Cookbook review: Rancho la Puerta

December 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm (Cookbook reviews, To try)

I’ve had the Rancho la Puerta cookbook by Bill Wavrin for many years.   It’s a really lovely cookbook, with a nice small size, a well-constructed but easy-to-open binding, and a lovely layout.  The font and formatting are nice, there head notes are reasonably detailed, and the paper is littered with pretty gold suns that make you think of Mexico and spas.  I really like the ideas underlying this cookbook–fun, light, Mexican- and Asian-inspired dishes.  Unfortunately, for me, the recipes consistently generally didn’t work for me.  They looked good on the page, and often had a good idea buried in them, but they almost never turned out to be recipes I wanted to make again.  My assessment is echoed in quite a few of the (admittedly sparse) Amazon reviews.  A number of reviewers complain that the recipes are consistently bland and suffer from textural problems.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Lemon mint lentil potato ragout

December 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm (AMA, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Root vegetables, Starches)

The lentils and potato in this stew create a hearty base, while the lemon, mint, and feta add brightness and lots of flavor.  A bit of spinach adds more lovely green color, and more nutrients.  Based on a recipe in the AMA cookbook. Read the rest of this entry »

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Carrot mint salad

December 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Salads, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, Winter recipes)

This recipe is quite simple but extremely tasty, and quite refreshing.  The vibrant orange of the salad adds some loveliness brightness to our otherwise grey European winter days.   The recipe is based on a recipe in Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, but I’ve modified it a bit to suit my own tastes.  Here’s my in-progress version of the recipe.  I’ve doubled the amount of carrots because carrot salad makes such nice leftovers, and I can eat it days on end without getting tired of it.  If you don’t have a food processor and don’t feel like grating 2 pounds of carrots by hand, by all means cut the recipe back down. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dark, spicy gingerbread

December 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cake, Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Fall recipes, Winter recipes)

I’ve been making this gingerbread recipe for years, but somehow I never got around to blogging about it.  But I made it last night to take to a holiday party, and someone explicitly asked me for the recipe.  It seemed a good time to finally add it to the blog.  I haven’t tried many different gingerbread recipes, so I can’t argue that this one is best.  But it makes a dark, moist, deeply flavored, very gingery cake. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, but note that it’s no longer on their website.  They just published a new gingerbread recipe, which is totally different than this one.  It calls for stout, oil instead of butter, and omits the crystallized ginger, the buttermilk, and most of the spices.  The new recipe doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the old one, and  the old one no longer seems to be available on their website. Read the rest of this entry »

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Light cranberry orange muffins

December 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm (breakfast, C (1 star, edible), Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Muffins and quick breads, Necessarily nonvegan)

I have a recipe for pumpkin cranberry bread that I just adore.  I wanted to try making it into muffins, but I couldn’t find any more fresh cranberries.  So instead I found this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated’s The Best Light Recipe.  The basic recipe is for blueberry muffins, and then they offer variations for bran muffins, corn muffins, raspberry almond muffins, and cranberry orange muffins (which call for dried not fresh cranberries).  Alex and I made the cranberry orange muffins for breakfast last Sunday, along with these two ginger muffins. Read the rest of this entry »

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Curried cauliflower with penne, peas, and chickpeas

December 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm (AMA, Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Pasta, Starches)

This AMA recipe is a strange combination of a standard Indian curried cauliflower dish with peas and chickpeas, and a standard Italian cauliflower dish with parmesan, raisins, and pinenuts.  It also has tomato sauce.  I love curried cauliflower, but I’ve never been that excited about the sweet Italian cauliflower dish. (I’ve tried several versions, including one in Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian Kitchen and this Sicilian recipe from 101 cookbooks).  But I was curious to find out how I would like the combination of the two recipes.

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Black bean patties with dill and scallions

December 24, 2010 at 7:57 pm (AMA, Beans, C (1 star, edible), Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

This recipe from the AMA cookbook combines  black beans and what I think of as traditional Greek flavorings (garlic, scallions, dill, and yogurt).  I couldn’t quite imagine the combination, so I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Green curry with zucchini and bamboo shoots

December 12, 2010 at 10:31 am (C (1 star, edible), East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Quick weeknight recipe)

We’ve been eating the green curry I made last weekend all week.  First we ate it on roasted veggies, then I improvised a green curry with chard and tofu.  It came out okay but not great, so I decided to actually follow a recipe the next time!  This recipe for green curry with zucchini and bamboo shoots from Nancie McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chickpea and cilantro stew with cumin croutes

December 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm (AMA, Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay))

This is another bean recipe from the AMA cookbook.  It’s interesting in that there are no thickeners.  The chickpeas themselves are pureed to turn the dish into a thick stew. The flavors are supposed to be Mediterranean–Spanish maybe. I tried the recipe once a long time ago and found it a bit watery and bland, but Derek liked it.  I decided to give it another try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Trip report: New York City September 2010

December 10, 2010 at 1:35 pm (Trip report)

I spent almost three weeks in New York this past September.  Normally when I visit New York I just stay in the Village with Derek’s parents, but this time I moved around quite a bit.  My trip started out in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I caught up with my friend Spoons.   Then when Derek arrived I moved to his parents place in the Village.  After he left for his conference in Baltimore I went to Ithaca for the weekend to visit my friend Katrina.  Finally, I spent a night in Columbia grad housing with my friend Jenny.  I was also at Columbia for quite a few lunches, as I was observing two courses at the University.  The three weeks passed by in a whirlwind.  I was kept busy digesting all sorts of new ideas from the courses I was observing, as well as lots of food, as always. Read the rest of this entry »

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Finally: a cookbook recipe review database

December 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm (Cookbook reviews)

For a long time I’ve thought that it would be great if there was some centralized location on the internet where you could see all the reviews of a particular cookbook, or even better, of each recipe in a cookbook.   That way you could see if there are errors in a recipe, or if a recipe has simply bombed over and over. It seems that the idea has finally caught on.  Heidi Swanson has created a 101cookbooks library where you can add reviews of a cookbook or a particular recipe in a cookbook.  I also recently came across http://www.cookbookrecipedatabase.com/.  Although it doesn’t have very many cookbooks added so far, and the search function is impressively broken, the site seems to be going in the right direction. Read the rest of this entry »

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Black bean and yam stew with sofrito

December 10, 2010 at 10:51 am (AMA, Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Caribbean, Root vegetables, Starches, Winter recipes)

Derek liked the Jamaican bean dish from AMA so much I decided to try another bean recipe from the same cookbook.  This one looked somewhat similar to my black bean and sweet potato burritos, but much easier to put together. Read the rest of this entry »

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A trip report: vegetarian Staunton, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.

December 5, 2010 at 10:22 pm (Trip report)

Derek and I recently spent Thanksgiving in Staunton, VA.  We had a lovely time with his family and mine, but it seems we didn’t do much over the week except cook and eat!  One notable exception was  an excellent game of Wise and Otherwise, from which I learned the very deep African saying:  “In the dreams of a chicken… barley is barley.”  I also quite enjoyed Derek’s completion of the Dutch saying starting:  “Coffee has…”.  Although I correctly identified the correct saying (“Coffee has two virtues: it’s warm and wet”), I liked Derek’s version better:  “Coffee has a black life, but a white death.”

See, I told you our trip was food-centric.  Even the two sayings that I remember from Wise and Otherwise are food related!  And now for the trip report… Read the rest of this entry »

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Thai curry paste, four ways

December 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm (Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Sauce/dressing, unrated)

I was making roasted veggies for dinner tonight, and Derek asked me to make some Thai curry paste to go along with them.  Amazingly, I actually happened to have all the ingredients on hand.  I used to make Thai curry paste all the time back in grad school, but I haven’t made it much (if at all) since coming to Germany.   But now that it’s snowy and cold in Saarbruecken, the intense heat of a curry paste sounded very appealing.

The recipe I made tonight is a green curry from Nancie McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai.  It’s one of five different curry recipes in her book.  All of them are fiery and very fresh tasting–a great accompaniment to the sweetness in  roasted carrots and parsnips.  Traditional Thai curry paste includes shrimp paste, but McDermott’s vegetarian version is not missing a thing: it’s fresh, complex, and intensely spicy.  Read the rest of this entry »

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