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Cookbook of the Month July 2013: BIG SMALL PLATES by Cindy Pawlcyn

It was a close run thing but we chose BIG SMALL PLATES for July. The reporting threads will be posted on 1 July, but in the meantime we can start our discussion here.

Here are the reporting threads:

Chapters 1&2

Chapters 3&4

Chapters 5&6

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  1. Hopefully, one month TGI will win and I will see you then!!! Thanks for all your hard work.

    1. Just dipping my toe in here to stay in touch with the action. Though I voted for TGI, I do own this book and recall tabbing many recipes when it arrived. Time permitting (I'm travelling a lot these days) I'll be cooking along and look forward to reading about any favourites BSP fans can recommend here.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Breadcrumbs

        I pulled my book off the shelf last night and it was January when I tabbed recipes so I don't have the same level of excitement about those recipes now as I will in the fall and winter. I didn't have a lot of time but I was looking for some weeknight friendly meals and didn't see anything with a quick pass. If anyone who has cooked from the book has some recommendations, they'd be much appreciated.

        There were more recipes w a nod to Mexican cuisine than I remembered. I wish mr bc shared my love of Mexican cuisine.

        1. re: Breadcrumbs

          She definitely slants in the direction of Latin flavors. If I recall, her Supper Club menu is almost always Mexican themed.

          Re weeknights, I don't have the book in front of me right now but the lamb burgers were pretty weeknight friendly, as long as you had everything in the house. Just need to do some chopping, form the burgers, and make a vinaigrette. The black beans used for two tostada recipes in the book are excellent and would make a delicious vegetarian meal if you omitted the rabbit. If you were forward thinking, you could use them a second time on the weekend when you had the time to make the rabbit. The chicken wings are also good for week nights.

      2. The Rabbit Tostados are incredible. Not a weeknight meal, but worth the effort when you have the time.

        I no longer eat meat, but in the past I've cooked and enjoyed many of the meat dishes in this book.

        This time around, I'm going to focus on the non-meat offerings.

        5 Replies
        1. re: pikawicca

          Non-meat offerings look to be few and far between in this book, unless by "meat" you mean red meat, or meat and chicken, because there are a lot of seafood recipes.

          I'm somewhat disappointed that there are really very, very few recipes that will use summer produce. Most of the vegetables are more of the fall/winter/spring variety. This would have been a great book to cook from during the winter holidays and football season.

          That said, I have the thing on my iPad, so I'll be participating next month. I'll just have come up with complimentary dishes to use up all my zucchini.

          1. re: MelMM

            I have this book in front of me and I completely disagree that it offers little for vegetarians. There are a ton of non-meat based dishes, though I would say there aren't a lot of strictly vegan options. The beauty of this book is that though the recipes are for small plates, each one has a big punch of flavor. So anyone of the dishes could be made into a stand alone entry if only you were to increase the portion size.

            Re veggie options, several of the dishes feature mushrooms as the main components. The stuffed Piquillo peppers look amazing, as do the fried green tomatoes. Corn, corn soup, corn custard, corn fritters. All the salads sound amazing, and then there are veggie based dishes like the roasted artichokes, asparagus spring rolls or the asparagus with baked brie, roasted cauliflower, stuffed squash blossoms, cucumber salad, jicama slaw. Some strictly veggie dishes are meant to be components of other dishes but trust me, there flavors are so big they can stand alone. For example, the salad that is served atop the rabbit tostadas is delicious and I often eat these tostadas vegetarian (using only the bean recipe) when the rabbit runs out! And several of the dishes that include meat or seafood could be made with tofu because of the bold sauces and seasoning.

            Don't overlook the nuts, olives, grain based dishes such as grits, aranchini, plantains, and potatoes, and desserts. And as you already mentioned, the seafood options in this book are amazing.

            I think for those of us who have the book or are willing to make the investment, we will be well rewarded this month. It looks like the really cheap copies have already been snatched up by savvy buyers, but there are still copies available for $11.00, inclusive of shipping.

            1. re: dkennedy

              Quick and hopefully not too foolish question. You mention that although these recipes are for small plates one could up the size and serve as a meal. Not having the book I am wondering if most of the dishes would work as main courses. I really am not up to cooking 3 special things on a summer day with both Lulu and her dad underfoot.

              1. re: LulusMom

                Yes, LLM I would say most of the recipes would size up nicely. Whenever I cook out of this book, I serve it as a main course, not tapas style. I agree, making 3 or more elaborate dishes is too much for me, even if it is not a weekday.

                1. re: dkennedy

                  Thanks DK, that helps. I am hoping there will be some interesting links posted.

        2. Darn it. No copies at my library :(

          1 Reply
          1. re: girlwonder88

            GW, have a look at EYB listing of recipes here: http://www.eatyourbooks.com/library/3... I'll happily paraphrase the ones you are interested in.

            Also look in Googlebooks - there are a few recipes there.

            I bought used copy very cheaply last year on Amazon; there might be good deals to be had.

          2. So excited for next month's selection!

            1. I don't own it, my library doesn't have it, and I'm not going to buy it. I have too many other cookbooks that I haven't even opened yet. Have fun everyone! Maybe I'll rejoin you in August.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Njchicaa

                I'm in a similar position - it's quite expensive, even used, for me to pick up sight unseen (TGI is available and I own one of the Diana Henry books so it was a bit unlucky for me!). Looking forward to reading everyone's thoughts as always

              2. Last night I began to make The List and was surprised to see all the pages I turned w/o listing anything. That said, I'll plow through and choose recipes that will either create a complete meal with or without a salad and see how long that holds my interest. Last time I did that we were cooking from the 2 River Cafe Italian cookbooks.

                Just to be safe Gourmet Today, TGI, and Mediterranean Harvest will stay at my side during July. Happy Cooking, Everyone!

                8 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  Gio, I just received Mediterranean Harvest - I am sure you were the one raving about it, no? :) Can you suggest a few dishes from it that you tried?

                  1. re: herby

                    Hi Herby... a very quick rundown, off the top: Most of the salads, the 3 variations of the strata, mostly Summer vegetables that we got with out CSA last year. The book isn't with me right now but I intend to cook several recipes a week from it this Summer...

                    1. re: herby

                      I am not Gio, but she posted this in another thread which made me order it too. Hopefully my copy will come soon.

                      Gio Jun 5, 2013 01:32 AM
                      Here are a few recipes that we've made from Veg. Harvest that we've enjoyed.. Nothing earth shattering but quite nice for Summer fare. Mind, these were side dishes for grilled or outdoor roasted meats of various kinds.
                      Basic Strata
                      Strata Variation: basil & thyme
                      Strata Variation: tomatoes & green beans
                      Eggplant w tomato & feta
                      Heart of Romaine salad
                      Fava beans and greens
                      Ikarian Summer vegetables stew
                      Potatoes w green beans & garlic

                      RECOMMEND0LINK FLAG REPLY

                    2. re: Gio

                      I think you amaze us all on a monthly basis with how much you manage to make from each COTM. Take the month off; you've earned it.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Bless you, LLM. You really made me laugh with "take the month off." Don't you know that each COTM is My Window To the World? Say hello to Scotland for me!

                        1. re: Gio

                          Will do. Why not play in the donna hay and/or diana henry sandbox for the month?

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            Oh I'll probably do that as well, and include TGI, Carmine's, and BSP too... After all, a girl's gotta eat.

                            1. re: Gio

                              I'm doing some Donna Hay next week and some TGI. Keeping my fingers crossed that TGI makes it to COTM soon (gosh, I'm like the French gov't, acronizing everything).

                    3. Got it from my library last night - eager to look through this week.

                      1. I just requested this book from the library. However, my family has been begging me to make simpler meals that take less time in the kitchen, so I don't know if I will be able to participate this month.

                        1. my copy of book should be arriving this week.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jpr54_1

                            my copy arrived while i was up north in nj.
                            my neighbors had taken in my mail and i looked at book this morning.
                            there r many recipes that i will make from the book
                            tuna tartare with salad and avocado
                            mongolian bbq lamb chops
                            tuna tostadas with watermelon and tomatillo salsas
                            my very first beef satay

                          2. Just picked up my copy from the library and did a super-quick thumb through. Surprised by a number of aspects of this book I wasn’t anticipating. Much greater emphasis on Latin and Asian flavors than I’d expected, but that’s fine with me. The recipes are also considerably more involved than I would have thought for a “small plates” book and I can’t imagine preparing more than one dish at a time, especially if I’m cooking only for myself. Despite dkennedy’s protestation above, I didn’t see a lot here that was either vegetarian or utilized summer produce. Many of the vegetable dishes are quite hearty and seem more appropriate for colder weather; those that aren’t are components of a dish rather than stand-alone recipes, although I take her point that those components can indeed stand alone. Finally, I was taken aback by the number of recipes that require a grill. In fact, quite a few of the ones I stopped to read after thinking, oh, I’d like that! are cooked over fire and don’t sound as though they’d transition all that well to a broiler or grill pan. Many of the dishes sound lovely and I wish someone would do a big spread and invite me over. Curious to see how many I decide to tackle once I’ve taken a closer look.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: JoanN

                              After reading DK's post, I went back and spent a couple hours (on a plane) looking through the book again. I will admit that there are more vegetarian recipes than I originally thought, although many are not vegetable recipes. Gougeres, for example. I am sticking to my guns, however, on my assertion that this is not a great book for summer produce, and would have been a better choice for the winter entertaining season. I can find lots of stuff I want to make, just not in July. I'm not dissing the book. I like the book and want to cook from it. Just not in July.

                              There are also some recipes that seem to oddly juxtapose ingredients from opposing seasons. For example, there are fritters that include both dungeoness crab ( in season in late winter) and fresh corn on the cob. That makes no sense whatsoever to me in a book that claims, in the introduction, to be "seasonal". There are numerous recipes like this, and it would be nice if an explanation were given, but none is.

                              1. re: MelMM

                                Where I live in the Pac. NW, we get local corn and crab together well into July......

                                1. re: gingershelley

                                  Agree with that GS, I had no idea corn and crab wouldn't be seasonally compatible somewhere, they seem like a perfect match to me! Dungeness crab season (at Dungeness spit and environs) starts July 1st.

                            2. I took her Dinner Club book out of the library and did not find anything that I want to make. I am in a bit of a funk lately and this could be the reason. The library has a copy of BSP for me that I will pick up on Thursday and hope to find many things to make. My book is at home and when I first looked at it I liked it a lot but have not made anything for some reason. My daughter's household went gluten and dairy free for a period of time - difficult to cook from regular cookbooks. We really need to do more Asian cooking which I love but the kids (7 and 5) are not as keen.

                              1. Hello gang. A word in your shell-like please.

                                I don't have the book (as usual!) but a quick look at the contents page on Amazon tells me it's not ordered per ingredient or by "courses". It's also not a huge book, so my proposal is to have just two reporting threads for Chapters 1-3 and 4-6.

                                For those of you who have the book, does this sound acceptable?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  I think it sounds fine. The only other suggestion I would have is to divide it into three, rather than just two, threads. I say that because the next-to-the-last chapter contains dishes that could easily be main courses (not that other recipes can't be, but this chapter lends itself most readily to it) and the final chapter is desserts. Those two chapters could be considered different enough to warrant their own thread. Just a suggestion, though. I really think two threads would be fine. Will be curious to hear what others think.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    Hmmm. I think chapters 1-5 could be divided into 2 threads but I think chapter 6, desserts, deserves its own. So I agree with Joan that it c/should be divided in 3, just a different three. I really don't think the 5th chapter is much different than chapter 4, which also contains some more substantial dishes, like burgers and tostadas. The last chapter is for desserts so that one might deserve its own thread.

                                    I suggest: 1-3; 4-5; and 6.

                                    1. re: dkennedy

                                      Thanks for your suggestions. I'm going to go with three threads I think, as then there will roughly be the same amount of recipes in each.

                                    1. Just checking. Thanks GG!

                                      1. I have been very productive today and have already posted recipe reviews in all three threads. While we all have this book in front of us, I was hoping you could help me resolve a mystery. There is a photo of a stack of books just opposite from the Glossary on p. 353. When I first bought this book, I convinced myself I needed to own all the books on this page. So far, I have been able to identify some but not all of the books. Please help if you can. Here is what I have been able to figure out for myself:

                                        Markets of Provence: A Culinary Tour of Southern France (own)
                                        Paris in a Basket:Markets, the Food and the People (own)
                                        Simple French Food
                                        Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France (based on the jacket) (own another of her titles)
                                        Tako ????
                                        La Culinaria ??????

                                        Thanks for your help!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: dkennedy

                                          I'm almost positive the one on the bottom is "La Cuisine de France" by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec.

                                        2. Is there, or is anyone interested in, a companion thread? I was originally hoping for Mustards as a selection, so I'd like to se another thread. I'd be happy to post one, if there's interest, and if no one else has posted one. I don't see any mention of it.

                                          PS if this heat wave doesn't break soon, there's going to be no cooking happening here!

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: L.Nightshade

                                            I would love to see a companion thread. I now also own Cindy's Supper Club and I currently have Mustards on loan from the library. Am eyeing the Chinese chicken salad recipe, of all things!

                                            1. re: dkennedy

                                              Here is my list of must tries from Mustard's Grill Cookbook:

                                              Steamed Manila Clams or Mussels, p. 37
                                              French Country Style Vege Soup with Pistou, p. 50
                                              Yucatan Style Chix and Vege Soup, p. 54
                                              Chinese Chix Salad, p. 79
                                              *Steak and Potatoes, Truck Stop Deluxe, p. 87
                                              Mustard and Garlic Poussin, p. 90
                                              Grilled Squab, p. 118
                                              Erasto's Black Beans, p. 183 (I really like his other black beans so it stands to reason....)
                                              *Crispy Black Bean Rice Cakes, p. 184
                                              Ketchup, p. 195
                                              Smoked Tomatoes, p. 205
                                              *Those Nuts, p. 212
                                              Mustards Secret Coating, p. 214
                                              Tapioca Pudding, p. 228
                                              Coconut Dream Pie, p. 238
                                              Malted Chocolate Ice Cream, p. 245
                                              ****Chocolate Pecan Jack Daniel's Cake, p. 254
                                              *Blueberry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake, p. 256

                                              Since I have only tabbed 18 recipes, 3 of which are pantry items, 2 more component recipes, I will resist buying for now. I am going to make the Chocolate Pecan Cake soon cuz it sounds so flipping good and the picture is killing me.

                                            2. re: L.Nightshade

                                              Hi again L.Nightshade, just made the Chocolate Pecan Jack Daniel's Cake with Jack Daniel's Chocolate Sauce, on p. 254 of the Mustards book. Have you ever made it? I think I may have overbaked it, because when I took it out after 40 minutes, after it sat and cooled a bit, it looked a little under done, so I popped it back in again at 325 but accidently set the timer for 30 minutes, not 5 minutes! I realized my mistake with 7 minutes remaining on the timer, so 18 minutes too long! It is cooling now, I took off the spring form sides and so far so good, will have to wait until after dinner to know for sure but....it is gorgeous! Will post a more detailed report when the companion thread goes up. Let me know if you want me to put it up.

                                              1. re: dkennedy

                                                dk - Are you able to put it up? That would be great. I'm not at my regular computer, so my functions are a little dicey. I wasn't sure I could tell if there was already a thread going. Do you think it should be all other Pawlcyn books? That would work for me.
                                                And no, I haven't tried that cake, but wow, it sounds great! It also sounds a little familiar, perhaps I've had it at Mustards.

                                                1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                  Yes, she says it was a standard at Mustards until she got a full time pastry chef. I'll let you know how it comes out.

                                                  Re posting the Companion thread, do I need to do anything differently than I would when I start my own thread? If not, I can do it easily. If yes, I will need some guidance. BTW, I think the companions should be for all her other books. I want to post a report from one out of Cindy's Suppers too.

                                            3. Here is my proposed companion thread. Not sure if I did it right so I notified the moderator and I am waiting to hear back.


                                              1. I am off to San Francisco this weekend with my DH (though my timing could not be worse) so you won't be seeing any new reviews by me over the coming days. Time for all of you to catch up. In nothing else, make the Jack Daniels cake out of Mustards Grill. Here is a link, but you have to scroll down a bit to find the original recipe. http://cookingtipoftheday.blogspot.co...

                                                Or make the rabbit tostadas - so, so good!

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: dkennedy

                                                  Have a great time. Are there any links to any of the other recipes? Have I somehow missed them?

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    I haven't checked. I am sure there are because she seems to be quite a celebrity in her neck of the woods. I'll try to do a search when I get back to L.A. Meanwhile, off to stock up on jams, lavender, and a myriad of other treasures from the Ferry Building and its legendary farmer's market. That is, if I can get a taxi since the Bart is still on strike. Cross your fingers that it resolves soon!

                                                    1. re: dkennedy

                                                      You'll have a great time. Hoping that you are not staying too far from the ferry building and that the taxi gods are with you.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        We are staying at the Palace Hotel which I think is 1/2 mile from the Ferry bldg so we should be able to walk to and from there. Will get quite expensive if we have to taxi everywhere else, especially since we were planning on going to Berkeley as well. Still holding out hope it will resolve itself.

                                                        1. re: dkennedy

                                                          Pull up your skirt and stick out your thumb. You'll have a ride in no time.

                                                          1. re: dkennedy

                                                            dkennedy, just a quick tip: there is lots of easy-access public transit within SF (streetcars, buses, underground metro) that's much more comprehensive than BART, though it's a bit more of a PTA to get to the East Bay and transbay buses are overloaded due to the strike. So no need to rely fully on taxis. The website www.511.org has complete transit info for the entire Bay Area.

                                                            1. re: dkennedy

                                                              I used to love to go to the brunch at the Palace. Probably a fairly typical high-end hotel buffet, but I loved the room, with the arched glass ceilings, and chandeliers.
                                                              You can always Bart to the East Bay, and to some places in SF. Have a wonderful time!

                                                              1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                That room is absolutely gorgeous. And at Christmas they put up a nice display in the lobby for kids - lots of gingerbread houses and stuff like that.

                                                      2. re: dkennedy

                                                        Thank you DK! Into my pepperplate for when I need super yummy dessert for GF people :)

                                                      3. Someone suggested at one point that we find a better way to link to the companion threads for the COTM. I'm really appreciating that idea this month. I can never find the companion thread! I've practically given up posting when I cook something from Mustards or Fog City.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                          Reposting link:

                                                          Here is my proposed companion thread. Not sure if I did it right so I notified the moderator and I am waiting to hear back.


                                                          1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                            And... I've listed it on the Non COTM report links thread:


                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                              Thanks to both of you!
                                                              Adding to the Non COTM thread was a good idea.

                                                          2. It looks like I'll be largely unavailable for the next week, working late, then working out of state, so I don't anticipate cooking more from this book this month. I've got a couple recipes I've cooked, but not posted yet, so I plan to get those up.

                                                            If I don't find many appealing online recipes from Mediterranean Harvest, I may continue cooking from Pawlcyn in August. I've been really happy with the results thus far, and there are quite a few more dishes I've got bookmarked.