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August 17, 2006

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Filet of Beef Bourguignon

A quicker treatment than the classic recipe for beef Bourguignon, which requires a long cooking time. This recipe uses slices of beef filet, which cook up very tender and tasty. The downsides: a 3-pound filet of beef is very expensive, and the recipe didn't make enough sauce.

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August 15, 2006

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Outrageous Brownies

A completely over-the-top brownie recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. They take a bit more work than regular brownies, but the results are excellent. One big problem, however: the batter burned around the edges of the pan.

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August 14, 2006

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Homemade Granola

A pretty simple, very good-tasting recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I have a couple of quibbles: the cooking time was too long, and I don't like what happens to the granola's texture when it's stored.

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The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

In the name-dropping introductory paragraph to this recipe, Ina Garten says that "Lauren Bacall gets cranky" if the Barefoot Contessa store is sold out of this chicken. Since the store doesn't exist any more, I suppose that's not a problem these days. I guess I'm no Lauren Bacall (shocking, I know), because while this is an okay treatment for chicken, it's nothing spectacular.

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August 07, 2006

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Pecan Shortbread

Here's a very good shortbread recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I thought the instructions sounded strange, but my initial impression was wrong: the recipe works, and the cookies are delicious. The yield, however, is way off.

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August 04, 2006

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Parmesan Smashed Potatoes

A delicious side dish that owes its delectable flavor to the large quantities of half-and-half, butter, sour cream, and cheese that go into it. Ina Garten says that if you're being virtuous with the somewhat lean Turkey Meatloaf, you can serve these potatoes alongside it and feel good about it. I'd still like a better meatloaf, but the potatoes are fantastic.

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The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Turkey Meatloaf

I have yet to find a turkey meatloaf that tastes as good as the old standby made with beef, pork, and veal. Alas, this rendition from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook fares no better than any other turkey meatloaf I've tried: the flavor is bland and the texture leaves much to be desired.

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August 03, 2006

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Peach and Raspberry Crisp

A perfect recipe for this time of year, when the peaches are ripe and juicy. Get the sweetest peaches you can find, from the farmer's market if possible.

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August 02, 2006

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Croissant Bread Pudding

An over-the-top dessert from Ina Garten. If you like bread pudding this one may appeal to you; I found it rather boring, myself.

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July 31, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Tortilla Soup

Buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and turn it into tasty soup with this recipe from the Food Network Kitchens chapter. There's miminal prep and the end result is very good.

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Food Network Favorites: Baked Eggs with Farmhouse Cheddar & Potatoes

A simple skillet breakfast from the Food Network Kitchens chapter in Food Network Favorites. It's easy to put together and tastes very good. My only question is about the "Note from the Kitchens."

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July 27, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Caramelized Lemon-Lime Tart

My last test from the Wolfgang Puck chapter! I'll be testing 3 or 4 more recipes from the Food Network Kitchens chapter in Food Network Favorites, and then at long last I'll be moving onto a new book.

This tart is quite good, if a bit, well, tart. If you like lemon curd, this dessert will probably appeal to you.

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July 26, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Pan-Roasted Chicken with Port & Whole-Grain Mustard

This butterflied chicken cooks quickly and tastes great. A couple of quibbles: Wolfgang Puck could have been a bit more thorough in his instructions. And he's awfully parsimonious with the sauce.

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July 25, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Chino Carrot & Ginger Soup

From Wolfgang Puck, here's a soup that might taste amazing if you can get your hands on the special carrots he recommends, from Chino Farms near San Diego. But what about the other 99% of us who have to use regular carrots?

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July 24, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Crispy Bacon

A very good pizza recipe from Wolfgang Puck. The dough is the same recipe that I've already tested from Live, Love, Eat!, and just as with my previous test, the dough was easy to work with and tasted great. The only variation here is the toppings.

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July 13, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Wolfgang's Beef Goulash

Wolfgang Puck is the last chef in Food Network Favorites! We're starting his chapter off with a very good recipe. This goulash has a great flavor and is pretty simple to put together. The spaetzle that goes with it isn't quite as simple, however.

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July 12, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Sicilian Harvest Salad

My last test from the Michael Chiarello chapter. Even after making this one, I'm not quite sure if it works or not. It's a mixture of savory and sweet ingredients that sometimes didn't seem to mesh very well. My opinion of the salad varied almost from bite to bite.

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July 11, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Bruschetta with White Bean Purée

Another recipe from Michael Chiarello where the proportions are a bit weird. This simple bean purée ended up tasting more like the olive tapenade that's mixed into it. And a bit of "restaurant-itis" sneaks into the ingredients list.

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Food Network Favorites: Salami Salad with Tomatoes & Mozzarella

This is an excellent way to showcase ripe, flavorful summer tomatoes. Michael Chiarello combines them with salami and cheese, and the results are quite good.

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Food Network Favorites: Homemade Tomato Soup

From the Michael Chiarello chapter in Food Network Favorites comes this recipe for soup that works even when flavorful fresh tomatoes aren't available. The proportions are all screwy, however, and the soup could use a lot more tomatoes in it to be worthy of the name "tomato soup."

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July 10, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Seared Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa-Spice Rub

A very good, albeit slightly too salty, spice rub for pork from Michael Chiarello. The sweetness of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves combine with the richness of unsweetened cocoa powder and white peppercorns for complex, sweet-savory flavor.

I realize that Mario Batali is getting short shrift, and all I can say is: his recipes aren't looking appealing. I'm ready to be done with Food Network Favorites, so Batali is going to have to be the one that got away.

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July 06, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Clam Sauté

A very simple, very tasty treatment for clams from Mario Batali. If you're not a clam fan, this is not the recipe for you, since there's nothing here disguising the essential clam flavor.

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July 05, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Penne with Cauliflower

From the Mario Batali chapter in Food Network Favorites, where frankly I'm having trouble finding recipes that I want to make. It may just be a seasonal problem; many of Batali's recipes call for heavy, meaty ingredients like osso buco, leg of lamb, pork chops, or veal meatballs (2 different recipes!). I might find some of these dishes more appealing in November when it's cold and brisk outside, but right now it's 95 degrees and leg of lamb isn't sounding too good.

I'll be testing the three lighter-sounding recipes in this chapter, and then I'm moving on to the last two chapters in the book. (The two remaining chefs: Michael Chiarello and Wolfgang Puck.)

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June 29, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Grilled Shrimp in Lettuce Leaves with Serrano-Mint Sauce

Another quick grill idea from Bobby Flay. No problems with this one; proportions were good, and the sauce makes a tasty accompaniment to the grilled shrimp.

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June 28, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Shredded Chicken & Tomatillo Tacos with Queso Fresco

A fast dinner idea from the Bobby Flay chapter in Food Network Favorites. The tomatillo sauce is easy to make and tasted great mixed with rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. The proportions were off, however.

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June 27, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Ancho Chile-Mustard Sauce

From Bobby Flay, a very good recipe for pork tenderloin. I've had to add some information to the ingredients and the instructions for clarity, but the end result is a very good dish.

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June 26, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Rum Buttered-Glazed Grilled Pineapple with Vanilla-Scented Mascarpone

Bobby Flay's second dessert contribution to Food Network Favorites. This is a very simple way to serve pineapple. Grilling it helps to bring out the flavor, and the rum and vanilla notes in the accompaniments give a nice tropical flair to the dish.

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Food Network Favorites: Fresh Fruit Batidos

From the Bobby Flay chapter in Food Network Favorites. "Batida" means "beaten" in Spanish, and since the fruit and ice cream are beaten together in a blender, it seems an appropriate name. Another way to think of this drink? Mango milkshake.

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June 23, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Grilled Steak & Papaya Salad

It's summertime, and I'm ready to start grilling, so it's on to Bobby Flay's chapter in Food Network Favorites. This is a delicious spicy salad topped with grilled marinated steak. It's a wonderful meal for a summer evening.

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June 22, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Mosaic Chicken Terrine

When Paula Deen doesn't use exorbitant amounts of butter, cream, and cheese, her recipes are very good. This is a very pretty and tasty dish that would be nice for a luncheon or a bridal shower. It needs to be made at least 1 day in advance, and it's not super easy to eat, but it tastes fantastic.

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June 21, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Corn Casserole

Another Paula Deen recipe from Food Network Favorites. Another case of me saying "Yikes!" at the amount of fat that's in the dish. This one's a mixture of canned corn, cornbread mix, sour cream, butter, and cheese. Sure, it tastes pretty good (how could it not?), but is it worth it? Do you really need all that saturated fat in a simple side dish?

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Food Network Favorites: Bubba's Country-Fried Steak & Gravy

Not just any Bubba, but Paula Deen's younger brother, whom she taught to make this steak. Like all of Deen's cuisine, it's a calorie-laden dish. The flavor is merely okay; I didn't think it was worth making again, to be honest.

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June 20, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Is It Really Better Than Sex? Cake

Paula Deen does have a colorful way with titles. As for the answer to the question, I'll leave it to you to determine for yourself. This is a very rich, decadent cake with pineapple, coconut, and vanilla pudding. It's extremely simple to put together. I had one little quibble with the ingredients, but the final result is a very good dessert.

I've also given a recipe for the more common chocolate version of Better Than Sex Cake, so if the tropical variety doesn't do it for you, the chocolate and toffee one probably will.

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June 19, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Piggy Pudding

I was going to test 2 more recipes from the Giada De Laurentiis chapter in Food Network Favorites, but to be honest, I got kind of bored, so I'm moving on. And next up is Paula Deen, the Food Network's down-home, Southern-fried queen. If you're looking for healthy meals, this chapter is definitely not the one to turn to. In the Q&A page at the front of her chapter, Deen says that the 3 ingredients she can't be without in the kitchen are butter, mayonnaise, and cream cheese. And that's no exaggeration.

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June 16, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Cinnamon-Pancetta Carbonara

Very rich, with tons of calories, this recipe from the Giada De Laurentiis chapter of Food Network Favorites is delicious, and absolutely not diet food. My only nitpick: I thought there could have been a little more cinnamon.

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Food Network Favorites: Creamy Ricotta Tart with Pine Nuts

Another dessert from the Giada De Laurentiis chapter in Food Network Favorites. It's a very good tart; it's just not my favorite kind of dessert. The pine nut crust is topped with a lightly sweet custard, and more pine nuts are strewn across the top. You need to really like pine nuts for this one to appeal to you, because their flavor is very, very strong.

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June 15, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Pork Chops Alla Pizzaiola

Very simple to make, and extremely tasty. These pork chops are seared in a hot skillet, and served with a spicy, herby tomato sauce. My only issue: Giada De Laurentiis doesn't seem to allow quite enough cooking time, unless you like rare pork.

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June 14, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Nonna's Lemon Ricotta Biscuits

Another very good recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. My only quibble, and it's really more of a question, is to wonder why she specifies using paper muffin liners? Plus, these aren't biscuits. They're muffins -- very tasty ones.

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Food Network Favorites: Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

A very good stuffed pasta from Giada De Laurentiis' chapter in Food Network Favorites. The sauce is quite spicy, and the contrast with the creamy ricotta filling is delicious.

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June 13, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Chocolate Amaretti Cake

And on to the Giada De Laurentiis chapter in Food Network Favorites. I've already reviewed her book Everyday Italian and found it to be pretty good, although it could have used a tad more editing. Is there any reason to check out her recipes in this new book?

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Food Network Favorites: Fried Crab Wontons with Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce

To finish off the Tyler Florence chapter in Food Network Favorites, here's a very good, very time-consuming recipe that's perfect for parties. Delicious wontons filled with an Asian-inspired crab stuffing make for a tasty hors-d'oeuvre. But I wouldn't try this one for a weeknight dinner.

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June 12, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Pan-Roasted Halibut with Prosciutto, Lemon, White Wine & Capers

A very tasty treatment for fish. It's essentially halibut with picatta sauce, although Tyler Florence doesn't call it that. If you like the classic combination of lemon juice, white wine, and capers, you'll like this recipe.

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June 07, 2006

Food Network Favorites: The Ultimate Cheesecake

Cheesecake fans tend to fall into two different camps: those who love a dense, firm cake (the traditional New York-style cheesecake), and those who prefer a lighter, fluffier-textured cake. This recipe falls into the latter category.

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Food Network Favorites: Spinach Salad with Honey-Brown Butter Dressing

A very simple and tasty salad from the Tyler Florence chapter in Food Network Favorites. Just sauté some shallots and butter, add honey and vinegar, and toss. The end result is a yummy wilted salad.

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June 05, 2006

Food Network Favorites: The Ultimate Roast Chicken

Is it an adequate version of roast chicken? Sure. Is it the "Ultimate"? Eh, not so much. Like most roast chicken recipes, this one tries to be unique by stuffing the chicken with various stuff (in this case, herbs, onions, garlic, and an orange). But roast chicken always ends up tasting like...roast chicken. There's not a whole lot you can do to it to make it interesting.

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June 02, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Spicy Grilled Beef Tenderloin

Another offering from Tyler Florence. The title of this recipe really should be "Broiled Tomato Salad," since all you do with the beef tenderloin is season it with salt and pepper and throw it on a grill. As far as I'm concerned, that's not actually a recipe. It's the accompaniment to the steak that's the recipe here: cherry tomatoes are broiled and combined with onions, chiles, and cheese to create a warm salad. It's a tasty side dish, but I have some quibbles.

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June 01, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Chocolate Date Pudding Cake

Next up in Food Network Favorites: Tyler Florence, host of Food 911. This chocolate cake is a version of the popular molten chocolate cake. The end result is very good, but I have to say that for the host of show that addresses cooking problems, Florence's instructions are oddly bare-bones.

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May 31, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Grilled Mushroom Salad Subs

My last test from the Rachael Ray chapter of Food Network Favorites. Portobello mushrooms are marinated and grilled, then mixed while hot with spinach leaves to create a slightly wilted warm salad that's served in a hollowed-out baguette. There are no problems with the recipe; it's a fine, albeit not terribly exciting, sandwich.

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May 30, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Shrimp Dean Martinis

Because it's shrimp cocktail served in martini glasses, get it? And Dean Martin loved shrimp cocktail!

Er...maybe not, but that's all I've got as far as making sense of the Rachael Ray trademark "cute" recipe title. This is a very simple appetizer, consisting of large, tail-on shrimp hung around the rim of a martini glass that's filled with Ray's version of cocktail sauce. Is it worth the effort to make this sauce?

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May 26, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Marinated Flank Steak with BLT-Smashed Potatoes

Another test from the Rachael Ray chapter in Food Network Favorites. It definitely took longer than 30 minutes to cook this one, and while the marinade for the steak is delicious, the potatoes are merely okay. And the instructions for the recipe are baffling.

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May 25, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Cod with Burst Grape Tomatoes, Parsley-Mint Pesto Broth & Roast Fingerling Potato Crisps with Herbs

Even when Rachael Ray's recipe titles aren't aggressively cute, they're ridiculously long. Once again, however, a few gripes about the title are all I can muster up; this dish is very good, and for once, it actually does take only 30 minutes to prepare.

Well, okay -- I do have a couple of other gripes...

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May 24, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Quick Peaches & Golden Raisins Cobbler

Another very good recipe from the Rachael Ray chapter in Food Network Favorites. The cobbler is pleasantly spicy and easy to put together. I have just a couple of quibbles about ingredients.

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May 23, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Cream of Mushroom Egg Noodle Fake-Bake, Hold the Canned Soup

Seriously, that's the title. And when you've got a cutesy title and a recipe that takes way longer than 30 minutes to prepare, you know you're in Rachael Ray territory.

However, aside from the title ("Fake-Bake"? Really?) there's not a lot to fault this recipe for. It's a tasty combination of egg noodles, mushroom béchamel sauce, and sautéed mushrooms.

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May 22, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Eggplant Pasta

My last test from the Alton Brown chapter in Food Network Favorites. The success of this dish all hangs on how you feel about eggplant. It's a polarizing vegetable; people who like it tend to really like it, while those who hate it...well, they loathe it. If you fall into the latter camp, this recipe is not for you.

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Food Network Favorites: English Muffins

An Alton Brown recipe from Food Network Favorites. The "Note from the Kitchens" blurb next to this recipe says, "They were just delicious. They even looked like English Muffins!" Well, yeah. That's what they are. Says it right there in the title: English Muffins.

Aside from the editor's bizarre jubilation that these muffins actually look like they're supposed to, this is a very good recipe. The muffins are tasty and they do, indeed, look just like English muffins you'd buy at the store. (Amazing!)

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May 04, 2006

Food Network Favorites: French Onion Soup

A delicious rendition of the classic, from the Alton Brown chapter in Food Network Favorites. The "twist" is that the onions are cooked slowly in an electric skillet, rather than in a pan on the stove.

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May 02, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Lemon-Ginger Frozen Yogurt

Another dessert from Alton Brown. This frozen yogurt requires a bit of advance planning, but it's worth it. The end result is pleasantly tangy and fresh-tasting.

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Food Network Favorites: Moo-Less Chocolate Pie

A rich, creamy, intensely chocolate-flavored dessert from the Alton Brown chapter, next up in Food Network Favorites. The surprise ingredient? Tofu.

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May 01, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Stuffed Chicken Legs in Puff Pastry with Andouille Cream

My last test from the Emeril Lagasse chapter in Food Network Favorites. In this dish, whole chicken legs are boned, filled with a cornbread and andouille sausage stuffing, wrapped in puff pastry, and served with an andouille cream sauce. There are several steps, and it's definitely not fast food, but the end result is very good. There is, however, a glaring error in the ingredients list.

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April 27, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Root Beer-Glazed Pork Chops with Bourbon-Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Caramelized Onions

Another selection from the Emeril Lagasse chapter in Food Network Favorites. This one suffers from too much of a good thing -- too many sweet elements, and not enough contrast.

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April 21, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Asian-Style Braised Short Ribs

Whew! We're back to good things from Emeril Lagasse's chapter in Food Network Favorites. These ribs take only a few minutes to prep, then they braise gently in the oven until tender. The flavors are excellent.

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April 20, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Apple Tarte Tatin

Ugh. A disaster from beginning to end. The final results are nowhere near good enough to justify all the difficulties I had with this recipe: the milk solids in the butter burned; the caramel crystallized; the apples stuck to the pan. If you really want a dessert that combines apples and puff pastry, I've got a suggestion that's much better than this mess.

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April 19, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Baby Arugula with Country Ham, Goat Cheese, Dried Cherries & Walnut Vinaigrette

From the Emeril Lagasse chapter in Food Network Favorites comes this delicious salad. The flavor combination is very good, and this dish is an excellent accompaniment to the Mushroom Confit recipe. No quibbles with this one, although I think the ham can be left out without any harm to the final dish. If you've got vegetarians to think about, that's a good option.

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April 18, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Mushroom Confit with Pasta Rags & Truffle Oil

I'm moving on from Dave Lieberman, and the next chapter to tackle in Food Network Favorites is Emeril Lagasse. This fantastic mushroom recipe gets us off to a very good start. I do think that a rather large question is left hanging, however.

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April 14, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Spicy Coconut Shrimp with Mango-Basil Salsa & Lime Jasmine Rice

From Food Network Favorites, a tasty entry from Dave Lieberman. This Thai-inspired treatment for shrimp can be made in stages, and tastes fantastic. As usual, my only quibble with Mr. Lieberman is proportions.

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April 13, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Bow Ties with Pesto, Feta & Cherry Tomatoes

A quick and easy pasta salad from Dave Lieberman. The yield seemed a bit squirrelly, again, but other than that, there's not much to say about this recipe.

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April 11, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Curried Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups

A fresh, light-tasting salad from Dave Lieberman. The preparation is extremely simple and the results are very good. My only quibble is with the yield.

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April 10, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie

From the Food Network's own kitchens, this recipe from Food Network Favorites is decadent and delicious. The instructions, however, contain one very large oversight.

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Food Network Favorites: Black Bean Soup

From the Dave Lieberman chapter in Food Network Favorites comes this simple recipe for black bean soup, using canned beans. It's very tasty, but I'd change the presentation a bit.

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March 01, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Spicy Chinese Five-Spice-Rubbed Chicken Wings with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce

It's not the pithiest recipe title ever, but it does describe exactly what this dish is. From the Dave Lieberman chapter in Food Network Favorites, these wings are easy to make and very tasty.

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February 28, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Red Wine Beef Stew with Potatoes & Green Beans

When I started testing Food Network Favorites, I thought I'd pick and choose recipes from the book at random. I've decided to change my approach, however, and work through the book in a more methodical fashion, one chef at a time. Since I've already done one recipe from Dave Lieberman, I'm sticking with him for now. This beef stew recipe is quite tasty, although I'm not sure about the green beans.

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February 24, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Blueberry-Pecan Crumble

From Dave Lieberman, the Food Network's newest boy wonder chef, comes this simple version of fruit crumble. It's a good one.

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Food Network Favorites: Butternut Squash, Apple & Onion Galette with Stilton

I was skeptical that this recipe was going to work: slices of unpeeled apples and butternut squash, plus wedges of onion, are scattered atop a pastry base and baked for less than an hour to create a savory tart. I didn't think the vegetables would get tender enough. Happily, my fears were baseless. This is a very good recipe.

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February 14, 2006

Off the Shelf: Spinach and Ricotta Baked Pasta

A simple cheese-and-spinach pasta dish from Off the Shelf that could use a tad more oomph. The addition of garlic livened this recipe up quite a bit.

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February 13, 2006

Off the Shelf: Harissa and Yogurt Baked Chicken

Amazingly enough, for a dish that features the spicy North African chili paste called harissa, this recipe was bland and boring. I have a few suggestions for how to liven it up.

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February 10, 2006

Off the Shelf: Basic Fruit and Rice Custard

Since I had leftover rice, I thought I'd give this custard recipe a whirl. I ran into some problems with the oven temperature, which right off the bat seemed way too low. 250 degrees for 45 minutes to cook custard? Really?

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February 09, 2006

Off the Shelf: Green Curry Chicken with Sweet Potato

Off the Shelf has a chapter on Asian food, with lots of streamlined preparations for classic dishes. This is a very simple curry that tastes great.

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February 08, 2006

Off the Shelf: Simple Zucchini Pasta

At the end of each chapter in Off the Shelf, there's a page of "Short Order" recipe ideas -- quick dishes that require brief cooking and just a few ingredients. This easy pasta dish takes just minutes to put together and is very satisfying.

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February 07, 2006

Off the Shelf: Easy Chocolate Cake

Errors and oversights in technique are becoming the bane of my existence with Off the Shelf. The ideas in this book are excellent, and if you're careful to fill in the blanks when it comes to the instructions, no problem. But oftentimes, Donna Hay leaves the fine details out of her recipes, and that is a problem.

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Off the Shelf: Honey and Mustard Baked Pork

This oven-roasted pork dish from Off the Shelf requires very little hands-on attention, and tastes great. I would, however, change the technique a bit (a refrain that's becoming common with this book).

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February 06, 2006

Off the Shelf: Caramel-Filled Biscuits

Another dessert idea from Off the Shelf. In this one, buttery cookies are layered with sticky caramel to make sandwiches. The flavors are very good, but I had some trouble with the technique.

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February 03, 2006

Martha Stewart Living: Roasted Pineapple Ice Cream

Lauren in Texas sent me this recipe from Martha Stewart's online edition of her magazine. From New Orleans chef Hubert Sandot, it's a delicious Caribbean-inspired combination of sweet pineapple and dark rum.

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Off the Shelf: Garlic Chickpeas with Cumin-Fried Fish

From Off the Shelf, here's a quick and easy dinner for a weeknight when you're tired: open up a can of chickpeas, fry them with leeks and garlic, add a piece of cumin-coated fish, and you're done.

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February 02, 2006

Off the Shelf: Creamy Polenta with Caramelized Fennel

Holy cow, but there are a lot of competing flavors going on in this recipe. There's fennel, an assertively-flavored vegetable all by itself. Then it's cooked in a sweet-tangy brown sugar and vinegar mixture. And then there's blue cheese. Put it all together, and what you end up with is a bit of a mess, unfortunately.

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Off the Shelf: Food-Processor Cookies

This is a serviceable cookie dough that takes well to adaptation. I'm not sold on the food processor method, however. Is it so much easier to drag out the food processor and then fuss around with scraping out the heavy, sticky cookie dough? Not to my mind, it isn't.

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February 01, 2006

Off the Shelf: Pasta with Pumpkin and Sage Brown Butter

The "Pasta" chapter in Off the Shelf features many fresh new renditions of old classics. This flavor combination -- sage, brown butter, and pumpkin -- is always delicious, and Hay's recipe is easy to follow and tastes fantastic.

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January 31, 2006

Off the Shelf: Milk Puddings with Rosewater Syrup

Here's the first recipe from Off the Shelf that I haven't been terribly thrilled with. There nothing wrong with this simple dessert of milk, gelatin, vanilla, and syrup. It's just a little bland, and almost seems like nursery food.

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Off the Shelf: Balsamic and Tomato Roast Chicken

A very attractive-looking dish from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf. It tastes great and couldn't be simpler to put together: slice up an eggplant, top the slices with chicken breasts, tomatoes, capers, and a balsamic sauce, and bake for 20 minutes. An excellent idea for a cold, wintry day.

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Off the Shelf: Beef and Caramelized Onion Couscous Salad

Another tasty offering from Off the Shelf. The warm couscous and beef wilt baby spinach leaves slightly, creating a delicious warm salad. I had one minor quibble with proportions; otherwise, this is an easy, yummy lunch or dinner idea.

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Off the Shelf: Garlic Roast Asparagus

From Off the Shelf comes a tasty recipe for asparagus. This roasting method would work particularly well with asparagus that's a bit past its prime. Slow roasting brings out the flavors and mellows the garlic, especially if you use elephant garlic.

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Off the Shelf: Caramel Fig Loaf

This fantastic recipe for quick bread comes from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf. The deep brown sugar flavors meld beautifully with the musky sweetness of dried figs. It's very good, and would be delicious for Christmas brunch.

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January 24, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Rick's Black Beans

A very good rendition of black beans. Flavored with onions, garlic, and a smoked ham hock, these beans taste great and get even better after a day or two in the refrigerator.

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Sara's Secrets: Cuban-Style Roast Pork

Another recipe from the "Cooking Ahead" chapter of Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals. The flavorful marinade makes for a tasty, tender pork roast.

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January 23, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Cider-Braised Chicken

My reaction to this dish was, "Eh." It's really not all that exciting, and for the amount of work it takes, not worth the effort. Chicken thighs are braised in cider until tender, and the sauce thickens itself because the thighs are dredged in flour before being browned. There are a lot of steps to get this dish ready, and the payoff doesn't reflect all the work.

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Chez Panisse Desserts: Cinnamon Apple Ice Cream

"Tastes like apple pie!"

That's what everyone at my house thought about this tasty ice cream from Chez Panisse Desserts. It's a nice dessert all by itself, and would also make an excellent partner to an apple pie or tart.

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January 20, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Pecan Pie Squares

Wow, where to begin? This one's a disaster from start to finish. The concept is intriguing: take pecan pie components and turn them into bar cookies, using graham crackers as an ersatz crust. But the execution fails utterly. What I ended up with was a pan of sticky pecan pie filling, pecan halves that were too big to cut through neatly, and a crust layer that was so thin, it melted into nothingness. Not a successful recipe.

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January 19, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Basic Yellow Cake

Sara Moulton says of this cake, "What an exciting idea to be able to whip up a cake from scratch on a weeknight in only ten minutes." I guess so...I'm not really a "cake for cake's sake" person. I don't get the point of whipping up a plain cake for dessert. That's not terribly exciting to me.

If, however, you really like cake and want a quick recipe, this one's fairly good. The texture is rather coarse and the flavor is blandly vanilla, but if you follow Moulton's recommendations for toppings (berries and/or chocolate) this is a serviceable dessert.

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Sara's Secrets: Egg, Canadian Bacon, and Cheddar Biscuit Sandwiches

Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals has a chapter titled "Breakfast for Dinner," which features omelettes, quiches, and other breakfast staples that also make a quick dinner. This sandwich, says Moulton, is "a takeoff on you-know-what served by that fast-food restaurant." In other words, an Egg McMuffin. Instead of the English muffin, however, Moulton serves this scrambled egg and cheese combo on a rich cream biscuit.

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January 17, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Salmon with Black Bean Sauce

What should be a very flavorful sauce for fish becomes amazingly bland with the treatment that Sara Moulton gives the black beans in this recipe. Remove the unnecessary soaking step, and the sauce is vastly improved.

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Sara's Secrets: Butter-Steamed Broccoli with Soy

A very simple, very tasty treatment for vegetables. Steam them in a mixture of water, butter, and seasonings until crisp-tender. It takes one pan and about 15 minutes from start to finish. What's not to love?

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January 16, 2006

Chez Panisse Desserts: Coffee Ice Cream

Chez Panisse Desserts has over 60 ice cream recipes. If you like ice cream and find yourself wishing you could make flavors other than boring old cookie dough, I recommend that you get an ice cream maker and start experimenting with your own flavors. This book has some excellent ideas.

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January 11, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Chorizo and Greens

Here's a hearty main-course soup from Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals. It took a bit longer to cook than Moulton's instructions said it would, but the end result was very tasty.

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January 10, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Baked Alaskan

In her introduction to Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals, Sara Moulton says about the dessert chapter, "If you try nothing else, you must make the Baked 'Alaskan.' It is a knockout." So I made the Baked Alaskan, and my reaction? "Huh."

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January 06, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Quick Grape Crumble

I can never resist a fruit crisp or crumble recipe. This one, however, suffers from a case of "How many grapes?" The proportions are way off — so much so that I find it hard to believe that anyone actually prepared this recipe before it found its way into the finished book.

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Sara's Secrets: Green Posole with Chicken

A recipe from the "Shop and Serve" chapter of Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals. In this section of the book, Moulton gives several ideas for recipes that can be put together with the help of convenience products from the supermarket. Here she uses a rotisserie chicken for a hearty, tasty soup.

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January 05, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Asian Spiced Roasted Baby Carrots

I didn't love this flavor combination. There are too many competing ingredients, which resulted in a muddled, somewhat unpleasant end product. The idea of roasting a bag of baby carrots in the oven is a good one, however. A less aggressive flavor profile would work well.

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Sara's Secrets: Braised Short Ribs

Well...the sauce is delicious. But for the amount of work that you have to put into this dish, the end result isn't worth it. The problems are easily solved, however: simply use a different cut of meat.

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January 04, 2006

Sara's Secrets: Fusilli with Broccoli and Prosciutto

A tasty pasta offering from Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals. Broccoli and pasta are cooked in the same pot (though not at the same time), and tossed with sautéed garlic and prosciutto. Moulton's time estimates were right on the money, and this would be an easy weeknight dinner idea.

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December 15, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Autumn Pancakes

Crunchy apples and nuts make these pancakes special. As with the waffles, this recipe worked very well and needed no tweaking.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Poached Eggs on Polenta with Chunky Tomato Sauce

This is an interesting idea that works: bake polenta, then top the firm squares with tomato sauce and an egg for a filling breakfast entrée. The recipe needed a couple of minor tweaks, but it worked well and tasted very good.

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December 14, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Mushroom Quiche

A problematic recipe for quiche from The Big Book of Breakfast. The flavor is good, but the balance between egg custard and mushrooms is way off.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Oatmeal Buttermilk Waffles

Hearty but not too heavy, these whole-wheat and oatmeal waffles from The Big Book of Breakfast can be mixed in one bowl and cook up crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. It's a very good recipe.

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December 13, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Coffee Crumb Cake

A very soft-textured coffee cake from The Big Book of Breakfast. The cake is spicy, and the streusel nut topping is crunchy and delicious.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Chile Egg Puff

It's sort of a crustless quiche, and it's a rich, tasty entrée from The Big Book of Breakfast that would make a worthy addition to your holiday brunch table.

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December 11, 2005

Christmas Brunch: Bacon and Green Chili Quiche

Here's a tried-and-true quiche recipe that I've made numerous times, always with great success. I believe this recipe originated in Bon Appétit magazine, and I've made a couple of small modifications over the years. You can make quiche a day ahead of time, believe it or not.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Champagne Cocktail

From The Big Book of Breakfast comes a definite oldie but goodie. It's a fun, festive drink for Christmas brunch.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Wine Punch

A punchbowl recipe from The Big Book of Breakfast. This would also make a yummy nonalcoholic beverage with 7-Up or ginger ale.

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December 09, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Walnut Sour Cream Coffee Cake

At last! A really excellent recipe from The Big Book of Breakfast. This moist, delicious coffee cake can be made the day ahead. At serving time, sprinkle it with powdered sugar and enjoy.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Fresh Fruit with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

I've adapted Maryana Vollstedt's recipe for "Orchard Fruit Plate" (that name is just too twee, plus I've added some of my own suggestions for which fruits to serve together, and how to prep them for brunch).

The poppy seed dressing is slightly tangy with a hint of sweetness. Paired with fresh fruit, this is a nice dish for Christmas brunch.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Baked Blueberry French Toast

Well, I didn't love it. The ratio of good recipes to not-so-good recipes from The Big Book of Breakfast hasn't been great thus far, which is disappointing. I've got several more tests coming up, but my expectations have become rather low for this book, so we'll see how it goes.

Next week I'll post some other brunch ideas that I know are excellent.

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December 08, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Holiday Strata

Strata is a savory bread pudding, consisting of layers of bread, cheese, and other ingredients, topped with an egg and milk custard mixture that soaks into the bread. It's a great dish for brunch because it requires an overnight stay in the refrigerator. Assemble it a day ahead of time, and the next morning all you need to do is bake it. This is a tasty version from The Big Book of Breakfast.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Sticky Bun French Toast

Scrumptious sticky-bun flavor in a French toast casserole that can be assembled a day ahead, and then baked until golden on Christmas morning. I had a couple of issues with pan size and bread size, but they were really my fault.

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December 07, 2005

The Big Book of Breakfast: Breakfast Dried-Fruit Soup

It sounds weird, but it's a very tasty compote-like recipe. Served warm or cold, with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, this would make a spicy addition to your Christmas breakfast table. Prep it a day or two in advance to make your brunch preparations simple.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Fresh Pear and Walnut Torte

I haven't had one of these in quite a while -- a recipe that doesn't just need some adjustment, but is an outright failure. This dessert bubbled over in the oven, pouring out of its baking dish and creating a blackened sugary mess. The texture was bizarre and the flavor was way too sweet. An utter disaster.

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The Big Book of Breakfast: Frittata with Smoked Salmon and Asparagus

A somewhat dry-textured frittata from The Big Book of Breakfast. If you like smoked salmon, this is a recipe you might want to try.

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December 06, 2005

Christmas Brunch: The Big Book of Breakfast

I'm putting Off the Shelf on hold for the time being, to focus on ideas for Christmas brunch. Terry suggested that I take a look at Maryana Vollstedt's The Big Book of Breakfast. I'll be testing recipes from the book and posting ideas for brunch menus over the next several days, including lots of make-ahead recipes for a relaxed, easy Christmas morning. Look for strata, frittata, quiche, coffee cake, and fruit recipes, among others.

If you have recipes for Christmas brunch that you'd like to share, or to see tested, please let me know : Colleen@thecookbookcritic.com

December 05, 2005

Chez Panisse Desserts: Ossi Dei Morti

A cookie recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts. Italian for "bones of the dead," ossi dei morti cookies are traditionally served on All Soul's Day, at the beginning of November. The cookies taste very good, but they don't look especially attractive, although they do indeed look somewhat bonelike. These are very crisp cookies, not quite as hard as biscotti, but definitely designed to be dipped into coffee or wine before being eaten.

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December 02, 2005

Chez Panisse Desserts: Fruit Compote in Darjeeling Tea and Sauternes

My first attempt from Chez Panisse Desserts. I'm not quite sure about the reasoning behind some of the instructions, but the end result is a tasty combination of dried fruits and syrup that would taste great with cookies or pound cake.

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November 30, 2005

Everyday Italian: Endive and Frisée Salad with Blood Oranges and Hazelnuts

A salad that's heavy on the bitter greens. Giada De Laurentiis dares readers to be more adventurous, saying, "Italians aren't afraid of using spicy and slightly bitter greens in their salads, and you shouldn't be either." But for my American palate, the combination of endive and frisée was too unrelentingly bitter. After I substituted some mild green butter lettuce, I liked this flavor combination a lot better.

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November 29, 2005

Everyday Italian: Chicken Parmesan

I've had a pretty high degree of success with Giada De Laurentiis so far; mainly, the problems I've encountered in her recipes have to do with technique. And with this recipe, we come to the sloppiest chapter in the book: Everyday Cutlets. While the dish itself is tasty and quick to make, I had quite a bit of frustration trying to figure out exactly how thin I was supposed to pound the chicken, or indeed if it even should be pounded at all.

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November 28, 2005

Everyday Italian: Chocolate Zabaglione

As Giada De Laurentiis notes in her introduction to this recipe, traditional zabaglione doesn't include chocolate. But its addition turns the light, frothy custard into something truly delectable. Served with fresh berries, this makes a sophisticated dessert.

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Everyday Italian: Individual Vegetable Lasagnas

Frankly, this isn't the best vegetable lasagna I've ever had. While the flavors are good, the texture is way too dry, and some of the technique is unnecessarily fussy. With a couple of simple changes to the recipe, the lasagna was much tastier, as well as easier to make, and to eat.

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November 22, 2005

Everyday Italian: Almond Cake

A somewhat dense, coarse-textured, intensely almond-flavored cake. It's tasty just as it is, and would also pair well with fresh berries.

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Everyday Italian: White Bean Dip with Pita Chips

The "Italian version of hummus," according to Giada De Laurentiis. It's an easy dip to make, and would make a nice addition to a buffet table or holiday dinner. Both the dip and the chips can be made ahead of time. The flavor of the white beans is a bit less assertive than hummus, and the oregano-coated pita chips make a good accompaniment.

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Everyday Italian: Lemon Spaghetti

Everyday Italian has a few quick "from the pantry" pasta ideas, including this light, fresh-tasting spaghetti. The book recommends it as a side-dish for fish, and it also makes a lovely light lunch all by itself. All you need is dried pasta, a couple of lemons, some Parmesan cheese, and you're on your way to a quick and zesty meal.

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Everyday Italian: Braciola

As Giada De Laurentiis notes in her introductory paragraph to this recipe, braciola can mean different dishes depending on which region of Italy you're in. This version uses flank steak wrapped around a cheese-and-bread-crumb filling. The meat is tasty and tender, and the filled slices look lovely. I did have a few issues with the technique, however.

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November 21, 2005

Everyday Italian: Marinara Sauce

Giada De Laurentiis has a chapter of recipes for the backbone of her cuisine: sauces. This is the classic Italian "red sauce," and it's a nice, fresh, flavorful rendition. It can be made in a large batch and frozen in bags for use whenever you need it. It's also a crucial ingredient in many of De Laurentiis' recipes, and I couldn't get started on her book without it.

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November 11, 2005

Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine: Eggnog Quick Bread

A very tasty offering from the Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine. It tastes a bit like eggnog, but mostly like nutmeg and almonds. Either way, it's yummy and looks pretty as a hostess gift or buffet table dessert.

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Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine: Chocolate-Cashew Bread

Another quick bread from the Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine. This one is drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with chopped cashews; it looks lovely and tastes delicious.

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Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine

book_holidaybaking05_sm.jpgI picked this magazine up at the newsstand. It's a special interest publication from Better Homes and Gardens, and it's chock-full of ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas baked goods. I'll be testing various recipes until Christmas.

The magazine should be available on newsstands until the holidays are over. You could also try to order it from the Better Homes and Gardens website, although I didn't have much luck finding a link to the magazine there. (Psst! Better Homes and Gardens! You might want to make it possible for people to actually FIND your products on your website! Just a suggestion...)

First up are a couple of quick breads, some make-ahead cinnamon rolls, and then I'll be trying their recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie. Look for it during Thanksgiving Week.

November 09, 2005

Fast Food My Way: Pear-Ginger Crisp

A variation of the Pear Brown Betty. I prefer the crunchy cookie topping over the softer, pudding-style Betty.

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Fast Food My Way: Pear Brown Betty

From Jacques Pépin's Fast Food My Way, a clever idea for using up slightly stale baked goods: mix them with canned pears and turn them into dessert!

If you like bread puddings, you'll probably like this, even though it doesn't have a dairy component. You can make it with nearly any type of bread, cake, croissants, Danish, muffins, or scones. All you need to have on hand is a big can of pears.

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November 08, 2005

Fast Food My Way: Caramelized Apple-Granola Timbales

It sounds fancy, but it's actually a rather simple dessert or breakfast: individual custard cups are filled with a combination of apples and granola, then topped with a round of buttered-and-sugared bread. After they're cooked, the cups are unmolded, giving you a pretty molded dessert reminiscent of apple charlotte.

That's the theory, anyway. I had a bit of trouble in the execution.

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Fast Food My Way: Purée of Peas with Mint and Cilantro

This is an excellent example of Jacques Pépin's skill at taking convenience products -- in this case, frozen peas -- and turning them into something special. The peas and herbs combine to create a vibrant, intense green purée that looks and tastes fantastic.

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November 07, 2005

Fast Food My Way: Oven-Baked Salmon with Sun-Dried Tomato and Salsa Mayonnaise

Very rich, very tasty, and very easy. The salmon is slowly baked in the oven while you make the accompanying sauce. This would be a lovely dish to serve for a holiday brunch, since you can put it in the oven and ignore it for nearly an hour while it cooks. It can be served warm, or at room temperature, which makes it a nice option for a buffet.

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Fast Food My Way: Mock Tiramisù

Just when Jacques Pépin and I were getting along so well, Mock Tiramisù had to come along and shake my faith.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I'm not a huge fan of tiramisù to begin with. It always strikes me as a bit gloppy and boozy, and I can usually pass it up. This recipe in Fast Food My Way does nothing to change that opinion.

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November 06, 2005

Fast Food My Way: Chicken on Mashed Cauliflower with Red Hot Salsa

It sounds weird, right? I have to admit that's partly why I chose it; chicken and cauliflower with salsa? Really?

But it works. Crazy as it sounds, the combination is a good one. It's easy to put together, and the three elements work together to make a successful dish.

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November 04, 2005

Fast Food My Way: Mushroom Velouté with Almonds

Or, as we call it around here, cream of mushroom soup. This one's much better than Campbell's, though. Pépin uses dried wood ear mushrooms to give the soup extra flavor. They add a nice woodsy aroma and the almonds give a bit of crunch. It's a lovely recipe for autumn.

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Fast Food My Way: Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie Cake

This is an intensely rich flourless chocolate cake. It's easy to put together, and tastes like the chewiest, densest brownies ever. I made a couple of adjustments to the technique, but the cake itself is a winner, one that I'll definitely come back to again.

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November 03, 2005

Fast Food My Way: Greens with Quick Cream Dressing

Jacques Pépin says this was one of his mother's favorite dressings for a green salad or haricots verts. I was intrigued by his statement that the cream contains half the calories of the oil in a conventional dressing, since the very words "heavy cream" scream calories to me. It's true, though: 1 tablespoon of heavy cream contains 60 calories, while 1 tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories. But how does the dressing taste?

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November 02, 2005

Fast Food My Way: Hasty Pudding with Apricot Sauce

"Fancy cream of wheat" was the consensus opinion at my house. Pépin says that it's a common dessert in French households, but to my American sensibility, this semolina pudding seems more suited to breakfast. Whichever way you decide to serve it, it's quite tasty and extremely simple to prepare.

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Fast Food My Way: Instant Beef Tenderloin Stew

The name is a bit misleading; this is more of a meat-and-vegetable skillet than it is a stew. There's no real sauce, since the veggies and steak are cooked in separate pans and then combined at the last minute. It's a very good recipe, although I'd make a couple of small adjustments.

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Fast Food My Way: Shortbread-Raspberry Gratins

A variation of the Chocolate-Raspberry Gratins, using shortbread cookies for the crumble topping. I actually preferred this one to the chocolate version.

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Fast Food My Way: Chocolate-Raspberry Gratins

Jacques Pépin has some fantastic ideas for quick, delicious desserts in Fast Food My Way. He doesn't shy away from using store-bought ingredients; in this case, cookies, which form the crumble topping for a speedy fruit dessert that tastes fantastic.

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October 28, 2005

Jamie's Dinners: Paprika Sirloin Steak Wrap

Even more from the "Five Minute Wonders" chapter! This is a quick steak wrap that can be served in a Mediterranean style, as Oliver presents it in the book, or in a more Southwestern style. All you need is steak and tortillas to get started.

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October 24, 2005

Jamie's Dinners: Salmon and Couscous

Yet another "Five Minute Wonders" recipe. I just can't stop making them!

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Jamie's Dinners: Chorizo and Tomato Omelette

Another "Five Minute Wonders" recipe. Oddly enough, I had some trouble with this one.

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October 21, 2005

Jamie's Dinners: Sweet Vanilla Risotto with Poached Fruit and Chocolate

In other words, posh rice pudding. This is a lovely dessert, and if you like rice pudding you'll enjoy this risotto-style twist on an old favorite.

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October 20, 2005

Jamie's Dinners: Beef with Bok Choy, Mushrooms, and Noodles

Another stellar recipe from the "Five Minute Wonders" chapter. This is a beef noodle bowl, extremely quick to make, and very flavorful.

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October 19, 2005

Jamie's Dinners: Stewed Fruit Crumble

If you like fruit cobblers or brown betty, you'll love this recipe. I did, however, start to run into trouble with Jamie Oliver's loosey-goosey style here.

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Jamie's Dinners: Parmesan Fish Fillets with Avocado and Cress Salad

Jamie's Dinners has a chapter called "Five Minute Wonders." These are super-quick dinner ideas that can be pulled together in a flash.

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Jamie's Dinners: Chicken Tikka Masala

This is an excellent rendition of an Indian-restaurant classic. Jamie Oliver understands the necessity of slowly cooking the spices to coax the most flavor out of them, and the results are excellent.

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October 14, 2005

Live, Love, Eat!: Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Wolfgang Puck's version of the perennial favorite. Is his better than all the others out there?

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Live, Love, Eat!: Pizza with Smoked Salmon and Caviar

This is Wolfgang Puck's most famous pizza, the signature dish of his restaurant Spago. It's outstanding. I highly recommend giving it a whirl.

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Live, Love, Eat!: Turkey Mushroom Burgers with Chunky Tomato Salsa Compote

An excellent example of Puck's California cuisine. The burgers are paired with a cooked salsa that complements the savory mushroom flavors. This would be a fun recipe for a weekend picnic or barbeque.

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October 13, 2005

Live, Love, Eat!: Chinois Chicken Salad

This is the signature salad at Wolfgang Puck's Santa Monica restaurant Chinois. It's a very nice dish, and easy to assemble, although there are a few things that I'd do differently with the recipe.

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Live, Love, Eat!: Baked Apple Pouches with Cinnamon and Raisins

A tasty apple dessert with a pretty presentation. If you like apple dumplings or turnovers, you'll like this one.

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October 05, 2005

30-Minute Meals 2: Romaine Hearts with Lemon Chive Vinaigrette

An easy salad that pairs well with some of the richer dishes in 30-Minute Meals 2.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Warm Cherry, Orange, and Cranberry Compote with Vanilla Ice Cream

This is about as elaborate as Rachael Ray's desserts get. It's easy to throw together and makes a nice fall or winter dessert.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Fresh Oranges with Lime Sorbet

An example of the type of desserts that Rachael Ray goes for: a little fresh fruit, some store-bought sorbet, and voila! You're good to go.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Emmanuel's Baked Artichoke Hearts

Rachael Ray remarks in her notes for this recipe that it's an update of a favorite recipe of her grandfather Emmanuel's. She streamlines his time-consuming stuffed artichoke recipe by topping artichoke halves with bread crumb stuffing and baking. The results are very good.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Chicken Picatta Pasta Toss

A clever, successful way to update an old favorite into a less time-consuming recipe. Ray takes the basics of Chicken Picatta and transforms them into this pasta-based dish. As with all of the Italian recipes of hers that I've tested, she really shines when she's cooking in this cuisine. Italian food is her forte, and this recipe bears that out.

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September 30, 2005

30-Minute Meals 2: Sweet 'n Spicy Chicken Curry in a Hurry with Fragrant Basmati Rice

Here's where things fall apart in 30-Minute Meals 2. I think it's possible to make Indian food fairly quickly, but this recipe, as well as Chicken Tikka with Charred Tomato Chutney and Warm Flat Bread, are not good examples of Indian food adapted to a western kitchen.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Chicken Tikka with Charred Tomato Chutney and Warm Flat Bread

The second Indian-style dish in 30-Minute Meals 2, and it's another failure. While the chicken curry recipe tasted at least a little bit like Indian food, this one doesn't come remotely close. It's chicken in a boring tomato sauce, essentially.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Ravioli Vegetable Lasagna

An interesting idea that works well: use pre-packaged fresh raviolis from the market as the pasta element in a quick lasagna.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Green Minestrone

An outstanding soup recipe, perhaps the best dish from Rachael Ray that I've tested yet. As she says in her note to the recipe, Minestrone is a BIG soup. Served with crusty bread, this one makes an excellent meal.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Mexican Fiesta Salad

Don't let the weirdly anachronistic name fool you: this is a recipe for pico de gallo. It makes a lovely accompaniment to Rio Grande Spice Rub Strip Steaks.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Cracked Corn and Cheese Squares

A quick and easy way to dress up boxed cornbread mix.

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30-Minute Meals 2: Rio Grande Spice Rub Strip Steaks

A Southwestern-style spice rub adds nice flavor to this simple steak recipe.

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August 29, 2005

30-Minute Get Real Meals: Beef Stroganoff over Buttered Parsley-Cauliflower ‘Noodles’

This recipe is a good example of the problems I found throughout 30-Minute Get Real Meals. To keep things “low-carb,” Ray substitutes cauliflower for the traditional noodles or rice pilaf that are usually served with stroganoff. And while this might sound interesting on paper, in practice it just doesn’t work.

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August 26, 2005

30-Minute Get Real Meals: Bucatini with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

This is the dish that Rachael Ray is posing with on the cover of 30-Minute Get Real Meals. And I have to say, I think the food stylist cheated. Because what Ray's holding is a balanced plate of pasta and sausage, but what the recipe makes...well, it should be renamed "Sausage with Onions, Pepper, and a Few Strands of Bucatini."

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August 24, 2005

30-Minute Get Real Meals: Grilled Tomato Stoup with Prosciutto and Mozzarella Portobellos

Another successful recipe from 30-Minute Get Real Meals, although not completely without problems. I’m not a fan of cutesy names for food. “Stoup” strikes me as... well, dumb. It’s a soup! It’s a stew! It’s “Stoup!” Whatever... Besides, the texture of this “stoup” is nowhere near stew-status. It’s soup. Just soup. Nothing wrong with calling it what it is.

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August 23, 2005

30-Minute Get Real Meals: Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps

At last, success! A recipe from 30-Minute Get Real Meals that didn’t require major tweaking. I think the root of this one’s success is that Ray didn’t have to fiddle with the basic idea to make chicken lettuce wraps fit the book’s low-carb mandate. It’s already a low-carb dish, just by its nature.

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August 22, 2005

30-Minute Get Real Meals: Nutty ‘Creamsicle’ Pie

I thought I’d give dessert a chance; after all, even though several of the recipes I’ve tested thus far from 30-Minute Get Real Meals have been problematic, the desserts might not be. Er, yeah. This pie recipe is seriously flawed.

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©2005 Colleen Flippo. All rights reserved. Contact the author.