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!

   
    
    
    
    

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. 

   
    
    
    
 

Red Sauce – {Spicy Make}

I’ve read about three dozen different recipes for Red Sauce over this past week, looking particularly for something a little more spicy than the usual make. I found a recipe in a recent cookbook purchase of “Twenty Dinners” (highly recommend!) that I was fairly confident had what I was looking for. Late last night was a restless night (as most are for me) and after I had exhausted my fill of Doc Martin on Netflix I decided to spend some time in the kitchen. I took the basic recipe for 3 quarts of Red Sauce from my newly purchased book (which has incredible photography by the way) and started  the process. A few hours later and quite tired by then, I was pleasantly pleased with my results. A thick bold sauce which had just the right amount of kick to it, which for me is probably more than most prefer. Not too shabby. Tonight I’ll pair it with the vermicelli I purchased in Philly this past weekend with a few other choice ingredients. 

   
    
 

Neapolitan Pizza with Fresh Grown Basil – {Kitchen Adventures}

I managed to spend most of the afternoon today making dough and trying my hand at Neapolitan Pizza. I included a healthy amount of the fresh basil I have growing in the garden out back and probably more mozzarella than the recipe called for. I plan to make this again until I get it just right, although todays result was not too shabby.

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Cacio e Pepe in Parmesan Frico Cup

Today I decided to cook one of my favorite dishes, Cacio e Pepe in a crusted Parmesan Frico Cup. One of my first dishes I had in Rome, and certainly one of the most memorable. While being a dish with only a few ingredients, it takes a careful approach in preparation to get it just right. Personally I enjoy mine super creamy with plenty of cracked black pepper.  If making this dish it’s a must to eat it in a Parmesan Frico cup which pairs perfectly with the pasta and pecorino cheese.  One of my favorite dishes to make and especially to eat!





Japanese Noodles w/Pork Shoulder

After work today I found myself back at the farmers market stocking up on a few things for tomorrow and the weekend. The northeast is a frozen tundra at the moment and I am still unsure if I want to venture out for the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Chinatown this Sunday, so I stocked up on some produce, meat and a few other things in case I spend the weekend inside experimenting.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with (more than usual) everything noodle, in particular ramen and somen noodles. I’ve had awesome noodle bowls in Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York & Los Angeles, each city & restaurant with its unique flavor. I like them all. Tonight I made a stand by which has proven super delicious, fairly easy to make and hearty enough to fill me up for the most part – Japanese Noodles with Pork Shoulder.

I know there’s different ways of doing this but I like to let the broth get good and flavorful before I drop the noodles in. My broth tonight I used mushrooms, diced scallions (put the root in as well), diced celery and two half onions for flavor. Add some salt and additional broth flavoring as well – I like the broth just salty enough but not too salty as to override all the other ingredients.

As my broth is simmering I’ve added a few select cuts of pork shoulder to my frying pan, cooking in extra virgin olive oil and seasoned only with salt & pepper. I like to get the cuts of pork shoulder and pick out a few cuts just for this single dish – almost all with a healthy layer of fat I don’t cut off.

Once the pork cuts are about half way done cooking I drop my noodles. They cook quickly within a few minutes. Once finished I run super cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Pour my noodles then into the bowl along with the broth with vegetables. Pork cuts are finished now and I add them to the top with a few diced carrots.

One of my favorite dishes to make. Quick, easy and a great meal when it’s absolutely frigid outside!

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