Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday (yes, it's late!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
You will have to pretend that this last entry mysteriously appeared this morning, instead of yesterday, TUESDAY, morning. It is, after all a Top 5 Tuesday entry. Not Top 5 Wednesday. Of course I wouldn’t have been too busy yesterday pretending to work on my reading for school and not reading this lovely tale to finish this easiest of all Top 5 entries. Not me!

What was difficult about this week’s Top 5, my most-used cookbooks, is that I would have to acknowledge that Rachael Ray would most certainly easily fill all five slots. I thought it might be a good idea, however, to include a few selections that I do love, but just don’t tend to rely on quite as much as Rachael. Since it is my blog, and I can write about whatever I choose, you can expect a future Top 5 list for Rachael Ray cookbooks only and another Top 5 devoted to the remainder of my gigantic cookbook collection. I’m obviously kind of an expert on cookbook authors, so it’s only fair that I share my knowledge with the world!

Also, this is going to be a rather long post. I’ve decided to include a recipe from each of the cookbooks. It seemed fitting.

Here we go!

5. Barefoot Contessa at Home, Ina Garten. Now, I actually don’t turn to this cookbook all that often. Ina Garten tends to craft recipes that have a fat and calorie content a bit too high for my taste. There is something very comforting, however, in her general approach to cooking. The atmosphere and general ambiance is just as important to Ina as the food. She’s always tooling around her garden and finding lovely, seasonally-appropriate flowers to decorate her tables with, and she works on making dishes that she can prepare in advance, so as to be able to spend all her time visiting with her guests. I also must confess an addiction to her voice-it’s SO soothing! Turn on the Food Network and see for yourself! And then go make this delicious Lemon Yogurt Cake. Ina thinks it’s better for you because it contains yogurt, but don’t be fooled!

Lemon Yogurt Cake, from Barefoot Contessa at Home

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
3. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
4. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rake over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
5. For the glaze, combine the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice and pour over cake.

4. Fresh Every Day, Sara Foster. This cookbook is one of my absolute favorites. It actually kills me to think that after spending four years at Duke, I visited Foster’s Market, the inspiration for the cookbook, only once. There are many recipes to enjoy, but the one that have made 100’s of times and LOVED each time is the Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Avocado, Roasted Corn, and Grape Tomatoes. I could eat it by the bucketful.

Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Avocado, Roasted Corn, and Grape Tomatoes, from Fresh Every Day

4 ears sweet corn, in the husk (I have used frozen corn in the winter months)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch cubes, or bocconcini
2 ripe avocados, halved, peeled, and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 pint grape or other small tomato varieties, havled
8-10 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup Summer Herb Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
several handfuls of young arugula or baby greens

Summer Herb Vinaigrette
1/3 cup red wine vinaigrette
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 or 3 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, lemon zest and juice, basil, oregano, and parsely in a small bowl and stir to mix. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady, stream until all of the oil is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Soak the corn in the sink or a bowl filled with cold water for 10 to 15 minutes. Place on a baking sheet with sides and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the kernels are tender. Cool to room temperature, then pull off and discard the husks and silks. Cut the kernels off the cob into a large bowl.
3. Add the mozzarella, avocados, tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper to the bowl with the corn. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently. Be careful not to over-mix or mash the avocado. Season with more salt, pepper, or vinaigrette to taste. Serve on a bed or arugula or baby greens.

*I have made this dish several times using a basic lime juice and olive oil dressing instead of the vinaigrette, and I've also livened it up by adding a can of beans.

3. Jamie’s Dinners, Jamie Oliver. Jamie Oliver holds the (of course) much coveted title of second best, for me. I love perusing his cookbooks, which are inevitably full of fresh, fairly straightforward recipes. That he’s a funny, charming chef, too certainly doesn’t hurt! I recently discovered Jamie’s Ministry of Food video podcasts, and I could watch them over and over. Go check them out! Free on ITunes! Anyway, I have used Jamie’s Dinners more than any of his other cookbooks, though I do have most of them. It contains my go-to recipe for Chicken Tikka, an excellent recipe for Fish Pie, and lots of great pasta recipes. I’m going to have to share Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella, though. The husband and I have the recipe memorized-definitely one of our favorite dishes.

Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella, from Jamie's Dinners

1 firm ripe pink, black, or white eggplant
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 14 oz cans of good-quality plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
optional: 1-2 fresh or dried chiles, chopped or crumbled
a bunch of fresh basil, leaves ripped and stalks sliced
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 lb rigatoni or penne
7 oz fresh mozzarella
1 piece of Parmesan cheese, for grating

1. Remove both ends of the eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices, then slice these across and finely dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Some people prefer to season their eggplant with salt and let it sit for a while in a colander to draw out the bitterness, but I don't really do this unless I'm dealing with a seedy, bitter eggplant. This dish is really best made using a firm silky one.
2. Now put a large saucepan on the heat and drizzle in 4 to 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. When it's hot, add the cubes of eggplant, and as soon as they hit the pan stir them around with a spoon so they are delicately coated with the oil and not soaked on one side only. Cook for about 7 to 8 minutes on a medium heat. Then add the garlic and onion. When they have a little color, add the canned tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar. Stir around and season carefully with salt and pepper. At this point, if you wanted to give the dish a little heat you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dried chile, but that's up to you. Add the basil stalks, and simmer the sauce nice and gently for around 15 minutes, then add the cream.
3. While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions until it is soft but still holding its shape, then drain it, saving a little of the cooking water. I like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and drizzle of olive oil and move it around so it becomes almost dressed with the water and oil.
4. At this point add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta. By now the eggplant will have cooked into a creamy tomatoey pulp, which is just yum yum yum! Season carefully to taste with salt and pepper. When all of my guests are sitting round the table, I take the pan to the table, tear up the mozzarella and the fresh basil, and fold these in nicely for 30 seconds. Then very quickly serve into bowls. By the time your guests start to eat, the mozzarella will have started to melt and will be stringy and gorgeous and really milky-tasting. Just lovely with the tomatoes and eggplant. Serve at the table with a block of Parmesan cheese and a grater so that everyone can help themselves.

*The conversational notes in the recipe are all Jamie, not me!

2. 30 Minute Meals 2, Rachael Ray. This cookbook was to be the first of many Rachael Ray purchases. I’ve read it so many times that I could practically recite all the recipes by heart. Not all of her cookbooks are organized by menu, which is one thing that makes this one particularly appealing. It’s so nice to not have to think up a side dish! One of the best recipes, which not only tastes great but has the potential for a lovely presentation, is John’s Fish: Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce, accompanied by Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux.

John's Fish: Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce + Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux, from 30 Minute Meals 2

4 fillets tilapia (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons EVOO
the juice of 1 lime
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 jalepeno or serrano pepper, seeded, and finely chopped
2 or 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
8-10 tomatillos, peeled and diced with juice
coarse salt, to taste
1/2 bottle pale beer
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish

(for avocados)
1 tablespoon EVOO
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 ears fresh corn on the cob, husked
a sprinkle of sugar
dash cayenne pepper
dash salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 ripe avocados
the juice of 1 lime
coarse salt

1. Season tilapia on both sides with salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the hot skillet and saute tilapia 3 minutes on each side, turning carefully with a thin spatula. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over the fish, and transfer fillets to a warm serving platter.
2. Return skillet to the stove over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, red onion, jalepeno, and garlic and saute, 1 minute or 2, then add tomatillos. Season with salt and pepper, and saute another 1 or 2 minutes. Add beer and the juice of 1/2 a lime, and bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, 45 minutes.
3. While sauce is simmering, get a second skillet hot over moderate heat. Add olive oil, onion, jalepeno, bell pepper, and saute, 2 or 3 minutes. Working on a plate to catch the milky juices, scrape corn off the cob. Break up kernels and pour into the skillet. Combine with peppers and onions. Season with sugar, cayenne, and salt. When mixture bubbles, reduce heat to a simmer. Cut butter into pieces, stir into corn mixture, and simmer until creamy, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Cut avocados in half lengthwise and remove pits. Squeeze lime juice over the avocados to keep them from browning and season with a little coarse salt.
5. Back to the sauce for the fish: add cilantro and adjust salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon hot tomatillo sauce over the fish and garnish with sprigs of cilantro.
6. To serve, set 1/2 an avocado per person alongside a service of fish, topped with tomatillo sauce. Fill the avocado with maque choux, allowing the corn to spill down and over the sides. The ripe avocado is spooned away from its skin with bites of creamy, warm corn and peppers.

1. 365: No Repeats, a Year of Deliciously Different Dinners, Rachael Ray. If you were able to observe my cookbook shelves more closely, it would be immediately obvious which of my cookbooks has sustained the most use. My worn, much-abused copy of 365: No Repeats is wrinkled from water damage, slightly unglued from the binding, and has many a dog-eared page. Obviously a testament to how great it is! Agh! Just as I was writing and thumbing through the book to figure out which recipe, among many great ones, to share, a large portion of the book slipped from the binding! You can see why it’s number one! While I attempt to put it back together, I suggest you run to the grocery store and immediately purchase all the needed ingredients for Wild Cream of Mushroom Egg Noodle Bake, Hold the Canned Soup (Rachael is big on cute-sy titles). HMMMMMMM!

Wild Cream of Mushroom Egg Noodle Bag, Hold the Canned Soup, from 365: No Repeats

Cream of Mushroom Sauce:
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 button mushrooms, brushed off with a damp towel and chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 cup whole milk or cream
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons EVOO
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 portobello mushroom caps, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 pound fresh mixed wild mushrooms, such as shiitakes, oysters and wood-ears, stems trimmed and caps thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (from 4 sprigs)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine, or more stock
1 pound extra-wide egg noodles
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, salted
3/4 pound Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (12-15 chives)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the egg noodles.
2. To make the mushroom sauce, heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the EVOO and the butter. When the butter melts, add the chopped button mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, until just tender. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken stock and bring to a bubble, then stir in the whole milk. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer. Season the sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
3. To make the casserole, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the two tablespoons of EVOO, then the shallots and the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for 8 minutes, or until tender. Season with the thyme, salt, and pepper, and deglaze the pan with the wine or a little stock. Reduce the heat to medium low and let the liquid cook off.
4. Preheat the broiler to high.
5. While the mushrooms cook, drop the egg noodles into the boiling water, salt the water, and cook the noodles until al dente, with a bite to them. Drain the noodles and return to the hot pot. Add the creamy sauce to the pot and toss the noodles to coat in the sauce.
6. Lightly coat a casserole dish with the softened butter, then transfer the cream of mushroom noodles to the dish and top with the mushroom ragout and the shredded cheese. Place the casserole under the broiler and melt and bubble the cheese until brown at the edges. Garnish with chives and serve.

I'm sorry this post is SOOOO long, but these recipes are just so good!

No comments: