Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Good Cook Series

Soups by Time-Life Books

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every cook should have a set of The Gook Cook series which was published by Time Life between 1979 and 1983. They are organized by cooking subject (Fish, Soup, Cookies & Crackers, etc.). They were edited by the brilliant Richard Olney and written by many food writers who went on to become well known.

Each has a brief but comprehensive history of the topic followed by 80 pages of detailed techniques accompanied by detailed photos. The last 80 pages contain around 200 recipes from around the world, spanning 300 years, many of which were translated for the first time for these books.

It is hard to imagine any dish or technique that this series does not cover.

Want to make your own food dye? This is your series.

Want to make a basic broth? This is your series.

Want to make a birthday cake? This is your series.

There are 28 volumes (see the list at Wikipedia), all of which I picked up at used book stores fairly cheaply. They are beautifully produced and include two ribbon markers so you can mark both the technique photos and the recipe in the back of the book.

These books are wonderful whether or not you cook from them. I'm rereading my Soup cookbook as inspiration for the many inexpensive, imaginative, and delicious soups that can be made using simple techniques that have worked around the world and over the ages.

It is also a pleasure to see acknowledged the many classic techniques which come to us from a long history of cooking, unlike many magazines or cookbooks these days which act as if they invented them. I try to be charitable and attribute this to ignorance, but that is still not very complimentary to the many writers who should know better.

I cannot recommend these highly enough, whether for the beginning or serious cook.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home CooksThe Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was captivated by the book's beginning in which Kathleen Flinn tells about becoming interested in a woman and daughter grocery shopping. Fascinated by the prepackaged and "mix" foods in her cart, she began stalking them and eventually wound up helping them replace all the highly processed meals with the ingredients for homemade. Key to this was scribbling recipes and simple instructions.

This encounter led to Flinn's epiphany that there is a generation of women (and people in general, actually) who don't have the first idea of how to cook. Never taught to cook by their parents, they are equally ignorant of nutrition. Flinn selected 10 worthy candidates and began her Kitchen Counter Cooking School to educate not only them as cooks but also herself in the ways of how to communicate simple kitchen knowledge.

I would find the beginning hokey except that I know one young woman who is in exactly these straits, never having been taught to cook and now having a family to feed. After getting over my own surprise, I have begun showing her a few techniques and recipes. This book is for those who have no one to do the same for them.

I didn't really care about the chapters where Flinn broke away from the school to tell about a stint cooking for a cruise or putting on a series of dinners to raise money for the school. They distracted from the point of the book for me. I'm glad that she has a good marriage and I suppose it is nice that her husband finds it sexy that she bounces up and down in her chair when the black truffle risotto is served. I don't care. These chapters seemed as if they belonged in a different book. However, they are easy to skim and others, perhaps, may have enjoyed them much more than I did. They cost the book a star through.

Overall, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is well written and enjoyable, as well as carrying strands of information about food processing and eating habits in the U.S. today. It is also thought provoking, no matter your level of ability in the kitchen. None of us is above reproach. The author herself is prompted to do self-examination of her own habits and realizes that she wastes a lot of food. Likewise, I was reminded of the same thing (we know and then we forget, such is the pattern of life, non?). I will be examining my cupboards for aged supplies and my refrigerator for items that can be used before I wind up following my pattern of tossing them out in a week, withered and soft.

Definitely recommended.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tandoori Pizza

This is also from James McNair's New Pizza. It is a delicious adaptation of Indian flavors to pizza and we really like it a lot.

Tandoori Pizza

Use Garlic-Glazed Chicken Pizza recipe as your guide, incorporating the changes below.

Step 1:

1 c. yogurt
2 T lime juice
2 T grated ginger
2 T minced garlic
1 T paprika
2 t garam masala
1 t salt
1 t cayenne

1-1/2 lb boned and skinned chicken breast halves or thighs

Combine yogurt through cayenne to make a marinade. Marinate chicken for a minimum of 4 hours up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 500°. Place chicken on a rack set over a shallow roasting pan and roast 10 minutes for breasts or 20 minutes for thights. Let cool. Chop into small bite-sized pieces. You can refrigerate chicken at this point. Just bring it to room temperature before making the pizza.

Step 2:

1 recipe of California-Style pizza dough (use sesame oil instead of olive oil; use no cheese in the crust, substitute an equal amount of flour)

Step 3:

Mango chutney
3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Chicken from step 1
1/2 cup sliced green onion

On the shaped pizza dough, spread a thin layer of chutney on dough, top with cheese, leaving a 1/2" border around the edges. Distribute the chicken over the cheese and sprinkle with green onions. 

Transfer pizza to the preheated oven and bake until crust is golden, about 10 minutes.