recommended to heat with the amount of gelatin her recipe calls for. I’ll make this adjustment next time, because the champagne gelee was so delicious, there will indeed be a next time.
I began to ask myself, should I be needing to consult a second cookbook to get the recipes from the first to work for me?
My answer was a no, then a yes.
Prueitt hasn’t written another “Joy of Cooking.” That’s obviously impossible. “Tartine All Day” also isn’t the first book I’ve had to partner with the knowledge from “Joy of Cooking,” and I don’t really hold it accountable for not having the same depth. But, where “Tartine All Day” gives inspiration and flavor, it lacks that degree of wiggle room I’ve found in “Joy.”
I felt at odds with my review. I’d wanted to make this a utility cookbook, so I only cooked from it when I needed to. But with this approach, I’d ended up only making sweet recipes or baked goods, which are not nearly as flexible to adjustments. I didn’t really feel I was being fair.
“Tartine All Day” might be gluten-free, but not necessarily friendly to other allergy substitutions. Plus, if you can eat gluten yet don’t keep a pantry full of the flours Prueitt uses, you might find yourself in the same boat as I am in regard to fiddling with the baked goods recipes.
I feel if a cookbook is going to take you down the road of changing recipes to gluten-free, it’s helpful to understand the sort of cook using this book might need to adjust elsewhere as well. I was able to make my own changes based on back knowledge, but given Prueitt’s desire to make this a cookbook useful to all modern cooks and to encourage experimentation, I couldn’t help feeling it missed an opportunity to give more of an assist.
Fittingly, this week I was asked to bring a salad to a party. So I chose the kale and cucumber salad with tahini-lemon dressing. It’s simple and made use of ingredients in my “modern” kitchen like tahini, sumac and, of course, kale. Plus, this salad would stand up to tweaks. It would pair well with grilled chicken, toasted sunflower seeds and other vegetables or olives.
My mind enjoyed taking what Prueitt offered and making it my own, or at least to fit what was in my fridge. I felt the book had asserted its strength — flavor.
“Tartine All Day” is certainly suited to a modern cook, but is less like “Joy of Cooking” and more like a conglomerate of artfully curated recipes on your Pinterest page. In a way, this is exactly what a modern-day reference cookbook looks like. And this is why for me, “Tartine All Day” is still a big win, and one I’ll consult when I’ve got a surplus of some random item in my kitchen. It just may not be the only book I’ll look to for guidance.
Any day pancakes
The pancakes are quite light despite the whole grain and nut flours. I liked adding a little bit of cinnamon or other spice to give the cakes more flavor. And of course, these are perfect for adding fresh blueberries. A side note: Styled after the “order-of-use” format of “Joy of Cooking” you’re not provided with a master list at the recipe’s start, instead the ingredients and their quantities are listed alongside each of the recipe’s steps. I learned the hard way that if you don’t add up correctly at the go, you may run up short on an ingredient.
3 tablespoons almond flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour/starch
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon oat flour
¼ cup plus 1 heaping tablespoon brown rice flour
1¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Combine the almond flour, tapioca flour/starch, oat flour, rice flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
Stir the egg, butter or olive oil, and milk together in a small bowl, add to the flour mixture, and mix with as few stirs as you need to get it all combined.
Unsalted butter, for the pan
Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Spoon the batter into the pan, cooking a single pancake first to check if the pan is the correct temperature. Cook until the underside of the pancake is golden brown and air bubbles appear on top, about 1 minute. Flip and cook the second side until done. Repeat with the rest of the batter and serve immediately. Makes 12 (4-inch) pancakes.
Kale and cucumber salad with tahini-lemon dressing
Prueitt is a bit precise on the way to cut your kale, but it will taste the same if you are a lazy chopper. Just don’t skimp on removing the stems and ribs. I give the kale a little rub between my hands to ensure a less tough salad. Also, I had Persian cucumbers in my fridge so I just kept the skin on, making the salad even simpler to put together. This salad can be made a day ahead. Prueitt suggests if you do so, squeeze a bit of fresh lemon over the salad before serving.
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons water, plus more as needed
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ small clove garlic, minced (optional, but very good)
¼ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
Make the dressing in a small bowl by whisking together the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt, garlic, and cumin until smooth and creamy. If the dressing isn’t readily emulsifying, add a little more water, ¼ teaspoon at a time, whisking to incorporate.
1 large bunch kale, stems and tough ribs removed, and leaves cut into ¼-inch-wide ribbons
1 large cucumber, (peeled and seeded, if over 1 ½ inches in diameter), cut into ½-inch-thick slices
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
⅛ lemon, shaved as thinly as possible
Combine the kale, cucumber, pepper flakes, and lemon in a large bowl. Pour in the dressing and toss well.
1 teaspoon ground sumac, plus more to taste (optional)
Transfer the salad to a serving bowl, garnish with the sumac, and serve. Makes about 5 cups.
— Recipes reprinted from “Tartine All Day” by Elisabeth Prueitt with permission from Ten Speed Press.