The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks

The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks

by Nina Planck


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The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks by Nina Planck

When Nina Planck toured to promote her two earlier books, Real Food and Real Food for Mother and Baby, the question she heard most was, “When are you going to write a cookbook?” At long last, The Real Food Cookbook is here.

In a dietary landscape overfull with low-carb bread and dubious advice about triglycerides, Planck is revolutionary in her complete embrace of a more old-fashioned and diverse way of eating. Aptly described by the Washington Post as “a cross between Alice Waters and Martha Stewart,” Planck showcases traditional, real foods-produce, dairy, meat, fish, eggs-through tempting and straightforward recipes for the beginner or regular home cook.

The Real Food Cookbook takes 150 classic dishes, from starters, soups, and salads to the center of the plate, to sweets and the cheese course, and makes them anew, transforming them with Nina's signature approach: using fresh herbs, good butter, seasonal fruits and vegetables, grass-fed and pastured meats, and whole grains. With essays and tips throughout, sharing Nina's own real-food lifestyle, The Real Food Cookbook will provide inspiration for any omnivorous cook or eater. Find recipes for every occasion: a cheese plate with drinks, a family Seder, Easter egg salads, a summer barbeque.Learn how Nina stocks her pantry and where she buys real food.Whether you're preparing the meals or simply eating them, everyone will enjoy the stories, feast on one hundred gorgeous full-color photographs, and beg the family cook to make the meals Nina loves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608196753
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 06/10/2014
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Nina Planck is a farmers' daughter, food writer, farmers' market entrepreneur, local foodist, and advocate for traditional foods. She is the author of The Farmers' Market Cookbook, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, and Real Food for Mother and Baby, and the founder of the wildly popular London Farmers' Markets. Nina is a gifted speaker, a home cook, and a mother of three. She lives in New York City with her husband, Rob Kaufelt, proprietor of Murray's Cheese, and their three children.

Read an Excerpt

The Real Food Cookbook

Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks

By Nina Planck, Katherine Wolkoff


Copyright © 2014 Nina Planck
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60819-675-3


drinks & nibbles

Kombucha * Raw-Milk Kefir * Water Kefir
Fermented Ginger Ale * Fermented Watermelon Basil Cooler
Blueberry Soda * Chocolate Egg Cream * Cucumber Lemonade
The Greenery: A Cucumber Gin Cocktail
Drinking Chocolates * Hot Chocolate * Hot Cocoa
Fried Cheese Curds * Jalapeño Poppers
Brined & Roasted Nuts


My brother and I were raised by a water purist. My mother drinks water and water only. She might flirt with a glass of raw milk, and she indulges in coffee as often as she swears off it, but I suspect no commercial soft drink has ever passed her lips. Sweaty noonday farmhands must drink, however, so we carried jugs of well water in the green flatbed Ford on scratchy mulch runs all over Loudoun County, and we left water jugs in the shade while hoeing pumpkins far from the house. In those long, dusty pumpkin rows, I often fantasized about the real lemonade Laura and Mary Ingalls carried to Pa and the farmhands who were bringing in the hay. On family car trips in dead of winter, our feet dangled over half-frozen water jugs. There I'd be, thirsty on the Pennsylvania turnpike in twenty-degree February. Holding the heavy, frozen bottom of the milk jug, I tipped the just-melting ice water over my shivering gums. I still hate ice cubes.

When we were little, my mother used to buy frozen orange juice in cardboard tubes—slicing the granular cylinder with a butter knife in the bottom of a worn blue plastic pitcher—but I can only assume that this was a concession to the presence of children in the house, because I have no memory of her drinking juice of any kind. And today my mother makes the same innocent, politely surprised expression when she is invited to "meet for a drink" or encounters a commercial drink, as if she could not quite fathom that one would pay to quench thirst. Soda, it goes without saying, is the work of the devil.

But things have changed, and now there are soft drinks that might tempt even Susan Planck. A few years ago, my parents—pioneers in modern ecological farming and farmers' markets—finally quit farming after nearly forty seasons. Today they are not merely retired but also justifiably eminent, and they dwell in the center of a large social circle that consists of many young and lively farmers. Unlike my mother, these farmers are habitual drinkers of all manner of traditional beverages, from wine, beer, and spirits to softer stuff, such as kvass, kefir, and kombucha. All these drinks are fermented or cultured in some fashion, which suits the generation of ecological land-workers whose farms are sprouting on the very land where I grew up. In addition to honing their banjo and whittling skills, many farmers I know nurture billion-strong living bacterial communities in their kitchens. They tend these microbiomes as carefully as they tend the finely calibrated compost that is the foundation of their farming habits. These food makers explicitly connect the internal, personal biome in your gut, which is fed by the enzymes and probiotics in these homebrews, and the equally vital biome in the topsoil, which feeds the plants we eat and the pasture the animals nibble and graze. Before I had children, I used to visit my parents and play guest cook while they loaded market trucks. In those days, I'd open a bottle of wine from the vineyard next door while I went about gathering and chopping up vegetables. When I visit my beloved Wheatland, Virginia, today, I raise a kombucha cocktail to a new generation of tangy, fizzy, and healthy drinks—and to the farmers and brewers who make them.


Makes 2½ quarts

Kombucha is a nonalcoholic fermented tea originally from Northeast China or Manchuria. From there it spread to Russia and beyond. I used to drink it purely for health, not pleasure; it suits my digestion and cures my gloom. But to my surprise, our children like it—Rose, at one and a half, called it her "cocktail"—and I like it too. Homebrewed kombucha is cheaper than store-bought and typically less fizzy. Alas my brewing habits are modest. My chef friend Emily Duff, however, has a fridge brimming with living drinks, so I asked her to write recipes for kombucha, kefir, and other grownup soft drinks made with real flavors and real sugar.

To make the first batch, you'll need a little store-bought kombucha and a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY, which also kick-starts fermented foods such as ginger beer and sourdough bread, is best found on the real food underground. A moist, mushroom-like living colony resembling a pancake, it devours the caffeine in the tea and the sugar, creating the good things in kombucha: B vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidant glucaronic acid. In Chinese, it's called kouba, or "yeast mother." The mother will make a few batches of kombucha, yielding a "baby" each time, until it wears out. To start your first batch, ask a friend for a fresh baby—and then give your own babies away. (The fermented food world is keen on these timeless household transfers.) You'll need a one-gallon glass jar or a large glass bowl and smaller glass soda bottles with tight lids.

3 qts water
1 c organic whole cane sugar
4 black or green organic tea bags
8 oz raw organic kombucha

1. Boil the water.

2. Add the sugar and dissolve for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the tea bags, turn off the flame, and cover. Let it cool.

4. When the liquid is at room temperature, remove the tea bags and transfer it to a 1-gallon glass jar or bowl.

5. Add the kombucha to the cool sweetened tea.

6. Place the SCOBY on top of the tea. Crisscross the lid with masking tape and date it. Cover it with a tea towel and move it somewhere neither hot nor cold.

7. In 5 days, taste it. The kombucha should have lost its sweetness and tea flavor and be slightly tart with a fizz.

8. Leave it for 7 to 10 days until it tastes the way you like it.

9. Pour it into glass soda bottles, seal, and refrigerate. A second fermentation, which yields more nutrients, flavor, and fizz, occurs in the smaller bottles. Drink it within 2 weeks.

Flavored Kombucha

When you pour the kombucha into bottles for the second fermentation, add a flavor. The berry, ginger, and lemon flavors are great together.


Add ¼ cup of finely chopped frozen raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or other berries to the bottle and seal. Leave out for 3 to 5 days and then refrigerate.


Add 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger and its juice and ¼ teaspoon of organic whole cane sugar to the bottle and seal. Leave out for 3 to 5 days and then refrigerate.


Add 1 tablespoon of organic pomegranate (or any fruit) syrup to the bottle and seal. Leave out for 3 to 5 days and then refrigerate.


Add 3 tablespoons of fresh Meyer lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon of organic whole cane sugar and seal. Leave out for 3 to 5 days and then refrigerate.

Kombucha Cocktails

Ginger Bubbles

Mix equal parts Ginger Kombucha and chilled Champagne in a glass and give it a twist of lemon.

Ginberry Cooler

Pour 1½ ounces of gin over ice. Fill the glass with Berry Kombucha and give it a twist of lime or lemon.

raw-milk kefir

Makes 2 quarts

Kefir—from the Turkish for "foam"—is a fermented milk with origins in the North Caucasus region, where shepherds likely discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would sometimes turn into a tasty carbonated drink. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags and then hung near a doorway, where the bag would be knocked by passersby, ensuring regular, gentle mixing. Like kombucha, it is now made all over the world. You will make it by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains, which you can buy online from Cultures for Health or borrow from a kefir maker—and which will grow in size and multiply with each batch you make. As with yogurt, the lactose (or milk sugar) in kefir is largely broken down, making it easy to digest. Drink kefir for its enzymes, probiotics, and vitamins (Bi, B12, and K2). For a bigger nutritional kick, make it with unpasteurized milk, which pairs the buzzing enzyme life of untreated milk with the probiotic oomph of the kefir. Emily Duff suggests you play with flavor combinations in the first brewing by adding ginger, lemongrass, vanilla bean, dried cherries, mango, cardamom, star anise, cloves, or fresh herbs. A store-bought kefir starter yields three or four batches. The homegrown kefir grains that come from a batch of milk kefir live forever.

2 T kefir grains
3 c raw milk

1. Put the kefir grains and milk in a 2-quart glass jar and cover loosely with the lid.

2. Place it on a shelf at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. Gently turn the jar every few hours to disturb the liquid and inspire the grains to grow.

3. The kefir is ready when it resembles yogurt in texture and consistency and has a pleasant, tangy flavor with a little fizz. Move the jar. If bubbles fly up from the bottom and it has a sour bite, it is ready.

4. Strain the liquid through a cloth or sieve, bottle it, and refrigerate. Drink it within 2 weeks.

5. Reserve the kefir, which keeps much longer: fermentation, yielding more bubbles and a more pronounced sour taste, will continue. Put the kefir grains in a glass jar, top them with raw milk, and keep them in the fridge for the next batch.

water kefir

Makes 2 quarts

Water kefir makes a fine probiotic for those who avoid dairy.

8-10 unsulfured dried apricots
1 Meyer lemon
1 qt water
½ c organic whole cane sugar
1/3 c kefir grains

1. Chop the apricots.

2. Cut the lemon in half, slice one half, and save the other for something else.

3. In a bowl, dissolve the sugar in water. Add the kefir grains, apricots, and lemon slices.

4. Transfer to a 2-quart glass jar and seal. Leave it at room temperature for 3 days.

5. Strain the liquid and transfer it to smaller airtight soda bottles and leave out for another 24 hours. It's ready to drink. Refrigerate and drink within 2 weeks.

fermented ginger ale

Makes 2 quarts (about 8 drinks)

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, ginger ale was said to be the most popular soft drink in America. Ginger itself is a zingy tonic. Here, the whey works the fermentation magic, producing the probiotics (which serve your digestion), the flavor (which is tangy), and the fizz (which is merely fun). Use fresh whey, not powdered. If you can't find it, make your own. Just strain a quart of yogurt through a fine cloth for most of the day. You'll have lovely thick yogurt and a pint of whey, which keeps for weeks in the fridge and can be used for all sorts of projects, like tzatziki.

1 large knob of fresh ginger
4 Meyer lemons
4-6 limes, depending on size
¼ c orange blossom honey
½ tsp unrefined sea salt
2 T fresh whey
6 c water

1. Wash, but do not peel, the ginger. Grate the ginger on the finest grater you have to yield about 2 tablespoons.

2. Squeeze the lemons and limes to yield ¼ cup of each juice.

3. Combine all the ingredients in a 2-quart glass bottle. Mix thoroughly and seal.

4. Leave it at room temperature for 3 to 7 days, letting air pressure out periodically so as to avoid building up too much carbon dioxide.

5. Refrigerate and drink within 2 weeks.

fermented watermelon basil cooler

Makes 2 quarts

The tasty watermelon of my youth was a green-and-white-striped Crimson Sweet, about the size of a basketball, weighing 10 to 20 pounds. It was an All-America Selection Winner in 1964, and it's still one of the sweetest open-pollinated heirloom varieties that farmers grow. A little one called Yellow Doll isn't bad either.

8-10 lb watermelon
8-10 Meyer lemons
small bunch of Genovese basil
¼ c organic whole cane sugar
¼ c fresh whey
1 T unrefined sea salt
3 c water

1. Make 3 cups of watermelon juice in a blender or food processor. Don't strain the pulp.

2. Squeeze 1 cup of lemon juice.

3. Take ½ cup of basil leaves and gently bruise them using a mortar and pestle to release the oil.

4. Put all the ingredients in a 2-quart glass jar, cover with water, and close the lid tightly.

5. Stir and leave out at room temperature for 3 days. Allow a little carbonation to escape when necessary and replace the cap firmly. Chill and serve. Keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Watermelon Basil Fermentini

Pour 1 ounce of vodka over ice, add 6 ounces of Watermelon Basil Cooler, and shake vigorously. Garnish with watermelon and basil.

blueberry soda

Makes 2 cups (32 tablespoons) of syrup, enough for sixteen 8-ounce sodas with 2 tablespoons each

Here's a zippy soft drink you can make year-round if you jar or freeze the syrup, which is also delicious on pancakes and ice cream.

1 lime
4 c blueberries
1 c water
2 T organic whole cane sugar
6 oz sparkling water for each drink

1. Zest and juice the lime, setting the juice aside.

2. In a saucepan, bring the berries, lime zest, and water to a boil.

3. Simmer for i0 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth to remove any particles.

4. Return the liquid to the pan. Add the sugar and lime juice and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

5. To serve, put two tablespoons of blueberry syrup and six ounces of sparkling water in a glass and stir.

chocolate egg cream

Makes 1½ cups (24 tablespoons) of syrup, enough for eight 10-ounce egg creams

Don't look for eggs or cream in this famous New York soda fountain drink. An egg cream is a fizzy soda made with milk and flavored, typically, with vanilla or chocolate syrup. It's usually associated with Brooklyn, home of its alleged inventor, candy store owner Louis Auster. Do use a seltzer with sturdy bubbles, such as Canada Dry or Gerolsteiner, an old-fashioned German mineral water so feisty it tastes like a quarry. Or you can add fizz to your own tap water with a store-bought hand pump, as we do at our country place. Emily Duff sometimes makes her egg creams with raw-milk kefir in place of milk, which makes an exquisite tangy real soda. You can easily add a subtle fruitiness with reduced tart cherry juice, a delicious, tangy, and antioxidant-rich syrup that I buy online from Michigan orchards. (We also make 'cocktails" for children with cherry syrup. Just drop a splash of cherry syrup in the bottom of a glass and fill it with kombucha, fresh juice, or sparkling water.

My instructions are explicit, because I've closely watched Emily make this drink. The large glass, the long spoon, and the repeated "whipping up" are all necessary.

For one 10-ounce chocolate egg cream
3 T chocolate syrup
¼ c cold milk (or about 1 inch in the glass)
6 oz seltzer (or enough to fill the glass)
½-1 tsp tart cherryjuice syrup (optional)

The syrup must be warm enough to pour easily. Let it come to room temperature if the day is warm, or heat it very gently.

1. Pour an inch of cold milk in a tall (10-ounce) glass. Whip it up vigorously with a long-handled teaspoon until there is a little head of foam.

2. Add a splash of the seltzer, leaving at least an inch at the top of the glass. Again, whip it up from the bottom until there is a good head of foam.

3. Dribble the chocolate syrup and the (optional) tart cherry juice syrup into the milk. Again, whip it up from the bottom until the milk is dark brown and the top is thick with foam. Drink at once.

For the Chocolate Syrup

Use a high-quality cocoa powder, such as Pernigotti. (see "The Pantry," page 235). This chocolate syrup also makes a fine topping for vanilla ice cream.

¾ c cocoa powder
1 c organic whole cane sugar
1/8 tsp unrefined sea salt
½ c water
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Mix the dry ingredients well. Mix those with the water and vanilla in a small saucepan. Whisk over low heat until the ingredients are lump-free and fully blended, 5 minutes or less. You are blending, not cooking, the chocolate.

2. Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.


Excerpted from The Real Food Cookbook by Nina Planck, Katherine Wolkoff. Copyright © 2014 Nina Planck. Excerpted by permission of BLOOMSBURY.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


introduction, VIII,
drinks & nibbles, 1,
salads, 23,
soups, 53,
family seder, 70,
center of the plate, 89,
perfect sides, 127,
barbecue at small farm, 166,
essential breads, 181,
sweets, 193,
the cheese board, 225,
the pantry, 232,
the shopping list, 236,
acknowledgments, 240,
index, 241,

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The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great opinions on what is good eating