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Posts about Cookbooks

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.

An easy summer supper

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: August 17, 2012 - 6:11 PM



Of the 150 or so cookbooks in my kitchen's library (I'm old school: I prefer my cooking instructions via Gutenberg rather than Jobs), I'm guessing that there are maybe 25 or 30 that are regularly pulled from the shelf. A half-dozen or so of those are referenced with some frequency. The rest? I'll crack them if I'm looking for inspiration, or give them a berth on my nightstand for bedtime reading, or recycle-and-replace with compelling new (or at least new to me) titles.

In the summer months, "The Herbal Kitchen" definitely belongs in that most-looked-at camp. In the seven years since Seattle chef Jerry Traunfeld published this beautiful and useful title (it's still in print), I've probably made a third of its recipes, some of them so often that I could prepare them from memory, including crostini topped with smoked trout and marjoram, smoked salmon stuffed eggs dressed with dill and chives, fettuccine tossed with herbs and ricotta, a rich basil-zucchini gratin, gin and tonics muddled with rosemary, a fizzy basil-lime soda and scallops served on a colorful summer succotash. 

Traunfeld wrote the book near the tail end of his 17-year tenure at The Herbfarm, the extraordinary suburban Seattle farm/restaurant; since then, he has moved on to establish the critically acclaimed Poppy in that city's Capitol Hill neighborhood ("Traunfeld takes humble to haute levels," raved my pal Providence Cicero in the Seattle Times).

What I appreciate most about "The Herbal Kitchen" is that it's a home cook's book, not a restaurant chef's book. The recipes reflect Traunfeld's passion for garden-fresh herbs and vegetables, but he translates his expertise into layman's language and crafts workable, approachable recipes. Also, it's so seasonal that I'm tempted to carry the book along when I'm shopping the farmers' market.

Cooking from "The Herbal Kitchen" has been a learning experience, too. Like many cookbooks, Traunfeld devotes his first chapter to a brief herb tutorial, followed by some key techniques. Here's one that I found immediately useful: "When culinary school graduates first start working in my kitchen, they invariably want to chop herbs to dust," he writes. "Even many home cooks are inclined to finely mince fresh herbs, as if they shoulid look like the tiny flakes from jars of dried herbs. Easy does it! When you over-chop herbs they bruise and loose their identity. Unless you are making a pesto or puree, lean towards a coarser chop. Herbs can better express themselves in a dish if you can recognize them."

It has been ideal grilling weather this week, so I naturally turned to Traunfeld to tell me what to make for dinner. Easy: Chicken, marinated overnight in citrus, olive oil and herbs, served with a farmers market salad fortified with orzo. And it was easy. Rather than deal with a whole chicken -- which isn't exactly difficult, I know -- I bought the pieces I most prefer: drumsticks and thighs. The results were delicious, and the leftovers made for an excellent chicken salad.

As for the salad, I had picked up sweet corn and basil at the farmers market, so the rest was easy; I pulled it together while the grill was pre-heating (I sort-of skipped the refrigerate-for-an-hour instruction, although Traunfeld is right: it was even better the next day at lunch). I also cut the mixture of olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice in half (I was almost out of vinegar), and that worked well.

When we were clearing the table, all I could think was, 'Why don't we eat this way all year round?' And it got me thinking about my next "Herbal Kitchen" recipe: a lavender pound cake. I've already bookmarked page 242.




Serves 4.

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From “The Herbal Kitchen” by Jerry Traunfeld (William Morrow, $34.95).

1 tbsp. lavender buds, fresh or dried

1 tbsp. thyme leaves

1 tbsp. savory leaves (or substitute rosemary)

Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp. chopped shallots

2 tsp. kosher salt

¼ c. plus 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided

4 ½ lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces without the back


In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine lavender, thyme, savory, lemon zest, shallots, salt, olive oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and pulse until mixture becomes a coarse puree. Spoon about 1/3 of marinade into a small container, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, cover and refrigerate until chicken is cooked. Toss chicken pieces with remaining 2/3 of marinade and refrigerate in a covered bowl or re-sealable freezer bag for at least 8 hours or as much as 24.

Start a charcoal fire in a kettle grill or preheat a gas grill to medium. When grill is hot, cook chicken, with grill lid down most of the time, until skin is well browned on both sides and meat is cooked through. Check chicken frequently, rotating it often and keeping it away from hot spits so that skin does not burn (breast pieces will likely cook faster, so remove them first to keep white meat from drying out, and continue to cook dark meat and wings until meat starts to pull away from bottom of drumsticks). Brush all chicken pieces with reserved marinade and serve warm or at room temperature.



Serves 6 to 8.

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From “The Herbal Kitchen.”

½ medium red onion, finely diced

¼ c. white wine vinegar

3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tsp. kosher salt

¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

4 ears sweet corn, shucked

8 oz. orzo pasta

¼ c. plus 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced into ¼-inch pieces

1 ½ c. torn leaves of sweet basil or lemon basil


In a large mixing bowl, combine onion, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper and reserve. On a large cutting board, hold ears of corn upright and cut off kernels, which should yield about 5 cups kernels. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo, and when it is just tender, after about 8 minutes, add corn kernels and cook until water boils again. Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water. Stir olive oil into bowl with dressed onion. Toss in pasta and corn, red bell pepper and basil until evenly combined. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.



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