I honestly wasn't planning a cookbook review again so soon. With Thanksgiving thrown in the mix, I didn't actually think I'd have time to adequately tI honestly wasn't planning a cookbook review again so soon. With Thanksgiving thrown in the mix, I didn't actually think I'd have time to adequately test a good enough number of recipes to feel satisfied offering up a review. BOY WAS I WRONG!
Friday night - yes, the night after Thanksgiving - Luck Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes arrived on my doorstep while I was trying desperately to figure out what to have for supper. And no, Thanksgiving leftovers were not appealing at that moment. I realized, though, that I had everything on hand to make all three versions of Onigiri that appear in the book. I settled for two, the umeboshi and the tuna, and made four total, two of which I tried as Yaki Onigiri. And I ate them with the Spicy Cold Celery. Readers, we were off to the races!
Asian food has always intimidated me and I'm really not sure why. Sure, the ingredients can be odd and/or hard to find but I actually live in an area that has two great international grocery stores. Even as a teen I knew where our Asian market was, admittedly spending most of my money there on Botan Rice Candy and melon flavored gum. I think that my biggest issue has been the fear that it just won't taste as good as what I can get at my favorite Asian restaurants. Even after successfully trying my hand at a few Thai dishes, I never really delved into the depths of Asian cooking.
Until now. I should note that the recipes in this book are EASY. Super easy. There are undoubtedly more complex and complicated dishes out there that aren't featured in the book but I think Peter Meehan and the folks at Lucky Peach have gone a long way in offering the average home cook a chance to experiment with Asian cooking in their own home. And yes, some of the dishes are Americanized Asian food - Mall Chicken, for example.
What I realized, too, was that after just one trip to the Asian market, list in hand to make a few specific dishes, I actually had the ingredients on hand to make way more recipes than I'd planned. And since hubs was out snowboarding all weekend, I kept myself occupied making ALL THE THINGS!
Ground pork, tofu, lemongrass, dumpling wrappers, hondashi (think dashi flavored bouillon, which I didn't know they made!), Chinkiang vinegar, a new bottle of fish sauce, and a few kind of noodles along with my already amply supplied pantry got me - Com Tam Breakfast (Thai-style homemade sausage patties with rice, fried egg, and homemade Nuoc Cham); Economy Noodles (which I ate with leftover Spicy Cold Celery and flank steak); Soy 'n' Sugar Cucumber Pickles (maybe my only meh, recipe so far - very soy saucy, which is a little odd with the sweet); Chineasy Cucumber Salad; Silken Tofu Snack (quite good! I loved the lime and the soy sauce in this.); Soy Sauce Eggs (perfect with just about anything); Miso Soup; and two recipes I've yet to make - Lion's Head Meatballs and Dollar Dumplings (I did a deconstructed version of because I was lazy).
I'm dying to try their version of Chicken Adobo, one of my absolute favorite meals, and the Hainan Chicken Rice (though they sadly don't provide a chili sauce recipe for this one). I also have all the stuff on hand to make the Jap Chae (a Korean noodle dish made with sweet potato noodles - my store had them!) and Ms. Vo Thi Huong's Garlic Shrimp, which sound amazing and WILL be supper tonight. (Psst, those links take you to the recipes online!)
See, I told you I want to cook ALL THE THINGS! This is my favorite new cookbook. And I'm not the only one. Check out this piece from Booktrib for another great review and a recipe. ...more
I have a confession: I've never seen the American Baking Competition and thus had never heard of Francine Bryson before Country Cooking From a RedneckI have a confession: I've never seen the American Baking Competition and thus had never heard of Francine Bryson before Country Cooking From a Redneck Kitchen came across my radar. But southern food is, to me, comfort. Sure my own roots are in the deep south, Cajun country to be specific, but BBQ, picnic and pot luck dishes, and warm gooey casseroles do hold a very special place in my heart (let's face it, all food does!). So Country Cooking From a Redneck Kitchen appealed to me in spite of my not knowing the author's name.
And the book lives up to its promise, let me tell you! With more drool-worthy recipes than I can even mention, my copy immediately became a mess of flagged recipes to try.
We started our week with the "Mama's Tuna Casserole" and the "Roasted Crooked Yellow Squash." Oh, I was in comfort food heaven! I should say, however, that as far as I can remember I've never actually tried tuna noodle casserole. But I have heard many folks poke fun at the canned casserole staple. Well, they haven't had it Francine Bryson's way. First off, she provides recipes for making all of those cream soup casserole bases from scratch! So with homemade "Cream of Celery Soup" in hand, the casserole is then built with fresh vegetables, pimentos, noodles, and tuna. Oh, and lots of cheese :) I never said it was a healthy cookbook! And my goodness it was tasty!
I was particularly impressed by the fact that Bryson took the time to lay out how to make "Cream of Mushroom Soup," "Cream of Celery Soup," and "Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup." And I have to admit this is something I've been looking for - an updated twist on what I consider staple foods. Because while I didn't grow up on tuna noodle casserole in particular, we did eat casseroles and I've got no qualms about making them in my own kitchen!
Now don't mistake this for a casserole cookbook. It's not at all. The title is 100% accurate - this is a southern country cookbook through and through. There's an entire chapter on BBQ complete with all the necessary BBQ accoutrements, there are recipes for canning ("Green 'Mater Chow Chow" and "Old Fashioned Squash Relish" are in my plans as soon as my garden is up and running for the season), salads of the southern sort (yes, I mean salads without lettuce bases and even a couple of the jello variety), fried chicken, hot fried chicken, and baked "fried" chicken, "Southern Fried Catfish," just to name a few of the fried dishes (that catfish is a new household favorite!), as well as plenty of other southern staples, breads and biscuits, and baked goods galore!
Now, if you follow me regularly then you know that baking is kind of the bane of my existence here at high altitude. I usually avoid those recipes like the plague. Given that Bryson made a name for herself in this arena, though, it should be fairly understandable when I say that even I couldn't resist recipes like "Pimento Biscuits,""Lemonade Rolls," "Church Lady's Sour Cream Cookies" (this is a recipe I've actually been looking for, amazingly I've had these cookies but have never found anyone to share the actual recipe with me!), and my next up to try "Buttermilk Pecan Skillet Cake."
If you're looking for fancy and frilly recipes, this is not the book for you. If, however, you're looking for hearty and tasty dishes that are sure to bring a smile to your face (either because they taste awesome or because they bring to mind family meals from your childhood), then this is definitely a cookbook to add to your collection!
Oh, and I definitely know Francine Bryson's name now :)...more
If you enjoy tasty and playful food you need to check out the Spook Fork Bacon blog. Go ahead, check it out. It is one of the most fun food blogs arouIf you enjoy tasty and playful food you need to check out the Spook Fork Bacon blog. Go ahead, check it out. It is one of the most fun food blogs around in my opinion - I've been following (and drooling) since about 2012.
So far the authors, Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park, have penned two cookbooks together: the 2012 release, Tiny Party Food, and the very newly released The Perfect Egg: A Fresh Take on Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night. So yeah, I like the blog, I like to cook, and I do LOVE eggs for every meal. The cookbook made my wish list as soon as I heard about its release.
The authors begin with a breakdown on eggs: types, anatomy, basic cooking techniques, etc, and then jump into the fun stuff - the recipes! Sweet Rolls, Arepas, pastas, and quiches... if you can do it with an egg it's probably in this book. Some of the recipes are to be expected - various deviled eggs, frittatas, and such - but the authors include lots of different recipes as well. Things you likely wouldn't expect to see in an egg cookbook: bibimbap, kaya toast, savory French macarons... Are you seeing now why I had to have this book?!
As usual when I add a cookbook to my collection, I whip out the stack of post it flags and begin marking stuff to try. This week I've been flying solo for most meals, which was actually really nice with this particular cookbook as many of the recipes were fairly easy to pare down.
The first dish on my list to try was an olive and grainy mustard variation on classic egg salad - my own basic egg salad is mixed with mayo, pickles, jalapeños, and red onion (as my favorite now defunct lunch place used to serve it), so I was anxious to see how the authors' version would stack up. Their classic egg salad includes mayo (of course), mustard, and a splash of cider vinegar, which is actually a pretty amazing addition. As for the olive and grainy mustard combo - it made for an incredibly easy and tasty lunch, a win in my opinion!
Next up: Green Onion Fried Black Rice, which was awesome and I ate way too much of it as a result; the Egg Bhurji, a tasty Indian scrambled egg dish that's hearty and perfect for any meal of the day; and the Avgolemono to get me through a cold and rainy lunch. The Sausage, Fennel and Arugula Frittata is next up in my plans and the weekend might just call for some Mediterranean-Style Baked Egg Boats as well.
Obviously I haven't tried ALL of the recipes yet but everything so far has been amazing. What's more, the instructions are easy to follow even for a less experienced home cook and the ingredients, for the most part, are either plain old panty staples or readily available at your local grocery store. For the few ingredients that aren't, the authors do have suggestions on where to find them.
The Perfect Egg lives up to its promise of "perfect egg" recipes for "morning, noon, and night" and has earned its spot on my eclectic cookbook shelf as a definite go to!...more
Seasonal cookbooks seem to be all the rage these days but what does it really mean for the home cook? Well, it means a focus on quality. It also meansSeasonal cookbooks seem to be all the rage these days but what does it really mean for the home cook? Well, it means a focus on quality. It also means an attempt to put together recipes that are appropriate for the season - lighter fare and grilling options for summer, homey comfort foods for winter - all taking advantage of items that are in season and at their peak in terms of flavor and abundance. As someone who lives in an area with a thriving community of farmers' markets and a real focus on seasonal produce, that means more fun for me in the kitchen!
Twenty Dinners by friends Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor, a photographer and musician (respectively), is not only a seasonally built cookbook but it's one focused on dinners for sharing. Most have an appetizer or side, a main, and dessert or drink and include a wide range of types of dishes and proteins, all thoughtfully paired and arranged. The photography is amazing (as would be expected) and the recipes are detailed and easy to follow. All pluses for any good cookbook.
But wait. You might be wondering if this mean that you have to stick to their particular meal plan of Roasted Lamb Chops with Sauteed Ramps, Spiced Carrots and Harissa Yogurt, and Mina's Olive Oil-Walnut Cake (dinner 14) exclusively? Not at all! In fact the authors make a point of stating:
"...take a dish from one menu and serve it with one from another or borrow a component from one dish and put it on another... Cooking isn't about following directions to the letter..."
Using this cookbook to the max takes a bit of creativity, I think. Sure you can follow each dinner to the T and get lots of enjoyment out of the recipes. But to do what the authors really hope you'll do, you need to feel confident to play around with the recipes. This is perfect for someone like me. As I noted above, I do have access to a lot of produce during the summer. The proteins featured in the book, though, are a different matter. My local grocery store might not carry branzino, but trout is abundant in Colorado and makes a fair substitution for the Seared Branzino with Pancetta and Potato Panzanella. I'm also not likely to be roasting an entire pig any time soon but the authors have taken that into account as well, offering up a note on adapting the Whole Spit-Roasted Pig with Mustard Greens using a reasonably sized loin instead.
In my opinion, this is not a cookbook for the unadventurous home cook. Nor is it the right fit for someone looking for quick and easy recipes as whole (though there are definitely some quick and easy dishes featured in the book). But if you're not afraid to cater a recipe to your personal preferences or substitute according to what's available to you, Twenty Dinners is great inspiration in the kitchen. ...more
So apparently July is National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday in July (July 19 this year) is National Ice Cream Day. Who knew? That - and summerSo apparently July is National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday in July (July 19 this year) is National Ice Cream Day. Who knew? That - and summertime in general - makes the release of the new Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream cookbook pretty perfectly timed.
I can remember homemade ice cream as a kid: it was an event. An EVENT. It meant breaking out that big bucket with the blister inducing crank. You needed serious muscle to get that going - and to get an actual edible serving of ice cream. As you can imagine it wasn't something we did very often.
These days homemade ice cream is MUCH easier with most of the machines on the market doing the major work for you. We got one of our very own as part of our wedding registry but after using it to make sherbet and slushies few times it ended up being shelved and fairly forgotten.
The Van Leeuwens run their very own ice cream shop in Brooklyn, so the name is likely known by many in those parts. Way over here in the midwest it was their cookbook that served as introduction for me. And what a cookbook! With a focus on quality ingredients and phenomenal flavors, the Van Leeuwens have inspired me to break out the machine and get to making ice cream again.
Many of the recipes are custard based but the authors provide perfect step-by-step instructions for pretty foolproof results. Recipes for additions like Homemade Marshmallows, Candied Citrus Peels, and Pistachio Shortbread are included and there's a chapter on other icy treats like Sorbet and Granitas, too.
Two of my favorite things about the book, though, are the vegan chapter and the egg whites chapter. Now, I don't have any dietary restrictions but I know plenty of people who do and I love the fact that the authors have included an entire chapter devoted to vegan ice creams (and a recipe for making your own Cashew Milk). It means not having to miss out on all the fun if you can't eat dairy or eggs. Even better, for me, is the chapter on what the heck to do with all those leftover egg whites! Custard ice creams require yolks - lots of yolks - and I personally can't stand the idea of that many egg white omelets or of tossing the egg whites out.
Whether you're devoted to the classics or are an adventurous ice cream lover, I promise you this book has something (many things) to tempt your palate. There are chocolate options galore - Milk, Spicy, Mocha Almond Fudge, and White Chocolate with Almond-Cocoa Nib Brittle, to name a few - and favorites like Vanilla, Strawberry, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but there are also some truly unique and imaginative flavors as well. We had to test the Sour Cream Blueberry and the Honey with Roasted Fig and Walnut immediately. (Both are AMAZING but the Blueberry was the overwhelming favorite. The sour cream in the base is magical!) I even tried my hand at the Citrus-Scented Angel Food Cake, which given my baking issues required quite a bit of courage. I'm pleased to announce that the recipe seems to be cursed kitchen proof.
Note: You need an ice cream maker to use this book, but if you've got that and a desire for truly awesome ice cream, you're set! ...more
Readers, I'm a sometime participant in a local food swap and I am ALWAYS trying to figure out what to bring. So when I saw The Soup Club Cookbook on sReaders, I'm a sometime participant in a local food swap and I am ALWAYS trying to figure out what to bring. So when I saw The Soup Club Cookbook on shelves and then on Blogging for Books, I had to give it a try.
The concept behind this book is really brilliant, especially if you have foodie friends who are up for the challenge. The authors suggest putting together a soup club - friends swapping soups on a regular basis - and the book is the perfect guide. The recipes make about 8 quarts each and the authors include extras to bring along with your swapped soups - Enhanced Crème Fraîche recipes, Cheese Crisps, Pestos... The soups themselves range from purees to meatless options, cold soups, and heartier fare. There's also a section of bread recipes (cause what goes better with soup than fresh baked bread?!), and other accompaniments.
My very first recipe with this one was the Borscht. I made it while hubs was out of town as a treat for myself, paring down the recipe to just 2 quarts that I ended up sharing with a friend. It was a hit! A few others I've tried since include the Sun-Dried Tomato Soup (a perfect sort of pantry staple soup option) and with spring sometimes peeking out and asparagus in season, the Roasted Asparagus Soup.
Everything I've tried has so far been incredibly tasty - the recipes are easy to follow, the instructions very straightforward and the ingredients all readily available in my area. Even better, none of the recipes are overly complicated for the everyday home cook. As a fun bonus, all of the recipes include comments from the authors ranging from a personal story to tips and substitution ideas.
All in all, The Soup Club Cookbook is one I find particularly handy in my kitchen whether I'm sharing, swapping, or enjoying a simple family meal. ...more