26 September 2013

Put An Egg On It

(Full disclosure, we did get a copy of this book from the lovely book publicist, Haley, but you know we never meet an egg book we don't eventually add to our collection, so we were glad to take a look.)  However...

If you have read this blog for more than a day, you know that one of our favorite things is the incredible, edible egg. We have our own talented chickens. We have a large collection of egg cookbooks.  One might just think that everything there was to say about the egg had been said.  We beg to differ.

Put An Egg On It by Lara Ferroni is one of those "ah ha" inspiring moments.  Rather it is one of those, "Why didn't I thing of that?" moments.  There is almost no food item out there that is not greatly enhanced by an egg sitting on top.   "Ice Cream!" you might say.  Well what is meringue if not whipped and airy eggs.  So that settles it.  An egg is a great addition to any food.

An egg is the salvation of leftovers.  Cold pizza comes alive when warmed with an egg sitting on top.  Leftover rice?  Sit and egg in the middle for a great lunch.  Oh my, we could go on and on, but thanks to Put An Egg On It, we don't have to.  Now here is where we were a bit skeptical.  There was a certain worry that this was a book of trite recipes with an egg sitting on the top.  Not to worry, Ferroni has assembled a series of thoughtful recipes that are complimented by the addition of the egg, making it the star and not merely an afterthought.

The book starts out with egg basics and right off the bat provided recipes for both a regular and sweet pickled egg.  Then some basic meringue recipes and techniques.  Both will come in handy later on.  There is a Blasted Cauliflower with Eggs and Brussels Sprout Hash.  There are hip, happening grains like farro, buckwheat, and grits.  There is even Israeli couscous, which looks rather grain-like but is actually a pasta.

There is a lot of pasta.  Carnivores have their say with a traditional steak tartare along with pork, chicken, and fish dishes.  Even tacos and hot dogs make an appearance.  That meringue we learned to make at the outset, proves valuable for the dessert section.  Lest we forget, there is also a cocktail chapter, because what's a flip without an egg?

This is a great example of making the egg and integral element of what might be a familiar dish.  This light and airy version will have you heading for the kitchen.

Spring  Onion Soup with Soft-Boiled Eggs.  

1 pound spring onions or leeks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 1/2 inch slices baguette
Olive oil, for brushing the baguette
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Clean the onions well and chop just the lights and light green parts.

Melt the butter in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, time, and salt. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions have softened and turned deep golden, about 30 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high and stir in the wine; cook until reduced by about half, about five minutes. Add the stock, along with one cup water and the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Brush the baguette slice with a little oil and toast for 5 to 10 minutes, until golden. While the bread toasts, soft boiled the eggs.

Ladled the soup into 4 individual ovenproof bowls (I like to use mini coquettes), filling them only three-quarters full. Top each with a toasted baguette slice and one quarter of the cheese. Place the bowls on a baking sheet and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden in spots. To serve peel the eggs (or scoop them from the shells) and place half of an egg on top of each bowl of soup.

What a refreshing change from the usual bowl of brown onions and a thick crust of cheese.

Ferroni not only writes cookbooks, she is an accomplished photographer who has contributed the photos to several of our favorite books including Top Pops and Absinthe Cocktails.  Even if you don't have your own chickens, run out to the framer's market and grab a dozen -- grab two.  Then crack open Put An Egg On It.  You won't be sorry.

19 September 2013

Dining With The Maharajas

Rarely does a cookbook arrive that is not just a cookbook but a work of art.  Neha Prasada's Dining With The Maharajas:: A Thousand Years Of Culinary Tradition is a work of art masquerading as a cookbook. I had read a reviews of this book and stuck it on my Amazon wish list, only to have a friend snag a copy for me. 

When it arrived, it was in a box all its own.  When I took it out of the box, I found it was covered in a lovely, dark-blueish, purple. At that point, I was afraid to touch it.  when one does touch, it is big and has a tri-fold cover.  So it needs a big space to really look at the book.  Yes, it has lots of recipes and stunning photos by Ashima Narain. Since the book is a such a "coffee table" experience, the published added a small, plain booklet of recipes, a kitchen copy to preserve the integrity of the book while making cooking from its pages a bit easier.

To give you an idea of the lavish entertaining in the book, you will find photos like this one.
Here the granddaughter-in-law of the last Nizam of Hyderabad, and her daughter are beside a small 108-foot teak table.  The table will seat you and 100  friends for dinner.  Alas, the palace is now a hotel.  Despite its lavishness, the book features solid Indian recipes that anyone with the right spices could cook, even if your table only seats four.

Safed Keema

Minced meat with capsicum

Chicken mince (keema) 1 kg/2.2 lb
Capsicum (Shimla mirch), chopped 4
Ghee/Refined oil 2¼ cups/250 gm/9 oz
Onions, medium-sized, sliced 4
Ginger (adrak) paste ½ tsp / 3 gm
Garlic (lasan) paste ½ tsp/3 gm
Garlic pods, finely chopped 200 gm/7 oz
Green chillies, ground to paste 6
Green coriander (hara dhaniya), chopped 1 bunch
Mint (pudina), chopped 1 bunch
Juice of lemon (nimbu) 1

• Heat the ghee or oil in a wok (kadhai); add half the sliced onions and capsicum, fry till it turns yellow (not pink or brown).
• Add the minced meat, salt, ginger and garlic pastes; mix and fry for a few minutes.
• Add the chopped garlic, green chilli paste, green coriander, and mint. Pour some water and cook till the meat is soft.
• Then add the remaining sliced onions and capsicum; cook till the mixture is dry.
• Add the lemon juice, mix (not cook) and serve.
 While this might not be the one book you need on Indian cooking, it is certainly a book for a cook that has ever been mesmerized by India.

13 September 2013

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook

 Way back in 2010, long before the Amazing Race, long before any cookbooks, and the afternoon before their first appearance on television, Lucindaville was begging everyone to watch the Fabulous Beekman Boys.  We just knew they were going to be stars. 

A mere three years later after a marriage, $1,000,000, a mercantile, two television seasons, and a lot of cheese; they have not one but two cookbooks. Whod'a thunk it! 

So here we are three years later and EVERYONE is writing about the Beekman Boys.   Seriously they are in more magazines than Kate Moss.   So we are going to keep it short and sweet, like The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook.

1. The book is beautiful.

2. The photo are beautiful.

3. The recipes are old-fashioned -- excuse me, HEIRLOOM...yet,

4. they seem very modern (much like the boys themselves).

5.  It's dessert!  Buy a copy.

It is mid-September and still 90 degrees!   Make this:

Honey Ice Cream

2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the cream, honey, orange zest, cardamom, and salt and bring to a simmer.

In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.  Add to the simmering cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.  Let cool to room temperature.

Transfer mixture to an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer's directions.  Serve right away or transfer to a freezer container and freeze.  If you like, serve with a drizzle of honey.

Now, guess who is going to be on the cover of Popular Mechanics?

12 September 2013


I confess, I love cookbooks based on television programs.  They tend to fall into two categories: the "unofficial" cookbook, which means someone writes a book outside of the purview of the producers of the show.  They tend to be rather plain and based on other cookbooks, much like the The Unofficial Downton Abbey CookbookWe are still hoping for that "OFFICIAL" Downton Abbey cookbook.  The official cookbook is the other kind of TV Show cookbook.  True Blood is an official cookbook.  This means they have all the force and resources of the particular show behind them.  Specifically, lavish photos.  (Primarily the reason we are hoping for an "Official"  Downton cookbook.)  

While the lavish photo are a big plus, the problem with many of these sanctioned cookbooks, is the desire to "pretend" that the actual characters in the show have assembled the cookbooks. What happens is some lowly junior writer is tasked with developing a back story for the character who is then given a voice to tell us about their  families cooking experience.  It is a bit lame.  OK, it is very lame.  

Why can't producers have faith in their audience.  Why don't they write a cookbook that features the historical justifications for the food in their series, especially if it plays an important role.  (I don't mean to harp, but this is EXACTLY what Julian Fellows should do with Downton Abbey.  Discuss the Edwardian kitchen.  Show lots of photos, give recipes for the food, come on Fellows, give us a cookbook! But I digress...)

With the "official" cookbook for the series Treme,  the producers have tried to give us both the cheesy, "Our characters wrote these recipes and here are their culinary back stories" and legitimate recipes from a wide variety of chefs.  Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans was written by respected food writer,, Lolis Eric Elie.  It would be hard to write a story of New Orleans and leave out either the food or the music.  David Simon, the producer of Treme uses both of these vital elements in his story telling.  In fact, he has blurred the lines of fact and fantasy by including real, recognizable chefs as members of his cast.  When the idea of a Treme cookbook came to light, there was a built-in repository of culinary info.

And still... we have to have the recipes come from the cast of characters in Treme.  Head chef is one Janette Desautel who writes the "introduction" to Treme.  Desautel is played by the fine Kim Dickens, who has played far too many hookers and addicts in her career. (News flash, Dickens is set to join the cast of Sons of Anarchy as ... "seductive and maternal madame Colette Jane".)  To get the rhythm of an actual chef, Dickens worked in several restaurants, spending a great deal of time with New Orleans chef, Susan Spicer.  when Janette Desautel goes to New York, Dickens actually works on Le Bernadine's line making the pounded tuna from Eric Ripert.   A set was built for Lucky Peach a fictitious David Chang restaurant, Chang said it was set up better than Momofuku, the real David Chang restaurant.

The Alabama born, Vanderbilt educated Dickens becomes the Alabama born, University of Alabama drop-out, Janette Desautel, who goes to Birmingham to work with Frank Stitt.  It all seems so believable!

One of my favorite characters in Treme is LaDonna Batiste-Williams, played by Kandhi Alexander (who like Kim Dickens, has played a lot of hookers, addicts and the occasional medical examiner.)   LaDonna Batiste-Williams both loves and hates New Orleans and the complexity of her charter is unusual on television.  In her bar, there is always a pot of gumbo, gumbo that has been cooking for a century.  While the gumbo cooks and the beers are cold, LaDonna Batiste-Williams might be inclined to serve up some microwave pralines.

Microwave Pralines

1 pound light brown sugar
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream plus 1 to 3 teaspoons cream or milk for thinning batter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups pecan halves, cut in half again (in other words, not too big or small)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Line a heatproof surface like a countertop or 2 baking sheets with wax paper.

In an 8-cup microwave-safe glass measur­ing cup with a handle, combine the brown sugar, cream and corn syrup, mixing until all the sugar lumps are dissolved and the bat­ter is well blended.

Position the measuring cup in the micro­wave so you can see how the batter inside measures; the batter will be at or near the 2 1/2-cup mark. Microwave on high without covering or stirring, watching it continuously, until the mixture slowly bubbles up to slightly higher than the 8-cup mark and then deflates to near the 4 1/2-cup mark, 10 to 16 minutes (depending on how quickly your microwave cooks).
Do not open the microwave during the cooking process and, if in doubt, cook for less time, not more.
(If you want to make praline sauce instead of pralines, let the batter cook as directed until it has expanded to slightly over the 8-cup mark and then has slowly deflated just to the 7-cup mark. Use warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate the leftovers, tightly covered, for up to 1 week.)

Carefully remove the very hot measuring cup from the microwave and, using a sturdy metal mixing spoon, gently stir in the pecans, butter and vanilla, being careful to not splash any of the hot mixture on your skin. Continue stirring until the mixture is noticeably less glossy, about 3 minutes.

Working quickly, and using two spoons, scoop rounded tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the wax paper, about 1 inch apart and, using a second tablespoon to push the batter off the mixing spoon. If necessary, thin the batter with the remaining 1 to 3 teaspoons of cream as you reach the end of the batter and it thickens as it cools. Let the pralines cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes, then serve as soon as possible. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

In the hands of Lolis Eric Elie, Treme has manage to be both a television tie-in and a remarkable testament to the food of New Orleans.

09 September 2013

Two Unpublished Gems or...

Why the South is Different.

I love reading about chefs reading.   It is a good way to get find out what makes a chef great, what inspired them to start cooking, and what inspires them now.   Eater has been doing a series called The Cookbook Shelf where they interview chefs about cookbooks. 

Almost a year ago to the day, I read How to Read Cookbooks by Linton Hopkins.  He talked unsurprisingly about Larousse Gastronomique.  He also spoke of Umberto Eco's criticism and Morton Adler's How To Read A Book.  Lord knows I immediately wanted to drink with him.

Hopkins wrote about reading two unpublished works by his friend Bill Thomas.  He gushed about Thomas' book on Geechee cooking, The Foods of Georgia's Barrier Islands and on the book he edited about Cherokee Cooking.  It was like throwing down a gauntlet.  I was determined to track down copies of these works if there was any way to find them.  You know, the Internet is a terrible thing to waste.

First let me just say that Bill Thomas is a rather common name.  There are a lot of them out.   Undaunted I tried book titles, finding that the geechee cookbook was actually The Foods of Georgia's Barrier Islands.  Finally I found a reference to a talk Doctor William Thomas had given many years ago on Cherokee cooking and there was a contact to buy the book.   I tracked down the contact and found a telephone number.

Here is where our story takes the "Why the South is Different" turn.   The number was for a copy place.  In may a small Southern town the newspaper office had copy services and office supplies. 

I called.  I asked about the book.  Just a minute the voice said and then another voice.

"Oh, honey, we don't keep those in stock.  When Doc Bill needs 'em he just calls us and we print them up for him.  Wait just a minute...Here's doc Bill's number.  You give him a call and see if he needs us to print some up."

I said thank you, ma'am and she said I was more than welcome.  I dare say Kinko's is not going to give you someones telephone number nor will they be telling you that you are more than welcome when you ask a question!

 I called the number and left a message.

The next day I got a call from Doc Bill.  Yes, he is indeed a real medical doctor.   We spoke for nearly an hour about food, Southern culture, and gardening.  We talked about the five varieties of okra I was growing and he discussed how important it was to actually grow the plants.  Then he said, "You know you can eat the blossoms."

I can't remember when a culinary idea had left me so in awe.  For years I had ignored the okra blossoms while gingerly picking squash blossoms to stuff.  What an idiot I had been. This is my quick and easy go to recipe for stuffed okra blossoms.

Lucinda's Pimento Cheese Stuffed Okra Blossoms

8 okra blossoms, gently washed with the stamens removed
1 cup pimento cheese
1/2 cup panko
1 cup flour
1 cup sparkling water

 Oil to fry heated to 350

Mix the pimento cheese and panko and gently stuff into the okra blossoms.  Mix the flour and water, stirring constantly to avoid lumps; it should be rather runny.  Dredge the stuffed blossoms into the batter.  Lower into the oil and fry till golden, about 2 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel.

One of the reason's that recipes don't have a copyright, is because mac and cheese is well, mac and cheese.  You didn't invent it.  Most food out there you didn't invent.  So maybe Dominique Ansel did invent the cronut, but really it is a croissant cut with a donut cutter, not exactly Marie Curie discovering radium, but I digress... No doubt Linton Hopkins will be serving MY okra blossoms before long.  I thought I invented Pumpkin and grits only to find it in The Foods of Georgia's Barrier Islands. 

Pumpkin and Grits

5 cups of boiling water
1 1/2 cup grits
1/2 tsp salt

Fry 6 pieces of breakfast bacon or thin slices of ham in margarine or oil.  Add to the grits along with q cup of cooked pumpkin or 1 can of pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix.  Add a bit of sugar about 1 tablespoon and some black pepper.  Cook stirring often until cooked. 

While I might not have invented them, they are a great side dish for pork or chicken and pretty good all by themselves. 

Like any other tradition, passed down from generation to generation, ideas and information often get lost.  It takes people like Doc Bill to gather it and write it down and keep it safe for me and for everyone else.  We owe him a great debt of gratitude.  Frankly, I think it is time for someone out there to publish Doc Bill's extensive knowledge on the terrior and traditions of North Georgia.

06 September 2013

Vegetable Literacy

After a football induced weekend of ribs and wings, my friend, Ann, called to say she was eating a salad of quinoa, chickpeas, kale and other vegetables too numerous to mention.  Then she said she thought she might be becoming a vegetarian.  I scoffed.  But I did start to think about the vegetable.

So everyone is foaming about Deborah Madison's new book, Vegetable Literacy.  Saying something bad about a Deborah Madison book is like saying Virgina Woolf can't write.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing bad to say about the book.  If there is anything bad to say about the book it is that the book is a bit overwhelming.  It is not so much a cookbook as the Encyclopedia Britannica (Wikipedia for you folks under 25!) of Vegetable knowledge. 

There are recipes for onions but not before a thorough plant taxonomy.  Can one have their knotweed and nightshades too?  Carrots yes, but one really should eat the tops, too.  How the hell does one cook a cardoon?  What is a cardoon?  Why would one eat it?  Well, Madison has a recipe for that.

We tend to judge vegetable related works by the rutabaga recipes.  Madison doesn't disappoint with three.  Though she does seem to have a thing for peas.  The recipes in the book do, indeed, make the vegetables shine. Speaking of peas...  Don't go to the freezer.  If you want some mushy peas to slap next to fries, be my guest.  Want to cook peas with Deborah Madison you will need the real deal.   Even Madison's peas are a thing of beauty.

 Peas with Baked Ricotta 
and Bread Crumbs

Olive oil
1 cup high-quality ricotta cheese, such as hand-dipped 
full-fat ricotta
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
4 teaspoons butter
2 large shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
5 small sage leaves, minced (about 1-1/2 teaspoons)
1-1/2 pounds pod peas, shucked (about 1 cup)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Chunk of Parmesan cheese, for grating

Heat the oven to 375 degree F. Lightly oil a small baking dish; a round Spanish earthenware dish about 6 inches across is perfect for this amount.

 If your ricotta is wet and milky, drain it first by putting it in a colander and pressing out the excess liquid. Pack the ricotta into the dish, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface, and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has begun to set and brown on top. Cover the surface with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, another 10 minutes. (The amount of time it takes for ricotta cheese to bake until set can vary tremendously, so it may well take longer than the times given here, especially if it wasn’t drained.)

When the cheese is finished baking, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the shallots and sage and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peas, 1/2 cup water, and the lemon zest. Simmer until the peas are bright green and tender; the time will vary, but it should be 3 to 5 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t let them turn gray. Season with salt and a little freshly ground pepper, not too much.
 Divide the ricotta between 2 plates. Spoon the peas over the cheese. Grate some Parmesan over all and enjoy while warm.

We might just improve this recipe with a rib eye on the side.

While we might eat our Peas with Baked Ricotta 
and Bread Crumbs with a rib eye, as a gardener, Vegetable Literacy is a joy.  The more ideas for garden produce, the better.  We are already anticipating our spring seed catalogues.

05 September 2013

Palette to Palate

We are fond of "artisty" cookbooks.  Collections of recipes from people who are not cooks, but may have played one on TV, or written about a fork, or other such endeavors.  In 1978, the Guild Hall organized a group of Hamptons artists to contribute a recipe, accompanied by a sketch, to a cookbook. 

The result was the formidable Palette to Palate: The Hamptons Artists Cookbook.  A quick glance and the reader will find the names of artists that are universally known and many who are universally unknown. 

This type of book is always a pleasurable if oddly curated affair.   There are always the less-than-famous folks bolstering the mega-famous.  There is the oddly fabulous recipe, like family cake recipes or goulash from the 12th century and then there are canned soup and crackers, not Warhol's as one might expect.   Warhol had an easy out for the book.  He simply chose a black and white version of his hand colored recipe from 1959's Wild Strawberries, his cookbook with Suzie Frankfurt.

 Another of the very famous is Willem de Kooning.  My idea of existentialist hell is being trapped in a never ending gallery of de Kooning paintings with Muzak playing the entire atonal works of Arnold Schoenberg.  However, you have to love this recipe.  It is a sauce and a paint binding agent all in one.*

Koo's Sauce
(A Family Recipe)

1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped
1/2 pint fresh mayonnaise
2 ounces cognac
2 ounces sherry

Stir well.

Add tomato catsup until pink.

If thin, may freeze for half an hour.

A sauce and a paint binding agent all in one, we just love cookbooks like Palette to Palate.

* OK, technically, de Kooning only used the mayo part as a binding ingredient, but we couldn't resist the idea of making a sauce, pouring it over fish and then mixing it into paint. It is so very Hamptons.
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