"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, July 31, 2011

Charred Tomatillo Guacamole

Is there anybody in America who doesn't like guacamole? It's the perfect example of America as culinary catch-all. Hey, Mexico--we may not like your illegal immigrants and all that drug gang stuff but we damn sure like this avocado dip, and we're going to serve it at every Superbowl party from now until the end of time. Frankly, I don't even think of guac as Mexican anymore--if you'd like an example of how it's become Americanized, get a load of some of the variations The Gourmet Cookbook offers after their base Guacamole recipe:

Guacamole with Tomato
Radish and Cilantro Guacamole
Fall-Winter Fruit Guacamole (with Fuji apple, red grapes and pomegranate seeds)
Summer Fruit Guacamole (with green grapes and ripe peach or red raspberry)

Fruit in Guacamole! I don't know about you but to me that sounds completely disgusting, like a toddler's kitchen experiment that I would pretend to eat and make encouraging sounds about.

But I've been wrong before (once I think) so I'm willing to suspend judgement almost completely until I try it.

ANYWAY. This recipe here has no fruit in it--it features tomatillos. What are tomatillos, you cry? They look like this:

Don't be afraid! They're like sort of sweet-tart tomatoes. More tart than sweet. Once you peel the husks off and rinse them (they're kind of sticky for some reason) you spread them on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven.

I forgot to take a post-charring-in-the-broiler pic but they get kind of soft and smooshy and cooked. Then you stir together onions, chilies, cilantro, salt and pepper with the charred tomatillos, and here's problem number one: skins of the tomatillos don't really mush, do they? I had to do a lot of tomatillo-skin extracting.

Then you peel and chunk the avocados, throw them in the mix, and mira! Charred Tomatillo Guacamole.

How was it? Well, it has avocados in it so of course it was freakin AWESOME, but aside from that it was a bit watery from the tomatillos. My suggestion, if you're going to branch out from good old Guac into tomatillo territory is to peel the skins after charring and before smooshing (they should slip off easily), and then to drain the tomatillos in a fine mesh sieve before adding them in. Easy fixes, but I'm surprised they didn't get caught before the recipe was included in the book.

Gracias to Mexican Foodie for tomatillo pic!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jicama and Cucumber Chile Spears

If you're looking for a summer appetizer that is refreshing, dead simple and will fit into anybody's diet, here it is. The only problem you might potentially have is locating jicama, but that will only be if you're like at a campground or something, at the mercy of one of those campground stores. Well, the other problem might be that you've never HAD jicama and you're a naturally suspicious person, but if you haven't and you are, don't be afraid! Jicama is cool and crunchy and little bit sweet. It's DELICIOUS and you'll love it. It's even white, so there's no off-putting vegetabley color to deal with, like green or orange! Go on, give it a try.

Jicama and Cucumber Chili Spears take a mere 10 minutes--just toss your vegetable spears in a bowl with fresh lime juice, chili powder, a pinch of cayenne and salt. Done! It takes even LESS time if you can get somebody else to cut up the spears and mix them for you, like one of those college or high school students hanging around the house doing hardly anything productive. Just make sure they take off the peel on the jicama.

Helpful hint! I'm willing to bet, unless you live in Texas, that your chili powder is WAY PAST its freshness window. Do yourself a flavor favor--toss it and replace with a fresh bottle. Come on, don't be cheap--would you eat stale crackers just because you want to get your money's worth? Well, maybe you would and in that case just hang on to your stale chili powder too--everybody else, get a new bottle and ENJOY.