Category Archives: Cookbook Reviews

Our cookbook reviews.

I Think I Have A New Favorite Cookbook

It’s not surprising that the good things naturally rise to the top.

The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook | CLICK TO BUY IT!

 

I like to eat out. But, I like cooking for myself just about as much. Another thing. I’ve got a pretty giant cookbook collection. Maybe, not by library standards. But, certainly by any reasonable measure.

These days, it’s just me and my full time dining companion (and wife) sharing our kitchen table. Cooking that family meal seems to be a lot tougher when there is only the two of you. Is it just me or does it feel like most recipes are targeted for the 4-5 person household? That’s not us. Even at our peak we were only three full time diners. Not including pets.

Here’s part of my problem I guess. I HATE throwing good food away. I don’t obsess about it. Still, it makes me sad to do it. No, I didn’t have that “starving children on the other side of the world” thing beaten into my brain when I was young. But, it just seems like a big waste.

Just when I’m getting ready to freeze another 4 pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen (aka Cook’s Illustrated) come to the rescue. Enter The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook. And, just in time

It’s subtitled, 650 Recipes For EVERYTHING You’ll Ever Want To Make. I am happy to report that the reality of what’s inside lives up to the self-proclamation on the cover. Nice for a change.

Here’s a great example.

Oven-Roasted Salmon with Fresh Tomato Relish

That was my first crack at one of these recipes. Oven-Roasted Salmon with Fresh Tomato Relish (P.180). In all honesty this plate is actually a combo of two recipes. The asparagus in the background comes from, Salmon with Asparagus and Herb Dressing (P.178). They both seemed so great that I decided I didn’t need to choose.

The main problem with my newfound cookbook love is that I’m mildly obsessed with it. Not in a ugly way. More in a, “what can I make out of this thing next” way. I’ve picked some great ones already. Add to the salmon above, Fennel, Apple and Chicken Chopped Salad (P.71), Cucumber Salad with Olives, Oregano and Almonds (P.68), Foolproof Vinaigrette (P.64) and Pot-Roasted Steaks with Root Vegetables (P.139). When you add it all up, I’ve taken this thing for a pretty decent spin around the block.

Here’s what I’ve come to expect from America’s Test Kitchen. Recipes that work every time! I mean it. Sure some of these may not suit your individual tastes. But, if properly executed they turn out as good or better than anticipated. That’s saying a lot. The last thing you really want is a big investment of your time, money and energy and then have to hunt for a carry out menu. No Good.


** BOOK NOTES **
There is tons of great and useful info up front. Substitutions, utensils, pantry lists, prep lessons and a bunch more. This book is highlighted with instructive images and smart explanations of many f the recipes. I love the breakdown of ingredients between the main part of the recipe and it’s accompaniments (i.e. sauces, relishes and the like). Plenty of recipe variations. Enough to please most. All bases covered, from soups to cakes and most everything in between. Enough recipe variety to please most. Even veg/vegan.


Should you own this cookbook? Take this simple quiz. Do you have two people in your house? Do you like making delicious recipes that are pretty much idiot proof? If you’ve answered YES to either of these questions then this one is a no-brainer. You need it!

DETAILS

TITLE: THE COMPLETE COOKING FOR TWO COOKBOOK
PUBLISHER: AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN
PAGES: 448
CUISINE STYLE: MIXED, COOKING FOR TWO
DIFFICULTY: 5 (1- Boiling Water, 10-Liquid Nitrogen)

The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook | CLICK TO BUY IT!

CLICK TO BUY IT

Lust for Leaf | Alex Brown & Evan George

Is it love or lust? I guess you’ll just have to find out.

Lust For Leaf | CLICK TO PURCHASE A COPY

TITLE: Lust For Leaf
AUTHOR: Alex Brown & Evan George
PUBLISHER: Da Capo Press (Lifelong)
CUISINE: Vegan/Vegetarian

• • • • •

FEATURED INGREDIENT: Kale or borecole (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group) is aImage by: Tuscanycious | CLICK FOR DETAILS vegetable with green or purple leaves, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms.

The species Brassica oleracea contains a wide array of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts. The cultivar group Acephala also includes spring greens and collard greens, which are extremely similar genetically. [Wikipedia]

• • • • •

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
It’s a nice size. Not giant or overwhelming. I like the fact that it’s a hard cover book. Nice and durable. Great food images by Aaron Farley throughout the book. I love the TOC that’s laid out like a Food Pyramid. That’s different. It seems like it’s just as much about people enjoying food as the food itself. That’s a little bit of a switch. Obviously, most cookbooks tend to lean heavily on ingredients and technique rather than the enjoyment of the finished dish. This book just looks like FUN!

• • • • •

WHAT YOU’LL FIND INSIDE (aka Table of Contents)

Taco Zone
Wild Grub
Pizza Pool Party
Bro-Tein
BBQ Mosh Pit
Potlatches
Sweets

• • • • •

Having some accompaniment to your cooking or meal is an outstanding idea. Making that process all the easier, the Hot Knives guys tell you EXACTLY what you should be listening too. Here is Eggplant Crasserole (P. 48). I only wish I could give you a taste of the La Chouffe, Houblon that goes along with it!

• • • • •

THE BEST OF THE BOOK (Our Favorite Recipes)

Mushroom Ceviche Blackened Okra Gratin
Elote al Echo Parque Artichoke Hummus
Backpack Bahn Mi Icey Hot Sorbet
Pea Pod Pesto Stonefruit and Strawberries
Awesome Blossoms Weed Dip

The name of this dish alone is reason enough to mention it here, Junk Food Potato Salad (P. 64). The use of corn chips as an ingredient rates high with me. Here’s another. Corn Porn (P. 17). There’s a theme at work here. This time Fritos makes this recipe shine. And, while we’re on a corn themed run, how about, Popcorn – 5 Kinds! (P. 35-36). Everybody loves a great bowl of popcorn. Unless you have a medical exception. Then you still probably love it, but, you just can’t scratch the itch. These five varieties are all exploding with flavor and easy to make. Cue up your favorite flick!

• • • • •

SPECIAL FEATURES
This is typically a fun part of the post. And, this one is more fun than most. This is where the Lust for Leaf: Vegetarian Noshes, Bashes, and Everyday Great Eats--The Hot Knives Wayauthor’s REAL personality shows through. I love the fact that each recipe comes equipped with it’s very own soundtrack and beverage suggestions. A great way to expose yourself to new music and new brews. There is an extensive and wide ranging beer list towards the back of the book. Also there is a list of the songs included in the recipes. All of the vegan dishes are clearly marked with a V for easy ID.

• • • • •

CONCLUSIONS
This isn’t your typical vegan/veg cookbook. It’s fun! Not pretentious, stuffy or preachy like so many of these can be. The book itself is easy to use and contains enough interesting dishes to keep you occupied for some time to come. There are lots of easy to obtain ingredients. Again, something that so many cookbooks of this cuisine style ignore. Hey, we have to be able to get the stuff to make the food! Loaded with colorful images and some interesting asides.

Culinary Expertise 6.0
1= Boiling Water (novice) 10= Liquid Nitrogen (expert)

RESOURCES, LINKS AND PRESS

Hot Knives Website
Lust For Leaf – Da Capo Publisher Page
Video Photo Shoot – Lust For Leaf

buyitNEWPNG14

GIVEAWAY I’ve got one extra copy of Lust For Leaf to giveaway. CLICK HERE, send us an email and if you’re first, it’s your. Just that easy…

Cooking For Two | America’s Test Kitchen

Wouldn’t you love a great recipe that is made just for two? Of course you would.

Cooking for Two 2013 | CLICK TO PURCHASE

TITLE: Cooking for Two – 2013
AUTHOR: Many. America’s Test Kitchen
PUBLISHER: Cook’s Illustrated
CUISINE: American

• • • • •

FEATURED INGREDIENT: THE CROCKPOTPhoto #431 - Crockpot | By Tammra McCauley
Trying to feature a single ingredient out of a recipe collection like this is next to impossible. Or, maybe, just downright impossible. So, in lieu of an ingredient, how about an appliance? There is an entire section of this book dedicated to slow cooker recipes for two. That will make for some super convenient and delicious dishes.

• • • • •

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Look, this is a book that is published by one of the premier cookbook publishing companies around. So, you expect it to look great and be more thoroughly tested than the common book off the shelf. And, it is. A nice gloss stock makes page turning a breeze. There are beautiful images throughout from Carl Tremblay, Keller + Keller and Daniel J. Van Ackre. It is exactly what you would expect from Cook’s Illustrated. Classy, useful and well laid out.

• • • • •

WHAT YOU’LL FIND INSIDE (aka Table of Contents)
The Smart Shoppers Guide
One-Dish Suppers
Pasta for Dinner
Vegetarian Suppers
Dinner Off The Grill
Light and Fresh
Express Lane
Slow-Cooker Favorites
Side Dishes
Baked Goods and Desserts

• • • • •

So maybe you’ve seen a Cook’s Illustrated magazine or cookbook. And, maybe you’ve even caught an episode or two of the television series. You may be thinking, “Wow all of that testing and analyzing and sampling, these people must really be serious and committed to their craft. Well, they are. But… have a look at some of their lighter moments.

• • • • •

THE BEST OF THE BOOK (Our Favorite Recipes)

Prime Rib for Two Maryland Crab Cakes
Weeknight Roast Chicken Chicken & Chorizo Paella
Spicy Pork Tacos (al Pastor) Sour Cream Biscuits
Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes Fresh Pasta Without a Machine
Vegetable Pot Pie Risotto Primavera
Campanelle with Roasted Garlic, Shrimp and Feta Grilled Spicy Shrimp Masala with Zucchini and Couscous Salad
Turkey Taco Salad Braised Cod Peperonata
Shrimp Fried Rice White Bean and Tuna Salad
Slow-Cooker Black Bean Soup Crème Caramel

 

There are tons of great recipes here. Over the years, I have seen so many versions and adaptations of the traditional US Senate Navy Bean Soup (P.60). Oddly enough, I never tire of them. This particular recipe really nails it. Great care was taken to replicate the original dish. I am certainly not a baker. I’m the first to admit that. The Skillet Olive Bread (P.268) can make even my limited skills really shine. Easy and beyond tasty. I know that we’re leaving winter behind at this point. But, the Slow-Cooker Southwestern Pork (P.226) is a fantastic excuse to breakout the crock pot in the middle of July! Is an excuse really even needed? Just plug and play.

• • • • •

SPECIAL FEATURESCooking for Two 2013 [Hardcover]
The most special feature of Cooking For Two is the detail displayed in each of the recipes. Not that you would expect anything less from the authors of this cookbook. Short, illustrated lessons dot the sidebars along the way. And, an occasional product evaluation makes an appearance to guide you to the best ingredients for your creation. The Smart Shoppers Guide at the front of the book gives the reader a list of some of the basics you might consider for making the recipes.

• • • • •

CONCLUSIONS
Here is the thing about this book. The basic structure is as comfortable as the popular Cook’s Illustrated magazine. If you like that style (like I do), then you will love this cookbook. Great recipes, more than thoroughly tested and explained in detailed step by step instructions. If you love the periodical, you’ll flip for the book. Cooking For Two makes cooking for two a snap and a pleasure.

Culinary Expertise 5.5
1= Boiling Water (novice) 10= Liquid Nitrogen (expert)

RESOURCES, LINKS AND PRESS
Cook’s Illustrated Website
America’s Test Kitchen YouTube Channel
Follow America’s Test Kitchen on Twitter

Cooking for Two | CLICK TO BUY IT!

UPDATE: Check out our review of the new Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen!