Showing posts with label cookbook reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cookbook reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of National Geographic's "Tasting Italy"--Served Up with a Recipe for Saffron Risotto (Risotto Alla Milanese)

It's always a good day when I get a gorgeous cookbook to drool over and I am excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey from National Geographic with America's Test Kitchen. Accompanying my review is a recipe for a gorgeous and tasty Saffron Risotto from the book. 

Publisher's Blurb:

The experts at America’s Test Kitchen and National Geographic bring Italy’s magnificent cuisine, culture, and landscapes–and 100 authentic regional recipes–right to your kitchen.

Featuring 100 innovative, kitchen-tested recipes, 300 gorgeous color photographs, and 30 maps, this illustrated guide takes you on a captivating journey through the rich history of Italian cuisine, region by region. Rich excerpts feature the origins of celebrated cheeses, the nuances of different wine growing regions, the best farmer’s markets in Venice, and more. Intriguing prose illuminates key ingredients, from olive oil and how it’s made to the various pasta shapes of Northern Italy. In every region, the food experts at America’s Test Kitchen bring it all home, with foolproof recipes for standout dishes as well as hidden gems: Piedmontese braised beef in lustrous red wine sauce, crispy-custardy chickpea flour farinata pancakes from Genoa (achieved without the specialty pan and wood-burning oven), and hand-formed rustic malloreddus pasta of Sardinia that is a breeze to make.

Hardcover: 384 pages  
Publisher: National Geographic (October 23, 2018)

My Review:

The combination of National Geographic and America's Test Kitchen make Tasting Italy much more than a cookbook. It's a travelogue celebrating the history of food in Italy through each of its regions and it is a big book and very beautiful. The 300 color photos and 30 maps show tempting food and gorgeous scenery, as well as illustrate the special ingredients, food grown or raised, historical facts, and stories about each area. I have only spent a few hours reading through it so far and I find myself beguiled by the beauty of Italy and its rich history and the interesting facts from pasta shapes to Italian cuisine influences and the origins of customs and recipes. With America's Test Kitchen involved, you know that each of the 100 recipes included have been fully vetted in the kitchen and each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful photo and a story about how the recipe came to be. I have a feeling that this book will become a nightstand addition in order to work my way through the 384 pages and savor each region's bounty each night.

Recipes that especially caught my eye and that I tagged to make include Potato Gnocchi with Fontina Sauce from Valle d'Aosta, Warm Anchovy and Garlic Dipping Sauce from Piedmont, Chickpea Flour Pancake from Liguria, Bread Dumplings from Trentino-Alto Adige, Grilled Polenta with Whipped Salt Cod Spread from Veneto, Barley and Bean Soup from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Stuffed Flatbreads from Emilia-Romagna, Tuscan White Bean Soup from Tuscany, Vegetable and Farro Soup from Umbria, Fried Stuffed Olives from Le Marche,  Roman Gnocchi from Lazio, Linguine with Seafood from Abruzzo & Molise, Lemon Sorbet from Campania, Tomato and Burrata Salad with Pangrattato and Basil from Puglia, Fiery Macaroni from Basilicata, Grilled Swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce from Calabria, Tuna with Sweet and Sour Onions from Sicily, and Fried Zucchini from Sardinia. Lest you think the book is all vegetable, fish and seafood dishes (what I eat), there are plenty of recipes featuring chicken, pork, lamb, and beef such as Chicken Under a Brick, Milk-Braised Pork Roast, Orecchiette with Sausage and Cream, Grilled Steak with Olive Oil and Lemon, Braised Oxtails, Chitarra Pasta with Lamb Ragu, and Braised Savoy Cabbage with Pancetta to name a few. 

Tasting Italy would make a wonderful holiday gift and is a book that will be equally adored by Italophiles, cooks, foodies, travel junkies, and armchair travelers alike. I have not had the pleasure of going to Italy (yet), but Tasting Italy makes me want to book a trip there.

The books were delayed in getting to us so I managed to cook just one recipe from Tasting Italy, but what a recipe it is, a gorgeous bowl of golden-hued Saffron Risotto (Risotto Alla Milanese) from Lombardy. Lombardy, in Northern Italy is right under Switzerland and is considered "the industrial heart of Italy" with Milan, the regions capital, being the heart of the country's fashion scene. Lombardy is also one Italy's largest agricultural areas with its combination of mountains, plains and plentiful water. Meat and dairy are prevalent in the region and mascarpone cheese and bresaola (dried beef) originate from there. With its plains of of wheat, corn, buckwheat and rice, polenta and rice are more common than pasta, which only became popular after World War II. There are abundant fruit and vegetables grown there such as melons, pears, apples, asparagus, and pumpkins. 

For me the Saffron Risotto cried out most to be made. Simple but luxurious and flavored with exotic saffron, the dish is often served on its own as a primo, or used to accompany a platter of Osso Buco (Braised Veal Shanks). I love risotto and have about twenty recipes on the blog. I also had the last of a small bottle of saffron that a friend brought me from Spain to use, along with the Carnaroli rice called for in the recipe from the gourmet section of my local grocery store (although the book indicates that Aborio rice can also be substituted). 

Tasting Italy notes: "The dish's origin is a subject for debate. One legend claims that it was invented in the 1500s by a Milanese glassmaker who earned the nickname 'Zafferano' because he used saffron often to make gold stain. When he was jokingly  challenged to add it to risotto, he did! However, the recipe's first appearance in an Italian cookbook wasn't until the 1800s. Perhaps it originated form Milan's ties to Spain, or a Milanese affinity for the golden color, or possibly the idea that saffron was beneficial to health."

Saffron Risotto
Recipe from National Geographic's Tasting Italy
(Serves 6)

3 1/2 cups chicken broth (I used non-chicken stock)
3 cups water
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped fine
salt and pepper
2 cups Carnaroli rice
1/4 tsp saffron threads, crumbled
1 cup dry white wine
2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

Bring both broth and water to simmer in medium saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat.

Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and saffron and cook, stirring frequently, until grain edges begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in 3 1/2 cups warm broth, bring to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost fully absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes.

Continue to cook rice, stirring frequently and adding warm broth, 1 cup at a time, every few minutes as liquid is absorbed, until rice is creamy and cooked through but still somewhat firm in center, 14 to 18 minutes. Remove pot from heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Asjust consistency with remaining broth as needed (you may have broth left over). Stir in Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Notes/Results: So creamy, rich and delicious and you can't help but smile at the sunny golden color. The saffron is fully present in the flavor but the wine and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese add to the complexity of taste. I'm not used to adding so much of the liquid at the beginning (3 1/2 cups of the broth mixture) but it worked beautifully and toasting the saffron (and the onion) in the butter broke up the threads of the saffron releasing the color and flavor throughout the rice--it also adds to the richness of the dish. I was content to spend some time stirring the rice (it was my zen moment to recover from a busy day) until it reached it's maximum creaminess while still having a slight firmness, then curling up on the couch with a bowl of the deliciousness while watching the election returns. I would happily make this recipe again. 

Tasting Italy is my tenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the November 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Tasting Italy" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.   You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.  


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Morimoto's Hawaiian Poke-Style Tuna Rice Bowl (Tekka Don No Poke) from the "Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking" Cookbook {#JapaneseHomeCooking}

I am a huge Chef Morimoto fan from years back, ever since discovering him on the original Iron Chef on Food Network. I have spied him at the airport, eaten at his restaurant here and generally will watch anything he is on, including episodes Hawaii Five-O. So when I had the opportunity to take part in The Book Club Cookbook's Japanese Home Cooking Party and to review Morimoto's new cookbook, Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, I immediately jumped on board.

Whether it be the skillful and detailed presentation or the often exotic and hard-to-find ingredients, Japanese cuisine has a reputation for being difficult to cook. In this new cookbook, Morimoto sets out to show the American home cook that Japanese dishes, especially recipes from Japanese home cooks, can be surprisingly easy to prepare. Having taken a few classes in Japanese home cooking and trying my hand at different dishes over the years, I agree and while I don't claim to be an expert and my dishes are often a mix of cuisines rather than authentic Japanese, I have found that it doesn't have to to scary to cook delicious Japanese dishes at home.

Still, it's nice to have such an expert guide in the kitchen and Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking is a cookbook that is useful, beautiful, and interesting to read. It is divided by category; Dashi (the basic soup stock, Gohan (rice), Supu (soups), Yaku (grilled, broiled or seared), Musu (steamed), Niru (simmered), Itame Ru (stir-fried), Men (noodles), Ageru (to fry), Ae Ru (dressings) and Tsukeru (pickled). It also starts off with Morimoto's thoughts about Japanese cooking and how to create a Japanese meal from the different recipes, and it includes a glossary of Japanese ingredients and sources to find them. 

The recipes are made up of classics--ones that are popular here in America, as well as dishes that are lesser-known here, and many recipes include the chef's clever spins that make the dishes fun. It's a beautiful book--almost every major recipe has a gorgeous color photo and an introduction from Morimoto about the dish. The recipe instructions are clear and there are even some "Japanese Grandmother Wisdom" notes included with tips and explanations sprinkled through the book. 

Having spent time in Japan for work years ago, reading it took me back to so many delicious meals I enjoyed. I found myself tabbing many of the recipes to make like Ohitashi (dashi-marinated kale), Furikake with Shrimp Shells and Potato Chips (I tend to buy my fuikake seasoning!), Chahan (Japanese-style fried rice), Asari No Miso Shiru (miso soup with clams), Tamago Supu (Japanese egg drop soup), Sake Shioyaki (salt-grilled salmon), Sakana No Sakamushi (fish steamed in kombu with spicy soy sauce), Oden (Japanese-style hot pot with sesame aioli), Kinpira (stir-fried parsnip and carrot), Zaru Udon (chilled udon noodles with scallions and ginger), Kaki Age (shrimp and vegetable fritters), Ingen No Goma Ae (green beans with sesame dressing) and Tataki Kyuri (smashed cucumber pickles).  
Even with all of the choices, it was not hard for me to decide on a dish to try out this fabulous cookbook for the #JapaneseHomeCooking event--it just had to be the Tekka Don No Poke or Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl. I live in Hawaii and love poke, so it had to be made!

Morimoto says, "Once you secure sushi-grade tuna, this meal in a bowl takes almost no effort to make. I upgrade the typical tekka don--sliced raw tuna, often briefly marinated in soy sauce--by merging it with the Hawaiian dish tuna poke (pronounced PO-kay) which I fell for while opening my restaurant in Waikiki. The cubes of luscious crimson fish dressed with a little salt, sugar, and spice taste great over wonderfully plain white rice or less traditional but no less delicious sushi rice."

Tekka Don No Poke or Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl
Adapted from Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking by Morimoto
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 to 2 tsp tobanjan (chile bean sauce) preferably a Japanese brand
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 lb sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 medium Haas avocado, peeled and pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 cups cooked short-grain white rice or cooked vinegared short-grain white rice
1 nori seaweed sheet
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh shiso leaves (also called Japanese mint or perilla) or scallion greens (I used fresh mint and scallions)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, tobanjan, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the tuna and avocado to the bowl, toss well, and set aside to marinate for a few minutes but no more than 5 minutes.

Divide the rice among 4 wide bowls. Top each bowl with the tuna and avocado, leaving the sauce behind. Then drizzle the sauce over the tuna and avocado. Tear the nori into small pieces and scatter some over each bowl; top with the shiso and sesame seeds. Eat right away.

Notes/Results: This was a delicious poke-style bowl--a great combination of flavors and textures and just enough spice to make it interesting. As Morimoto stated, it is quick to put togethe--once you have your rice cooked and tuna secured. With the exception of picking up the fresh ahi tuna and an avocado, I had most of the rest of the ingredients in my pantry. I was bummed that although I can usually find fresh shiso leaves at my neighborhood grocery store, of course the moment I wanted them for this recipe there were none to had at any nearby store. I made do with a combination of some fresh mint leaves and green onion. The tobanjan or Japanese chile bean sauce is pretty spicy but I used 1 1/2 tsps (the recipe called for 1 to 2 tsps) and only marinated the tuna in it, figuring that it is was too spicy, the avocado chunks and rice would cool things down--and they did nicely. I was extremely happy with this delicious meal-in-a-bowl and I will happily make it again.  

You can see the recipes and cookbook reviews from the other nine bloggers participating in the Japanese Home Cooking Party on the Book Club Cookbook website.

Social Media Links:
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Connect with Iron Chef Morimoto:  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Note: A review copy of "Mastering the Art of Japanese Cooking" was provided to me by the publisher and The Book Club Cookbook in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking is my fourteenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the November Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fudge Puppies (or Maybe Fudge Buddys?) from "Sprinkles" for Food 'N Flix's December Pick: "Elf"

If Elf can't get you at least slightly into the holiday spirit, few things will. So, despite it not being exactly a 'foodie' movie, I was excited to see it as our Food 'N Flix December selection, hosted by Elizabeth at The Law Student's Cookbook.   

It's the story of Buddy, accidentally brought home by Santa, raised by Papa Elf at the North Pole and never quite fitting in with the other elves because he actually is human. Finding out that he is adopted and his birth father is (HORRORS!) on Santa's "Naughty List"--Buddy sets off for New York City to meet him. Buddy's naive and very exuberant spirit and excess of holiday cheer make him not quite a fit for the human world either and he causes all kinds of funny chaos. 

Elf is one of my very favorite holiday movies and I watch it at least once each holiday season. Directed by Jon Favreau, in addition to Ferrell (at his joyful, child-like best as Buddy), it has a stellar cast including Bob Newhart, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Edward Asner, Peter Dinklage, and even Amy Sedaris. It's the reason that whenever I see a mall Santa, I have to stop myself from going up to him and saying "You sit on a throne of lies!" If you don't know that quote, don't be a Cotton-Headed Ninny Muggins and just watch the movie already!  

For my dish inspired by the film, I looked to a cookbook that I received for review: Sprinkles: Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts by Jackie Alpers. Since Sprinkles has all manner of candy, sprinkles and sparkling sugar over anything everything you can imagine and, as Buddy says, "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup"--it seemed like a cookbook he would enjoy.  

Paperback: 144 Pages 
Quirk Books / October 2013

Author Jackie Alpers, photographer, cook and food stylist from Jackie's Happy Plate blog, has created a colorful cookbook full of interesting and tasty uses for different types of sprinkles--sure to please children and the 'inner child' of any candy lover. Besides the assorted cookies and cakes toppings, you can add them to drinks and cocktails rimming glasses with Mix-and-Match Cocktail Rims or making Sparkling Stone Fruit White Sangria. Create swizzle sticks for hot and cold beverages like Rock Candy Garnishes or Hot Chocolate Stir Sticks coated in crushed candy canes. You can also top your own Gingersnap Cookie Butter or Homemade Pop Tarts. Alpers even teaches you how to make your own homemade Sprinkles, Fondant Pearls, Rock Candy and different sugars. 

I wanted to pick something sort of breakfasty for Elf and found Sprinkles-Stuffed French Toast, Belgian Pearl Sugar Waffles, Fancified Donuts and Happy Day Pancakes served with I ❤ Sprinkles Butter and Sparkling Syrup (Buddy would love the syrup.) In the end, I went with Fudge Puppies--which according to the book are a popular state fair food. I have not been to a fair in ages but from a little research, I guess they usually consist of Belgian waffles on a stick dipped in chocolate and then dipped or rolled in all manner of toppings. Alpers says she likes to make her fudge puppies in miniature and serve them in cupcake liners. Rather than the hassle of making waffles, I went the easy route and bought some Van's Minis--little chocolate chip waffles than can be popped into the toaster. I think these treats are something Buddy would enjoy for breakfast or any time--probably with a generous dousing of his beloved syrup. ;-)

Fudge Puppies
Adapted from Sprinkles by Jackie Alpers
(Makes 24)

6 Belgian waffles or 24 mini waffles
8 to 16 oz chocolate (dark, milk, semi-sweet or white)
1/2 cup sprinkles of choice (or crushed peanuts or candy canes or other fun toppings)
whipped cream
maraschino cherries or large candies for topping if desired

Toast waffles. If using larger Belgian waffles, cut into fourths. Melt chocolate in microwave or a glass or metal bowl set over simmering water, stirring frequently.

Line work surface with parchment paper and using a fork or tongs dip each waffle in chocolate to coat in a smooth, even layer. Then dip in sprinkles, peanuts or other toppings of choice. Place on parchment paper to cool and set.

Transfer cooled fudge puppies to cupcake wrappers. Top with whipped cream and more sprinkles and toppings if desired. You can decorate them further by placing a maraschino cherry or piece of candy on top. (Note: You can also insert skewers into the waffles, then freeze for 30 minutes to help waffles stay on their sticks. Remove from freezer when ready to dip into chocolate and decorate.)  

Notes/Results: Obviously I need to hang out at fairs because fudge puppies are quite tasty with their crisp little waffles coated in thick chocolate. I used up my random partial bags of chocolate chips so these are a combination of dark and semi-sweet vegan and regular chocolate. I half-dipped them as that was shown it the picture in the cookbook and I think dousing the entire waffle in chocolate would be overkill. If you live in a warm and humid climate like me, they may need to spend a bit of time in the fridge to set up and, I would also forgo the whipped cream--especially if I was serving them outside. (As you can see in some of the pictures, it doesn't hold up that well and gets *blobby*--even when going on the cold dipped waffles straight from the refrigerator. Ah well... it didn't hurt the taste at all.) I did sprinkle a few of my fudge puppies with crushed candy canes and although not quite as *pretty'* as the sprinkles, they were my favorites to eat. Quick to make and fun to eat, I think these are worthy of being called "Fudge Buddys"--I would make them again. And, I look forward to trying more sprinkle-laden recipes from Sprinkles.

Thanks to Elizabeth for hosting this holiday round! If you missed this month's Food 'N Flix deadline (12/29) and you love food, films and foodie films, join us in January for one of my favorite 80's movies--The Breakfast Club, hosted by Eliot's Eats.

Note: A review copy of "Sprinkles" was provided by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts, opinions and experiences cooking from it are my own.
Whatever way you celebrate, have the happiest of holidays! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

'A Very Different Butternut Soup' from "Extraordinary Vegan" by Alan Roettinger for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays and the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash Event {#12WksWinterSquash}

A creamy butternut soup can be perfect for a drizzly fall/winter day. Combine that butternut squash with roasted red pepper, yams, smoked paprika, chile powder and a pinch of saffron and it elevates a basic soup and it becomes extraordinary. This week's soup is aptly named 'A Very Different Butternut Soup' and it comes from Extraordinary Vegan by Alan Roettinger

I am always looking for vegan cookbooks with unique recipes to keep my taste buds happy so I was pleased to receive a copy of Extraordinary Vegan to review. Written by a private chef (and writer, food designer and public speaker), the 100+ recipes are elegant enough to entertain with, but easy enough to recreate at home. I have tried three recipes so far--Miso Broth with Ginger (made with a vegan kombu dashi stock instead of the fish-based bonito stock), Banana-Mint Smoothie (coconut water, bananas, hempseeds, dates and mint), and finally the butternut soup. All recipes were written clearly, were easy to follow, tasted great and a little extra twist of interesting ingredients that make them memorable. Coming soon--I picked up some little striped eggplant at the farmers market this weekend to make Grilled Baby Eggplants with Ras El Hanout tonight and the Masoor Dal with Kabocha Squash is on the menu for later this week. Other recipes tagged in my book include Green Garbanzo and Fresh Kale Soup, Nutty Chocolate Protein Bars with Chia Seeds, Curried Mushrooms and Peas, Carrot-Cardamom Rice with Saffron, Blood Orange Sorbet and Bananas en Papillote

Paperback / 150 pages 
Book Publishing Company 2013 

Extraordinary Vegan is a great little book for vegans looking for something new, non-vegans looking for tempting recipes that reduce their consumption of animal products and improve their health and diet, and any foodies who just like to eat well and deliciously. 

'A Very Different Butternut Soup' is the recipe that I kept going back to in the book. The list of ingredients sounded so tempting--who can argue with 12 cloves of garlic and smoked paprika?! I kept the recipe pretty much as written but chives were not looking particularly appealing at the market so I topped mine with some pumpkin seeds--toasted with cumin, chile and smoked paprika instead. 

Roettinger says, "I'm an avid fan of all winter squashes, and butternut squash is among my favorites. However, I've found that almost all butternut squash soups tend to taste alike, so I endeavored to make a version that's both unique and extraordinary. This exceptional rendition includes roasted peppers, smoked paprika, and saffron, and I think you'll find it uncommonly delicious."   

'A Very Different Butternut Soup' 
Extraordinary Vegan by Alan Roettinger
(Makes 8 Servings)

3 Tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
12 cloves garlic, minced
4 roasted red peppers, diced
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 small yams, peeled and diced
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
8 cups water
3 unsalted vegetable bouillon cubes
4 bay leaves
pinch of saffron (optional--see note)
1/2 tsp hot red chile powder
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp snipped chives for garnish (I used toasted, spiced pumpkin seeds)

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and stir until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium high and add the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are nearly dry, about 4 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the squash, yams, salt, and smoked paprika, and stir to mix well. Add the water, bouillon cubes, and bay leaves. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. 

Working in batches, transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and process until smooth. Strain the soup into a clean soup pot (I didn't feel the need to strain it) and add the optional saffrom and hot chile powder. Season with pepper to taste. Reheat over medium heat, stirring often to prevent scorching. Serve at once, garnished with the chives.

Author's Note: Roettinger says, "Go for extraordinary:  Although the saffron is optional, I highly recommend including it. Saffron is fairly expensive, but it only takes a very small amount to do the job. In this recipe, it adds a near-transcendental layer of flavor and elevates the dish to truly exceptional heights. Once you start using saffron, you're bound to become addicted to it, as I am."

Nutritionals: Per Serving: 184 calories, 3g protein, 7g fat, (6 g sat fat), 32g carbohydrates, 481 mg sodium, 194mg calcium, 3g fiber     

Notes/Results: There are some soups that I know I am going to love just by the way it smells while it is simmering away on the stove--and this was one of those. All that garlic, red peppers and spices blend together to make a soup that had me drooling before it hit the bowl. The color is extraordinary on its own--a brilliant orangey-red. (It would be a gorgeous starter on a Thanksgiving table.) The flavor is excellent--you get the sweetness from the squash and yams, the smokiness of the paprika, then a subtle heat from the chile. The garlic and roasted red pepper flavors are there but don't overpower and the saffron is a elegant touch. The soup is thick and very creamy from the pureed vegetables alone.The recipe called for it to be strained back into the pot, but I eliminated that and poured it directly in from my Vita-Mix. Served with slices of cardamom-raisin rye bread from the farmers market and it is a warming, tasty and filling light lunch or dinner. I would make this again. 

Note: I received a copy of Extraordinary Vegan from the publisher in return for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation to review it and as always, my thoughts, feedback and experiences cooking from it are entirely my own. 

Now, we have some good friends waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look!

Janet of The Taste Space shares a hearty stew-ish curry adapted from Heidi Swanson, this Red Thai Curry with Asparagus, Zucchini and Tofu (Heidi’s Weeknight Curry) and says, "Red thai curry paste infuses a coconut milk-based broth which is simmered with vegetables and tofu. Sadly, the vegetables look a tad plain; a tad monochromatic in the white/green shades; but they worked really well together. The cauliflower was firm, the asparagus tender crisp, the zucchini meltingly tender and soft cubes of tofu."

Graziana of Erbe in Cucina is back this week with a harvest-perfect Pumpkin and Apple Soup with Ginger. She says, "We were really amazed by the rich taste of this pumpkin soup, without any cheese or cream, but only spices like turmeric and ginger, and a topping of chives and apple sticks."

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog made this fast and easy Fresh Spinach and Garlic Soup and says, "I had spinach and garlic saute left over from last night's dinner. I simply took the leftovers ( spinach and garlic saute) and added some vegetable broth. Whizzed it in my Nutribullet ( which I love) till smooth or you could use any blender and voila-  soup. I heated the soup, dusted it with some nutmeg ( or you could use curry powder which has nutmeg , cloves, cinnamon etc) and licked the bowl clean. It was delicious."

My pal Sue of Couscous and Consciousness shares both a salad and a sandwich this week. First this colorful Roasted Beetroot, Leek & Walnut Salad with Tamarind Dressing & Pomegranate. Sue says, "The combination of earthy beetroot with sweet, delicate leeks, peppery rocket, and crunchy walnuts is great even before you douse it all in a bold, garlicky, tangy dressing and finish it off with pomegranate seeds that explode in your mouth with their tangy juice and crunch.

Next Sue made these delectable Green Olive Tapenade & Mozzarella French Toast Sandwiches adapted from Donna Hay and says, "I hope you'll give this sandwich a try.  The tart, briny, lemony, herbaceous flavours of the tapenade are a great foil to the creamy mozzarella, and there is no better way I know to encase such a filling than with soft-on-the-inside-crunchy-on-the-outside french toast with a parmesan crust.  Yes, that's right ... parmesan crust ... didn't see that coming, did you?!"

Here with another wonderful Donna Hay sandwich adaptation is Joyce of Kitchen Flavours with these pretty Ham and Green Coral Blini Sandwiches. Joyce says, "This is so delicious! If you have not tried the combination of mayo-lemon zest, do give it a try. The blinis are soft-tender, very tasty and has a light fragrance from the garlic, which is really very pleasant, a great addition for a savoury touch. Though I have not used any fresh fennel, as it is not always available here, the green coral works very well, I guess, any green veggies that works in a salad would be great."

A warm welcome to Little Joy Factory, joining us at Souper Sundays for the first time this week--all the way from Singapore. Contributing to the parade of Donna Hay-inspired sandwiches with these mouthwatering Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Cheese Brioche. She says, "Caramelised onion relish is the little touch in this sandwich.  It brought slight sweetness to the sandwiches, which is quite unusual to our taste.   I made it myself based on a recipe from the web."  

Here at Kahakai Kitchen, I loved Donna Hay's simple and oh-so-decadent Chocolate French Toast Sandwiches and had to share them in the Souper Sundays roundup. The melted dark chocolate in between the sweet French toast was already delicious but I added a light sprinkle of sea salt for a wonderful sweet & slightly salty combination. Yum!

Thanks to everyone for sharing their fabulous dishes! If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo for all of the details. 

***12 Weeks of Winter Squash***

In addition to Souper Sundays, this yummy squash-filled soup will be linked up to the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash Event when it goes live tomorrow, Monday, November 4.

Have a happy, healthy week!   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Texas Rose Cocktails with Spiced Snack Mix + My Review (& a Giveaway!) of The New Southwest by Meagan Micozzi {#Cookbook Spotlight}

What better way to review a cookbook than paging through it, contemplating the many delicious recipes inside with a cocktail in hand and a spicy nut mix to nibble on?! As part of the Cookbook Spotlight I have been participating in these past couple of weeks it is time to review The New Southwest: Classic Flavors with a Modern Twist by Meagan Micozzi and to give you the opportunity (lots of opportunities in fact!) to win a copy for yourself. (Note: Only one cocktail was consumed while writing this review. I take my responsibilities far too seriously to do any drunk cookbook reviewing!) ;-)

The New Southwest has all the things I look for in a cookbook. It's solid, with a hard cover that can be made to sit open well on the counter when cooking. Each of the 80+ recipes comes with a large color photo to drool over as well as a description from Megan about the recipe. I like knowing something about the recipe I am making--where it came from, how to enjoy it--seeing the author's personality coming through. Recipes are easy to understand and follow, even for those of us in the not-so-savvy-to-southwestern-cooking category. There is a helpful 15 pages on The Southwestern Pantry and a chapter on Building Blocks to help with the basics of roasting chiles, making tortillas and other helpful tips. 

There are a good selection of recipes in all the usual categories--Condiments, Breakfast, Drinks, Appetizers & Snacks, Breads, Side Dishes, Main Courses, From the Grill, and Desserts. There is even "A Christmas-Style Extra" at the end--a recipe for holiday burritos, covered in both red and green chili sauces.   

Hardcover / 232 pages
Hippocrene Books (October 23, 2013)

Recipes I have tabbed to make include: Roasted Garlic Guacamole, Quick Pickled Jicama, Whipped Agave Ancho Butter, Roasted Crema, Coconut Crunch Muffins, Breakfast Tostadas with Cumin-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Pinyon Butter Oatmeal, Cucumber & Melon Agua Fresca, Savory Baked Pumpkin Flautas, Fried Sage Smashed Potatoes, Stacked Squash Enchiladas, Vegan Puffy Tacos with Cumin-Spiced Hummus, Citrus & Herb Red Snapper and Chia Cupcakes.

What I have cooked so far:

Heather of girlichef, our Cookbook Spotlight host, selected Mushroom & Leek Migas as our group recipe. I loved this take on a traditional dish with its meaty mushrooms, sweet leeks, crispy corn tortilla strips and creamy eggs. I ate my half-recipe for dinner and wished I had made a full recipe. 

For my Blogger's Choice recipe, I selected the Pinto Bean Breakfast Patty Melts--another dish from the breakfast chapter that translates just as well into lunch or dinner. These are excellent bean burgers--full of flavor, crispy outsides and moist and creamy within. Perfect to sit down over or enjoy on the go.

I am fond of (OK, borderline addicted to) homemade spiced nut and seed mixes. I could care less about store-bought nut and trail mixes but the homemade ones get me every time. It's the reason I hoard nuts in my freezer and why I had to try the Spiced Snack Mix in the book. It's an addictive blend of Spanish peanuts and pumpkin seeds tossed in a blend of cumin, ancho chile powder, ground oregano, garlic powder and other spices. They are wonderful warm from the oven, with the toasted spices and a subtle heat. 

My best "test" of a nut mix is how well, once cooled, it pairs with some of my stash of dark chocolate mini chips for when that sweet & salty craving hits in the afternoon. This mix pairs very well--reminding me a bit of a favorite chocolate chile bar. Yum!  

A spicy snack mix cries out for a cold cocktail like the Texas Rose. My favorite cocktails are ones that are fruity without being too sweet.

Texas Rose
Slightly Adapted from The New Southwest by Meagan Micozzi
(Yield: 1 Drink)

2 oz (1/4 cup) freshly squeezed orange juice
2 oz (1/4 cup) pineapple juice
1 oz (2 Tbsp) crème de banane* (See Notes/Results below)
1 oz (2 Tbsp) light rum
1/2 oz (1 Tbsp) freshly squeezed lime juice
pineapple wedge for garnish (optional)

Mix the orange juice, pineapple juice, crème de banane, rum and lime juice together in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Fill a lowball glass with ice and pour the mixed cocktail over the top. Garnish and serve.  

Notes/Results: I had a merry chase to find the crème de banane and none of the three grocery stores I tried had it in the liquor section. I even tried my neighborhood liquor store that I vowed not to go into since I once practically had to mortgage my house to buy a last-minute bottle of ouzo there, and still no luck. I could have probably driven across town to a larger liquor store but I am lazy and instead I bought a fresh juice blend of orange, pineapple and banana juices and used the Whaler's Big Island Banana Rum that I had on hand. Not quite the same I am sure but the banana was present and it was ultimately very drinkable. The lime juice and pineapple keep it from being too sweet and the juices make it ultra-refreshing. I can see a lot of imbibing of this cocktail in my future so I'll keep an eye out for the crème de banane.

The New Southwest is great for those loving Southwestern cooking and looking for new takes on classic recipes, those who want to learn more about Southwestern cooking and ingredients and any foodie looking for a colorful cookbook full of tasty recipes. 

Author Notes: Meagan Micozzi was born in New Jersey, raised in Washington, D.C. and educated in New England. In 2011 she launched Scarletta Bakes, a blog devoted to her adventures in southwestern cooking. Micozzi's recipes have been featured on The Huffington Post, The Kitchn, Gourmet, Bon Appétit, and Scarletta Bakes was named a Site We Love by Saveur. Micozzi resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. You can visit her at

And now... here's how to win a copy of your very own!

 ***The New Southwest Cookbook Spotlight Giveaway!***

How to enter:

1. Mandatory Entry: Leave a comment on this blog post letting me know what your favorite Southwestern dish is.

2. There are tons of optional extra entries in the rafflecopter widget!

Hippocrene will be supplying 14 copies of The New Southwest by Meagan Micozzi for this giveaway, in conjunction with The New Southwest Cookbook Spotlight. Contest is open to anybody with a shipping address in the USA. Submissions will be accepted via the rafflecopter widget through 11:59 pm ET on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Fourteen winners will be chosen by random draw, verified, and be notified by email (from Heather at girlichef) within 48 hours of the close of this contest. The winner should respond within 24 hours of notification, or a new winner will be drawn in their place. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!!!

This post is part of The New Southwest Cookbook Spotlight sponsored by Hippocrene and hosted at girlichef

Mahalo to Meagan, Heather & Hippocrene for a fun event and a great opportunity to review a fantastic new cookbook!

Note: I received a copy of this cookbook from the publisher as part of a Cookbook Spotlight event, however I received no monetary compensation to review it. As always, my thoughts, feedback and experiences cooking from it are entirely my own.