Posted tagged ‘Cookbook Giveaway’

Gorgeous Italian Desserts

December 21, 2010

‘Tis the season to be sweet, and here’s just the book to help you delight friends, family, and guests with some unusual treats.  Irene Doti’s book Italian Desserts, Dolce Memories offers such recipes as Apricot Marsala Biscotti, Amaretti, Cucciddati (those fabulous Sicilian fig and nut cookies), Panforte di Siena, Lemon-Ricotta Filled Panettone, Ferrarese Chocolate Cake, Pear-Rum Crostata, Spumoni, Tuscan Meringue with Strawberries, and Calabrian Wine Fritters.

Ready to dive into the world of Italian sweets? Then just leave a comment saying so.  If several people would like this book, I’ll put your names in a mixing bowl, give them a good stir, and draw one. I’ll send it to you and I’ll ask you to pay for the postage, if you can, via PayPal. For security and anti-spam reasons, please don’t put your email address or snail mail address in the Comments section.  When you comment I see your email address and I’ll contact you soon if I draw your name.  Give this book a good home, make something delicious from it, and I’ll be happy.

Half In The World

December 10, 2010

Now that I’ve gotten about half of the post-operative narcotics out of my life, I can do about half of the things I want to do, given that I only have one half of my normal complement of hands to work with.  I can eat a ripe cheese straight from a dull knife, but I can’t spread it on anything nor use a sharper implement. I can go to the store but I can’t hand-write a grocery list nor drive there, I can’t hold a plastic produce bag and put shallots in it, it’s one or the other, and as a further indignity my cart-pushing skills are questionable.

I can put on my pants and shoes, but not my shirts and socks. That might be more of a visual than you really needed, but I’ll tell you that such modesty as I might ever have had has really gone out the window since I have to ask for help with these hitherto intimate tasks.  For heaven’s sake, I can’t even put on my own darn sling, now my frustratingly constant companion and source of many undesired sympathetic glances from utter strangers.

I can plan a menu, set and clear the table, but I can’t cook, except to stir the pot.  That actually has  a good side, as Shel is re-discovering that he enjoys cooking. I can feed Beppo and Zazou their cat crunchies by opening the bag with my teeth, but I can’t pop the top on their canned food. Since they are accustomed to grabbing their food directly with their teeth, they don’t look at me askance when I put the bag of Royal Canin in my mouth, but personally, I feel reduced to a weirdly primal level each time I do it. Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch.

So, enough about me.  Here’s something interesting about you.  This current cookbook giveaway drew more names in the hat than any other book I’ve ever posted, which strikes me as unusual, given that a lot of French Letters readers are here for the food. It is a very nice book, though, with a foodie spin on weight loss, so if you weren’t the lucky winner, you might want to seek out the book elsewhere. And without further ado:

News From The Mixing Bowl – We Have a Winner! The winner of the absolutely fair and random name-drawing for Great Cooking Every Day is Julie H..  I’ll be contacting you for shipping information, and my thanks to the rest of you for entering.

Cooking To Lose

December 6, 2010

Since I’m confined to one-handed typing for the moment, I won’t say too much about this cookbook, but if the combination of Weight Watchers-approved recipes with Culinary Institute of America know-how appeals to you, then please enter your name for this cookbook giveaway and give this book a new lease on life.

Among this book’s 250 recipes are such temptations as Spicy Chicken Peanut Dumplings, Chinese Long Bean Salad with Tangerine and Mustard-Sherry Vinaigrette, Crab and Wild Mushroom Chowder, Caramelized Onion and Pancetta Pizza, Grilled Yellowfin Tuna with Citrus Salad, Whiskey-Glazed Smoked Turkey Breast with Orange Herb Conserve, Bolivian Beef Stew, Farro with Parsley and Toasted Almond Salsa, Maple-Pear Oatmeal Muffins, and Warm Strawberries with Frangelico, Frozen Yogurt, and Shortcake.

Sound delicious, nutritious, and like just what you need before the holidays? Then just leave a comment saying so.  If several people would like this book, I’ll put your names in a mixing bowl, give them a good stir, and draw one. I’ll send it to you and I’ll ask you to pay for the postage, if you can, via PayPal. For security and anti-spam reasons, please don’t put your email address or snail mail address in the Comments section.  When you comment I see your email address and I’ll contact you soon if I draw your name.  Give this book a good home, make something delicious from it, and I’ll be happy.

“From Our House To Yours”

September 18, 2010

The weather’s crummy, school’s started, can cold and flu season be far behind? The whole premise of From Our House To Yours: Comfort Food To Give And Share is that you can be a better friend by bringing homemade treats to people who need them.  And really, isn’t that all of us?

This book is a compilation of recipes from, as the cover says “more than 50 leading chefs and authors, including Marion Cunningham, Gerald Hirigoyen, Loretta Keller, Flo Braker, and James McNair….recipes that are as soothing to make as they are to give…..easy to make and transport, and simple to reheat and serve.”

Do recipes like Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls, French Shepherd’s Pie with Celery Root and Potato Topping, Italian Risotto Frittata, Baked Conchiglione with Spinach-Ricotta Filling, Tajine of Lamb with Prunes, Mom’s Meatball-Stuffed Peppers, Autumn Rice with Red Peppers and Pine Nuts, Erna’s Make-In-Your-Sleep Raspberry Rice Pudding, and Mile-High Lemon Angel Food Cake with Lemon Glaze appeal to you? Know someone who loves and needs slightly upscale comfort food?  Then this book was written for you.

So if you’re ready to get comfortable in the kitchen, just leave a comment saying so.  If several people would like this book, I’ll put your names in a mixing bowl, give them a good stir, and draw one.  I’ll send it to you and I’ll ask you to pay for the postage, if you can, via PayPal.  For security and anti-spam reasons, please don’t put your email address or snail mail address in the Comments section.  When you comment I see your email address and I’ll contact you soon if I draw your name.  Give this book a good home, make something delicious from it, and I’ll be happy.

“A Taste Of The Gulf Coast”

August 26, 2010

I’m not saying you should eat Gulf Coast seafood.  And I’m not saying you shouldn’t.  We’re all wrestling with that conundrum, and I leave it to your best judgement how you implement these recipes.  But try them you should, in the spirit of solidarity with the poor Gulf Coast, which has been hammered beyond belief these last few years, and in the spirit of purely good food.

If you’re the lucky winner of this nice book by Jessie Tirsch, you can soon be cooking such delights as Louisiana Shrimp Stew, Galveston Bay Seafood Soup, Mr. Allen’s All-Day Fish Chowder, Lobsters with Oyster Dressing, Roast Duck with Sweet Potato Stuffing, Candied Ham with Sweet Mustard Dip, Fried Tomato and Bacon Sandwiches with Tomato Milk Gravy, Guava Duff with Brandy Sauce…you get the idea.  The kind of food we always crave but seldom get to have.  In addition to the recipes the book is filled with little “Coast Story” sections imparting Gulf wisdom, factlets, and cool stories at no extra cost.

So if you’re ready to plunge into the art and soul of Gulf Coast cooking, just leave a comment saying so.  If several people would like this book, I’ll put your names in a mixing bowl, give them a good stir, and draw one.  I’ll send it to you and I’ll ask you to pay for the postage, if you can, via PayPal.  For security and anti-spam reasons, please don’t put your email address or snail mail address in the Comments section.  When you comment I see your email address and I’ll contact you soon if I draw your name.  Give this book a good home, make something delicious from it, and I’ll be happy.

Fireworks In Our Future

June 30, 2010

The 4th of July makes my cooking silly.  There’s no other time when I feel that we should have something red, something blue…and I always have fun in the kitchen scratching my head to come up with a truly American dish to make for the holiday.

We’ve been leading a rough existence lately, and I haven’t had much to say.  Life’s been tough, and not in a poetic or photogenic way.  But now Shel, two weeks post-radiation, is starting to get back into the world a little bit, and thus so am I.

He’s made progress since last week, when Beppo had to guard him to make sure he didn’t fall out of his chair while napping.  Let’s just say that Beppo was on duty about 16/24.

But now, the solstice is past, we’ve seen the sun once or twice, the new washer and dryer will arrive tomorrow and finally we can have clean clothes, after a week of being laundry-less, and I’ll have one of my favorite excuses to get out on the deck and fire up the smoker.

I love my outdoor kitchen, where I play with fire all day, and eagerly sniff the sweet cherry wood smoke, particulate be damned.  If there’s anything better to have in your freezer than a bunch of smoked chicken thighs I swear I don’t know what it is.  The pork butt never makes it to the freezer, we love it so.

So on the 4th I’ll put a bunch of meat in the smoker and a heap of vegetables on the grill and call it a feast.  And then, we’ll pull the telescope out on the deck as night falls and get ready for the fireworks over Seattle.  Watching exploding flowers and fountains through the long lens makes them seem to blossom right in your face; it’s a particular ecstasy that only comes once a year.

Will we think about freedom and independence and what it means to be American today?  Does it sound totally corny to say of course!

News From The Mixing Bowl – We Have a Winner! The winner of the absolutely fair and random name-drawing for Trucs of the Trade is Dana.  I’ll be contacting you for shipping information, and my thanks to the rest of you for entering.

Trade Secrets

June 25, 2010

Want to cook like a chef? This nifty little book, Trucs of the Trade, will help move you in that direction.  It’s got recipes from the likes of Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless, Rose Levy Berenbaum, Daniel Boulud, Jim Dodge, Dean Fearing, Hubert Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Zarela Martinez, Jean-Louis Palladin, Jacques Pépin, Judy Rogers, André Soltner, Jacques Torres, and Paula Wolfert.  But that’s probably not the main reason you want this book.

You want it for it’s tips and trucs.  I don’t know why they chose to use the French word truc, which is kind of a special word.  Yes, it means trick, but also it’s the word you use for a thing whose name you don’t know, as in “what’s the name of that thing?” or “c’est quoi, ce truc ?”  It’s a word like da kine in pidgin Hawaiian, an all-purpose catch-all for the unknown or undefined.  The lazy person’s way to avoid precision, a slangy and amusing approach to conversation.

And in this case, here’s what it will get you: a collection of cute little cheffy kitchen tricks, like how to remove beet stains, how to cut cucumber fans, how to tell the gender of an eggplant (no kidding), how to dice onions without tears, how to protect your hands when you don’t have gloves, how to dry-poach pears in salt, how to open quail eggs, how to salvage burned rice, and lots of other things that are cool to know.

Personal chefs and caterers will want this one, but so will any curious cook.  If you’re ready to play like the big girls and boys, just leave a comment saying so.  If several people would like this book, I’ll put your names in a mixing bowl, give them a good stir, and draw one.  I’ll send it to you and I’ll ask you to pay for the postage, if you can, via PayPal.  For security and anti-spam reasons, please don’t put your email address or snail mail address in the Comments section.  When you comment I see your email address and I’ll contact you soon if I draw your name.  Give this book a good home, learn something clever from it, and I’ll be happy.

Nature’s Gifts

June 9, 2010

Flowers, chocolate, a nice bottle of wine, all are gifts that I receive with pleasure.  But this week, I’ve gotten two really special presents that are out of the ordinary,  a huge sack of morels and porcini straight from the forest,

and a bunch of jewel-like sweet spring onions fresh from the garden.  For a cook, there’s really no gift more exciting than a fun ingredient to work with, and so these onions went directly into a heavenly  frittata with some Comté cheese and a bit of Salumi’s mole salami.

The mushrooms led me to the bookcase, wanting to make the very most of this unusual bounty.  And there I rediscovered a book that I’d been thinking would be a giveaway candidate.  It’s called Sides: Over 150 Enticing Accompaniments That Make The Meal, by Melicia Phillips.  If you’re a personal chef or a caterer you definitely need this book, and if you’re a cook who scratches her head over pairing sides with main dishes, or just likes a wide variety of excellent side dishes, this book is for you.  But you can’t have mine, because now that I’ve had a good look through it again, I realize that I need to get back in the habit of using it often.  But I will share one excellent dish with you, while it’s still mushroom season.

This luxurious medley of mushrooms won’t win any beauty contests, but I swear, made from a mix of morels and porcini, paired with a good steak it was about the best mushroom dish I’ve ever eaten.  If you’re a forager, or know one, grab yourself a big bowl of the forest’s finest and prepare for a treat.

Wild Mushrooms with Armagnac and Cream
(inspired by a recipe in Sides)

Start with about 4 cups of mushrooms. Fill a large bowl with cold water, add 1/4 cup of salt, and swish until the salt is dissolved.  Rinse morels, cut them in half lengthwise, and soak them in the salted water for 2 hours.  This will get any bugs and worms out of your mushrooms, and will not harm the texture of the finished dish one bit.  After 2 hours, drain the morels and slice the porcini.

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
2 T Armagnac, or brandy
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a large skillet and add the drained morels and sliced porcini.  Cover the pan and sweat the mushrooms over gentle heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re tender and swimming in a bit of their liquid.   Remove the lid, and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced to practically nothing.

Add the olive oil and the garlic and fry the mushrooms until they’re lightly golden, only about 3-4 minutes.  Add the Armagnac or brandy, cream, salt, and pepper, and simmer until the cream is reduced to a very thick sauce that coats the mushrooms, another 3-4 minutes.  Eat rhapsodically.

News From The Mixing Bowl – We Have a Winner! The winner of the absolutely fair and random name-drawing for Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs is Brother Mark.  I’ll be contacting you for shipping information, and my thanks to the rest of you for entering.

“Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs”

June 1, 2010

Don’t these look like graham crackers?  But in fact, this is Brown Sugar Shortbread, and you’ll find the recipe with my comments about it below. I chose this recipe from Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs because it’s probably the simplest in the book, and according to my tasters, it makes a very good shortbread indeed.

I remember when I bought this book, swooning over its beautiful pictures, especially the ones for Dark German Chocolate Cake with Toasted Almond-Coconut Goo, and Not-Your-Usual Lemon Meringue Pie.  Both of these recipes feature restaurant-style deconstructed versions of the familiar classics, an idea that I found immensely appealing. In fact most of the recipes are restaurant desserts, and thus are a bit fussy to prepare at home, but if you are a dessert person who entertains a lot, this might be your book.

The title describes the layout of the book, which I personally find annoying. It’s divided into chapters based on ingredients, and some, like Citrus, Chocolate, or Nuts, make sense from an organizational standpoint. Others, like Butter, Sugar, Flour, or Eggs, seem nonsensical to me, as well as arbitrary.  Why should Millionaire’s Shortbread be classified under Butter, while Brown Sugar Shortbread is found in the Sugar section? Since most desserts contain at least two of these basic ingredients, it’s a design artifice that doesn’t appeal to me, but the recipes still look good.  I say look, because I’ve made very few of them. It’s the kind of book that I’ve looked through many times for inspiration, but seldom baked from.

And so, one of you may have it,  with my blessings.  But all of you may have the recipe for this shortbread, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy.  I’m taking some liberties with the directions here, because as written they seemed unnecessarily difficult.  This is my slight adaptation.

Brown Sugar Shortbread

8 oz unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed (I used dark brown)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 T cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 T granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 350°.  The recipe has you line a 10×14 1/2″ pan (a size that doesn’t exist in my kitchen) with parchment paper.  If you have a Silpat, I think that’s a MUCH easier alternative.

Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until soft and smooth.  Add the brown sugar and mix until blended.  I had to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides multiple times during this step, so have your silicone spatula ready.

In a separate bowl stir together the flour, cinnamon, and cornstarch.  I think this recipe probably warrants a pinch of salt, but since I didn’t taste it, I can’t guarantee that.  Use your own judgement.  With the mixer at low speed, gradually add the dry mixture until it’s all incorporated.

Turn the dough a few times in the bowl with floured hands until it all comes together.  The recipe wants you to flour a work surface and do it there, but I say ixnay to that.

Now, if you like following directions, you’ll use that same floured work surface to roll out the dough to the size of your pan, then transfer it to said pan.  But hey, the dough is fragile, and that’s going to be a really thin sheet of dough to move around.  So I suggest that you do as I did and roll the dough out directly on a very lightly floured Silpat.  If you roll it all the way to the edges, your cookies will be as thin as the ones I show above, which I think is really too thin, so feel free to roll it only to the thickness of cookie you desire.  It’s not going to rise one bit, so get it the way you want it from the start.

Transfer the Silpat (or your dough) to the pan.  Prick the dough all over with a fork to keep it from buckling as it bakes.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn the pan, smacking it once against the oven rack to help it stay flat, then bake it another 10-15 minutes until lightly brown.  Actually, in my oven, the additional 10 minutes was a bit too long, 8 would have been better.  I suggest that you start watching it after 5 minutes, unless you’re going for the true graham cracker look, in which case 10 minutes is perfect.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle the surface with the granulated sugar.  Let cool, and store in an airtight container.

If you’re ready to bake some cute little desserts, just leave a comment saying so.  If several people would like this book, I’ll put your names in a mixing bowl, give them a good stir, and draw one.  I’ll send it to you and I’ll ask you to pay for the postage, if you can, via PayPal.  For security and anti-spam reasons, please don’t put your email address or snail mail address in the Comments section.  When you comment I see your email address and I’ll contact you soon if I draw your name.  Give this book a good home, make something delicious from it, and I’ll be happy.

News From The Mixing Bowl – We Have a Winner! The winner of the absolutely fair and random name-drawing for The Cooking of Malaysia is heidih.  I’ll be contacting you for shipping information, and my thanks to the rest of you for entering.

“The Food Of Malaysia”

May 29, 2010

When I started thinking about this cookbook giveaway project, I didn’t realize that it would be an exercise in grief.  Not that I’m so attached to the pages themselves, it’s all about what they represent to me.

This beautiful mango pudding didn’t come from “The Food of Malaysia: Authentic Recipes From The Crossroads Of Asia,”  although it very well could have.  Nor did I test it for you today.  It’s been a long time since I made it, and I’ll most likely never make it again.  Just as I’ll never again make anything from this lovely book.

I picked up this book today because just looking at it gave me a swift and sharp craving for Malaysian food.  I’m used to doing a lot of vicarious traveling with food, and I love shopping in little hole in the wall stores where not all of the food is labelled in English, taking home my mystery ingredients and whipping up a dish that transports me instantly to places I’ve never been.  Malaysian food is perfect for that, it’s exotic, savory, intriguing, full of umami, and sadly, sweet.  Every single recipe has sugar, or starch, most often both.  Leafing through the book makes me realize that now I can never visit Malaysia.  There would be nothing at all for me to eat.  It makes me cry to hear that door slam.  I wonder what Malaysian diabetics do eat?

It’s true that the book has a daunting list of ingredients: candlenuts, cloud ear fungus, daun kesum, ikan bilis, pandan leaf, belacan. Fortunately, living near Seattle, I can find those things.  What puts me off though, and why you may have this book if you’d like it,  is the sugar. Lots of the recipes contain no more that a teaspoon, or a tablespoon, of the stuff, so someone might admonish me to just leave it out.  But no, Asian cooking is predicated on the balance of subtle flavors, and even a teaspoon of sugar will transform a dish.

Someone else might admonish me that a few grains of sugar or a bit of rice aren’t going to hurt me.  And they might be right.  But as I think we all know, that’s a slippery slope, one I’m not inclined to step onto.  And so for now, and maybe forever, no Malaysian food for me.  No Thai food, my hands-down favorite cuisine in the world.  No Japanese food and precious little Chinese food.

I could keep the book, and others based on the forbidden cuisines, hoping that someday my world might change and I’d be able to plunge back into these favorite foods.  Just like deep in the garage I have a box of clothes that are too small, kept in case I’d ever be able to wear them again.  Some of those garments I’ve had for 20 years, without being able to bear giving them up.  Hope dies an aching, invisible death.  So which is better, to fan the flames with constant reminders, or to just walk away?

But on a more practical note, my bookcases are overflowing, and if Malaysian food speaks to you like it does to me, don’t be afraid of this book.  There are stories about the various cuisines that have come together in ethnically diverse Malaysia to create its special food, pictures and explanations of ingredients and techniques, nice pictures of the finished dishes, everything you need to get started. If you live in a small town without access to Asian ingredients this probably isn’t the book for you, because the ingredients are pretty hardcore.  But if you’re brave and have a good Asian market near you, have at it, it’s well worth it.

If you’re ready for a trip to Malaysia, just leave a comment saying so.  If several people would like this book, I’ll put your names in a mixing bowl, give them a good stir, and draw one.  I’ll send it to you and I’ll ask you to pay for the postage, if you can, via PayPal.  For security and anti-spam reasons, please don’t put your email address or snail mail address in the Comments section.  When you comment I see your email address and I’ll contact you soon if I draw your name.  Give this book a good home, make something delicious from it, and I’ll be happy.