"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".

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mint Lassi

I like lassis a lot, but here's the thing. When it comes right down to it, they're essentially fruit smoothies, if you get the mango kind. Order one with dinner at an Indian restaurant, and you feel like you're having dinner and dessert at the same time. They're sweet and they're filling!

But have you ever been at an Indian place and seen the other option for lassis? Salty. You might be thinking, why the heck would I want a salty smoothie? I know it's not exactly the American Way, but believe it or not a drink that's tart and salty is incredibly refreshing. Add mint and toasted cumin and you'll feel like you're a stranger in a strange but delightful land.

Here's how you make a Mint Lassi: pulse 1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp toasted cumin seeds in a blender until the mint is pretty well chopped. Add 2 cups of yogurt (the recipe calls for whole milk; I used nonfat) and 2 cups ice (the recipe calls for crushed ice; I used cubes). Blend 'til smooth.

At this point you can refrigerate (as the recipe suggests) to let the flavors meld and then serve over ice. You can also garnish with a lemon wedge and mint leaves. As you can see from the photo above, I poured that sucker right into a glass and drank it straight. Must have been a hot day.

Athletes! This is a GREAT recovery drink after a workout. The salt helps to replace lost electrolytes, and as much as I admire pickle juice for electrolyte recovery, mint lassis taste better. And no, I am not kidding about pickle juice.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fresh Cod Cakes from Gourmet Today

Astute readers will notice that the last few recipes have been from Gourmet Today, not The Gourmet Cookbook. Why is that, you may wonder?

Well, some of it is because Gourmet Today is Shiny and New. Crisp white pages unmarred by spills or spatters, binding intact, and best of all, over a thousand new recipes that I haven't even started to explore yet (where I have paged through The Gourmet Cookbook hundreds and hundreds of times).

Part of it is that I've exhausted the possibilities for a particular ingredient (as in today's case)--so I turn to the new cookbook for a recipe. Part of it is that it has categories the first book doesn't (can anybody say Cocktails?)

But most of it is because Melissa is The Girl who is Severely Pressed for Time.

I won't be tedious and list off all my vocational and avocational distractions but the beautiful thing is, guess what? I'm the target demographic for Gourmet Today which is to say I'm the person who wants healthy gourmet food super quick because I don't have any frickin' time. In fact, this is the little mental exercises I go through when I read a recipe. If at any point I think to myself "This looks like a pain in the ass", it goes into the "Do it Later--Much Later" category. That cuts out a lot.

So what that means for you, dear reader, is that you can look forward to double the fun here at Melissa Cooks Gourmet--and I am certainly eating my words from when I protested overly much last summer that I was NOT blogging this cookbook (do you hear me?) NOT (except well maybe for Drinks, Grilled Food and Vegetarian Entrees) NOT no matter how flattered I was to get a personal note from Ms. Reichl.

I take it all back, as I so often do.

Which leads us to today's recipe, Fresh Cod Cakes.

In case you don't know, I live on Cape Ann. See where the 39 is? That's about where I live. If you can't see the 39, it's over there by where it says Rockport Harbor. Except I live on land, of course.

And living in such a spiffy location means that it's not unusual for something like this to happen: you're at a party, and a guy is late, and you call him and say WHERE THE HECK ARE YOU and he says OH I JUST GOT OFF THE BOAT I'LL BE RIGHT THERE. And at some point in the night he puts 80 lbs. of filleted fish in the host's fridge and says HEY IF ANYBODY WANTS FISH I PUT IT IN THE FRIDGE. And everybody forgets about the fish and goes home all happy and warm and fuzzy and around midnight the host sends an emergency email saying FOR PETE'S SAKE COME TAKE THIS FISH OUT OF MY FRIDGE!!!!!!! And you go and get some the next day. A lot. And you get some for your friends who live near you who were at the party and you are a fish delivery girl, spreading joy and fish.

And that leads us (again) to Fresh Cod Cakes!

The head notes tell us that traditionally cod cakes are made with dried salt cod and potatoes (and for more on this subject (including recipes) please see the excellent and highly readable book by Mr. Mark Kurlansky called Cod.)

Here, we use fresh cod, bread, a little egg and some veggies (celery, scallions, parsely), which makes it much lighter. The recipe asks for 5 slices of bread for a pound of cod--they say white bread but all I had kicking around was some Ezekial Bread and some other multi-grain stuff and that's what I used. Everything gets pulsed in the food processor, seperately...a batch of bread crumbs, the veggies all together, and then the fish, being careful not to make fish paste.

Only a cup of the crumbs go in the fish mix--the rest are used for coating--and you mix it all up in a bowl with 1 egg and a little s&p. Then make patties and press the remaining crumbs all around the outside. Let them rest in the fridge for about ten minutes and then fry those babies up!

Hey by the way what do you think of my new frying pan? We had some of that expensive Calphalon stuff but now the nonstick whatever it is is starting to come up so we're replacing it. I like it because it's shiny.

Anyway, if you have some fish on your hands, give these a try--they're great. A totally satisfying meal with a simple green salad. Not too bready, and not dense at all.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ladybug from Gourmet Today, or Melissa Needs a Drink

Sometimes, I plan ahead. Like when I had leftover watermelon from the 4th, I thought huh--I seem to recall some spiffy recipes using watermelon in one of those cookbooks...and sure enough, one of the very first drinks in the Drinks chapter of Gourmet Today is the charmingly named Ladybug, which calls for frozen watermelon, vodka, sugar and limes.

So I lined a cookie sheet with plastic wrap, set out a single layer of watermelon chunks, and tucked them into the freezer. So far, so good! I figured I'd pick up some vodka and limes on the way home from work, since all I had kicking around was some gin...and although I had Rose's Lime Juice (which is pretty much limes+sugar), I wanted to follow the recipe as directed.

Well. You know that 100 degree, high humidity, record-breaking day we had the other day? The day where also my car's air conditioner AND our house's central cooling was broken? That day? I picked up neither vodka nor limes but by god nothing was going to stop me from making a drink with that frozen watermelon so Hello gin and Rose's Lime Juice, the able substitutes.

I dumped it all in the blender, ignoring the directions to let the frozen watermelon thaw for fifteen-twenty minutes, and fired it up.


Well, actually I got a little frothy gin, but the watermelon? Immovable and unblendable.

I tried again, and again, and again until my son pointed out that the motor was starting to smell funny, and finally I set the EFFING timer on the microwave for EFFING fifteen minutes, and stormed off to do something hot and sticky like fold the EFFING laundry. Isn't it weird how hot weather makes you swear?

When I tried it again I got a lot more gin froth, but finally, finally and ever so finally the watermelon started to move and blend and I got:


Don't ask me why my blender makes short work of ice cubes but is a wussy blender with frozen watermelon chunks. That's a big mystery that probably won't get solved here. But I'm here to report that the Ladybug is DELICIOUS and should you too be practically perishing from the heat give this one a try--use vodka to be authentic but I can attest that gin works just fine, thanks! As for sugar + lime vs. Rose's Lime Juice, that's your call.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Garam-Masala Rubbed Flank Steak from Gourmet Today

Garam Masala is a spice mix whose time has come. Remember curry powder? Ah, curried chicken salad with grapes--what's a luncheon from the past 30 years without you? And chili powder--how could we get through Superbowl Sunday without chili con carne courtesy of you?

And like all things that can be made from scratch (also bread, cookies, ice cream, and beer, just to name a very few) Garam Masala can also now be found pre-mixed for your convenience, and THAT'S how I know its time has come--McCormick Spices sells a blend AND there's a recipe featuring it in Gourmet Today.

Like many recipes in both Gourmet cookbooks, Garam Masala-Rubbed Flank Steak gives you a helpful recipe for making your own mix but since I had some on my shelf I thought I'd use it up because like all spices the aroma fades in time and better to move it out.

So, this isn't rocket science folks. Steak + salt&pepper + garam masala. Rub it all together in a loving fashion. Fire up grill and commence with the summertime pleasure of charring meat.

If you're not quite sold on a new and strange spice mix, at least not enough invest 4 bucks or so at your grocery, I'll tell you that it's kind of like curry powder but with cinnamon and clove much more prominent. So there's a warming, almost sweet undertone to it. Yesterday I mixed garam masala with salt, pepper and brown sugar, rolled whole carrots around in it and grilled...home run with my guests at our 4th of July bbq.

So keep your eyes open at the luncheons you attend for oh, the next 30 years or so...garam masala chicken salad with pecans and pineapple, garam masala deviled eggs...you read it here first!