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Ileana Morales Valentine, Times Correspondent

Ileana Morales Valentine

Ileana Morales Valentine reviews cookbooks and writes the In Our Kitchen column for the Taste section. She also blogs at Follow her on Instagram @ileanamvalentine and Twitter @alittlesaffron.


  1. Cookbook review: 'Big Food Big Love' and 'My Two Souths' have unique takes on Southern cuisine


    There is no shortage of Southern cookbooks. And with so many covering the perennially popular cuisine, there is a tendency to home in on certain regions, vegetarian dishes — or just desserts and biscuits. Two Southern cookbooks released a couple of months ago take the South to more unexpected territory: India and the Pacific Northwest.

    In My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India Into a Southern Kitchen, Asha Gomez offers recipes that combine the flavors of Kerala, a southern state in India, and Georgia for what she calls South by South cuisine. Both southern regions, she says, have more in common than expected: warm and humid climates, lots of rice, okra and busy coastal cities with residents who love seafood. ...

    Big Food Big Love: Down-Home Southern Cooking Full of Heart From Seattle’s Wandering Goose 
By Heather L. Earnhardt 
Sasquatch Books, 304 pages, $24.95
  2. Everyday Entertaining: These Pop Tart-like pastries will make you feel like a kid again


    For the past four years, I've written In Our Kitchen, a column on home cooking for the Times.

    It began as entries chronicling what went down in the tiny kitchen I shared with my boyfriend as we shook off the eating habits of our college days and learned to cook for ourselves.

    We're now coming up on our second wedding anniversary, and we share a more spacious kitchen in a house we own. The way we cook has evolved, and so has my food writing....

    An egg wash helps make it nice and golden brown.
  3. Cookbook review: 'How to Celebrate Everything' by Jenny Rosenstrach is a guide to celebrating everyday moments with food


    Babies crave routines and families crave rituals, says author Jenny Rosenstrach, and as she and her husband raised two daughters, she set out to create both.

    In How to Celebrate Everything: Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day in Between, Rosenstrach shares the charming traditions that make so many of her family's memories shine. The latest cookbook from Rosenstrach, a New York Times-bestselling author and food blogger with an 18-year-old dinner diary, is organized into four chapters or groups of rituals: Holidays We Didn't Invent (like Thanksgiving), Our Family Rituals, Birthdays and Family Dinners....

    By Jenny Rosenstrach Ballantine Books, 336 pages, $30
  4. Cookbook review: A tale of two Italian cities in 'Florentine' and 'Tasting Rome'


    Cookbooks continue to cover more niche topics, especially when it comes to regional cuisines. The growing appetite for regionally focused cookbooks makes a lot of sense for Italy when you consider that although its cities and cultures have existed for many centuries, Italy as a nation is a fairly new country, younger than the United States. Many Italians often focus on the qualities that distinguish their city or region's cuisine from another's rather than similarities. Two cookbooks out this year, Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence and Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City, offer food tours through two of Italy's most famous cities....

  5. Cookbook review: Tyler Kord's 'A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches' showcases his personality, unique sandwiches


    Take a moment and think about the last sandwich you made.

    Was it good? Probably. But was it great?

    In Tyler Kord's notes for how to use his sandwich cookbook, A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches (Clarkson Potter, 2016), he says something that seems to anchor his perspective on cooking, and confirms why everyone would benefit from his guidance on making sandwiches: "I don't think there are any two ingredients that can't go together."...

    By Tyler Kord  Clarkson Potter, 192 pages, $22.99
  6. Cookbook review: Sweeter off the Vine by Yossy Arefi serves up fruit-forward fare


    Yossy Arefi is known for the stunning and rustic pies she shares in moody photos on her food blog, Apt. 2B BakingCo., and on Instagram. She is a pie queen, the farmers market her kingdom.

    In her cookbook, Sweeter off the Vine, it's apparent her unending love of seasonal fruit stems from her parents. Arefi's Iranian father, who cooked and taught her how to balance flavors in both sweet and savory contexts, built garden beds in the yard of their Pacific Northwest home. Her mother filled the garden beds with fruit and showed Arefi how to pick the bounty of berries and tuck them into dough. ...

    By Yossy Arefi Ten Speed Press, 256 pages, $24
  7. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Black-Eyed Peas With Ham Hock and Collard Greens


    Ideally, I have a pot of beans going every Sunday, bubbling gently for a couple hours and filling the house with a savory fragrance hinting at the meals to come all week.

    My go-to beans these days come from Rancho Gordo, an heirloom bean company based out of Napa, Calif. You can order the beans online or buy them at Red Mesa Mercado's market in St. Petersburg, which also sells some of their spices and hot sauces. I was raised on rice and beans and these heirloom varieties are really beautiful and tasty....

    Black-Eyed Peas With Ham Hock and Collard Greens pairs nicely with biscuits or cornbread for dipping into the broth.