December 4, 2014

Happy Holidays!!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and are enjoying the days leading up to Christmas now.  We had a wonderful time with family and are now battling some illness as well as expecting visitors from Ireland tomorrow, but I'm working on more cookbooks and hope to have new reviews posted soon!

Happy Post-Thanksgiving, and Merry Christmas!!

November 22, 2014

And the winner is......

...Linda Napier!!  Congratulations on your win!  I'll be getting your info privately to send to the publisher and they will send the book directly to you. 

Thanks to everyone who entered!

November 20, 2014

Sri Lankan Cooking by Douglas Bullis

Sri Lankan Cooking
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

"Sri Lanka, the fabled land of sapphires, rubies and other precious stones, is home to one of the least known Asian cuisines" begins this lovely book. Some fascinating history follows this expressive opening from the fact that Sri Lanka used to be called "Ceylon" (see page 16,'Banking on Tea' to learn more about Ceylon tea), to the various influences on its culture and cuisine and so much more. From there it moves into a fascinating array of striking dishes. From Butter Rice to Tamarind Claypot Fish, Coconut and Cashew Nut Chicken, Dhal Stew and Coconut Spice Cake, exotic flavors about. A good Asian grocery nearby would definitely be a plus to this book. While there are substitutions given for some of the more exotic ingredients such as banana blossoms, jaggery, pandanus leaves and more, some of the substitutions aren't necessarily something you'll find at your regular grocery store.

One small issue I had with the book is that only English translations of the recipe name is given. Generic terms like "Curried Meatballs", "Spicy Eggplant" and "Coconut Cinnamon Cashew Slices" are given. It would have been nice to have the Sri Lankan name as well.

This is a beautiful book with a mouth-watering array of dishes to try. I would certainly recommend you give it a try.

I received a copy of this book from Tuttle Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Orwasher's Artisan Bread by Keith Cohen

Artisan Bread: 100 Years of Techniques & Recipes from New York's Orwasher's Bakery
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons

I love bread. If it were possible for me to live on bread and cheese I probably would, so I couldn't wait to get this cookbook. Upon reading it, I was left with very mixed feelings.

On the positive side, this book is worth it for the information alone. The actual bread recipes don't even start until about page 115, in chapter five. There is a great assortment of recipes for all kinds of bread and make you want to get started. My mouth watered just looking at the photos and reading the recipes. The instructions are clear, but here we get to the first issue.

ALL the recipe instructions are for using a stand mixer. There are no alternative instructions for doing it by hand. These are very specific instructions as well; x amount of minutes on this speed, then x amount of minutes on this speed. As I don't have a stand mixer at the moment, that presents an interesting dilemma to me. I just have to wing it and do my best to get it right.

The other issue is rather a big one. Page 108 gives the recipe to start the "Mother", which you will need for 3 of the 6 starters; White Rye and Dark Rye and White Starter. It calls for 1 lb of vineyard grapes, destemmed, but not washed (or you will lose the natural yeast on the outside of the grapes), flour and water. How, exactly, does he expect people who live in parts of the country without access to 'vineyard grapes', make this starter? That's it. There are no substitutions given. If you can't make this starter, you basically have lost most of the recipes in the book.

This is a gorgeous book full of amazing looking bread. However, if you want to make most of the breads in it, make sure you can get some vineyard grapes. If you can, enjoy!

I received a copy of this book from Race Point Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

November 19, 2014

Flour and Water: Pasta by Thomas McNaughton

Flour and Water: Pasta
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

This may be one of my all-time favorite cookbooks now! I love pasta, but my forays into pasta making in the past have not gone well. Sometimes it was because the recipe was hard to understand, or I was trying to use special equipment that wasn't working right. The recipes are so simple and easy to understand. There are tons of pictures including many step-by-step type photos. I have some semolina pasta resting in my refrigerator right now to make some capellini pasta tomorrow. I've never had a pasta dough come together so smoothly in my life. My daughter was fascinated watching me as my only tool was a fork! I'm in love! There are so many different types of pasta to try, with many that need only tools you would find in a normal kitchen. Yes, you can get special equipment to do fancy shapes, but you don't have to. Hey, I eventually would love to have a chitarra pasta cutter and a corzetti stamp, but for now, I can make plenty of pastas with a knife, crinkle & smooth edge dual cutter, and rolling pin. I'm a happy woman!

Of course, the recipes are not just for making the different pasta types and shapes, there are lots of recipes for everything from a simple pesto to Squid Ink Chitarra with Sea Urchin, Tomatoes and Chiles. I can't wait to try Black Pepper Tagliatelle with Mussels, Lardo and Corn. I made a slightly similar dish earlier this year with lobster and corn and it was amazing. I really want to try this one now. I appreciate that if you don't have time to make homemade pasta, each recipe gives you a store-bought option.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I've enjoyed every aspect of it from just reading through it, to enjoying the photos and, finally, cooking from it myself. This is a great cookbook that I'm sure to return to again and again.

I received a copy of this book from Ten Speed Press through Blogging for Books for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan

Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I have a fairly small kitchen, so I don't really do large batch preserving. This book is perfect for me! Small amounts of scrumptious goodies from Honey Sweetened Strawberry Jam to Caramelized Onion Spread with Sage are perfect for small kitchens. Another great thing about the small batches, is being able to try something new without being stuck with a huge batch if you don't like it! I've seen interesting looking recipes in other preserving cookbooks that I just wasn't willing to put that amount of time and even money for all the ingredients as I didn't know if any of us would like it or not. No such problem here, and if you do like something, it would be simple to double or triple most recipes for larger batches. I really want to try the Rosemary Apple Jam, and the next times lemons go on sale I'd love to make the Lemon, Parsley and Garlic Salt. It sounds right up my alley!

The recipes are not restricted to canning recipes. You will find things like Whole Wheat Biscuits and Jam-Glazed Chicken Legs as well. There's a little something for everyone.

I received a copy of this book from Running Press for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Balinese Food by Vivienne Kruger

Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine & Food Culture of Bali
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons

I don't know if I'd necessarily call this a cookbook. It's as much a book on the history and culture of Bali as it is about cooking. There is not a huge number of recipes in this book and, let's be frank, some are more about the culture than what a lot of us would consider cooking--Fried Dragonflies or "Holy Water" anyone? Other recipes are quite delightful such as Mixed Rice, or Grilled Ground Chicken in Balinese Spicy Sauce with Fresh Shredded Coconut and even Banana Fritters.

This is a fascinating read on Balinese culture and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in or planning on traveling to Bali. If you're just looking for Balinese food, it may or may not be right for you. There are almost no photos of the dishes, and that is very important to me when I'm trying to cook a totally unfamiliar cuisine. I like to be able to see what it's supposed to look like when I'm finished. Some of the recipes aren't as clear as I'd like, either. One recipe says to grill then young coconut for 5 minutes and then chop into cube sized pieces. Young coconut isn't something I typically cook with so I'm a little stumped. Do you grill it whole? Do you cut it in half and grill it? It's not very clear. There are multiple unfamiliar and hard to find ingredients as well, though there is a resource guide in the back of the book for places to buy Indonesian ingredients.

Overall, while this is a fascinating book, it's probably not one I'll be going back to very often.

I received a copy of this book from Tuttle Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.