Archive for the 'cookbook reviews' Category

Dessert Fourplay

Today, I am drooling over Dessert FourPlay Sweet Quartets from a Four-Star Pastry Chef by Johnny Iuzzini and Roy Finamore. Just the cover, with it’s lucious delicacies and that handsome face could do a girl in, before she ever opened the book. Just sayin’ Dare to open it, though, and the problem just gets worse!!

9780307351371 So here’s the premise: instead of one large dessert, Johnny gives you recipes for four complementary desserts which are meant to be served together in smaller portions. Now, I am going to tell you straight, the play on words in this book’s title is well earned. For a foodie, looking at the array of possibilities here is gastro-orgasmic. Let me give you an example–he has a section on strawberry and rhubarb and it includes strawberry-rhubarb consomme, fromage blanc panna cotta, pink peppercorn meringues with white chocolate ice cream and rhubarb sorbet, and rhubarb flan tarts.

And, uh, did you know you can make dessert from tomatoes? Yeah, you can, combined with figs and and cherries!

The book is broken down into five chapters: one for each season and then chocolate. Each chapter contains three fourplays. In the back is an extensive section of recipes for sorbets and cakes and cookies and such, which can be served with the recipes in the fourplays, or stand alone, or be used as he suggests for garnishes and extras and such.

The thing that makes this book so very dangerous, though, is the pictures. I mean, if were just a pictureless book of recipes, I’d be safe, but the pictures, they are all so luscious looking and the presentations are so lovely that I have invited a friend over to cook with me. That could be interesting indeed!

Book Review: Robin Rescues Dinner by Robin Miller

So, I think I may have shared here, but maybe not, that I am not doing a whole lot of cooking these days. I mean, it’s not like I need a Garmin GPS to navigate my kitchen, but with me working now, and three other people in the house who are capable of putting a meal on the table, I have slacked off a bit. OTOH, I am still on the lookout for new recipes, because I like to learn new techniques, and also, they think Hamburger Helper is an adequate meal, which it is occasionally, but not every day. I’m thinking this book will be a big help in that regard.

First, the recipes are fairly simple. Second, they are mostly quick to prep and cook. Third, they rely on ingredients that are actually available here in BittyBurg. Robin Rescues Dinner is a clear winner in these three areas. We’ll probably be cooking our way through it, at least partially. There are lots of full color pictures, and each week of recipes begins with an optional prep session that you can do to help save even more time during the week. There are also hints on cooking a bit extra of this or that ingredient to use in other recipes for other weeks, and tips on how to use leftovers in the same way.

I just have one complaint about this book and it is relatively minor and petty. The cover says that there are over 350 recipes in the book. Being a great mathematician, when I picked it up, I expected to find seven dinners times 52 weeks. No, not so much. What we do get is three great looking main dishes, and some sides to go with them. It’s all good, just not what I expected. OTOH, I wouldn’t be as likely to actually cook my way through the book if it told me what to cook every. single. night.

All that said, you could easily use this book, and the week or so of menus in every month of Rachel Raye’s magazine to cook for a full year and never have to come up with a single idea of you own. Or eat Hamburger Helper more than once a month 😉 That’s a winner, ladies!

Cass in the Kitchen: Two Dudes One Pan

:kitchen: What can you make with a big bowl, a nonstick skillet, a classic skillet, a dutch oven, a roasting pan, and a baking dish? A whole lot of goodness, that’s what!

I had the opportunity today to look through Two Dudes One Pan and this book is all about lots of flavor punch with not much muss and fuss. In fact, it’s sub-titled Maximum Flavor from a Minimalist Kitchen. Given how busy life is these days, this is a treasure chest of good ideas just now. And remember a few months ago I moaned about wanting a dutch oven? Now I really, really want one!

This is a fun, chatty cookbook, and each recipe has a snippet of conversation to go with it. Vinny and Jon also go back in forth in the intro to the book as well as the segues into the chapters, which are named for the pot or pan you use for the recipes in it. And the recipes!

From the frittatas to the hot tip for perfect pancakes (extras go on the the pancakes right before you flip them, NOT in the batter) to the swordfish with fried green tomatoes (hello!!! fried green tomatoes!!!!) and bacon vinaigrette to the weiner schnitzel (if these guys can show me how to make that dish that I have been trying to replicate for 22 years, I will forever be in their debt) my non-stick skillet is about to get a real good workout.

And skipping over to the dutch oven chapter–hey I said I wanted one, and winter is coming, and I love to throw meals in the slow oven in winter–I’m salivating over the creamed brussels sprouts with bacon and the buttermilk-sage fried chicken. Buttermilk chicken? I’m so on that! And the beer-braised short ribs. Definitely need the dutch oven, ya’ll.

And as if by the TheClone’s special request, there’s even a recipe for pistachio tiramisu in here. Are you reading me, daughter of mine? Time to come see your mama! 1 2 3Okay here’s the skinny: Two Dudes One Pan will be available in stores next Tuesday. The cover price is $24.95. And I will be doing a giveaway soon, in which this book will be a possible prize. Shh. Don’t tell. Ok, I’m kidding: tell EVERYbody!

Cass in the Kitchen: The Spice Merchant’s Daughter

:kitchen: Another week, another book review. Oh no, wait, I just did a book review yesterday, didn’t I? That’s ok, too, though, because the book I am reviewing today combines two of my favorite things. No, not knitting and cook, though that could be interesting. Except that I already do that, don’t I? Hmm, that bears thinking about. But the two things combined in today’s book are cooking and history. Let me introduce you to The Spice Merchant’s Daughter. Her name is Christina Arokiasamy. She grew up in Malaysia, and her mother was a …. wait for it … spice merchant.

Now I am the first to admit that I don’t know much about spices. I tend to think in terms of salt, pepper and garlic, the end. I only recently started adding paprika “for color”. I think at least part of that is due to the years I spent as a smoker. It deadens the taste, you know. I could only taste very strong or very hot spices, and so the more subtle ones escaped my notice. By the way, paprika is good for more than color. It has a sweety hot taste, kinda smokey, but not a lot. And it’s good on popcorn (thanks Ang.). But let’s get back to the book. 1 2Ms. Arokiasamy precedes each chapter of recipes with a vignette of her childhood life. I could almost see and smell the people and spices as she opened up these windows into another culture. I I do plan to try a few of these recipes, particularly the sambals, which are served like a condiment, so the children can take it or leave it without it being a big hairy deal. I don’t cater to my children when I cook, but I do like to consider them. It seems only fair, after all, since most of them can’t cook yet 😉

Cass in the Kitchen: Key

:kitchen: I have something a little different for you today. Instead of a recipe or book review, I am going to review a site for you. I’ve spent the bulk of the day sorting and stashing crafty type stuff, and I can almost see the light at the end of my personal tunnel of crafty doom, but I just don’t feel like messing with a lot more pictures right now. If you look at the stash page, you will see exactly what I mean. It’s looking perky over there, ya’ll, but my brain is just about fried!

Anyway, back to the subject. At, you can search by recipes based on the (surprise!!) Key Ingredients. And girls, you should see the shrimp recipes! And the pancake recipes. If I wasn’t feeding the family a lasagna from the freezer so I could deal with Mount CraftMore behind me (relax, I made it myself), I might be having to make the Shrimp and Scallop Saute. Over Angel Hair.

As it is, they will eat the lasagna, I will saute myself a no-sat-fat chicken breast and then I will continue with this:
IMG 0616IMG 0617

Don’t you envy me?

Thankfully, it doesn’t look quite that intimidating anymore, because I have been working on it all day. Except for that quick trip to Wal-Mart.

Cass in the Kitchen: Outstanding in the Field by Jim Denevan

:kitchen: Have you heard of the Eat Local Challenge? Well, Outstanding in the Field is the cook’s guide to how to do just that, plus. Jim Denevan drives across the country each summer, setting up outdoor dinners right in the fields where food is grown. He prepares and serves it with the help of his staff, and most of it comes from wherever they are. How cool is that?

The cookbook has got you covered from appetizers to dessert, and there are several menus listed in the back. Interspersed with the recipes are stories from places he’s been and meals he’s served. The recipes range from fairly standard fare such as cider braised pork shoulder to more exotic stuff—did you know you can eat stinging nettles?

9780307381996The pictures alone are enough to make my mouth water, and are also the source of my one complaint. There are several that appear without a recipe beside them, and I can’t figure out what they are. I’m a very visual cook, usually deciding from the picture rather than the ingredients if I want to cook something, and of course, those are the recipes I want to try. Guess I’ll be reading the recipes this time, since it’s mentioned in the info if the picture is elsewhere in the book.

Of particular interest to me is the recipe for Green Tomato Marmalade. I have long loved fried green tomatoes, and one year my mom and I made green tomato jelly (you flavor it with jell-o of all things). The children wouldn’t eat it because I made the mistake of telling them what it was, but this recipe is loud and proud with green tomato pride, and it looks mighty tasty, too. I may have to make some to serve with salmon or pork roast.

There is a website that you can check to see if Jim and his team are headed to your area. They’ll be near me this fall, but the event is already sold out. And also, a blog, where you can read about dinners and see pictures.

Cass in the Kitchen: Chocolate Epiphany

:kitchen: Hey ya’ll! I’m still slogging through that book back log. Seven and a half inches to go! It seemed appropriate though, since the next book up dealt with food, to go ahead and relaunch the weekly Cass in the Kitchen segment. I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy my foodie self, and I missed dishing about dishes! Today’s book, though….it’s something else.

If diet is a four letter word, then this book could embarrass a sailor. I felt my arteries clogging just looking at it. I have to be right up front, and tell you that having been told to watch my cholesterol, I only allow myself 20 grams of saturated fat per day. Now, I can bank those grams, if I don’t use them all, and I do that quite regularly. You may remember that my family eats hot dogs every Saturday, and so I bank for that day and other grand occasions ;). And now, I bank grams of saturated fat for this:


You would, too. Right? Right.

I tell you, I could just cry! See, I think baking isn’t baking without real butter and real cream and real eggs. I like my cool whip now, but nothing substitutes for real cream. Nothing. I know there are recipes out there that employ less-than-full-fat-and-flavor dairy substitutions, but they are just that–substitutions. And I know butter is outrageous spendy, but when it comes to a perfection of cookie texture, butter flavor shortening doesn’t even compare.

The recipes here run the gamut from Chocolate Rice Crispies (surprise, not made with chocolate cereal as I had always imagined) to Chocolate Marshmallows to Chocolate Pecan Tart to the 18 layer (I counted in the picture, ya’ll) Gateau de Crepes with Green Tea Cream. But if I could make any one thing in this book tonight, it would be the Trio of Chocolate Mousse Cake. It’s umm, three different mousses frozen in layers, and ya’ll……….I love me some mousse. Made with cream. And eggs. And chocolate. I’m thinking I may need to forgo the hot dogs for a couple of weeks and cash in those grams for some of this.

In the back of the book are some great tips like how to brown butter and a simple sugar syrup (useful for iced tea and coffee as well as desserts) and how to temper chocolate (that’s what makes it shiny and gorgeous.

You know what? Ya’ll get ready and come on over. I can start that Mousse Cake, and when you get here, we can all have just a few bites, and my mouth and my arteries will both be happy. AND, I won’t have to wait so long to taste it!

Grilled Asparagus? and a Grilling GiveAway

Bobby Flay  s Grill ItYes, among other things! Remember I said we were camping this weekend? That means constant grilling, so when I got a chance to check out Bobby Flay’s Grill It!, I leapt at it. I truly was not disappointed. Beginning with a discussion of the type of grills, and ending with recipes organized by main ingredient, this book rocks!

Now, I had a pretty good idea of what we’d be cooking while we camped before I opened the book. Did I change a few things? Sure! But I also plan to just adapt some of the things we were already having. For instance, I had planned on steak and baked potatoes. We’ll still have the steak, except I also plan to serve it with Balsamic-Rosemary Butter. And asparagus 😉

And the chicken? Well, that’s likely to become Chipotle-Honey Glazed wings, except I’ll need to use green chiles so the kids can take the heat.

And fruit! Not for camping, mind you, but just in general. It never occurred to me to grill fruit, but somehow those peaches with the grate lines on it just looked so … right, somehow. And the Grilled Banana and Nutella Panini? That’s breakfast right there, ya’ll. And Mushroom tacos? I didn’t think so either, but after reading the recipe, I’m thinking a different think. And 9, count them, N-I-N-E ways to grill salmon. And shrimp.

And then, there is the chapter on eggplant and squashes, which happen to be some of my favorite foods. And then there are the fish recipes. Have I said “and” enough? Can you totally tell I reviewed this book as I read it? Well, I have two more ands to go:

And I am getting me a gas grill as soon as I possibly can.

And I think I need to give a copy of this book away. We haven’t done that in a while, and I think the time has come. Here’s how to enter:

The contest will start when I hit publish, and will run through midnight June 1st. I’ll announce the winner via random number on Monday June 2nd. You can get an entry by commenting on this post. You can get another entry by “stumbling” this post. (You can use the button right under the post (or your toolbar) to do that.) You can get two more entries by writing about this give away on your own blog with a link back to this post. And let’s throw in an experimental entry method: if you are a member of a crafty or cooking type forum, and you post about this giveaway with a link back, you’ll get another entry. You’ll need to come back and let me know you’ve done that by leaving a link to your forum post in the comments.

If you have never commented on this blog before, then your comment will be moderated. I’ll approve it as soon as I get back to the keyboard :)

I think that’s enough fine print, let’s get started!

P.S. Thanks, Bobby for the tip on how to boil eggs on the grill.

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