With summer in full and humid swing, I decided to whip up a quick V8 pretender in an effort to justify buying so much produce at the grocery store. I’ve been reading through The Juicing Bible, 2nd edition, by Pat Crocker, and proclaim it to be the best book on juicing I’ve come across.

Juicing books are somewhat hindered by the character and practice of juicing. After all, at it’s core, juicing is simply throwing together a jumble of fruits and veggies and processing the liquid with a juice machine. There are no complicated techniques to learn or master, say in the way one must do with perfecting pastry dough or grilling meats. Some juice book authors may proclaim that a certain combination of vegetables will cure all ailments, but I would guess that many folks in the market for juice recipes/combos are just looking for pleasant combinations of ingredients that go down pleasantly.

  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • A sprig or two of cilantro
  • 1/4 of a white or yellow onion
  • 2 carrots, trimmed

 

While this specific combo of veg did not come out of The Juicing Bible, it comes across as a nice lunch-type or afternoon juice. I think I would have added half a lemon to this, to brighten its character. I also added a dash (only one!) of Tabasco.

For some time I have wanted to try out a recipe for seared radicchio in Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone“, but the last several trips to the produce section at my local grocer have been fruitless. I decided to put the radicchio on hold and try another vegetable. A flash of color caught my eye and I picked up some beautiful rainbow chard, figuring there would be at least one, if not a few, recipes in VCfE book featuring chard.

A hearty green that holds up well with cooking, Ms. Madison recommends cooking the chard leaves and stems separately from each other. Riffing off her basic recipe, which prepares the chard with olive oil, I expanded on her idea of tossing the simmered chard with garlic and olive oil. I also added red pepper flakes (her suggestion) and substituted the lemon juice with balsamic vinegar.

 

Chard Greens with Olive Oil

Slice the leaves off the stems, wash them well, and coarsely chop. Drop them into a pot of boiling salted water and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Drain and press out the excess moisture. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, a half-teaspoon of minced garlic, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add the drained chard leaves and toss to coat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan and a couple twists of freshly ground black pepper.

Chard Stems with Olive Oil

(Halved from the original proportions)

  • 1/2 pound chard stems, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Cut the stems into 3-inch lengths. Whisk the flour into 1-quart water in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and add the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the stems and boil until tender, about 7-10 minutes. Drain, and then toss with olive oil, a little minced garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a splash or two of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.

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I confess. Prior to making these cookies, I’d never actually eaten a snickerdoodle in my life. The name snickerdoodle was a turn off to me for some reason and I can’t quite say why. But one afternoon I was browsing through the cookies section of this particular cookbook and thought ‘why not?’ In fact it was the simplicity of the recipe that nudged me to try it. There are no expensive nuts to add, no elaborate methods or techniques. No separating the dough and rolling it into paper towel tubes, none of that.

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What the cook gets from this recipe is a nearly perfect cookie. These snickerdoodles are the right texture and the right taste: soft but not gooey, and mildly sweet and buttery with a hint of cinnamon. The dough itself whips up quickly and easily, and can be done with a hand mixer so no need to lug out the giant stand mixer either. The simplicity and ease of this cookie recipe has earned it a place in my regular baking repertoire. This recipe is also easily doubled, and I double each time I bake them. The recipe notes these cookies will last five days, but I can state with confidence that these snickerdoodles will be gone in less time than that!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons, plus 3/4 cup white, granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 11/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small, shallow bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter, the 3/4 cup of sugar, the egg, and vanilla until smooth, about 4 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture just until incorporated. (I add the flour in thirds)
  • Using a cookie/melon scoop, scoop up the dough, roll the dough into a all between your palms, and then roll it in the cinnamon sugar. The original recipe calls for a teaspoon, but I like to use the .5 tbsp scoop. Place the dough on an ungreased baking sheet, lined with parchment. Repeat with remaining dough, placing the balls 2 inches apart.
  • Bake the cookies until round, flat, and lightly golden, 8-10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pan on a wire rack for a couple of minutes the transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Pretty, crackled cinnamon tops!

Pretty, crackled cinnamon tops!

 

From Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home Cookbook

A few years ago, I received The Gourmet Cookbook as a gift from my mother. I recall that around that time, I’d begun developing a genuine interest in cooking. I started out, wisely some might say, with a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated, and I had a few other cookbooks, but nothing that I would consider to be part of a serious cook’s library. My mom’s assurances that this particular book would become a vital part of my cookbook collection was met with a bit of eye rolling I admit, but she proved to be correct. In the years since receiving the The Gourmet Cookbook, I consider it to be one of my top two, cannot-do-without, always reliable, cookbooks.

Originally published in 2004, The Gourmet Cookbook provides cooks with a best-of from Gourmet Magazine published between 1941 and 2009 (has it really been four years since the end of this great magazine?) Editor Ruth Reichl and her team harvested the Gourmet Magazine archives, got opinions from readers and staff, in order to present in book form,  what were considered to be the best of the magazine’s run. The recipes that were chosen were tested and re-tested to ensure readers would find reliable, timeless takes on the kinds of foods Americans have been enjoying for sixty years. I cannot imagine taking on such a huge, incredible task, and feel fortunate that someone else did it for me and the many others who own this cookbook.

The Content
Like a good compendium should, the book covers all areas of cooking, including drinks. The difficulty level of the entries range from simple to complex, allowing beginning cooks to get started while satisfying others that might seek a challenge. Yet even the more basic recipes produce pleasing results, thus negating the need to spend hours in the kitchen for a nice meal. Those recipes that seem intimidating at first, simply require the cook to pay attention to detail and discover that it was not indeed, something to fear.

The Layout
A quick review of comments in Amazon for this title reveal what could be a flaw for some: recipe titles printed in a pale yellow. While technically a very pretty color, I think one might be justified in griping about this aesthetic choice. Other than that, the binding is sturdy, and my particular copy has held up well after countless uses. The Gourmet cookbook also comes with two placeholder ribbons sewn into the binding, a feature I’ve used many times when cooking two recipes for the same meal.

The Favorites
I have so many favorite, regularly made recipes in The Gourmet Cookbook. In making this list, I realize I need to explore the dessert selection more vigorously!

  • Cranberry Chutney, p. 35: This is my go to for the fall holidays
  • Fresh Mushroom Soup, p. 101: Lovely
  • Macaroni and Cheese, p. 223: Mac n’ Cheese seems to be a topic of controversy, with many swearing that “Mac n’ Cheese variety X is the best mac n cheese of ALL TIME!” But this version is the version you’ve been waiting for your whole life. I know the “blue box” is fast and easy, but when you’re craving Mac n’ Cheese, you will find yourself spending the extra time to make this. 
  • Baked Pasta with Tomatoes, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Proscuitto, p. 225: Another fabulous pasta recipe, although one I reserve for special occasions, considering the cost of fresh shiitakes and proscuitto
  • Old Fashioned Meatloaf, p. 448: Again, a classic, seemingly uncomplicated dish to prepare, but so many versions of meatloaf disappoint. This one, followed correctly, will never fail to leave you happy
  • Chop Suey, p. 488: Takes a bit of time to put this one together, but it’s wonderful
  • Paprika-Glazed Baby Back Ribs, p. 491: Fantastic way to prepare baby back ribs. This recipe introduced me to smoked paprika
  • Collard Greens with Red Onions and Bacon, p. 541: This was my first attempt ever at cooking collard greens. The whole house smelled like vinegar, but the result was a hearty, fillling dish, and one that held up well as leftovers
  • Beets with Lime Butter, p. 523: Surprising and delicious is the best way I can describe this recipe
  • Creamed Leeks, p. 545: Comforting and savory. Another great dish during the holidays, or any time actually
  • Maple Syrup Pie, p. 773: When I first saw this listed I thought “whaaa??” But I love real maple syrup, and gave it a whirl. Rich, sweet, and quite the treat

In closing
If you love to cook, buy this book. If you’re a beginner or just interested in expanding your cook’s repertoire just a bit, buy this book. Don’t let the “gourmet” part of The Gourmet Cookbook intimidate you. Well experienced kitchen folk will find a resource of reliable and interesting recipes as well. This is a book for everyone. The Gourmet Cookbook has long been a favorite with me and many family members, I think most will find it that way as well.

Getting a little ragged around the edges!

Getting a little ragged around the edges!

Get your copy: The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes