Showing posts from December, 2014

The Search for General Tso: Movie Review

New Year�s Day is a traditional time to go see a movie, but if you can wait a little longer, I highly recommend checking out The Search for General Tso, which begins a theatrical release as well as being available on video on demand January 2nd, 2015. It�s a documentary about the origins and popularity of General Tso�s chicken, a dish that has practically become as American as apple pie. But even if you know the basics about the dish�where it came from and why it�s named after the general�this documentary is well worth watching.
The film covers Chinese immigration to the US, a bit about Chinese American culture, Chinese American food and has interviews from noteworthy authors and Chinese food experts like Fuchsia Dunlop and Jennifer 8. Lee (author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and also producer of the film) and iconic restaurateurs including Philip and Cecilia Chiang, Michael Tong of Shun Lee and Chef Peng, who actually originated the dish. 
It�s a very entertaining film, but it also…

Culinary Reference & Resource Books

I wasn�t quite sure what to expect from The Flavour Principle  but I've decided it's a keeper. Each chapter has a different flavor profile�bitter, herbal, smokey, eatery, sweet, spicy etc. The first page of each chapter has a list of ingredients that typify the flavor so for example next to earthy you get potatoes, beets, mushrooms, eggplant, black beans, truffles, leeks, bison, etc giving you a preview of the recipes. There are drink recipes and full menus that emphasize the flavor. The menus each have a theme like Sophisticated Vegetarian Dinner, An Argentinian Odyssey or Icewine Extravaganza. Yup, this is a Canadian book and the authors are the weekly food columnist and wine and sports columnist for The Globe and Mail. 
There are also drink pairings for most of the dishes and a discussion as to why it pairs well. There are lots of added features such as how how to flame an orange peel, glassware 101, a primer on different kinds of curry (Indian, Thai, Malaysian and West Indi…

English & Italian Candy for the Holidays

I think of Halloween as the official beginning of the candy season. We are in the midst of it now, and it goes through Valentine�s Day and Easter. Because I�m a sweetie, I shared my most recent candy samples with my sugar tooth sister and her candy crazed clan.

English Candy 
Fiona�s Sweetshoppe started out as an actual candy shop. It was a tiny spot in downtown San Francisco where my husband always held out hope there might be an orange cream bar waiting for him. Now Fiona�s is selling speciality candies from England and while the shop is closed, the candy is much easier to find.

Here�s what my sister had to say about them:

Licorice Allsorts
"I love black licorice, and these are a nice mild version that even people who aren't fans of licorice would like. Soft, mild, leaves a sweet aftertaste in your mouth."

Sherbet Lemons
"If Zotz and lemon drops were combined, what a wonderful world it would be. Love them. Could be a little fizzier, but yummy anyway. Does not have the ty…

The BIG Cookbooks of 2014

Cookbooks come in all sizes, but the big ones are often on the top books of the year lists. They are also expensive and take up a lot of room. So, should you or shouldn't you? Here's my take on some of this year's big cookbooks.

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook was a groundbreaking although sometimes complicated book of recipes from a super creative jam maker and founder of The Blue Chair Fruit Company, Rachel Saunders. Now Saunders has followed up with Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade a book that not only has preserve recipes, but tons of recipes for how to use them, some familiar and others that you probably never thought of before. 
I think this book is even better than the first, with easier to make recipes that are just as appealing, if not more. There are P*p Tarts, Rose Water Crepes, Beet Salad with Walnuts & Kumquat Marmalade, Summer Squash with Preserved Lemons and Tomato Jam and so many more. These are great ideas and if you have more jam than toast, this b…

Must Have Cookbooks 2014

I have reviewed a lot of cookbooks this year, but these are some that I feel really strongly about. Let me tell you why...

Vibrant Food is one of the most beautiful cookbooks this year, written by the talented The Year in Food blogger and photographer, Kimberley Hasselbrink. She has an eye for color and texture and that means her mostly vegetarian recipes are as pretty to look at they are delicious to eat. 
Her flavor combinations are often unique but make perfect sense. She pairs risotto with edamame and saut�ed radishes. She tops grilled halloumi with fresh strawberries, mint and cilantro. Turkey burgers are topped with cheddar and balsamic figs. 
The book is divided into seasons and highlights different ingredients. Feeling bored by Winter squash? Chile Roasted Delicata Squash with Queso Fresco or Soba Noodles with Kabocha Squash in a Mellow Japanese Curry will jazz things up. This is an inspiring book with very unique and appealing recipes.
Sheet Pan Suppers is a book I wish I had wri…

Holiday Foodie Gift Guide for 2014

Chocolates, cookies, bottles of wine or liquor are all just dandy for holiday gift giving, but this year I thought I�d share some more unusual picks. These are things that are completely out of the ordinary! Umami is that savory flavor that comes from things like aged cheese, tomatoes, fish sauce and soy products. Laura Santini has created a whole line called Taste #5 Umami that are all fantastic flavor enhancers, think of them as modern day, completely natural msg.

One of my favorite products is Bomba! XXX, a brilliant combination in a tube of tomato paste, wine and soffito (carrot, onion and celery) that can be tossed with pasta, used in sauces, slathered on canap�s, pizza or bruschetta or used in a myriad of recipes. It�s completely vegetarian. You can get a 4-pack of Bomba for $29 or get in in the full collection which includes tubes of Bomba, original and vegetarian as well as both umami rush and umami pepper plus 10 recipe cards for $49. 
The original umami paste is a combination o…

Vegetarian & Vegan Cookbook Reviews

Yotam Ottolenghi�s cookbook Jerusalem broke new ground with fantastic flavor combinations and inventive dishes that were at once exotic but approachable and appealing. The recipes blended different culinary traditions in a way that is fresh and exiting. Like so many people, I marveled that every dish I made from the book was fantastic. Plenty featured vibrant vegetarian recipes from his restaurant, Ottolenghi.

Plenty More focuses again on vegetarian cuisine, with a dazzling array of creative ideas organized by techniques such as roasted or blanched. Consider the Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad with sage, mint, pomegranate seeds and red onion, Zucchini Baba Ghanoush or Cauliflower Cake or Eggplants with Crushed Chickpeas and Herb Yogurt.

I want to make practically everything in this book, and so will you. If you loved Jerusalem or Plenty, you will love this book too. It would make an excellent gift for vegetarians and omnivores alike. 
A few years ago I heard Aglaia Kremezi speak at Worlds…

Polenta Stuffed Artichokes Recipe

My recipe for polenta stuffed artichokes came about thanks to winning some heirloom artichokes from Ocean Mist. When I was working on my first cookbook I needed artichokes and it wasn�t quite artichoke season. Fortunately Ocean Mist came to my rescue and kindly shipped me a whole carton full and I�ve been a fan ever since. I've found each of the varieties of artichokes they grow to be particularly plump and meaty with great flavor and not overly bitter. I'm a subscriber to their newsletter (join the free Artichoke Club) which alerts me to when and where artichokes are on sale locally and sometimes also gives away artichokes.
Most recipes use just the artichoke hearts or they call for stuffing the whole artichoke with bread crumb stuffing. I decided to try an entirely different kind of stuffing � lemon and goat cheese polenta. Artichokes tend to make other ingredients taste sweet, so the tangy and salty flavor profile of lemon and cheese complements it perfectly. It will seem li…

Let�s Talk Hanukkah (or Chanukah) & Giveaway!

Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights, it�s a holiday celebrated for eight nights, and like so many other holidays, it celebrates the perseverance of the Jewish people in the face of adversity. The reason the holiday is for eight nights, is because oil for an oil lamp for use in the temple that was supposed to last only one day, lasted a full eight days. Miraculously this was the time needed to replenish the supply. In truth, it's a holiday that gets very little attention.

Christmas is a big deal holiday. Hanukkah however takes on inflated importance because of its proximity to Christmas. This year it will be celebrated from December 16 through December 24th. But other than spinning a top called a dreidl, lighting candles to commemorate the miracle and eating potato pancakes or latkes which are fried in oil, there�s not much more to it. When it comes to food, there are no advent calendars filled with toys or chocolate, just cheap chocolate coins. There is no buche de Noel, no…

Mostly Vegetable Cookbooks

These books are focused on vegetables, but are not strictly vegetarian. They are each written by very accomplished food writers and great to keep or give ('tis the season after all). 

Rick Rodgers created 450 recipes for The Big Book of Sides, a collection that covers not just vegetables but beans, grains, salads, quick breads and rolls, pickles and so much more. In fact, many of these side dishes can be combined to make a meal without anyone noticing there is no main dish! The book can you get your through any holiday, but also weeknight meals.

The nice thing about this book, and why I think it�s destined to become classic, is that it covers the basics like how to perfectly steam rice or make a potato salad as well as more adventuresome showstopper dishes like Portobello Mushroom �Fondue�, Freekeh with  Zucchini, Yogurt and Dill, Miso Glazed Eggplant with Ginger and Garlic or Black Eyed Peas and Kale Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette. 
This is a cookbook and also a reference book, o…

Panforte Recipe

When I worked in a gourmet retail store as a teenager, I got a chance to try many delectable things. I sampled high quality chocolates imported from Europe, pistachios from Iran, Alice Medrich's mammoth truffles, and panforte made by Margaret Fox of Cafe Beaujolais. I'll never forget those heavy round thick loaves, wrapped in dark red or green cellophane. Thin chewy slices served with or tea or alongside cheese seemed so sophisticated. It was definitely the best fruitcake I ever tasted. 
My parents made panforte too and last year I realized it would be the perfect thing to make with a surplus of candied lemon peel. My recipe uses rice flour instead of wheat flour, which means it is gluten free! If you have nuts in your freezer, and they weren't bought this season, they are probably from last season and now is a good time to finish them off. 
This recipe is very adaptable, you can switch out the cranberries and use dried cherries or berries if you prefer or swap out about 1/4…