*April 2010 COTM, Bittman: Appetizers, Soups, Salads
April's Cookbook of the Month is How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.
Please use this thread for reports on the following chapters, both ed.:
The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.
Gumbo is missing from the 1st edition, but there are four varieties in the 2nd, all with okra, all with tomatoes, one also with roux. Again, no mention of exotic ingredients like filé or andouille sausage - this is for the nonspecialist cook - but of course you can use 'em if you've got 'em.. The basic Okra Gumbo with Spicy Sausage is tasty enough but I like my gumbo without tomatoes, and with roux and filé instead of okra.
Puréed Potato and Leek Soup 2008 Edition pg. 131-132
Yesterday was stockmaking day at chez clam and there are leeks in the garden to be used up, so even though I've made this soup plenty of times sans recipe, I decided to see what Mr. Bittman had to say on the subject. His recipe is, predictably, quite simple: 3 leeks, sliced, 3 potatoes, diced, 4 cups stocks and a bit of cream. Oh, yeah, salt and "freshly ground pepper" to taste. Now, normally I would futz with the flavors but I didn't in keeping with the COTM tradition.
Really the only change I made to this recipe was instead of puréeing with an immersion blender (don't have one) and not wanting to make a mess with either the food processor (prone to hot explosions of liquid) or the food mill (having pity on the poor dishwasher Mr. Clam) I simply used the old-fashioned hand-held potato masher. This made the resulting soup less smoothe, but then I like that in a soup.
Bittman calls for a simple garnish of snipped chives which happily have started growing in the herb garden. I served it with his corn bread and it was bliss in a bowl. (Of course it doesn't hurt when the leeks have been dug from one's own organic garden just an hour before showtime.)
Chez Clam sounds like heaven, what with fresh leeks growing in the backyard. This, with slight variation, is my go to recipe for potato-leek soup (but first ed.). Not having it in front of me I'm not sure what my changes are; I can say that I dont' remember ever garnishing with chives, which sounds fantastic.
I made the Cotriade soup (a French fish and potato soup) from the first edition, and it's delicious. From a sense that the recipe was a bit on the mild side--and in this case, unusually, I followed the recipe pretty exactly at the outset--I modified by adding a slight splash of fish sauce and a few drops of tabasco as I was finishing the cooking. It must have helped, also, that I used a genuine fish stock, homemade.
re: Bada Bing
That's one of my few complaints about Bittman---EVERYTHING is a bit on the mild side. I've heard him say on one of his shows that he's not much of a fan of the heat. Good for him, but it gets supremely boring after awhile. At some point I just started increasing his chile recommendations by 50 percent by default.
Raw Beet Salad, 2008 edition, p. 210
I can't say that I followed his recipe for this or any of its variations precisely. Rather, I took his recipe as an inspiration, and made shredded raw beet salad with sherry vinegar and lemon olive oil, and then shredded beet salad with a straight sherry vinaigrette and blood orange. Both of them were quite lovely, the lemon olive oil especially. I didn't use shallots in either (probably would be nice, but I didn't take the time.) I like that his recipes lend themselves to interpretation and inspiration, not slavish following.
Raw Beet Salad with Cabbage and Orange, 2008 edition, p. 210
(Can you tell I have a lot of beets from my garden right now?!)
Continuing in my beet salad exploration, I made this recipe and followed it fairly closely this time, shallots, mustard & all. It was great! Equal parts shredded beets and cabbage are mixed with minced shallots, parsley, and tarragon, plus a chopped peeled & chopped orange, and dressed with a sharp vinaigrette of 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 2 tbsp sherry vinegar. Great combo of flavors.
I used a red beet, red cabbage, and a blood orange, so it was a very red salad indeed!
Apps (original edition):
Roasted Nuts: Yes. Simple easy party food.
Marinated Olives: As long as I have access to good olives, this has been a go-to for company for 10 years---especially if I've bothered to make a nice loaf of bread. Be sure to make a day ahead if you can. One of those easy elegant dishes that increases the sense of bounty with basically no effort.
Hummus: Just OK. he uses too much cumin for my taste (as he most always does). I far prefer Claudia Roden's from version The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
Roasted Eggplant Dip: A killer, with a little tweaking. The most important thing to do is set the eggplants in a strainer in the sink (or over a bowl if you need the sink) after they've roasted. Being careful of escaping steam, cut a few slits in the top side, then rotate so the slits face down. Cut a few more slits in the top to help steam escape. Let the eggplants drain for up to an hour before proceeding. You will lose a ton of weakly flavored, slightly bitter water. This really concentrates the flavors of the remaining ingredients. I also at least double the amount of cheese and rarely used more than a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Beware that you should definitely double the recipe for more than two or three guests. Leftovers go great on grilled meat.