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The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz

March 19th, 2017 No comments

The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz

There comes a time in every cook’s life when you start to move beyond simply following recipes and begin to experiment more and more within those recipes. After that, more advanced cooks will reach for the next level — the graduate level, if you will. It is books like The Spice Companion that become part of your graduate food studies. Instead of dealing in the generalities of a specific cuisine or specific dishes, you go into the details of specific ingredients in your food. You dive deeper into more and more detailed levels of knowledge, so that, at the end, you emerge with a deeper understanding of how those ingredients come together in a recipe. With this deep knowledge, you can begin to create our own unique recipes.

The Spice Companion begins with some extensive and excellent information on the author’s personal spice philosophy, the history and origin of various spices, and how to source, blend and store spices. At its heart, though, The Spice Companion is an amazing reference book for spices of all types. A few random flips through the largest part of the book turned up spices I knew — like cinnamon and cloves — spices I had heard of but never used — like za’atar and wasabi — and spices entirely unknown to me — like Urda chiles and Sansho.

The detailed spice section are amazing in their depth and include a photo and/or drawing of each spice, a description of its flavor and aroma, it’s geographic origin, its harvest season, which parts of the plant are used — like leaves, stems, seed pods, etc –, and an extensive About section that provides even more information about typical uses and dishes that can be made with the spice.

The author then uses a graphical icon-based system to show which dishes might use this spice, other spices that can be paired with it, recipes for spice blends with this ingredient and finally, a recipe that uses this spice blend. Wow! It is almost overwhelming.

There is so much information to be found within the pages of The Spice Companion. I can foresee reading in a random fashion, jumping from one spice to another, but also then revisiting it later for a full cover-to-cover read to deeply enhance my spice, blends and overall food knowledge. This is a book that should find a place alongside your regular collection of cookbooks to offer more specific information on spices while also giving your great ideas on how recipes might be “dressed up” or enhanced by the use of alternative spices

This is a book that should find a place alongside your regular collection of cookbooks to offer more specific information on spices while also giving your great ideas on how recipes might be “dressed up” or enhanced by the use of alternative spices. It is the equivalent of a writer having a great dictionary or encyclopedia at hand when they work. There are times when you simply NEED to look something up and The Spice Companion would be a great place to turn.

Categories: Books, Cooking, Food, In the kitchen Tags:

Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs by Julia Turshen [Book]

March 13th, 2017 No comments

Small Victories
Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs
Julia Turshen

When reading a cookbook I don’t tend to make grand proclamations that this book is good and that book is bad. Cookbooks are all about what you take away from the book and one person’s favorite is another’s failure. For me, my like or dislike of a cookbook directly relates to how well it works for me. Does its message resonate? Are the recipes actually something I would consider making? Can I put my new found knowledge to immediate use? With those criteria in mind, Small Victories certainly worked for me on a variety of levels.

First, even though I am a bit of a fussy eater, I found many recipes I want to try out as soon as possible. Each recipe is well described and also includes several variations you might want to try. Turshen includes old standards like her take on biscuits (Everything Biscuits), roast chicken (Roast Chicken with Fennel, Rosemary + Lemon) and desserts (Berry + Buttermilk Cobbler) while also exploring further afield with Roasted Salmon with Maple + Soy, Jennie’s Chicken Pelau, and Crisply Hominy + Cheddar Fritters.

In Small Victories, you’ll find sections dedicated to Breakfast, Soups + Salads, Vegetables, (maybe even a few that I would eat) (LAUGH), Grains, Beans + Pasta, Meat + Poultry, Shellfish + Fish, Desserts, A Few Drinks + Some Things To Keep On Hand and Seven Lists — which gives some great ideas on small bites to serve with drinks, 7 Things To Do With Pizza Dough, Leftover Roast Chicken and more.

Another reason I found Small Victories so enjoyable are the excellent stories attached to each recipe. Even when I wasn’t particularly interested in a recipe, I still made a point of reading each of these descriptions almost like I would read a regular book. These descriptions also contain the “Small Victories” which are the namesake of the book. These are small tips and hints are a great addition to the cookbook and provide yet another level of value.

As Turshen writes, “Think of small victories as the corners of the puzzle, the pieces that help us become inspired, relax cooks who know how to fill in the rest.

I found my copy of Small Victories at my local library and you might find it there, too. It’s always a great place to start when looking for new books in your life. However you get your hands on Small Victories, I highly recommend you do. I think you’ll find some interesting recipes, tips and maybe even the next step in your cooking adventures.

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

On YouTube: How To Make Bread | Jamie Oliver – AD

March 5th, 2017 No comments

25% OFF On Mugs, Totes and Notebooks Today Including these Liquidambar Leaves in Autumn and Much More!

February 23rd, 2017 Comments off

Kitchen Morning

February 13th, 2017 Comments off

New Cookbook: Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA by Mario Batali

February 9th, 2017 Comments off

I came across mention of this new cookbook in a magazine recently and quickly requested it from my local library as an ebook. I am still working my way through it, but wanted to offer my initial response so that you could make a point to check it out as well.

Mario Batali–Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA

I have been a follower of Mario Batali for years since I religiously watched Molto Mario years ago on Food Network. I have several of his recipes in my kitchen “rotation” including a gnocchi and sauce recipe we typically serve to new guests to the house. Having cooked his recipes and then visited our Sicilian relatives several times, I can attest that his recipes are quite respectful of their Italian heritage if changed a bit by their immigration to America.

Unfortunately, over the years — and one would expect, due to his increased development of high-end restaurants — Batali’s recipes and taste had left me behind. I am a rather fussy eater and while I appreciate good food, his use of odd or high-end ingredients in his recipes left my own food sensibilities behind.

That is why it is so refreshing to find this new cookbook, Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA,  which focuses in some of the most traditional and historical foods from throughout the US. Sure, most of these recipes are familiar to us in name, if not taste, but having a definitive collection of them can lead me down some interesting food avenues.

As usual, all the recipes are well written and the layout of the book is excellent. My favorite parts, though, are the short historical notes on where and how the food originated and the short endnotes where Batali offers up ways in which he might add or change the recipe to suit a particular occasion or simply to dress it up a bit.

On first reading, I quickly flipped through the book and found myself bookmarking many recipes along the way. In some cases, these recipes were a reintroduction to old favorites, an introduction to midwestern classics I had missed during my childhood and college years or classic regional foods I knew by name only, but now sound intriguing enough to try here in my own kitchen.

I’ll be working my way through several of these recipes in the next few week and hope to find several that I can add to my family “Recipes in Rotation.” I think you’ll find something to love here, too.

Some of my favorites included:

  • Corn Muffins from the American Northeast
  • Tourtiere from French Canada and imported into the Northeast and Midwest
  • Black and White Cookies from New York City
  • Winchester Beer Cheese from Kentucky
  • Biegnets from New Orleans
  • Swedish Pancakes
  • and much more!

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

Dress up your life with these new “Garden Bounty” totes, journals, mugs and much more!

January 31st, 2017 Comments off

Spode Buttercup China from last night’s get-together with friends [Photo]

January 1st, 2017 Comments off

Morning Desktop (Watercolor)

December 31st, 2016 Comments off

Morning Desktop (Watercolor)

Morning Desktop (Watercolor)

This is my view most mornings in watercolor as I make these posts and others. Coffee is an important part of my day and this is one of my favorite cups. Good morning to you all!

#watercolor #food #coffee #morning #home #desk #office #life #stilllife

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Onion [Photo]

December 29th, 2016 Comments off

Onion

Onion 

It is odd what catches your eye in life. This onion was sitting on the counter waiting to be put away and I suddenly thought it might prove a good subject for a black-and-white photo. 

#food #kitchen #onion #blackandwhite #blackandwhitephotography #bnw #bnw_drama #bnw_legit #bnw_captures #gf_bnw #bnwmaster

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