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    The Best Recipes in the World

    I’ll admit it — one of the better things about having a food blog is the various people sending me their books to plug. As an admitted book fiend, it was difficult for me to come to terms with receiving these books and still maintain a fair amount of “ethical objectivity” that us bloggers are said to be required to maintain.

    I’ve gotten over that little hump. I will gladly accept free books. I just can’t promise to read them all, let alone give them reviews.

    This leads me to Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World, a book that showed up on my doorstep late last week. It’s also a book that’s been getting a fair amount of play on other food blogs, so don’t be afraid to get other opinions about this cookbook aside from my own.

    From my own perspective, a cookbook should intially accomplish one thing: Get a person off of their couch and into the kitchen.

    Cookbook publishers would disagree with me, because to them, a cookbook should make money. Some cookbook authors would also disagree with my statement, because to them, a cookbook should serve to promote the author of the cookbook — or in some cases, the author’s restaurant. But to me, a cookbook unused is like an unread book in that it’s not fulfilling it’s potential. If a cookbook is unable to get you into the kitchen, it’s not really worth owning.

    Luckily for Mr. Bittman, his new release passes this test. Looking through the book made me want to cook. Part of it was the sheer number of recipes, and how thorough he was in ensuring that all continents were covered including Africa, a continent often forgotten when people talk about cuisines of the world. Another reason the cookbook motivated myself was that Mr. Bittman writes in an easy style, readily accessible to those who may be intimidated by their oven. In looking over the book, it was apparent that he is aiming this book at those who are frustrated by the intricacies of “The Joy of Cooking” and other similar cookbooks.

    But there are some flaws to this book. As others have noted, he seems to pick and choose which recipes are entitled with how they are known in their native land, while others are entitled with either an English translation or simply the ingredients within the dish. It would have been more engaging to carry both variations of titles on the recipe.

    The other flaw found in the book was discovered by chance. In the initial recipe that I had picked to recreate in my kitchen, the recipe missed a small, but I believe crucial, step. When such an error is discovered in a cookbook, it makes it difficult to approach other recipes within it without a fair amount of suspicion. I’m quite willing to concede that it may have been a simple mistake that occurs time to time in publications, but it will affect my future use of the cookbook.

    Which leads to the second goal of a cookbook — to be used often enough to be considered a reference book. I think that this is where “The Best Recipes in the World” will fall short. There are several other cookbooks in my collection which will always get the first look. It remains to be seen if this book will make it into that upper echelon of my collection. But in considering all of the above, I’m not sure that it will. Talk to me again in about 5 months or so.

    What this means is that this is a good cookbook, but not a great one. Mr. Bittman’s previous cookbook “How to Cook Everything” is a much better resource for the new chef. Once you’ve mastered the recipes in that book, there are better cookbooks out there for foreign cuisines.

    Technorati Tags: food, cookbooks, book reviews


    Once again, the headlines write themselves

    Now it’s time for one of my favorite features here at the Hedonist – Two different news stories that are somewhat related.

    From one news source…

    Hunger In America Rises By 43 Percent Over Last Five Years

    And from another,

    House panel votes $844 mln cut in food stamps

    I believe you can draw your own conclusion.

    Technorati Tags: Food, Food Politics, Food Stamps, Hunger


    Chilaquiles

    *sigh*

    I’m not hitting very well on my recipes of late. Twice now, when reading a recipe, I’ve made a statement to myself along the lines of “well that doesn’t sound right”. Then I’ll sally forth without listening to my own instincts.

    This recipe is based off of one in Mark Bittman’s new cookbook The Best Recipes in the World. There are several items in the recipe that I had made my own adjustments to, and then one critical step which I did exactly what the recipe called for. I’ve fixed the faux pas in the recipe below.

    His initial recipe does not call for tempering the eggs before putting them into the tomato sauce. Like a fool, I did not adjust, thinking that the recipe knew best in this instance. I was wrong.

    The taste of the dish, however, is still pretty good. Tara and I sat through dinner thinking of all of the different ingredients that would add to this dish. Shredded turkey, spinach, black beans and ham were all individually mentioned. Thinking on it now, any ingredient which can be put into an ommellette, can be put in this dish. What I’m trying to get at here is that, although this recipe can stand on its own, it should also be considered a basis for other recipes.

    • 15 five inch corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips
    • Corn oil
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 6 serrano chilis, seeded, destemmed and minced
    • 2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
    • 2 cups of chicken stock
    • Salt and Pepper, to taste
    • 4 eggs, beaten
    • 2 1/2 cups queso asadero (Chihuahua or Menonita can also be used)
    • 1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
    • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves(optional)

    Place a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 inch of corn oil to the skillet. Bring to temperature.

    Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    When the oil is hot, add a handful of the tortilla strips and allow to fry until golden and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips until all have been fried. Set aside.

    Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the oil. Then set the heat under the skillet to medium high. Add the onions, garlic and chilis to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Drain any excess water from the skillet, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the temperature beneath the sauce to a simmer and allow to cook until thickened , approximately 20-25 minutes.

    In a seperate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs. After the tomato sauce has completed cooking, take 1/8 cup of the sauce and slowly mix it into eggs. Whisk together well. Then pour the egg mixture into the tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper and stir.

    Coat a 3-quart pyrex baking pan with a layer of the tomato sauce. Top with a layer of tortilla chips, and the a layer of cheese. Repeat this tomato-chip-cheese layering, ending with the sauce and cheese.

    Cover the baking dish with foil and place into the oven. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool and set, approximately 5-7 minutes. Cut into squares and serve, topping with sour cream and cilantro to garnish.

    Serves 6
    Technorati Tags: food, recipes, chilaquiles


    Amaretto-Orange Pancakes

    Amaretto-Orange Pancakes

    For me, Sundays in Seattle are one of my many simple pleasures. Sleeping in, almost always a luxury the rest of the week, is performed almost as a ritual. After waking up, the only decision that has to be made is “Do we eat in, or do we brunch?”

    I typically fall on the side of the “brunch” answer in this debate. But this being Seattle — and more specifically downtown Seattle, the places that serve moderate to great brunches are often quite crowded. Especially on Sundays that fall after celebrations of one sort or another. Last night being semi-officially “Halloween” amongst the adult crowd, meant that these places would be packed with people either wanting to continue last nights festvities, or too hungover to feasibly cook for themselves.

    So today, we ate in.

    In a bit of inspiration, we decided to spruce up the fairly straightforward pancake recipe, and make it a little more exotic. Using amaretto and an organic Valencia orange, breakfast turned out quite well.

    And yes, there are two tablespoons of butter in the picture. I didn’t say we ate healthy, just that we ate well.

    • 2 cups AP Flour
    • 2 Tbsp. sugar
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • Pinch of nutmeg
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 1/4 cup amaretto
    • Juice of one orange
    • 1 Tbsp. grated Orange rind
    • 8 Tbsp. butter, melted

    In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

    In a seperate medium to large mixing bowls, beat the eggs until almost frothy. Add the milk, amaretto and the orange juice. Mix well. Add the liquids into the flour mixture and whisk together until you get batter consistency. Add the 4 tbsp. of melted butter and the grated orange rind and mix in well.

    Take a skillet and place it over medium heat. Grease the skillet with the remaining melted butter. Once up to temperature, ladle 1/3rd cup of the batter into the skillet. Fit as many pancakes as you can into your skillet, ensuring that there is at least 1/2″ between the pancakes as well as the side of the skillet. Cok until the bottoms are golden and the top start to bubble (about 2-3 minutes). Flip and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, ensuring the bottoms are golden and centers are cooked through. Repeat process as necessary, until the batter has been used in its entirity. Feel free to use more butter in the skillet if needed.

    Make 12-14 pancakes, serves 4

    Technorati Tags: food, recipes, pancakes


    Digital Dish v,2 – Attention Food Bloggers

    About a year ago, I was approached, via e-mail, by Owen at Tomatilla. I was asked to submit a post or two to his new publication; a book called Digital Dish. It was a wonderful experience, and I ended up impressing my mother as I had now been published in a book — as opposed to the unknown magazines and zines that had carried my writing in my non-food writing days.

    Owen is back, and is asking around, seeing if people are interested in his next volume of food blogs posts smushed together into one book. As Owen writes:

    I am asking for food bloggers to let me know via the email at the publishing company contact page, or in other words, at i n f o @ p r e s s f o r c h a n g e . c o m if they are interested in being considered for inclusion. Don’t send submissions – just let me know that you are interested and the URL to your blog. Please don’t nominate other people – instead let them know about it and make the decision for themselves!

    It’s a great experience and Owen would love to hear from you.

    Technorati Tags: Food, Food Blogs, writing, Digital Dish


    Chile Verde (Chile Stew)

    Chile Verde

    This looked better on paper than in reality. That’s the way it goes from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good recipe. Just not a great one. Being a stew, I expect it to be better over the next few days as the broth mingles with the spices and meat.

    You can easily replace the lamb with pork. Both will work equally well.

    Also, in order to roast the chiles, place them under a hot broiler, 5 minutes per side. Remove the skin and they should be ready to use.

    • 5 Medium Poblano Chiles, roasted
    • 3 lb Lamb, Boneless Shoulder
    • 1 Large Onion, Chopped, 1 Large
    • 4 Cloves Garlic,Finely Chopped
    • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
    • 2 cup Chicken Broth
    • 1 tsp Salt
    • 1 tsp Juniper Berries,Crushed, Dry
    • 3/4 tsp black Pepper
    • 1 tsp Unbleached Flour
    • 1/4 cup Water
    • 1/8 cup lemon juice

    Take 2 of the 5 chiles and mince well. You should remove the seeds, but it won’t kill you to have them in the mix. The remaining chiles you can chop into 1/2″ strips.

    Cut the lamb into 1-inch cubes. Cook and stir lamb, onion and garlic in oil in 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat until lamb is no longer pink. Drain the oil and water from the pot. Add the broth, salt, minced chiles, juniper berries and pepper to the pot. Heat to boiling; and then reduce heat to a simmer, cooking for an hour or so.

    In a small bowl, whisk together flour with warm water; stir into lamb stew. Raise the heat to medium. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in sliced chiles and lemon juice.

    Serves 4

    Technorati Tags: Food, Recipe, Chile, Chile Verde, stew


    Tasting Notes: Pallini Limoncello

    I’m amazed at how much people seem to like the tasting notes. What is essentially a personal diary of new tasting experiences has seemed to connect with a few people. I find that very cool.

    At any rate, one night I try a healthy fruit that I’ve never tasted before; the next night, new booze. It comes recommended by texmex. Limoncello is a lemon Italian liqueur, and I find it quite tasty.

    Eyes: A bright yellow, which is very peculiar for booze. A quick swirl shows that it’s a little more viscous than most liqueurs I’m used to.

    Nose: Sweet and citrusy.

    Taste: Do you remember Lemonheads? There were two distinct tastes: The sugary-lemon bit, and then the tarty-lemon bit. Limoncello tastes like the sugary-lemon bit…with alcohol.

    Overall: Count me a fan of this drink. It’s a bit sweet for some, but that means I can find uses for it in various pastries and the like.