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Books for Cooks: Whole-Grain Mornings

Books for Cooks: Whole-Grain Mornings

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Your morning meal is an opportunity to load in most of your whole-grain needs for the day. We addressed this in our January issue with 10 delicious whole-grain breakfast recipes, and Gordon gives many more delicious ideas in her book. We tasted several recipes and were blown away by her inventiveness. Cherry Hazelnut Quinoa Bars and Zucchini Farro Cakes were real standouts; our folks made copies of the recipes on the spot.Photo: Randy Mayor

Whole Grain Mornings

I am really excited to tell y'all about this new book I got: Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon. Sandra bought it for me a couple of weeks ago, because she is awesome and knows I am always on the lookout for nourishing breakfasts. This one had a lot of good reviews online, and she thought I would like it. Well, she was wrong - I LOVE IT!

Whole Grain Mornings

She actually bought a couple of other cookbooks for me at the same time - all focused on whole grains and other health conscious foods - but I've been so obsessed with Whole-Grain Mornings that those books have barely gotten a look yet. Oops. I haven't been this excited by a new cookbook since Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice, and before that, Nigella's Kitchen. And if you know me, you know that this means I rate this book very, very highly.

The main thing I like about Whole-Grain Mornings is Megan's laid back approach - although the book is focused on whole grains, it's not a "health" book as such, and ingredients like maple syrup, butter, full-fat milk, cream and bacon appear throughout. Refreshingly, she's not prescriptive or judgmental about the foods you "should" eat. She writes that she personally is not afraid of fat, but chooses to limit her intake of sugar because this works for her, and then notes: "we're all different. Thank goodness". Love this attitude! And, whilst she does note which grains and flours are gluten free, "in case that's a health concern for you", there's no crap about gluten being evil or generally "bloaty" or difficult to digest. Yay.

The book is also really well organised - Seasonal chapters, each divided into "Busy Weekdays", "Slow Sundays", "Brunch", and "Spreads and Toppings" a "Basics" chapter and a comprehensive introduction which includes a handy chart for cooking different grains. I don't know about you, but I really dislike haphazardly arranged cookbooks, and appreciate it when a book is set out thoughtfully.

Before getting this book, I had no idea who Megan Gordon was, but I now know that she is the founder of Seattle-based Marge Granola, which I believe is very popular over there, and writes a great blog called: A Sweet Spoonful!

In the two weeks I've owned the book, I've already made eleven recipes, with many more on my "to do" list. I wanted to blog it the whole time, but kept thinking: "Ooh - I've just got to make this recipe, or that recipe before I do so". And then I realised, if I kept doing that, I'd have made everything in the book before even blogging about it! So here we go.

From the The Basics chapter. I've already made this one a few times. It's just like porridge, but the difference is in the cooking technique. Firstly, Megan instructs you to toast the rolled oats in a little butter (ZOMG), then to pour them into just-boiled water and milk, turn off the heat and clamp on the lid. Seven minutes later you have a bowl of ready-to-eat oatmeal! I used to find it a pain cooking porridge before work, but this recipe fits perfectly into my morning routine - it takes just a couple of minutes to set it up, then I can get dressed and do my makeup while the oats are steeping.

I think it tastes fantastic too - the toasting really makes a difference. (And I think you could leave the butter out if you wanted to you'd still get a nice flavour by toasting the oats in a dry pan). Because you don't "cook" the oats, they don't go all mushy and gloopy, but stay nice and firm.

"The Very Best Oatmeal" with light muscovado sugar and butter

I like them with a little brown sugar (coconut or light muscovado), sometimes a splash of cream or butter (decadent!), or fresh berries. I've also chucked a spoonful of currants in before the steeping, and that's a great way to add sweetness too.

"The Very Best Oatmeal" with blueberries and raspberries

This recipe is a tasty and nourishing mixture of cooked barley (I used freekeh), with sprouts, white cheese (I used goats), nuts and a sliced avocado, with a lemony yogurt sauce. (The sauce is a separate recipe, so I'm including it in my count of "eleven" recipes!)

This one is a barely sweetened, cornmeal cake-slash-custard. I served it for a dessert one night, and leftovers made a fab breakfast. We don't have huckleberries here, so I substituted blueberries and raspberries. (Actually, the only other place I'd ever heard of huckleberries was on The Simpsons - I can't be the only one, can I?)

Nelson Muntz: [talking to a group of kids] The thing about huckleberries is, once you've had fresh, you'll never go back to canned.
[Skinner walks by]
Nelson Muntz: Uh, um. uh, so anyway, I kicked the guy's ass!
[Skinner nods and walks off]
Nelson Muntz: Now, if the berries are too tart, I just dust them with confectioner's sugar. (Source).

On Cooking:

I came out of the womb loving food. My mom said I was four years old, sitting at the breakfast table, and she said I would be asking what we were having for lunch and dinner while eating breakfast. And she always told me, “Melissa, eat to live, don’t live to eat.” And I still live to eat and I eat to live. I love food.

So it started with a love of food and as I grew up, probably even as a little girl I would go over to my neighbor’s house and make cookies. I even loved to bake as a young girl and then in high school, as soon as I could kind of clean up my own messes, my mom would tell you otherwise, but I started baking in the kitchen and experimenting with all sorts of crazy stuff. People were so nice to try my stuff. And that just kind of continued.

Once we went to Chicago and I was on my own, married, three meals a day, I needed to somehow prepare and I liked knowing how to do things. I liked knowing the science behind things, I liked knowing how things work and I think that’s kind of what fuels cooking: how does this work? How does baking soda work with liquid in the oven, at what temperature?

In college, I think I was probably the only one doing this, I was watching Martha Stewart on the weekends, that was really cool. And then that fuelled the interest, and she talked a lot about theories behind stuff, so I learned enough to be able to talk about it. And then one Christmas I asked for, I think it was King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Cookbook, it was this huge thick cookbook. I think it was a pale pink. I read that thing from cover to cover. I learned about wheat and the germ and the endosperm, and everything. I learned how wheat is bitter and how to cut the bitterness.

I liked food so much I had to watch myself, so when I baked I tried to use wheat flour and then tried to lighten things up for a long time. I still use a lot of wheat flour now. But I guess I would attribute a lot of that knowledge to the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking bible. It’s chunky, it’s thick.

I have not read through it in a really long time. I’m sure a lot of bloggers, and just home cooks in general experience this. You make a lot of other people’s stuff at first, a whole lot, until you begin to learn what the ingredients do together, and what you like. And so now I have my cake recipe, or my bread recipe, or my muffin recipe, like a base recipe, and then I tweak it from there. So they are my recipes, but it’s a long heritage of people and books that I learned from.

Whole grain mornings (and a giveaway)

Trying to decide what I’m going to make for Christmas morning every year is a lot like trying to decide how I’m going to cook my turkey. In both cases, I have no tradition, no surety about the way it has to be. On the night before Thanksgiving, I’m still holding a box of salt in my hand, trying to decide whether to wet brine or dry brine or screw the brine and maybe rig up some sort of dangerous contraption in the backyard to deep fry it and set the woods on fire. In the same way, I scour cookbooks and blogs and the words of anyone who wants to share when it comes to what to make on Christmas morning. I search through my books as if we’ve never had Christmas before. I start out new, and I look for that dish that will call out to me in four-part perfect caroling harmony. I usually find it, and then I begin again the next year.

These last few weeks, I’ve had a new book to help me.

In all honestly, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen Whole Grain Mornings. Megan sent me a pdf version of the book back in the summer, and I started cooking with it then. Her editor asked if I might have a few words of praise for the back of the book, and my first response was to laugh at the word “few.” A few words? I could fill the whole back of the book talking about what I love about this book! But I did my best to pare it down, and then I saved the rest for now, when I get to share it with you.

I still don’t know what that magic element is that makes me truly love a cookbook. Of course I like recipes that work, ingredients I can find, and a writer with whom I want to spend some time. But in the end, there are certain books that I reach for every time I’m not sure what I want to cook. I’ll take the book off the shelf and the couch in the kitchen will pull me to it, and then there I am, reading my way through the book again, folding down pages. It’s a quality I can’t pin down, but I don’t find a book with it too often.

Whole Grain Mornings has it. Even Sadie felt it- she took the book to bed with her the first night it arrived and woke up early the next day to make the Hasty Pudding recipe. Megan is so warm and accessible, and her recipes are creative and inspiring, but also doable for anyone. There are recipes to make ahead for days when you eat breakfast running out the door, and there are recipes to slowly languish in as you drink a second cup of coffee on the weekend. But what I might love most about the book is how Megan’s love and appreciation for the ingredients comes through. It can be easy to slip into thinking of whole grains as (to borrow a term I love from Mollie Katzen) “remorse cuisine,” less delicious and more virtuous than their enriched relations. But these recipes (Zucchini Farro Cakes! Fresh Fig Parfaits with Popped Amaranth and Almond Cream! Bacon and Kale Polenta Squares! Huckleberry Cornmeal Custard!) are anything but remorse cuisine. Especially if ingredients like millet, faro, and quinoa aren’t in your normal rotation, these recipes are the best introduction to how to prepare them in ways that show off how delicious they really are. And even if you and whole grains go way back, I think you’ll find lots of new inspiration here. The book doesn’t actually come out till New Year’s Eve, but that’s enough in 2013 to make it one of my favorite cookbooks of the year.

Ten Speed Press has agreed to let me give away a copy of Whole Grain Mornings, and the winner will get their copy just as the book comes out. To enter, will you share your Christmas morning menu plans? Or that recipe you always make, the one that really makes it feel like Christmas? (Of course, I still have no idea what I’m making. I could use help.) Or if Christmas isn’t your holiday of choice, tell us about another favorite breakfast tradition for one of these many December holidays. AND I’ve devised a plan to give you one more entry, if your so inclined. Here’s how it works: a comment gets you entered, but you’ll get an additional chance if you tell me you’ve preordered Whole Grain Mornings (from any source- even local bookstores usually offer the possibility of preorder). If you’re the lucky winner, and you’ve also preordered, then I assure you the book is one you’ll want to give as a gift. The giveaway is only open to people in the continental US, but I hope you’ll chime in to the conversation even if you’re farther away–just let me know you’re not in it for the goods. And one more note: if you’re sharing a link to a recipe or post in the comments and the comment doesn’t show up, it’s just my pesky (but awesome) spam filter watching out for me. Just send me an email, and I’ll find your comment. I’ll pick the winner On December 26.

I know oatmeal doesn’t sound like a fancy Christmas morning type of breakfast, but when it’s baked and layered in with spice and fruit, it’s an entirely new animal. I tested this in my own kitchen by making it and letting it sit in the fridge for several hours before baking, and it worked great. So if you want to make this ahead of time and pop it in the oven in the morning, that works, too.

Banana Walnut Baked Oatmeal

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted and cooled
1 cup walnuts, toasted and cooled (you can toast both the almonds and walnuts together on a tray in a 350° F oven for about 8 minutes)
3 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 large egg, beaten
3 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch slice
3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted, blue more for greasing the pan
Flaky salt (optional)
Warm cream or milk, for serving, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a deep, 8-inch square baking dish with coconut oil or butter.

2. Combine the oats, almonds, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, baking powder, spices, and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the milk, the buttermilk, applesauce, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the dry mixture, and gently fold it in. (Megan urges us not to stir vigorously here so as to keep the oats whole.)

4. Spread a layer the sliced bananas over the bottom of your prepared baking dish. Spoon half the oat mixture overtop the bananas. Layer the remaining bananas overtop the oats, and then finish with the rest of the oat mixture. Pour the remaining milk over the oats, and finally, top with the melted coconut oil or butter. Bake until the top is golden, about 40 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven or on the stovetop.

Thanks to Ten Speed Press for making this giveaway possible, and to Megan Gordon for writing a book that will get our days started off in such a good way.

Get A Copy

Books for Cooks: Whole-Grain Mornings - Recipes

Eat This Poem

A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry


A literary cookbook that celebrates food and poetry, two of life's essential ingredients.

In the same way that salt seasons ingredients to bring out their flavors, poetry seasons our lives when celebrated together, our everyday moments and meals are richer and more meaningful. The twenty-five inspiring poems in this book&mdashfrom such poets as Marge Piercy, Louise Glück, Mark Strand, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Jane Hirshfield&mdashare accompanied by seventy-five recipes that bring the richness of words to life in our kitchen, on our plate, and through our palate. Eat This Poem opens us up to fresh ways of accessing poetry and lends new meaning to the foods we cook.

Praise For Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry&hellip

"Flipping through the pages of Eat This Poem will make you feel as though you're sitting down with an old, wise friend over tea&mdashwith the anticipation of a great meal to follow. The poems, and the stories behind each recipe, reinforce how meaningful the simple act of feeding and nourishing ourselves and our family is. A must for the reader and cook in your life!" &mdashMegan Gordon, author of Whole-Grain Mornings

&ldquoI have always appreciated how Nicole brings a peace and stillness to the kitchen as she connects recipes with poetry. What a piece of art to have a book that delightfully marries the two.&rdquo&mdashSara Forte, author of The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon

"As [Gulotta] points out, both poets and cooks are makers she celebrates the craft of these artisans with 75-plus recipes and accompanying poems.&rdquo &mdashBooklist

"Reading and eating. What could be more consoling?" &mdashToronto Star 

Cookbook Review: Roxana Jullapat's 'Mother Grains' has all the makings of a new classic

As we begin to break through to the liberation side of The Great Confinement, finding the silver linings of what we’re leaving behind feels like a sunny way to try to make sense of the world and what we’ve been through.

One of those silver linings is that as a society, we seem more able to take some control of our food choices, and we are moving on from long-held assumptions about the foods available to us. Sourdough obsession illustrates that in microcosm. People couldn’t get great bread. They dove in, devoted themselves to the science and feeding of sourdough, to the baking of bread, and figured it out. It has been transformative for many.

Related to that phenomenon is a new interest in grains: where they come from (geographically and historically), who farms them, how they’re milled and how supporting, purchasing, baking or cooking with and eating them can improve lives all around and in many ways.

I’m not a frequent bread baker, but when I do make my occasional no-knead, Dutch-oven number, it is always whole grain. During pandemic I became hooked on the heritage flours offered by a local(ish) miller, Barton Springs Mill. Outside of baking, I also became obsessed with the heirloom corn sold by Masienda, the Los Angeles-based purveyor that sources its dried corn (and masa harina made from it) from small-scale farms in Mexico. That has been life-changing for me, as I no longer have to settle for tortillas made from commodity corn and bread made from commodity flour. The flavors and textures I’m enjoying are so much better — as is the way I feel about supporting the farmers and millers who make it all possible.

Both Barton Springs Mill and Masienda are part of a larger “grain revolution” — which is the subject of Roxana Jullapat’s outstanding new cookbook, Mother Grains.

Spelt Blueberry Muffins with streusel topping, from Roxana Jullapat’s ‘Mother Grains.’

Jullapat, the renowned baker and co-owner of Friends & Family in Los Angeles, became inspired by the grain farmers and small mills whose products she worked with back when she and her husband, chef Daniel Mattern, had a restaurant called Cooks County (it opened in 2011). “I began using whole grains in our breads and pastries and, for the first time, paid attention to how these new ingredients could transform the way I baked,” she writes in the introduction.

Born in Orange County, CA to immigrant parents — a Thai mother and Costa Rican father — Jullapat lost her mother when she was just two years old her father moved the family to Costa Rica and remarried. She grew up there, then studied journalism in college, contemplated grad school after getting her degree, but wound up returning to California and attending the Southern California School of Culinary Arts. There she met Mattern, and they both wound up working at Campanile, Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel’s celebrated restaurant. Jullapat went on to serve as pastry chef at two other wonderful restaurants — Lucques and A.O.C. (Mattern was chef de cuisine at A.O.C.)

After she and Mattern closed Cooks County in 2015, Jullapat took two years to experiment with heirloom grains from all over the United States and around the world — and to travel. “I went to Bhutan,” she writes, “where I tasted Himalayan crepes thin and thick and sampled earthy Bhutanese red rice. Then I headed to Turkey, where whole ancient wheat berries are common in savory dishes . . . . Back in Costa Rica, I discovered heirloom blue corn grown organically in the northern region of Nicoya.” Between trips, she visited Southern California farms that were leading the local grain movement.

The book offers a wealth of knowledge about the eight ancient “mother grains” that inspired the title: barley buckwheat corn oats rice rye sorghum and wheat. Did you know that rye is a newer grain — only 2,000 or 3,000 years old — and that it originated in Anatolia, near modern-day Turkey? That it thrives in cold, damp climates, which is why it’s ubiquitous in Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe? Or that buckwheat is a pseudograin, like quinoa, which means it comes not from a grass but from a leafy, flowering bush?

Did you know that flour — especially whole-grain flour — is perishable, and that purchasing from artisan mills or local distributors is a great way to ensure freshness?

Spelt, I learned from the book, is probably the best-known “ancient” wheat, the one Jullapat considers a “gateway” for bakers starting to explore ancient grains. (Other ancient wheats are einkorn, emmer, also known as farro, khorasan wheat and durum.)

Want to discover spelt’s charms? Treat yourself to Jullapat’s Spelt Blueberry Muffins. I did, and they turned out to be far-and-away the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever tasted.

In fact, Jullapat’s recipes are generally spectacular — which is why I think her book deserves to become a classic. I’ve marked dozens of pages of recipes I want to try, and nearly all of the seven I’ve made so far have been exceptional.

The Macadamia Brown Butter Blondies that Jullapat has baked “every day since opening Friends & Family opened in 2017” are a case in point. Brown butter and barley flour give them a wonderful depth, but don’t worry — they’re rich and decadent enough to charm all comers, including kids.

Macadamia Brown Butter Blondies, from ‘Mother Grains’ by Roxana Jullapat. Jullapat writes that she has baked them ‘every day since opening Friends & Family in 2017.’

They’re baked in a round cake pan, “ensuring that each piece has a chewy, toasted exterior and a soft center.” Jullapat points out that because they’re so easy to make, they keep for a few days and they travel well, “they’re an ideal homemade gift you can ship to friends and family all over the country.”

Not all the recipes are sweet. In fact one of my favorites is a savory: Buckwheat Blini with Dungeness Crab Salad.

Blini, as you may or may not know, are leavened pancakes that are traditional in Russia. There, they’re topped with sour cream or melted butter and treats like smoked salmon, whitefish, herring or caviar. According to Anya von Bremzen, author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, blini are saucer-sized, “never cocktail-sized, and these days people prefer wheat to the archaic buckwheat.”

That’s fodder for another story, one about blini culture. In any case, I so loved the archaic buckwheat mini-blini in Jullapat’s book that I’ve made them twice in two weeks. Or maybe we could say four times: Her recipe makes enough batter for about 3 dozen blini, and both times I made them, I saved some of the batter to cook blini the following day. They’re so good — and so much fun to make — that I’m contemplating making them again tomorrow.

On the subject of the topping, Jullapat suggests that if you’re not a West Coaster, and don’t have access to Dungeness crab, using whatever is locally available. I used defrosted frozen lump blue crab, and that was fine, but I know it would be spectacular with Dungeness. I have also topped these with a smear of crème fraîche and a bit of smoked salmon or smoked trout, a squeeze of lemon and a sprig of dill or snip of chive. So good.

Buckwheat blini with crab salad, avocado and dill, from Roxana Jullapat’s ‘Mother Grains’

We do need to end with a sweet though, and Mother Grains’ Chocolate Dynamite Cookies are winners. Called “dynamite” because of Jullapat’s observation that they elicit explosively positive reactions in those who try them, the fudgy, brownie-like cookies are wheat-free (made with dark rye flour) and completely whole grain. Pretty astonishing for something that tastes so indulgent. Jullapat promises that if you make them, you’ll be invited to “every potluck, picnic and dinner party.” I’m sure she’s right!

I did have a small problem with them the first time I baked them, though I can’t exactly say that it’s the recipe’s fault. The cookies turned out as wonderfully as promised, but I lost my favorite Oxo mixing bowl in the process, thanks to some quirk of physics in which a vacuum was created by the chocolate-melting set-up Jullapat prescribed. I had to throw away that bowl and the pot to which it became permanently and irrevocably adhered. My adaptation won’t get you into that quandary, because I tweaked the melting method, substituting one favored by chocolate expert Alice Medrich.

I also tweaked the mixing instructions for cooks who, like me, do not own a stand mixer, but have a hand-held mixer instead.

Which brings me to the one small wish I have for the book. Because I’d like it to stay in print forever — finding a wide audience and passionate fans — I’m hoping that a future edition will get a fresh round of closer editing than it got the first time around. Among the 7 recipes I tested, nearly all lacked helpful info — particularly about what size bowls to use for various tasks — requiring more guesswork and/or extra dishes to wash than is ideal in a classic cookbook.

There is also a significant error in the book — of the sort an attentive editor or copy editor should have caught. A recipe for Vegan Pozole Verde calls for “2 cups, or 170 g.” of dried hominy. In my kitchen, 2 cups of dried hominy weighs more like 300 g., while 170 grams is 1 generous cup. I prepared the pozole using 170 g. rather than 2 cups, which was the right guess.

In any case, these are small flaws, easy to fix on the next go-round, should that come to pass. The important thing is Mother Grains is a wonderful book, one whose surface I have barely scratched. There are so many more things I want to try: Nectarine and Blackberry Crisp made with rolled oats. Grapple (grape and apple) Pie made with Sonora Wheat Pie Dough. Semolina Cookies with Fennel Pollen. Oatmeal Date Cookies. Crepes Suzette with Blood Orange and Mascarpone.

Want in on the deliciousness? Try one or more of the recipes we’ve adapted here at CWB. If you love them as much as we do you’ll want to buy Mother Grains lickety-split.

Breakfast Loaded Sweet Potato

Carlene Thomas/Eat This, Not That!

'Sweet potato toasts' made the rounds in the trendy wellness recipe world recently, thanks to the avocado toast wave making veggies a popular breakfast choice. But you don't need to load your sweet potato on a piece of bread to enjoy it for breakfast! Cut out the middle man and turn your sweet potato into a vessel to carry yogurt and granola.

Get our recipe for Breakfast Loaded Sweet Potato.

Molly Wizenberg's Favorite Cookbooks

I started reading Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, in 2004, the very summer it started. I had just graduated from college and found myself in a crevice between two bookshelves windowless office at a publishing company in New York's Union Square, filling reprint numbers and paper costs into a handwritten spreadsheet, and sometimes taking photocopies of copyright pages up to other floors where more qualified people could glance at them. The job didn't require my entire focus, and blogs like Orangette filled the hours between my morning commute and my evening attempt to make dinner for my roommates. I'd jot down the recipes, but mostly, I came to Orangette for Molly herself. Food blogs come and go, but Orangette has lasted because Molly's readers love her voice and are eager to spend time with her by visiting the blog again and again.

She's written books, now, too: A Homemade Life, and most recently, Delancey, which tells the tale of her husband Brandon's Seattle pizzeria restaurant. I recently had the chance to ask Molly about her favorite cookbooks and food blogs. Here are her picks.

What do you look for in a cookbook? More than anything, it's a feeling. I like cookbooks that have a focus on seasonal ingredients and relatively straightforward preparations. Nothing with eight zillion different flavors going on. I like food photography that feels natural, with real mood and texture. (Heidi Swanson's books are a great example of this, as are Nigel Slater's.)

And I like cookbooks that don't shy away from giving me lots of information! I like to really dig into the details of why an author makes a certain dish a certain way, or why a given apple is best for a given preparation. (I'm thinking again of Nigel Slater, and of Judy Rodger's wonderful, wonderful Zuni Cafe Cookbook.) I like a cookbook to feel approachable, but to also be able to teach me something new.

What favorite cookbooks were used around your family home growing up? My dad was the kind of cook who would pull out a handful of cookbooks and compare recipes for the same dish, pick and choose what elements he liked, and then make his own version. The book I remember him using most often was The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne, but I remember him also being enamored of Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman.

As for my mom, I can't remember what she used! I've always thought of her as a food magazine reader more than a cookbook reader. Like a lot of cooks in the '80s, she had the Silver Palate books, and I remember her using those, but more often, I remember her shuffling through a drawer stuffed full of magazine recipe clippings.

Favorite vegetarian or vegetable-based cooking book? These days, I'd have to say Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, or maybe Tender: Volume 1 by Nigel Slater. But I've also gone through periods of relying on Chez Panisse Vegetables, which is a timeless resource, and when I was in my early 20s, a friend gave me a copy of the great little book Fresh from the Farmers' Market by Janet Fletcher. I still use it often! Oh, and when I was very first starting to cook for myself, I loved all of the Moosewood books.

Favorite cookbook for desserts? For everyday desserts, I am a big fan of Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. And before that, I loved Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets. Mostly, though, I find dessert recipes here and there, in all kinds of cookbooks. One of my favorite cakes of all time is Amanda Hesser's almond cake, from Cooking for Mr. Latte.

Favorite source for recipes when you're cooking for a group? When I'm cooking for a group, I usually do very simple stuff—a side of salmon, for instance, cooked like this—or recipes I've made a million times before and posted on my blog.

Any favorite cookbooks released recently? My friend Megan Gordon's book Whole Grain Mornings helped me perfect steel-cut oatmeal, and that's been a source of many happy mornings at our house.

What lesser-known cookbook authors deserve more love? She's not lesser-known anymore, but I love Edna Lewis's work, and in particular, her book The Taste of Country Cooking. In my world, it's a classic.

Do you think cookbooks as a form are here to stay? What about food blogs? I certainly hope cookbooks are here to stay! There's something very special about the tangibility of books. To me, they're the whole package, if you will: they're not only useful, but also visually beautiful, able to be carried around and taken anywhere (even where there's no wifi!), with paper that feels good between my fingers and makes that familiar rustling sound when you flip through, and margins that I can write notes in. I know I'm being sentimental, but I don't see anything replacing books entirely. Food blogs, for me, fill a different need. When I read a food blog, I feel a different kind of immediacy, a real companionship in the kitchen. I love that, and I'm grateful for it. Without blogs, my life would look nothing like it does! But I'm hanging onto books, too.

Which food blogs do you read these days? I always love Luisa Weiss's The Wednesday Chef, and Rachel Roddy's Rachel Eats is wonderful, too. (I also love Rachel's Instagram feed.) And there are so many others. Aaaaagh! I feel overwhelmed just thinking of how to list them all: Elissa Altman's Poor Man's Feast, Jess Fechtor's Sweet Amandine, Tim Mazurek's Lottie + Doof. Okay, I'll stop there.

Books for Cooks: Whole-Grain Mornings - Recipes

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Union Literary is a full-service boutique agency specializing in literary fiction, popular fiction, narrative non-fiction, memoir, social history, business and general big idea books, popular science, cookbooks and food writing. We excel at project development, hands-on editing and placing our projects with domestic and foreign publishers, film and television companies.

Trena Keating
[email protected]
Trena Keating represents a range of talented authors with strong voices and creative and cutting-edge ideas, including novelists, journalists, celebrities, and experts writing for a popular audience such as professors, doctors, scientists, and entrepreneurs. She manages complicated estates, works with multi-platform writers, develops and grows authors in mid-career, and introduces new voices to the book world, building their career through media opportunities and around the world. Her list is a balance of #1 NYT bestsellers and debuts she finds that equal are the pleasures of working with masters of the craft and new talent filled with promise. Prior to becoming an agent, Trena was Editor-in-Chief of Dutton and Associate Publisher of Plume, both imprints of Penguin, Senior Editor at HarperCollins, and humanities assistant at Stanford University Press and has had the honor to work with such esteemed, award-winning, and bestselling writers as Tracy Chevalier, E.L. Doctorow, Diane Johnson, Toni Morrison, and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as actively publishing estate classics from George Orwell and Ayn Rand. She has appeared as a publishing expert on Kathy Griffin’s television show and “Inside Edition”. Trena takes on a select list of clients so she can actively edit and effectively manage each career.

Sally Wofford-Girand
[email protected]
Sally Wofford-Girand has worked with such luminaries as Salman Rushdie, Grace Paley, Kim Edwards, and Alice Hoffman as the foreign rights director at a boutique literary agency. Her particular areas of interest are: history, memoir, women’s issues, cultural studies, and, most of all, fiction that is both literary and gripping. Favorite authors include Cormac McCarthy, Kate Atkinson, Jennifer Egan, Elizabeth Strout, Anne Patchett, John Green, Jose Saramago, and Wallace Stegner. She is a hands-on agent with a passion for great storytelling. She loves the thrill of discovery in working with debut novelists. Sally is on the International Committee of AAR and a board member of Writers Omi, an international writers colony in New York.

Jenni Ferrari-Adler
[email protected]
Jenni Ferrari-Adler represents a list of exciting fiction writers including Emma Straub, Ariel Djanikian, and Brittani Sonnenberg, award-winning food writers including Maria Speck, Cheryl Sternman Rule, and Nancy Singleton Hachisu, food shops including Four & Twenty Blackbirds, The Meat Hook, and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, as well as the estate of Pamela Moore, YA, narrative nonfiction, and other categories. Jenni worked for 5 years at Brick House Literary Agents and 4 years at Sobel Weber Associates. Recent novels she wished she represented are THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey, WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple, and THE INTERESTINGS by Meg Wolitzer. Jenni loves working closely with her clients on every step of the process. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan and a BA from Oberlin. She edited the anthology ALONE IN THE KITCHEN WITH AN EGGPLANT. She has taught writing at the University of Michigan and the Gotham Writers Workshop, and worked as a reader for The Paris Review and a bookseller at Housing Works. Jenni is on the contracts committee of the AAR. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and son.

Taylor Curtin
[email protected]
Taylor Curtin is Union Literary's newest addition and is currently working on building her list. Taylor is interested in true crime, young and new-adult fiction (especially in the realms of sci-fi and fantasy—both high and low), as well as upmarket and literary fiction. For true crime she is looking for compelling stories that bring the drama and incorporate aspects of psychology, forensics, and/or the litigation process. Regarding fiction, she is a sucker for snappy, sarcastic characters with stories that ring (painfully) true while making the reader laugh, or even cry. Taylor is passionate about narratives that are diverse, culturally conscious, and socially aware (particularly for younger readers). She has an appetite for high-quality and evocative writing that transports the reader to unfamiliar places, or lends fresh eyes to a familiar place. She’s not afraid of edgier, grittier, or darker voices and stories, and prefers the kid-gloves are off when handling young readers. Before finding her way to publishing, Taylor worked as a wardrobe stylist and a personal assistant, fetching red carpet gowns and coffee in one, semi-frenzied swoop (think: The Devil Wears Prada). While her professional experience runs the gamut, her love affair with books was given new life after an internship at Writers House, where she worked in the office of Susan Golomb.

General inquiries can be sent to Taylor at [email protected]

General fiction
Juvenile fiction
Business/investing/ finance

Food writing


THE VAN LEEUWEN ARTISAN ICE CREAM BOOK: A Collection of Classic Recipes by Laura O'Neill, Ben Van Leeuwen, Pete Van Leeuwen, with Olga Massov Friedman (World to Ecco)

DRAGONFLY by Alyson Richman (World English to Berkley)
A young cellist, drawn into the Italian Resistance during WWII, risks her life and is forced to abandon her family and home, only to find unlikely shelter with a doctor who is seeking his own redemption. From the bestselling author of The Lost Wife.

THE VACATIONERS by Emma Straub (World to Riverhead)
In the tradition of country house novels like Enchanted April and Maine, tensions, longings, grudges, and secrets explosively rise to the surface during an extended family's two-week vacation in Mallorca, Spain.

CARRY ON, WARRIOR by Glennon Melton (North America to Scribner)
Glennon Doyle Melton presents her first book Carry On, Warrior, featuring new material and some of Melton’s most beloved essays on faith, family, marriage, motherhood, addiction, and recovery, carrying Momastery’s messages of hope, forgiveness, humor, and redemption.
***UK - Michael Joseph

THE PARADISE GUEST HOUSE by Ellen Sussman (World English to Ballantine)
Set in Bali during the aftermath of the 2002 nightclub bombings, a story about love, risk, and facing up to our deepest fears.
***Brazil - Casa da Palavra Germany - Blanvalet

THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN by Erin Hart (North America to Scribner)
An ancient volume of philosophical heresy provides a motive for murder in this haunting, lyrical novel of forensics, archeology, and history—the fourth in an acclaimed suspense series.

WHOLE-GRAIN MORNINGS by Megan Gordon (World English to Ten Speed)
A cookbook featuring more than 50 recipes for healthy and whole-grain based breakfast foods as well as narratives about Megan’s company and personal life, by the writer of the popular blog A Sweet Spoonful, and owner of Seattle-based granola company Marge.

GLUTEN-FREE FAMILY FAVORITES by Peter and Kelli Bronski (World to The Experiment)

THE AFTERNOONS OF A WOMAN OF LEISURE by Elizabeth Bennett (North America to Intermix/Berkley)
Joanna, a bored, beautiful young housewife becomes involved with a mysterious “O,” a woman whose clients and employees experiment with pleasure, pain, and what she refers to as “issues of control.” The Afternoons of a Woman of Leisure recalls The Story of O and offers a darker, more sophisticated take on the themes that have made Fifty Shades of Grey a phenomenon.
***UK - Little, Brown

ONE SIMPLE CHANGE by Winnie Abramson (North America to Chronicle)
Lifestyle book by the writer of the blog Healthy Green Kitchen, featuring age-old culinary wisdom, cutting edge nutrition information, whole foods recipes, and green living tips.

BREATHE by Kate Bishop (World English E-Book to Diversion)
When Alex’s high-powered husband finds himself through yoga, and his gorgeous yoga teacher, he walks out on Alex, suggesting that some time alone with her thoughts would do her some good. When drinking through his prize wine collection and pizza takeout do not prove the cure to her heartache and bruised ego, she reluctantly allows her two best friends to intervene. As she slowly learns to define success on her own terms, she finds the secret to love, in all its forms, and the perfect flying crow pose, one breath at a time. Kate Bishop is a pen name for three yoga teachers who have together studied psychology, education, and creative writing, as well as the healing arts. They own a popular yoga studio in Portland, Oregon.

THE MEAT HOOK MEAT BOOK by Tom Mylan (World to Artisan)
First Cookbook from the Beloved Brooklyn Butcher and his shop.

THE GRAVITY OF BIRDS (North American rights to Simon and Schuster) by Tracy Guzeman, a debut novel that begins when a famous artist reveals the existence of a previously unseen painting to an art history professor and an art authenticator, sending them on a search for two reclusive sisters that will reveal a thwarted love affair, breathtaking betrayals, and unexpected connections between them all.

A cookbook of pie recipes, techniques, and stories, by sisters from South Dakota, third-generation pie bakers, and co-owners of the wildly popular Brooklyn pie shop and cafe Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

THE WRAP UP LIST by Steven Arntson (NA to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
High School Senior Gabriela Rivera has one week to wrap up her life after receiving a death letter, which accounts for 1% of fatalities in a mostly familiar world.

BAKELESS SWEETS by Faith Durand (W to Stewart, Tabori, and Chang)
No-Bake (& Mostly Gluten-Free) Desserts Featuring Stovetop Puddings, Real Fruit Gelatins, Whipped Fluffs, Icebox Cakes, & Homey Desserts to Be Eaten With a Spoon, by the managing editor of The Kitchn.

AMONG THE JANEITES by Deborah Yaffe (NA to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Narrative non-fiction journey through the world of Jane Austen Fandom,by award-winning journalist and longtime Janeite.

LAST CALL IN THE CITY OF BRIDGES by Salvatore Pane (Braddock Books)

CHOCOLATES FOR BREAKFAST by Pamela Moore (NA to Harper Perennial)

FRUITFUL by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck (Running Press)

SODIUM GIRL’S LIMITLESS LOW-SODIUM COOKBOOK: How to Lose the Salt and Eat the Foods You Love by Jessica Goldman Foung (World to Wiley)

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones (North America to The Dial Press)
From Here to Eternity, which won the National Book Award in 1952, recreated the authentic soldier experience and captures, like nothing else, the honor and savagery of man. Sixty years after its first publication, the estate has at last restored the original language to the most important novel to come out of World War II, along with a foreword by William Styron and correspondence between James Jones and his editor, the famous Maxwell Perkins, including letters on the issue of censorship. The film version won eight Academy Awards.
***Hungary - Trivium Kft Chinese simple - Beijing Pengfeiyili Book Spain - Ediciones B Korea - The Open Books Co. UK - Hodder Poland - Ksiaznica Italy - Neripozza

THE THIN RED LINE by James Jones (North America to The Dial Press)
A classic of combat fiction and one of the most significant explorations of male identity in American literature, establishing Jones as a novelist of the caliber of Herman Melville and Stephen Crane, now rereleased with foreword by Francine Prose.
***Japan (educational extract) - Waseda Prep School Italy - R.C.S. Libri SpA Poland - Visvis/Etiuda Publishing House UK - Hodder Chinese simple - Beijing Pengfeiyili Book Korea - Minumsa Publishing Co.

THE SALT GOD'S DAUGHTER by Ilie Ruby (World English to Counterpoint)
Ilie Ruby's THE SALT GOD'S DAUGHTER, which uncovers the family secrets of three generations of women who settle near the ocean in Southern California, a place of mythic folklore, exotic landscapes, and Jewish mysticism, and the effect of a love affair on a woman, who has a daughter born with a secret she tries to keep hidden as she seeks out the father she never knew.

THE MOUNTAIN AND THE FATHERS by Joe Wilkins (World English to Counterpoint)
Pushcart Prize nominee, Best New Poets and Best American Essays author, and 2010 National Magazine Award finalist Joe Wilkins’ narrative that explores the life of boys and men in the unforgiving, harsh world of Eastern Montana, the Big Dry, pitched in the vein of Ian Frazier and Norman McClean.

LAURA LAMONT'S LIFE IN PICTURES by Emma Straub (World to Riverhead)
Debut novel in which a Midwestern girl's transformation into a 1940s Hollywood movie star comes at a high cost to family and identity.

IN THE KINGDOM OF MEN by Kim Barnes (North America to Knopf/Vintage)
An Oklahoma woman follows her husband to the oilfields of Saudi Arabia in the 1960s, where, living in a compound, the couple makes a startling discovery about the depths of the Saudis’ institutionalized racism and the accusation of murder threatens to tear them apart.
***UK - Hutchinson Audio - Dreamscape

AND LAUGHTER FELL FROM THE SKY by Jyotsna Sreenivasan (North America to Morrow)
A debut novel and contemporary love story about a young Indian-American woman determined to please her family and go through with an arranged marriage, as soon as she can stop sleeping with inappropriate men, especially the irritatingly bohemian friend of her younger brother, who may be the one she can’t live without.

JAPANESE FARM FOOD, by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (World English to Andrews McMeel)
160 recipes for Japanese country dishes, with family stories, and photographs by Kenji Miura. Foreword by Patricia Wells and Praise from Alice Waters.

SALTIE: A Cookbook by Caroline Fidanza (World to Chronicle)
A cookbook with 100 recipes for sandwiches, salads and soups, sweets and savory treats and more, by the founding chef of Diner and Marlow & Sons, from the beloved sandwich shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

SHADES OF HOPE: A Program to Stop Dieting and Start Living by Tennie McCarty (World to Amy Einhorn Books/Penguin USA)
One of the foremost experts on eating addiction, Tennie McCarty uses her own inspiring story, as well as the treatment from her famous retreat center, Shades of Hope, to help readers break the endless cycle of diets.

GIFTS OF THE CROW: A Scientific Journey into Seven Human Characteristics Revealed by These Cerebral Birds by John Marzluff (World to Free Press)
Crows are mischievous, playful, social, and passionate. With its abundance of funny, awe-inspiring, and poignant stories, indie bestseller Gifts of the Crow portrays creatures who are nothing short of amazing. A testament to years of painstaking research and careful observation by scientist John Marzluff, this fully illustrated, riveting work is a thrilling look at one of nature’s most wondrous creatures.

HAND ME DOWN by Melanie Thorne (World to Dutton)
Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Reid has spent her life protecting her sister, Jaime, from their parents’ cruel mistakes. Their father would rather feed his vices than his daughters. And when their once-loving mother chooses to start a new family with a dangerous ex-con, Elizabeth and Jaime are separated and forced to rely on the begrudging kindness of increasingly distant relatives. Abandoned by her mother and burdened by a bleak pact with a deceitful adult, Elizabeth is no longer sure she can save Jamie—or even herself. Written in “prose that vibrates with intelligence and passion,” (Kirkus, starred review), Hand Me Down is an evocative, semi-autobiographical debut that announces Melanie Thorne as a powerful new voice in fiction.

THE REBEL WIFE by Taylor Polites (North America to Simon & Schuster)
Brimming with atmosphere and edgy suspense, regional bestseller The Rebel Wife presents a young widow trying to survive in the violent world of Reconstruction Alabama, where the old gentility masks continuing violence fueled by hatred, treachery, and still powerful secrets. As Augusta Branson summons the courage to cross the boundaries of hate, The Rebel Wife presents an unforgettable heroine for our time.

BRIGHT LIGHTS, NO CITY by Max Alexander (World English to Hyperion)
The true story of his brother Whit’s effort to start a sustainable, profitable business that employs Africans—a business that carries all the usual risk associated with entrepreneurship plus the risks of malaria and machete attack, and involves literally bringing light to poor villages in Ghana.
***Korea - Sigongsa

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, a novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (North American to Ballantine)
The story of a woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to come to terms with her own troubled past as a foster child.
***UK – Pan Macmillan ANZ – Picador Italy – Garzanti Spain – Salamandra Catalan – 62 Holland – Unieboek Brazil – Sextante Israel – Kinneret Germany – Droemer France – Presses de la Cite Portugal – Objectiva Denmark – Lindhardt + Ringhof Finland - WSOY Russia - Ripol Classic Poland - Swiat Ksiazki Norway - Aschehoug Taiwan – Linking Korea – Woongjin Sweden – Bazar Latvia – Zvaigzne Japan – Poplar Croatia – Znanje Slovakia – Ikar Iceland - Forlagid Czech Republic – Euromedia Slovenia – Ucila International Albania – Dudaj China – Yilin Estonia – Varrak Serbia – Alnari Lithuania – Almalittera Vietnam - Vietnamese Women Publishing House

RIPE: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables, by Cheryl Sternman Rule and photographer Paulette Phlipot (World to Running Press)
A photocentric vegetarian cookbook, with stories and recipes, organized by color.

CHICAGO CHEF'S TABLE by Amelia Levin (World to Lyons Press)
100 signature dishes from more than fifty of the city's best chefs -- from Charlie Trotter, Rick Bayless, and Grant Achatz, to the burgeoning street food scene.

THE NAPTIME CHEF, Fitting Great Food into Family Life by Kelsey Banfield (North American to Running Press)
A cookbook by blogger of and Babble columnist, featuring 150 recipes to prepare during your child’s naptime, plus smart tips, stories, and the encouraging and empowering message that you don’t have to give up being a foodie just because you are a parent or have limited time in the kitchen.

FOLLOW ME DOWN by Kio Stark (World to Red Lemonade/Richard Nash)
Stark writes about relational technology at NYU. She has written about feminism, NYC night court, the history of the documentary, graphic novels, failure and her favorite saints for The Nation, Killing the Buddha, Lime Tea, Feed and other publications. Follow Me Down is her first novel.

ALL THAT IS BITTER AND SWEET by Ashley Judd (World English to Ballantine)
In this deeply moving and unforgettable memoir, a New York Times bestseller and Books-A-Million’s Non-Fiction Book Club May 2012 pick, Ashley Judd describes her odyssey, from lost child to fiercely dedicated advocate, from anger and isolation to forgiveness and activism.
***Poland - Weltbild

THE LOST WIFE by Alyson Richman (World English to Berkley)
The story of a successful New York obstetrician who still dreams of his first wife, Lenka, an art student he left behind in Czechoslovakia while fleeing the Nazis, and who he believes died during the war.

A cookbook and parenting resource featuring 100 varied and easy recipes, strategies, tips, and stories, from top chefs who are parents.

FRENCH LESSONS by Ellen Sussman (World English to Ballantine)
The story of how a single day in Paris changes the lives of three different Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning not just about language, but also love and loss as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

Memoir of a young chef looking for her place in the world, with recipes.

THE WIKKELING, by Steven Arntson (World English to Running Press)
A middle-grade adventure set in a near-future dystopia and told in the smart and playful style of The Mysterious Benedict Society, in which three friends unravel the mystery of their life-threatening migraines, overcome a frightening enemy, and discover that the world is more complicated, and more magical, than they’ve been taught. A debut by a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

ARTISANAL GLUTEN-FREE CUPCAKES: 50 From-Scratch Recipes to Delight Every Cupcake Devotee- Gluten-Free and Otherwise, by Kelli Bronski and Pete Bronski (World to the Experiment)

Cookbook featuring 120 fanciful yet simple recipes for nature enthusiasts who crave more than beans and s’mores, and home cooks who want to bring the spirit of camping home, with a foreword by Melissa Clark.

GAMES TO PLAY AFTER DARK, a debut novel by Sarah Gardner Borden (North American to Vintage)
The story of a modern marriage from the electric meet-cute at a party in the West Village to the messy tumult of suburban parenthood. Drawing comparisons to Mary Gaitskill and Richard Yates for its exploration of the dark side of the American dream.

ANCIENT GRAINS FOR MODERN MEALS, Mediterrahean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries, & More by Maria Speck (World to Ten Speed Press)
100 delicious and easy Mediterranean whole grain recipes, inspired by the author's Greek mother.

Essays on love, family, sex after children, money, foreclosure, in which Pittman, a native of Newfoundland, will reveal what it’s like to be a wife, mother and foreigner living in white-picket-fence suburban Arkansas.

OTHER PEOPLE WE MARRIED by Emma Straub (North American to FiveChapters Books, rereleased by Riverhead)
A debut story collection about the surprising and often funny ways love develops and disintegrates over time, by a writer Dan Chaon calls “wry, witty, incisively observant” and Kevin Brockmeier says has “the smarts and humor of a Lorrie Moore or a Laurie Colwin or a Laurie Anderson—any number of Lauries”.


Union Literary
30 Vandam Street
Suite 5A
New York NY 10013

We will only respond if we are interested.

Nonfiction submissions should include a query letter, a proposal, and a sample chapter.

Fiction submissions should include a query letter, a synopsis, and either sample pages or a full manuscript.

The agency does not represent romance, poetry, science fiction, or illustrated books.

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