Cooking and eating fans met this past week for the premiere of our evening and morning sessions of the Bibliobites Cookbook Club. The featured book “The Splendid Table’s How to Cook Supper” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift was enjoyed by all. The book is both a primer for weekday cooking – providing quick, delicious and nutritious recipes – and a commentary on how we eat, cook and shop these days. Short essays and foodie tips are interspersed with easy-to-follow recipes, designed to inspire your weekday cooking without taking up a lot of your precious time. Our group members thought that the recipes and variations were interesting and a good jumping off point for creative cooking. Some thought recipes were too basic. Critiques of the book included frustration with the changing font size and colors -”I felt like the book was shouting at me, at times!” and a desire for the “Building the Library” – (additional cookbook suggestions) feature to be compiled at the end of the book.
Recipes that we tried included the Dark and Moist Gingerbread with Apples and Candied Ginger –(yummy – even when one chef forgot the egg), the Little French Fudge Cakes –(like a warm brownie, be careful not to over bake for that fudgy texture) – Pineapple-Ginger Sorbet (quick and delicious) and Oven-roasted Chicken Cacciatora – the original and lemon-oregano versions (a snap to put together and very flavorful.)
Our discussions ranged from how our supper menus have changed over time – to what our favorite comfort foods are – to what we planned to make for supper that night. Members also shared the tips they gleaned from the cookbook and added a few suggestions of their own – these included:
- Massage your kale to break up the fibrous texture
- Prosciutto is not cooked but dried.
- Olive oil doesn’t age like wine so buy it young
- Small heads of radicchio are not early ones but old heads with the dead leaves peeled off
- Soak raw onions in ice water for 20-30 minutes before using- they will cause less heartburn
- To make frozen shrimp more flavorful and less mushy, cook a halved lime in water for 10 min, then add frozen shrimp and bring to boil, remove from heat, partially cover for 15 minutes – shrimp will taste fresher
- Instead of the flat of your knife, use a rock to smash garlic
- Save all of your old parmesan-reggiano cheese rinds – freeze and add to spaghetti sauces and soups for more flavor
- Salt beans at the end not during cooking otherwise they get mealy
- It is best to heavily salt your pasta water so it tastes like the ocean – do not salt after cooking – save a cup of the pasta water to thicken your pasta sauces
- Brown eggs come from chickens with red earlobes, white eggs come from chickens with white earlobes – (raise your hand if you knew that chicken had earlobes…)
- Opened tamarind concentrate lasts for a year in the fridge – no need to toss it after a few weeks.
- Cacciatora is not the name of the chicken dish but the name of the “hunter’s salami” that you use in the recipe.
- Store yeast and spices in the freezer for longer shelf life
Favorite recipes shared and unusual foods we would like to try:
- Individual Pear Gingerbreads – http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pear-Gingerbread-Upside-Down-Cakes-1279 (Becky’s go-to fall dessert recipe)
- Mexican Brownies – http://recipecircus.com/recipes/Catgurrl/Brownies-Bars/Mexican_Brownies.html (One of Andrea’s favorites!)
- Molasses Crinkles – http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/molasses-crinkles/9cd5e260-bb56-4b41-baac-f42830d14f76 (Alycia’s never-fail holiday cookie – also included in the Betty Crocker’s Boy’s and Girl’s cookbook)
- A favorite banana cake – http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/recipes/r-penzeysGramsBananaCake.html
- Pastitsio – a classic Greek pasta dish often made with lamb (A staple at Dot’s house)
- Ghormeh Sabzi – Persian Green Stew (Why Ellen was on a quest for fenugreek and dried limes…)
Bakeries, Restaurants and Markets mentioned:
Mirabella’s in Tewksbury – http://mirabellabakery.com/
Burton’s Grill – http://site.burtonsgrill.com/
Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, NH – (also an Italian market) – http://www.tuscanbrands.com/kitchen/
Idylwilde Farms – http://idylwildefarm.com/
Global Flavors – http://www.globalflavorsnashua.com/
Food and Fashion – http://www.foodandfashionofindia.com/Food_%26_Fashion_of_India/Homepage.html
Sai Baba http://saibabamarket.com/
Olive Tree Market – http://www.yelp.com/biz/olive-tree-lowell
M & H Oriental Food Supermarket, Summer Street, Chelmsford
Also worth exploring:
http://www.vinegarman.com/ – all things vinegar
http://www.penzeys.com/ – specialty spices by jar or bulk
http://www.peteandjensbackyardbirds.com/ – fresh local eggs
The next meetings are February 27th at 7 PM and February 28th at 11 AM – February’s featured book is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman – pass the word along to your friends!