22 January 2022

Weekend Cooking: Milk Street Vegetables by Christopher Kimball

Cover of the cookbook Milk Street Vegetables by Christopher KimballDo you ever get tired of cooking your vegetables in the same old way? After all, what's easier and more reliable than roasting veggies in the oven or air fryer?

I can't say I'm tired of roasting my vegetables, but I love learning new methods and trying new recipes. When Voracious Books offered me a copy of Milk Street: Vegetables as part of their Voracious Ambassadors program, I jumped at the chance to explore the cookbook. First, I have all the faith in Christopher Kimball and Milk Street recipes. Second, I don't think I've ever met a vegetable I didn't like when cooked properly. Finally, I was ready to learn some new tricks.

Now that the holidays are well behind us and the temperatures are plummeting (the wind chill this morning was -6F), I'm all about spending time in the kitchen, and Milk Street: Vegetables has been keeping me company. The recipes are arranged loosely by course (appetizers, soups, mains) or technique (stir-fries, oven-baked), but the principal way I've navigated the cookbook is via the indexes, especially the one that lists recipes by the main vegetable. I think the best way to talk about this hefty cookbook is go through the pros and cons.

Photo of a green bean dish from Milk Street Vegetables by Christopher KimballHere's what I really like about Milk Street: Vegetables. I can't say enough about the variety of flavors found throughout the book. The dishes are truly global. Besides the the familiar Western cuisines, we find Asian-, African-, and Mideast-inspired recipes. I also appreciate the tips and advice that accompany almost every recipe. Cooks learn why a particular technique is called for, how to avoid overcooking the main vegetable, when to taste for seasoning, and how to choose and prepare less-common ingredients. What's more, each recipe introduction tells us the inspiration behind the dish, serving tips, acceptable substitutions, and other good information.

The photos here show the Green Beans with Mushrooms and Sherry Vinaigrette and Braised Chickpeas and Spinach with Smoked Paprika and Garlic. Both photos were taken in progress and not just before serving. I also made Hoisin Broccoli and Tofu Traybake, Soy-Glazed Braised Brussels Spouts, and several of the salads. Tonight I'm making Roasted Acorn Squash with Orange-Herb Salad. All the recipes were easy to follow and the dishes were delicious, especially those chickpeas (you can check out the recipe over at Edible Communities).

A chickpea dish from Milk Street Vegetables by Christopher KimballThroughout Milk Street: Vegetables, you'll find features that spotlight a single vegetable. Here we learn more information about the ingredient as well as how each vegetable is usually served around the world. For example, the eggplant feature tells us how the vegetable (really a fruit) is cooked in Cairo, Ho Chi Minh City, Naples, and India. If the cookbook includes a recipe for any of these dishes, you'll find a cross-reference to Milk Street's version.

Now for the cons. First, some of the recipes have appeared in other Milk Street cookbooks. For example, that chickpea recipe was also in their Tuesday Nights cookbook. My second issue is that some of the recipes are fairly involved or require attention, which means it can be difficult for a single cook to juggle the vegetable side while also making the main dish. The results (at least in my experience) are worth the trouble, but it's something to keep in mind. Sometimes that 30-minute estimated cooking time is hands off, but other times, you're stirring, prepping the next step, or are otherwise involved.

Recommendation: With Milk Street: Vegetables by Christopher Kimball in your kitchen, you'll be serving up all kinds of tasty vegetarian dishes that pack a ton of flavor. You can't go wrong with this cookbook, whether you buy it or borrow it from the library. If you're eating vegan or gluten free, you'll find many recipes to suit your diet; just be sure to read through the list of ingredients first.

Here's a recipe I haven't tried yet, but it's on my list.

Broccoli with Scallions, Miso and Orange
A broccoli dish from Milk Street: Vegetarian by Christopher Kimball4 servings
Time: 25 minutes total

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or salted butter
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens reserved separately
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white miso or red miso
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, plus more to serve
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds broccoli, stems sliced 1/2 inch thick and florets cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
Don't forget to reserve the scallion whites and greens separately, as they're added at different times. The whites are sauteed before the broccoli is added to the pot; the greens go in at the end.

In a large Dutch oven, combine the olive oil and scallion whites. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add 1 1/4 cups water, the miso, sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the miso, then stir in the broccoli. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp, about 7 minutes.

Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture evaporates and the broccoli begins to sizzle, about 4 minutes. Off heat, stir in the orange zest and juice along with the scallion greens, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with additional sesame oil.

Optional garnish: toasted sesame seeds or Siraracha or both.

Note: The scan of the broccoli dish and the recipe are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. Two photos are my own.

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15 January 2022

Weekend Cooking: Good Reading, Good Food--4 Books

I doubt I’m the only one among us who enjoys reading cookbooks almost as much as I like cooking from them. Today’s post is about two cookbooks that fit this description and two novels that I picked up because they have a food element in the plot. Some worked better for me than others, and I hope at least one will be a good match for you.

Book cover of Gastro Obscura by Cecily Wong and Dylan ThurasFirst up is Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras (Workman). Like our Weekend Cooking host, Marg, I was gifted a copy of this for Christmas. I haven’t had time to really get into it, but I thought I’d share my initial thoughts. I know Marg will be talking about this book too.

The best way to describe Gastro Obscura is to quote the introduction:

This book is more than a menu of food worth tasting—it’s a collection of forgotten histories and endangered traditions, obscure experiences, culinary ingenuity, and edible wonders.
The entries cover the entire globe, allowing us to virtually visit more than 120 countries and to learn about all kinds of obscure, traditional, trendy, and famous food traditions and dishes. For example, one entry takes us into the ancient Persian ice houses in Yakhchals, Iran. Another is all about how to try an Australian Tim Tam Slam (a subject Marg wrote about a while back).

The book is well illustrated with drawings, maps, and photos and includes quite a number of recipes. Gastro Obscura is a book to dip into when the mood hits or as you’re planning your next travel adventure.

Book Cover for Field Notes for Food Adventures by Brad LeoneI received Field Notes for Food Adventure by Brad Leone from Voracious Books as part of their Ambassador Program. The subtitle is “Recipes and Stories from the Woods to the Ocean.” Leone takes us along on a year of outdoor and food adventures set mostly in the U.S. Northeast woods and along the waterways and coast.

The thirteen chapters are arranged by principal ingredient and largely follow the seasons, starting in late winter and spring with maple and wild ramps; moving into the summer with a pool party, shellfish, and trout; and heading back into the cooler months with mushrooms, venison, and hearty meat-forward dinners. Vegetarians should note that most of the recipes and chapters are centered on seafood or meat.

The book is illustrated with family photos, and each section includes a personal story and each recipe is accompanied by Leone’s notes and tips. Many of the fish and seafood recipes aren’t quite doable for me, because of where I live, but the meat and vegetable dishes look really good, like maple pork tenderloin and tomato and bean salad.

I haven’t cooked out of Field Notes for Food Adventure yet, but I have a handful of recipes marked to try. Leone also has me dreaming of our next shore vacation.

Book cover of Much Ado About a Latte by Kathleen FullerI picked up Kathleen Fuller’s Much Ado About a Latte, which I received from the publisher (Thomas Nelson), based on the title. I’m not much of a romance reader but a good foodie story makes for great escape reading. This is a clean, fun story about Anita and Tanner who have been attracted to each other since high school, although they each think their feelings are not returned.

Tanner is the cook at the local diner, and Anita is a waitress. They are on friendly terms, but besides not sharing their deeper feelings, neither has revealed their long-term ambitions. So Tanner is surprised and shocked to find out Anita is planning to open a coffee shop next door to the diner he just secretly bought! Will being business rivals put an end to any romantic dreams?

Of course the plot is completely predictable, but the food references and the deeper themes of loyalty, friendship, family, and overcoming adversity make for an enjoyable read. Although this is the second entry in the Maple Falls series, Much Ado About a Latte reads like a standalone. No recipes are included in the book.

Book cover of Up to No Gouda by Linda ReillyI’ve often written about culinary cozy mysteries, and my latest read is Up to No Gouda by Linda Reilly, which I received from the publisher (Poisoned Pen Press). I’m not quite finished (a couple of chapters to go as of this writing), but I’ve really enjoyed this first in a new series.

Carly uses her late-husband’s life insurance money to open her dream restaurant in her small, quaint Vermont hometown. Open from lunch through dinner, the Grilled Cheese Eatery serves down-home and fancy variations of the iconic grilled cheese sandwich. The day after Carly learns her lease won’t be renewed, a dead body is discovered in the alley behind the restaurant.

Though Carly herself is not really considered to be a suspect, several people she knows, including one of her employees, are tagged by the local police. Of course, Carly gets involved in the investigation and doesn’t give up, even when she may be putting herself in danger.

This book has all the good elements of fun cozy series: quirky town characters, a well-plotted mystery, a likeable main character, a cute dog, and a budding romance. The book ends with several grilled cheese recipes and tips. By the time this post goes live, I will have learned if I was able to ID the killer before Carly did. If you’re into cozy culinary mysteries, give Up to No Gouda a try.

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08 January 2022

Weekend Cooking: Southern Living 2021 Annual Recipes

Book cover of Southern Living 2021 Annual RecipesYou've heard me rave about Southern Living recipes many times on this blog, so it should come as no surprise that I was excited to receive a review copy of Southern Living 2021 Annual Recipes from Abrams as part of the Abrams Dinner Party Review team.

This cookbook collects the entire year of recipes from the magazine and presents them with beautiful photographs along with tips, variations, and serving ideas. The cookbook is arranged by month, so you can pick recipes based on what's in season or by occasion, like burgers, peaches, and berries in the summer and soups, stews, and clementines in the winter. Features group recipes into suggested menus, such as a BBQ party that fuses traditional Korean flavors with Southern classics.

Though the Southern Living 2021 Annual is founded on the year's magazine issues, it offers several bonuses. The front of the book lists the readers' favorite recipes from each month, and throughout you'll find extra recipes shared by Southern Living readers and staff members. These are tried-and-true favorites and are presented with a personal story. Each month ends with a Southern Living "Cooking School" feature that presents a variety of trips and tricks from the magazine's test kitchen.

Photo of mini meatloaves and vegetables in a cast-iron skilletOne of my favorite chapters is December because it has a lot of party ideas and recipes for snacks, cookies and gifts. I appreciate that the chapter moves beyond Christmas to include some Hanukkah and Kawanzaa ideas. The other section I'll turn to often is found at the end of the Southern Living 2021 Annual: almost 20 pages of appetizer and nibble recipes--cold, hot, dips, snacky, elegant--something for almost every get-together.

I relied on this cookbook quite a bit over the last several weeks. As I expected, everything was delicious. The photos here show my versions of Red Rice, a dish with West Africa roots that can easily be made vegetarian; Chicken-and-Quinoa Salad with Pepper Jelly Dressing, which I made with farro because Mr. BFR is not a fan of quinoa (it was still really delicious); and Skillet Turkey Meatloaves with Mushroom Gravy, though my photo shows beef meatloaves and was taken before I added the gravy.

Poto of a chicken and grain saladI also made a half dozen other recipes, some vegetarian (a sheet pan lasagna) and some with meat (like flank steak). I served the beet and goat cheese dip for Christmas Eve dinner and a layered nacho-inspired dip for New Years Eve. I have many more recipes marked to try throughout the coming year. I'm sure the Southern Living 2021 Annual will be one of my go-to cookbooks.

Recommendation: Southern Living: 2021 Annual Recipes is for anyone looking for some new ideas for both everyday family cooking and for meals with friends, from summer cookouts to cozy winter evenings by the fire, from special occasions to casual Sunday brunch. Vegetarians will find a number of appropriate recipes. Gluten-free and vegan eaters will also find recipes, though the dishes aren't marked by diet preference.

Instead of recipe, I decided to share the following "Puff Pastry Pointers" from the cookbook. Note that many of Southern Living's recipes can be found on their website.
Photo of a rice and tomato casserole

  • Do defrost it. Thaw the frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator overnight or for 40 minutes at room temperature.
  • Do keep it cool. If the pastry starts to soften and turn limp, pop it back in the refrigerator to resolidify the butter. Keep unused sheets frozen or chilled.
  • Don't skip the flour. Generously flour the work surface and rolling pin to prevent the puff pastry from sticking and tearing.
  • Don't toss the scraps. Roll extra bits of pastry in cinnamon sugar, and bake it for a cook's treat. or roll in Parmesan cheese and black pepper for a savory snack.
  • Don't unfold puff pastry sheets until they are fully thawed and pliable. If the pastry is still a bit frozen, it will crack or tear.
Note: The tips are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photos are my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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18 December 2021

Weekend Cooking: The Regency Book of Drinks by Lady Thornwood

Book cover of The Regency Book of Drinks by Lady ThornwoodAre you a fan of the show or books Bridgerton? Do want something to tide you over until season 2 of the television show starts (sometime in 2022)? Do you want to prepare for a Bridgerton viewing party (even if the members of your household are the only guests)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have the book for you.

London ton incognito gossip Lady Thornwood takes us into the ballrooms, gentleman's clubs, parlors, and--dare we say--bedrooms of Regency society to introduce us to the era's libations and the dawn of the cocktail as we know it. Mixed drinks broadcast the host or hostess's status: only those with money and connections could obtain the variety of needed spirits, which were often distilled and brewed in faraway lands. In The Regency Book of Drinks: Quaffs, Quips, Tipples, & Tales from Grosvenor Square, Lady Thornwood tells all.

Photo of a cocktail from The Regency Book of Drinks by Lady ThornwoodThe book, which I received from Abrams as part of the Abrams Dinner Party review program, is much more than a fan spin-off of the popular novels and Netflix show. Lady Thornwood (Amy Finley) provides a short history of the different types of alcoholic drinks that were available during the Regency and offers up very doable and delicious cocktails to make at home. The general categories of drinks include cocktails with Champagne, punch bowls, daytime refreshments, seductive drinks, and even non-alcoholic mixes for the youngsters and those who otherwise choose to avoid getting tipsy. The dear lady even shares recipes for several syrups to perk up your drinks (like cinnamon syrup and ginger syrup).

The names of the cocktails are great fun--Advantageous Match (with Madeira), Reprehensible Rogue (a rye drink), and Debutante's Ruin (a punch), for example. Each drink is introduced by Lady Thornwood in a very Bridgerton style, making The Regency Book of Drinks as much fun to read as it is to use. I've included a scan of one of the gentleman's drinks, complete with Lady Thornwood's edits (you may have to click the image to enlarge it). The other scan is from the Champagne chapter and also gives you a feel for the style of the book.

Page from The Regency Book of Drinks by Lady Thornwood

A page from The Regency Book of Drinks by Lady Thornwood

Photo of a cocktail from The Regency Book of Drinks by Lady ThornwoodI made several of the cocktails, and Mr. BFR and I both really liked them. I made the Worthy Suitor, which calls for bubbly; the Lady's Maid, which combines sherry and gin (I garnished mine with a cucumber slice); The Lucky Mallet, which called for curacao (I had blue on hand, though orange was likely called for); and the Good Sir, made with rum and renamed by Lady Thornwood "Alleged Business." I'm looking forward to exploring more cocktails from The Regency Book of Drinks as well as the "innocent" drinks, like the Gently Bred Lady (citrus juice and tonic) and the Unimpeachable Virtue (flavorful syrups and seltzer).

Recommendation: The Regency Book of Drinks by Lady Thornwood would appeal to fans of the Bridgerton series or other Regency novels. Those interested in learning more about the era's drinks and the dawn of the cocktail would also like this book. It'd be great fun to serve one of the punches or the virgin cocktails at a book club meeting. Even if you don't drink or just don't make cocktails, I highly recommend checking The Regency Book of Drinks out from the library--it's so much fun to read.

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04 December 2021

Weekend Cooking: Two Cookbooks That Celebrate Traditional Flavors in a Modern World

Today I want to talk about two cookbooks I received because I'm a member of the Abrams Dinner Party reviewer-partner team. We're getting so close to the end of year (only three more Saturdays and one of those is Christmas!), and I'm running out of days to share all the new cookbooks.

The books I feature today go well together. Not because they share flavors but because they both focus on traditional cuisines that have been adapted to family kitchens through the generations and through changing cultural circumstances. Thanks to Abrams for sending me the review copies.

Cover of the cookbook Filipinx by Angela Dimayuga with Ligaya MishanThe first cookbook is Filipinx by Angela Dimayuga with Ligaya Mishan. As the introduction says, "this is personal cookbook," a family cookbook, not a cookbook meant to represent all Filipinos or Filipino American cuisine. Dimayuga is a native Californian, so naturally the ingredients she commonly uses are likely different from those used in Filipino American communities in the eastern parts of the United States.

In the early chapters of Filipinx, we are introduced to the seasonings and pantry ingredients to have on hand. Some of the them may be new to you, but not to worry if you can't find an ingredient locally. The recipes suggest more readily found substitutions that will create a similar flavor profile, and there's even a chapter for making your own sauces and staples.

I first tasted Filipino dishes when I lived in Hawaii (a very long time ago), but I had never tried to reproduce them in my own kitchen until I started looking through Filipinx. As a beginner to this style of cooking, I picked fairly straightforward dishes to start with. Every recipe was a success and the food was delicious. The pork adobo was outstanding and the beef giniling (ground beef with spices, tomato paste, and raisins) and seared rib eye (with lemons and onion) were both winners. All three will appear on my table again.

photography of lumpia shanghaiOther recipes we tried or I marked to try include lumpia (a relative of the spring roll; see scan), meatball soup, chicken adobo with coconut milk (see the video below), ensaymadas (yeasted pastry with cheese), and molasses date squares (kind of like brownies).

Filipinx is more than just cookbook. It's filled with all kinds of information about Filipino food and its influences plus Dimayuga's personal stories and family photographs. I love cookbooks that teach me new techniques and introduce me to new flavors, and Filipinx does both. The book ends with a brief resources section.

Recommendation: Angela Dimayuga's Filipinx is a good place to start if you're unfamiliar with Filipino cooking. For cooks of Filipino descent or who live in diverse communities, this cookbook may offer new variations on traditional fare. Many of the dishes are meat forward, but vegans and vegetarians will be able to incorporate some of the ingredients and techniques into their own cooking.

Cover of New Native Kitchen by Freddie Bitsoie with James O. FraioliThe second cookbook is New Native Kitchen by Chef Freddie Bitsoie with James O. Frailoli. This book is both a useful and accessible cookbook and an interesting history of Indigenous foods and how those dishes have been preserved as well as changed through contact with other cultures.

Bitsoie, a Navajo, is interested in a wide spectrum of native cuisines, including those of the Pacific Islands. In the many features and in the recipe introductions found in New Native Kitchen, we learn a lot about the culture and history behind the dishes and how the provided modern recipe reflects the traditional flavors.

We eat a lot of beans in the BFR household, so those were some of the dishes I turned to first. I was surprised at how different the flavor profiles were to the more well known Tex-Mex or Cajun bean dishes. Here bay, thyme, sage, and other herbs are the stars, rather than hot peppers. I was pleased to find a bison chili recipe that incorporated chocolate (though I'd use less chocolate the next time I make the dish), and I like the simplicity of the pinto bean and onion soup. The three-bean stew is a quick pantry meal that can be made vegan by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken and can satisfy meat lovers by adding in some ground bison or beef.

Stewed chicken in a bowlOther recipes we tried or marked to try in New Native Kitchen are a corn and zucchini salad, glazed root vegetables, grilled squash, pumpkin bread, and apple bread pudding. Main dishes are sumac-braised short ribs, green chili chicken pozole, stewed chicken with tomatoes (which I served over noodles; see my photo), spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, and braised rabbit.

Recommendation: New Native Kitchen by Chef Freddie Bitsoi is perfect for any one interested in learning more about Indigenous foods and how traditional flavors have been incorporated into contemporary diets. You'll want to read this cookbook as much as you'll be inspired to cook from it. The book ends with a resources page for learning more.

In the following short video, Angela Dimayuga makes her coconut chicken adobo (and provides the recipe) and talks about Filipino food and her new cookbook. Enjoy!

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2020. All rights reserved.



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