14 July 2012

Weekend Cooking: Chef Michael Smith's Kitchen

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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 feature that home cooks will appreciate is that every recipe is accompanied by one or two "Kitchen Tips." These tips are sometimes general (why you should roast certain spices), some are specific to the recipe (how to roll up rice paper packets), and some offer variation suggestions. In all cases, the tips are helpful and informative.

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
For the Tuna Salad
  • 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
Preheat your oven to 400F (200C).

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
ISBN-13: 9780670066919
Rating: B+
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Chinoiseries 7/14/12, 6:11 AM  

How rare to find a cookbook that is so accessible to anyone in the world! Also, a photo for every recipe? That is remarkable. Is he well known outside of the US? Haven't heard of him before... the crostini recipe sounds delicious. If only the bf didn't hate tuna and olives... I'm sure he'd enjoyed it on a lovely summer evening :) And perhaps you could dedicate another Weekend Cooking post to the Corn Cakes with Avocado Cilantro Salsa? Sounds delish!

bermudaonion 7/14/12, 6:52 AM  

I bet those were a big hit and, except for the patience, they look fairly easy to fix too.

Rebecca 7/14/12, 6:53 AM  

Thanks for introducing your readers to Chef Michael Smith. I had not heard of him prior. This looks like a great cookbook and the tuna crostini looks delicious!
Happy Reading (and Cooking)!
Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/14/12, 7:04 AM  

I reviewed this book a few weeks ago, and I liked it too. I agree that the layout is so clean, and there are so many recipes I want to try. ( I have dozens of post-it notes in the book.)

I made the Buffalo "Wing" Salad with Spicy Chicken Chunks and Spicy Blue Cheese Dressing for my family and we all enjoyed it.

This is one book I will use frequently.

Beth S. 7/14/12, 7:46 AM  

This book sounds fabulous! I love that there's a picture for each dish and I also love his philosophy. Definitely need to check this one out!

caite 7/14/12, 8:02 AM  

oh, those corn cakes sound good...I love corn...and cilantro....wonder if that is online anywhere..

Anglers Rest 7/14/12, 8:03 AM  

I have never heard of this chap before, but this review and the comments make me want to locate the book.

Libby 7/14/12, 8:12 AM  

I am not familiar with Michael Smith; actually great idea for the new imprint - bringing us Canadian chefs! This seems like a great recipe for summer, and one for which you could create your own variations. BTW, your photo looks great!

Amanda 7/14/12, 8:20 AM  

Wow that recipe sounds soooo yummy!

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 7/14/12, 8:30 AM  

Great review! The crostini looks delicious. I'm looking forward to this one, I have another of his cookbooks that I really enjoy. His shows were on cable but I switched companies and can't get it. Love him!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 7/14/12, 8:30 AM  

I've never heard of this cookbook author, but I am intrigued with his philosophy. And this dish...well, I must try it for dinner tomorrow!

Thank you for this great sharing of cookbooks and recipes and food ideas here at Weekend Cooking. Here's my first ever
Weekend Cooking: Paris in July.
Hope you will stop by!

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 7/14/12, 8:33 AM  

I noticed I screwed up again and the link is correct, to Soba Noodle salad, not sweet and sour meatballs. Sorry!

jama 7/14/12, 9:33 AM  

Nice to hear of a new-to-me chef. Those tuna crostini look delicious. Perfect summer meal :).

rhapsodyinbooks 7/14/12, 11:14 AM  

LOL - I'm never patient when I cook or bake - but of course how else would I have ever discovered the joys of raw dough?!!! LOL

Heather @girlichef.com 7/14/12, 11:26 AM  

I have a Canadian friend who LOVES Michael Smith...she's always telling me to check out his stuff. I'm going to try to find this book...so I can tell her I've finally spent some time with him!

Linda 7/14/12, 11:34 AM  

Yum. Looks delicious!

Carole 7/14/12, 5:01 PM  

thanks for telling me about this cookbook. Love tuna salad. I have linked in fried chicken and this week's Food on Friday which is on meatballs.

Heather 7/14/12, 5:59 PM  

I've watched Michaels cooking shows for a few years now. He has a casual style which encourages me to feel that I could successfully make his recipes. Heist is the only cooking show that my father watches, so I am assuming that he'll also appeal to the male cooks or cook wanna bes in your family.

I'm on vacation this week, but am planning a fun post for next week with some comments on my kiwi food experiences.

Julie P. 7/14/12, 7:25 PM  

I have this one too and plan on digging into it after we get back from the shore!

1girl2manybooks 7/14/12, 8:07 PM  

Ooh I love him! I used to watch his cooking show all the time a couple of years ago....Chef at Home I think it was. He was always cooking food for his little boy and making it so easy to pack it full of good stuff but still be something kids would love to actually eat. I'm going to have to look for this book! Thanks for sharing :)

Uniflame 7/15/12, 4:04 AM  

This book does sound great :) Crostinis are on to try list for a long time now.

Joy Weese Moll 7/15/12, 9:46 AM  

Michael Smith is a new chef to me. I just checked out his website, too -- what fun! Thanks for introducing us!

Cecelia 7/15/12, 1:23 PM  

Corncakes with Avocado Cilantro Salsa? Sounds divine. I like to play with side dishes when I entertain, because that is one thing that I won't feel terrible about if it doesn't turn out perfect. I'll be looking for this cookbook the next time I go to the bookstore.

Thanks for the heads-up on the new Pintail imprint, too!

Chrisbookarama 7/15/12, 10:33 PM  

I LOVE Michael Smith! He's from my part of the world too. I've been watching his show for years. He uses a lot of homemade vanilla in everything!

Daryl Edelstein 7/16/12, 10:52 AM  

After a weekend that seemed to be all about eating ... I can honestly offer a blog that is more than just words about food ... but first you must step over and through the fix up portion ..

PuggiePies 8/8/12, 5:38 PM  

Hello! I am new to blogging and creating my very first blog about food with monthly themes! I find this blog very inspiring! I look forward to reading it often!! I love the idea of weekly cooking and hope I can participate soon!

thank you,


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