Thursday, March 15, 2018

First We Eat #AbramsDinnerParty

I love ethnic and regional cookbooks, mostly because I like seeing how other people eat. Because everyone isn't from Chicago with a midwestern accent.

First We Eat by Eva Kosmas Flores is all about Pacific Northwest cooking, which happens to be a part of the country I'm not all that familiar with. I spent a few hours in the northwest corner of the country on my way elsewhere, but that's about it.

I imagined a lot of fish, considering there's that nearby coast. But other than that ... uh ... not really sure.

The book is arranged by seasons, which is very handy for those of us who live where seasons actually exist. (Side-eye at you, California and Florida.) On the other hand, a lot of what used to be very seasonal foods are now readily available for much more of the year. Still, there are some foods that are simply better in season. (Glaring at you, strawberries and tomatoes.)

As usual, my first step was thumbing through the book, looking for recipes I might want to make. I thumbed right past the way-too-popular kale and arugula recipes (not too many of them, to be honest) and bookmarked Summer Squash Fritters with Cucumber Tsatziki (yes, it's not summer, but zucchini are forever), Hazelnut and Maple Crusted Pork Loin Chops with Apples and Sage, and Caramel Apple Tarte Tatin.

Oh heck yum. Sign me up for those. They could even be a whole meal with perhaps a salad on the side, or perhaps the refreshing sounding Green Bean and Lemon soup.

The great thing about this book is that for the most part, the ingredients will be easy to find. Fresh morels will be expensive, but I'd probably substitute with another mushroom and call it a day. Fresh lilac blossoms could be hunted down in neighbor's yards, but the season is short. I might sub dried lavender (this is for a tea, so it would work) when lilacs are not around. But otherwise, pretty much everything can be had in a normal grocery store.

Besides recipes, there's information about ingredients, a whole list of pantry basics that you can make for yourself, and seasonal information about gardening. And lots more. If you like reading cookbooks as well as cooking from them, you'll have plenty to browse through here.

And then we have the photos. They're pretty without looking unattainable or unrealistic. So, if you're making one of these recipes, there's a good chance it will resemble on of the photos. That's always a plus, in my opinion.

I got this book for participating in the #AbramsDinnerParty, where I get cookbooks for free. Because there's always a little extra room on my shelf.

Monday, March 5, 2018

I Love My Rice Cooker Recipe Book

Poor rice cookers. They used to be so trendy, but now there are all those multi-cooker, slow-cooker, pressure-cooker gadgets that claim to be able to cook absolutely everything. Including, possibly, rice.

This cookbook takes the opposite tack. It attempts to give you multiple reasons to keep your rice cooker on your counter. It's not just for rice, the cookbook says. You can make soup in it, too.

The interesting thing about The I Love My Rice Cooker Recipe Book (no author listed) is that it's designed for use with very basic rice cookers - the ones with on/off/warm settings and nothing else.

Surprise, surprise, that's not the sort of rice cooker I have. Mine will cook Gaba rice and has multiple settings for white rice, but it's not the sort of cooker that this book is aimed at.

But that's okay. I'm resourceful. All of the recipes in this book could easily be converted for slow cooker or stovetop recipes. I mean, seriously, you just need basic higher and lower heat. It's not that hard to convert them. And, if your kitchen is being remodeled and you have to rough it with your rice cooker, you can use this book to make everything from meatballs to crab cakes to pasta in your rice cooker.

And yes, there are rice dishes, too.

While this is probably not an essential book, it could be really handy for college students armed with rice cookers in their dorm rooms, or anyone who happens to have one of those old style rice cookers that needs more use.




Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food #AbramsDinnerParty

The Abrams Dinner Party continues with more fun cookbooks being sent to me to peruse, cook from, and tell you about. I get the books at no cost.

If you've ever been to New Orleans (or you've watched enough episodes of NCIS New Orleans, you probably realize there's a unique food culture. And when there's a unique food culture, there are recipes.

Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food is all about that food culture. If you're craving alligator, you'll find a recipe here (although I'm not sure where you'd find the alligator). If you want beignets, those are a bit more accessible, since the ingredients aren't as exotic.

If you want gumbo or creole creations, the recipes are here.

While some of them include ingredients that might be hard to find (hello, alligator), it's pretty simple to substitute one fish for another, shrimp for crawfish ... and for that alligator, to me it has the texture of chicken with a slightly fishy flavor. Chicken might be a good substitute there.

Of course, the majority of the recipes can be made using ingredients from your standard grocery store. Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Brandy Cream Sauce would make a lovely dinner for company or a special occasion. Poached Fish with Cranberry Hollandaise sounds different and lovely. Dirty Rice and Lyonnaise Potatoes and Corn Macquchoux would be great side dishes pretty much every day.

If you've been to New Orleans and want to recreate the food vibe, or if you just want to change up your everyday cooking, this book would be a great addition to your book collection.

Note: This book is a revised edition. I'm not sure what was changed from the previous version.

QUICK PEEK

While MOST of the books I'm getting from Abrams are cookbooks, they sent along two other books as well - Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson and The New Farm by Brent Preston. I haven't had a chance to dive into these yet, but on first glance, they look like the sorts of books that food lovers would be interested in.






Saturday, January 20, 2018

One Knife, One Pot, One Dish #AbramsDinnerParty

When I got the latest cookbook for the Abrams Dinner Party (where I get a bunch of free cookbooks from the publisher) I was curious about the concept.

The book is called One Knife, One Pot, One Dish, and the subtitle is Simple French feasts at home.

Well, hmmm. When I think of French food, simple is not the first thing that comes to mind.

Wandering through the book, the titles didn't sound simple. Like Pork with Green Peppercorns and Shiitakes, Rabbit with Lemon Thyme and Almonds, Cauliflower with Lemon Mascarpone, or Salmon with Beets and Chocolate Mint.

There were others that sounded simple, like Chili, One-Pot Carbonnade, and Hot Dogs with Cheese.

But ... titles can be deceiving. All of the recipes are designed to be simple to prepare, no matter how "fancy" the ingredients are. First, you peel or slice or chop. Then it goes into a pot. Then you plate it. Boom! All done!

I decided to try the concept with a dessert - Apples with Salted Butter. Mostly because I had plenty of leftovers for the next few dinners, and I didn't want to pile on yet another dinner-like food.

This was a super-simple recipe that required a whopping three ingredients. Just apples, butter, and sugar. First, the apples are peeled, cored and thinly sliced on a mandoline. Then some butter and sugar go onto the bottom of the pot and the apple slices are layered into the pot with sprinkles of sugar and dots of butter between layers. Then it's baked for a while with the lid on the pot, and later the lid is removed so the sugar has a chance to caramelize.

It all went well except that when I got to the store, I had forgotten which apples were recommended, so I played apple roulette (seriously, how many apple varieties are in season now?) And I grabbed a few of each.

When I took the lid off the pot, the apples were swimming in juice. My goodness, I had juicy apples! It took much longer than recommended to get the apples to caramelize to a point that was even close to what was in the photo. Then, when I tried to unmold it, it kind of flopped out of the pan so it was useless for a photo.

Oh, but the flavor! Warm or room temperature or chilled, this was a-freaking-mazing. The amount of sugar (just about one tablespoon per apple) was enough to add some sweetness, but overall they were more tart than sweet. The butter added richness. I get grabbing and nibbling more and more. So good.

I'm going to be making this again, for sure. Possibly with different apples.

As far as the book, the techniques are pretty easy. Some of the ingredients would be a little difficult for me to find. Like the rabbit. I can't recall the last time I saw that at the grocery store. But you know what tastes like rabbit? Yup, chicken.

As far as other ingredients that might be less common (chocolate mint is available at the garden center; less so at the grocery store) they'd be pretty easy to substitute. Regular mint for chocolate mint. One mushroom for another. One fish for another. One cheese for another. The results might not be exactly the same, but they'd be darned close. And pretty easy, too.

I got One Knife, One Pot, One Dish by Stephanie Reynaud from the publisher at no cost to me.