Tag Archives: review

The Cookiepedia and a recipe for Chocolate Crinkles

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I received a new cookbook today, and I am smitten. It’s called The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking and Reinventing the Classics, written by Stacy Adimando. I must confess that I was somewhat skeptical of what a classic cookie book could show me. I am a straightforward baker when it comes to cookies. I rely on a short list of traditional goodies, often made at the spur of the moment without much thought except to quell a craving for something sweet, buttery, chocolate and uncomplicated. I’ve been making my family’s favorite cookies for so long I rarely use a recipe, relying on memory and simple ratios. Why would I need another recipe for my tried and true favorites?

Well, maybe I don’t need another recipe, but perhaps I do need a kick in the butt. For so long I have been making cookies by rote, with a little tweaking here and there to shake things up. While I know what I am doing, I realize that I have forgotten why I am doing it. The Cookiepedia is the perfect reminder that instructs and informs in a bright and friendly manner – just like you were baking with a friend or sister who happens to know a lot about a cookie. It has all the usual suspects (nearly 50 in all, including mint thins, snickerdoodles, blondies, and meringues), doled out with a healthy measure of tips, facts, tweaks and variations. Just like a girlfriend who knows your dirty laundry, real life is taken into consideration with time constraints, picky eaters, potential mishaps, even weather glitches in its guidance. It takes your hand, keeps you company and strikes up a conversation, while you do what you love to do – bake cookies. Consider this a Betty Crocker Cooky Book for the modern family. In fact, I bet Betty would take a few notes.

Chocolate Crinkles

These plump chocolate morsels didn’t crinkle so much as poof for me. The results were a  fudgy, brownie, cake-like cookie which tasted fabulous. (Who can argue with a description like that?)  Makes about 30 – 1 inch cookies.

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for rolling

Combine chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. (Be sure thhe bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.) Let the chocolate start to melt, then stir occasionally until it’s smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat the sugar and eggs in a bowl of an electric mixer until thick and smooth, 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Beat on medium-low speed until they’re combined.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Add the mixture in 2 batches, beating each time until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Roll 1-inch balls of dough in a bowl of powdered sugar, coating them completely. Place them 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes until they just feel firm. (The cookies are best when slightly undercooked in the center.) Cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Note: I found that most of the powdered sugar melted while baking, so once the cookies were fully cooled, I rolled them again in the sugar.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Cookiepedia. Written by Stacy Adimando and photographed by Tara Striano. Published by Quirk Books.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of The Cookiepedia from Quirk Books. 

On a Stick! and a recipe for Chinese Meatballs

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Here’s the thing: It’s fun to eat with your hands, and Matt Armendariz has figured this out. In his new book On a Stick! it seems that every food you may think of is fair game for skewering. It might be simple:  Crudité Skewers with Latin Green Goddess Dressing or Caprese Sticks with Mozzarella, Basil and Tomatoes. It might be more complex: Deep Fried Ravioli or Spaghetti and Meatballs anyone? Or perhaps you are craving something sweet. How about Frozen Bananas Dipped in Chocolate or Strawberry Shortcake? Yes, that’s right – all on a stick.

On a Stick! puts the fun in food, taking ordinary and exotic recipes and sticking it to them, so to speak, along with an assortment of dipping sauces – because, after all, dipping a stick in a sauce, dressing, salsa or chutney is half the fun of eating food on skewers.  If you would like to enjoy a little simple pleasure, if you need to entice your kids to eat their veggies, or if you wish to invite your 20 closest friends to a party, you will appreciate this book.  There’s something in it for everyone, and fun doesn’t get more tasty than this.

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For my first recipe, I tried the Chinese Meatballs, which are a spicy, savory concoction of ground turkey, cilantro and spices. Fragrant with ginger and garlic, these addictive little morsels are served with a sweet and sour chili sauce. I pan fried them rather than deep fried them before dutifully skewering with bamboo sticks. And you know what? They really do taste better on a stick.

Chinese Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce
Makes about 12 meatballs

3/4 pound lean ground pork or turkey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons peeled and minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl with your hands to thoroughly combine. Form into 12 small even balls. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the meatballs in one layer without overcrowding. Cook, turning, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Skewer with toothpicks or bamboo sticks. Serve with Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce.

Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce

1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons minced lemon grass
1/2 bunch mint, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon seeded and minced red jalapeño
1 teaspoon peeled and minced ginger

Stir vinegar, sugar and lemongrass in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until sugar dissolves and liquid reduces by one-third. Strain into a bowl and cool completely. Stir in mint, cilantro, garlic, red jalapeño and ginger. Serve warm or at room temperature, alongside the meatballs.

Recipe reprinted with permission from On a Stick! Written and photographed by Matt Armendariz. Published by Quirk Books.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of On a Stick! from Quirk Books.

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches and a Recipe for a Pulled Pork

If you think that a sandwich is just a sandwich, then think again. Actually, first get your hands on The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches, have a look through it, and then think again. Your view of sandwiches will never be the same.

It’s hard to resist the book by its cover alone, with a photograph of a teetering triple decker sandwich (The Dagwood) and the promise of not only recipes (110 in all) but “history and trivia for everything between sliced bread.”  How can this be resisted? Author Susan Russo lures the reader in with her irreverent writing sprinkled with snippets of trivia, and punctuated with drool-worthy photos from the talented photographer Matt Armendariz.

This weighty compact book is thick and juicy with recipes and nuggets to chew on, so to speak – just like a good Reuben Sandwich. I quickly discovered that a sandwich is far more than a lunchtime staple framed by sliced bread. Start your day with an All-in-One Breakfast Sandwich (with hashbrowns, waffles, eggs and bacon),  or finish a meal with a Banana Split Sandwich (a.k.a. dessert). There is even a British Chip Butty – otherwise known as a French Fry Sandwich on this side of the pond – which handily qualifies as munchy snack food. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and this book gallantly and informatively tackles the encyclopedic task of celebrating the humble sandwich.

Despite the impressive number and variety of sandwiches in the book it was easy to select my first recipe. Pulled pork is a family favorite, and I know that Susan is an avid football fan, frequently posting enticing recipes on her blog for spicy game-viewing fare. I was keen to try her recipe for a Pulled Pork Sandwich – knowing it would be a winner.

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Makes 8-10 Sandwiches.

Coleslaw:
12 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

8-10 cups pulled pork, shredded (recipe below)
8-10 hamburger buns or kaiser rolls
Extra barbecue sauce for serving (optional)
Pickle slices

Make the coleslaw: Place cabbage in a large bowl. Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small pot over medium – high heat. Reduce to a simmer and add oil, salt and pepper. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Pour over cabbage. Refrigerate until use.

Assemble sandwiches: Place 1 cup meat in each bun. Drizzle with extra barbecue sauce if desired. Top with a scoop of coleslaw and some pickle slices. Close sandwich and serve immediately.

Pulled Pork Recipe
Makes 8-10 cups

Meat Rub:
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder

1 (5-7 pound) boneless pork shoulder

Vinegar Barbecue Sauce:
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Tabasco
1/4 cup stone-ground mustard

Combine all of the rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Rub the mixture all over the meat. Refrigerate the meat at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight. Remove from refrigerator 20 minutes before cooking.
Preheat oven to 250 F. Place meat, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Cook uncovered 2 hours. Raise oven temperature to 350 F.  Cover meat with foil and cook until internal temperature reaches 170 F, 5-6 hours. Remove meat and place on cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest 30 minutes.
Combine vinegar sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Shred the meat and place in a wide shallow dish. Pour vinegar sauce over meat and toss to coat.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo. Published by Quirk Books.