Thursday, April 24, 2014

From Tanzania to Peru to Texas (or lunch at your place) Cookbooks

Any fans of Lisa Fain’s first cookbook, Homesick Texan or her blog, Homesick Texan, will surely enjoy Homesick Texan's Family Table, her latest cookbook of recipes inspired by family favorites. Fain always manages to put her own twist on the recipes, updating them, making them even better than you might remember and her stories of growing up in Texas will charm even those who have never been to the Lone Star state. There are plenty of guilty pleasure recipes like Bacon and Chipotle Corn Pudding, Stacked JalapeƱo Cheese Enchiladas and Potato Chorizo Breakfast Tacos, but also more modern fare like Blueberry Granola, Turkey Enchiladas with Sweet Potato Chipotle Sauce and Tuna with Avocado and Red Pepper Baked in Parchment. 

I tend to shy away from self-published books, but I was intrigued by Taste of Tanzania Modern Swahili Recipes for the West. I’ve not seen very many African cookbooks and even fewer designed for a Western audience. There are many indigenous ingredients that you won’t be able to find, and author Miriam Kinunda has made substations and focused on recipes that are more practical. The recipes show a wide range of influences, Persian, Portuguese, Indian and also some Asian and European and has a lot of soup, stew and vegetable dishes. Some particularly appealing recipes include Swahili Beans, red beans cooked with coconut milk, onions, ginger, tomatoes and cilantro, Fish in Peanut Sauce and Ginger Tea.

With the title “Ceviche” you might be inclined to think this is a cookbook of ceviche recipes. But it’s actually Ceviche Peruvian Cuisine is a cookbook of recipes from a Peruvian restaurant in London named “Ceviche.” Ok, now that we have that out of the way, this is a really cool book. It’s all about Peruvian cuisine which is a pretty interesting thanks to influences from Spain, Italy, Africa, China and Japan and of course indigenous ingredients (think quinoa, potatoes and pisco). The cooking techniques are different too, like the staple Huancaina sauce with onion, garlic, amarilla chile paste, fresh cheese, evaporated milk all bound together with crushed cream crackers. There are actually recipes for ceviche, and plenty of other seafood, as well as vegetable dishes like avocado and rice fritters, potato based “causas,” a kind of mashed potato cake, Andean pork and potato casserole and classics like lomo saltado, a Pervuican style beef stir dry. There is also a section on cocktails. Some ingredients like rocoto, goldenberries and chulpe corn may be unfamiliar, this is a cuisine worth getting to know and the book is a great place to start. 


I love the idea behind Lunch at the Shop  which is to cook a mid day meal at your office. The photographs and styling by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton is lovely, unfortunately I found the recipes to be more like a mishmash of ideas that generally involved a lot of the same ingredients—beans, pasta, and avocado. Also many of the recipes require cooking something at home, then basically reheating it at the office. One recipe suggests stretching store-bought sushi with a salad of bibb lettuce and some orange and avocado. I get it. Be creative and use what's at your disposal. But I didn’t find the recipes (such as that one) worthy of book status. Nor do I believe, despite what the author says, that spaghetti and clams is a good dish to reheat and serve at work.



Disclaimer: These books provided to me as review copies, this post includes affiliate links 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Kitchen to Call Home



Last year I told you about Azalina, a chef who shares her Malaysian and Mamak heritage through food. She is a 5th generation street food vendor, but the first to find success in America. And her success so far has been amazing. She is a fixture at farmer’s markets, street food events and large outdoor concerts. Her products including her peanut sauce and coconut jam are sold at Whole Foods. Bon Apetit magazine even chose her lacy crepes as one of the top 10 things to eat at farmer’s markets. 

But Azalina needs a kitchen, her own kitchen now that her business is expanding and she is about to embark on the process of opening a restaurant. I know there are tons of crowd source funding campaigns, but this is one I wholeheartedly support because I know Azalina, I know her exciting food and her inspiring story. She is a single mom, an entrepreneur and a role model. 

Azalina is 1/3 of the way there, but just has a week left to reach her goal. I’ve pledged my support. But if for no other reason, make a donation so you can get a taste of each of her signature sauces in the process you’ll be supporting a dream that is on the verge of coming true…

Check out this video produced by Dark Rye that beautifully tells even more of her story then...

I hope you will join me in supporting her


Thank you! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vegetarian Cookbooks for Omnivores


The reason cookbooks continue to sell when you can find plenty of recipes online is beautiful photos, illustrations and inventive recipes. The Forest Feast as it all. The pretty visual style of recipes with tons of photos as well as pretty watercolor illustrations is easy to follow and ever so appealing. The vegetarian recipes are simple but also attractive, such as Strawberry Salsa, Nectarine and Tomato Salad, Corn & Cauliflower Tacos and Polenta Portobellos. There are also a handful of cocktails. Erin Gleason the blogger behind the stylish vegetarian blog The Forest Feast is self-taught and focuses on seasonal ingredients. Nothing too cheffy here. Easy, pretty and original, it's a great introduction to vegetarian cuisine for omnivores or newbie home cooks looking for inspiration for everything from family meals to cocktails and entertaining.


Vegan cookbooks are nothing new. But a vegan cookbook written by someone who is not only not a vegan but not a vegetarian? Well, that is something new. And frankly, welcome. Myra Goodman and her daughter Marea Goodman are worthy evangelists for eating organic produce, since Myra Goodman is one of the co-founders of Earthbound Farm. She has written some lovely cookbooks in the past, but Straight from the Earth is particularly special. The recipes do not feature  dishes that approximate meat, but rather celebrate vegetables, grains, fruit, beans and nuts. The photography is beautiful and recipes are very enticing. There is no attitude, thankfully, just creativity and genuinely appealing recipes like Grilled Fig Sandwiches with Pistachio Pesto and Balsamic Caramelized Onions or Wheat Berry, Baby Kale, Grape and Orange Salad. Some recipes require the best seasonal produce like Crostini with Vine-Ripened Tomatoes and White Bean Puree, but others use things you can easily find all year long such as Miso Roasted Eggplant.

The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a doorstop of a book, with 665 pages and more recipes than you could cook in a lifetime. Deborah Madison has added 150 recipe and updated countless more to her classic volume. There’s more emphasis on tempeh than tofu, which may or may not be a good thing, depending upon your taste. But the inclusion of ingredients like smoked paprika, curry leaves and farro is definitely good thing. What I particularly like about the book is that it covers so many different cuisines, there are galettes, tagines, risotto, breakfast breads, hearty main dish salads and so much more. I’ve bookmarked Saffron Dumplings, Spicy Quinoa and Potato Croquettes and Braised Artichokes with Leeks and Peas. You will never again wonder what to cook for vegetarians with this book and the emphasis on deliciousness means omnivores will not get bored.


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and books were provided as review copies. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasted Garlic and Potato Dip Recipe

Roast Garlic & Potato Dip
Greek cuisine features many great snacks and nibbles from olives to pastries and dips. An easy dip to make is skordalia. Recipes vary regionally, but generally feature garlic, extra virgin olive oil and potatoes though sometimes egg yolks, almonds or bread as well. The problem for me is raw garlic which gets more and more potent over time. The solution? Roast garlic.

Roast garlic is sweet and soft and most important, mellow. It won't overpower most dishes like this skordalia inspired dip made with potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and roast garlic, instead of raw. Not only is this dip good for Passover, it's vegetarian (vegan if you use vegan mayo) and gluten free! That is if you use a gluten free mayonnaise, which adds additional creaminess to the dip.

I have been experimenting with "roasting" garlic in the microwave oven, but whatever technique you want to use is fine. The main thing is not to overcook it. It should be soft and creamy but not too darkly caramelized. I use 3-4 cloves, but feel free to use as much as you like. Serve it with fresh vegetables for dipping.

Roasted Garlic and Potato Dip

1 russet potato
4 cloves roasted garlic (use any method you like)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Water
Salt

Bake or microwave the potato until thoroughly cooked. You are not going to use the skin so however you prefer to cook it is fine. When cool enough to handle, slice open and scoop the potato out of the skin. Place the potato in a bowl with the garlic cloves and mash. Mix in the olive oil, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add enough water to make a thick dip. Season to taste with salt.

Enjoy!