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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.
The ingredients: butter, onions, bay leaves, orzo pasta, scallions, Greek yogurt, lemons
The book: American Flavor, by Andrew Carmellini
Why I tried it: I was running late one night and needed to punt when it came to dinner, so I decided to look for the simplest possible recipe I could find from one of the season’s new books. This was pretty much it. I saw that it had butter and scallions, and since scallions simmered in butter is one of my favorite ways to start any recipe, I was sold. As I soon discovered, the scallions never get simmered in butter in this recipe at all. But by then it was too late, and anyway it was obviously turning out delicious anyway.
Why I love it: I’m almost embarrassed to be so crazy about this recipe, because it’s so dang easy. (Then again, I also love those meatballs you have to make with a zillion pots, which makes up for it I guess.) I love the way you use Greek yogurt to make a cream sauce without cream. The technique’s totally different from the way you usually make pasta, too. No boiling and draining, which seems to leave the orzo slimy right after being cooked and glue-tacky 30 seconds later. It’s made like a risotto, which seems to do wonders for the texture. And at the end there’s a manic dose of lemon to tie it all together.
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.
The ingredients: ground pork and/or ground veal, white bread, parsley, chicken stock, white wine, saffron, lemons; blanched almonds, garlic
The book: The Food of Spain, by Claudia Roden
Why I tried it: During this book’s official testing period for its full review in the Globe, I noticed that almonds and saffron took starring roles (as opposed to cameos) in many of the recipes. I love both ingredients, but had not been in the habit of combining them. So I thought that alone was an intriguing notion, and maybe also típico in some way.
Why I love it: It’s the strangest way to build a sauce–a thin broth of chicken broth white wine seasoned with saffron and lemon zest, and then thickened with the picada–a ground paste of fried almonds, bread, and garlic. It cooks down into a dense yellow sauce that sticks to the bottom of the pan. But once you add the browned meatballs, the saffron, almonds, parsley and pork start to sing together, and you end up with one of those dishes that leads to a complete breakdown in table manners. I scraped the pot with the serving spoon, my fork, and finally my finger.
Caveat: Hope you like to wash dishes! This recipe takes a pile of prep bowls, 3 separate skillets (not counting having to wash the whole Cuisinart meat-grinding attachment if you like freshly ground pork, as I do), and a solid 90 minutes of work. But please believe me when I say it’s totally worth it.
The book: The Kitchen Garden Cookbook, edited by Caroline Bretherton
The ingredients: zucchini, ricotta cheese, egg, flour, basil, parsley, dill, Greek yogurt
Why I tried it: Two words – zucchini season. I had a handful of nicely-producing zucchini plants this season, and I wanted the kids to eat as much as possible. I basically alternated between this recipe and a Chinese-style flash-fried zucchini slivers with smashed garlic. Then, in the fall, I made zucchini bread.
Why I love it: Well, it’s fried. There’s no duplicating the crisp texture and can’t-stop-now flavor of a fried food. Plus, the fast cooking preserves the lovely green color of the zucchini shreds. Ricotta boosts the interior moisture, and a dollop of thick, dill-scented yogurt adds an unforgettably smooth dose of tartness.
Caveat: In a fit of health-minded optimism one time, I tried to fry them in 1/4″ of oil instead of 1/2″. No dice–not hot enough to cook through nice and fast; ironically, the fritters absorbed more oil despite there being less of it to go round. You’ll just have to go for the full quotient and say your Hail Marys later.
- Because you love to cook.
- Because you hate to cook and just like reading about other people doing it.
- Because it’s less fattening than chocolate.
- Because you have no idea what to get your grandma, who already owns every cookbook ever published.
- Because you have no idea what to get your brother-in-law, who already has every kitchen gadget known to man.
- Because you were wondering, What’s the statute of limitations for shoplifting mushrooms?
- Because the little girl on the cover is just so dang cute.
- Because you have already spent $8.53 on Amazon, and you need another $16.47 to get the Free Super Saver Shipping.
- Because you are one of my relatives, and you have already run out of your first 50 copies.
- Because you need a recipe for Ring Dings with popcorn.
The recipe: Cumin seed roasted cauliflower with salted yogurt, mint, and pomegranate seeds
The book: Cook this Now, by Melissa Clark
The ingredients: cauliflower, cumin seeds, yogurt, mint, pomegranate seeds
Why I tried it: I’ve been a convert to roasted cauliflower for some years now, but usually I just cut it, oil it, salt it, and roast it. I thought adding a few more ingredients–and such an interesting combination!–was worth a try.
Why I love it: What I didn’t expect was that this eclectic marriage of different types of sweet (fruity and minty-cool) and salty (earthy-cuminy and dairy-smooth) would suddenly take on a life of its own in my mouth. Is it a little more work than plain old roasted cauliflower? Maybe just a bit–but come on, it’s only 5 ingredients! Some of us have more than that in our morning Starbucks.
I’m not the only one who’s gone crazy over this recipe, by the way. My friend Jane from Eat Your Books is addicted too–one week she cooked it three times.
TSC’s cookbook interview with Joy Cardin, downloadable here. (minutes 1:49 – 18:15 on the download)
The photo is of my mom and me outside our house, in 1978. My dad can be glimpsed, holding the camera, in the background reflection.