A Dessert By Any Other Name Wouldn't Be As Sweet

My love for Food52's website was the catalyst for discovering another baking guru, by the name of Yossy Arefi, the author of Sweeter Off The Vine.  Touting a collection of "fruit desserts for every season", now we have an excuse to indulge, no matter the time of year.

The Spring section features rhubarb, strawberries, cherries, as well as a number of herbs -- most notably, lemon verbena.  The Summer mix brings apricots, mixed berries (think blueberries & blackberries, to name a few), melons, stone fruits (nectarines & plums make their entrance), raspberries and most epic of all -- figs.  To have enough figs on hand in summer after snacking is the goal for next summer, in order to attempt the beautiful "soft chocolate and fig cake" featured on page 123.

As the temperatures drop like the leaves, we welcome the grapes, persimmons, pomegranates, apples, pears and squash.  Quince is also featured -- and sadly, I have yet to find it here in NYC, only in membrillo form -- a sweet but slightly astringent dense jelly which is made by cooking down quince for a long time, mixed with sugar.  The wintry fare features classics such as cranberries, citrus fruits and dates.
The stunning photography is inspiring for the intermediate baker ready to up their desserts to the next level.  Arefi also includes her "year-round essentials" -- her pie crust is tried and true.  The recipes here are creative and serve as an amazing springboard for spinning off new favorites.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

Mixing It Up In The Matrix

As an avid fan of cookbooks, one can easily get lost in the sea of new options and want to build a library of just cookbooks to immerse in for inspiration and transport yourself to various beautiful foreign lands through exotic spices and flavors.  Mark Bittman, being a vetran of cusines, has curated an amazing summary of options in a single source of foodie delights -- The Kitchen Matrix.

The Kitchen Matrix does for me what I wish I could transfer easily from my thoughts onto paper.  It has all the nuances of meals broken down so you can take a base of egg noodles, for example, and transform them into 4 different new dishes, simply by changing up a couple of ingredients, and suddenly the dish takes on an Chinese flair with fish sauce, sesame oil, cilantro and green onions -- or  Thai with the infusion of lemongrass, coconut milk and roasted peanuts.

Plenty of stunning snapshots of the permutations of culinary possibilities for simple but tasty ingredients are sprinkled throughout.  Flipping through for just a couple of minutes, you get inspired to come up with yet more combinations.  This cookbook is excellent for the medium to experienced home cook who needs flexible recipes that are actually not really recipes, but more like the useful tips from a friend who happens to be a chef, shared over a delicious meal shared at home.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

Tacos: Not Just for Tuesdays

As my long time love for Mexican food has reached a higher level, this path led to making corn tortillas from scratch.  Armed with masa harina and a lovely-but-heavy cast iron tortilla press, Taco Tuesday in our house was never the same.  Sure, you can buy a tortilla in the grocery, but take a gander at the ingredient list.  What else does it list in addition to corn, water and salt?  And so the DIY taco tradition began.

I was thrilled to see I'm not the only non-native who loves fresh tacos enough to bust out a tortilla press.  Chef Alex Stupak of the 3-star Empellón Taqueria in NYC penned a beautiful tribute to the taco's tasty glory.  

Stupak's Tacos: Recipes and Provocations dives into the variations on doughs, just when you thought corn was the only way to go.   Tacos also delves into some unique salsas, from the basic tomato-based types to moles that may remind us of a "Sunday sauce", simmering for hours and continuing to brim with amazing flavor days later.  Chef Stupak worries little about the purists, breaking away from traditional mexicano and goes quite modern taco, featuring one with pastrami and mustard seeds.  Perhaps Tacos takes the street food status of this fan favorite and elevates it to an esteemed status, but without turning Taco Tuesday into fussy taco time.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

Crowning A Smoothie Queen

A year ago, I fell in love again.  Is it weird that the object of my affection lives 24/7 in my kitchen?  It's my Vitamix blender, naturally.  He (yes, he) is the workhorse of this place, keeping us on track when the richer foods get the better of us, making us all sorts of green concoctions that actually taste quite palatable.  Having tinkered with so many variations of smoothies on my own, my interest was piqued when I spotted The Blender Girl Smoothies featured on two of my favorite food blogger's sites.

For many a breakfast over the past few months, I toted a smoothie on my commute to the office.  I wanted there to be variation in the smoothie flavors so I would stay motivated to continue my morning ritual.  The time spent to make one in the harried morning is well worth it -- the nutrition gleaned is without a doubt tremendously helpful to push you through your day with more energy and vigor than the usual coffee.

Often reaching for the same classic ingredients in smoothies, I was happy to see The Blender Girl Smoothies features tons of fruits, veggies and add-ins I hadn't previously considered.  Red bell pepper?  It's in the Pomegranate Slam It Smoothie.  After bringing home a beautiful case of pomegranates, I've got this one on the short list of what to make soon.  The Chai Tai smoothie sounds like a refreshing spin on the classic warm spiced drink, with regular milk swapped out for protein packed almond milk.

Those following a paleo, vegan and/or gluten free regimen may find many inspiring smoothie ideas to give a whirl, and share with someone who can't believe a blender could be so swoon-worthy.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

Getting to the Root of What's Tasty

Simplicity can be beautiful.  Getting to the root of what makes food delicious will inevitably lead us down the simple path.  Food that is unadulterated, raw, fresh, unprocessed.  In today's era of questionable foods, Sarah Britton's approach is refreshing and inspiring to me.  I share her passion for natural, wholesome foods.  It's safe to say vegetarians and flexitarians alike will enjoy the styling and array of gorgeous recipes that grace My New Roots.
Stumbling upon Sarah Britton's blog, the mouth-watering choices were impressive, and up until recently, we anxious awaited seeing the full portfolio of creative dishes she showcases in this cookbook.  Some of the ingredients are off the beaten path, providing a new discovery into nutritious flavors.

One item to note for those who adhere to a vegan diet, My New Roots does contain some recipes with egg and/or dairy.  However, the overall majority of recipes are vegan-friendly and serve for a great inspiration for those looking to expand their breadth of cooking and preparing more plant-based dishes.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

Genius is 1% inspiration & 100% tasty.

Genius.  It's a lofty word, a high expectation for any cookbook.  Food52, one of my beloved sites for all things culinary can swing it.  They know a thing or two about what constitutes a genius recipe, so much so that they filled a whole delicious book full of them.

Bread that requires no kneading, was my first pick amongst the mouth-watering choices found here.  It was a new discovery, to find a slow fermenting dough that didn't require multiple rises, albeit very watery.  I would recommend adding less water than this recipe suggests, but yet it still managed to "rise" to the occasion of turning out bakery quality.

Another stroke of pure genius is the hummus, a huge favorite of mine from Yotam Ottolenghi, author of a number of amazing cookbooks such as Jerusalem, Plenty and Plenty More.  Having made his hummus recipe for countless parties and for indulging on my own, I can attest that the inclusion of this recipe gives Food52's cookbook total genius level bragging rights.

No matter how many years of experience cooking we have, it's always reassuring to have a solid set of recipes within our repertoire.  Eliminating the risk of a flop that could require ordering pizza, this set of hits will keep you looking ahead to what else you can tackle, and may even try or the first time to serve at your next dinner party.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.