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Thus when I got the chance to review Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise, I eagerly accepted. There is a lot to like about this celebration of American cuisine, but it wasn't a huge hit in my kitchen.
Hoffman and Wise got together to write a tribute to the vast range of flavors found in American cooking. Those of us in the Western Hemisphere are blessed with wonderful native ingredients, such as squash, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and turkey. And our menus are also influenced by the diverse people who have made North America their home. Thus many of us have no problem serving gyros one night, tacos the next, and sushi on the third.
That's what Bold is all about, and the range of recipes give us everything from Tandoori-Style Beer-Can Chicken to Chickpea Cakes with Tomato and Sesame Seed Topping to California Pork Rolls. In addition the book is brimming with fantastic sidebars, which provide useful and fascinating information about ingredients, techniques, history, and foodie locations. This cookbook will quickly become a favored resource for curious cooks.
Unfortunately, I was less impressed with the actual finished dishes. Let me reassure you, that the recipes work. They are well edited and the directions are clear. You shouldn't hesitate to tackle any dish in Bold. My problem was that I felt the recipes did not deliver on their promise of "big flavors." The recipes I tried were good. We liked them. But we didn't feel that the flavors were . . . well, bold.
I made several dishes, such as a fish chowder, a chicken mole, and a skillet corn bread. I'm usually an excellent judge of a recipe before I've even begun to make the shopping list. These recipes looked really good to me, but the results were only ordinary. Let me reiterate that the recipes worked and were easy to follow. It's just that I expected more of a wow reaction from a cookbook titled Bold.
You should be aware that we at Beth Fish Reads like our food nicely seasoned and probably more bold than the average American. So please be sure to try a recipe or two yourself before taking my word for it. On the other hand, if you love your herbs and spices (and I don't just mean hot, here), you might want to check Bold out of the library before buying. At the same time, I love the information in the book and will likely continue to cook out of it, especially for my friends and family who like their food a little more neutral.
Skillet Corn Bread
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup water
- pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or peanut oil
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, egg, milk, water, and salt in a large bowl.
Heat the oil in a 9-inch cast-iron or other stovetop to oven skillet over high heat. Pour in the corn bread batter and cook until beginning to brown on the bottom, 5 minutes. Cover the skillet and transfer it to the oven. Cook until a knife inserted in the middle comes out almost clean, with a little moist batter still clinging, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly before cutting.
Source: Review (see review policy)
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