Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Edition of Cooking Experiment

July 16, 2009....

Last month, I blogged about a little experiment I'm doing (Crazy Ass Cookbook Experiment) and have to admit that I love it.

I love it in theory and in practice. But, here's the rub: I haven't been so good at the practice part. It's not that I still don't have the desire, but I guess it's true what they say about cooking when it's warm out and I own a great Weber grill. Wait, not using the grill as much as I just implied in the last sentence, so I'll just say I've adopted what many magazine publishers do during the summer months - one edition for 2 months.

As I'm still completing the recipes I picked out for June, I can tell you from what I've done, Jacques Pepin is the MAN.

He can take 3 ingredients and create a tasty recipe which is harder than it sounds. For instance, mustard greens + hot Italian sausage + onions = yummy dish [Note: dirt loves to cling to mustard greens so clean well unless you like the taste of dirt, if so, I promise I won't judge].

The books I chose for June/July and what appears to be August are:

1. More Fast Food My Way (Jacques Pepin): It should be noted I have his first Fast Food My Way book, but it is way down in one of my stacks of cookbooks (yes, I said stacks). What I loved about the recipes I've prepared is that they are quick and easy, but still good. However, I did make one dish, Cod in Olive Tomato Crust, and made the fatal error of using sun dried tomatoes packed in a SEASONED oil. Combine salty sun dried tomatoes and black olives and you have instant salt on a plate. In fairness to Jacques, I will be redoing this recipe using unseasoned tomatoes.

What appealed to me about this book is that he either used ingredients I've never had before [mustard greens (give me a break, mom had a repertoire of meals that were repeated each week and mustard greens never made it into the rotation)] or used in a very different way (cooking lettuce is new to me and I have yet to make that recipe).

Recipes from the book I selected: Scallops Grenobloise (excellent, but made modifications because hubby hates mushrooms and couldn't be bothered with making croutons), Cod in Olive Tomato Crust (this is do over for me), Curly Mustard Greens with Hot Sausage (yummy), Rigatoni with Lettuce & Eggplant (yet to make).

2. Best of Food & Wine 2009: I've only made one of the recipes I selected, but it made a great rub for the meat and I made some extra and have used the rub to spice up other dishes and found it yummy when used in hash browns. However, I modified a recipe because of time (yeah, still working on learning to leave enough prep time), but loved the concept (use zucchini and yellow squash to make linguine).

Zucchini & yellow squash as linguine is genius! Me trying to figure out how to use my mandoline on the julienne setting is just crazy talk. Ugh...I actually pulled out a peeler and cut them lengthwise so they'd be thinner strips. Sure I didn't blanch them as the recipe called for, but sauteing with oil and lemon and adding goat cheese created a really yummy dish.

I have to admit the veggies kept their firmness like a noodle and absorbed the flavors of the oil, lemon, etc.. I made this dish for a friend and raved about it later to hubby who was such a skeptic that I made zucchini linguine again (but changed the recipe to make with garlic and Parmesan cheese).

To make a long story short, try this. Summer squashes are in season (zucchini works better) and veggies are good for you.

Recipes I selected from F&W 2009 are: Crisp tomato, Zucchini & Eggplant Bread Gratin (yet to make), Squash & Zucchini Linguine with Goat Cheese (didn't really follow so will probably do again), Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce (yet to do) and Mexican Spice Rubbed Rib Eyes with Lime Butter (yummy)

3. Gourmet Magazine, June 2009: Again, slacker with these recipes. I made 1 out of 4, but really enjoyed the Chipotle Pork Cheeseburgers and realized with some minor, if any, modifications this recipe could work using ground turkey.

Recipes I selected from this issue of Gourmet (btw, a bit saddened because I believe my subscription ran out and can't justify while unemployed the expense of renewing when I own so many cookbooks. Sniff, sniff): Grilled Zucchini Pasta with Pecorino Walnut Crumble (yet to try, but sounds fab-u-lous), Chipotle Pork Cheeseburgers, Warm Quinoa Salad with Grilled Veggies & Fresh Cheese (yet to make and I have high hopes since my last quinoa recipe fell short), Seasoned Fried Chicken (yet to make and it should be noted, it's not a breaded chicken).

4. Bon Appetit, Fast & Fresh: 2 out of 4 recipes and have to admit, one of them, SUCKED. Remember I mentioned I was in awe of Jacques' ability to throw 3 ingredients together to make a memorable dish, well, sometimes 3 ingredients thrown together is just 3 ingredients.

Pancetta Green Beans = pancetta + butter + green beans. When I picked the recipe I was swayed by the title and had not read the ingredients. When I went to make the recipe, I was baffled and wondered why no shallot or onion. I added it to the recipe because it needed it and yet I'd still never make again. I felt as though this recipe was created to fill the pages of the book and no real tasting went on. I know that was harsh.

The other recipe I tried, Grilled Corn with Smoked Paprika Butter was simple and I liked the flavor of the butter (the recipe was the butter). It was nice to give butter a little lift for my corn. I'd make again.

The recipes I selected from Bon Appetit's Fast Easy Fresh are: Pancetta Green Beans (don't bother), Grilled Corn with Smoked Paprika Butter (I'd do again), Spinach & Leek Gratin with Roquefort Crumble Topping (yet to make, but sounds promising) and Green Beans with Walnuts & Walnut Oil (yet to make and a bit nervous that it too will fall flat)

5. Bon Appetit's Keep It Simple: 1 out of 4 recipes made and it was another green bean recipe. It didn't fall as flat as the last one, but I wouldn't make again. My husband and gf enjoyed, but I think they enjoyed other parts of the meal better (I don't believe seconds were taken on this dish).

The recipes I selected from Bon Appetit's Keep It Simple are: Rice Pilaf with Spinach & Caramelized Onions (yet to make), Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus and Goat Cheese (yet to make), Warm Spinach Salad with Parmesan Toast (yet to make) and Sauteed Green Beans with Shallots (hmmm...made and I'd pass although shallots and balsamic vinegar made this interesting).

6. Cooking @Home, The CIA 2 out of 4 recipes made and loved both.

The Chicken Paillards with Orange Thyme Butter was quick and easy (the recipe is the butter you put on top of the grilled chicken) and gave a nice flavor to the chicken. I'd make again.

The other recipe I made was Risotto with Asparagus Tips. I haven't met a risotto I haven't liked and this was both easy and provided me with a veggie (I struggle with incorporating enough fruit & veggies into diet and look for any ways to do this - okay, I digressed enough). My point is that I'd make again.

The recipes I selected from the CIA book are: Chicken Paillards with Orange-Thyme Butter, Fettuccine with Puttanesca Sauce (yet to make), Potato Pancakes (yet to make) and Risotto with Asparagus Tips.

I'd have to rank Jacques book my favorite, then F&W 2009, then CIA, then Gourmet Magazine,then Bon Appetit's Keep it Simple and then Bon Appetit's Fresh, Fast, Easy (solely based on poor Pancetta Green Bean recipe).

In the past month, I've gotten better about my timing and able to have all components of the meal finished at the same time. Yay for a hot meal!

Next time, I'm thinking of using some of my cookbooks written by the Food Network stars.

Bon Appetit!


lacochran said...

Jacques Pepin IS the man! I am a huge Pepin fan. Fast, healthy, tasty. Brilliant.

simple girl said...

How fun! I should try this. I always wished I had better culinary skills. I kinda thought either you were born with it or you weren't. But Mr. Simple says you can actually practice and get good at it. Who knew?! haha.

rxBambi said...

I have to admit I only cook when I feel bad that I haven't cooked in a while. I like Rachel Rays magazine and can usually find yummy, quick, easy meals that the whole family likes.
I'll check these out tho'
thanks for the ideas!

Dan said...

Summer isn't the time to cook. It is the time for fresh fruits and vegetables and maybe even a BBQ or two.

Cooking is always more attractive to me in the winter. Just seems more cheerful when it is cold and snowy outside to be inside by a warm stove and oven.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I adore Jacques Pepin. I have an old cookbook of his - Garlic Scalloped Potatoes. I make them every Christmas Eve. I admire that he stays on PBS also.

Will show my youngest son your assessments as he loves to cook.

Pinay in Dutchland said...

summer is for barbeque and picnic in the parks, sparkling wine and cheese and good time. will check out the books you recommend, if i can find them here hehe.

inkOBSESSIONdesigns said...

I so wish I could cook. I'll have to check these out! :)

Little Ms Blogger said...

Lacochran - He so is! I'd love to be his assistant.

Simple Girl - I didn't cook till age 30 when I had to host my first Thanksgiving dinner. Just remember, there is always take-out if it sucks.

rxBambi - Cooking out of Guilt - great title for a cookbook...

Dan - I agree! Love soups and stews.

MidLife - Does he do the cooking for you?

Pinay - I love bubbly or wine with cheese, fruit and bread.

inkOBSESSION - I wish I had your talent

Helen McGinn said...

Ooh...*salivating* Pictures, lass, pictures! :O) xx

Days and night said...

sounds fun!! summer for me is for HALO-HALO famous here in Phil. i have a post of it in my blog, please come,read and follow..

I just FOLLOWED your blog.