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Jul 28, 2016
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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By the Book

By the Book: Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

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Canning, pickling and preserving are great, ancient ways to make the most of a harvest. In Preserving the Japanese Way, author Nancy Singleton Hachisu dedicates 350 pages to the methods, ingredients and dishes of her Japanese husband’s heritage by way of his mother.

While there are instructions for making one’s own soy sauce, miso and rice vinegar, the recipes do not require homemade everything. As the reader and cook, you choose how much time and effort you want to invest. I opted not to make my own soy sauce or mayonnaise for the ginger-soy pork sandwiches and instead happily picked up the items at the store.

The recipe was simple – thin-sliced pork butt soaked in a two-ingredient marinade overnight. I tossed it in a smoking hot pan with a dash of sesame oil, then assembled the sandwiches. The result was fine – just fine. We all agreed the pork was too salty and, should I attempt it again, would use a reduced salt soy sauce. The marinade also needed something else for brightness. More ginger? Herbs? More acid? With some tweaking – and a tomato slice or two ­– this little sandwich might have prevailed.

Skill Level: Easy to super difficult. I know this isn’t helpful, but this book truly contains recipes for the novice sandwich maker and the professional preserver.
This book is for: The curious and adventurous of most any ability.
Other recipes to try: Fish sauce fried rice, green beans cloaked in miso
The Verdict: While it has potential, the recipe as written falls short and Asian-American emerges the victor.

 

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Ginger-Soy Pork Sandwiches
6 sandwiches

2 Tbsp. grated ginger
14 oz. thinly sliced pork butt with some fat
½ cup soy sauce
Mayonnaise, preferably homemade (see Note)
2 small onions
1 small head of red leaf or butter lettuce
12 slices pain de mie or another soft bakery bread
Dijon mustard
About ½ tbsp. sesame oil, for cooking

• Scrape the peel off of the ginger with the back of a spook and grate. Place the pork slices in a medium-sized bowl, pour the soy sauce over them and drop the grated ginger into the bowl as well. Pick up the pork slices one by one and smoosh in some soy sauce and grated ginger until all of the slices are coated with soy sauce and no longer pink. Slide the pork slices and marinade into a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Roll the bag up, squeezing out all of the air as you go, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but preferably overnight.
• Assemble the sandwich components when you are about 45 minutes or so from eating.
• Make the mayonnaise, if using homemade (see Note); otherwise use jarred French mayonnaise. Avoid Japanese Kewpie mayo because it contains MSG. Cut the ends off of the onions, peel, and slice crosswise into ¼-inch half-rounds. Wipe the lettuce and make a stack of around 18 leaves (about 2 per sandwich) depending on the size of each leaf. (I prefer a thick layer of lettuce to one scraggly leaf.) Set up a bread station by laying the slices side by side on the counter or cutting board. Arrange them in a row of top pieces and a row of bottom pieces. Slather on the mayonnaise, dollop ½ teaspoon mustard onto the bottom slices, and spread. Lay 2 piece of lettuce on each of the bottom slices of bread and strew some onion half-rings on the lettuce. Lay another piece of lettuce on each of the top slices of bread.
• Set a large frying pan over high heat and film with a small amount of sesame oil when the pat is hot (hold your palm over the surface of the pan and you will feel the heat start to rise). Lift the pork pieces out of the soy-ginger marinade, shake off the excess liquid, and throw the pork pieces into the hot pan. Cook by tossing and separating the pieces that are clinging together with tongs until the pieces caramelize a bit over high heat.
• Lay 2 to 4 slices of pork on top of the piece of bread with the sliced onions and cover with the top slice of bread. Cut in half and serve immediately. Be warned – you may want more than one.

Variation: Throw on a couple of slices of ripe tomato in the summer.

NOTE: To make homemade mayonnaise, stir 1 tsp Dijon mustard (or ¼ teaspoon dried mustard) and ½ teaspoon brown rice vinegar into a farm-fresh egg yolk at room temperature. Whisk in about ¾ cup best-quality canola oil at room temperature very, very slowly. Once the mayonnaise looks like a creamy sauce (not oily looking), you can add the oil a bit faster. Season with a sprinkling of fine sea salt and dribble in a bit more brown rice vinegar to taste, if you like. Stir in ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar or honey if you prefer a more Japanese style of mayonnaise.

 

Reprinted with permission from Andrews McMeel Publishing

By the Book: Asian-American by Dale Talde

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

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Dale Talde made his mark on the national stage on Top Chef and Top Chef: All Stars. His restaurant, Talde in Brooklyn, is Asian-American with influences as varied as his experience growing up the son of Filipino immigrant parents. His cookbook eloquently explains those influences in a lengthy but engaging (and at times irreverent) introduction. It’s not required reading to enjoy the recipes, but highly recommended.

The Pretzel Pork-and-Chive Dumplings are a staple on Talde’s menu and an ideal entry point to his brand of Asian-American. Though extensive, the recipe is simple to execute. Fatty ground pork is mixed with ginger, soy, sesame oil and a mountain of chives, then swaddled in wonton wrappers. Like pretzels, the dumplings are parboiled in a frothing alkaline bath of baking soda and water, then slathered in a coating of egg and butter. When fried, the dumplings turn as gloriously brown as a Gus’s soft pretzel.

And what’s a pretzel without mustard? Talde’s doctored Chinese mustard makes the perfect pungent accent to this salty, buttery treat. A note: This recipe makes about three dozen dumplings. Unless you’re cooking for a party, I recommend halving it. It’s not that you’ll make too many; rather, you run the risk of eating all 36 in one sitting.

Skill level: Medium. Most recipes require an extensive pantry of Asian ingredients and prep work, though Talde is totally fine with shortcuts.
This book is for: Fans of both authentic Asian cuisine and Americanized Chinese food
Other recipes to try: breakfast fried rice, buttered toast ramen
The verdict: Talde set the bar high. Bring it on, cookbooks.

 

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Pretzel Pork-and-Chive Dumplings
Makes about 36

For the filling:
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
¾ cup thinly sliced chives, preferably Chinese chives (flat, like blades of grass)
1½ lbs. fresh pork belly, ground by your butcher, or other fatty ground pork, cold
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. potato starch or cornstarch
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. chicken bouillon
½ tsp. ground white pepper

For forming and par-cooking the dumplings:
36 wonton wrappers (round), preferably “Shanghai style”
4 quarts water
3 Tbsp. baking soda
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 stick (¼ lb.) unsalted butter, melted

For finishing the dumplings:
About 1 cup vegetable oil for shallow frying
¼ cup pretzel salt
1 cup Tahini Mustard Sauce

Make the filling
• Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat, add the chives, and cook, stirring, just until they’re wilted and very fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Let them cool slightly. Combine the pork in a mixing bowl with the chives and remaining filling ingredients. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands until everything is well distributed. Don’t overmix or the filling will be too dense.

Form the dumplings
• Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with water. Form the dumpling one at a time, keeping the yet-to-be-used wonton wrappers under a damp towel.
• Put a dumpling on the work surface.
• Add a slightly mounded tablespoon of the pork mixture to the center.
• Dip your finger into the water and use it to moisten the edge of the wrapper, then pinch and slightly flatten the filling to form a log shape.
• Fold the wrapper to form a semi-circle
• Firmly press the two edges together, leaving both sides open.
• Holding the pinched edge with one hand, invert the dumpling.
• Use the other hand to push the rounded bottom of the open end so it meets the pinched edge and very firmly pinch those closed. Force out the air from the pocket you created, then do the same to close the other open end. Make sure all the edges are tightly sealed; if two edges won’t seal, try moistening the edges with a little more water.
• Transfer the dumpling to the prepared baking sheet and repeat the process with the remaining filling and wrappers.

Par-cook the dumplings
• This step gives the dumplings that pretzel-like chew and aroma. Combine the water and baking soda in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Line a large baking sheet or plate with parchment paper.
• Working in three batches, boil the dumplings until their filling springs back when you squeeze it, 4 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the dumplings to the prepared baking sheet as they’re done.
• Brush the dumplings all over with the egg yolk (or drizzle and rub with a spoon to coat), then do the same with the melted butter. Let the dumplings sit for at least 2 hours or in the fridge, uncovered, for a day or two. The longer the better.

Finish the dumplings
• Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a paper towel-lined baking sheet in there, so you have a place to keep finished dumplings warm while you make the rest.
• Cook the dumplings in several batches to avoid crowding the skillet: Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to reach a depth of about ¼ inch. As soon as the oil shimmers, arrange some of the dumplings in a single layer, leaving some breathing room between them. Cook, using tongs to turn them occasionally, until you see golden-brown blisters on all three sides, about 5 minutes total. Sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon of the pretzel salt, toss, and transfer the dumplings to the oven to keep them warm. Add enough oil to maintain a ¼-inch depth, let it shimmer, and repeat with the remaining dumplings and salt.
• Eat right away with a bowl of tahini mustard sauce.

 

Tahini Mustard Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

For the filling:
½ cup hot Chinese mustard (or Dijon, if you have to)
2 Tbsp. well-stirred tahini
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt

• Combine the ingredients in a bowl and stir really well.

 

Reprinted with permission by Grand Central Life & Style

By the Book: Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking by Dana Shultz

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

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Pad Thai has been one of my favorite dishes since I first tried it 20 years ago at King & I, so I was excited when I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Pad Thai in Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking. How could coupling two delicious ideas go wrong?

Unfortunately, this recipe had several flaws. An extensive list of ingredients to prep and multiple steps meant the total cooking time of 50 minutes nearly doubled when I put together the finished dish. Despite the extensive list of potent ingredients (including tamarind concentrate, maple syrup, tamari and chile garlic sauce) the dish lacked spice and tasted overwhelmingly of peanut butter.

This dish needed additional heat and acid to balance the rich peanut butter. For a better bite, I added several dollops of chile sauce, a healthy squeeze of lime juice and left off the optional peanut butter sauce entirely. After nearly two hours of work, this peanut buttery pad Thai left me yearning for the King & I classic.

Skill level: Beginner to intermediate. Most of the recipes were fairly straightforward, but are too complicated for a weeknight meal.
This book is for: Vegetarians, vegans, the gluten-intolerant and others with food allergies
Other recipes to try: White bean pozole verde, Better-Than-Restaurant Vegan Nachos, butternut squash-garlic mac n cheese
Verdict: Food 52’s onion carbonara takes the win!

 

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Peanut Butter Pad Thai
2 servings as an entree, 4 as a side

12 oz. (340 g.) extra-firm tofu
6 oz. (170 g.) thin rice noodles
3 cloves garlic (1½ Tbsp. or 9 g.), minced
1 large bundle (6 oz. or 170 g.) green onions, finely chopped
2 whole carrots (122 g.), ribboned with a vegetable peeler or thinly diced

Sauce:
2 Tbsp. (32 g.) salted creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. (45 g.) tamarind concentrate or paste*
4½ Tbsp. (68 ml.) tamari or soy sauce (if gluten-free, use tamari)
3 to 4 Tbsp. (45 to 60 ml.) maple syrup (or substitute coconut sugar)
1½ tsp. chile garlic sauce, plus more for serving

For serving (optional):
Peanut sauce (recipe follows)
Chili garlic sauce
Freshly squeezed lime juice

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper
• Wrap the tofu in a clean, absorbent towel and set something heavy on top, such as a cast-iron skillet, to aid in draining the moisture.
• Once the oven is hot, cube the tofu into bite-size pieces and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Depending on the firmness of the tofu, the cooking times will vary. The longer it bakes, the firmer and chewier it gets, which I prefer. Check for doneness at the 28-minute mark and bake longer if desired.
• In the meantime, make the sauce. To a small skillet add the peanut butter, tamarind concentrate, 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) tamari, 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce. Heat over medium heat. When the sauce begins bubbling, sir and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off heat and let rest. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed, adding more chile garlic sauce for heat, maple syrup for sweetness, or tamari for saltiness. The flavor should be sour-sweet.
• When the tofu is almost done baking, cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Then drain and set aside.
• Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the baked tofu, 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) pad Thai sauce, 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) tamari, and the remaining ½ teaspoon chile garlic sauce. Stir frequently and cook until brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
• To the same skillet, add the garlic and green onion (reserving a small amount for garnish), and ½ tablespoon (8 ml.) more tamari. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cooked noodles and the remaining pad Thai sauce and toss with tongs to coat. Raise the heat to medium high and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tofu during the last minute of cooking to warm through.
• Remove from the heat and serve with the carrots, the reserved green onions, peanut sauce (optional), and additional chile garlic sauce.
• Leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, though best when fresh.

Peanut Sauce
¾ cup

½ cup (128 g.) salted natural peanut butter (or substitute cashew butter or almond butter)
1½ to 2 Tbsp. (22 to 30 ml.) tamari or soy sauce
2 to 3 Tbsp. (24 to 36 g) coconut sugar or organic brown sugar plus more to taste
½ lime, juiced (1 Tbsp. or 15 ml.)
½ tsp. chile garlic sauce
2 to 4 Tbsp. (30 to 60 ml.) hot water to thin

• In a small bowl, whisk the peanut butter, tamari, coconut sugar, lime juice, and chile garlic sauce together. Add the hot water to thin until pourable. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
• Leftovers keep covered in refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. Add more hot water if the sauce becomes too thick after chilling.
• Pairs well with dishes like pad Thai, stir-fries, rice noodle salads, spring rolls, and more.

* Tamarind concentrate can be found online and in Asian grocery stores.

By the Book: Onion Carbonara from Food 52: Genius Recipes

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

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Pasta carbonara is the ultimate indulgence. Who doesn’t love long spaghetti noodles coated in cream, egg, cheese and bacon? As the internet can attest, the rich sauce goes well on just about anything from squash to steak, but when I came across this recipe for onion carbonara I was skeptical. Did I really want to eat a pile of onions?

As it turned out, I did. This recipe isn’t just a testament to carbonara’s transformative powers; it’s a nod to the versatile, humble onion. Gently steaming thin slices removes their bite and renders them al dente. They’re a sweet base (or topping) for anything, and simple, quick carbonara was no exception.

Don’t worry if it’s still a healthy choice to swap low-calorie onions for high-carb pasta when there’s bacon, butter and heavy cream in the mix. Just grab a fork and dig in.

Skill level: Beginner to medium. Some recipes are drop-dead simple while others require more kitchen experience.
This book is for: People who love classic recipes with a few ingenious tricks to make them easier.
Other recipes to try: Salt-crusted beef tenderloin grilled in cloth, black pepper tofu, no-knead bread
Verdict: Carbonara steals the show from cheesy skillet bread and greens.

 

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Onion Carbonara
4 servings as a starter, 2 servings as a main dish

4 oz. (110 g.) sliced applewood-smoked bacon
3 large yellow onions (about 12 oz./340 g. each)
½ cup (120 ml.) heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Fine seas salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

• Stack the slices of bacon, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer to firm. This will make them easier to cut.
• To cut the onions using a meat slicer, cut off the root end of each onion and discard. Then cut off the other ends. With a paring knife, core each onion by cutting a cone-shape from the root end of the onion, much as you would remove the stem of an apple. Stand each onion on one end and cut a vertical slit from top to bottom, just reaching the center. This will result in long strands of onion rather than rings when the onion is sliced. Set the slicer to cut 1/8-inch (3 mm.) slices. Place a flat end of an onion against the blade and slice. Alternatively, to cut by hand, leave the root ends intact, but cut a slit in each onion as above, then cut across the onion to make 1/8 (3 mm.) slices. Separate the onion slices into strands. Place the longer strands in a bowl and reserve the shorter ones for another used. You should have about 8 cups (1.9 liters) loosely packed onions.
• Place a steamer basket in a pot over simmering water. Place the onion strands in the basket, cover, and steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Taste one to make sure the sharp onion flavor has mellowed to your liking. Remove the basket from the pot. (This can be done a few hours before serving.)
• Remove the bacon from the freezer, unwrap and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch (3 mm.) strips. Put in a large nonstick skillet and saute over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until crisp and browned.
• Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together ¼ cup (60 ml.) of the cream and the egg yolk. Set aside.
• Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour out the fat and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Return the pan to the burner. Add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the bacon and the remaining ¼ cup cream and simmer 30 seconds. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions are hot. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the reserved cream mixture and the Parmesan. Taste and add additional seasoning if needed.
• With a pair of tongs, lift each portion, letting excess sauce drip back into the pan and arrange in small mounds on serving plates. Serve sprinkled with additional Parmesan, if desired.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

By the Book: Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

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To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled for the blogger book series. I’m into a number of food blogs, but some of the book options felt like a bunch of boring filler recipes. I flipped through Seven Spoons with a bad attitude: roasted chicken – boring; roasted chicken with couscous – boring; baked salmon – come on. There were a couple Indian recipes that sounded more interesting, but they were sides and soups. I almost picked up a different book, but then I saw the mushrooms and greens with toast recipe under the lunch section.

This is what food blogs are for. This recipe isn’t life changing. It’s not complicated. It’s just something I wouldn’t have thought to make that also tasted great. Mushrooms, bread, greens and cheese assembled in a new way. It’s like a custardless savory bread pudding or a knife-and-fork-able fondue situation. The recipe was simple, infinitely adaptable and clearly written (though it did tell me to tear mushrooms and chop greens, which I reversed).

I used a loaf of Light and Mild from Union Loafers in Botanical Heights (Bread matters with so few ingredients.), Gruyere, kale, shiitake, baby portobellos and crimini mushrooms. I couldn’t find a fresh red chile, so I subbed a teaspoon of red pepper flakes plus another pinch to finish, which was just right. As a meal, it feels like it’s lacking something (an egg on top?), but it would be a great brunch side or classy Super Bowl snack. The only thing I’ll do differently next time is cook the mushrooms in batches so they caramelize better. Otherwise, see you soon, bread-cheese skillet.

Skill level: Beginner – easy
This book is for: Those in need of simple, reliable recipes with the occasional Indian flare.
Other recipes to try: Pakora (Indian vegetable fritters), rhubarb-raspberry rye crumble
The verdict: Winner! This is a make-again recipe.

 

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Mushrooms and Greens with Toast
4 servings

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1½ lbs. (680 g.) mixed mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
2 thick slices from a large, crusty boule
2 cloves garlic or 1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 fresh red chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
Medium-grain kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. (170 g.) chopped greens such as kale, chard, spinach, or nettles
9 oz. (225 g.) good melting cheese, thickly sliced*

• Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Tear the mushrooms into bite-size pieces and add to the pan. Cook, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have given off their water and started to turn golden brown, 8 minutes or so.
• Meanwhile, grill or toast the bread.
• Once the mushrooms look nice, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Still stirring, drip the vinegar around the pan. Add most of the chile and season with salt and pepper. If using hearty greens that need some cooking, dump them in now. Move them around until wilted. After around 5 minutes, rip the bread into irregular croutons and push them into the vegetables. Lay pieces of cheese atop everything. Turn the heat down to medium-low, pop on a lid, and let the cheese melt, maybe 5 minutes, depending on the cheese. Sprinkle with the rest of the chile, hand out forks, then bring the pan to the table.

*The cheese doesn’t have to be one kind in particular. The point of this is using what’s around — anything from a young chèvre to a robust, oozy blue. As long as it melts well, it’s fair game. Fresh mozzarella or burrata, Taleggio and Fontina are specifically good.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

By the Book: What Katie Ate on the Weekend by Katie Quinn Davies

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

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I’ve been following Katie Quinn Davies’s blog, What Katie Ate, for years. In fact, her travel photos of Positano, Italy are the reason I made a trip to the Amalfi Coast a couple years ago (Let’s just say I’m highly influenced by pretty pictures.). In the last year, Davies blogged less and focused on creating her next cookbook, What Katie Ate on the Weekend. This is her second book, and like her blog, the food photos are delicious and the travel photos inspire.

I chose to make her crab, lemon and chile spaghetti. It’s what I imagine Italians eat every day on the southern coast while sipping chilled white wine. The recipe is simple: a few ingredients combine for a simple lemon zest, olive oil and breadcrumb topping that adds bright citrus and crunch texture to sweet crab and pasta. This is a perfect summer dish: sweet crab, a little heat from the chile and fresh lemon. All it needs is that glass of wine.

Skill level: Medium. There’s range here. Most of the recipes are easy with a few more complicated recipes here and there.
This book is for: People who like to cook or just want a cool coffee table book.
Other recipes to try: Self-saucing mocha pudding
The verdict: Check back next week when What Katie Ate on the Weekend takes on the next challenger, Food 52: Genius Recipes.

 

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Crab, Lemon and Chile Spaghetti
4 servings

2/3 cup olive oil
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
14 oz. spaghetti
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 long red chile, seeded and finely chopped
15 oz. cooked fresh crabmeat, drained and shredded if chunky
Lemon wedges, to serve

• Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and salt and pepper, then cook, stirring, for 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and lightly golden. Transfer to a bowl to cool, then stir through the parsley and set aside.
• Cook the spaghetti according to the packages instructions, then drain, reserving some of the cooking water.
• Meanwhile, wipe the skillet clean. Add 4 teaspoons of the oil and place over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Add the chile and cook for 1 minute, then add the crabmeat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until warmed through.
• Add the lemon juice and the remaining oil to the pan and stir to combine. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse.
• Add the hot drained pasta to the pan along with a few tablespoons of the cooking water to moisten. Toss together to combine well, then add half the breadcrumb mixture and toss again to combine.
• Transfer to a platter and scatter over the remaining breadcrumb mixture. Serve immediately with lemon wedges to the side.

Reprinted with permission from Viking Studio

By the Book: Experimental Cocktail Club

Friday, May 27th, 2016

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The four bartenders behind Experimental Cocktail Club published a compendium of recipes from their four international locations: Paris, London, New York and Ibiza, Spain. While the Ibiza cocktails certainly lent themselves to summer drinking, I was swayed by a cocktail from a section inspired by the bartenders’ friends: Julien Gualdoni’s St. Nicholas Manhattan, billed as “a Bajan twist on a Manhattan,” perfect for blue waters and white sands.

Assembly was simple; mix Barbados rum, sweet vermouth, coconut water and bitters, freeze until cold enough to survive the hottest Caribbean afternoon, then pour into a glass. The ingredients were the trickiest part, and I did have to swap the rum for something more accessible. I settled for 5-year-old Barbados rum. It was less expensive, and if I do get my hands on a good 12-year-old bottle, I’ll sip it neat, not diluted with coconut water.

It’s a boozy concoction, and one I’ll gladly sip on a hot day. Freezing the drink rather than shaking over ice gave it a thick, syrupy mouth feel, and the sharp bitters kept the sweet rum and coconut water from overpowering the palate. The best part: no need to shake up another round. It’s a batch cocktail – just refill your glass and dream of Caribbean waters.

Skill level: Medium. While there are definitely more complex recipes in this book, it was nowhere near the complexity of The Dead Rabbit.
This book is for: The globetrotting cocktail connoisseur
Other recipes to try: Brazilian Prescription, Pineapple Express
The verdict: Despite this cocktail’s simplicity and balance, in the middle of a hot summer day, all we really want is a cool piña colada sipped from a coconut. Cuban Cocktails takes the crown.

 

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St. Nicholas Manhattan
5 to 6 servings

470 ml. (16 oz.) St. Nicholas Abbey 12-year-old rum
235 ml. (8 oz.) Cinzano Rosso
470 ml. (16 oz.) coconut water
6 dashes Angostura bitters

• Mix all the ingredients together, stir well and store in the freezer.
• Once well chilled, pour straight into a chilled coupette and garnish with a twist of pared orange rind.

Reprinted with permission from Octopus Publishing Group

By the Book: Classic Cocktails by Salvatore Calabrese

Friday, May 20th, 2016

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There’s something romantic about a classic cocktail. What’s romantic (or drinkable, for that matter) about an appletini? Nothing. The romance of a classic cocktail, though, is indisputable. Invented in dark underground speakeasies, on the beach of a far-off island or by a brash barmaid who doesn’t take shit from anyone, classic cocktails are the subject of Salvatore Calabrese’s unimaginatively titled but conveniently alphabetized Classic Cocktails.

Almost equaling my ridiculous affinity for romantic cocktail backstories is my newfound enthusiasm for rum (particularly the funky kind.). How delighted I was to find not the recipe for a Bee’s Knees, but a variation that swaps Jamaican rum for gin in a Honey Bee. Three simple ingredients and a vigorous shake later, you’re done.

While the idea was good, the result was unbalanced. I tried a version of this at home, which resulted in a sweeter, smoother sip, but the ratios in this recipe resulted in a drink that was sour and lopsided. The good news: These cocktails are easy, fun to play with and use basic ingredients. So go ahead, switch up the proportions, add a splash of bitters and create your own riff on a classic. Maybe there’ll be a romantic story of your own to go along with it.

Skill level: Easy peasy, lemon squeezy
This book is for: Thirsty, booze-loving romantics. Sigh.
Other recipes to try: Basil smash, sidecar
The verdict: While this book is easy to digest and chock-full of recipes, the unbalanced nature of the cocktail kept it out of the winner’s circle. Cuban Cocktails prevails.

 

BTB_Jun16_Round3_2

 

Honey Bee
1 serving
2 oz. Jamaican rum
1 oz. lemon juice
2 bar spoons organic honey
• Combine the ingredients in a shaker and stir the mixture to ensure that the honey is diluted. Add a scoop of ice and shake long and hard. Strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Reprinted with permission from Sterling Epicure

 

By the Book: The Dead Rabbit by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry and Ben Schaeffer

Friday, May 13th, 2016

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Making cocktails from The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual has the same allure as going back in time to the 19th century when most of its recipes originated. It sounds romantic, until you consider the realities of the situation. Do you enjoy reliable electricity and paved roads? Would you like to make more than a dozen tinctures before even getting started on a cocktail?

Like history, this book is just for reading, and it does make a great read. Each original recipe is led by a fascinating introduction on the history of the cocktail that inspired it. The drink I chose, Whiskey Smash à la Terrington, was inspired by the 1869 book Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks. As delightful as that sounds, I have never complained more (recently) than while making this drink. I’d like to say I chose it because the cocktail sounded fresh, balanced and delightfully seasonal – which is was. Instead, I chose this recipe because it required me to buy only two bottles of booze, instead of the 57 every other recipe demanded.

It’s probably the best cocktail I have ever made – but it took three damn days to make. First, I had make a tansy tincture. I had no idea what tansy was, but luckily Cheryl’s Herbs in Maplewood did. So, I infused Everclear and water with the dried herb for three days and had my tincture. Next, I had to make lemon sherbet. No, not the easily accessible frozen treat. Lemon sherbet is an intense syrup made with lemon juice and oleo-saccharum. (Again: what?) Oleo-saccharum is basically citrus zest muddled in sugar and allowed to sit until the oils release. The oleo-saccharum took half an hour, as did the sherbet, which then had to cool. This is a drink that will make you drink.

After the sherbet was cool, the cocktail came together like any other. Measure, pour, shake, strain, garnish, sip – one of the best cocktails I’ve ever made. Complex but balanced, fresh but rich, and it had the smooth, viscous texture of a professional cocktail It’s a drink that should be made by professionals who presumably have large batches of sherbets and tinctures at their disposal.

Skill level: Professional. The instructions are good, but the ingredients aren’t at all reasonable for a home bar.
This book is for: Professionals or a those interested in a cocktail education.
Other recipes to try: Champagne à la Fouquet
The verdict: This book is interesting and impressive, but if you want recipes you can actually make, Cuban Cocktails is a better option.

 

 

BTB_Jun16_Round2_2

 

Whiskey Smash À La Terrington
1 serving

3 dashes Tansy Tincture (recipe follows)
¾ oz. Lemon Sherbet (recipe follows)
6 to 8 fresh mint leaves
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
2½ oz. Bulleit Rye Whiskey
Fresh nutmeg, grated, for garnish

• Add all the ingredients, except the garnish, to a shaker. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into a punch glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

 

Tansy Tincture
10 ounces

1 oz. dried tansy*
4½ oz. Everclear
4½ oz. water

• Combine the tansy and Everclear in a jar. Allow to macerate for 3 days, then strain though a chinois into a fresh container. Due to the alcohol content, this tincture should last indefinitely at room temperature.

 

Lemon Sherbet
24 ounces

4 lemons
1½ cups granulated sugar
12 oz. fresh lemon juice

• Prepare an oleo-saccharum (recipe follows) with the lemon peels and sugar.
• In a small saucepan, combine the oleo-saccharum and lemon juice over medium heat, but do not boil. Slowly stir to dissolve the sugar. When the syrup has thickened, remove from the heat. Strain through a chinois into bottles. The sherbet will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

 

Oleo-Saccharum
8 servings

• Peel each lime, being sure to remove only the peel, with none of the white pith. A Microplane grater or vegetable peeler is best.
• Add the peels to a bowl, along with the sugar. Using a muddler or heavy wooden spoon, press the peels into the sugar. You will see oil from the peels collect in the bowl. Let the combination sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. Mix to collect all separated oils into the sugar before using.
• You may use the peeled limes for juicing as needed in the recipe above.

*Tansy is available at Cheryl’s Herbs, cherylsherbs.com 

Reprinted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

 

By the Book: Cuban Cocktails by Ravi DeRossi, Jane Danger and Alla Lapushchik

Friday, May 6th, 2016

BTB_Jun16_Round1_2

 

On a recent trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, I made sure to drink cocktails out of coconuts as often as possible. I also learned that Coco Lopez is the bartender’s preferred brand to use when making coconut-based cocktails. In Cuban Cocktails: 100 Classic and Modern Drinks, the authors also praise Coco Lopez as the first mass-produced coconut cream, making tropical fruity drinks like this much simpler to make. It was a tough to find this brand (It wasn’t in regular or specialty grocery stores.), but I eventually found it at Randall’s.

Get a taste of summer at bars all over St. Louis. Click here for our Summer Drinking Preview.

Quality coconut cream necessitates a piña colada. It turned out well, though it’s a very sweet drink that didn’t need the additional simple syrup the recipe called for. Fresh lime juice also would help to balance that sweetness. The authors do offer a Cuban take on a piña colada that added lime juice, but it cut the coconut cream. Still, when you pour this frothy cocktail into a coconut adorned with a paper umbrella, pineapple wedge and a bendy straw, quibbles like these don’t seem to matter much.

Skill level: Easy. Most recipes require only a few ingredients.
This book is for: People who really want to be on vacation right now.
Other recipes to try: Isle of Manhattan Fizz – a mix of gin, rum, coconut cream, orange flower water, club soda and pineapple and lime juices.
The verdict: Check back next week, when this piña colada takes on the next summer cocktail.

 

BTB_Jun16_Round1_1

 
Piña Colada
1 serving

2 oz. white rum
3 oz. coconut puree
1 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. pineapple juice
½ cup crushed ice
Pineapple for garnish

• Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend for 15 seconds. Pour into a tiki bowl or frozen pineapple shell. Garnish with a pineapple wedge or a cocktail umbrella. For more of a kick, whip shake ingredients and serve over crushed ice.
• To make the Cuban version, omit the coconut puree and add ¾ ounce lime juice

Reprinted with permission from Sterling Epicure

 

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