Melissa Clark’s Spicy Calamari With Israeli Couscous

I’m not one for posting other’s recipes unless I somehow riff on them. But tonight I am singing the praises from my apartment that smells like lemon, garlic, butter and the sea—and I only have NY Times writer Melissa Clark to thank.

Her book, Cook This Now was just released in October, and it’s everything I like in a cookbook. The recipes are fast (which is nice for after-work preparation), flavorful, and even a little healthy (yes, Ms. Clark I noticed all those whole wheat ingredients!). Each chapter is separated by month, so you cook with what’s in season. Even though this recipe is from the February chapter, it shouldn’t be missed at any time of the year.

Since copyright issues are sticky, I’ll just give you the basics and implore you to go out and buy her book. I’d offer to lend you mine, but I’m already making 3 recipes from it this week…I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon. This recipe reminds me why I love seafood-it’s light but not dull, and almost demands to be washed down with a glass of crisp white wine. The (kind of) recipe:

Cook Israeli couscous according to the package (I like Bob\’s Red Mill) and toss with  a little olive oil. Heat more olive oil in the largest pan you have, and throw in a pound or so of cut calamari, red pepper flakes, parsley, basil, garlic and butter. Toss until opaque, about 4 minutes. Finish with an abundance of lemon. Hide the leftovers from your dining partner.

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Cookbook Review: Super Natural Every Day

Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard here

What’s On The Page:

Heidi Swanson, the cookbook author and blogger behind 101cookbooks.com, has a way

Photo by Adam Wickham

with writing about food, as she proves yet again in her new book “Super Natural Every Day.” Because she was a blogger before she was a cookbook author, Swanson offers substitutions in her head notes, allowing the cook the freedom to work with their pantry, not rush to the store for one specific ingredient.

Although she is a blogger, her prose isn’t so heavily laced with personal stories that we lose sight of what’s really important. Her use of imagery is skillful like a fiction writer, but careful like a chef. It isn’t uncommon to hear her describe a baked good “studded” with dried fruit, or a “flurry” of grated cheese atop a pasta dish. When she does go into personal anecdotes, its skillfully done, usually to give credit to the origins of her recipe ideas (specific friends or farmers).

The table of contents reads a lot like a menu—you get the title of the dish, then two or three standout ingredients to give you an overall sense of what will be making. For example: Sun Toast, whole-wheat seed bread and fresh eggs. Or Chanterelle tacos, Serrano chile, garlic and Parmesan.  It’s a unique way of informing the home cook of what each recipe has to offer.

Lastly, it should not go unnoticed how fantastic the photography is in Swanson’s book. All the photos—which Swanson takes herself—do a fantastic job of really capturing the region of Northern California where she lives, as well as the simplistic beauty of the food.

Cuisine:

The strange thing about Swanson’s food (on her blog and in this book) is that you often forget she’s a vegetarian. This may be because Swanson’s recipes are highlights of fresh produce, cheeses and whole grains, and rarely (though sometimes) use meat substitutes like tempeh or seitan. Swanson’s dishes are not stuck on one flavor profile, either. On one page, you find a Harissa dressing with flecks of cilantro, and on another, there may be a baked good that starts with coconut oil. The best thing about the recipes in this book is that she doesn’t spend time trying to convince her reader that her food is healthy and low in calories. That’s a given. Instead, she offers dishes that are unique and flavorful that just happen to be good for you.

What Stands Out:

The element of this book that is different from her first book, “Super Natural Cooking,” is simplicity. Many of the recipes are one-pot ordeals with small lists of ingredients. And nothing is a six-hour effort; the recipes are accessible and relatively easy to put together. Yes, sometimes there will be a less-recognizable ingredient for novice cooks, yet I would argue that part of really getting good at cooking is building a solid pantry, and Swanson helps you do that, one dish at a time.

What’s Not So Great:

Since this book is so successful in so many ways, finding a negative aspect to it is really nit picking. The one problem I have found is in the baking chapter. There can be some strange measurements (like 1 3/4 teaspoon) that can be a little challenging since baking is so precise. Yet this is in no way a reason to avoid the book (hell, it may even be that I’m a pretty pathetic baker myself).

The Verdict:

Heidi Swanson has really found a way to make her dishes accessible and enjoyable. She brings home cooks out of their comfort zones steadily and educationally, and it’s likely you’ll find yourself wanting to make several dishes from the book in one week.

And If You Choose To Meet Her…

Swanson and local baking celebrity Kim Boyce will be holding a meet up/signing at the Cleaners (next to Clyde Common). There will be snacks, a keg of beer and local food site OurFoodShed.com will be offering bags filled with scrumptious food items to go with book purchases. The event goes from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 29, at The Cleaners, 403 SW 10th Avenue and Stark Street.

The Sriracha Cookbook: A Review

my orginal article can be found here

Randy Clemens’ Twitter page assures that he is “not affiliated with Huy

photo by Karl Kuhls

Fong Foods—just a huge fan!” But he is more than just a fan of the fiery condiment; Clemens has become somewhat of a connoisseur. With a culinary degree and a gift for writing recipes in a no-fuss style dabbled with humor and anecdotes, he is someone we can certainly learn from.

Cuisine:

Although some dishes, like the Turned-Up Tuna Tartare and Sriracha Ceviche are more advanced, the majority of the recipes fall under spicy stoner food—and I mean this in the best way possible. The dishes from this book are definitely the kind of food to accompany a cold beer—which makes sense, because Clemens is also an established beer writer. Sriracha and SPAM Fried Rice, Bacon Sriracha Cornbread, and of course, The Ultimate Sriracha Burger, are all dishes that a drunk might pull together—an extremely talented drunk person who knows his flavor combinations.

What stands out:

Besides the fantastic idea for the book itself, what’s unique is that Clemens has really done his research. This is evidenced by a foreword about the roots of authentic Thai Sriracha, as well as background information on the man who brought it to the United States, David Tran. Along with the recipes, Leo Gong’s photography is spectacular; causing cravings for Cheddar-Sriracha Swirl Bread you didn’t even know you had. Obviously, Clemens also deserves points for creativity—in the back of the book is an unexpected dessert section. Can’t say I saw that coming.

What’s not so great:

While there are some healthy recipes, there are a mere three salad and vegetable dishes in the entire book. It would have been interesting to see more experimentation in that department, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker.

The verdict:

This book, like the condiment, is addicting and inspiring. It’s great to see how far this sauce can really go flavor-wise and cuisine-wise. In fact, Clemens inspired me to make my own Sriracha dish:

Sriracha Sunset Soup

Like Clemens’ recipes, the amount of heat in this dish can be varied to the desire of its eaters. A mixture of oranges, carrots and garlic; this soup takes on the golden hue of the sun setting, as well as its heat. Feel free to top with any protein after cooking (a fried or poached egg might be tasty) or simply a handful of chopped cilantro.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha hot sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of grated or dried ginger, fresh is preferable
  • 3 cups of low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice (Meyer is great if you can find it)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 scallions
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper, and more Sriracha to taste

Method:

Peel the carrots and cut into coins, about one inch thick. Mince the garlic. Grate the ginger and slice your scallions. Bring the olive oil to medium heat in a medium saucepan. When the oil is hot, add garlic and sauté until soft, about two minutes. Add the carrots, Sriracha, 3 tablespoons of the grated ginger, broth and juice. Bring to a boil. After the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover half way. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 25 minutes. Blend mixture with an immersion blender to desired consistency (alternatively, you could let the soup cool and mix in a regular blender). After the soup is blended, add the lemon juice, sesame oil, soy sauce and scallions. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, freshly ground pepper, and of course, more Sriracha.

Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revoluntionary Recipes For Better Living

Find the original article here

photo by Adam Wickham (Daily Vanguard)

For many, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman is the man to see about recipes. Ever consulted that thick yellow book called “How To Cook Everything”? What about the New York Times columns “The Minimalist” or “Bitten”? You can thank Mr. Bittman for some of the best recipes published today, and he is one of the few big food names that focuses on recipe-driven food writing instead of restaurant coverage.

Did you know that Americans’ diets have become 70 percent animal products and highly processed sources? Bittman’s book helps steer his reader in the opposite direction, simply by offering recipes that change the way we think about meals. In 2008, Bittman released “Food Matters: A Conscious Guide To Eating,” which could be categorized similarly to Michael Pollan’s “In The Defense Of Food.” Both works suggest a style of eating that values an awareness of how our food affects our bodies and also the environment. Although his original “Food Matters” book had a small selection of meal suggestions, his new cookbook is nearly all recipes, looking closer in size to “How To Cook Everything.”

The beginning of the book offers most of the same ideas as his original “Food Matters,” but in a condensed form. Perhaps the most riveting part of this section is titled “Food Policy, Made Personal,” where Bittman admits that the reason he took on this way of life was, in large part, for his own health. He discusses how his doctor suggested he adapt a vegan diet. Bittman reminded him that his job was food-focused, and asked “if he was out of his mind.” This is the lifestyle Bittman came up with. He often lives in a “vegan before 6 p.m.” style, but he doesn’t push anything on the reader in his book. His tone (throughout the introduction and in his recipes) is wise without being preachy, one of Bittman’s best qualities.

The 500 recipes in the book all value the presence of vegetables-not something you often see in food blogs or even most health cookbooks. This is not to say that his recipes are only vegetarian; many of his recipes include eight ounces of fish, chicken or steak to serve four people, like in the miso soup with bok choy, soba and broiled fish or the pasta with cumin-scented squash and lamb. The idea behind this tactic is to use meat as a condiment rather than the main focus of the meal.

Bittman’s cookbook is formatted much in the way of his other publications. Instead of separating it into chapters based on course, they are organized by type: appetizers/snacks, soups, salads/dressings, beans and veggies, etc. There are no pictures, which some might object to, but really it leaves more space for fantastic recipes.

The section that should not be overlooked is the salad chapter. Bittman really flexes his creative muscle by offering up a different kind of salad-ones that stray far from just lettuce with tomatoes and cucumbers. His ideas are unique, but never too complicated. The black kale and black olive salad is abundant with flavor, and the roasted sweet potato salad with chili dressing is addicting.

True to Bittman’s writing style, most recipes include several variations that you can adapt to your own kitchen. For example, the crisp-crusted Portobellos with lemon chutney can be adapted to crisp-crusted baby artichokes, or baked Portobellos instead.

One aspect found in his other works that is missed in this one is his long list of recipe suggestions for different events/seasons. In his other books, he has given suggestions for everything from first day of school dinner to a Japanese winter lunch. Unfortunately, “The Food Matters Cookbook” only has three of these lists: fast recipes, make-ahead recipes and recipes for pantry staples. These are all great beginnings, mind you, but Bittman can do better.

This book is really a combination of all Bittman’s best works in one: there’s the informational aspects from “Food Matters,” the staple recipes from “How To Cook Everything,” and the seasonal enthusiasm you get from his column “Kitchen Express.”

Mark Bittman will be promoting this book at Powell’s City of Books on Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ■

More Bark Than Bite

Bourdain’s new book Medium Raw exposes more than kitchens

*find this article at the Daily Vanguard site here

If you’ve ever watched Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, you’ve seen his callous New York exterior break down slowly with the addition of alcohol and life-changing food at the end of the episode. We’ve all seen it—Bourdain sets his fork down, looks around a crowded room of Italians, Vietnamese or Nigerians and his eyes get glassy. He pontificates about how this is what it’s all about—the colors, the flavors, the families and the people.

Bourdain’s new book Medium Raw reads a little like a conversation with an (articulate) drunk—soft and contemplative at times, and at others, the randomness of subject matter seems to come from almost nowhere, but is always interesting nonetheless.

Over the years, Bourdain has made quite a stir in the food world, beginning with his dirty exposé Kitchen Confidential. His food-driven travels have taken him to every imaginable corner of the globe, but that’s hardly how he’s made his name. His unrelenting opinions have likely been the cause of many lost fans—and gained supporters— along the way. After all, who isn’t on Bourdain’s shit list?

What brings life to his new book is the fact that, yes, Bourdain’s tough guy act is present, and he is still calling people out (in fact, he has an entire chapter devoted to the people he does and doesn’t like), but he also spends time pointing out the flaws in his own logic. It’s easy to hate a bully, but a bully with a conscience as well as an intelligent, funny voice? Not a chance.

This is not to say that Bourdain’s book is a memoir about how he is actually a big softie who watches Food Network all day hugging a teddy bear, but we do get to see a side of him that usually appears only during those last five to 10 minutes of No Reservations.

At one point, he mentions how completely unforgivable it is to be disrespectful to anyone waiting on you. He gives his parents credit and admits they are not to blame for his disgruntled nature, and he devotes an entire chapter to being a dad and how today he is less concerned with “coolness.”

Like a drunk, though, the topics and tones in his book are scattered. They do fall under the subtitle “A bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook,” but vary so drastically that sometimes the book doesn’t feel cohesive. Each chapter reads more like a well-crafted essay on topics related to food instead of a thread of stories that relate back to Bourdain himself. One chapter spends time discussing the disgusting way ground beef is being produced in America, one gets into the mind of bizarre yet brilliant chef David Chang, and another revisits an old girlfriend and his chaotic time with her on St. Barths.

Luckily, Bourdain’s tone is not like a rambling, incoherent drunk, but one that thoughtfully and unapologetically discusses several ideas on the average food-lover’s mind today.

He ignites interesting questions about the significance of cooking in today’s time: “When we finally closed down home ec, maybe we missed an opportunity. Instead of shutting down compulsory cooking classes for women, maybe we would have been better off simply demanding that men learn how to cook, too.”

Vegetarians, do not jump up too quick, Bourdain is not a fully transformed man. While he spends a lot of time discussing his beliefs in the kind treatment of animals, he also says, “I don’t care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler in comfortable shoes waving away the hospitality—of say, a Vietnamese pho vendor (or Italian mother-in-law, for that matter) fills me with sputtering indignation.”

Sure, sometimes he goes off track and gets a little heavy with his food descriptions (one chapter is devoted to just these), but the hard on the outside and gooey on the inside nature of Bourdain’s personality makes us feel that he is exactly the kind of drunk you want to be around.

Biscuits, Bloody Marys and Facon

Ever heard of Breakfast in Bridgetown? It’s a book that’s been circulating around our glorious town since last year that lists and discusses every restaurant spot to start your day. The author, Paul Gerald, also has a radio show on Friday afternoons, and yesterday he invited me to join him.

To hear us chat about my work at The Daily Vanguard, nosh spots in town, and facon click here.