25 May 2013

Weekend Cooking: Eat St. by James Cunningham

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First off, I have to admit that I hadn't heard of James Cunningham or his Eat St. Cooking Channel television series before I saw this cookbook. Thanks to Cunningham's stand-up comedian background, I bet the show is hoot. Besides, who can resist the aromas and sights of fun, tasty street food?

Eat St. is the companion cookbook to the television show, featuring more than a hundred recipes from food trucks and food carts throughout the United States and Canada (and even a few from the UK). Although warmer climates and bigger cities are the best represented, Cunningham doesn't ignore the little guys.

I love the colorful, clean design of Eat St. and its fun, appetite-inducing photographs of the finished dishes. I also like the behind-the-scenes spotlight included with each recipe. Some of these sidebars feature the hardworking cooks; others tell us a story about the menu, the inspiration behind the flavors, or a history of the food truck.

The book is organized by types of food, such as snacks, wraps, burgers, and desserts. As you can imagine, there are quite a few recipes that call for deep-frying. But what I wasn't expecting was how many recipes (especially in the snack chapter) would call for prepared ingredients, like refrigerator biscuit dough, frozen potato nuggets, and canned fruits.

It's always a challenge to convert recipes scaled for restaurant service and relying on professional equipment for use in a typical home kitchen. In Eat St., the most successful dishes for the home cook, well for the way I usually cook at home, are the pizzas, sandwiches, soups, and salads. For example, there is a slow cooker pulled pork sandwich that I definitely plan on making this summer, and we loved the lamb sausage on greens salad, which I found easy to make. And, although my homemade pizza crust is a winner, I can't wait to try some of the variations given in the cookbook.

Unfortunately, I found the overall feel of the recipes to be uneven. Some didn't provide directions for major components of the finished dish. For example, a nacho recipe calls for prepared chili, but there is no recipe for that chili, making it impossible to replicate the original dish at home. Yet (proving that I'm hard to please), other recipes, like one for spicy chicken in a cone, consist of seven subrecipes! Yes, most of those subrecipes are for spice mixes and toppings, but I'm likely to flip on by that dish for something a little more time efficient.

Fans of the television show and of Cunningham will love this cookbook as will those of you who are lucky enough to live in a city with an abundance of food-truck dining. If you are planning a trip to southern California, New Orleans, or Vancouver, BC (among other cities), you should definitely take a look at Eat St. before you leave home; you wouldn't want to miss out on some of the tastiest quick meals around.

Late-Summer Harvest Salad
Purple Carrot in Lansing, Michigan
Serves 4

Sherry-Maple Vinaigrette
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper
Salad
  • 2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups watermelon balls
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 2 Honeycrisp or Fuji apples, julienned
  • Smoked salt or other coarse sea salt
For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl (or jar), combine all ingredients. Whisk (or shake jar) until emulsified.

For the salad, in a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, watermelon, cheese, and nuts with vinaigrette to taste. Serve topped with the apples and smoked salt.

Buy Eat St. at an Indie or other bookstore near you.
Penguin USA / Pintail, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780143187486
Rating: B-
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com


18 comments:

caite 5/25/13, 6:47 AM  

you had me at the slow cooker pulled pork...but may have lost me at the seven sub-recipes.
Seven?
Really?
No...

Tina 5/25/13, 6:55 AM  

Oh cool, we both had a recipe with cherry tomatoes and feta!
We don't have TV feed so I never saw the show. Too bad the recipes don't always include key links or ingredients....such as the nachos you mentioned. Grrr

Trish 5/25/13, 7:54 AM  

Seven subrecipes? Eeeep! I'm likely to skip a recipe if it has two parts (unless one is frosting...mmmmm). Other than hotdog stands in NYC and Boston and various vendors elsewhere, I haven't eaten a ton of street food. Our work building is going through major renovations which require the basement cafe to close for 2 months. The building owners have agreed to bring in food trucks for lunch, and while I bring my lunch most days I'm excited about my first experience.

Andi 5/25/13, 8:32 AM  

The recipes sound yummy, but that would irk me too (use chili, no chili recipe). My post will be coming shortly!

Shannon (Giraffe Days) 5/25/13, 8:39 AM  

I have to say that this kind of food has never really appealed to me, but then I've never really eaten it (and my husband doesn't eat beef or pork and that really limits what we can make). The things that frustrated or disappointed you with this book would bother me, too.

(I got here early enough that I can see my link, but I still only ever see the first seven links on your blog, Beth. It's very bizarre. I don't have that issue with Mister Linky anywhere else - and I use it myself!)

Uniflame 5/25/13, 8:39 AM  

Hmm... even though the book sounds fun, I think I will skip it ;)

Beth F 5/25/13, 8:48 AM  

Shannon - I wish I knew why my blog gives you so much trouble. :((

JoAnn 5/25/13, 9:10 AM  

The pulled pork recipe sounds good to me... that's about the only thing I make in my slow cooker during the summer. Wish I had more time for the Cooking Channel.

Christine 5/25/13, 9:33 AM  

I've borrowed street food cookbooks from the library before and interestingly, I've found the same shortcomings! The photos and anecdotes about the food carts are great, but then the recipes always feel so incomplete or lacking something.. maybe it's that the food really isn't that special after all since like you said.. they use so much packaged/prepared food in their recipes. Ew.

bermudaonion 5/25/13, 10:43 AM  

I've never even heard of the show let alone seen it. The recipe you cited sounds delicious - too bad the book is uneven overall.

Sandy Nawrot 5/25/13, 11:01 AM  

Oooh LOVE slow cooker pulled pork!!! If only I had my slow cooker, but don't get me started! I've not heard anything about this show, but we do love our food trucks so it certainly sounds appealing (except for the seven sub-recipes...)

Laura Fabiani 5/25/13, 11:16 AM  

I have a friend of mine who wants to start the food truck business but with organic healthy food, rather than the deep-fried usual fare.

Carole 5/25/13, 3:59 PM  

Watermelon in the salad - great!

Beth Hoffman 5/26/13, 10:34 AM  

Thank you for sharing the salad recipe. I love salads and will look forward to making this one!

Vasilly 5/26/13, 10:54 AM  

Spicy chicken in a cone?! This book reminds me of the other Truck Food Cookbook. I think I'll add this to my tbr list. I'm curious about the lamb sausage.

(Diane) bookchickdi 5/26/13, 2:22 PM  

I love all the food trucks in NYC, and the Food Truck Tour I took last year near Wall Street was so much fun. I missed the food trucks when I was in New Orleans, darn it.

Gilion Dumas 5/27/13, 1:34 PM  

Sometimes think Portland's economy is based on food carts, so I wonder if there he has featured the Rose City on his show.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 6/1/13, 8:41 AM  

There is something so lovely and spontaneous about the food from carts. Must seek out this book.

Here's my Weekend Cooking post.

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