Our Cookbook of the Month is Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon. With 200 recipes, it is "a super-celebration of beans, always cheap and now chic, too." Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt just loved it: "As good a writer as she is a cook, her notes and short essays are fun, informative and brimming with her inimitable enthusiasm."
But don't take our word for it! Check out this delicious recipe:
You could fancy this up in all kinds of ways, including adding garlic and/or scallion, flavors I usually love; but I urge you to try this one exactly as written with the freshest, most bursting-with-seasonality ingredients you can get your hands on. You want corn picked that day, preferably one of the supersweet varieties. If you press a thumbnail into a kernel, it should spit juice at you.
Fixing the zucchini in barely cooked ribbons makes all the difference in the taste, appearance, and unusualness of this salad. I wait all year for this one.
2. While the beans cook, use a vegetable peeler to cut the zucchini, skin and all, into wide, thin, ribbon-like strips. If the seeds in the center seem overly firm or the core fibrous, save those strips for another recipe (you can use them in soup or ratatouille). You just want those tender ribbons, some green and some white. Pile the cut zucchini in a colander.
3. When the beans are cooked, drain them over the zuke ribbons. This pour-over cooks the zucchini very, very slightly. They’ll remain a little crisp, but they won’t taste raw, and I guarantee they’ll be unlike any zucchini you’ve ever had before in your life.
4. Run or spray cold water over the zuke ribbons and green beans to cool them, then drain them very thoroughly (I use a salad spinner to get the zucchini as dry as possible). This is essential to keeping things crisp-fresh, not sodden.
5. Place the corn and the tomato, if using, in a large serving bowl, and add the beans and zukes. Toss well. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste, and toss well again. Serve immediately, each portion cupped in a lettuce leaf.
Serves 4 as a starter or 6 as a side
"Deep in the heart of Texas there’s a marvelous melting pot of multi-ethnic food," writes cooking columnist Sybil Pratt, and the place to find every delicious TX flavor is in Robb Walsh's Texas Eats.
This cookbook goes way beyond the Tex-Mex you're used to, just like these brownies go way beyond traditional expectations. They have a kick of ancho chile powder!
Combine the chocolate and butter in the top ?pan of a double boiler, place over (not touching) barely simmering water in the bottom pan, and heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter ?have melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until thickened and smooth. Add the flour, ancho powder, chocolate chips, and nuts and stir until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 12 squares. Serve with the ice cream.
You're going to hate me for posting this recipe. Why? Because it's chocolate cake made in a slow cooker.
Uh oh. But also, ooh la la!
Thanks a lot, Michele Scicolone. All we're going to do for the rest of the day is dream of eating this cake from The French Slow Cooker.
I hated to waste all of those good ingredients, so I improvised by placing a large pot partially filled with water on the stovetop. I put the cake pan on a rack in the pot, clamped on the lid, and steamed the cake until it was set.
I loved the tender, creamy texture of that steamed cake. My slow cooker does a great job of making a similar chocolate cake that is fit for a queen.
It looks great with just a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar, but when fresh raspberries are in season, I like to arrange them in rows on top of the cake as a garnish. Top with either whipped cream or Crème Anglaise (page 223).
Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Let stand for a few minutes until softened. Stir until completely melted.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and add the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chocolate and almonds.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan on the rack. Pour just enough hot water into the cooker so that it stays below the bottom of the pan.
Cover and chill for several hours or overnight. Run a small knife around the edge of the cake. Remove the sides of the pan. Cut into wedges and serve.
After cooking with Barbara Kafka's newest cookbook (and our February Cookbook of the Month), cooking columnist Sybil Pratt "can solemnly swear that there really is 'glorious food' without gluten and lactose and without ersatz ingredients."
Kafka's The Intolerant Gourmet is a special-diet cookbook not just for those who are lactose- and gluten-intolerant, but also for those who love to entertain and wish to make great food while accommodating all types of guests.
Clearly, nothing is lost in this scrumptious recipe.
This is evidently based on coq au vin. However, cocks that require long cooking are hard to come by these days, as are hens. Instead this is adapted for a regular chicken. I think that you will find it rich enough to satisfy. Leftover wine or a half bottle should do nicely. Serve with gluten-free noodles, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, or Acorn Squash Puree.
Stir the tomato paste and wine into the pan. The sauce can be made ahead up to this point.
About 30 minutes before serving, add the chicken and bay leaf to the pan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stick a knife into the thick part of the chicken to make sure it is done; the juices should run clear. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are warm. Stir in the parsley and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste, Stir in the bacon.
Our January Cookbook of the Month shares some of the best home cooking on the web, all plucked from the best of the best of Food52. The blog hosts a recipe contest in a different category every week, and these are the first batch of winners (more to come, we hope!). It's no wonder that, according to our cooking columnist, The Food52 Cookbook is a "dazzler."
This recipe is utterly flexible and undeniably delicious.
A&M: One Hungry Mama gave us the history of this dish: “This recipe came to me right as I was about to overextend myself: I was eight months pregnant and, with a day of cooking ahead of me, almost decided to whip up impromptu blueberry corn muffins for breakfast. As I stared at the cornmeal trying to gear up to bake, it struck me: breakfast polenta!” Inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe, she blends almond meal with the polenta and cooks the two together, later adding vanilla, fresh blueberries, and cardamom. A bit of honey lends just the right amount of sweetness—a light touch keeps it from being cloying.
2. Reduce the heat to low and add the polenta, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the almond meal and continue whisking for several minutes until the polenta thickens to a creamy consistency. Add the butter and whisk until it melts completely.
3. Turn the heat off and whisk in the honey, blueberries, vanilla, and cardamom. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream and an extra sprinkle of blueberries.
Tips and Techniques
We tried this with hazelnut meal instead of almond meal, too, and loved it just as much. You can also be flexible with the fruit: use whatever berries are in season.
About the Cook
Stacie Bills lives in Brooklyn, New York, and writes about food and parenting on her blog, One Hungry Mama (www.onehungrymama.com). Her favorite recipe from a cookbook: “Mark Bittman’s Orzo Risotto from How to Cook Everything because it’s simple, endlessly adaptable, can be fed to anyone (even a six-month-old!) and, of course, is utterly delicious however you personalize it.”
CASJ: “I am eating a bowl of this right now—it is wonderful—I never would have thought to add the almond meal. Thanks for the great recipe!”
Our January Cooking column is all about the best recipes for home cooking, and Good Bite Weeknight Meals gets its 140 recipes from food bloggers (very similar to our Cookbook of the Month, The Food52 Cookbook). The selections in these books make day-to-day cooking a breeze. Not to mention, if your New Year's resolution is to spend less money this year, home cooking is the way to go!
This recipe is a great example of the Good Bite mantra: “delicious made easy."
You’ll want to prep and get this recipe going in the morning--the jambalaya needs four to six hours of cooking time on the slow cooker’s high setting, or six to eight hours if cooked on low.
Add the celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker. Add the broth, crushed tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 4 to 6 hours.
Once the jambalaya is cooked, turn off the slow cooker and skim away any excess oil on the surface. Add the shrimp and stir until pink, 3 to 5 minutes. (The residual heat from the slow cooker will suffice to cook the shrimp.) If desired, add more salt, black pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Serve the jambalaya over hot cooked rice or with bread.
“Throw everything in the pot, plug it in, and push a button. Don’t you wish everything in life were this easy?!”
The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (the foodie brains behind the Food52 blog) is our January Cookbook of the Month! It is a phenomenal collection of winning recipes from their weekly contests, starring the best of the best in a community of home cooks.
Very cool, and very tasty!
A&M: This pound cake drops the pounds of butter and sugar in favor of oil and maple syrup, creating a springy texture and glistening, shellacked exterior. The oil folded into the batter at the end was a new technique to us; we hold it responsible for the cake’s sweet, crackly crust. Rivka’s choice of Grade B maple syrup means that the maple aroma and flavor are pervasive without being cloying. The end result is moist and flavorful enough on its own, but fresh whipped cream and strawberries never hurt.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and stir just to incorporate. Add the oil and fold gently until the oil is absorbed into the batter. Make sure not to over mix the batter.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Cut around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn the cake out onto the rack, then turn it upright on the rack and cool completely.
Tips and Techniques
Rivka: “The cake is extremely moist; unless eating it just out of the oven, toast your slice to get some contrast between the crust and innards. Really make sure to pull the cake out of the oven right when it’s done. If it stays in longer, it’ll dry out a bit.”
About the Cook
Rivka Friedman is a healthcare consultant and food blogger in Washington, D.C. You can find her recipe for Rhubarb Curd Shortbread on page 367.
Her favorite recipe from a cookbook: “Olive Oil and Sherry Pound Cake from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert.”
Her top cooking tip: “Freeze coffee into ice cubes so that iced coffee doesn’t get diluted as the ice melts.”
Her top entertaining tip: “Homemade pickles—I like a mix of green tomatoes, green beans, and maybe even sour cherries—makes an easy, elegant summer appetizer.”
Here’s her blog: Not Derby Pie.
What the Community Said
Bevi: “I have made this a number of times and always get the same response: delicious! Over Xmas I made the cake for my mom—a dyed-in- the-wool Vermonter. She was so happy.”
vvvanessa: “I have this cooling on the windowsill and even though it just came out of the oven six minutes ago, I couldn’t wait to taste it. It’s great! I love that it isn’t too sweet, and the texture is amazing—so moist and tender! Congrats and thanks for a great recipe!”
Our December cooking column, part II of a fantastic collection of gifty cookbooks (see part I here), includes four spectacular collections of great meals. For the foodies and gourmands on your gift list, they're great, but Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Breatherton is one of those books I'd have to keep for myself!
And this recipe is one I just might have to add to my holiday dessert list . . .
Rising and proofing time
1. Put the raisins and currants into a medium bowl, pour in the rum, and leave the ingredients to soak overnight.
2. The following day, sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the center, sprinkle in the yeast, and add 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Gently heat the milk until lukewarm and pour on top of the yeast. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, or until frothy.
3. Add the rest of the sugar, the vanilla extract, salt, pumpkin pie spice, eggs, and butter. Using a wooden spoon, or electric mixer with a dough hook, mix, then knead the ingredients together for 5 minutes, or until they form a smooth dough.
4. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Add the candied peel, soaked raisins and currants, and almonds, kneading for a few minutes until incorporated. Return the dough to the bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
5. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to make a 12 x 10in (30 x 25cm) rectangle. Fold 1 long side over, just beyond the middle, then fold over the other long side to overlap the first, curling it over slightly on top to create the stollen shape. Transfer to the baking sheet, and put in a warm place to rise again until doubled in size.
6. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until risen and pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then generously dust with confectioner's sugar. Serve cut into thick slices, with or without butter.
Stollen can be made with any combination of dried fruits. It can be plain, as in this recipe, or stuffed with a marzipan or frangipane layer. Any leftovers are great for breakfast, lightly toasted, with butter.
Thanksgiving is all about the best family recipes--the ones that use the most butter and cream and are handwritten on ancient recipe cards. Like my grandmother's corn pudding recipe—at the bottom she wrote, "Serve, eat & slap yo' mama!"
So don't make this recipe today. Enjoy your favorite family dishes with those you love, and log this one away for later. Because you have to admit, this recipe from Ruhlman's Twenty sure does look good!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
The main critical points are to cook and shock the asparagus properly and to get a good colorful crust on the scallops. The hardest part is finding good scallops. Try to find a good fishmonger who can offer large dry-packed scallops in the fall and winter when they are primarily harvested. The larger they are, the better the dish will be, and the easier it will be to prepare.
Remove the scallops from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. They usually have a little nib of connective tissue on their side; remove and discard this.
Just before cooking the scallops, put the puréed asparagus in a saucepan over low heat. Put the asparagus tips and 1 piece of the butter in a sauté pan over low heat.
Season the scallops on both sides with fine sea salt. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. It needs to be large enough that the scallops aren’t crowded, or you won’t get a good sear, one of the pleasures of this dish. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. A depth of 3/16 inch/5 mm is ideal, but gauge the depth by eye. It is better to err on the side of too much oil. You’re not eating the oil, just cooking in it. When it’s very hot, just before it smokes, add the scallops and cook until they are beautifully seared, about 2 minutes. Turn and continue cooking just until the scallops are warm in the middle and medium-rare, about 2 minutes more. With scallops, it’s better to err by undercooking them; raw scallops are delicious, but overcooked scallops are rubbery. Remove the scallops to paper towels to drain.
While the scallops are cooking, raise the heat on both pans with asparagus to medium. Warm the tips in the butter. Bring the puréed asparagus to a simmer and season with kosher salt, then whisk in the remaining butter.
Immediately before serving, add the lemon juice to the asparagus sauce. Divide the sauce among plates or large bowls. Place the scallops on the sauce and garnish with the warmed asparagus tips and lemon zest.
Ruhlman's Twenty is one of those cookbooks that should be in every kitchen. Michael Ruhlman distills the art of cooking down to 20 fundamental techniques that "all cooks, regardless of their skill or station, need and use." Whether you're making a multi-course meal or some mac'n'cheese, this book will take you from cook to chef.
In this recipe, the grits are cooked with bacon and onion, and the shrimp is gently poached in butter, which then enriches the grits.
If you haven’t had grits in a while, make these, and you’ll ask yourself why they aren’t part of your pantry and cooking routine. They require at least the 30 minutes of cooking called for in this recipe, but can be cooked longer; in fact, they’re best cooked over very, very low heat for hours and hours so that they fully hydrate. The grits can also be cooked all day in a slow cooker, if you have one.
Add the grits and stir. If using milk or stock, add it along with 2 cups/480 milliliters water. If not using milk, add 4 cups/960 ml water. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook the grits, stirring, for about 30 minutes. Give the grits several grinds of black pepper. Add more milk or water as needed (about 2 cups/480 milliliters) to keep the mixture fluid. You should use enough water so that the grits don’t stick to the pan and they can absorb the moisture they need. You can cook off additional moisture, so err on the side of using too much liquid. Keep the pan covered on low heat over a heat diffuser for up to 12 hours; monitor the moisture level, adding milk or water as needed. (You can also put the grits in a slow cooker on low or in a covered pan in a low oven, 150° to 200°F/65° to 95°C, for up to 12 hours.)
When the grits are ready, put 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan that is just large enough to hold the butter and shrimp/prawns. Bring the water just to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add a chunk of butter and whisk continuously as the butter melts. When the butter has begun to melt and emulsify into the water, add three more chunks and continue to whisk. (Or you can swirl the butter in the pan; it needs to keep moving—how you do it is up to you.) When all the butter is incorporated, add the shellfish and stir. Keep the pan on medium-high heat until the butter gets hot again. Use an instant-read thermometer to maintain a temperature just below a simmer, 170° to 180°F/77° to 82°C. Don’t let the butter to boil. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove a shrimp, cut it open, and check that it’s just cooked through. It should be white at the center, not translucent gray, and tender and juicy.
Put the grits over medium-high heat to get them up to temperature. They should be loose but thick. Taste and add more salt if needed. Stir about a third of the poaching butter into the grits.
Spoon the grits onto plates, and arrange the shellfish on or beside the grits as desired. Garnish with more butter, freshly ground pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.