Fresh. There Is No Substitute

Fresh Pike Place Seafood

When your dinner/lunch is still growing or wiggling moments before you consume it, that’s a good thing. There is no substitute for fresh. It’s something that can’t be faked. Can’t be created from thin air. It’s either fresh or it’s not. End of discussion.

It’s getting to be the time of year when Farmer’s Markets all over the country will be hosting a eye popping array of freshness that is specific to their region. And, it’s a bounty that should be enjoyed as long as it’s available to you.

I’m not saying that the endless sea of organic/local/fresh picked products that are now available in local grocery chains aren’t good options. They can be. What I am saying, is that it’s great to look the grower straight in the eye and know he or she has put some of their energy, effort and expertise into your meal.

Super Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

I’m in Seattle this week. And, Pike Market is one of these best examples of how farm to your table is done right. Not to say that there’s not a fair amount of good old American capitalism at work in the market. That’s to be expected, appreciated and admired. It’s a surreal cross between carnival midway and fresh food emporium. Loaded with everything that the season has to offer. And, at times much more.

There is more to the market than just the food. There are the people. At times, LOTS of people.

I’m always left wondering if the folks who man the fresh vegetable, flower and seafood stalls feel like they are part of some kind kind of dream-like, non-stop photo op. Being snapped by an endless sea of iPhone, camera and table wielding visitors. Kind of like a reverse red carpet. To their credit, most of them seem unbelievably unfazed by the never-ending clicking and flashing. They’re numb to it for sure. Cheerily slicing free pear samples or doling out small morsels of the most delicious smoked salmon your taste buds will ever delight in. All the while being immortalized in thousands of travel memories.

Food, people and atmosphere. It’s all one big, unforgettable food circus where the produce is in the center ring. A sight to behold!

OF INTEREST…

Pike Place Market
USDA Farmer’s Market Search
Local Harvest
Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, Jodi Liano
How To Start Your Own Farmer’s Market

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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

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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

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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…

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