Friday, February 27, 2009

Adventures in Cookbooking -- Week 3

This week's recipe was chosen by the boy. (He's helping me write this post) The cookbook is called The Recipe Hall of Fame Cookbook edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley. It's essentially a compilation of the "best" recipes from the Best of the Best book series. The series seems to be books made up of more compilations of local recipes. Did that make sense?

I told the boy he could choose a main dish or a side dish from this book. He paged through some of the recipes and decided on a beef vegetable soup. Side note -- the recipe is from Van Cliburn's aunt!

It was a straightforward recipe. It was easy to make with ingredients that were easy to find. By the way, they carry beef soup bones at the supermarket. Who knew? It calls for canned or frozen mixed vegetables. I found a great mix at my local supermarket. It's called a fiesta blend. It contains broccoli, carrots, white beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, Italian style green beans, and red peppers.

This was a big thumbs up. It had nice beefy flavor with lots of good vegetables.

Here's the boy's bowl of soup ready to be eaten.

And here's the boy! Eating!

And not to be left behind, here's the girl.

I'll use this book again. There are some nice homestyle/family recipes that looked good. E-mail me if you'd like the recipe.

Come back and see what we choose for next week!

*** edited to add -- The wonderful ladies who edited the book left me a very nice note. The book is for sale ($5!) at their website. Go get a copy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

TWD: Caramel Crunch Bars. And my 100th post!

Woo hoo! Post #100! Woo hoo!

Now on to the cookies. We liked these cookies. We liked them a lot. I will say that I've been making a version of this bar cookie for years and years. It was in my mom's recipe box, and I remember making them as a kid. Mostly because they were incredibly simple to make, but also because they were delicious. Dorie's was slightly more complicated, but for a Dorie recipe, this one was pretty easy and not very dish intensive.

Dorie's recipe isn't far off from my mom's version. This one calls for a little espresso powder and cinnamon in the shortbread, which I thought added a nice flavor note. It also calls for chopped chocolate in the shortbread crust. Dorie likes toffee bits as her finishing touch. We used toasted chopped pecans.

It's very basic construction. A shortbread crust is baked. Chocolate is melted on top. (By the way, don't bother putting it back in the oven to melt. The residual heat will melt the chocolate just fine). Toffee bits are scattered over the melted chocolate. Bingo. Dessert!

You can see the layers pretty clearly here.

I brought these to an Oscar party. All the reviews were favorable. The ones that were left at home were quickly eaten up by the boy, girl, and husband. I could absolutely see myself making these again. I will omit the chocolate from the crust next time.
I didn't think it was necessary. I think that flavor got lost because of the chocolate topping. And while I really enjoyed the crunch of the toffee bits, I'll probably use toasted nuts next time. It counteracts the sweetness of the rest of the bar very nicely. Either this crust recipe or my mom's works very well.

Thanks Whitney of What's Left on the Table for choosing this yummy treat. Next week is a chocolate cake with whiskey soaked raisins. Come back and see what happens!

Edited to add:  I can't help but note that today is Fat Tuesday.  Isn't every TWD a fat Tuesday?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Adventures in Cookbooking -- Week 2

First of all, thanks for the name, Nancy! She let me steal her idea.

Week two brings a recipe called New York Spiedies. (pronounced speedy) The book is The Best American Recipes 2002-2003. The husband paged through and found the recipe for us. This is an interesting book. It's actually a compilation of recipes from books, magazines, newspapers, and the interwebs. These two women, Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens, are, respectively a cookbook editor and contributing editor for
Fine Cooking. Some recipes in the book are from celebrity cooks and others are from home cooks. I like the mix. Each recipe comes with cook's notes that can be advice on where to find ingredients or variations on the recipe. There's also "serve with" and "to drink" advice with each recipe. I also liked that each recipe has a story that goes with it.

It's a very easy recipe to put together. Essentially, you make a marinade, cube some meat, let it soak for up to three days, thread it on a skewer, and cook. It's all pantry items, so that was really a bonus. To serve, you use some squishy Italian bread as the meat remover. Instant sandwich!

This recipe didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. It was completely user error. I think I chose the wrong cut of meat. Sometimes, the labels really flummox me. It's meant to be cooked on the grill or broiled. I tried to use my grill pan and ended up crowding it. The flavor of the meat was wonderful, but the texture was too chewy. I will absolutely make this again in the summer when I can use my grill. Plus, I'll look more carefully at the meat label.

Definitely too crowded in the pan.

It never really got a chance to sear and get brown.

Here's the recipe. This one I'll post because it was previously published in the Washington Post.

New York Spiedies

2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. vinegar
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T. each dried thyme, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder
zest of one lemon
1/2 c. water
5 pounds top round roast, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
1 loaf soft Italian bread, thickly sliced

At least one day ahead, combine everything but the bread and meat and mix well. Reserve 1/2 c. marinade for basting. Add meat to rest of marinade. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 24 hours and up to three days.

Preheat a grill to high. Transfer the meat to skewers and discard the marinade. Grill the skewers, turning occasionally and basting with the reserved marinade until meat is cooked to liking. Serve immediately with the bread. To eat: fold the bread over the contents of a skewer and pull the skewer out, leaving the meat sandwiched within the bread. I cut this recipe in half.

If you give this a try, let me know. If you have the book and you've made something else, let me know that, too!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TWD: Devil's Food White Out Cake

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have the cover cake.  Here it is.  
This is a three layer cake slathered with marshmallow frosting and coated with more cake crumbs.  Truthfully, what could be bad.
The cake is baked in two layers.  I would say for a Dorie recipe, it was medium fussy.  Funny story, I searched quite a few places trying to find the 8" cake pans that this recipe calls for. Other than slightly expensive options at Williams-Sonoma or the internet with resulting shipping charges, I was not having much luck.  And then I looked in one of my lesser-used cabinets.  And what do I find there, but a checkerboard cake set with, yup, 8" cake pans.  Woo hoo!
Anyway, back to the cake.  The cakes came out lovely and moist.  I didn't put them on a baking sheet.  I find that it doesn't bake as well on the bottom when I do that.  The layers are sliced in half.  I don't have a hard time doing this, though I know it can be daunting.  I just hold it in my hand and go at it with my long serrated knife.  Three of the four layers are used for the cake base. The fourth is crumbled and meant to be squished in the frosting.  That was actually nice because if you screwed up, it was still meant to be crumbled!
The frosting was new to me.  I wasn't part of the group when they made marshmallows, and I've never made marshmallow frosting.  The directions, I thought, were a little vague.  I know that you whip egg whites.  I know that you make a sugar syrup.  I know that you add them together.  When you add them together, however, was not very clear to me.  Regardless, my guessing seems to have worked.  I will say that I think I screwed up by adding the vanilla a little late to the frosting.  It ended up having a slightly alcohol taste to it.  Though, there was much wine drinking the night it was eating, so I'm not sure anyone noticed.  It ended up being easy to frost.  Again, the crumbs were a bonus.  If the frosting was a little crumby on the side, it didn't matter!
Here it is from the top.  It almost looks like Dorie's cake!

Here we are looking at it from the side.

And this is the inside.  Mmmmm.  This is where it stops looking like Dorie's cake.  I have to wonder if she had extra frosting somewhere to make it so thick in the middle.  Ah well.  I also discovered that it was definitely a little squishy when it was sliced.

I enjoyed this cake.  I'm not sure that I'll be rushing to make it again.  Mostly because I don't have a lot of occasions that call for cake, but also because I make a similar one that I like a little better.  I think the cakes are pretty close, but the other one is frosted with whipped cream and coated with toffee.  Winner.
Thank you Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater for choosing this lovely cake.  Up next:  Caramel Crunch Bars.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cookie Carnival: Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Ok, yum.  Seriously, just yum.  This month's recipe is good.  Not just good, but GOOD.  So good, that less than a week after I made the first batch, I made a second one.  On the same day that we were picking up our Girl Scout cookies.  There wasn't going to be a shortage of cookies in my house.  But I needed to have these available to me.  This is a "I can barely pass by the jar without taking one" cookie.

They are very easy to assemble.  Ice cream scoops -- not just for ice cream.  They make portioning out cookies very easy.  I used dried cherries in the first batch, and a mix of dried fruit in the second one.  Normally, I am not a dried fruit fan when it comes to cookies, but this really added a nice dimension.  I used a mix of black and regular cocoa.  It helped to make these extra rich.  I did cut down on the amount of chocolate chunks for the second batch.  I wanted the other flavors to come through a little more.  This recipe is definitely finding a spot in my cookie world.

Thanks, Kate!  Here's the recipe if you'd like to start your own addiction.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My first foray into a new cookbook

So here was my challenge. I own many, many cookbooks. I cook regularly out of three or four. I have cooked out of about 20% my collection. I am determined to cook at least one recipe from each of the cookbooks I own.

Last night was my first meal with a new cookbook. I think I need to shift my expectations. Some of it has to do with my eaters. Some of it has to do with the cookbooks I own. Some has to do with the ingredients on hand. I think I had visions of.... well, I'm not sure. But I was a little embarrassed to realize that my first recipe was for something called Chili Mac. I had ground beef that needed cooking. I had most of the ingredients on hand. I needed dinner.

The cookbook is a Cook's Illustrated book called Cover & Bake. Truthfully, I'm surprised that this was my first recipe from this book. The recipes really look pretty good, and they are tested to within an inch of their little lives.

The Chili Mac was good. The boy and the girl had seconds. I thought it was warm and comforting. Perhaps not gourmet but good.

I made some minor changes. I used a mix of beef and turkey, and I used about half the cheese called for. It's now in the "definitely make it again" pile.

So that's one down, and about 130 to go. Anyone else try a new recipe from their collection this week?

*** I don't post recipes from books. Copyright law and a lawyer husband and all that. If you'd like the recipe, I'm happy to e-mail it to you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Again, not a TWD. Instead, a challenge

So, this week's pick was Floating Island.  It totally sounds like a cool recipe. Essentially, it's poached meringue lumps served in a custard sauce.  Get it.  Floating island.  And though it does sound like it would be delicious, it did not get made in my house.  Shari, of Whisk:  A Food Blog, who makes sublime and wonderful things, will have a gorgeous photo and the recipe.

What is here, however, is a challenge for me and anyone else who has the same dilemma.  As noted in a previous post, I love food magazines.  I have many subscriptions and many copies. My collection of EVERY Cook's Illustrated magazine predates my husband.  I also have an enormous collection of cookbooks.

I love cookbooks.

I read them like novels.  I love the pictures.  I love the commentary.  I love the possibilities.  Apparently, what I don't love is cooking out of most of them.  I counted today.  I own 168 cookbooks.  I have, to the best of my knowledge, cooked out of 29 of them.  That's 17%.  I always find recipes that sound fun and fabulous.  And then I never cook them.  I rely on the same three or four books and supplement with the magazines and the internet.

I decided that this has to change.  So I am challenging myself.  And you, if you're game.  I have decided that I am going to cook through my collection of books.  It's not going to be a Julie and Julia situation.  I'm not making every recipe.  I'm going to make one recipe from one new book each week.   I'll let you know the name of the book and the recipe I make.  In theory, this is a three year project.  We'll see what gives out first -- my will or my collection of books.  Though the collection seems to be growing all the time....

Come back next week to see the cover recipe from the Dorie cookbook.  And check in every so often to see how I'm doing on my journey.  

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

TWD: World Peace Cookies

So this week we made Dorie's world famous World Peace cookies. (I'll run off on a quick tangent or two. I didn't realize I had the recipe in another cookbook of mine. I have a copy of Paris Sweets. The original recipe, named Korova cookies, is in that book. I really do need to read my cookbooks again. And to further my tangent, my Paris Sweets book and my Baking From my Home to Yours books -- both are signed by Dorie. Tangents done!)

Anyway, back to the cookies. I found these to be a pretty basic, pretty easy to put together chocolate butter cookie. The thing that sets it apart from other cookies? Fleur de sel. That's a fancy name for sea salt. (Oooh! Another tangent opportunity! About seven years ago, we were on a vacation in Vermont. We made a pilgrimage to the King Arthur store. I was in awe. And slightly overwhelmed. I really wanted to buy something, but I didn't know what it should be. I walked away with an assortment of salt. I know. All those choices, and I buy salt. But I finally used the last of the "Fine Sea Salt" up!) These are a "slice and bake" cookie, which is one of my favorite kinds. Easy peasy! The dough was very crumbly, but a bit of mashing around and rolling fixed that right up.

I stored mine in the fridge for a couple of days. I didn't end up with slicing problems the way some other bakers did. I think the fridge time may have helped. I actually got 36 cookies, just like the recipe says.

Here they are! (I hope my tye-dyed background won't go unnoticed. You know, peace cookies. Tye-dye. Ok, so it's not really a theme. I tried.)

I have to say, that while this are a nice, tasty cookie, we didn't go crazy for them. We all liked them, but there are other cookies I would make before I made these again. They don't call to me the way others do. I can actually walk past the cookie jar and not grab one. The husband liked them better the second day.

Thank you to Jessica of
Cookbookhabit for choosing this recipe. I've decided to skip next week's recipe. I love to bake, but I can't rationalize baking more than once a week. And some weeks, quite frankly, I'd like to try a recipe from another cookbook. Blasphemous, I know. On average, I bake three Dorie recipes to one "other" recipe. That sounds fair. Come look. I'll have "other" deliciousness here!