Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Secrets of a Sauce Queen

I was going to pull the plug on blog posts until after the holidays, but I had to write about this book. It was published in New Zealand (which means it's a tad hard to find if you're in the states), but you might be able to track down a copy online.

Secrets of a Sauce Queen by Trudie Burnham is a danged good book. Tasty.

And sauces, while not as essential as, let's say, instructions on how to grill a piece of food without killing it, are things that can make your plain food much more spectacular.

The sauces range from salad dressing so moles to fruit sauces to hollandaise to ... well pretty much any sort of sauce you might drizzle, baste, dip, slather, mop, or use as a marinade. It's all here.

I just finished wiping the last bits of barbecue sauce off my face, and I have to say that it was a freakishly simple recipe that was amazingly good.

Sure, a lot of books include a few sauces, but I think this will be the sort of book that cooks will turn to when they think, well, I'll grill the fish ... but maybe I should make a sauce.

Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Kitchen with a View and a #Giveaway

This book is straight out of Italy.

And I mean that literally.

The author contacted me and offered her book, A Kitchen with a View, plus a copy for one of my readers, straight from her Italian kitchen. How wonderful is that.

She offered to ship a book to a winner, but I know how that international shipping can be. It sometimes takes a loooooong time, so I offered to ship to the winner and save everyone that little bit of extra angst.

So. About the book.

The author, Letizia Matticiacci, is both a home cook and a cooking teacher, so the recipes are the sort that you'd find in a modern Italian home, and the instructions are clear. Measurements are in both metric and in spoon and cups, so you don't need to convert anything.

And the recipes are quite tempting. And doable in an American kitchen. And, like many Italian recipes, they rely on good ingredients instead of a lot of bells and whistles.

One recipe that I found interesting was an Umbrian-style chicken cacciatora which had no tomatoes. Pretty much every other cacciatore I've seen or eaten relied heavily on tomatoes, but this one got its flavor from fresh herbs, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and a little bit of lemon juice.

There's a pasta sauce recipe that's so brilliantly simple - dried porcini mushrooms, garlic, wine, and cheese play starring roles. Another pasta sauce uses Italian sausage, onion, cream, wine, and cheese. So simple, but just think about the flavors!

It's not all about dinners, though. There are salads and dessert (mmmm. hazelnut and chocolate gelato!) as well as information about ingredients as well as the lifestyle in the area. Like the olive harvest! It made me wish I had olive trees.

If you're interested in Italian home cooking that's being done today - as opposed to restaurant dishes that have been etched in stone - then this is a great glimpse into what you might find if you wandered into a home in the Umbria area.

The giveaway is over, but you can still buy your own copy of A Kitchen with a View!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Food52 Baking

The latest book from the folks at Food52 is a baking book, appropriately titled Food52 Baking.

The concept (and books now all have concepts) is that you can make these desserts (and other baked goods) on a weeknight and not have to stay up until the wee hours to get the job done.

That doesn't mean the desserts ordinary. Browned butter cupcake brownies, for example, would make a nice dessert for a dinner party. Cherry almond crumb cake looks both elegant and homey. Fifteen minute olive oil and sesame crackers are rustic and, well, who can argue with crackers that can be done that fast?

Some of the recipes in the book are available on the Food52 website, but others are only in this book. Some are from contributors and others are from the Food52 staff. Some are old fashioned, while others are more trendy. But they all look pretty good.

If you love baking books (they're one of my weaknesses, for sure!) this would be a good addition to your shelf. If you're looking for a fun cookbook for a gift, this would fill that stocking, too.

I'm a little backed up on cookbook recipes over on Cookistry, but I'll have an adapted recipe for you over there soon. Yum!

Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook Simple Pleasures

How can I describe this book?





Hmmm. light and homey seem like they could be contradictions. But... somehow it makes sense.

If you've never heard of Annabel Langbein - and I never did before I got this book - she is a television personality in New Zealand. These recipes are all from her television show, where she focuses on home-grown and farmer's market seasonal foods.

But there are also desserts, like molten chocolate cakes, brownies, lemon pie, tarte tatin, and plenty of others. Might I note that the brownies seems pretty spectacular.

The first recipe I tried from The Free Range Cook was an onion and herb frittata, which was similar frittatas I'd made before, but with a few little twists. Which is what I like. New ways to make normal things.

The recipe called for using a large pan, but it fit perfectly in my 10-inch Anolon skillet, and I could have added more ingredients, if I needed to.

The recipe called for four potatoes, but I used five because mine weren't huge; it called for two onions, but I used one because I had a huge one from the farmers market. For something like a frittata, you don't need to be super-precise about amounts, so in theory, I could have used another giant onion and one less potato.

In the end, it was a pretty nice frittata.

Browsing through the rest of the book, I didn't find any recipes that would require odd ingredients, and measurements are in cups and tablespoons, so you needn't worry about converting anything for use in an American kitchen - the US edition is all ready for you to use.

The book also has menus that suggest recipes from the book that go together. That's not a feature I'd use, but I'm sure some folks would find it handy. And it's something she does on her show, so that's why they're included.

The book includes all of the recipe that were aired on the show, plus some extras. While the show was originally aired in New Zealand, it's now showing on some PBS stations across the US, so you can look for it and get to know her!

Overall, it's a nice, fresh, lively, market-and-season-driven book with recipe that are simple enough for everyday meals, but still interesting.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Holiday Kosher Baker

The great thing about holiday cookbooks is that there's always another holiday coming. That calendar just keeps on turning pages.

The Holiday Kosher Baker by Paula Shoyer is all about Jewish holidays. But, hey, just because a recipe can be used for a particular holiday, it doesn't mean you can't use the recipe for any old day.

I mean, no, you're not going to decorate a cookie for a holiday and serve it for another holiday - and there are certainly some recipes that are tied to certain holiday ... but good baking is good baking.

A case in point is the shortbread cookie recipe in this book that I recently made. The cookies could be used for a specific holiday, or you could make them next Tuesday. Or for the cook club. Or a birthday. They're nice cookies.

One thing you'll see a lot in this book is the use of margarine where other books might use butter. The reason is the dietary prohibition against mixing meat and milk during a meal. So, the shortbread cookies I made used margarine, which means they could be served after either a meat meal or a milk meal.

It also means that the shortbread cookies I made would be good for vegans or for people who have dairy allergies or who have other reasons for avoiding milk products.

Want the recipe? It's waiting for you right here.

Want to know all about the cookie stamps I used? Follow the link to my review!

But the book isn't all cookies and desserts. Of course there are cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, pastries, bars ... well you know.

But there are also breads (who doesn't love brioche?), crepes, cheese blitzes, and kugel.

But most of it is sweets. Because, well, for a holiday, you need desserts, right?

Overall, I'm loving this book. While I'm not a big user of margarine, it's nice to have recipes that are designed to use margarine for times when I need to make something dairy free. And there are other recipes that use butter and other dairy products.

I received the book from the publisher and the cookie stamps from the manufacturer.