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Posts about Cookbooks

For last-minute shoppers of hard-to-please cooks

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: December 24, 2012 - 11:16 AM




You've only got hours to shop if you're still hunting for a Christmas gift. (Really, you still have shopping left?)

If you've got a cook with an attitude (think "more naughty than nice") -- or at least one that doesn't mind crude and rude in a sense of humor -- any of  three new books may strike a fancy. Two of them are by anonymous writers.


A reprint of Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" -- what's billed as an "Insider's Edition" -- is out with Bourdain's handwritten comments, though the notes are few, far between and generally not very insightful. A press release says that 50 pages are annotated. (That includes many lightweight comments such as the one at left.) The handwritten intro -- three pages of scrawl, would have filled less than a single page of type, so "annotation" is a bit of a misnomer. Still, his story of what he calls the "culinary underbelly" holds up amazingly well after 12 years, though a few historical references may be obscure to up-and-coming cooks who are unfamiliar to such references as Hunt and Liddy or Patty Hearst.


Bourdain's memoir of his time in the restaurant biz is always blunt, often crude and definitely opinionated. He set the tone for many other food memoirists that followed.

Tired of Anthony Bourdain? Then perhaps Ruth Bourdain may be to your liking. The anonymous Twitterer, a parody mashup of Anthony Bourdain and Ruth Reichl, has come out with a book, "Comfort Me with Offal: Ruth Bourdain's Guide to Gastronomy." The title is a takeoff of Reichl's memoir "Comfort Me with Apples."  The book is as irreverant and crude in its humor as Ruth Bourdain's 140-character (or less) thoughts found daily on Twitter. Let's just say that there's very little I could quote from the book for a newspaper blog. Who is Ruth Bourdain? Well, New York magazine and I (as reported a year ago) think it's Robert Sietsema, restaurant critic of the Village Voice.











Have a "Fifty Shades of Grey" fan on your list? "Fifty Shades of Chicken: a parody in a cookbook," may be the gift for you to present. This, too, has a pseudonym for an author, FL Fowler (who else?). The book offers vignettes of Miss Hen, a young "unexplored" chicken, at the mercy of Mr. Blades, the cook, who teaches her the pleasures of being whipped up for dinner. It is a one-note joke carried through 50 recipes, which include Mustard-Spanked Chicken, Hot Rubbed Hen, Extra-Virgin Breasts, Spatchcocked Chicken and many more that will make the occasional cook blush, with food porn pictures of the recipes, plus the occasional Chippendale shot of the cook.

Buyer beware: Choose carefully if you're gifting any of these books.















Sunday supper: Corn bread stuffing

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: December 10, 2012 - 10:01 AM




With yesterday's snowstorm, a warm and comforting Sunday supper felt just right, and what's more warm and comforting than stuffing?

This is a favorite recipe of mine, adapted from the 2006 edition of Allysa Torey's go-to Sunday supper cookbook. I've made it so many times that my well-worn copy's binding is cracked to automatically open to page 84. Many other pages (the crostini with goat cheese and tomatoes, the lemon-tarragon chicken, the summer squash-sweet corn casserole, the peach crumble) are similarly splotched with food stains and spills. That's always a good sign, right? 

I've made a few alterations to the recipe over the years. The major one is adding a few eggs, to bind the stuffing together and give it a richer bite (if you prefer your stuffing egg-free, increase the amount of stock to 2 cups). If I don't have the exact herbs on hand, I'll substitute others, although sage is a must. The chives in my refrigerator were looking pretty desperate, so for last night's iteration I tossed in marjoram and savory, and it was as good as always. 

(By the way, Torey calls it dressing, but this Minnesotan prefers stuffing, even though it's not getting anywhere near the cavity of a bird.)

I'll cop to using Jiffy brand muffins. Why not? They're inexpensive (I think I paid 63 cents per package at Lunds, and the recipe requires two boxes), and it mixes up in, well, a jiff. The package's instructions call for an egg and milk; we had some half-and-half in the back of the refrigerator -- it was a miracle that it hadn't reached its expiration date -- and I used that instead of the skim we always keep on hand. Note to self: Always do this.

I didn't have the foresight to bake the muffins on Saturday, so I dried them out a bit by crumbling them on a sheet pan and baking them for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. For bread cubes, I pulled some out of the freezer -- leftovers from Thanksgiving's stuffing-a-thon -- and gave them a nice toasted texture by baking them for 10 minutes, also at 350 degrees. 

I didn't do it last night, but sometimes I cut up bits of butter and toss it over the top of the stuffing before it goes in the oven. I usually add more herbs than the recipe calls for, as much as doubling the amount. Oh, and because the stuffing can run a little on the sweet side -- it's the corn muffins -- I occasionally flip the corn muffin/bread cube ratio. 

That's the thing with this recipe: It's forgiving. Last night, post-shoveling, we served it with roast chicken, and it was delicious. As always.





Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: To toast pecans, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake 10 to 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven, until fragrant and lightly browned. Adapted from "At Home With Magnolia: Classic American recipes by the owner of Magnolia Bakery" by Allysa Torey (Wiley, $29.95).

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan

1 c. (about 1 medium) chopped yellow onion

1 c. chopped celery

1/4 c. freshly chopped chives

1 tbsp. fresh chopped sage

1 tbsp. freshly chopped thyme

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

4 c. coarsely crumbled corn muffins (about 8 to 12 from your favorite recipe, or from a muffin mix such as Jiffy), left out, uncovered, at least overnight, to dry

2 c. cubed white bread, left out, uncovered, at least overnight, to dry

1 1/2 c. (about 2 medium) peeled, cored and chopped Granny Smith apples 

1 c. coarsely chopped pecans (see Note)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 c. chicken or turkey stock


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in chives, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and allow to come to room temperature. Add crumbled corn muffins, cubed bread, apples and pecans and lightly toss. Add eggs and chicken (or turkey) stock and toss until just combined. 

Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove aluminum foil, rotate pan and bake until golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.

The next James Beard Award winners

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: October 23, 2012 - 4:49 PM


The James Beard Foundation needs you. Well, your opinion anyway.

Winners of the foundation's annual restaurant and chef awards won't be announced until the evening of May 6, 2013, from the stage of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City's Lincoln Center. But now's the time to tell the foundation which restaurants and chefs should be up for consideration in 21 categories, including Outstanding Bar Program, Best New Restaurant, Rising Star Chef of the Year, Outstanding Pastry Chef and Best Chef: Midwest.

Go here and share your opinions. Registration is easy, requiring a name, ZIP code and email address. It's fast, and it's free. Deadline is Dec. 31st.

When the foundation's annual book awards winners are announced in New York City on May 3rd, e-books will be included in the same categories as print books, a first. "The James Beard Book Awards are designed to recognize excellence, and we'll be looking for it regardless of whether it comes on paper or on a screen," said book committee head Matt Sartwell.

In addition, the foundation's Restaurant Design award will now recognize two categories of entries: Restaurants of 75 seats and over, and restaurants of 75 seats and under. And for the first time, restaurants and chefs in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will be eligible for consideration in the foundation's restaurant and chef awards.

Nominees in all book, journalism, design, broadcast media and restaurant and chef categories will be announced on March 18, 2013.

Now that's a pie

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: October 22, 2012 - 10:28 AM




As coconut cream pies go, this one doesn't fool around. 

The recipe for theTriple Coconut Cream Pie in "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook" (William Morrow, $35) calls for two cups of shredded sweetened coconut, and that's just in the pastry cream. The crust also features coconut, and toasted coconut garnishes the top.

That's the "triple," but there's more: the pie's pastry cream is further enriched with coconut milk.

"It would be fair to call this a quadruple coconut cream pie, but 'triple coconut cream' rolls off the tongue more easily," writes co-author Tom Douglas.


Makes 1 9-inch piecrust

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. Very cold butter makes a flakier crust. If your butter is not very cold, set the diced butter in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before making your dough. From “The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook” by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance.

1 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour, plus extra for rolling dough

1/2 c. shredded sweetened coconut

1/2 c. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 c. ice-cold water, or more as needed


In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine flour, coconut, diced butter, sugar and salt and pulse to form coarse crumbs. Gradually add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing each time. Use only as much water as needed for the dough to hold together when pressed gently between your fingers (don’t work dough with your hands, just test to see if it is holding). The dough will not form a ball or even clump together in the processor, it will be quite loose.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull plastic wrap around dough, forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before rolling.

When ready to roll dough, unwrap round of coconut dough and place it on a lightly floured board. Flour rolling pin and your hands. Roll out dough in a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Occasionally lift dough with a bench knife or scraper to check that it is not sticking, and add more flour if it seems like it’s about to stick. Trim to a 12- to 13-inch round. Transfer rolled dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Ease dough loosely and gently into pan. You don’t want to stretch dough at his point, because it will shrink when it is baked.

Trim any excess dough to 1- to 11/2-inch overhang. Turn dough under along rim of pie pan and use your fingers and thumb to flute the edge. Refrigerate unbaked pie shell for at least 1 hour before baking (this prevents the dough from shrinking in the oven).

When ready to bake piecrust, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a piece of parchment in pie shell, with sides overhanging the pan, and fill with dried beans (this prevents the bottom of the shell from puffing up during baking). Bake piecrust for 20 to 25 minutes, or until pastry rim is golden. Remove pie pan from oven. Remove paper and beans and return piecrust to oven. Bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom of crust has golden brown patches. Remove from oven and allow pie shell to cool completely.



Serves 6 to 8.

Note: Large unsweetened chip coconut is available in the bulk foods sections of many natural foods co-ops. From “The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.”

For coconut pastry cream:

1 c. milk

1 c. canned unsweetened coconut milk, stirred

2 c. shredded sweetened coconut

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

2 eggs

1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar

3 tbsp. flour 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For garnish:

2 oz. unsweetened chip or large-shred coconut (about 1 1/2 c.), or shredded sweetened coconut (about 2/3 c.)

Chunk of white chocolate (4 to 6 oz., to make 2 oz. of curls)

For whipped cream topping:

2 1/2 c. heavy cream, chilled

1/3 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract


To prepare coconut pastry cream: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk, coconut milk and shredded coconut. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add both scrapings and pod to milk mixture. Stir occasionally until mixture almost comes to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and flour until well combined. Temper eggs by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 cup) of scalded milk into egg mixture while whisking. Then add warmed egg mixture to saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard vanilla pod.

Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and place it over another bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until pastry cream is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools. When pastry cream is cold, fill pastry shell (see Recipe), smoothing the surface with a rubber spatula.

To prepare garnish: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread unsweetened coconut chips (or large-shred coconut, or sweetened shredded coconut) on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes, watching carefully (coconut burns easily) and stirring once or twice until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

To prepare whipped cream topping: In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Transfer whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe it all over the surface of the pie. Sprinkle toasted coconut over top of pie. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of white chocolate curls on top of the pie (or you can cut pie into wedges, place wedges on plates and garnish each wedge individually with toasted coconut and white chocolate curls) and serve.


Going "Local" with Deborah Madison

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: September 5, 2012 - 10:50 AM



When vegetarian cookbook powerhouse Deborah Madison (pictured, above) dropped into town recently, signing books at the Mill City Farmers Market, I picked up a copy of her "Local Flavors" for my sister Linda, a dedicated CSA and farmers market cook.

It's a good thing that I already owned a copy, otherwise Linda probably would have never seen hers. That's because this is one terrific guide to imaginative, flavorful and hyper-seasonal cooking. It was also ahead of its time. When the book came out in 2002, there were few farmers market-inspired cookbooks; now the shelves are flooded with them, but none have the Madison touch (Find a Q& A with Madison here, from the Star Tribune's archives).

A case in point? This easy-to-prepare recipe for eggplant-bell pepper-olive spaghetti.





Serves 4 to 6.

Note: From "Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison. "Giving the last of the summer vegetables a lengthy time on the stove turns them into a robust and deep-flavored sauce, hearty enough for the beginning of fall," writes Madison.

1 1/2 to 2 lbs. eggplant, peeled and sliced a scant 1/2-inch thick

2 red or yellow bell peppers, or one of each, halved lengthwise and seeded

1/4 c. olive oil, plus extra for the pan

1 onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, minced

3 anchovies, chopped

1/3 c. chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish

2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (reserving juices)

1/4 c. Kalamata or Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped

3 tbsp. capers, rinsed

1 tbsp. dried oregano

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. spaghetti

1 c. grated pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano


Preheat broiler. Brush a sheet pan lightly with olive oil, arrange eggplant on it and brush tops with more oil. Broil on both sides until browned. Remove and cut eggplant into wide strips. Lightly oil peppers, then broil, skin-side up, until blistered. Remove from oven, stack them on top of one another and allow them to steam for 15 minutes, then peel and dice into smal squares.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, peppers, garlic, anchovies and parsley and saute until onion and peppers are softened, about 5 minutes. Lower heat and add eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano and 1/2 cup water (or juice from tomatoes). Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta, following directions on package, then drain. Transfer pasta to a large heated bowl, spoon sauce over pasta and top with cheese and parsley. Toss and serve.


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