Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Nook - Fresh Flavor Fast

Lately, I've been feeling the need for some new recipes to shake things up.  Summer, wonderful though it is, is a challenge for me cook-wise because everything I seem to know and enjoy making involves lots of boiling water and 400 degree oven temperatures. 

Fresh Flavor Fast is a cookbook by the folks at Everyday Food, a Martha Stewart magazine.  And while it is not a summer-specific cookbook (I'm sure there are plenty of those out there), it's a great cookbook for all seasons.  And it's by Martha....what could be better?!

My philosophy about cookbooks in the Book Nook (oh, that was fun to write!) is that many of the recipes need to be tested by yours truly to be here.  I'm happy to say that we've tried a bunch of them in the Bach Haus, and many of them have made the grade.  Which ones, you ask?  Well............

I'll start with my favorite recipe from the book, which also happens to be a summer-friendly one: bean, corn and tortilla salad (page 77).  I've had this yummy salad almost every day for the last few weeks, it is so good.  I omit the scallions and add sour cream (it's a must, let's be honest), substitute pinto beans with black beans and sometimes throw in some fresh cilantro.  It's so good, and is a much healthier choice than, say nachos, but still has a Southwestern flair.

Also in the salad section are several yummy salads, all with their own homemade dressing.  While I haven't tried all the salads, the dressing recipes are great, at least the one I tried: red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper & olive oil (page 70).  I've been trying to eat more salads & I like to use homemade dressing when possible - this dressing was really great.

The sweet and spicy almonds (page 48) were divine, I gobbled them up almost single-handedly!  I added only a dash of cayenne pepper, as I didn't think the Bachsters would appreciate the "spicy" part.  These were a big hit.  Since I'm a vegetarian, I didn't actually try the lighter chicken potpie (page 154), but it smelled wonderful & I think it would be easy to just take out the chicken and make it a vegetarian dish.  Potpies can sometimes have too many steps, I think, but this one was quick & easy.

I love cauliflower, so I was excited to see the cauliflower gratin recipe on page 292.  It's really creamy & yummy, a different way for us to eat the veggie, as usually I just steam it.  I used Swiss cheese instead of Gruyere, just because of the cost, but I think either would work nice in the recipe.  We also tried the cherries with cinnamon dumplings (page 322) and one of the Bachsters declared that they liked it so well, they wanted to have it in lieu of cake on their birthday!  What an endorsement!

The book is broken down by course: breakfast, appetizers, soups, main courses, desserts, etc.  Each recipe has a color photo accompanying that!

Now, at this point I have some good news and some bad news to share.  First, the bad news: there were a couple of recipes we tried that just weren't all that great.  The spinach linguine with creamy walnut sauce (page 108) sounds divine, but it just didn't have enough sauce or enough flavor.  However, I think if I were to make it again, I would cut back on the pasta quantity and spring for the good parmesan cheese, not the kind you shake out of the container.  In this recipe, the parmesan is crucial.  Also, we tried the mushroom and pecorino tarts (page 250).  These were ok, but I just didn't care for the texture of puff pastry with a savory topping.  Puff pastry means dessert in my book.  But I think it just came down to a matter of personal taste on this one.

Now for the good news: there are tons of recipes that I'm dying to try, but haven't done so yet.  In fact, the cover of the book says there are 250 recipes - that's a lot!  The walnut & dried fruit granola, the goat cheese speads, the hot spinach dip, the roasted vegetable soup, the vegetable lasagna, the glazed chocolate cake, the strawberry slush..........they all sound and look so yummy!  And that's just a small list of what I'd like to try!  This is a great book for any home cook - tons of great recipes, color pictures to show you what it's going to look like, dishes for everyone's taste, for any season!


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