Cook Book Review – {Kitchen Must Haves}

It seems each month my cook book collection gets a bit bigger and bigger. I find it difficult to visit the local book store (usually B&N) and not find myself walking out with at least 1 new book. I have a preference for certain style cook books, usually with exceptional photography (no surprise there). There are of course hundreds of new cook books that come out each year but I tend to spend my money on the artisanal style book, usually with heavy matte pages and chock full of really good staged food dishes, etc.

I added a few books to the collection throughout the year that I think are worthy of mentioning here.
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I hope some of these first hand reviews from an average joe like myself may provide some helpful insight for those looking to add to their kitchen collection.

{Flour + Water by Thomas McNaughton}
Quite simply put, I love this book! Earlier this year I took more of an interest in learning how to make hand made pasta as opposed to simply buying dry pasta from the supermarket. While I am still working at it, this book was a tremendous help and provided an easy to follow guideline on various types of pastas. The backstory is a good one and the book is full of little stories of travel and culinary adventures. Life’s lessons I suppose scattered about beautiful photos of various pasta shapes. I recommend this book if you have any interest in learning how to make pasta and enjoy good food photography! A+
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{Twenty Dinners by Ithai Schori & Chris Taylor}
This may be the best book I purchased this year. Keeping with my preference of ‘Artisanal’ style books, Twenty Dinners is packed with incredible food and lifestyle photography. The recipes are broken out per season so it provides ideas for any time of year. I’ve tried a few different recipes from Twenty Dinners so far and I plan to try many more come start of Spring. As a photographer, I highly appreciate the imagery in this book. The book is clearly made with great care and attention by the authors ideas of food and gatherings. In my opinion, this is a must have for your collection!
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{The Butcher’s Apprentice by Aliza Green}
I received this book as a gift from my father who was a butcher for 35 years. Today it seems like Butchers are increasingly more popular as people start to realize that buying meat from supermarkets isn’t the best choice. (Note: That’s my opinion. I’ll leave it to you to determine where you prefer to buy your meat). With that being said, if you have a local butcher shop you can buy choice cuts of meat from you’re probably better off spending a little more for quality grades. – Again, just my opinion. The Butcher’s Apprentice is an instructional book. Very insightful and full of easy to understand graphics and techniques. This book would be a great addition to your collection in the kitchen if you find yourself cutting your own meats or simply wanting to learn what cut of meat you’re eating. The book includes various recipes and is pretty much all easy to understand. For the low cost I would recommend adding this if your a meat eater.
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{Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food -The Ultimate Weekend Cookbook}
Let me start off by saying I am a fan of Jamie Oliver. I enjoy his style of cooking and especially how he instructs how to cook various recipes – when on television. With that being said I have struggled with this book. The images and layout of the book is top notch. It’s no doubt a high quality large cook book. I would say this is not a beginners book however. The recipes are without question incredible, yet I found some ingredients difficult to find. I looked thru a couple other of Jamie Oliver’s cook books recently at the book store and the ones I looked at appeared to be in the same format, which was cool. I think this book would be great for the more knowledgable cook, someone with a little kitchen experience and access to some of the ingredients not easily found. A lot of the recipes to me seemed to be for some pretty heavy food, but I suppose that was the intent with ‘comfort food’. All things said I enjoy the book as a challenge and will continue to do so.
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{Van Leeuwen – Artisan Ice Cream}
This review will be short. I have yet to attempt to make ice cream. I snagged this book a few months back when the weather was warm and I was in the mood to give ice cream a try. Ironically enough I found myself in NYC shortly thereafter and stopped in their ice cream shop. I tried a scope of the salted caramel option and personally found it to be too salty. But I wouldn’t let that deter you, the book is chock full of tons of flavors and seemingly good direction on how to start making ice cream. The book is artisanal in style and has really good photographs as well. I hope to dig more into this as summer gets here.
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{Ivan Ramen – Love, Obsession and Recipes}
Buy this book. It’s that simple. If you, like me, are obsessed with Ramen and all its quirkiness and traditions – this is the book for you! The backstory of Ivan and how he went to Tokyo and inserted himself into an impossible culinary world only to come out wildly successful and now known world wide, is enough to make this book a great addition to any collection. I love Ramen. Tokyo is on the top of my travel list. This book is fun, insightful and sarcastically funny about how the ramen world works.
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{The Whole Beast – Nose to tail Eating by Fergus Henderson}
I recently posted about this book. Let me say this … If I could only keep a single book in my kitchen collection this would be the book to have. A coveted, easy to understand piece of literary gold on how to eat every little bit of the glorious pig. Any foodie is no foodie without this book, or without at least hearing about this book. Anthony Bourdain pens the introduction and even filmed a travel episode with Fergus Henderson a while back. This is a must have. Ask for this as gift immediately, or scour the internet to find yourself a copy immediately!
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{Lidia’s Mastering the art of Italian Cuisine – by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich}
I am critical of Italian cook books normally. I’ve been to Italy, eaten the cache e pepe, and grew up eating Italian food. I picked this book up recently and have no complaints. I am a fan of Lidia and watch her shows frequently. Her traditional approach of recipes along with getting family involved in the cooking process is a win win in my book. This is a good book to have, whether you’re a beginner or seasoned cook. The recipes are strait forward and easy to understand. I suspect if you wanted to cook anything Italian, you’d be in good shape with this book. I have many Italian cook books but this one is a good addition to your collection any day, it does not disappoint.
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{Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell}
Admittedly I just purchased this book. However after a quick flip thru it I have no doubt this is a good book for anyone looking to learn some basic recipes in an easy format. I appreciate the imagery of the book and the layout is attractive and easy to grasp. Essentially this is another book about a successful chef and his recipes, which is always a good read in my opinion.
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{A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus by Renee Erickson}
My last review is not a review at all. I just bought this book and most likely will be the last cook book I purchase this year. I’ve been in search of an artisanal style book highlighting a chef form the northwest. This appears to be that book! I will get into this book shortly and provide a much better review afterwards. The photography really got me on this one also, great stuff!
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Cheers to adding to your cook book collection!

Cooking Adventures – {Rabbit wrapped in Fennel & Bacon, Merry Christmas}

I recently picked up “The Whole Beast ” by Fergus Henderson, the coveted and sought after book of nose to tail eating. I had been meaning to add this cook book to my ever-growing collection for some time, and even more anxious to show it to my father, a butcher for 35 years.

For me personally cooking has truly made me realize the importance of gratitude and learning. For most of us, we learn from family who learned from their family and so on. The traditions of recipes are different in each family but the fun of it all (for me) is learning how to cook the right way.

Let me expound on that notion “how to cook” …

If you have followed my ramblings so far, hopefully you would agree I know a little about cooking and can hold my own in the kitchen. With that being said, the notion of “learning to cook” is truly a life long process. That’s the beauty of it!  Imagine a hobby that you can literally do your entire lifetime!? It’s a good thing because I’m way too old and fat now to hop back on my skateboard!

For most of us who haven’t graduated CIA (Culinary Institute of America) and don’t cook for a living and only hope to aspire one day to rule their own kitchen with masterful technique and results (or simply just not embarrass themselves)  …. Realize it’s about one thing in the end – coming together around the table with family and friends. The meal cooked was made by a loved one, which trumps any 3 star Michelin dish out there.

…. Well maybe besides Jiro’s sushi in Tokyo or Noma in Denmark – eat at those places over your buddies homemade meat loaf if you can!

My point of these ramblings is to simply say enjoy the food you’re eating, no matter where the dish may come from. Behind it someone made it, and with any luck the recipe came from someone years before them. Feel lucky the recipe was passed down and made its way to your table.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and Happy New Year to all of you! Thanks for following!

-Ben

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Cooking Series – {Frozen Cappuccino Pie, Salmon Sushi, Wild Boar Stew, Food Processor, New Cook Book }

Today was a busy day indeed! Managed to pick up Lidia Bastianich’s new cook book (which is great by the way!), tried the new local Sushi joint for lunch, slow stewed a special boar meat for a few hours, and finally this evening made Frozen Cappuccino Pie. Oh, and picked up a new food processor from Hamilton Beach.

Merry Christmas!

   
    
    
    
    

Saturday Cooking Series – {Homemade Pork Sausage, Max the Lab}

A quick post here. Hope everyone had a great thanksgiving! Been busy lately but managed to make homemade Pork sausage which turned out incredible! The KitchenAid Mixer has proven to be such a great addition the the kitchen! 

Oh, and my little buddy Max came home this last week from the breeder. He’s a pure bred Black Lab and the love of my life. More posts to come featuring Max for sure!

   
 

Sunday Cooking Series – {Smoked Pork Neck Bone Stew,Braised Short Rib Stew, 25lb Country Ham}

What better time of year than the Autumn season to eat thick and hearty stews?! Cooked outside in cast iron over an open pit makes for one of my favorite things to do when the weather begins to turn. 

I recently added to my cast iron collection with a nice 5 Quart Dutch Oven from Lodge. Naturally I was eager to throw something hearty and “wintery” in it immediately on the pit outside. With the help of my pop (a butcher for 35 years) I managed to pick up some smoked pork neck bones and short ribs. 

Luckily, my local butcher is pretty knowledgable about meats and had some ready for me in a few minutes. 

For the Neck Bone Stew: 

Home and eager to cook, I dumped 2 cans of red kidney beans, a quart of chicken stock, 2 quartered onions, 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar … And let it sit on the pit for about an hr.  Once the onions were cooked down and everything was reducing nicely, I put 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar in to thicken it even more and give it a beautifully aromic and sweet taste. Truly ‘stick to your ribs’ food here folks! 

   
  

  
   
  
For the Briased Short Ribs:

A similar concoction which turned out incredible. 

2 packs of flanken cut beef short ribs, 1 quart of beef stock, 1 cup water, 2 onions quartered, 5 carrots, 5 potatoes, a few bay leaves, 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, 3 teaspoons of Apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of tomatoe paste, two small cuts of salt pork, salt & pepper as needed. Just throw it all in the Dutch oven and let it all cook down. Once finished cooking, let sit for an hour which will let all that fat and flavor really come thru in the broth, showing some sweetness due to the brown sugar. Another easy, cold weather stew that is pretty great to enjoy outside around a bonfire with friends. 

   
   
Lastly, this weekend was the start of something my father and I have been talking about doing forever but only now getting around to it! We prepped a 25lb Ham to be cured for 6 months. The process of curing meat stemmed from the days before refrigeration and resulted in a thing of beauty! So, like any normal 33 year old food nut, I have a 25lb Country Ham salt curing in my pantry where the temperature should be perfect for it over the next 6 months. Fingers crossed we have a winner!

   
 

Dim Sum, Sushi, Breakfast Pizza & More

I admit it. I have been eating out quite a bit lately. From Ramen joints in center city (Philadelphia) to local sushi restaurants. I have also been cooking a lot, usually every Sunday for entire afternoons at a time. I am very close to getting my breakfast pizza just the way I envisioned it! (Maybe a little honey in the dough will do it, hmm?).

I have not posted any pics to the blog lately so here is a big upload of some food adventures over this past month.
Enjoy.
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Sunday Cooking Series – {Chicken Feet, Sausage, Norwegian Salmon}

Sunday’s are to be cherished. Personally I cook a lot on Sunday’s. It’s my way of relaxing and doing what I enjoy, which is sometimes cooking the most random things on the outside open pit. Autumn is now here in Delaware and the air is just right for hanging out outside.  As evidenced by the photos from today, I couldn’t figure out what I was really in the mood for. So like any normal person, I went to the grocery store with no list and ended up with the beautiful randomness you see below. Sometimes the beauty of cooking with no recipes is simply to see what happens, experimenting with new foods and of course making mistakes. For me, those mistakes all to often turn into my next favorite dish. 

   
    
    
    
 

Milkfish & Butterfish -{Seasoned & Grilled}

I’ve been meaning to snag a few quality pieces of fish from my local farmers market, specifically to grill them on my open pit. Tonight’s catch was definitely a success!

Milkfish seasoned simply with sea salt and pepper, lemon and limes along with parsley stuffed into the cavity. Then I added a few butterfish with simply salt and pepper to top off the fish dinner. #fish #milkfish #butterfish


  
  
  

NYC Food Adventures – {Russ & Daughters, Papaya King, Momofuku MilkBar, Joe Juniors, etc}

Any photographer, traveler, or food enthusiast in general should visit NYC at the very least once if possible.

Ok, that’s easier for some than others of course.
It’s exactly 114 miles from my front steps to the center of Times Square. Needless to say this gives me all the opportunity in the world, minus actually living in the city, to visit as much as I want and spend countless hours exploring what I consider to be the best city in the world.

I have found myself in NYC many times since I figured out long ago what a quick escape it can be from my hometown. I’ve trekked miles up and down 7th avenue, strolled across the Brooklyn Bridge admiring Roebling’s Masterpiece, snapped panoramic pics atop Rockefeller Center, rode the subways, walked thru central park …. all of the tourist stuff I checked off a long time ago.

I’ve since added different destinations to my list(s) when I make a stop on the island these days. Sadly there are some incredible food joints I’ve never made it to yet. So today was important, particularly because I needed to check off some of NYC’s finest food joints from my list and not hold my head in shame anymore. No more ‘ah darn never tried that place yet”, or “I’ll have to make it there someday” …. excuses.

So I jotted down a few select places all relatively close to each other, hopped the train and off I went.

My first stop was Joe Juniors for coffee and breakfast. I read good things about Joe’s from Lucky Peach and realized small places like this are getting harder to find. I made my way in only to find a setting that could not have been written better in a movie scene. At the first table sat a guy, maybe a few years older than me with a wrinkled suit on and flip flops, sipping away at his coffee. Behind him, two hipsters talking quietly about something quintessential New York. At the first bar stool an older gentleman with a Veterans hat on (I think from WWII). Besides him a young couple showing just the right amount of PDA to make things uncomfortable for the rest us. I snagged a coffee and egg/sausage sandwich, paid my bill and left overhearing one of the everyday customers arguing about the Mets to his friend behind the counter.
You can’t write this stuff any better.

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Next stop was Artichoke Basille Pizza. Two Words – Margarita Slice! Rustic, cheesy, incredible. Eat it outside along the fence and watch people walk by surely jealous of your newly found love.
Twitter @ArtichokePizza

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Let me preference this next stop with the admission that I am a big fan of David Chang and what he has accomplished. The Momofuku restaurants are incredible and you can’t possibly go wrong at any of them – just show up early or you’ll be waiting a while – especially at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Well worth it to get there early!
By this time I needed some caffeine so I stopped off at the Momofuku Milk Bar for an expresso. I folded like a lawn chair under the pressure and also bought (3) cookies to which I proceeded to devour outside the shop with no shame.
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Twitter @milkbarstore

Somehow I managed to find myself at Van Leeuwin Artisan Ice Cream. Contrary to the above cookie admission, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth these days as I once did (more of a salty guy), but I do enjoy the occasional cone. In fact, I had recently purchased the VL Artisan Ice Cream cook book (mostly because the photography is awesome) … so I figured it can’t hurt. Sampled the Salted Caramel which was… well salty but delicious. The shop had the A/C on so it was a nice respite from the late summer humidity in NYC which can be oppressive to say the least.
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Twitter @VLAIC

The next stop was a necessity. One must always stop in either Russ & Daughters or KATZ’s a few stores down when in NYC. Since I had been to KATZ’s recently and wanted to bring some things home with me I decided to brave the line and get some goodies at Russ & Daughters. I left with 6 Bagels and a can of Herring. If I had a cooler with me, filled with ice, and a limo waiting outside to drive me around to my other destinations, I would have bought much … let me stress … much smoked salmon!
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Twitter @LoxPopuli

As shameful as it is, prior to today, and seemingly impossible as one can imagine, I had not visited Papaya King before. Yes, I’ve heard Bourdain sings its praises before and seen all the colorful neon signs before. Yet today, with head held high, I had my first dog at Papaya King … and of course the Papaya drink. Out of all the stops I made today this was my most favorite. Buzzing with neon everywhere around me I sat looking out at St.Marks place chowing down on my hot dog, smothered with kraut and corn beef, sipping my ice cold papaya drink. It was, shall I say….incredible.
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Twitter @Papaya_King

Feet tired and eyes now blurry from the glow of my Mac, this is where the food adventure for today ends.

Goodnight Friends.