Archive | January, 2009

Monday Review: A Pile of Great Cookbooks

26 Jan


Because it’s been so brutally cold lately, I thought you might enjoy a big, fat pile of cookbooks in which to flip through and review.  It’s as much fun planning a menu as it is creating one, don’t you think?

Books reviewed by Stephanie Dickison

Susan Mason’s Silver Service: Elegant Savannah Cuisine

Susan Mason and Barrie Scardino

There is something so spectacular about Southern cooking, but “upper crust” Southern dishes?  There are not enough words to describe my excitement.

Although I didn’t know of Ms. Mason before this, her story is an interesting one.  Her high-end catering has taken her to Savannah movie sets and catering private parties for stars.  Her personal tales are interwoven throughout the pages, along with more than 80 recipes, 100 illustrations and neat catering tips like making a tree out of strawberries.

The star stories might impress celebrity hounds but it’s the oyster stew and reetzi beetzi (rice and peas) recipes that I can’t get enough of.

There are dishes designed for dinner, garden and cocktail parties, among other things, but you’re gonna want to make these a part of your regular routine.  I’m talking about Silvia’s Chicken Pot Pie, Susan’s Tomato Pie, Seafood and Artichoke Casserole and Heywood’s Jalepeno Cornbread.

And I haven’t even told you about the desserts yet.  They are beyond belief.

Nobody Does It Better… Why French Home Cooking is Still the Best in the World

Trish Deseine

People have the impression that French cooking is extremely difficult.

It isn’t.  It just sounds that way because they say it in French.

And while there are a few techniques that might take a little trial and error on your part, it is actually a fun cuisine to tackle.

Except for the pigeon.

Pastilla Pigeon is a recipe that I won’t be making anytime soon.  Well, I will, but I’m going to make it with chicken.  I’ll even make it with rabbit.  But I just can’t do pigeon.

I hope the French will forgive me.

But things that sound all fancy like Lobster in Vanilla Butter or Crayfish Poached in White Wine are way easy to do.

I mean think about it – Crudités are just raw veggies and Endives Braisees are just braised Belgian endives.  Chances are you’ve done more exquisite things using leftovers and the sad condiments at the back of the fridge.

The book is beautifully done with exquisite photographs to entice and inspire you and the recipes are dead easy to follow.

So if you’re anything like me, stop being intimidated of French cooking and have a blast in the kitchen.

And go ahead and use pigeon.

I mean, I’ve had horse, sweetbreads and fish eyes.  How bad could it be?

The Festive Food of America

Martina Nicolis

I am fascinated by classic American food.  It is so distinct and often comforting.  So when I came across this little book, I knew it was a must-have for my cookbook shelf (plus the photos are amazing).

Yet it is not solely a book of recipes, but a look at America’s most festive occasions, festivals and holidays, so you not only learn a little history but you can make Bourbon Baked Ham on Kentucky Derby Day and Vinegar Pie for Harvest Dinner.

I know, I hadn’t heard of it either, but according to the book, “On the South Dakota praries, the Harvest Supper was an annual event for homesteaders who attended church for a rousing sermon, to give thanks for the harvest and enjoy the frontier fare contributed by the ladies of the country.”

So I am incorporating some of their holidays into my own.  This year I’ll be celebrating Mardi Gras with Oysters Creole and King’s Cake, the Shaker Strawberry Feast and Avocado Garlic Soup.

What’s that for you say?

The Gilroy Garlic Festival of course.  You’ll want to add this one to your repitoire.  But you’ll have to read about it first.  Because the first thing people will ask you when they get the invite is, “What the helcis this?”

Complete Traditional Recipe Book

Sarah Edington

This is obviously a book that you will want to keep close to you.  Like your Joy of Cooking and other cookbook basics that are stained, smeared and with pages clotted with syrups and sauces.

Books like this are meant to be used over and over, handed down through the generations.  These are meant to get dirty.

Things as basic as Fish and Chips, Country Vegetable Soup and Mayonnaise are included, but you may be stumped by a few dishes.

That’s because this is a British basics cookbook so you might not be familiar with Cock-a-Leekie or Dame Alice soup.  And what the heck is Cullen Skink you might be wondering?  Or Ashby Statutes?  I’m half British but even I don’t know what Damson Snow is!

But that’s part of the fun for me – that path of discovery of new ingredients and perhaps finding a recipe that will become a family favourite!

This book is a wonderful foray into British history but I’m working on making it a part of my present.

I’m going to make my fella Bubble and Squeak – Doesn’t that sound like fun?

I think it sounds much better than plain ol’ potatoes and cabbage.

Back to the Family: Food Tastes Better Shared with Ones You Love

Art Smith with Michael Austin

Art Smith is best known as being Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, but with this new book, he should be commended on doing something greater – bringing comfort Southern foods to the table to share with your friends and family.

It is a touching book but it is the recipes that will have you swooning – Pickled Green Tomatoes, Breakfast Casserole with Ciabatta, Iris’ Creamy Vegetable Chicken Noodle Soup and Tomato Pie

Whole sections on grits, hotcakes, biscuits and fritters and soup as a meal!  These are the kind of recipes that I search for and not many people write about.  They are too entangled in arugula, Malpeque oysters and venison.  I mean, this man thought to include recipes for brines and aromatics.

I love that Art writes about the food that moves him, but Southern and comfort foods move me like no other.

I’m off to make Strawberry Pretzel Surprise.  Wanna come over?

Monday Review – Seriously Simple Deck

19 Jan


Seriously Simple Deck: 50 Recipes for Simply Delicious Meals by Diane Rossen Worthington

By Stephanie Dickison

While I am all for spending a number of hours in the kitchen, chopping and shredding, sauteing and blending, I’ve got to admit that with all this cold weather and trudging through the snow everyday, sometimes you just want to put something together quickly and hunker down with a good book or settle on the couch with a thick blanket and a movie recommended by a friend.

That’s why I love the Seriously Simple Deck.  It’s like a saving grace for those days where you don’t want to spend time flipping through your recipe books and cards.  You just want to whip something together and get on with your day.

But do not for one second think that “simple” means boring.  Oh no!  Diane has created dishes that will have your mouth watering and guests wondering how you managed such a great meal in such a short amount of time.  These are fun and modern dishes on easy-to-read cards with sumptuous photos on the back.

When thinking about dinner tonight, how about Tuna Tartare with Cucumber-Avocado Relish to start, Island-Style Braised Short Ribs with Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes and Carrots, Crispy Scallion-Potato Pancakes and Warm Chocolate Pudding Cakes?

Diane has also included recipes for “basics” such as Pistachio Pesto, Balsamic Syrup and Chipotle-Garlic Puree to name a few.  These are the most exciting basics I’ve seen in a “simple” recipe collection in a long time.

Oh, and she also manages to add wine recommendations along the way.

Diane, where have you been all of my life?

The way she is able to pull off making these seemingly sophisticated recipes in a simple manner is due to what she calls her “guiding principles.”  Diane says, “Straightforward techniques are fail-safe: High-heat roasting, broiling, grilling, braising, high-heat reduction, and immersion blending are techniques I use again and again.”

In a world where “true” cooks use slow cooking methods to bring out the taste of food, it is awfully refreshing to hear Diane’s take of making good food quickly.

I have been doing this for 20 years, but somehow I was made to feel like simple and fast meals were less than something that took hours to make.

And now I have 50 new recipes to add to my arsenal!

Let’s see, now that I have dinner all planned out for tonight, what shall I do tomorrow – Poached Salmon Nicoise or Veal Ragout with Pasta tonight?

Now deciding what to make is a true pleasure.  And dead easy to execute.

I could get used to this.

Friday 5 – Dishes to Help Keep You Warm

16 Jan

macncheeseBy Stephanie Dickison

According to the Weather Network, it feels like -24 degrees today.  Ugh.

So, I give you 5 dishes to help keep warm on this blustery day.


1.  Stick to your ribs Spicy Mac ‘n Cheese

2. Nothing says hearty like Braised Short Ribs!

3. Hearty Sausage & Corn Chowder keeps ’em coming back for more

4.  Tuscan Pot Roast – just the name makes me drool!

5.  Keep it simple, but heartywith this Farmer’s Dinner

Chew On This: Do You Have Eggs for Dinner?

15 Jan


Opinion # 1 By Chris Garbutt

Don’t you? I guess I can see how people might not think of eggs as anything but breakfast food, but there are a lot of ways to have eggs that go beyond the usual over-easy/sunny-side-up/poached/boiled(breakfast) and sandwiches (lunch).

Now, it’s not usually at the top of my list at home, but it’s great to have them in the house for more than just weekend mornings. Eggs are an excellent choice when you have a bunch of vegetables but no other protein. Just about any fresh vegetables will work in a fritatta. And fritattas are ridiculously easy. You beat a bunch of eggs, throw in some vegetables (you might want to precook things like potatoes and carrots), grate some cheese, add some salt & pepper and pour it into a hot (medium high) nonstick pan. I usually lift the sides to let the liquid bits get cooked, and when it’s mostly set, I turn a plate over the pan, flip it over and slide the fritatta, cooked side down, back into the pan. A few minutes and you’re done! You can also put a lid over the pan to steam the eggs. Or you can stick the pan under the broiler, though I don’t think that’s so good for nonstick and besides my nonstick pans have plastic handles. A fritatta is good straight out of the pan, but if you make extra, it’s great with toast for lunch the next day!

But let’s not forget the value of eggs as an ingredient. When you’re making breaded chicken, eggs are part of the process. Or don’t forget the old standby – egg drop soup!

If you say you’re not eating eggs for dinner, you’re either missing something, or you’re missing out.

Opinion # 2 By Stephanie Dickison

Not unless it’s a quail egg quivering over sushi or a fried egg over my Korean Hot Pot.

I know that eating eggs for dinner is a thing for a lot of people. And I get that. I just don’t do it.

I know a few people that love it and see it as a real treat. Even some of my closest friends will order eggs if we’re out to dinner and they have an all-day breakfast going on.

I am a meat lovin’ gal, so dinner is a time where I get to really get to fulfill my love of cooking and meat. Just last night I was out to dinner with my best friend who said she’d never cooked lamb.


While we don’t eat meat every single night, we eat it for 6 of them. Maybe we’ll have a pasta with veg one night or some fish. Somehow eggs just has never come into the equation.

I think it’s because I grew up having eggs (both my parents loved them) and to me, they were never all that exciting.

I realize now that there is so much that you can do with them, but for me, I’m too enveloped in creating something with beef, chicken, lamb, pork, bison, turkey, ham, etc.

In fact, tonight’s dinner? Stuffed naturally-raised pork tenderloin with sweet potatoes, okra and a mesclun salad topped with roasted red peppers and toasted pumpkin seeds.

An omelette doesn’t even come into the equation.

Monday Review: Sunday Soup

12 Jan


Sunday Soup: A Year’s Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Make Recipes by Betty Rosbottom

By Stephanie Dickison

One of my favourite things about Fall and Winter is making soup on Sundays.

I started this tradition many, many years ago.  I don’t know what kicked it off, but it remains a big part of my weekend.

The thing is, that my repertoire is really small.  I can make some amazing soups, but only a limited few.  And as the winter drags on, I start to crave more variety.

That’s why I am besotted with Sunday Soup.  It has seasonal soups with a reasonable amount of ingredients that are easy to prepare and yet, they are simply sublime – and much better than anything I could come up with on my own!

There are many reasons to love this book:

1.  This is one of the few cookbooks, soup cookbooks no less, that actually says it’s okay to use store-bought broth!  I know!  How incredible is that?  I know my lovely Co-Editor Chris will be flabbergasted that people do such things when making it from scratch is so easy, but I am one of those folks at the supermarket with a cart full of veggies, meat and a few tetras of broth.  Please don’t hold that against me…  And I am grateful to the authors for their Shortcut Chicken or Beefstock Recipe that gives life to store-bought broth.  This makes me feel a little better about not being as authentic as others.

2. The photos are enough to start your saliva glands go into overtime.  I dare you to look at the photos and not crave a big steaming bowl of homemade soup!

3.  The simplicity of the ingredients and the recipes means that you can make one or two soups in an afternoon or evening and have enough to eat through the week.  This means, more time doing what you want to do instead of hovering over complicated recipes, trying to figure out how to deglaze a pan or braise leeks.

4.  Unlike most soup cookbooks, Rosbottom has given thought to what we eat with our soup and included a vibrant selection of salads, toasts and sandwiches.  What a fantastic idea!

5.  The combinations selected for each season are intoxicating.  Take a look:

FALL – “Cool Nights” Chili with Chicken, Corn, and Chipotles; Fall Brodo with Acorn Squash, Swiss Chard, and Bacon; Wild Mushroom Melange; Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Walnuts and Rosemary; French Lentil Soup with Garlic Sausage

WINTER – White Bean Soup with Chorizo and Kale; Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Prosciutto and Parmesan; Cream of Chicken and Fennel Soup; Ribollita – The Tuscan Minestrone; Celery Bisque with Stilton Toasts; Tomato, Dill and White Cheddar Soup

SPRING – Cream of Parsley Soup; Carrot Soup Scented with Sesame and Chives; Spring Risotto Soup; “Just Greens” Soup; Emily’s Springtime Salmon Chowder; Watercress Soup with Pan-Seared Scallops; Thai-Style Lemongress Soup with Shrimp

SUMMER –Avocado Soup with Fresh Tomato Salsa; Icy Cucumber Soup with Smoked Salmon and Dill; Victorine’s Gazpacho; Cold Curry Creams; Chilled Melon Soup – Two Ways; Zucchini Vichyssoise; Summer Squash Minestrone with Pistou.


And guess what I did yesterday?  Yep, I made soup for my fella and I – and not my usual Curried Butternut Squash Soup or Minestrone.  And now we’ve got exciting lunches or dinners for throughout the week as well.

I am so inspired by these delectable dishes that now I want new big and deep soup bowls to enjoy them in!