Thursday, May 31, 2018

Foreign Cinema Cookbook #AbramsDinnerParty

This cookbook season, I've been lucky enough to be involved in the Abrams Dinner Party, which is a clever way of saying that I get a whole lot of cookbooks for free.

Some of them, I was drooling over. Some, I'd never heard of, and probably would not have taken a second look at. But that's fine, because some of the ones that I wasn't originally fond of turned out to be pretty good.

One of the most recent books to arrive was The Foreign Cinema Cookbook by Gayle Pirie and John Clark. The subtitle of this one is Recipes and Stories under the stars.

I'll have to admit that this one wasn't on my radar at all. I didn't know the authors, and even if I had seen it in passing, I probably would have passed, since I know very little about foreign films.

Turns out I was a bit wrong in my assumptions. Foreign Cinema is the name of a restaurant in San Francisco. Oopsie. So, instead of finding recipes dedicated to movies I'd never seen or recipes by stars I never heard of, this is a book full of recipes from the restaurant. There's everything from Strawberry Bourbon to Crab Cakes with a Curiously Scented Butter Sauce (I just love that name!) to Creme Fraiche ice cream.

Like a lot of cookbooks written by folks near a coast, there are quite a few recipes featuring fresh fish that isn't available to us folks in the middle-ish of the country. And like many cookbooks based on restaurants, there are ingredients you might not find at your local grocer. But that's okay. It's a big book ... and heavy - did I mention that it's heavy? ... so there are plenty of recipes to choose from that can be made with common ingredients.

And of course you can substitute. If you don't have that fresh fish available in your market, you can always pick up the bag of frozen white-looking fish from the freezer bin and make sure that the rest of the recipe is done right.

Even if you skip past the full recipes, this book has a pretty darned good selection of extra things that you'll find very handy. There are spice blends, condiments and pickles, sauces, vinaigrettes, and some simple things like stocks breadcrumbs, and other things that can dress up an otherwise plain dish.

Photos in this book are pretty, yet achievable. The ones on baking pans or in pots certainly are what you should see, but even the plated dishes look doable - if you choose to do them that way. And, I have to say, I really appreciate that.

It irks me to no end when I see a recipe that calls for (for example) avocados to be mixed into a salad and the accompanying photo has pristine cubes of avocado. I mean seriously, either that avocado is rock-hard and not pleasant to eat, or the photographer cut it and placed it into position without mixing it in, as the recipe says you're supposed to. Yes, it's a pretty photo. But no, that's not what it's going to look like when served. And sometimes that matters. Like when the inlaws are coming over.

But ... I digress. The Foreign Cinema Cookbook is not a book of foreign recipes, folks. It's from a restaurant right over there in California, making American-ish food.

In case you missed it up top, I got this book for free. Gratis. Nada cost.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Katie Lee's Easy-Breezy Eats #AbramsDinnerParty

Whoop, whoop, another free cookbook for me from Abrams for participating in the Abrams Dinner Party. Don't get too excited. There's no food, but I do get cookbooks sent to me to review.

This time, we're looking at Katie Lee's Easy-Breezy Eats by (please tell me you guessed it) Katie Lee. This is the kind of book where you look at the cover and immediately assume a few things.

First, the tagline the endless summer cookbook and the basket of produce leads you to believe there will be a lot of fresh ingredients and not too many cans of soup. Second, Katie looks relaxed and happy and she's standing in a field holding that basket of produce. So, I'd assume that the recipes are somewhat easy, fresh, and relatively healthy.

Turns out that the assumptions are pretty much correct.

One of the first recipes I bookmarked was a grilled zucchini, corn, black bean, and avocado salad. Sounds simple enough, and the ingredients are basic. Like, you'd have no problem finding them in just about any grocery store if you didn't happen to already have them. To make the recipe easy, the black beans come from a can, but then we have fresh zucchini, avocado, and scallions. I could eat this as a side dish, as a salad, or a lunch.

Next on my hit list was fish tacos, where the recommended fish is any flaky white fish. That's simple. A recipe for chipotle sauce is included, as well as garnished. This is the kind of recipe where you could prep the sauce and garnishes the night before and cook the fish right before serving and dinner would be on the table in just a few minutes. 

Another one that caught my eye was corn fritters. I'll be making them for sure when corn is local and plentiful and I've (as usual) bought more than I needed. The recipe is simple, but you can dress them up any way you like.

Some of the recipes do sound just a little fancy or complicated, like the Kiwi Blueberry Pavlova, but when you read the recipe, it's actually not that hard. But it would look awfully pretty as a summer dessert when you have company.

This is the kind of book that I might use for inspiration as much as for the recipes. Cornbread Panzanella, for example, is something that I probably never would have thought of. And it's genius. But if I made it, I probably wouldn't fuss with using exactly the colors of bell peppers she suggests. Yeah, I'm a radical like that.

If you didn't notice the blurb at the top, I'm telling you, again, that I got this book for free. Yup, it's good to be me today.