Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Retiring of cookbooks - YES I CAN!

While the blog has featured more from cooking magazines lately than my cookbooks (how can it now when summer produce is available?!), I have taken the time to cook some recipes from my cookbooks and compare my cookbooks for redundancy.  So, with that in mind, the following cookbooks are retiring to that Half Price Books location down in Frisco to be re-introduced to the public:

The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook
Top Texas Chefs Favorite Recipes
Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats
Rachael Ray Just In Time

Readers, can you believe I've done t\ough love to get rid of FOUR cookbooks?!  Ok, if I'm being honest with you, it's because I've acquired at least four new cookbooks, so I have to make room, but it's also because my cooking has evolved.  Each of these is retiring for different reasons, but none of these has more than 1 - 2 recipes I plan to keep making.  What used to appeal isn't working for me anymore.  

First up, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook by the editors of Southern Living Magazine.  The cookbook plays on the popularity of the movie, "Forrest Gump" and has the folksy voice that aligns with the movie.  I have to say - there are a plethora of recipes for shrimp.  If you truly love shrimp and want tons of new ways to cook them, you really should consider purchasing this book.  It's fairly short, around 100 pages, and covers the gamut of dishes.  Like the famous scene from the movie when Bubba Blue gives the options for shrimp dishes to Forrest, it's divided into categories of "you can bake it," "you can barbecue it," "you can boil it" etc.  The one recipe I found that I will make every summer is Alabama-Style Shrimp Bake.  It's the traditional "barbecue" shrimp recipe\ where you concoct a mixture of worcestershire sauce, butter, and lemon juice, then bake the shrimp in the shell and serve with bread for sopping.  Great summer dish for a crowd.  Other than that, the recipes I tried were nothing I felt compelled to make again and, given that it's from "Southern Living" the salt and fat content were rather high for them.

Next, Top Texas Chefs Favorite Recipes by Ginnie Siena Bivona and Sharry Buckner.   Honestly, it's not a bad cookbook, but it just doesn't have enough recipes that that I want to cook.  Partially, the cookbook is complicated by the fact that some chefs provided recipes per portion, others to serve multiple individuals.  It's a reflection of each chef's preferences and style, but makes it more complicated for the home cook and it was a hodgepodge of items (reflective of the hodgepodge that Texas cuisine is).  Just not a cookbook that I'm going to keep on the shelf in lieu of one I use more.

Rounding out the retiring cookbooks are two from Rachael Ray - 365: No Repeats and Just in Time.  Rachel's schtick is that she provides recipes that can be done in 30 minutes.  Great concept, but in practice, unless you're willing to dirty EVERY pot in your kitchen, it's not always realistic.  I do enjoy her 30 Minute Meals Two, but perhaps in Rachel's quest for cookbook and world domination, she's run out of really creative ideas and starts reaching further.  Neither is a terrible cookbook, but Just In Time calls for tons of unusual ingredients that IceDaddy won't touch, and there is a fair amount of repetition to her other cookbooks.  365: No Repeats falls victim to the ambition of 365 different recipes.  There are a ton of recipes, and for someone without many cookbooks, a tome with that volume can be valuable.  Many of the recipes would have to be modified a great deal to make them appeal to IceDaddy.  In this case, quantity of recipes does not trump quality.

And with that, dear readers, comes the next four casualties of this little project!

Everything food that IceDaddy tries, I owe to Emeril

Ok, I know Wolfgang Puck was really the FIRST celebrity chef, but no chef emerged as THE celebrity chef bringing gourmet food to the masses like Emeril Lagasse. The man serves as a great bridge between the highfalutin food of a gourmet restaurant and "guy food" that an everyday person would want to cook.

Picture it, 1990-something (yes, I return to the shameless "Golden Girls" way of starting a story). I was watching Food Network in its infancy. Ice was in the other room. He walked in and said, "that looks good - I would eat that!" It was like the heavens had opened and the angels were singing down because whatever that recipe was, it was OUT of his meat and potatoes comfort zone. The show? "Emeril Live." I happily searched out recipes on the FN website from his show and tried them. To this day, I owe Emeril for the recipe he put out for onion strings (aka spicy onion rings). They were a football Sunday staple and the first time I think someone called me a food goddess.

That Christmas, I received the first cookbook from Ice (of many more to come) - "Emeril's TV Dinners" based on his hit TV show. I have to admit, back then, many of the ingredients were a bit exotic, or frankly out of a college student's meager food budget, but I conquered a delicious chorizo-stuffed roast chicken (okay - all I could get was Mexican chorizo and not the Spanish chorizo he intended), but it was still yummy, and even cooked artichokes from scratch. If it came from Emeril (cookbook or otherwise), Ray would at least try it. I even sank so low as to say it was an Emeril recipe when it wasn't, until Ice started getting suspicious.

Fast forward over a decade, and I found myself looking on his cookbook with fresh eyes and a much improved food budget, availability of gourmet ingredients, better palate, and more open-minded taste-tester. All of a sudden, I didn't find one or two recipes worth trying, I found DOZENS. With renewed vigor, I planned a menu of two items for a weekend I had a little time to cook.

First was a Heart of Palm strudel. (Really just a stick of Heart of Palm rolled up with spicy remoulade sauce inside phyllo pastry and baked). I loved it - Ice strongly disliked the taste of hearts of palm. No matter - it inspired a new love affair with phyllo that continues!

The second recipe was a bona-fide 100 on a scale of 1 to 10. it was homemade mushroom and prosciutto ravioli. No sauce for this - simply preparation, boiling to cook the pasta, and then a quick saute in butter. The ravioli probably cost me $20 in ingredients alone - prosciutto ($5), dried exotic mushrooms ($5), won-ton wrappers ($4 - yes,they work as pasta sheets!), parmigiano-reggiano ($3 - the real stuff), but IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY. Served with some broccoli, it was a gourmet experience I ate in shorts and a t-shirt. Think of it, we didn't have to spend gas money to go to a nice restaurant, dress up, and spend $20 per person on the same food. The true compliment to the meal? Ice came into the kitchen and his face fell when he thought I was about to put the ravioli up. He wanted seconds!

My one statement about this cookbook in particular is that the food is a little more involved and gourmet, with influences from his various high end restaurants as well as his upbringing in Fall River, Massachusetts. It's Sunday food - something that takes time and that you make with love rather than trying to throw together in 20 minutes on a busy Monday after working late and trying to squeeze in a workout at the gym (or just choosing to veg on the couch). That said, I will always turn to this cookbook when I'm feeling adventurous and ready to conquer something away from my comfort zone and, thanks to Emeril, I know Ice will willingly try too!

My love affair with Grill Mates

Ok - I admit it - I don't prepare everything from scratch.  Despite making homemade barbecue rubs, conquering Limoncello, and a killer homemade French Silk Pie, sometimes perfection comes in a bottle or package.  On nights when I don't have the time or energy, I turn to these pre-prepped items to make a meal.  Last night was one such event.  Tough day at work, change in travel plans, and a planned phone call around 8 pm with my mom meant that I had to get dinner on the table around 7 pm after coming home about 5:45.

One of my shortcut items, and something I use even when I don't need to cut corners on time, are Grill Mates marinades.  (I receive no compensation from McCormick for this endorsement).  Our absolute favorite is the Southwest marinade, but for whatever reason, my Target store has chosen to no longer carry that one (are you listening Target???)  So, depressed but not yet desperate (I still have 2 in my pantry), I discovered a new Chipotle Pepper Marinade and thought I would Bobby Flay-up a recipe and give it a try. 

Luckily, I had a pork tenderloin already defrosted and in the fridge, fresh corn on the cob, and a Spanish Rice mix in the pantry.  Dinner!    I followed the directions to marinade the pork in the Grill Mates, then baked at 425 degrees for 20 minutes (this was a 1-lb pork tenderloin).  Because sugar is in the marinade, I recommend baking on tin foil on a cookie sheet.  The low sides of the cookie sheet allow for the tenderloin to cook all around and the tin foil makes for easy cleanup.  After the tenderloin comes out of the oven, you can use the tin foil to create a tent around the meat as it rests.

Spanish rice still continues to challenge me.  For a quick and easy alternative to homemade, I picked up a boxed mix from Goya.  It turned out well and fit my uncomplicated dinner plan.  Perhaps my one criticism is that it was pretty salty versus what I can cook myself.

For the corn, I got creative.  I used the recipe for boiled corn on the cob (in a prior blog post), BUT I augmented the flavor by turning it into Chili-Lime corn!!!  So simple and tasty!

Chili-Lime Corn
2 ears of corn, shucked and halved
2 Tbsp lime juice
Chile salt (recipe follows)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Add corn to kettle and add water to submerge.  Add in the salt and sugar and bring to a boil.  Boil corn for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain.  Add butter and lime juice to kettle, cover kettle, and shake corn to melt butter and distribute over corn.  Remove corn from kettle and sprinkle with chile salt to taste.  Serves 2. 
Heck, I should have tried sprinking the Grill Mates on the corn! :)

Chile Salt
1 Tbsp chile powder
3 Tbsp kosher salt

Mix and store in airtight container.

Yummy!  While the recipe is mine, it was inspired by the flavor profiles outlined in Diana Kennedy's "The Art of Mexican Cooking."  This is a lengthy cookbook that chronicles many styles of authentic Mexican (not Tex-Mex) cooking.  Chili powder and lime are commonly paired.  (If I were Alton Brown, the ULTIMATE Food Geek, I'd give you the science behind that).  What I do know is that lime juice hits the same taste buds as salt does, so you can use less salt when you add lime (or lemon).  Try that trick if you're watching the sodium.