"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Coleslaw with Hot Caraway Vinaigrette

Yes--more salad! Anybody who thinks that salad means putting some tomatoes and pre-washed lettuce bits in a bowl (and who does that not include?) will find real salad recipes off-putting because they require more than 10 seconds of time to assemble. There is a certain casual charm to tomatoes and pre-washed lettuce bits, but they DO get old after a while so if you can just wrap your brain around the fact that you're going to spend half an hour or so on a salad you can lovingly approach it as a work of art.

So here we have Coleslaw with Hot Caraway Vinaigrette, and--full disclosure--right out of the gate I altered this recipe to substitute my ever-growing kohlrabi collection for the green and red cabbage this recipe calls for. DON'T JUDGE ME, PEOPLE--if you had a veggie drawer full of little green sputniks you'd be playing fast and loose with your own self-imposed cook-through recipe rules too.

Don't know what a kohlrabi is? Don't feel bad--hardly anybody does. Here's a picture:

See what I mean? Like a little green sputnik.


Hello? First satellite ever in orbit around the earth? Put up by the Russians? Kicked off the space race? Ask your parents and/or grandparents if this is not ringing any bells for you.

Anyway, back to kohlrabi--it actually IS a cultivar of the cabbage family, and it tastes kind of like broccoli stem (after you've peeled it). Wikipedia helpfully states that it's sweeter, and I guess it kind of is but it's also a little peppery too. Anyway, if you've ever had broccoli slaw you'll have no problems making slaw out of kohlrabi.

So this recipe is coleslaw without the mayo--if you don't like mayonaissey dressings (and I only like the ones I make myself because usually storebought coleslaw is waaay too sweet) you'll really love this one. And I see it's not on epicurious so I'll tell you what it is in case you too have lots of slaw material hanging around taking up real estate in your fridge.

So--make slaw. Easiest w/ a food processor with a grater attachement. Generally this means cabbage (or kohlrabi etc), carrots, maybe some onion, maybe some bell pepper. Toss it together in a bowl. This recipe serves ten so cut the dressing recipe below in half if you don't have that much.

This recipe then asks you to do the following--toss the slaw w/ five tablespoons white wine vinegar. Then heat five tablespoons olive oil in a pan until it's hot but not smoking, and put in 2 tablespoons caraway seeds and 1 tablespoon mustard seeds. Cover and wait until the mustard seeds have stopped popping--then take it off heat and drizzle over the slaw--toss with salt and pepper to taste.

I didn't quite understand why the pan needed to be covered until my mustard seeds actually started popping (and spitting oil out of the pan). 'Nuff said. What you get are basically fried seeds, which are wonderfully toasty and crunchy--and it's this taste experience that elevates the slaw into something different from what you've probably ever had in the slaw department.

You would think five tablespoons of oil would be oppressive, but it just vanished into the salad. And in spite of my grumbling about hand-peeling eight kohlrabi and also the agedness of my food processor (which sometimes goes off without me telling it to and startling me half out of my wits) I really liked this salad, though I was glad I didn't have any kind of dentures or bridgework with all of those seeds.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Salade Niçoise

I was flipping through the book a few days ago, trying to find some salads that would use up some of these ever-lovin' veggies I'm getting from the CSA (kohlrabi salad, anyone?)--and after about five minutes of browsing around I was thinking to myself, why am I not making these salads now, regardless of whether or not they use kohlrabi? It's hot and I want salads! It's just a matter of putting your attention in the right place.

So with that can-do spirit, I embarked on gathering the ingredients for Salade Niçoise.

Now, I've had this salad before and I knew it was (in general) cooked and chilled veggies + a hard boiled egg + tuna + a garlicky dressing. On lettuce.

This recipe is no different and the basics were in my pantry and fridge, with the exception of the star of the show, the fancy tuna canned in oil.

You might be wondering what the difference is between tuna that's canned in water and tuna that's canned in oil and if I were being flip I'd tell you ten bucks and 200 calories but actually I think it must be a dryness issue...only dieters can really choke down hunks of albacore tuna without a little mayo to ease the passage if it's been canned in water.

But here's the thing (and jeez, I'm really just skipping the whole recipe part aren't I and getting right down to my gripes) canned tuna in oil tastes and smells and feels like cat food.

Which actually is the problem I have with "light" tuna too, so I DON'T GET why people would pay $10/can for this stuff unless they are cats. If I were a cat I'd probably pay a million dollars for tuna canned in oil, if I had a million dollars which I probably would because I'd be such a cute cat.

And here's another question I have, which is how is it that canned tuna is SO DIFFERENT from tuna? I mean, real tuna? What do they do to it? It's like tuna from the seafood market is from one planet and tuna from the grocery store shelf is from another one. They shouldn't even be labeled the same thing. I think canned tuna is terrific for bomb shelters and during the apocolypse I will enjoy tunafish salad sandwiches but until then, for pete's sake, if you can get your hands on fresh tuna use that instead on your Salade Niçoise and you will love me (but your cat won't.)

Have I talked about the actual recipe yet? No? OK, here's how it goes--make a dressing out of shallots, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and XVO + a little chopped parsley. Boil and cool new potatoes and green beans, and make some hard-boiled eggs. Toss the peeled potatoes, green beans and some chopped green bell pepper in with some of the dressing, and mound it on some like-wise dressed lettuce. Surround artfully with tomatoes, egg wedges, Niçoise (or other) olives, capers, and top off with cat food I MEAN TUNA PACKED IN OIL. Dollop a little more dressing on top to disguise the smell and wash down with ice cold beer. Mmmmmm m!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cold Poached Chicken with Ginger Scallion Oil

It only takes a few days of hot, sultry weather to make New Englanders go out of their minds with irritation. Don't believe me? Try driving around on a day like today--90 degrees with 70% humidity--and you'll find out quick enough. I almost got clipped four times and at least one driver called me something that fortunately I didn't understand because I don't know any of those bad words and it's like a foreign language to me. And I just have two words for you, irritated drivers. AIR CONDITIONING. Get some. Ice water wouldn't hurt either.

If you, too, are irritated because of the heat and the thought of cooking dinner makes you want to likewise swear at somebody, like your stupid family for wanting food, don't despair! Cold Poached Chicken with Ginger Scallion Oil will make you want to send love notes to me for suggesting it.

This is how you do it. Early in the morning, before it gets hot, poach a few chicken breasts in water with a little fresh ginger and sherry (or sake) (or Scotch, says Epicurious, which is kind of weird but what do I know). Throw those babies in the fridge, and at your leisure at some point during the day mix together vegetable oil, fresh grated ginger, sliced scallions, and dark sesame oil.

When it's time for supper, pull out the chicken, slice thinly, and spoon the ginger scallion oil over the top. Serve with a salad (from all that freakin lettuce you have from the CSA) and you've got a nice, light hot-weather meal. A little sea salt puts it over the top--I'm mad about sea salt these days, even over lettuce.

My only problem at all with this recipe was something visual, and it's only evidence that I've done bad things to egg-based sauces, like overheat them so they break. If you look at the photo above, the ginger can be sort of visually construed as a broken sauce. Anybody who's broken a sauce knows what a tragic and frustrating experience it is, and the photo might make that person sad or anxious. And you think I'm being melodramatic, but when you're plating food that has to go out RIGHT THIS SECOND, brother, a broken sauce makes you want to yell bad words at people even if you have air conditioning AND ice water.

Oh, now here I've injected a note of melancholy into a nice happy post about hot-weather dining. How did that happen? Do I have Post Traumatic Sauce Syndrome? I think I might.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Leg of Lamb with Tomatoes and Garlic

Last Sunday I wanted to make something we could enjoy during the week for leftovers, but what? I didn't have anything in particular in mind...I thought of Teena's random number generator (by which she selects recipes in moments like this) but not having a mathematician's tools I went with just opening the book and cooking whatever was on the page, if I hadn't made it already.

So, hello Leg of Lamb with Tomatoes and Garlic! Perfect!

OK, not completely perfect, because lamb is not the cheapest meat in the world and I just had to pretend I didn't see the $30-something price tag. And if you too are trying to eat as organically as possible, you should know that 8 heads of organic garlic are also kind of pricey.

This is one of those beautifully malleable recipes. The roasting part is pretty straightforward--you start off in a hot oven, then turn it down after 15 minutes to reasonable and cook the lamb til it's 135. Let me speak once again of my love for my remote digital oven thermometer--if you cook large cuts of meat in the oven and you don't have one yet, for the love of peter sagal why not?!?

And what gets cooked with the lamb? Tomatoes, rosemary and garlic--the tomatoes can be fresh or canned (I went with a large can that we had in the pantry); the garlic requires only that you remove the papery outsides; and the rosemary is just draped across the top of the lamb.

That's it!

The results--delicious, as you might suspect. Roasted garlic is a treat, and it's a winner paired with lamb and tomatoes. We ate this all week long, mostly cold.

If you want to try this at home (and the recipe is not on Epicurious but it ain't hard, people) my suggestions would be to cut the garlic back to 3-4 heads (and that only if you lurv garlic) and instead of draping whole rosemary sprigs, take a little bit of extra time to mince the rosemary and rub it into the lamb with some oil. I say this because the sprigs just kind of burned--not sure they contributed much more than blackened decoration.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thanks, Lisa! or, Melissa Gets Press!

Many thanks to syndicated food columnist Lisa Messinger, who mentioned me and my blog (my blog and me?) in her recent article entitled "Updated Existing Recipes for an Easy Way to Innovate"! Not content to let her 2006 cookbook stand as the last word on superfoods, cook Jenny Jones is refining, refining, refining and she brings those recipe improvements to her website. Lisa lists many of those improvements, and mentions one of her own from her cookbook "The Tofu Book: the New American Cuisine"--a recipe for tofu chocolate chip cookies. (!) Who knows--maybe someday if Gourmet ever releases an updated edition of The Gourmet Cookbook they'll use some of the suggested improvements we Gourmet bloggers have mentioned in our exploratory fun-fest of cooking.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Basil and Sour Cream

Like many of you, I am spending much of my cooking week looking at far more vegetables than normal, thanks to a CSA share. I must confess that sometimes I just take the simplest route possible and go for a little saute in olive oil, but last night I was determined to MAKE something, many things actually, and to have at least one of those things be a NEW Gourmet recipe that I could write about here.

Actually, it should be thrice-baked potatoes! And before I dive into this recipe I'm going to wonder out loud, once again, why most of the potato recipes in this book call for russets. If you don't know the difference between baking and boiling potatoes, it's all about the starch content--boiling potatoes have less, baking potatoes have more. This makes a difference in many things, from texture to whether or not they hold together in soup, to how they crisp up.

So you would think that a twice-baked potato recipe would call for a baking potato, right? Wrong. For whatever reason, this one calls for Yukon Gold--I think mostly because of their relatively smaller size.

Well, I had a bag full of dirt-covered Yukon Golds to cook up, so Twice-Baked Yukon Golds it was, starch (or lack thereof) be damned.

The first step is easy. Bake your potatoes! Prick them with a fork, and bake in a 400 oven for an hour. No problem.

The next one--scoop out the potato flesh (once they're cool enough to handle), mash with butter, add milk and salt and pepper and some chopped fresh basil. Roger!

The next one (and this is an unusual step and one that makes this recipe extra yummy), brush the potato shells with butter, and put them back in your 400 oven for 20 minutes to get crispy. Got it.

Then, put your filling in the crispy shells, and bake for an additional 10 minutes to get everybody all up to the same temperature.

Garnish with sour cream (you were wondering when the sour cream comes in, weren't you?) and additional chopped basil.

Hey people--if you're baking these with those little bitty Yukon Golds I'm just telling you in advance that it is almost impossible not to pop them, whole, into your mouth. Before they get to the table. So make a lot. Fair warning!