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Tag Archives: Cooking

Cookbook of the day – Small Batch Baking


Small-Batch Baking

by Debby Maugans Nakos

Publisher: Workman Publishing Company (November 15, 2004) 

ISBN 10: 0761130357

ISBN 13: 978-0761130352

How many times have you wanted a homemade cake but didn’t want to throw half of it away after a couple of days because you didn’t want to eat the same cake for days on end? Those who have large families usually don’t have to worry about this sort of thing, but for those who don’t have a voracious group of gobblers, this book is a welcome addition to the household.

Baking is an exact science, unlike other types of cooking where you can add a little bit of this or subtract a little bit of that. Baking relies on specific chemical reactions between certain ratios of ingredients and temperatures. Too much or too little of an ingredient can cause a catastrophic failure.

This book is useful in that the ratios have been maintained during the trimming down process.  The author turns regular cakes into cupcakes, frosting into “just enough”, pastry into amounts good enough to make two small pies, etc. And she cleverly uses empty 8 – 16 oz cans for baking small cakes, saved from the trash can after cooking the cream corn that originally came in it. She also advises on choosing things like mixing bowls, because your standard-sized mixing bowl isn’t appropriate for small amounts of dough and batter. 

One caveat though – there’s a little sloppy editing that allows a crucial mistake in the very first recipe – water is substituted for buttermilk in the ingredients listing even though buttermilk is mentioned in the instructions. This is supposedly fixed in later printings, but mine is the 3rd printing so it hadn’t been corrected up to that point.

So, every recipe in the book should be closely looked at before trying it and it might be a good idea to do a trial run before baking something for a special occasion like Valentine’s Day or a spouse’s birthday. Fortunately, if something goes wrong, it’s not like you’re going to be throwing out a lot of raw ingredients.

All in all, a clever MacGyveresque book that might prove useful to most people from time to time. After all, wouldn’t it be cool to just make a half cup of peanut brittle so that you aren’t munching on the crack-like substance for days on end?


This photo of a mini Sweet Potato Tea Bread loaf courtesy of Brooke at:

Cookbook of the day – Hotter Than Hell

Hotter Than Hell

Hotter than Hell: hot and spicy dishes from around the world

by Jane Butel

Publisher: HP Trade; Revised edition (August 1, 1994)

ISBN 10: 1557880964

ISBN 13: 978-1557880963

This is one of the original “spicy foods” cookbooks. Butel was a pioneer in the field and this cookbook is a foundation volume.

She tends to limit the heat in her recipes, so you won’t even see a mention of habañero, even in the chile guide. But you’ll find many useful recipes that can spice up your kitchen portfolio. Her chile con queso is particularly noteworthy. You’ll also find some recipes that don’t seem to be all that spicy because they are designed to complement spicy fare.

This was a groundbreaking work that anyone who has a taste of fire should have in their library.

Get a sneak peek at the book here:


Cookbook of the day – Lemongrass and Sweet Basil

Lemongrass and Sweet Basil

Lemongrass And Sweet Basil: Traditional Thai Cuisine

by Khamtane Signavong

This slender volume would make a good companion piece to my previously recommended book, True Thai by Victor Sodsook. True Thai didn’t have any photographs of dishes and this volume has copious photographs that will give the chef a good idea of plating, presentation and composition.

It’s not as in-depth as the previous book and I don’t recommend it as ones only Thai cookbook, but it does cover a lot of ground and is ideal for the beginning chef.

There’s a pretty good cross-section of recipes and a concise bit of background information. As I said, for me, the main utility is the number of photographs of the various dishes.

The author says that fresh chili pastes can last in the refrigerator for “up to three months”. I find this quite optimistic. My experience has been that you have about two weeks max before the chili paste starts turning.

That quibble aside, I recommend this volume to anyone just getting interested in Thai cuisine, or anyone who has taken my recommendation and bought True Thai.


Photograph of Waterfall Beef Salad courtesy of:

King and I Thai Cuisine

West Des Moines, Iowa

Cookbook of the day – Baking with Julia

Baking with Julia

Baking with Julia : Based on the PBS Series Hosted by Julia Child

by Dorrie Greenspan

  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; 1 edition (November 4, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688146570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688146573
  • This is the baking-specific companion to Master Chefs, the PBS cooking program hosted by Julia Child. The book itself was written by famed author Dorie Greenspan, with an introduction by Ms. Child and the participation of 22 famed bakers and chefs.

    The first part of the book is devoted to definitions and techniques that one needs to be a successful baker. The rest of the book features clear step-by-step instructions and tips on specific baked products, from Middle Eastern flatbreads like matzoh and pita to French artisan breads, Finnish crisps, and various desserts. It even includes instructions on making your own three-tiered wedding cake.

    This book is especially useful in clarifying issues one finds in baking, as well as offering many tips, hints and shortcuts. Each baker brings his or her own expertise along with the recipes that they bring to the table.

    If you are even remotely interested in baking, whether it’s creating the perfect pie crust, or learning how to make homemade croissants, this is a very worthy volume.

    Plus, you can never go wrong with Julia Child.










    Top Chef Episode 7 – Umami yomami


    Image courtesy of

    OK, chefs – how bizarre is it that nobody seems to know the definition of umami. “Earthy”? C’mon, Eli (hey, that’s almost a song). “It’s not salty, it’s not spicy, it’s not sweet, it’s not sour – it’s…umami”. Bzzzzt! Sorry Mikey, almost doesn’t cut it. Our judges would have accepted “savory” or even just “yummy”, plus, it’s bitter, not spicy as one of the 5 basic tastes since you’re Greek, not Asian. You lose 500 points. But everyone seems to know that mushrooms are one of the classic umami producers (hence Eli’s apparent conflating earthy with savory – sometimes they happen to intersect if you use fuzzy logic, I suppose).

    Tyler Florence is approaching Florentine proportions – hey dude, time to lay off the butter sauces.

    Poor Jen is under the weather. Slamming doors, looking baleful, puttin’ on the ole game face in the QF.

    Slot machine! Didn’t see that one coming.

    Mike Isabella proceeds to list off every type of cuisine that he’s cooked, which is most of the famous cooking styles, adding “I’ve never really cooked Asian food before”. Dude, how do you not have cooked Asian food before? Really? Icelandic I can see. Asian? Not so much. And Kevin, same thing. How does a modern chef not have any experience with Asian?

    Ashley used sumac for her Middle Eastern dish! You go girlfriend! Sumac is one of my favorite little-known spices (at least little known by many Americans). Glad to see someone make a culinary connection on the fly.

    So Mike, even though he can’t define it, does a good job with his umami, while Eli killed the umami…but let’s not confused that with “He killed”. He didn’t. And Kevin pulls through cooking something that he’s not familiar with (so he says, at least).

    So we get the Macy’s Desert Day Parade of Chefs. The chefs, all loving that they got a free trip to Vegas, are holding bags of ingredients for a family style pot luck dinner under the desert sky.

    And it turns out that Isabella is even more of a dickwad than he’s previously indicated. Not only does he take charge of a cuisine that he knows nothing about, he sulks and pouts and is just generally creepy. No way is this guy going to go all the way. And the elves are cutting it so that it looks like he and Robin will be on the chopping block (I’m typing this in real time with the help of DVR pause). there are two ways that this could go – Robin could go home because she didn’t stand up to him, or Mike could go home for being a prick. The former is more likely, but equally likely is that he accidentally lets her help enough to save his and his team’s butt. Hell, he didn’t have a clue about any of the ingredients (a bag that would have made me jump up and down for joy – it’s umami heaven!

    Enter Tom. “Prawns over gnocchi”? I had the same quizzical expression on my face that he had. Just what I want, take a prawn and scoop some gnocchi with it. Huh?

    Oh Mike, did you just hang yourself with Tom? I think he’s got your number. That won’t save Robin if she wilts under his “I can cook and I’ll pull it out” attitude. Of course, the fact that it ‘smells good” is an encouraging sign. Wouldn’t it be choice if they happened to be on top and he chose Robin as the winner because of something that she did? Hee.

    “Ever prepped over a glass table before”? I was hoping that Ash would say, “Well, I’ve chopped some coke on one before”. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.

    Cooking, cooking, bitching, real estate grabbing, fuses blowing (literally and figuratively), chopping, kvetching.

    Turns out that Mike and Robin pulled out the one scenario that I didn’t outline. Middle of the pack.

    The winners were obvious, the losers were too. Jennifer wins by some sick cooking (literally). Some nice attributions from fellow cheftestants.

    Brother gets testy when discussing his brother’s predicament. Testy is as testy does.

    Ash takes the high road, which wins him some style points. Ashley also takes the high road, which doesn’t win her anything at all.

    In fact, Ashley gets the axe.

    Ashley, take your Mr. Ripley good looks and go.



    Gourmet Magazine murdered by sociopathic economy


    68 year old magazine Gourmet has been killed by a mortibund economy, Toronto Star newspaper reports:

    Condé Nast shuts down Gourmet magazine

    Oct 05, 2009 05:37 PM

    Amy Pataki
    “Gourmet, the culinary compass of adventurous North American home cooks for almost 70 years, is folding.

    Condé Nast Publications announced Monday it is closing down Gourmet along with three other money-losing titles, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and parenting magazine Cookie. Declining ad revenue is to blame.

    Gourmet has a million or so subscribers. The November issue will be its last”.

    Read the rest of the article here:



    Gourmet, we hardly even knew ye.

    Cookbook of the day – Le Répertoire de La Cuisine

    Le Repertoire

    Repertoire de La Cuisine, Le: A Guide to Fine Foods

    byLouis Saulnier

  • Publisher Barron’s Educational Series (December 31, 1977)
  • ISBN 10: 0812051084
  • ISBN 13: 978-0812051087
  • I found this handy little volume yesterday in my local used bookstore. I suspect that it’s going to prove handy as a reference in the future.

    It assumes that you know how to do certain things like poaching, reducing, masking, etc.  Quantities aren’t listed and the reader is on his or her own in determining how much of something to add to the “recipes” or determining cooking times or order of cooking, which are along the lines of Escoffier. As Jacques Pépin points out in the preface, “The professional chef will use the Répertoire mostly as an aide mémoire (reminder) to find out the necessary ingredients for a garnish, as well as to get the correct spellings for different proper names and names of dishes”. he goes on to point out that amateurs can also use the “pamphlet” to “clarify confusion” and simplify the organization of a menu.

    Whether you need the definition of ancienne (“small braised onions without colouring”) or come across a reference to “Turtles Baltimore” (“cooked pieces of turtle, tossed in nut brown cooked butter, dressed in cocotte, with the thickened gravy, and a glass of Xérès wine”), this book covers the gamut of esoteric and obscure French cooking terms. If you’d like to do filets mignons marly, you’ll quickly discover that it’s filets cooked in butter, coated with madeira half-glaze and garnished with artichoke bottoms filled with carrot balls. You’ll find it quickly because each main ingredient is followed with a multitude of preparations.

    This is a small format book (hence the use of the word “pamphlet” in the preface) and is a handy helpful adjunct to Escoffier.

    If you can find this hardback and jacketed book for $2.00, as I did, you’d be a fool to pass it up. and if you have to buy it from Amazon for $12, it’s worth it if you wish to have a complete culinary reference library.

    Cookbook of the day – Classical Cooking the Modern Way

    Classical cooking

    Classical Cooking The Modern Way

    by Eugen Pauli

  • Publisher: Van Nos 
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471291870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471291879
  • This cookbook is actually primarily a textbook. Originally written and published in Germany and France under the titles Lehrbuch der Küche and Technologie Culinaire, this book was published in English by Van Nostrand Reinhold Company in 1979 and immediately became a required textbook for culinary students.

    It covers all aspects of setting up and running a modern commercial kitchen as envisioned by Escoffier. From physical plant layout to food safety and sanitation, from food labeling, butchering and other product issues to large scale recipes, this book should be on the bookshelf of every executive chef and should be at least skimmed by any waiter worth his or her salt.

    The current edition of this venerable book is different from the original edition (which I own). According to one reviewer at Amazon, the book has been abridged somewhat by the new publisher, with the intent of publishing a second volume in the future. I glanced through some of the pages of the new edition through Amazon’s look inside feature, and it’s obvious that the book has been completely re-written. My recommendation therefore is only for the edition that I own and the one that is pictured above. That’s not to denigrate the new edition – I just don’t have access to the whole of it for direct comparison. The image comes from the eBay listing listed below.

    I would recommend picking up this book as eBay only has a handful of the original editions (the new one is the Third Edition).

    The recipes aren’t particularly useful to the home cook, although there are times that they might find recipes for 10 or more handy. The plating and platter arrangements are quite dated. This book is most useful for the reams of information about the practice of cooking – the foundation stuff that every aspiring chef, even the home cook, should know.

    This is a go-to reference work that you should own.

    Kitchen tool of the day – Cuisinart DLC-5 food processor


    Mine is about 15 years old. The plastic is a little yellowed from years of kitchen and household smoke. I’ve never had the need to upgrade to the rounder, “melted-look” newer models that Cuisinart offers. This puppy is built like a brick and performs like a charm. I’ve also got the “Primary Disc Set”, a set of 5 cutting discs that shred, julienne, slice both thinly and thickly and cut thin fries and other veggies. Along with my mandoline and chef’s knife, I can produce virtually any type of cut, but I can also use the food processor for doughs, sauces, purees and marinades.

    The food processor completes the processing stable of essential kitchen tools – the blender, the stand mixer, the food mill, the mandoline and the mortar and pestle. If you have these five  items in your kitchen, you can do virtually anything, as long as you have a good chef’s knife. You can actually replace the mandoline and the blender with the food processor for most things, but I find both better at certain tasks, so I recommend keeping them around.

    Cuisinart virtually invented the food processor. Initially sold under the Robot-Coupe (pronounced robo coop) name in France , it was brought it to America under the Cusinart name (the name had already been changed to Magimix when it hit the UK shores) where it became America’s first food processor. In fact, its name is almost of the stature of Xerox or Coke – used as a generic name replacement for the appliance – i.e. “She threw a cuisinart at my head”, even though it might have been a Waring that she threw. Robot-Coupe is still the manufacturer of choice for commercial kitchens everywhere. Conair is now the owner of the Cuisinart name and has been the manufacturer of record since 1989 (shortly before my own Cuisinart was made).

    The cuisina…I mean food processor is perfect for cutting cold butter into flour for perfect pie doughs. It’s great for incorporating oils into sauces, and handy for blowing through heads of cabbage for slaw. Almost anything that you can do with a mandoline you can do with a food processor providing you have the proper cutting disk.

    There are many brands of food processors and I’m not saying that Cuisinart is the only one you should consider. I have no familiarity with other brands, nor have I played with the new, modern-looking Cuisinarts. The model I have has virtually been around little changed  from the beginning and you still see them in commercial kitchens everywhere, sometimes under the name Robot-Coupe. You still will occasionally run across an original Magimix 1800, the model that became the original Cuisinart. The Cuisinart that I have is built like a rock and that’s a virtue with this sort of machine, because a good one requires a  lot of torque and needs to be able to handle a moderate amount of stress.

    There are certain brands that inspire confidence because of their performance over a long period of time, even if folks grumble that “they aren’t made the way they used to be”. Kitchenaid, Braun, Krups, Waring – Cuisinart belongs in that echelon.

    Top Chef Las Vegas – episode 4

    I’ll be typing this in stages, as I watch it. So, it’s in chronological order, as it happens, so to speak (thanks to the pause capabilities of DVR).

    The girl contingent is shrinking and the girls are worried. No worries, the law of averages is catching up although it might not happen this week  (Mike, I’m looking at you).

    Collichio doesn’t feel that Daniel Boulud needs an introduction, so naturally he goes on to list his CV.

    Our little Marcel Marceau gets a gleam in his eye when snails are mentioned. Perhaps he’s working out a new snail routine involving motor oil and a canteen taped to his back.

    Daniel Boulud – “And I want to taste something that I’ve never tasted before”. I’m sure you will.

    Boulud is a bit scary in a James Bond, mongoose sort of way. I wouldn’t want to be eyed by him before a Quickfire.

    OK, pause for the cause – this looks like a 4 brandy in the middle of the day sort of show…be back shortly…

    Oh dear – someone’s going home from the QF – knees buckle, heads bob, jaws drop, hearts race.  Sounds like love to me.

    OK cocky Frenchman – remember what Boulud said – he wants to taste something different, not snails swimming in butter like you made when you were 15. At least, that’s what it looks like you’re plating. Maybe I’m wrong – we’ll see when I get back into the episode.

    Poor little Nazi Girl. They didn’t serve snails to the concentration camp guards. What kind of 1000 year Reich are we running here?

    I have to wonder – did anyone think of doing a snail tempura? That would have been my first thought. Within 5 minutes, you’d know whether snails would hold up under a tempura batter. I’d think they would. After all, they are roughly the same shape and size as button mushrooms, although they are more tender, of course. And who doesn’t love fried mushrooms?

    OK, back to cheftestants scrambling around each other in panic…

    OK, back to the computer…

    The dominatrix pulls a yuzu out of her hat.

    Frenchy actually did a little extra, but it wasn’t enough to clear Daniel’s Maginot Line.

    Southern cooking rules! Jam, baby, jam!

    Well, looks like at least one distaff chef is biting the dust. But WAIT! cook-off time! Oh, one distaff chef is still going home. Jesse is the obvious choice, but who knows? It won’t be the gay one that looks like Steve Forbert though, unless she implodes completely.

    OK, brandy in hand I return…

    And I was right. Jesse bites the dust.  I’m surprised that she has the constitution to work in a kitchen.There’s no crying in cooking (except when cutting onions, I suppose).

    Nice perk for the winner of the QF – dining with a bunch of snotty French chefs with over a dozen Michelin stars amongst them. Dining with the chef of the century? How very 20th century.

    Frenchy sees this as a slam dunk. Always dangerous on this show.

    Trout with bearnaise? Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t seem like a natural pairing. Delicate trout with a tarted-up hollandaise? I dunno. Yes, bearnaise with steaky fish like swordfish or salmon – that I can see. Bearnaise with darker fish like mahi-mahi, that I can see. Trout with bearnaise? Not so much.  I still wonder about the “natural pairing” thing.

    I note that they’re doing “young chicken”. I guess there won’t be any nitpicking of the dish as they did in a previous season with Casey and her “coq au vin” – I’m looking at you Tom. Of course, if someone uses a cock, they’re screwed. But where you find a cock in Las Vegas? Oh wait…let me rephrase that…

    OK…back to the show and the brandy…


    Oh Mike, you’ve semi-redeemed your braggadocio by deconstructing the bearnaise. That’s just twisty enough to create a positive impression as long as you execute it.

    Uh oh, the funny music with Robin’s team. Garbanzo bean flour. Personally, I say why not? This could be the classic case of editing fairies’ misdirection. Time will tell, I suppose. It doesn’t help that Caribbean dude is a bit over-confident in his ability to cook chicke…I mean frog’s legs.

    More cooking, more cooking. More exposition fairies explaining sauces to ‘mericans. Robin, turns out, is a motor mouth while Ron suffers under the weight of words. Things aren’t really looking that great for Frenchy and tattoo’ed lady (apologies to Rory Gallagher). 

    Chateaubriand au poive?  Hmmm, not sure if that’s going to impress anyone, especially if it’s rare as a baby’s bottom. But you still have time. In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic”! Hopefully, you can turn it into something special. But I have my doubts.

    OK, I’m into my second brandy now (don’t worry, I’m off today). Time to return to the dinner portion of our entertainment.

    Is that a yarmulke or a bald spot on our lucky cheftestant diner’s head? Oh, it’s a bald spot.

    Uh oh, Gail got the end piece. I’m guessing that a chef is going to get the shaft.

    The deconstructed bearnaise looks like a hit of windowpane with a couple of hits of orange sunshine dyed black on top. Turns out that it’s a mind-blower.

    C’mon guys – no other season could have produced this food for these guests at this stage of the competition? I think not. But, what do I know? I’m not there season after season.

    Awwww, Frenchy is disappointed. But I don’t think he has to worry about any of his team actually going home. But I’ve been wrong before…

    OK, back to Judge’s Table®

    You know, I’m waiting for the twist when they call the losers first. I’m surprised that they haven’t thought of that.

    Praise praise praise. Nothing to see here folks. Please move along.

    Oh SNAP! I wonder what the French expression for “throwing someone under the bus” is. I’m really surprised that Ashley showed the kind of class that she did (unless it was removed by editing). I really hope that our mime goes home for that, although it’s looking like we’re going to lose Puerto Rico at this point. A lying mime, while a contradiction in terms, is a good source of conflict in the future, so he’s probably going to end up staying. Now I know how Charles De Gaulle felt about General Pétain.

    If Ashley goes home, then it’s “Katie bar the door’. But I don’t see that as very likely at this point. You send the guy who’s supposed to know about French cooking home when he doesn’t perform.

    OK, time for the big finish. Better have another brandy.

    Uh oh – the Ashley thing is being misinterpreted by our gang of 3. This is part of the game though – they’re not privy to “the facts”. It’s up to Ashley to defend herself. Still, I’m pretty sure that PR is on the way out. But, as I’ve said, I’ve been wrong before.

    As I mentioned before, cooking Chateaubriand au poive isn’t the most challenging thing to do and to screw up that dish could be fatal and Tom confirmed that. Had they done something a little differently and thought outside the box, like doing a lightly seared piece of meat and doing a carpaccio au poirve, they might have fared better. It certainly would have been a lot easier. You only sear the meat quickly, you freeze it and then you slice it on site with a meat slicer like the type that they use at Arby’s (the type that took Rahm Emmmanuel’s finger. However, you don’t serve the finger if that happens to you as well.

    OK, brandy break.

    Time for the big reveal.

    No great exposition, no big scolding. and yes, it’s Hector. A completely uncontroversial choice. I’m sure that some will make it so because of the Mattin thing, but his big sin was lying at Judge’s Table.

    So big fella, you join Jesse in the recycle bin. Please take your “long knife” and go.

    Just so you guys know, I rarely watch the teaser clips, either within an episode or for the upcoming episode. So I have no idea about what’s going to happen next week.

    Are you ready for some football? A Thursday Night party?

    Jesse Sandlin1