Bibliobites Notes 12/5/14 – 14 people attended!
There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air as Bibliobites book group members set their plates and plastic tubs of cookies on the table near the fireplace. What kinds of cookies did folks make? What would become a new holiday favorite? More importantly, when could we start eating them? As one group member said – “There is a lot of butter on that table – time to bring out the SPANX!”
But before the tasting– came the book discussion. Highlighted books included the following:
Thoughts on the King Arthur book
- It was a solid cook book with familiar, reliable recipes for the most part. Many tried and true –
- One baking glitch though – One member tried the two-bit monsters recipe which was a mix of condensed milk and coconut. Unfortunately the doorbell rang and then the dough stuck to the cookie sheet. The second batch never firmed up – nix on that recipe
- Apparently if you have a kitchen question you can call or email the King Arthur website and they will troubleshoot the recipe with you – good to know.
- You can also order parchment paper from King Arthur and it comes as pre-cut sheets
- One member had their daughter bake the fudge coated dip sticks – they found the chocolate hard to work with for dipping.
Thoughts on Rosie’s cookie book:
- It included good tips on how to modify a recipe
- It had very detailed instructions
- Good recommendations on equipment and supplies
- Negatives- not enough pictures
- Recipes made were: Pecan Crescents and Peanut butter topped brownies – (A new favorite dessert!)
Thoughts on the Maida cookbook
- Very good recipes but again – not enough pictures
- Also the pages did not lay flat and often were continued onto a page that had to be turned
- The layout seemed dated and the table of contents was sparse
- Did include the famous Nieman Marcus cookie recipe – (a large chocolate chip cookie version with a combo of regular and oat flour)
Thoughts on the Vegan cookie book:
- Graham cracker recipe was great and they proved addictive
- The homemade fig bars were also delicious and fought over
- Many of the recipes substituted ground flax seed for the eggs and used rice milk instead of regular etc.
Other topics that came up:
There was some reminiscing about the Boston Globe Confidential Chat column and the shared recipes – one group member remembers the Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins highlighted there. For an article about those famous muffins – click here and scroll down the page -http://nhgenealogist.com/2/category/boston/1.html
The group discussed the benefits of using the website www.epicurious.com as a convenient collator of recipes. One member commented that she used to subscribe to Bon Appetit but now all of the magazine recipes are online as part of epicurious. Folks thought the online comments from cooks who had tried the recipes were both helpful and flabbergasting. There was some joking about the cooks who drastically changed a recipe when they test it and then rate the recipe low or wonder why it did not turn out.
Some folks really enjoy Christopher Kimball’s emails from Cook’s illustrated- others think he is too pedantic – but most think his radio show and TV show are enjoyable – check all three out if you have not! www.cooksillustrated.com/ – scroll down to bottom and you can sign up for the free newsletter by entering your email. The radio show is on WGBH radio 89.7 on Sundays from 3-4 PM – and the TV show is also on WGBH – channel 2 on Saturdays at 3 PM – you can also watch the show or listen to the radio show on the test kitchen site. http://www.americastestkitchen.com/episodes
Penzey’s website was mentioned again as a fun place to visit– the closest one is in Arlington but has short hours- and limited parking – https://www.penzeys.com/
*Side note from last meeting – one member did try the recipe recommended at the last meeting – the Apple-Berry Galette from “Baking with Julia” and said it was a great success – highly recommended.
Baking/cookie tips –
Some non-bakers were fans of the efficiency of the “slice and bake” or ice box cookies. They don’t spread much and you can bake lots at a time so that means less time in the kitchen.
Talked about cookie scoops- Pampered Chef has a nice one and the cooking store in Acton – Kitchen Outfitters in Acton – http://www.kitchen-outfitters.com/ has a nice selection of all sizes.
Silicone cookie sheets were not that revered but the silpat for rolling out pie crust is awesome- 1st and 2nd place pie winners both use one.
When you make thumbprint cookies – you make an indentation with your thumb – but one member said – what if you have man-thumbs? It only makes sense to use another smaller finger tip – but an even better way to save your hands from getting dirty is to use a ¼ tsp measuring spoon to make the thumbprint.
The group discussed freezing cookies and unfreezing them – many have had good luck with baking at Thanksgiving time or a little later and freezing cookies for several weeks in tightly closed containers layered between wax paper or parchment. One member says she even refreezes with no significant detriment to the cookie.
Tip for gifts- as you make cookies – freeze 8-10 balls of the cookie dough – give parents small batches so they can have a warm cookie when they want but don’t want the fuss of mixing up dough or ending up with too many cookies. (Is that possible? To have too many cookies???)
In addition to recipes made from the featured cookbooks, recipes shared were family favorites or made from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen website (www.smittenkitchen.com) – Better Homes and Garden Magazine, Betty Crocker Recipe Box File, the Penzey’s website and Relish Magazine – an insert in the Lowell Sun.
Here are some recipes that were brought for this month’s meeting:
Apple Walnut Cobbler
Aunt Lucy’s Cookies
Dark Chocolate and Orange Cookies
Italian Chocolate-Spice Cookies
Slice-and-Bake Cookie Palette
Tiny Almond Biscotti Cookies
If you do not see yours posted, please be in touch and we will add.
In addition, there was some talk of an excellent chocolate covered cherry cookie recipe – can the member who was raving about it share it with us? In the meantime, perhaps this one will do. http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chocolate-covered-cherry-cookies
Our next book is Love Soup by Anne Thomas –
winter is a great time for cooking up a bowl of comfort.
Pie turned out to be a topic that generated a lot of interest— and a great deal of pie-baking! Ken Haedrich’s book is an exhaustive compendium of all things pie. His explicit and extensive instructions help to allay pie crust fears, and he provides tasty filling recipes for every conceivable category of pie, whether fruit, custard, ice cream, or any combination thereof. Most everyone made at least one pie, and several members brought samples to our meeting, which were enjoyed by all! And for at least one of our group members, all that pie practice paid off: at the library’s apple pie baking contest Pat ‘s apple pie took second place. Congratulations Pat!
We had a lively book group with lots of good ideas shared:
- Using a Kitchen Aid mixer to make a pie crust helps to keep the pie dough cold.
- Leave a little bit of the peel on the apple for taste and color.
- Frozen fancy mixed berries from Trader Joe’s make a good pie.
- Frozen blueberries from Wegmans are good but it helps to add more flour.
Pies baked from Ken Haedrich’s book were:
- Cranberry-Apple-Orange Freeform Pie, pg. 273 – a lattice top was added, the crust was the combo of butter & shortening pg. 31.
- Shaker Lemon Pie, pg 582 – interesting it was made with the rind of the lemon – definitely tart.
- Chocolate Cream Pie with Cinnamon Meringue, pg 567 – a definite crowd pleaser.
- Liz Smothers’ Sugarless Apple-Berry Pie, pg 243 – amazingly good considering the lack of sugar. Apple juice was used as the sweetener.
- Honey Apple-Currant Pie in a Whole Wheat Crust, pg. 208 – the whole wheat crust did not stand out – it was just a good pie.
Favorite apples for apple pie :
- Cortland – preferred by some of us and recommended by Carmella from La Bella Dolce . Carmella led a pie baking workshop for the library in October.
- Cortland / McIntosh – a mix of apples
- Macoun -a cross between a McIntosh and a Jersey Black was said to make a better pie than a McIntosh.
- Nothern Spy – Ken Haedrich writes, “spies are for pies….this apple is perhaps the quintessential pie apple. ”
( see “pie Apples at a Glance on pages 232-233 for a more complete list)
Pies recommended from other cook books:
Next month we continue the baking theme with cookies.
Lemon Sponge Pie
1/4 cup melted butter 1 cup sugar
3 T. flour 3 slightly beaten egg yolks
3 T. lemon juice 1 1/2 cups milk
3 stiffly beaten egg whites 1 pie crust
deep pie dish, if you have one.
Blend butter with sugar and flour. Add egg yolks, lemon juice, and milk. Fold in egg whites.
Pour into a 9″ pastry lined pie plate. Bake in very hot oven (450) for 8 minutes, then in a slow oven (325) for 25 minutes.
In Beating the Lunch Box Blues J. M . Hirsch recommends “leftovers by design”. Cook extra for dinner and you’ll have the makings for some quick and delicious lunches. If you like this concept, and/or are looking for lunch inspiration, the author also has a blog by the same name: lunchboxblues.com
Some dinner ideas suggested by the author and enjoyed by the group were:
Lemon- Paprika Roasted Salmon p. 56
Bacon- Cauliflower Mac and Cheese p. 120
Hoisin-Raspberry Pork Tenderloin p. 90 – “really good”
Baked Breaded Haddock p. 60
Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Chicken p. 36
Some group members explored J.W. Hirsch’s other cookbook, High Flavor Low Labor and all gave it excellent reviews. Everyone found many recipes to try and people who hadn’t previously checked out the book took it home with them.
Recipes tried were:
Stir-Fry Ravioli with Ground Turkey and Peppers p. 175
Chili Balsamic Marinated Sirloin with Fettuccine and Sun-Dried Tomatoes pp. 92-93
Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato and Thyme Soup p. 62 – “family loved this soup”
Child’s Play Spice and Brown Sugar-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin pp. 78 -79 – “good cold”
Chinese Pie (Shepherd’s Pie) pp. 133 – 34
Brown Sugar and Ginger Pumpkin Bread p. 250
Ginger Fig Crumb Bars p. 245
As an extra this month we shared: What’s your favorite kitchen gadget? There were a great variety of answers!
Super Peel – Great for transferring any dough from one place to another.
Y-shaped potato peeler
Grapefruit spoon: it’s not just for grapefruits! They are great for removing seeds from a cucumber or zucchini or any member of the squash family.
The recommendations and the recipes were flying fast and furious at the August Bibliobites meeting. Everyone seemed inspired by summer’s bountiful produce to try new things, as well as new variations on old favorites. We did not read a specific title; each person checked out a book from our collection that related to the theme. Among the recommended cookbooks:
Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop: Though the book had no pictures, it had lots of good recipes. In particular P. raved about the Sicilian Cauliflower, braised with tomatoes, onions, and raisins.
Asian Vegetables by Sarah Deseran: T. enjoyed shopping for Asian greens at the Lowell Farmers’ Market. She’d never seen most of these items before, but took along her book as a guide to what to purchase. One favorite was jap chae, a Korean noodle dish made with sweet potato noodles. She also tried a water spinach dish which contained shrimp paste, a highly fragrant ingredient! The photographs in this book were especially appreciated, as they enable the newbie to buy and use unfamiliar produce with more confidence.
River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. G. loved many of the recipes in this book, and brought in a sample for us to try: Beet Ice Cream! This was an intensely purple concoction of beets, chocolate, and cream. Even beet haters would have loved it!
Taste of Home Farm Fresh Favorites by Sara Lancaster; Go Fresh: a Heart-Healthy Cookbook by American Heart Association; Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells. Though L. admitted she’s not that big on vegetables, she changed her mind after trying recipes from all three books! The Taste of Home book won points for its lavish illustrations and nutrition info for each recipe, and Vegetable Harvest had great tips on cooking with vegetables. L. enjoyed the AHA book’s spaghetti sauce (with turkey sausage) recipe, as well as a simple saute of corn, onions, and red pepper. L. also brought us a sample of a nontraditional zucchini bread she had tried: not too sweet, with nuts and dried fruit. A great twist on an old favorite!
Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes For the Single Cook by Joe Yonan; One World Vegetarian Cookbook by Troth Wells. D. was in an eggplant frame of mind, and tried the eggplant parm from Joe Yonan’s book, which made tidy little stacks of eggplant, cheese, and sauce. The eggplant was roasted, rather than breaded and fried, a time- and calorie-saver. From the One World book she made ratatouille, which she had eaten but never made before. Some of the ratatouille wound up in the freezer, so we’ll stay tuned to see how it is in a few months.
One member (another D.!) tried some vegetable recipes from her book of traditional Greek recipes. One she enjoyed is called toulou, a layered dish of potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, tomato sauce, garlic, and parsley. Like a lasagna, all the ingredients must be cooked before baking, which made it time-consuming. However the recipe makes a large panful, and is so delicious it’s worth the effort.
Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook by Myra Goodman. C. brought in a recipe she especially enjoyed from this book, Black Bean and Corn Salad, which she served as a salsa-like dip with tortilla chips. It was delicious! This book has an extensive collection of recipes using both vegetables and fruits. Though produce is the focus, there are chapters devoted to main dishes both vegetarian and carnivorous. Many beautiful photographs complement the text.
If you like to cook (and eat!) there isn’t much that’s more fun than visiting a food-related business. Many companies have become destinations in and of themselves, where you can tour the production area, sample what’s being made, and buy items to take home. Smaller producers, in particular, tend to have limited distribution; so the only way to try and buy is to visit them. But this makes for lots of fun field trips! Not all the places listed below give tours, and some of them are large companies with many locations– but all are enjoyable places to spend a few hours or a day. What’s your favorite food destination? Let us know!
Parlee Farms, Tyngsboro MA: parleefarms.com. Pick all kinds of fruit at this beautiful farm in Tyngsboro, shop at the farmstand, feed the goats, and enjoy apple crisp or other seasonal treats. Great for kids and families. During busy times (which is most times!) fields or orchards can get picked out, so check the website before you go; they update daily.
HMart, Burlington MA: hmart.com. Truly a unique grocery experience! You can buy 12 kinds of kimchi, pork belly three ways, 4 types of bok choy, and innumerable snack foods that you’ve never seen before. Many labels are only printed in Korean, which leads to interesting experiments. There’s a bakery on-site and a food court where you can indulge your bibimbap or Korean barbecue cravings. Warning: don’t go on the weekends– it’s crazy crowded!
Wegman’s, Northborough, MA: wegmans.com Visit the largest supermarket in New England and find out what all the fuss is about. Rochester-based Wegman’s has an almost cult following; customers sigh over their favorite products and rave about their store brand. Awesome cheese department, extensive prepared foods, grass-fed and organic meats at decent prices. The store has an espresso bar and cafe. Wegman’s will open in Burlington MA in October, if you don’t want to make the trek to Northborough. Also best avoided on the weekends.
Nashoba Valley Winery, Bolton MA: nashobawinery.com. Though they now make wine from grapes too, this winery got its start making wine from other fruits: apples, pears, cranberries, blueberries, and more. They produce wines in a variety of styles and have branched out into beers as well. You can tour the winery and attend a tasting ($6.00 for 5 samples), browse in the extensive shop, and picnic on the apple-orchard grounds. You can also pick your own fruit: peaches, apples, pears, and more. There is a restaurant on the premises, J’s, serving lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Tuscan Market, Salem NH: tuscanbrands.com/market Get a taste of Italy only 35 minutes from Chelmsford! Tuscan Market features cheeses, salamis, bread, pasta, wine, cookies, olive oil….you get the idea! Many items are made in-house and are available frozen. There is a cafe and espresso bar on the premises. The market’s sister enterprise, Tuscan Kitchen, is located across the parking lot and is a full-service restaurant. Though reviews of the restaurant are mixed, the market gets an unequivocal thumbs-up.
Penzey’s Spices, Arlington MA: penzeys.com. Any spice you can think of (and some you can’t!) can be seen and sniffed at this small shop on Mass. Ave. They are known for their high quality and diverse inventory; they also create an extensive array of spice blends. Their online store is convenient if you don’t feel like a road trip.
Stonewall Kitchen, York, ME: stonewallkitchen.com. The flagship store of Stonewall Kitchen is a little more than an hour away from Chelmsford. The complex of buildings contains the production facility, cooking school, and store with cafe. Have breakfast or lunch on the terrace outside, then sample your way through jams, mustards, sauces, and dips. The large shop also carries kitchenware and gift-y items. If you’re feeling flush, sign up for a “class” at the cooking school– professional chefs demo a meal while you sit back, watch them work, and enjoy the results of their labors. If you’re not up for the drive, SK now has a store at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua.
When Pigs Fly, Kittery ME: sendbread.com. Just a few miles south of Stonewall Kitchen is the headquarters of When Pigs Fly. In the bakery shop, sample any and all of their flavorful breads before you buy, and if you love them all, don’t despair– they freeze well! Attached to the store is a large bar/restaurant serving a long list of craft beers and a delicious, eclectic menu. It’s always a really tough choice deciding whether to eat here or at Stonewall Kitchen. When Pigs Fly has a slight edge because it has table service and an extensive bar– and it’s fun to watch the cooks shoving pizzas into the wood-fired oven.
King Arthur Flour, Norwich VT: kingarthurflour.com. The King Arthur Flour company has been going strong since 1790. It’s an employee-owned, family-run company, and their dedication shows. The thrice-expanded store now features a cafe, bakery, shop, and classrooms for demos and baking classes. If you’re a baker, your heart will skip a beat checking out the incredible array of ingredients and cookware they have available in the store. You can also pick up fresh-baked bread while watching the bakers make more, and enjoy coffee and a snack while you contemplate your purchases. Norwich is an easy 2-hour ride from Chelmsford; if you don’t want to make the trip you can order anything online.
At our last Bibliobites meeting someone mentioned buying decaffeinated coffee beans.
How do they decafinate the whole bean? How does this effect the flavor of the coffee?
At the Chelmsford Farmers Market on Thursday I bought ground cherries aka husk cherries. They have a papery husk like a tomatillo.
They were sweet to eat raw. Are there ways to use them in cooking? What kind of a fruit/vegetable is it?
Not a story but a question on how to provide a comment for August on other books on Vegetables.
I wanted to recommend two cookbooks from the owner of Earthbound Farm Organic. The book titles both by Myra Goodman are “Food to Live By” and “The Earth-Bound Cook”. She and her husband own Earthbound Farm Organic in California. The first book I originally checked out from the library and bought it and then Amazon recommended the second when it was published.
Not all the recipes are for vegetables. One of my favorite to take to a pot luck in the summer is the Corn and Black Bean Salad.
We thought summer might be a good time to explore the thrill of the grill, so this month found us knee-deep in smoke boxes, rubs, and hot fires! People found the book visually pleasing (with lots of drool-worthy photos) and well laid out. Our experienced grillers were motivated to try new techniques, such as using a smoke box. Newbies found lots of helpful tips, including charts to let us know “When is it Done?” and “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor.” Most people strongly agreed with the basic (but often ignored) tip to let grilled meats rest after cooking.
Recipes that the group tried and liked included:
p. 117 Tuscan rosemary-smoked whole chicken – a first attempt at using wood chips turned out great. Tip -Remember to read the recipe all the way through before starting to get the timing right.
p. 128 Peruvian chicken
p. 159 Italian sausage hoagies – “Delicious”
p. 182 Grilled strip steaks – were very good and the garlic aioli sauce was highly recommended
p. 199 Pimento cheese-bacon burgers – we all got to try a sample of the pimento cheese – YUM
p. 241 – Grilled tuna with caramelized onions – a quick dish with a very good relish
Non-grillers focused on the excellent sides. Top marks were given to:
p. 54 Grilled asparagus with figs and cabrales – a tasty side for a steak or burger
p. 57 Guasacaca – guacamole with texture and an attitude
p. 90 Grilled peppers with feta and dill – delicious,not too spicy and can be made ahead
p. 91 New potato-corn chowder salad – mixed reviews- you need to like the tang of a German potato salad to appreciate this one.
p. 99 Brown sugar-rum grilled sweet potatoes – very tasty
Join us next month as we enjoy the bounty of summer vegetables – check out the book display near the Reader Services Desk, and come to the next session on August 29th at 11 AM.