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Did you know Penguin USA has a new imprint? Pintail is dedicated to bringing the best of Penguin Canada to the attention of U.S. readers. Among the first season of Pintail books is Chef Michael Smith's Kitchen: 100 of My Favourite Easy Recipes.
I was not familiar with Michael Smith, a popular chef in Canada, but based on his cookbook, I can tell I'll be keeping an eye on him. As the subtitle of the cookbook says, the recipes are indeed easy and will appeal to a wide range of cooks.
In his introduction, Chef Michael shares his philosophy of food. Food, he says, is for sharing, creating, and exploring. In addition, food should be fun and personal. I love the way he cooks, probably because it's the way I do. I also like his easygoing style:
My goal is not for you to precisely duplicate how I might cook a dish but to share my ideas and insight so you can confidently create you own version of a dish. Your food doesn't have to look or taste like mine to succeed. (p. vii)How freeing is that?
Here some things I really like about Chef Michael Smith's Kitchen:
- The directions are clear and easy to follow.
- There is a beautiful, full-page photo of each completed dish.
- The book design is clean, making the book easy to cook from.
- The recipes cover a world of flavors to fit each season and mood.
- The measurements and temperatures are given in Imperial units and metric, so the recipes are accessible to cooks outside of the United States.
One thing that surprised me was how inventive, yet simple the side dish recipes are. I admit that I rarely use a cookbook when it comes to vegetables and sides, but Chef Michael cooks up some great dishes. For example, I can't wait to try the Corn Cakes with Avocado Cilantro Salsa. Corn season is here and the cilantro is ready to be picked. A winter side that could probably work as a main dish too is the Smoked Salmon Stuffed Potatoes. Kind of like twice-baked potatoes with lox and cream cheese. Yum.
One recent evening, we had neighbors over for a late afternoon gathering. I served Chef Michael's tuna crostinis. They were a big hit.
Garlic-Rubbed Crostini with Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Serves 6 to 8
For the Crostini
- 1 baguette, cut diagonally into 16 or so ½-inch (1 cm) thick slices
- ¼ cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Dijon mustard
- 2 cans (each 6½ ounces/184 g) tuna
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup (125 mL) chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
- 1 tablespoon (15 ML) drained capers
- Pinch or two of salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
- 12 large basil leaves
To make the crostini, arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Lightly brush each one with olive oil. Season with pepper to your taste. Bake, turning the tray once, until golden brown and toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub each crostini vigorously with the cut side of the garlic clove.
To make the tuna salad, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and mustard. Add the tuna, juice and all, breaking it into flakes with a fork. Toss in the green onions olives, and capers. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Toss everything together. Spoon the mixture onto the crisp crostini. Stack the basil leaves with the biggest leaves on the bottom, then roll them into a tight cigar shape. Slice into thin threads and sprinkle them over the crostini. Serve and share!
Kitchen Tip: One of the keys to great crostini is taking the time to thoroughly brown them. They're at their best when they're entirely golden brown--not just along the edges. Your patience will be rewarded with lots of toasted flavour and a crispy base that's easy to hold.
From BFR: If you look at my photo, you will see I wasn't patient . . . but the crostini were still delicious.
Buy Chef Michael Smith's Kitchen at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by Penguin USA / Pintail, 2012
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)