01 February 2014

Weekend Cooking: Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise

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Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria WiseIf you've been following along with my Weekend Cooking posts, then you already know that I tend to love Workman's cookbooks, from the careful editing to the beautiful designs and almost foolproof recipes.

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
Preheat oven to 350F.

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.

Workman, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780761139614
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 2/1/14, 6:24 AM  

I too am into "bold" flavors, even throwing chipotle flakes into my chocolate at every opportunity. Too bad this one disappoints!

jama 2/1/14, 6:24 AM  

Thanks for the suggestion to borrow before buying. The cornbread looks good!

Anonymous,  2/1/14, 6:33 AM  

Bold means bold, and I agree with you about your expectations. Such a fair review of the cookbook, too. Your cornbread looks mighty fine in that skillet. We've got three and I just bought my husband a cookbook for Christmas devoted entirely to skillet cooking. Check out Cast Iron Skillet cookbook.

Anonymous,  2/1/14, 8:44 AM  

I understand your disappointment, with a title like Bold you'd expect big flavours.

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/1/14, 8:45 AM  

I have this book too, but haven't made anything out of it yet. Thanks for your thoughtful review.

JoAnn 2/1/14, 8:56 AM  

The suggestion to borrow before buying is a good one ... I do that with most cookbooks these days. All of the recipes you tried appeal to me, but I'm not a big fan of overly-bold flavors so this might be a good fit for my kitchen. Thanks.

Unknown 2/1/14, 9:20 AM  

Perhaps they should've used a different title. :) If the recipes are well-crafted then perhaps they can be modified with spices to liven them up a bit. Everybody has their own idea of perfect seasoning in food. I know my in-laws consider my food bold, LOL!

Kailana 2/1/14, 12:20 PM  

The guy is very simplistic when it comes to cooking. I long ago stopped using spices and things in our food. So, maybe the disappointment you feel would actually work for him. haha

Rachel 2/1/14, 12:45 PM  

Good looking cornbread! I used a gluten free cornbread for my recipe this week.

Carole 2/1/14, 2:16 PM  

It must be such an art - choosing appropriate titles for books - I wouldn't have used bold since to me it means brave or unusual rather than flavourful - I also wouldn't have used any word in the title that is spelled differently in American and British English. Have a great week.

Carole 2/1/14, 2:26 PM  

Hi again - I've been trying to link in Plum Plus Jam http://caroleschatter.blogspot.co.nz/2014/01/Plum-cherry-blueberry-jam-no-removing-pips-first-recipe.html but keep getting an error message - could you put it in for me if you have time? Thanks

PS I had some trouble last week too but on the 6th attempt it worked - weird!

Unknown 2/1/14, 4:09 PM  

This cookbook looks right up my alley. I too often want to use all the spices, so if I have a cookbook prodding me gently on how to properly do it... all the better. :)

Anonymous,  2/1/14, 7:48 PM  

I have great respect for the fact that, while you may not find a book to be truly great, you give it a respectful review and consistently point out what others may find interesting in it.

Anonymous,  2/1/14, 7:48 PM  

I have great respect for the fact that, while you may not find a book to be truly great, you give it a respectful review and consistently point out what others may find interesting in it.

Anonymous,  2/1/14, 7:48 PM  

I have great respect for the fact that, while you may not find a book to be truly great, you give it a respectful review and consistently point out what others may find interesting in it.

Anonymous,  2/1/14, 7:56 PM  

I love this kind of cornbread (savory). Unfortunately, my kids like the sweet cornbread and so I usually make Spike Mendolsohn's recipe.

bermudaonion 2/1/14, 8:44 PM  

We like bold flavors too, so I was excited about this cookbook. I'll keep in mind that the recipes weren't that bold and will bump the spices up a little when I try one.

Vicki 2/1/14, 8:58 PM  

We'd love bold flavors so this is going on my library list. My husband loves cornbread so I'll be sure to try the recipe.

Joy 2/1/14, 11:17 PM  

It sure makes a pretty cornbread. One of my favorite cornbread recipes had jalapenos in it...

Joy's Book Blog

Couscous & Consciousness 2/2/14, 2:25 PM  

Sorry I've been missing for a few weeks - too much life getting in the way of blogging!! I've linked up some yummy brownies this week to make up for my absence.

Shame you were a little disappointed in this book, but I can understand that with a title like that you would expect to be completely wowed by the flavours.. Good to know that the recipes are still good though.

Anonymous,  2/2/14, 6:30 PM  

Yum! I love cornbread!

Alice Audrey 2/4/14, 10:51 AM  

You're the hub? Dang! Might take me a few weeks, but count me in! I quit posting recipes because my foodie hub caved on me.

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