CASA MARCELA by Marcela Valladolid

September 16, 2017

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Recipes and Food Stories of My Life in the Californias

Not a Saturday passes by without my looking forward to tuning in to Food Network’s The Kitchen. Hosted by Jeff Mauro, Sunny Anderson, Katie Lee, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Marcela Valladolid, the show is my weekend wake up and the thing that gets me excited about cooking through the next couple of days. That paired with my fondness for Mexican food, and the fact that I was a fan of Valladolid’s previous show, Mexican Made Easy, meant that of course I had to get my hands on a copy of Casa Marcela for my own kitchen.

If you like Mexican flavors and comfort food, you’ll love Valladolid’s new cookbook. Packed with tasty dishes, fabulous photography, and personal stories, the book is a wonderful blend of traditional flavors and Valladolid’s own favorites. And while some might say this isn’t a wholly traditional Mexican cookbook, recipes like Roasted-Cauliflower Steaks with Pickled-Jalapeno Vinaigrette, Roasted Salmon and Pesto-Stuffed Anaheim Chiles can be found alongside Tamales de Pollo en Salsa Verde, Green Hominy and Pork Soup (Pozole), and Conchas.

Valladolid’s recipes are seated in tradition and adapted for ingredients local to Tijuana and San Diego, perfectly reflecting Valladolid’s own influences. There are Tuna Empanadas and Coke-Braised Pork Tacos. There’s even a Mexican Ramen recipe.

The first dishes I dove into were the Creamy Beer Shrimp-Stuffed Poblano Chiles (using poblanos from my garden), a decadent and cheesy dish that we served alongside the White Rice with Basil and Corn; the Peppercorn-Crusted Flank Steak with Mustard Cream (the sauce really made this dish.) that we served with Pickled Poblanos; and the Ground Pork Patties in Tomatillo Salsa served, as per Valladolid’s recommendation, with rice and avocado slices.

The book is divided into eight sections: Small Bites/Botanas; Salads and Soups/Ensaladas y Sopas; Entrees/Platillos Fuertes; Sides/Guarniciones; Salsas; Breakfast/Desayunos; Drinks/Bebidas; and Desserts/Postres. Recipes range from easy family friendly/weeknight meals to more elaborate dishes perfect for entertaining. Saying that, though, none of the dishes I’ve tried so far have been beyond a home cook’s skills, something I definitely appreciate. Another thing I loved about the book was the abundance of produce-heavy recipes, which I especially appreciate during the summer months as there are plenty of dishes that make use of ingredients from my own home garden.

Whether you’re a fan of Valladolid or simply a fan of gorgeous cookbooks with approachable and appealing recipes, Casa Marcela will make a great addition to your cookbook collection.

9/17 Becky LeJeune

From the publisher:

Creamy Beer Shrimp–Stuffed Poblano Chiles from Casa Marcela

Serves 4 to 6

This is a showstopper right here. If you are lucky enough to travel through Mexico, you’ll find that there are countless versions of stuffed peppers: with cheese, with meat, with beans, with dried fruit, and here with seafood. This simple, rich, creamy perfection fills the optimal pepper for stuffing: the poblano. Be careful, though, because depending on the crop, they can range from totally mild to pretty darn spicy. Don’t be afraid to smell them at the market: if it stings your nose a little, you’re probably gonna get some fire from the pepper. If spice is what you are looking for, you can certainly use a jalapeño. They are smaller, so you’ll have to purchase a few more to use up all the stuffing, but they also come out great.

Ingredients

4 to 6 fresh poblano chiles

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 dried chiles de árbol

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed, and quartered

Salt

1/2 cup dark lager beer

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup shredded Oaxaca cheese, or any other white melting cheese

Directions

Turn a gas burner to high. Char the poblano chiles directly on the burner, turning with tongs, until blackened all over. (Alternatively, roast in the oven under the broiler.) Place the chiles in a plastic bag and let steam for 10 minutes.

Gently rub the chiles with paper towels to remove as much skin as possible. Using a paring knife, make a slit across the top of a chile just below the stem, leaving the stem intact. Starting from the middle of the slit, slice lengthwise down to the tip of the pepper (cut through only one layer). Open the chile like a book and pull out the seeds and inner membranes. You may need to use a paring knife to loosen the top of the seedpod. Repeat with the remaining chiles.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chiles de árbol and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until lightly pink, about 1 minute. Season with salt to taste. Stir in the beer and cook until lightly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cream and bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove the shrimp from the sauce and cook the sauce until thickened, about 6 minutes more. Return the shrimp to the pan and add 1/2 cup of the cheese, stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Turn off the heat.

Preheat the broiler to high.

Fill each chile with about 1/4 cup of the creamy shrimp and transfer to a large glass baking dish. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup cheese among the chiles and broil until the cheese is melted and golden brown, about 6 minutes.

CASA MARCELA by Marcela Valladolid. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 25, 2017). ISBN 978-0544808553. 288p.


JACK’S WIFE FREDA by Maya & Dean Jankelowitz

August 28, 2017

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Cooking from New York’s West Village

Recipes by Julia Jaksic 

I haven’t been to this restaurant but I’ve heard about it – this is Jewish comfort food.  I’m too far away to go but with this cookbook, the possibilities are real.

Jack and Freda come from different backgrounds – Ashkenazi and Sephardic, and they throw in South African and Israeli flavors as well. This cookbook is nothing if not interesting. They include their personal stories here too, and their families, and it is all interesting.

The cookbook begins after the introductory story to the family. And as with many cookbooks today, it begins with the pantry and some basics like Homemade Mayonnaise, Hot Sauce, Peri Peri Spice, Tzatziki and more. The chapters are as follows:

Breakfast
Day Drinks
Lunch
Drinks
Dinner
Dessert

There is an excellent index, as well. The pictures, both of the restaurant, the kitchen and of course the food, are spectacular. It doesn’t hurt that this is an oversized cookbook printed on nice, heavy paper, too.

“Breakfast” couldn’t be more beautiful or delicious than “Eggs Benny,” taking the classic Eggs Benedict to a whole new level by planting it on a potato latke and topping it with beet hollandaise – it is gorgeous. The instructions on how to poach an egg (like many of the instructions throughout the book) are charming, hand drawn pictures. I’ve never considered pairing ruby red grapefruit with my yogurt but now I will, and “Julia’s Granola” makes a fine topping. I was intrigued by the recipe for “Duck Bacon” but honestly not sure I’ll ever try it.

“Day Drinks” include things like “Nana Tea,” “Cantaloupe Juice,” and “Mint Lemonade.” “Lunch” can be light – “Pea and Ricotta Toast,” the ubiquitous “Avocado Toast” or a “Greek Salad” or a bit heavier with “Matzo Ball Soup” a traditional recipe that swaps out the usual chicken fat for duck fat, or “Chicken Kebab” with Couscous, or the “Prego Roll,” a skirt steak sandwich. Then we move on to the bar.

“Drinks” include “Jack’s Wife Freda Pimm’s Cup” with added ginger, a “Melon Mimosa” made the aforementioned Cantaloupe Juice (I’m allergic, dammit!) and a nice “Jose’s Hot Toddy.” If you’ve ever wanted to try a real Bloody Mary from scratch, now’s your chance, this is a terrific recipe that includes horseradish, Dijon, Worcestershire, and more flavor than you’ll ever get out of a mix.

Dinner starts with some small plates, like “Zucchini Chips” and a gorgeous “Spiced Beet Dip.” Add a beet to anything and you get pow-in-the-face color. There are vegetarian recipes like “Roasted Cauliflower” and “Veggie Curry with Apple-Raisin Chutney,” and not so vegetarian like “Chicken Livers on Toast,”  “Sweetbreads with Peri Peri Sauce” and “Freda’s Fishballs” which is not your grandmother’s gefilte fish – for one thing these are coated in Panko and deep fried.

We can’t talk about dessert without “Malva Pudding”, which the restaurant is known for and I never heard of. It’s a South African dessert that is “a dense cake soaked in a delicous caramel sauce.” The recipe is intriguing, as is the “Flourless Chipotle Chocolate Cake” made from a pound of semisweet chocolate tempered with chipotle powder. But the one I’m definitely going to be making is “Halva Cookies.” If you haven’t had halva, it’s a delicious candy made from sesame seed paste. These cookies are loaded with black and white sesame seeds and a bit of halva in the center. Yum!

8/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

JACK’S WIFE FREDA by Maya & Dean Jankelowitz. Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 25, 2016). ISBN: 978-0547614847. 528p.

Kindle

 

 

 

 


KING SOLOMON’S TABLE by Joan Nathan

July 10, 2017

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A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World

Joan Nathan is the queen of Jewish cookbooks, and her latest is terrific. Be sure to read the introduction, a history of Jewish food that is completely fascinating, as well as a short but clear explanation of Jewish dietary laws, kashrut. The recipes included are all kosher, including substitutions as needed, although there is a caveat to check with your rabbi if you are not sure.

The forward is written by Alice Waters, so that was also a must read for me.

The book is divided as follows:

Pantry
Morning
Starters
Salads
Soups and Their Dumplings
Breads
Grains and Such
Vegetables
Fish
Poultry
Meat
Sweets

There is also an excellent index and bibliography.

The recipes have basis in many countries, even some I never thought of as especially Jewish, like Mexico and Sri Lanka. All are interesting, some are trendy (Shakshuka, anyone?) and some are classic, like Matzo Brei, Chopped Liver, and Apple Kuchen (cake). But it’s the unusual that really drew me to this cookbook, starting with Ferrara Haroset with Chestnuts, Pine Nuts, Pears and Dried Fruits from Rome. We liked this so much at Passover I used it again as a filling for Hamentaschen, and it worked beautifully. I would never have thought of using tahina in cookies, but Tahina Cookies made a believer out of me – if you like Halvah or Mexican Wedding Cookies, try these cookies.

I was partial to a lot of the Italian Jewish recipes, like Tagliolini colla Crosta, Crusty Pasta with a Bolognese Sauce that has pine nuts, ground almonds and raisins in it and Roman Ricotta Cheese Crostata with Cherries or Chocolate. The Spinach-Feta Burekas is Bulgarian, but is called Buricchi by Italian Jews, and Borek by Ottomans and Balkan Jews. It is a laminated dough filled with spinach and feta, and reminded me of the Greek Spanikopita. I have never attempted a laminated dough and probably will substitute filo dough here.

The Roast Turkey with Challah-Chestnut-Cranberry Stuffing is as delicious as it sounds – I cut the recipe in half and used it for a stuffed turkey breast and it worked really well. Yuca Latkes with Cilantro Cream, Sweet Plantain Guava Kugel and Green Chile Relelleno Latkes all have Hispanic origins, sometimes by way of Miami!

The final recipe in the book is Libyan Saefra, King Solomon’s Cake, which Nathan believes predates baklava and is believed to be an aphrodisiac. This is a filled cake, and the filling is a spiced date mixture. The ingredients are very unusual but not hard to find – Cream of Wheat and semolina are used instead of flour, for example.

All of the recipes include their origin stories, some are longer than others but all are interesting. You can see the research and the love that went into this cookbook.

7/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

KING SOLOMON’S TABLE by Joan Nathan. Knopf (April 4, 2017). ISBN 978-0385351140. 416p.


THE JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin

June 25, 2017

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Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks

Last year I heard an interview with this author on NPR and she was fascinating. The book sounded really interesting, but I never did get around to looking at it.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Florida Library Association’s annual conference this year. The opening keynote speaker was Toni Tipton-Martin, and once again, she was completely mesmerizing. I didn’t want to put this on the back burner again so as soon as I got back to the library, I checked out her book.

When someone researches then writes a book that they are passionate about, it shows on every page, as is the case here. Martin has a collected hundreds of African American cookbooks over a number of years, and puts that collection to good use, sharing info from 150 cookbooks, dating back to 1827.  The New York Times review stated,

“The Jemima Code” is no ordinary book. It’s a heaping helping, a long overdue acknowledgment of African-Americans who have toiled in this field since the country’s beginnings.

All I can add is that it is truly inspiring and despite the sometimes scholastic tone, very readable and interesting. I kept this book for four weeks, taking my time going through it. There is a lot of information to digest here, and there are some interesting recipes as well. It is laid out chronologically, starting with Nineteenth Century Cookbooks including Mrs. Malina Russell’s “A Domestic Cookbook: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen” (1866) then moving through about twenty-five years in each chapter. Some of the cookbooks included:

How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, by George W. Carver (1925)

Cookbook “Work and Serve the Home,” compiled by Mamie Cook, chairman of Ways and Means Department, New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (1928)

A Date with a Dish: A Cook Book of American Negro Recipes by Freda De Knight (1948)

Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: From Chicken n’ Ribs to Buttermilk Biscuits and Blackeyed Peas – A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes from Manhattan’s Most Spirited Chef, by Princess Pamela (1969)

The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis* (1976)
*Top Chef, season 14, started out in Charleston, SC. This was the first time I ever heard of Edna Lewis, who was called the “Julia Child” of Southern cooking.

The Presley Family Cookbook by Vester Presley (Elvis’s uncle) and Nancy Rooks (Presley family maid and cook since 1967) (1980)

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From the publisher:

Winner, James Beard Foundation Book Award, 2016
Art of Eating Prize, 2015
BCALA Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, 2016

Women of African descent have contributed to America’s food culture for centuries, but their rich and varied involvement is still overshadowed by the demeaning stereotype of an illiterate “Aunt Jemima” who cooked mostly by natural instinct. To discover the true role of black women in the creation of American, and especially Southern, cuisine, Toni Tipton-Martin has spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors, looking for evidence of their impact on American food, families, and communities and for ways we might use that knowledge to inspire community wellness of every kind.

The Jemima Code presents more than 150 black cookbooks that range from a rare 1827 house servant’s manual, the first book published by an African American in the trade, to modern classics by authors such as Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor. The books are arranged chronologically and illustrated with photos of their covers; many also display selected interior pages, including recipes. Tipton-Martin provides notes on the authors and their contributions and the significance of each book, while her chapter introductions summarize the cultural history reflected in the books that follow. These cookbooks offer firsthand evidence that African Americans cooked creative masterpieces from meager provisions, educated young chefs, operated food businesses, and nourished the African American community through the long struggle for human rights. The Jemima Code transforms America’s most maligned kitchen servant into an inspirational and powerful model of culinary wisdom and cultural authority.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin. University of Texas Press (September 15, 2015).  ISBN 978-0292745483.  264p.

 


APPETITES: A COOKBOOK by Anthony Bourdain

June 15, 2017

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with Laurie Woolever

As a long time Bourdain fan, both of his books – Kitchen Confidential is a classic and started a whole new trend in tell-all kitchen memoirs – and his TV shows, and even his mysteries, I was really curious to see what sort of cookbook he would put out. Would everything be Vietnamese or at least Asian inspired? Would I have to shop online for esoteric ingredients? Would I have to eat blazingly hot food studded with a variety of chiles? The answers: not all but certainly a strong Asian influence abounds, some esoteric ingredients, and occasional overuse of chiles, which appears to be an occupational hazard among celebrity chefs (not sure about local chefs.)

All that said, this is a terrific cookbook. The chapters:

Breakfast
Fight
Salads
Soups
Sandwiches
Party
Hamburger Rules
Pasta
Fish and Seafood
Birds
Thanksgiving
Meat
Side Dishes
Dessert
Stocks, Sauces and Dressings

Yes, there are definitely things I will never make, no matter how delicious Bourdain swears the food to be. I recently purchased gojuchang paste, a Korean red pepper paste, and there are a few recipes in this book that uses it. But nothing that also didn’t call for several other chiles or ingredients I didn’t have. I kept going back to one of the recipes, “Budae Jjigae,” a Korean army stew that Bourdain says is based on the legend that it is made from “scourged army PX canned goods during wartime.”  We are talking hot dogs, Spam, canned baked beans, packaged Ramen noodles – those are the easy ingredients – then other things like kombu, dried anchovies, godhugaru, cheongju etc. but frankly it was the Spam that put me off more than anything else.

All that said, there are a lot of good basic recipes, like scrambled eggs and omelets, and interesting salads like “Do Chua Salad with Herbs, Scallions, Sprouts, and Egg” that is sure to be a summer staple at my house. I loved several of the soup recipes, especially the Cream of Tomato, New England Clam Chowder and Black Bean Soup.

The recipe for Linguine with White Clam Sauce is amazing, the best I’ve ever made and pretty simple, relying on 5 dozen clams for unbelievable flavor. A quick work night dinner of Spaghetti with Garlic, Anchovies and Parsley is quick, easy and delicious.

Some of the side dishes are really good, classic dishes like Candied Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. The Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame is another really easy dish, flavored with tahini, white miso and toasted white sesame seeds, an unusual dish that I will be making often.

The Osso Bucco (yes, there are several Italian dishes represented) looks really good, I’m planning on making it for a special occasion quite soon. I made a variation of his Veal Milanese; instead of using cutlets I used veal rib chops pounded out and they were incredible – so simple and so good.

The Thanksgiving chapter is a revelation and definitely will be in use this November. This is lifechanging, from scheduling to turkeys to gravy and everything else.

Shall we talk desserts? Bourdain opens that chapter (and I use the term loosely) by saying, “Fuck dessert,” then recommending some cheeses. And that’s it.

Which brings me to the voice. Bourdain’s voice is so prevalent throughout this book I could hear him in my head as I read. Recipes, as is the fashion of the day, all have little introductory stories, one which caused me to wonder if he wrote it while dissolving his marriage or after (see Veal Milanese.)

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the photographs by Bobby Fisher. They are extraordinary, not just of the dishes and ingredients which are always, always interesting – none of the perfect fake food look here. But beyond the food there are pictures that made me laugh out loud – Bourdain blowdrying a chicken (really!) and Eric Ripert, sausage gravy dribbling down his face.

I love this book and hope you will, too.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

APPETITES: A COOKBOOK by Anthony Bourdain. Ecco; First edition (October 25, 2016). ISBN 978-0062409959. 304p.


Win THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK by Mary Kay Andrews!

May 4, 2017

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Easy, Breezy Recipes with a Southern Accent

I love Mary Kay’s novels and I know she’s one of the great Southern cooks, so I was thrilled to learn she was working on a cookbook. It turned out to be a cookbook to treasure!

Make sure you read this entire post – find out how to win your own copy, there’s a recipe for you to try,  a list of places you can meet Mary Kay, and of course, my review.

From the publisher:

You don’t have to own a beach house to enjoy Mary Kay Andrews’ recipes. All you need is an appetite for delicious, casual dishes, cooked with the best fresh, local ingredients and presented with the breezy flair that make Mary Kay Andrews’ novels a summertime favorite at the beach.

From an early spring dinner of cherry balsamic-glazed pork medallions and bacon-kissed Brussels sprouts to Fourth of July buttermilk-brined fried chicken, potato salad, and pudding parfaits to her New Year’s Day Open House menu of roast oysters, home-cured gravlax, grits ‘n’ greens casserole, and lemon-cream cheese pound cake, this cookbook will supply ideas for menus and recipes designed to put you in a permanently carefree, coastal state of mind all year long.

I’ve been following Mary Kay on Facebook for years, and she shares a lot of recipes and pictures of her beautiful food. To have it all gathered together (with lots more) is a real gift. The paper is quite nice and the pictures are inspirational.

The book is divided into meals/holidays:

 The chapters:

Summer Solstice Dinner
Low Country Boil
Fourth of July Dinner
Lazy Weekend Brunch
Beach Picnic
Book Bash Cocktail Party
After a Day at the Beach
Catch of the Day
Full Moon Party
Game Day Dinner
Souper Supper
Thanksgiving at the Beach
Christmas Brunch
New Year’s Day Open House
Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Dinner
Easter Lunch
Epilogue: And Then There Were Biscuits

The “Summer Solstice” is the first chapter and a fantastic beginning. I’ve been making “Beyond the Grave Chicken Salad” since I read about it in Little Bitty Lies. I’m pretty sure that a good southern gal like Mary Kay most likely uses Duke mayo, but I’m a Hellman’s girl and it works beautifully. I tried the “Tomato Pie” a few weeks ago when I got an overwhelming pile of heirloom tomatoes from my CSA, and it was to die for! If you live anywhere besides Florida, you are coming into tomato season so try and remember to make this. Pimento cheese has become a trend, and I’ve made a few different recipes so I had to try Mary Kay’s “Ritualistic Pimento Cheese.” It made a killer grilled cheese sandwich.

The “Low Country Boil” has some great recipes, and again my CSA to the rescue for Fried Okra Cakes. Like Mary Kay, I’m not a big okra fan but this dish made a convert out of me. I have to try the “Peach and Berry Cobbler” soon, Florida peaches are starting to come in and berries are already here. The “Fourth of July” recipes include “Edna’s Potato Salad” which is a simple recipe and a real crowd pleaser. The “Lazy Weekend Brunch” has a terrific recipe for “Pig Candy” – really! It’s candied bacon with a healthy dash of cayenne and some dry mustard that makes it really stand out.

The “Book Bash Cocktail Party” includes a great recipe for “Smoked Trout Dip.” We love any kind of smoked fish dip and this is a real standout with fresh dill, chives, and some prepared horseradish. The “Marinated Beef Tenderloin with Fig Onion Jam” is another winner – that jam is to die for! I haven’t attempted the “Dark Chocolate-Dipped Cheesecake Bites,” (they sound too dangerous to have at home) so the next office pot luck will be the recipient of these goodies. The “Full Moon Party” includes a super easy recipe for “Cheesy Beer Bread,” and in my house any recipe with cheese is a sure thing. I am waiting for our next backyard cookout to try “Boy Howdy Baked Beans” with maple bacon and bourbon – Yum! I could go on for days but I will end here with the classic, Southern “Shrimp and Grits” from the “Christmas Brunch” chapter and let me tell you, this is simply divine and a true Christmas gift. Follow that up with a “Coconut-Rum Fruit Salad,” (although I will not buy jarred citrus – I live in Florida, it’s probably illegal here!) for a light, slightly boozy dessert.

Now for that promised recipe!

 
Downloadable version of this recipe: Mary Kay Andrews Recipe

To win a copy of THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK by Mary Kay Andrews PLUS the new paperback edition of The Weekendersplease send an email to contest@gmail.com with “BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK” as the subject.

You must include your U.S. street address in your email.

All entries must be received by May 14, 2017. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. Your books will be sent by the publicist.

One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MARY KAY ANDREWS is the New York Times bestselling author of 24 novels, including The WeekendersBeach Town, Save the Date, Ladies’ Night, Spring Fever, Summer Rental, The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues. A former features writer for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she finds an outlet for her passion for cooking, entertaining, and decorating with vintage finds at the homes she shares in Atlanta and Tybee Island, Georgia, with her husband, Tom, and their two grown children, Katie and Andy, as well as grandchildren Molly and Griffin. THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK is her first cookbook.

Connect with MKA online here:

Meet Mary Kay!

Savannah, GA | May 4, 11:30am| Savannah Golf Club w/ E Shavers Booksellers
Savannah, GA | May 4, 5:30pm | Brice Hotel w/ E Shavers Booksellers
Charleston, SC | May 5 | High Cotton Author Series w/ Blue Bicycle Books
Atlanta, GA | May 6 | Food that Rocks w/ Bookmiser
Houston, TX | May 8 | Murder by the Book
Fairhope, AL | May 9 | Page & Palette
New Orleans, LA | May 10 | Octavia Books
Red Bank, NJ | May 11, 12pm | AAUW Luncheon, Molly Pitcher Inn
Sea Bright, NJ | May 11, 7pm | Ama w/ River Road Books
Richmond, VA | May 12 | Berkley Hotel w/ Fountain Bookstore
Atlanta, GA | May 13 | Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Showhouse, Eagle Eye Book Shop
Chapel Hill, NC | May 14 | Southern Seasons
Raleigh, NC | May 15 | Quail Ridge
Winston-Salem, NC | May 16, 1pm | Clemmons Library w/ Bookmarks
Greensboro, NC | May 16, 7pm | Greensboro Library w/ Bookmarks
Greenville, SC | May 17 | Fiction Addiction
Newberry, SC | May 18 | Library Benefit Luncheon w/ Books on Main
Florence, SC | May 18, 6pm | Florence County Library w/ Books-a-Million
Pawleys Island, SC | May 19 | Litchfield Books
Tybee Island, GA | May 20 | Seaside Sisters
Savannah, GA | May 22 | Hadassah Fundraiser
Birmingham, AL | May 23 | Piggy Wiggly w/ Alabama Booksmith
Birmingham, AL | May 23 | Alabama Booksmith
Destin, FL | May 25 | Barnes & Noble Crystal City
Destin, FL | May 25 | Emerald Beach House
Rehoboth Beach, DE | May 27 | Browseabout Books
Bethany Beach, DE | May 27 | Bethany Beach Books
Manteo, NC | May 28 | Duck’s Cottage
Cleveland, OH | May 30 | A Cook And a Book
Cleveland, OH | May 30 Cuyahoga County Public Library
Boonsboro, MD | June 3 | Turn The Page Bookstore
Macon, GA | June 17 | Design, Wine and Dine

 


DINNER by Melissa Clark

April 21, 2017

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Changing the Game

Eric Wolfinger, Photographer

As promised (in my review of Sheet Pan) here is a review of Melissa Clark’s latest. No thanks to Clarkson Potter, who failed me on this one, but thanks to my library, who did not. Got it!

FYI, if you are not familiar, Melissa Clark is a food columnist (“A Good Appetite”) for the New York Times. She contributes lots of recipes, too, many of which I’ve made. (See her recipes here.) She is a working mom and apparently understands that not all of us want to come home from work and spend hours in the kitchen to get dinner on the table. Nor do we want take out every night. So here she offers us a terrific compromise – easy dinners, often in one pan. I like it!

This is a big, heavy book with over 200 recipes but it is also a beautiful book with lovely photos. The heft is from high quality paper, and when you are cooking out of a cookbook in the kitchen, shit sometimes goes flying and lands on said book. It’s always nice to know that if that happens, the book will still be usable, albeit a little less pretty.  (No worries, library lovers – I don’t drag library books into the kitchen, I know how messy I am.) The chapters:

Introduction & Ingredients to Keep on Hand
Chicken
Meat: Pork, Beef, Veal, Lamb, Duck & Turkey
The Grind
Fish & Seafood
Eggs
Pasta & Noodles
Tofu (& a Touch of Seitan)
Beans, Legumes & Vegetable Dinners
Rice, Farro, Quinoa & Other Grains
Pizzas & Pies
Soups
Salads That Mean It
Dips, Spreads & Go-Withs

I don’t know about you but the first thing I noticed after perusing the table of contents was that there was no desserts chapter. Which is fine. I never make dessert on a weeknight. Fresh fruit is always available and sugar-free Fudgsicles is as fancy as it gets at my house.

The ubiquitous pantry list is available in “Ingredients to Keep on Hand” and it is a practical list. Included are the usual suspects, olive oil, garlic, various vinegars, mustard, and so forth, plus a bunch of things I rarely have like Sichuan peppercorns, pomegranate molasses, preserved  lemons and Indian pickles. On the other hand I was delighted to see za’atar included. Za’Atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend. This was a recent acquisition for me that I got for a Passover recipe and I was wondering where else I would use it. The only recipe I could find in the index was for Za’Atar Chicken with Lemon Yogurt, so guess I’ll be making that soon. And she also tells you how to make it yourself if you don’t want to buy it. Also I’m wondering why she considers it a pantry staple if it’s only used in one recipe out of 200. Or maybe it’s just a crappy index?

So to chicken. There is a two page spread on how to roast a chicken and it’s got some great advice, like choosing a good bird, preferably organic and air chilled, whatever that is. She also explains how to spatchcock or splay a bird. These instructions are followed by several roast chicken recipes. One of the nice things about roasting a whole chicken is that it’s usually quick prep and then just hanging out waiting for dinner. Plus the delicious smell fills the kitchen and gets everyone hungry. Except my husband, who hates chicken. There are lots of other chicken recipes besides the whole roast chicken, so no worries if you have boneless breasts you’re wanting to cook up or some thighs. Melissa’s got you covered.

There are a variety of meat recipes, some of which give you the option of selecting the cut you want, like Peachy Pork or Veal, you decide. The Grind refers to ground meat, like Chorizo Pork Burgers, Kibbe-Style Lamb Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt and Thai Lettuce Wraps. There are some interesting fish recipes, like Vietnamese Caramel Salmon (sweet and spicy, always a fave,) a really good recipe for Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage, Jalapeno, and Lime Slaw, and a Shrimp Banh Mi that you make in your food processor, which works for me.

Eggs gets its own chapter including the basics of frying, boiling, scrambling, poaching, etc. including how to poach an egg in the microwave. If you haven’t turned your family on to “breakfast for dinner” you should. Super easy and my family loves it. Try Spanish Tortilla with Serrano Ham (or sub whatever ham you like.) I love that while the instructions call for two pans, she explains how one pan will work just fine. The Asparagus Frittata with Ricotta and Chives is delicious, just add some good bread and maybe a salad and dinner is done. I’m dying to try the Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby, after Passover ends I guess – how can I resist, “a giant gougère-style cheese puff meets Yorkshire pudding, with a crisp outer crust and a soft, cheesy, custardy interior.” I can’t.

The pasta chapter has some good recipes like Cacio e Pepe with Asparagus and Peas, Fettucine with Spicy Anchovy Bread Crumbs and Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Almonds, although I subbed some purple broccoli I had gotten from my CSA. I’ve never cooked with tofu (yes, I admit it) but I am determined to learn. My son’s girlfriend is mostly vegetarian and I’d like to make something besides pasta and veggies when they visit. Sweet and Sour Tofu with Corn (and cherry tomatoes, it is beautiful) may be my first attempt. Or Crispy Tofu with Ginger and Spicy Greens – crispy means deep fried and deep fried generally means delicious. There are some interesting legume and veggie recipes as well, like Smashed White Bean Toasts with Roasted Asparagus and Sumac, Asparagus Carbonara and more delicious fried goodies like Fried Halloumi with Spicy Brussels Sprouts.

There are lots more recipes, I haven’t even touched on soups, pizza, salads, etc. (although I can tell you Rustic Shrimp Bisque is going to make an appearance the next cool day we have.) I like this cookbook a lot. I have made many of Melissa’s recipes over the years and she has become a go to for me. Highly recommended.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DINNER by Melissa Clark. Clarkson Potter (March 7, 2017). ISBN 978-0553448238. 400p.


SHEET PAN by Kate McMillan

March 26, 2017

Click to purchase

Delicious Recipes for Hands-Off Meals

Sheet pan cooking is the latest trend I’ve noticed and there are several new cookbooks out or coming out. Recently released are 150 Recipes in a 13×9 Pan by Gooseberry Patch; One-Pan Wonders from Cook’s Country; One Pan & Done by  Molly Gilbert; and Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark (Clark is one of the food writers for the NY Times, and I’m hoping to get my hands on this one soon for review.)

Sheet Pan is a smaller, hard cover cookbook with nice, heavy paper and great photos that are perfect for inspiration. The chapters:

Easy & Delicious One-Pan Meals
Sheet-pan basics
Meat
Seafood
Vegetables

The first thing that caught my eye was “Garlicky Shrimp with Asparagus Fries and Meyer Lemon Aioli.” I didn’t have asparagus but zucchini, squash or mushrooms were suggested as substitutes. I had just gotten some zucchini in my CSA box so that was perfect.  I also had just picked up a bag of Meyer lemons at Trader Joes – when I see them, I buy them because they have a short growing season. I actually have a Meyer lemon tree in my yard but usually only get 2-3 fruit each year. It’s a baby tree, no taller than me yet so we are hopeful that as it grows it will fruit more. But I digress.

I was a little nervous about overcooking the shrimp and/or undercooking the zucchini so I put the zucchini fries in the hot oven for five minutes or so before I added the shrimp. It was a quick dinner to put together, about 10 minutes prep time and 12 minutes cooking and it was really delicious, my family loved it. And by lining the pan with parchment paper, cleanup was a breeze.

Not all the recipes are that quick. “Pork Chops with Apricots, Red Cabbage & Blue Cheese” takes about 15 minutes prep and cooks for 40 minutes or so. “Stuffed Eggplant Three Ways” takes about 25 minutes or so in the oven, “Roasted Caesar Salad with Salmon” only 15 minutes and “Vegetable Pizza Tarts” made with frozen puff pastry takes about 20 minutes.

I don’t mind if all I have to do is wait, that still seems like an easy dinner to me. And again, clean up is only one pan – and that’s why people are loving these sheet pan cookbooks. I work full time and I love to cook, but cleaning up is not fun so I really appreciate how easy it is to only have to deal with one pan.

This is a great cookbook for anyone who likes to cook but maybe doesn’t have all that much time or energy, especially after working all day. I made this tart but subbed green onion for the leeks, used creminis, and almonds for the hazelnuts. It was really good and really easy. Try it yourself — 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

MUSHROOM & GRUYÈRE TART WITH HAZELNUT HARICOTS VERTS

All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a 17.3-oz/490-g package), thawed
5 ounces (155 g) Gruyère cheese, shredded
2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, white and pale parts thinly sliced
¼ lb (125 g) white mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced
4½ tablespoons (70 ml) olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large egg beaten with
1 tablespoon water
¾ lb (375 g) haricots verts, trimmed
¼ cup (11/4 oz/40 g)
hazelnuts, roughly chopped

SERVES 2–4

1 Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

2 On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry into a 121/2-by-15-inch (32-by-38-cm)
rectangle. Fold into thirds, transfer to the prepared pan, and unfold, positioning the dough so there will be
room for the haricots verts on the pan. Fold over about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of each side of the dough to create a border.

3 Sprinkle the dough with the cheese, leaving the borders uncovered. In a bowl, toss together the leeks,
mushrooms, and 3 tablespoons of the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the cheese. Brush the borders with the egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.

4 In a bowl, toss together the haricots verts and the remaining 1½ tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on the pan next to the tart. Continue baking until the tart is golden brown and the haricots verts are fork-tender, about 15 minutes longer. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the hazelnuts over the haricots verts.

5 Let the tart cool slightly, then cut into slices and serve the haricots verts on the side.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SHEET PAN by Kate McMillan. Weldon Owen (January 3, 2017). ISBN 978-1681881379. 112p.


FOOD, HEALTH & HAPPINESS by Oprah Winfrey

February 13, 2017

        Click to purchase

115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life

So as every dieter in America probably knows, Oprah bought a chunk of Weight Watchers and is selling the diet like crazy. This cookbook (that has no other name on it!) is the 2017 early entry in the diet cookbook market.

This is part memoir, part cookbook with charming handwritten notes strewn throughout. Oh, and Weight Watcher points attached to every recipe.

There are a wide variety of recipes, from several soups including tomato, Mulligatawny and Turkey Chili to fun things like Skinny Cornbread and Art Smith’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken. There’s even a version of Daniel Boulud’s famous potato crusted sea bass; in Oprah’s world, Daniel isn’t mentioned but then again that’s not unusual.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: When I know Better, I do Better
Soup is Love
What are You Really Hungry For?
The Faith of a Mustard Seed
A World of Possibility
A Healthy Indulgence
Greens, Glorious Greens
Epilogue: Finding a New Path on My Journey With Food
A note about Weight Watchers SmartPoints
Meet the Chefs*

*So this was my ah-ha moment! Oprah is known for many things but cooking is not one of them. So while she is listed as the only author, and none of the recipes would lead you to think anyone other than Oprah created them, this page near the very back of the book, Meet the Chefs, tell a slightly different story. So let’s meet them:

Eduardo Chavez (sexy drinks)
Rosie Daley (previous author of another Oprah diet cookbook and contributor of the Peppered Tuna recipe)
Taryn Huebner (Turkey Burger)
Mei Lin (Top Chef winner and Turkey Lasagna recipe)
Art Smith (Unfried Chicken & Fried Chicken)
Sonny Sweetman (Halibut a la Grecque)

And that’s all the credit anyone is given, which irritates me just the tiniest bit. But I digress.

The recipes are all interesting and mostly healthy. Along the bottom of each recipe is the prep time, cook time, number of servings, the Weight Watchers smart points, and calories, making it easy to figure out whether or not you want to make something.

The best part of the book, to me, is the personal stuff. The pictures of Oprah and her family and friends, especially sitting around the table, and all her handwritten comments (in teacher perfect handwriting?) make this book worth buying. The healthy recipes are a nice bonus.

oprah-pasta-primavera

 

oprah-red-pepper-sausage-fennel-soup

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FOOD, HEALTH & HAPPINESS by Oprah Winfrey. Flatiron Books; 1 edition (January 3, 2017). ISBN 978-1250126535. 240p.


COOK KOREAN! by Robin Ha

January 28, 2017
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

A Comic Book with Recipes

I loved Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley, which came out a few years ago, but never really expected to find another graphic novel with recipes. I was wrong. Apparently graphic novel cookbooks are now a thing.

There was a really interesting article on eater.com about it, Why Cookbooks are Looking More Like Comicbooks. They point out:

But comic cookbooks can do something for home cooks, too — make recipes less daunting and easier to follow. Cookbooks are still in demand, but many — with their overly aspirational food photography — wind up as coffee-table books for the kitchen.

An interesting point, for sure. And click through to an older article, The Golden Era of Food Comics is Happening Right Now. Also interesting.

When I heard about Cook Korean!, I knew I had to take a look at it. I don’t know a lot about Korean food. Korean BBQ restaurants are around, and kimchi is hugely popular pretty much everywhere now, so it seemed like a good time to learn. And learn I did.

Table of Contents:

Introduction
Kimchi and Pickles
Vegetable Side Dishes
Meat and Poultry
Seafood
Soups and Stews
Porridges
Noodles and Rice Cakes
Snacks and Street Foods
Cocktails and Anju
Korean Fusion

I included the introduction because it’s not your typical “here’s why I wrote this cookbook page.” Instead, it’s 20 pages or so of ingredients used in Korean cooking, the Korean refrigerator, the Korean pantry, Korean meal guide, Bap: Cooked Rice, Rice and its delicious by-products, Korea’s regions and foods and finally Dengki’s dress. In other words, lots of super useful information. With illustrations.

All the chapters are heavily illustrated, thus the graphic novel genre. I mean if you just picked it up without knowing it was a cookbook, it probably wouldn’t occur to you as you glanced through it. No, it’s not a novel, it’s cookbook/memoir and nonfiction while we usually call fiction books novels. But what I called comic books as a kid are now called graphic novels, regardless of whether or not the books contain fiction or nonfiction. My library shelves them in the nonfiction. I have noticed that some graphic novel memoirs are shelved in biographies, and I’m not sure who is making that distinction (Library of Congress? The Online Computer Library Center, better known as OCLC?) or why that distinction is being made. Congressman John Lewis just won a bunch of awards for the third book of his graphic novel trilogy memoir, March: Book Three (congrats!) which is shelved in biography. But I digress.

Other things I noticed when looking at the table of contents. I admitted up front I am pretty ignorant about Korean food. I didn’t know there were stews or porridges, for instance. Now I do. Kimchi Stew, for starters. And a Spicy Fish Stew. I learned that pine nuts are not just for pesto and are used in Pine Nut Porridge.

So kimchi. There is a little gastro pub near my house that makes killer kimchi. And by killer I mean they warn you if you try and order it that it is very hot, so I haven’t tried it. A kimchi loving friend (hi Dave!) has had it and really enjoys it. So everything I know about kimchi is that historically, it was made from cabbage in clay jars and buried in the dirt. The smell was supposedly horrific. And very, very spicy. But after reading this book, I learned that my suppositions were correct, but there are ways to make it much more palatable for my delicate American taste. Use less Korean chili, for starters. I also learned that kimchi can be made from a variety of vegetables, not just cabbage – radish, cucumber and green onion, just to name a few. I feel kimchi educated now.

Noodles are big in Asian cooking and Korean food is no exception. The recipe for Handmade Knife Noodles is about as close to pasta as you can get. Rice cakes are called Tteok and there are dozens of different kinds, mostly eaten as snacks or dessert.

The cocktails chapter includes a lesson in Korean Drinking Culture, including the admonishment to “always pour your elder’s drink with both your hands,” to never refuse a drink from your elders and “always refill drinks for others and never refill your own drink. You must wait for others to fill it up for you.”

The recipes are all explained and illustrated so that even someone as ignorant of Korean food and customs as I am, could successfully prepare anything in this book. I loved the watercolor type paintings that illustrate each chapter title page, and the drawings throughout the book really added to my understanding of technique. It’s funny, I never really cared for illustrations in cookbooks, for instance the beloved Silver Palate Cookbook, as I much prefer photographs. But for some reason, I love the illustrations here and didn’t miss the photos at all.

Finally, I was trying to figure out how many recipes there are but it was difficult as so many have variations included. The author does mention in her acknowledgements that her mother helped with 64 of the recipes though. Always nice to acknowledge your mom!

If you are curious about Korean cuisine and culture or you love Korean food and want to try making some yourself, this is the book for you.

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COOK KOREAN! by Robin Ha. Ten Speed Press (July 5, 2016). ISBN 978-1607748878. 176p.

Kindle