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More Holiday Books 2014

11 Dec

During the next few weeks, I will be cooking from and reviewing some of the year’s best books for gift-giving. They mostly are personal selections from chefs whose work I know well plus a few I don’t know at all. I always am enamored of cookbooks from Phaidon, Artisan, Chronicle and Ten Speed Press, but am impressed this year with the quality and variety of cookbooks published by smaller presses; Monkfish and Interlink among them.

In addition to their more obvious purpose, cookbooks are great sources of inspiration and bedtime reading. They are often the gifts we don’t give ourselves but, like a good box of chocolates, we’re thrilled to be the recipient. Happy Holidays!

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Fresh Cooking by Shelley Boris
Monkfish Book Publishing, New York , 2014, ISBN: 978-1-939681-15-7

The subtitle of this compelling book – a year of recipes from the Garrison Institute Kitchen — tells the tale of a talented chef cooking for hundreds of guests in a beautiful monastery on the Hudson. Garrison Institute, created by inspired thinkers, Jonathan and Diana Rose, has served as a beacon for the world’s great spiritual and educational leaders, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has dined there on several occasions. Shelley Boris, the chef at Garrison for more than ten years, has wowed me with her intelligent, countrified sensibility since my first visit a decade ago. There have been many visits since and I was honored when asked to write the foreword to her book. Shelley’s compassionate approach to cooking, deeply rooted in the seasons, is always mindful of the communal table – which is literally how one eats in the Institute’s massive sun-lit dining room. From her large gracious kitchen, Shelley delights in the daily planning of her menus, each a short story revealing something immediate in nature. January brings her comforting Onion Soup with Sprout Creek Cheese and Sour Rye Toast, baked white beans, and crimson quince blanketed in phyllo. May is more spontaneous and carefree – braised lamb and rhubarb chutney, rice with sorrel, garlic chives and mustard greens, and strawberry shortcakes. The book’s recipes range from simple creations – pan-quiche with cauliflower and cheddar, savory chickpea cakes with tahini sauce; winter root vegetable salad with sherry-hazelnut dressing – to dishes that require slow seduction to coalesce their flavors — Thai-style eggplant curry with coconut milk, lemongrass and shiitakes, and braised spicy lamb with apples. Other standouts are Shelley’s breakfast scones – the best I’ve ever had — and her dizzying array of addictive vinaigrettes — carrot-lime, ginger-grapefruit, pear-beet, creamy shallot.

Personal and idealistic, she calls her repertoire friendly-to-meat eaters: rich in vegetables, yet not strictly vegetarian. “We flip the typical equation,” she purports. “Rather than cutting back on meat, these recipes help you think about where you want to add meat and fish to your diet.” Nice. Family-style and deeply practical, she rids her recipes of extra steps and superfluous ingredients in order to focus on the essence of each dish. Working within a limited budget became a driving force of creativity and resulted in recipes that are inexpensive to produce. This is exactly what a home cook desires and why she decided to write the book in the first place. Perhaps it will sit nestled next to like-minded tomes such as the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, Perla Meyers’ The Seasonal Kitchen, and Moosewood cookbooks – older iconic examples serving as game-changers in the way that people think about, and connect to food and cooking in a larger context – where taste and ethics need not be at odds.

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Mexico, The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte
Phaidon Press, New York, 2014, ISBN: 978-07148-6752-6

When authors such as Arronte compile cookbooks about a national cuisine as vast as Mexico’s, the goal is to produce a well-rounded exploration that evokes and authenticates, the inherent spirit of a nation’s cultural foodways. Margarita Carrillo Arronte, Mexico’s global ambassador for all things culinary, has certainly accomplished this along with the remarkable design team at Phaidon Press, headquartered in London with offices in New York City. This massive tome, feeling like a work of art or runway fashion statement, is undoubtedly among the most beautiful books this year. Replete with 650 recipes and 200 photos, the book draws inspiration from various sources, some from which have been altered to the author’s own taste by adjusting ingredients, measurements or methods. Ms. Arronte wants the dishes of her homeland, and its many regions, to be cooked and experienced by audiences who have not yet plunged into the depths of mole (mole-lay) making – including an intriguing beet mole – to the more familiar tamales, enchiladas, and fresh fish Veracruz-style, to the less familiar rabbit with prunes and chili, ox tongue in pecan sauce, and birria, a fragrant lamb soup from Jalisco. Much admired in Mexico for the last 35 years, Ms. Arronte has owned restaurants and food companies, hosted television food shows, researched and taught all over the world. She is a formally trained teacher, turned chef and activist, involved in the decade-long effort to have traditional Mexican cuisine recognized with a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation.

Although I wish that head notes were included with each recipe, I understand how daunting a task this would be. The recipes, both classic and traditional, with a swath of contemporary recipes from restaurant chefs, feel mostly accessible – but some ingredients – specific chilies, epazote, avocado leaves — may be hard to find. This does not diminish the book’s pleasures. Part of Ms. Arronte’s research is to delve into other references and oral traditions for inspiration and to re-create recipes that are considered seminal in the development of the cuisine. This is the true nature of recipe transmission and the way that dishes evolve and national cuisines are created. There is an extensive bibliography that includes the important work of Mexican culinary guru, Diana Kennedy. It is a great gift to go hand in hand with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, in bed if not in your kitchen.

Food and Fireworks

3 Jul

tumblr_mp43muLq3t1rsdtszo1_1280While these sparkling recipes are designed for July 4th fireworks, they are perfect for entertaining all summer long. Three cheers for the red, white, and blue! Hope you have a festive holiday weekend.

 

WATERMELON, FETA & SLIVERED BASIL SALAD
This is the essence of summer entertaining. It is a marriage of sweet and salty delights. Nice to mix red and yellow watermelon if you can find it.

– 6 thin slices of ripe watermelon, plus 3 cups of cubed watermelon, chilled
– 8 ounces feta cheese
– 1 cup slivered basil
– 24 oil-cured black olives
– ¼ cup olive oil

On a large platter, place overlapping slices of watermelon and scatter cubed watermelon on top. Crumble cheese and scatter on top.  Scatter basil on cheese and garnish with olives. Drizzle a little olive oil over fruit and cheese. Add a grinding of black pepper. SERVES 6.

 

tumblr_mp3yc4OIpy1rsdtszo1_1280SUN-DRIED TOMATO-BEEF SLIDERS with PESTO

These will surely become a family favorite – whether big or small. If making large burgers, they are sublime cooked on an outdoor grill.

– 1 pound ground beef (chuck or sirloin)
– 7-ounce jar sun-dried tomato in oil
– 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted
– ½ cup prepared pesto
– 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
– Handful of mesclun or baby arugula

Drain oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and set aside. Finely dice enough tomatoes to get ½ cup. Cut remaining tomatoes into slivers and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat reserved oil. Add onions and cook over medium-high heat until onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine beef, diced sundried tomatoes, cooked onion with all the pan juices, ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add ¼ cup ice water and mix well. Form into 12 small patties. Heat oil in large skillet and cook burgers on each side for several minutes until desired doneness. Stir together pesto and yogurt. Place the burgers on the buns and top with pesto mixture. Garnish with a few leaves of mesclun or arugula, and the remaining slivered sun-dried tomatoes. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.

 

tumblr_mp2it2CMwI1rsdtszo1_1280BOMBAY TURKEY SLIDERS with HURRY-CURRY SAUCE

These are a cinch to put together and both the sauce and the sliders can be prepped early in the day.

HURRY-CURRY SAUCE

– ½ cup light mayonnaise
– ⅔ cup plain yogurt
– 4 teaspoons curry powder
– 2 tablespoons ketchup
– 1 small clove garlic, finely minced

BOMBAY TURKEY SLIDERS

– 1¼ pounds ground turkey
– 2 teaspoons curry powder
– 1 teaspoons ground cumin
– Large pinch chipotle chili powder
– 3 tablespoons finely minced scallions
– 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or basil
– 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
– 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted
– 12 thin slices Kirby cucumber
– 12 thin slices plum tomato

Stir together ingredients for sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Put turkey in a large bowl. Add the curry, cumin, chili powder, scallions, cilantro or basil, ginger and mayonnaise, plus 1 teaspoon salt. Mix until blended. Form into 12 small (2 ounce) burgers. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook burgers over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, turn over and cook 2 minutes longer. Place the burgers on the buns and slather with curry sauce. Top with a slice of cucumber and tomato. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.

 

tumblr_mp4dvrL0St1rsdtszo1_1280RED, WHITE AND BLUEBERRY SHORTCAKES

This luxurious dessert is worthy of fireworks. Wonderful if you can get tiny ripe strawberries from your local farmer’s market. The light touch of lemon zest in the biscuits and thin layer of lemon curd makes these truly memorable. Garnish with edible flowers.

LEMON-BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

– 1½ cups flour
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– ½ teaspoon baking soda
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
– Grated rind of 1 lemon
– ⅔ cup buttermilk

SHORTCAKES

– 1½ cups heavy cream
– 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– ½ cup lemon curd
– 3 cups fresh berries: raspberries, tiny strawberries, blueberries
– Edible flowers for garnishing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut butter into small pieces and incorporate into flour mixture. Add lemon zest and buttermilk and mix lightly. Turn dough out onto floured board. Roll out to 1-inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch round and place on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake 16 to 18 minutes until golden. Let cool.

Whip heavy cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla until very thick.

Cut biscuits in half. Spread lemon curd on bottom half of each biscuit. Spoon whipped on top and add fruit. Top with biscuit “hat” and add more berries and whipped cream. Garnish with edible flowers. SERVES 6.

Day 8: A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas

23 Dec

12-23-2013 07;29;06AM2Okay, this is my holiday gift to you. From the 325 recipes included in Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease, this succulent pork dish has become the most famous. I know people who now make it once a week. It would be great on your holiday table whether you are creating a buffet (in which I would slice the pork very thin for easy serving) or whether you are plating the food in the kitchen. It sports the bright red and green colors of the holiday with a celebratory air. The dish is a riff on an Italian classic dish in which pork is cooked in milk flavored with juniper. My version is much simpler but equally divine. You can augment the sauce by adding some dry white wine in addition to the gin. It’s lovely with a platter of sautéed broccoli rabe and a mound of buttery cauliflower & potato puree. I prepare the dish in a paella pan but you can use a very large ovenproof skillet. It’s so easy to prepare that you can make two pork loins at the same time and serve 12! Happy Holidays!

Pork Loin in Cream with Tomatoes, Sage & Gin
12 large fresh sage leaves
4 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
2-1/2 pound center-cut pork loin, tied and lightly scored
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup gin, or more to taste

Process 6 sage leaves, the garlic, oil, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mini processor to a fine paste. Rub all over the pork. Cover; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 4 hours. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat a very large ovenproof skillet until very hot. Brown the pork on all sides, 5 minutes. Scatter the tomatoes around the pork; cook 1 minute. Pour 1/4 cup cream over the pork. Roast 40 minutes. Add the 6 remaining sage leaves, the remaining 1/4 cup cream, and the gin. Roast 15 to 20 minutes longer, until tender.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board. Place the pan on the stovetop and boil the sauce, adding more gin (some dry white wine), salt and pepper, until slightly reduced, 1 minute. Slice the pork and serve with the sauce.  Serves 6

Day 7: A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas

22 Dec

radicchioIn less than 18 minutes you can have a gorgeous fish dish that is worthy of the season. You might even consider it for your “seven fishes” dinner. The idea of roasting cod at such a high temperature was inspired by Shirley Corriher, scientist, chef, and author of the encyclopedic books, BakeWise and CookWise. I’ve added her felicitous pairing of buttery macadamia nuts and added my own wilted radicchio caressed with lemon. The combo is also great on sauteed chicken breasts. You might want to serve it with wild rice which I always enjoy during the holidays or fill your kitchen with Mediterranean flavors and make Bay-Smoked Potatoes (recipes below.) ‘Tis the season.

500-Degree Cod with Macadamia Butter & Radicchio

4 thick cod fillets, 7 ounces each
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts, about 3 ounces
1 medium-large head radicchio, about 8 ounces
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lemon
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Season the fish with salt and pepper; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 6 to 7 minutes, until just firm. Meanwhile, chop the nuts and julienne the radicchio. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the nuts and cook over high heat, stirring constantly until browned, 2 minutes. Add the radicchio and cook until soft, 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Transfer the fish to 4 warm plates. Spoon the nut mixture on top. Top with grated lemon zest, a little lemon juice, and parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4

Bay-Smoked Potatoes
1-1/2 pounds very small white new potatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 dried California bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub the potatoes; dry well. Do not peel. Toss with the oil and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Distribute the bay leaves in a heavy ovenproof covered saute pan. Arrange the potatoes on top of the bay leaves in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil or a cover. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hours, until the potatoes are soft and wrinkled. Transfer the potatoes and bay leaves to a platter. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serves 4 or more

Day 6: A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas

21 Dec

12-21-2013 03;58;28PMWhen we think about main courses, it is generally dinner that comes to mind. But a main course for Christmas morning is fun to consider. A great idea is to make a breakfast strata: Layers of bread, prosciutto, feta, provolone and spinach, that can be assembled the night before and baked while you open presents. The striations of ingredients soak up the egg-and-milk base. Baked for 1 hour, the result is custardy, rich, and quiche-like. Best eaten in your pajamas while sipping winter mimosas — made with tangerine juice and prosecco topped with pomegranate seeds.

Cheese Strata with Prosciutto, Basil & Spinach

3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
16 slices firm white bread, crusts removed
8 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded
1/4 cup finely minced scallions, white and green parts
4 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup finely julienned fresh basil
5 extra-large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce

Butter a 12-x-7 inch glass or ceramic dish with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Cover the bottom with 6 slices of bread, plus 1 slice cut in half to fill the spaces. Evenly cover the bread with half the prosciutto. Sprinkle with half of the feta, provolone, scallions, spinach, and basil. Repeat to make a second layer. Cut the remaining 2 bread slices into 1/4-inch cubes; scatter over the top. Beat together the eggs, half-and-half, and hot sauce. Pour over the strata; press down firmly with a spatula. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and drizzle over the top.  Cover; refrigerate 5 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Uncover and bake 1 hour, until golden. Serves 8

Day 5: Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas

20 Dec

12-20-2013 02;50;42PMThis is one of the simplest, most festive dishes I know. It can be prepped and cooked in less than one hour yet looks like you’ve been fussing all day. This turkey roast is nothing more than a boned breast half, flattened slightly, so that it can be filled, rolled and tied. Prosciutto, fresh sage, and prunes perfume the dish and feel like Christmas to me. Be sure to serve it with a bowl of my (now famous) sweet potato puree whirled with fresh ginger and orange. A grand cru Beaujolais would be just the thing to drink.

Rolled-and-Tied Turkey Roast with Prosciutto, Prunes & Sage
2-1/2 pound turkey roast (boned half-breast, skin on)
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
10 large pitted prunes
1/4 cup pine nuts
12 large fresh sage leaves
12 medium-large shallots, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a mallet, flatten the turkey (skin side down) to 1-inch thickness. Cover evenly with overlapping slices of prosciutto. Arrange the prunes in a tight row down the center. Top with pine nuts and make a row of 6 sage leaves on top. Roll up tightly. Season with salt and pepper. Tie with string at 1-inch intervals and tuck 6 sage leaves under the string. Place the turkey and shallots in a small roasting pan. Drizzle with the oil. Roast 45 minutes until cooked through but still moist. Transfer the turkey and shallots to a board and tent with foil. Pour the broth and wine into the pan. Place on the stovetop and boil, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 3 minutes. Strain into a saucepan. Whisk in the butter and cook 1 minute.  Remove string from the turkey, thickly slice. Serve with the shallots and pan sauce. Serves 6

Sweet Potato Puree with Fresh Ginger & Orange
This is fat-free but tastes very rich all the same. For a bit more intrigue, spice it up with a pinch of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cardamom — or all three.

4 large sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds
2 juice oranges
3-inch piece fresh ginger

Scrub the potatoes but do not peel. Place in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook 50 minutes or until very soft. Meanwhile, grate the zest of the oranges to get 1 teaspoon. Squeeze the orange to get 2/3 cup juice. Drain the potatoes and peel when cool enough to handle. Cut into large chunks and place in bowl of food processor.  Mince the ginger to get 1/4 cup. Add to the processor with the orange zest and juice. Process until very smooth. Transfer to a saucepan and reheat, stirring. Season with salt and pepper.  Serves 6

A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas: Day 4

19 Dec

prime-rib-roast-beefHere’s a wonderful, upscale recipe that is lovely for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. The editors at Gourmet magazine once said this simple roast was one of the best they had ever tasted. It is “cured” in the same way that fresh salmon is for gravlax, literally buried in a mixture of coarse salt, sugar, fresh dill and cracked black pepper.  It is radically simple to prepare and radically delicious served with a silky potato puree and roasted winter vegetables. Open a bottle of full-bodied red burgundy or syrah.  The next day: Serve the world’s best roast beef sandwiches topped with a horseradish sauce made from crème fraîche, white horseradish, and a splash of sherry.

1/4 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper
3-1/2-pound boneless rib roast, rolled and tied
1 cup finely chopped fresh dill

Stir together the salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl; rub all over the beef. Put the dill over the salt mixture. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Make a small hole in the bottom of the plastic so that any accumulated liquid can drain. Place in a small roasting pan and weigh down with a baking sheet topped with a few large heavy cans.  Refrigerate 24 hours, pouring off liquid from time to time. Unwrap the beef; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrape the coating off the beef and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a roasting pan. Roast in the middle of the oven 1-1/4 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 130 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil; let rest 15 minutes. Carve as desired. Serves 8

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