HBO's Julia Child Series; Facebook Cookbooks

Plus: a recipe from Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food!

Howdy cookbook fans!

And welcome to Tuesday. It’s a rainy day here in Austin with not much to report. I’ve been cooking lots and lots of cream-based things from our current book club book, Simple French Food by Richard Olney. Thankfully for my arteries, today’s issue features a recipe for Seared Tofu with Baby Bok Choy from Hsiao-Ching Chou’s new book Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food, out today. It’s easy! You could make it TONIGHT even. You’ll find that recipe at the bottom of this issue, but I do hope you’ll read all the goodies between here and there, because goodies they are.

And now, on to the news.

HBO Max Announces Scripted Julia Child Series, Julia

Let’s talk about the HBO Julia Child TV show! Called Julia, the 8-episode season will star British actress Sarah Lancashire (who doesn’t not look like Child, I suppose) and will focus on “Julia Child’s extraordinary life and her long-running television series, The French Chef,” per a press release. So, for those of you looking forward to Julie/Julia minus the Julie, this show appears to take place after Child’s time in France. Production is scheduled to begin in Boston, where Child lived after Paris and where The French Chef was filmed for WGBH Boston, in late spring.

Lancashire is best known for her role in a show called Happy Valley, a crime drama based in Yorkshire. Joining her as Paul Child (and filling Stanley Tucci’s rather large, negroni-filled shoes) is David Hyde Pierce of Frasier fame. Other cast members include Brittany Bradford, Fran Kranz, Fiona Glascott, Bebe Neuwirth, Isabella Rossellini and Jefferson Mays. Did some poking to try to figure out who these folks all play and got basically nowhere. Presumably producer Russell Morash (who also created This Old House) and associate producer Ruth Lockwood are among them? Editor Judith Jones, too, maybe? Lots of theater people! Hooray. (via Eater)

As a newswoman and columnist, an ink-stained wretch, I always knew that I would never get rich. But, if not checkbook rich, I'm rich in another way: I'm cookbook rich. Over the years, I've managed to collect nearly 200 cookbooks, some inherited from relatives, some acquired as gifts and others that I bought or picked up at yard sales. Some of those books are in pristine shape, paged through but hardly ever used.

Seattle columnist Jean Godden persues her collection. [WestsideSeattle]

Is Facebook the Next Big Cookbook Launchpad?

When you think of cookbooks written by influencers, do you think of YouTube? Instagram? Maybe TikTok? Well. That’s not where all the home cooks are, is it? Because I keep coming across Facebook groups with huge followings that are self-publishing cookbooks, right and left.

Take the Farm Stand Kitchen. Created by Quincy, Illinois retirees (“retirees”) Rebecca and Dave Bobier, The Farm Stand Kitchen is a Facebook page where the Bobiers post about their vegetable farm. At some point, a reader requested a recipe; at some point, the Bobiers started posting videos, according to a recent profile in the Harold-Whig. And they were popular: The Farm Stand currently has a whopping 370,000 followers on Facebook, where posts regularly get hundreds of likes, comments, and shares. Rebecca Bobier has now written six cookbooks, all self-published, and is working on a seventh, focused on cookies.

Farm Stand Kitchen is not alone, of course, but they do stand out for their numbers and the fact that they chose a self-publishing route. Facebook is teeming with pages full of vegans and Instant Pot fanatics and old fashioned bakers, many of them with gigantic followings. The classic advice is to go to where your audience is, and, well, there are plenty of home cooks on Facebook.

Seared Tofu with Baby Bok Choy

(c)2021 by Hsiao-Ching Chou. Excerpted from Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food by permission of Sasquatch Books.

We used to have a dish on the menu at my family’s restaurant that included paired triangles of flash-fried tofu with vegetables and slices of barbecued pork. For this interpretation, I didn’t want to fry the tofu, but I still wanted to give it another layer of flavor. The tofu is marinated, coated with a dusting of starch, and then seared. While I use baby bok choy in this recipe, you can opt for your choice of greens, such as gai lan, yu choy, spinach, or Chinese cabbage.

Serves 4

About 7 ounces medium or firm tofu (half a standard block), cut into ½-inch-thick slices, then each square cut in half diagonally to create triangles

2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

⅓ cup cornstarch, for dredging

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

3 cups sliced baby bok choy, about ½ inch thick

½ cup brown beech mushrooms or enoki mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ cup water

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

  1. Place the tofu in a shallow dish and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce over the pieces. Carefully turn the tofu a few times to coat with the soy sauce. Put the cornstarch in another shallow dish or plate. Dredge the tofu with the cornstarch, making sure the tofu pieces are evenly coated. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over medium-low heat for about 1 minute. Place the tofu in the skillet, placing as many as will fit in the pan without overcrowding. Sear 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until richly browned. Place the tofu on a clean plate. Repeat with any remaining tofu. Set aside.

  2. Preheat a wok over high heat until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the bok choy and stir for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Stir for a few seconds to combine. Add the water and stir to combine. Add the tofu and the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, stirring carefully to combine. Reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Finish with sesame oil.

That’s all for today folks! I will see Friday people Friday with the second half of the SPRING COOKBOOK PREVIEW, March and April titles. If you’d like to join their ranks, become a paid subscriber. Book club, I’ll see you Saturday. Have a great week.