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It’s a slightly different format this year: a one-book report on a selection from the list. I had a terrific time recording this piece at our local NPR affiliate (New England Public Radio) on the campus of U. Mass., and I got to put the phrase “bone-suckingly good” on the radio for possibly the first time ever.
You can hear the commentary and read the original story here.
You can also read my extended post with the complete 2012 cookbook shortlist here.
The Boston Globe 2012 cookbook roundup is now live! just in time for last-minute, down-to-the-wire holiday shopping. This year’s picks, many of which were favorites on other lists as well:
- Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
- Keys to the Kitchen, by Aida Mollenkamp
- Herbivoracious, by Michael Natkin
- The Food52 Cookbook vol. 2 by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs
- Science of Good Cooking by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated
- The Farm by Ian Knauer
- Canal House Cooks Every Day by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer
- Ripe by Nigel Slater
- The Great Meat Cookbook, by Bruce Aidells
- United States of Pie by Adrienne Kane
If some of these titles seem familiar, it’s no coincidence! Of the maybe 400 books submitted for consideration in 2012, I found myself returning over and over to a group of perhaps two dozen really important contributions, and I felt compelled to draw attention to them on a number of occasions over the course of the year. If you’re wondering what distinguishes the NPR list from the Globe list (I write both lists), it’s mostly a matter of audience; so there is a little bit of overlap. Also recommended but previously reviewed in the Globe: The Fresh and Green Table, The Fresh Egg, Susan Feniger’s Street Food, Asian Tofu, Modern Sauces.
Here’s a book that may have passed you by this year. Lyons Press launched a series of small cookbooks from up-and-coming chefs. The books aren’t flashy, but there are some real treasures in them – like this one.
We’ll be taking a break for Thanksgiving after this post–Happy Turkey Day, everybody! And stay tuned for more Best Recipes after the holiday.
The book: Comfort and Spice, by Niamh Shields (Lyons Press, $19.95)
The recipe: Crispy Pomegranate Molasses Chicken Wings with Tahini Sauce
Why I tried it: I think the name says it all. Like most people, I dislike and avoid deep-frying. But there are some times when there’s just no other choice, so a few times a year I just go for it. Also, I have a real weakness for both pomegranate molasses and tahini. I’d never seen them paired before. Could it be as good as it sounded?
Why I loved it: Because it’s wings we’re talking about and not breast, the spices and molasses really penetrated the meat overnight. The seasoned flour coat doubles down on the cumin anyway, and then you crisp it up in the fryer. Do not Skip the Dip. When the crisp, sweet, spiced wing meets the cool, tart, creamy dip, sparks fly.
Estimated preparation time: 20 day-before minutes + overnight marinade + 30 day-of, messy minutes.
Crispy Pomegranate Molasses Chicken Wings with Tahini Sauce
Recipe excerpted from Comfort & Spice by Niamh Shields, Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press.
Seives 6—8 as a snack
For the marinade
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
For the chicken
2¾ pounds chicken wings, cut in half at the joint
2 whole eggs, or 3 egg whites, beaten
light oil, to deep-fry (peanut or sunflower)
For the seasoned flour
2 heaping cups all-purpose flour
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
½ teaspoon chili powder
1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and massage into the wings.
Cover and leave in the refrigerator for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
2. The next day, pour all the ingredients for the seasoned flour into a large plastic storage bag. Add the chicken, close the bag, and toss.
3. Place the eggs or egg whites in a large shallow dish. Transfer the chicken to the egg, coat thoroughly, then repeat with the flour.
4. Heat 2 inches of oil in a very large pan, or a deep fat fryer, until it reaches 35o°F on an oil thermometer or a cube of bread froths the oil immediately. Fry the chicken in batches, ensuring the pan is not crowded. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.
For the tahini dip: chop 3 garlic cloves and crush in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of toasted cumin seeds. Add ¾ cup tahini, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, and 5 tablespoons of water. Add the juice of a lemon until the taste and consistency suits you. Stir in chopped cilantro and serve.
Eggs? you’re saying. You picked eggs for one of your best recipes of the year? Sure did. This recipe revolutionized my breakfast routine. No more boring-scrambled-eggs-you-eat-because-you-need-the-protein! I made it 6 days out of 7 all through tomato season.
The recipe: Scrambled Eggs, Indian-Style
Why I tried it: My Aunty Sen makes a delicious scrambled egg with tomato. ”It looks kind of terrible,” she told me, “but it tastes really good.” I loved her tomato egg, but it was a little scary-looking, and I ended up not making it at home. So when I saw this egg recipe with tomato, I thought it was a good chance to get over my own qualms about tomato eggs. Also, it had onion. Who can be afraid of a recipe that starts with onion?
Why I loved it: You know how when you eat scrambled eggs, they’re great for the first bite, OK for the second, and after that you’re just eating them because you have to? Yeah, that’s what this recipe isn’t like. It’s full of interesting, complementary flavors that keep bouncing off each other from the first bite to the last. In fact, the whole experience is over all too soon. I made this recipe first in the spring, and I didn’t think it could get better. Then I tried it with the fresh tomatoes in August. Then I tried it with our chickens’ first eggs, in October. Oh my!!!
Estimated preparation time: < 15 minutes*.
*once you’re familiar with the recipe. Less if you keep ginger-garlic paste around (a terrific staple that keeps forever in the fridge, by the way, and available at most Asian markets). You can use it instead of mincing the garlic and ginger.
Scrambled Eggs, Indian-Style
Haven’t got a fresh tomato? That’s OK. Even a mediocre winter tomato turns into a rock star with this treatment. And if you haven’t even got one of those, you can use a scant tablespoon of tomato paste and loosen it up with a little water in the pan as you sweat the aromatics. I just did, and it was great.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 small tomato, chopped
1 green chile, seeded and slivered (or substitute 1 teaspoon chili powder)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon toasted cumin seed
Pinch of ground turmeric
1. Beat the eggs and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the tomato, chile, cilantro, garlic, and ginger and cook until the tomato is soft (so you can mash it). Season with salt and pepper, the cumin seed, and the turmeric.
3. Pour in the eggs and scramble until they reach the desired consistency. Serve immediately.
Recipe excerpted from The Fresh Egg Cookbook © by Jennifer Trainer Thompson, used with permission from Storey Publishing.
Hooray! It’s time to kick off the 2012 Best Recipes series: drool-worthy, conversation-stopping, routine-altering recipes published in the last year. We’re going in order of publication – so we’ll begin with Andrea Nguyen’s magnificent tofu book, published in February.
The book: Asian Tofu, by Andrea Nguyen (10 Speed, $30)
The recipe: Pan-fried Tofu with Mushroom and Spicy Sesame Sauce
Why I tried it: It was initially one more excuse to pull out the shiitakes, which I adore. Also, it’s not always easy to achieve a crisp exterior when frying tofu, though it’s irresistible when you get it right. So it was a good litmus test for the book – was Nguyen really going to lead us to crisp-tofu nirvana? Or would we be left fumbling cluelessly on our own (which is what usually happens)?
Why I loved it: Crisp exterior achieved! by thoughtful slicing, draining, blotting–and a nonstick pan (who knew?) But the real payoff came when the fried mushrooms met the sesame sauce. I don’t know how it is that those predictable ingredients – soy, sesame, garlic, scallions – can constantly offer flavorful surprises. Yet they do. The thinly sliced mushroom caps attain a slight golden crust of crispness, yet remain porous enough to absorb sauce like nobody’s business.
The recipe may seem long on first read, but it’s one of those cases where Nguyen is just being careful so things are crystal-clear. The whole thing doesn’t take more than 30 minutes, even when you include making the sauce. (I usually hate turning to another page in a book to make a sauce, but it was totally worth it this time.)
Estimated preparation time: 30 minutes*.
*once you’re familiar with the recipe, and if you don’t mess around.
Panfried Tofu with Mushroom and Spicy Sesame Sauce
Serves 4 with 2 or 3 other dishes
1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu
8 ounces assorted fresh mushrooms, such as enoki, shimeji, oyster, and shiitake
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 big pinches salt
2 big pinches black pepper
1/3 cup Korean Seasoned Soy Sauce (recipe below)
1. Cut the tofu into chunky matchboxes, each about 1 1/2 inches by 2 inches by 1/2 inch. Line a plate with a non-terry dishtowel or double layer of paper towels. Place the tofu on top to drain for about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, give each type of mushroom a very quick rinse under water to knock off any debris. Hold enoki and shimeji by the cluster. If you are using enoki or shimeji, trim and discard the sandy material that the mushroom grew in. The cluster should naturally fall apart. Trim oyster mushrooms at the ends and separate into individual ones. Tear large ones lengthwise into bite-size pieces. Trim and discard shiitake stems, then slice the caps a good 1/8 inch thick. Set the mushrooms aside.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Blot the tofu pieces before pan-frying them until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving plate and keep warm.
4. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until the mushroom are soft, fragrant, and about half of their original volume.
5 Arrange the tofu on one large plate or individual plates. Top with the mushrooms and sauce. Serve hot or warm.
Korean Seasoned Soy Sauce
makes about 1/3 cup
2 tablespoons Korean or Japanese soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu) or other red pepper
2 tablespoons lightly packed finely chopped green onion, white and green parts
2 to 3 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle
1. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, and sugar, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion, and sesame seeds. Set aside for about 15 minutes for the flavors to develop. The sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to a week.
2. This sauce can dramatically change its characteristics as it sits. Right before using, taste the sauce again and make any last-minute tweaks. You want a strong savory-spicy-slightly-sweet finish because the tofu that will be served with this is not highly seasoned.
Reprinted with permission from Asian Tofu © 2012 by Andrea Nguyen, 10 Speed Press.
Well, the list has gone live! After about 4 weeks of reading, browsing, asking the 7 questions, and recipe-testing (ask my family), my top 10 choices for summer cookbooks are now public. Read the story on the NPR website.
Following the top 10 is my own shortlist, which includes all the outstanding cookbooks that didn’t make it into the NPR article–lots of terrific choices for newlyweds, new college graduates, parents, and, well, everybody.
The NPR Summer 2012 Top 10:
- The Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook
- The Fresh & Green Table, by Susie Middleton
- Herbivoracious, by Michael Natkin
- Asian Tofu, by Andrea Nguyen
- Pasta Italiana, by Gino d’Acampo
- The Fresh Egg, by Jennifer Trainer Thompson
- Ripe, by Nigel Slater
- Ripe, by Cheryl Sternman Rule & Paulette Philpot
- United States of Pie, by Adrienne Kane
- Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, by Jake Godby, Sean Vahey, Frankie Frankeny and Paolo Lucchesi
Outstanding Book for Slow Foodistas
A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, by April Bloomfield with J.J. Goode
Outstanding Seasonal-Eating Cookbook
The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food, by Ian Knauer
Best Kitchen Gardener’s Book:
Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips, by Willi Galloway
Best Reboot-Your-Salad Book:
Salad for Dinner: Complete Meals for All Seasons, by Jeanne Kelley
Exquisite Gluten-Free Book
La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life, by Béatrice Peltre
Ingredient-Focused Book from a Hunky Newcomer
Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better, by Seamus Mullen
How-to-Cookbook with an Emphasis on Lots of Recipes
How to Cook Everything the Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food, by Mark Bittman
How-to-Cook Book with an Emphasis on Helpful Process Photographs
What to Cook and How to Cook It: Fresh and Easy, by Jane Hornby
Food of Many Nations Primer
Cindy’s Supper Club: Meals from Around the World to Share with Family and Friends, by Cindy Pawlcyn
Buzz-Free Liquid Refreshment Book
Sip and Savor: Drinks for Party and Porch, by James T. Farmer III
Mouthwatering Ice Cream Book
Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery, by Kris Hoogehyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough
Multiethnic Comfort Food from a Talented Newcomer
Comfort and Spice, by Niamh Shields
Fun Trend Cookbook for Bedside Reading
The Truck Food Cookbook: 150 Recipes and Ramblings from America’s Best Restaurants on Wheels, by John T. Edge
Giftworthy-Design DIY Book
A Country Cook’s Kitchen: Simple Recipes for Making Breads, Cheese, Jams, Preserves, Cured Meats, and More, by Alison Walker
The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You can stop Buying and Start Making, by Alana Chernila
French Country Fantasy Book:
Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good, by Alain Ducasse
Seasonal Cookbook Best Suited for an Art Gallery
The Perfect Ingredient: 5 Fantastic Ways to Cook Apples, Beets, Pork, Scallops, and More, by Bryn Williams
Even-in-the-Summer Baking Book
CakeLove in the Morning: Recipes for Muffins, Scones, Panckaes, Waffles, Biscuits, Frittatas, and Other Breakfast Treats, by Warren Brown
Attractive Glossary for a Dwindling Food Supply
Fish: Recipes from the Sea, by C.J. Jackson and Barton Seaver
Perfect Gift in Lieu of a Bouquet
Edible Flowers: 25 Recipes and an A-Z Pictorial Directory of Culinary Flora, by Kathy Brown
Good New Idea for a Regional Cookbook
The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian: Modern Recipes from Veggiestan, by Sally Butcher
Just-For-Fun, Not-a-Book Cocktail Guide
Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook
And don’t forget, summer is the season for narrative! now that you have time to read, take a moment to savor tales of food forays, quests, and misadventures. You can find them in my own book, A Spoonful of Promises: Recipes and Stories from a Well-Tempered Table.
The Boston Globe 2011 cookbook roundup is now live and posted! just in time for your last-minute holiday shopping.
This year’s picks, many of which were favorites on other lists as well:
Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch, by Nigel Slater
The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs
Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals from My Home to Yours by Mario Batali
American Flavor by Andrew Carmellini
Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal by Jennifer McLagan
Lidia’s Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich
All About Roasting by Molly Stevens
My editor and I had also talked about featuring books previously reviewed and worth revisiting, but the Globe must have run out of room in the section for that portion of the review. These were:
The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden
My Japanese Table: A Lifetime of Cooking with Friends and Family, by Debra Samuels
The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert
Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark
The Fearless Baker: Scrumptious Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, Cookies, and Quick Breads that You Can Make to Impress Your Friends and Yourself, by Emily Luchetti
Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen, by Heidi Swanson.
I know many of you have been waiting anxiously and wondering where this list could be! As of today, the books have been chosen and the story sent. I don’t know exactly when my editor will run it, but my best guess is that it’s likely to be either 12/21 or 12/28. I could be completely wrong.