Just in time for gift-giving, a little bit of something for your favorite cook (or food lover)...
Recipes and Dreams from an Italian Life, by Tessa Kiros, Andrews McMeel Publishing. This is a beautiful cookbook. It is inspirational and aspirational in that you read the recipes, the words of wisdom strewn throughout (“Sapientes” such as “A tavola non si invecchia,” translated “At the table one doesn’t get old.”), look at the old family photographs and the perfectly composed photographs of the food and one can only hope to find a trace of Old World Italy in their background.
One of my favorite bits of “knowledge” is the listing of the proper times to drink coffee (latte and cappuccino in the morning only, caffe corretto in the evening, espresso and macchiato are acceptable anytime)... good to know for the next time I order a cup.
The recipes are easy to follow, even though the instructions are printed in a shade of gray rather than a full black (I did reach for my reading glasses, I admit), and there are recipes for fresh breads and pasta that can be completed without fancy gadgets or machines.
Marisa’s Winter Squash Crostone
Makes 6 servings
21/2 pounds winter squash (butternut, acorn, calabaza, pumpkin, etc.)
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2/3 cup chopped white onion
10 to 12 sage leaves
6 slices country-style bread
1 whole medium clove garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons butter
8 tablespoons shredded parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Peel the winter squash, remove the seeds and cut into large chinks. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan (with a lid) and saute the onion until pale golden and soft. Add a couple of the sage leaves and cook for a minute to flavor, then add the winter squash, 1 cup of water and some salt and pepper. Put on the lid and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until the squash has collapsed. Check now and then that nothing is sticking or it doesn’t need a few more drops of water. Taste for salt.
Grill the bread. Lightly rub one side of each piece with garlic and drizzle a little olive oil over. Top with a good heap of warm squash. Put the remaining sage leaves and the butter in a small saucepan and heat until the sage is crisp and the butter is golden. If the butter is getting too dark before the sage is crisp, add a little more to the pan. Drizzle the butter over the winter squash, scatter the Parmesan and crisp sage leaves on top and give a good grind of black pepper. Serve hot.
PRACTICAL, yet unique
Family Cookbook, by Caroline Bretherton, DK Publishing. Weighing in with more than 700 recipes (and photos of each completed dish), this cookbook comes complete with easy-to-follow recipes, tips, tricks and time-saving ideas for the family meal planner.
The front of the book shows the dish, page number where it can be found and times for preparation and completion of the recipe. Under the “Babies and toddlers” section is a helpful guide for weaning and recipes for those first solid bites.
Bretherton branches out from the run-of-the-mill with recipes such as Salt and Pepper Squid (under Family Meals), Fiery Pepper Noodles (a vegetarian offering) and Tuna Empanadas (Food to Go). Recipes also include calorie/carb/fat breakdowns, ingredient variations or make-ahead tips
There are features on fussy eaters, food allergies, leftovers and smart shopping to help plan and preserve the peace in the kitchen.
4 tablespoons butter, softened
9 ounces hot-smoked salmon, skin removed
1/4 cup (2 ounces) Greek yogurt
Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1 21/2-ounce (50g) jar of salmon caviar
Handful of watercress and lemon wedges to serve
Put the butter in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Break up the salmon into small pieces, add to the bowl and mash with a fork.
Add the yogurt, lemon zest and juice and chives and stir until evenly combined.
Spoon on to serving plates and top with caviar. Serve with watercress sprigs and lemon wedges to squeeze over.
Variation: Use the same quantity of poached fresh salmon fillet to make poached salmon rillettes, removing the skin after the fish has been cooked.
Prepare ahead: Rillettes can be made up to 24 hours in advance, covered and stored in the fridge or frozen for up to 8 weeks.
Cook’s Tip: For attractive canapés, spread the rillettes, 1 teaspoon of caviar and a sprig of watercress on to small rounds of pumpernickel, cut with a round cutter.
Dining at the White House: From the President’s Table to Yours, by Chef John Moeller, American Lifestyle Publishing. An insider look at the White House kitchen by John Moeller who started out as a sous chef during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations before becoming White House Chef during George W. Bush’s second term. During that time, Moeller helped create and prepare meals for the First Families, world leaders such as Tony Blair and Nelson Mandela, celebrities such as Julia Child and Sophia Loren and for holiday parties and trips to Camp David.
Moeller sprinkles this book with photos of the three presidents and their china patterns, printed State Dinner menus (with photos of courses served), weekly White House menu plans, and lots of bits about what goes on in and out of the kitchen.
Sample recipes come from actual menu plans for certain events, like this 2004 White House Holiday Meal for George W. Bush: Chanterelle Mushroom Soup with Goat Cheese Fritters; Roast Tenderloin of Angus Beef; Black Truffle-scented Merlot Sauce, Sauteed Bulb Onion, Herb Potatoes, Green Beans and Baby Carrots and Artichokes; Warm Tamale Salad with Avocado, Tomato and Black Beans and Citrus Dressing.
Goat Cheese Fritters
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup plain, dry fine breadcrumbs
1 egg whipped with 1/2 teaspoon water
1 (6-ounce) log goat cheese, sliced into 6 pieces
1/4 cup canola oil
Sal and fresh-ground black pepper
Place flour in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place breadcrumbs in separate small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place egg wash in a separate small shallow bowl.
Dredge cheese in flour and shake off excess. Dip floured cheese in egg wash, shake off excess and dredge in breadcrumbs. Transfer to a plate and set aside until all cheese slices are breaded.
Heat oil in a small saute pan to medium-high heat. Fry fritters 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels.
A History of Southern Barbeque, by Lake High Jr., American Palate/History Press. OK, so this is not a cookbook, per se, but it IS an interesting read on the history, myth and culture of South Carolina barbeque (there are a couple of recipes for Hash and some basic sauce recipes in the back of the book, if that counts).
High is a founding member of the South Carolina Barbeque Association (SCBA), an organization focused on training new barbeque judges and helping towns and organizations put on barbeque festivals, and is a SCBA Master Barbeque Judge. He traces the history of ’que from the Spanish settlers’ interaction with Native Americans to the present day (check out some of the old newspaper ads in the book), name-checking a list of Who’s Who along the way (from the original Piggy Park to Hite’s, Lever’s to Bone-In Artisan’s truck).
Maybe pair this book with a printout (or electronic bookmark) of the S.C. BBQ Trail ( bbq.discoversouthcarolina.com) and head out for some adventure...
Junior’s Home Cooking: Over 100 Recipes for Classic Comfort Food, by Alan Rosen and Beth Allen, Taunton Press. I was so happy to see the arrival of this cookbook. My first trip to New York City with friends, I told them to use me as their excuse to go to all of the classic and touristy spots that they’d never been. One of those stops was the original Junior’s in Brooklyn. We had a great meal, finished of course with slices of Junior’s famous cheesecake.
Alan Rosen is the grandson of Junior’s founder Harry Rosen and is a third-generation co-owner (along with his father Walter and brother Kevin) and one of his duties is to oversee juniorscheesecake.com.
Here’s the recipe for the grilled cheese sandwich...featuring 5 ounces of cheese.
Grown-Up Grilled Cheese
Two 3/4-inch-thick sliced challah, white, rye or other bread of your choice
4 to 6 tablespoons (1/2 to 3/4 stick) softened unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or to taste)
Two 1-ounce slices American or yellow Cheddar cheese
Two 1-ounce slices Muenster cheese
One 1-ounce slice creamy Havarti
Spread one side of both slices of bread with a little butter and then a smear of Dijon, to your taste.
On one slice of bread, mustard side up, stack all of the cheese, alternating the types of cheese. Top with the second slice of bread, mustard side down.
Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat (no hotter!). Add a large pat of butter. After it has melted, add the sandwich, weigh it down with a grill press if you have one, and grill until golden brown, about 5 minutes. (If you don’t have a grill press, push down on the sandwich with a large metal spatula a few times while it is cooking, as the grill master does at Junior’s .)
Add a second pat of butter to the griddle or skillet, turn over the sandwich and cook until the other side is golden brown and cheeses are hot and melty on the inside, about 5 minutes more. Remove to a cutting board, cut in half on the diagonal and serve immediately.
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2014, America’s Test Kitchen. Every fan of the PBS series “America’s Test Kitchen” or subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated will appreciate this book. It has, literally, every recipe and nuanced cooking technique (each recipe begins with an intro titled “Why this recipe works”) that has aired on the cooking show since 2001.
Christopher Kimbrell, founder and editor of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country and host of the PBS series, writes in his introduction “The joy of cooking is that experience brings with it unexpected pleasure, moments when a recipe turns from everyday to transcendent.”
With over 900 recipes, complete with comprehensive tasting and equipment testing guides, easily organized with basic recipes and variations on a theme, this book is great for the beginner as well as the seasoned cook.
Fluffy Scrambled Eggs
8 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl until any streaks are gone and the color is pure yellow.
Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Add the eggs and, using a heatproof rubber spatula, cook while gently pushing, lifting and folding them from one side of the pan to the other as they form curds. Continue until the eggs are nicely clumped into a single mound but remain shiny and wet, 11/2 to 2 minutes. Serve.