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Showing posts from May, 2010

Cookbook #22: Barefoot Contessa Parties

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Adapted from Cookbook #22: Barefoot Contessa Parties!*

Recipe:  Shortbread


This is by far the best batch of shortbread I have ever made.  Ever.

Often I find shortbread too dry.  While fantastic for dipping into tea, shortbread sticks to the roof of the mouth.  And there's nothing pleasant about that.  So given the option, I often avoid shortbread.

But then, I needed to bake something for a little gathering of colleagues, and Ina Garten is the one to trust when it comes to baking.  Page 210 in her book happened to be shortbreads, so I thought, why not?

These little cookies were perfect.  Crumbly and firm without being dry.  Sweet, but the strong notes of vanilla.



I didn't know why shortbread was called so.  I wondered is it because it is unleavened, and thus does not rise, so it is "short."  But no.  Apparently crumbly texture used to be called "short."  Such texture is created by a high fat to flour ratio (traditionally the shortbread ratio is 1 sugar: …

Cookbook #21: Jacques Pepin's Simple and Healthy Cooking

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Adapted from Cookbook #21:  Jacques Pepin's Simple and Healthy Cooking

Recipe:  Pasta Primavera

Spring.

That's about all I have to say about this recipe.  It just screams spring.

And we're nearing the end of spring, so it's high time I made this recipe.  This is the kind of recipe that makes me want to renew my CSA box.

Pasta primavera, so the story goes, was "invented" in New York City in the 70s at Le Cirque.  Word spread, and by the 80s everyone was making it, including the husband in his World Foods class in high school.  No joke.  Nowadays, gone are the cream and butter sauce base of the 70s and in their stead come a lightened version of broth and olive oil.

This recipe comes from Jacques Pepin, after those halcyon days of heavy French cooking.  A bit of healthy living certainly led to this fine little cookbook.    I would argue that most of the recipes in this book are more weeknight cooking than weekend entertaining, but what a cookbook! Cold Peac…

Cookbook #20: I'm Just Here for More Food

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Adapted from Cookbook #20:  I'm Just Here for More Food:  Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking

Recipe: Pound Cake*

*And yes, I did take a little bite off of the corner of the pound cake.  I was willing to sacrifice the picture in order to have a piping hot taste of pound cake fresh from the oven. 

This cookbook is rather clever in its setup.  Alton Brown teaches you the methods of mixing and then expects that you will begin to see the patterns of putting together a recipe.  So instead of listing in each recipe all of the steps for the Biscuit Method or the Creaming Method or Straight Dough Method or the Muffin Method, each chapter has an introduction to the method with all the science bells, whistles and gee-gaws we have come to love and expect from Alton Brown.  After you figure out the method, his recipes become more outlines than programs, and you get to have your own wiggle room.  He, of course, explains precisely why you want the Creaming Method here with a pound cake.  While it…

Cookbook #19: The Best Soups in the World

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Adapted from Cookbook #19:  The Best Soups in the World

Recipe:  Czech Smooth Potato Soup

I love a cookbook with chutzpah.  Look at the title.  Not Soups of the World.  No, no.  This cookbook boasts the BEST Soups in the World.  Who am I to disagree?  Such cheekiness is welcoming, as I sometimes declare "Soup Week" for no discernible reason (this week, happens to be Soup Week, where we have had this Czech delight detailed here, but I also have a fresh American asparagus soup and a Colombian potato soup also on the docket).  I wish to make only the best soups.

This past Friday evening, I made bramborova lisovana polevka or, as everyone knows, "smooth potato soup" (okay, count me among the laity especially when it comes to the Czech language).

I have a 1990s crush on the Czech Republic.

I share this crush with many of my generation who witnessed the Velvet Revolution from afar.  I, like many of my fellow American Gen X'ers, have been to Prague.  The first tim…

Cookbook #18: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

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Adapted from Cookbook #18:  The Zuni Cafe Cookbook(2002)

Recipe:  Pasta alla Carbonara

Oh Judy Rodgers, how I love thee, thy restaurant, thy straightforward cooking, thy sense of humor, and thy cookbook.  I have been waiting to cook from thy book since January, but I waited, waited as I should, for just the right English Peas from the Berkeley Bowl.  There they were, and, well, here I am. 

The Zuni Cafe is perfect:  bar and mezzanine are a corner shop, and you can sidle up to the floor to ceiling windows to sit on the benches, or you can make your way to the back to sit near the wood-burning oven or the oyster bar.  Upstairs, the tables are snuck into coveys and coves, and you sometimes feel as if you're the only ones in the restaurant, even at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night.   The Zuni Cafe has a long history with the husband and me.  He spent his 21st birthday here having dinner with his father before tottering down the steep stairs and then out into the night to celebrate with hi…