Sunday, February 7, 2016

Brodo, A Bone Broth Cookbook, reviewed

First of all, before I even get into the content of this book, or how I felt about it, I have to get something off of my chest; I hate the term “bone broth,” it's a misnomer. The very words are going to send vegetarians fleeing, and with good reason as it tends to present a rather frightening image. It may also have you thinking that meatless broths are not included in this book. After all, mushrooms have no bones, vegetables have no bones, clams have no bones (a shell is not a bone, don't argue with me). And, call me old fashioned, but I grew up with the word stock (as in beef, chicken, and vegetable), and am likely to continue calling it as such. Whew. I feel much better now.
Marco Canora's book Brodo, A Bone Broth Cookbook is a must have, no bones about it (if you'll pardon the pun). This is a book that should be on the shelves of every home cook, its importance being similar to that of Irma Rombach's Joy of Cooking. The key ingredient in any soup or stew, in many sauces and casseroles, is a good stock base. This book teaches you how to make that base. Forget the flavorless stocks that you've been buying in cartons or cans, buy this book instead, and delve into the fascinating world of making your own. The depth of flavor, not to mention added nutrition that homemade stock is going to give your dishes is going to be remarkable. While there are many differences between a good cook and an average one, one of the main ones is a good quality stock. Making your own is going to improve every dish that you prepare.
This book has an interesting back story. Canora, after a health scare years ago, decided to add more nutrition to his diet via flavorful broths. This endeavor was a success, and, because he wanted to share his knowledge, began selling his flavorful broths by the cupful from a window in his East Village restaurant. It was a hit, and thus this book was born. It is no secret that broths are healthful. Grandma knew this years ago when she'd bring you chicken soup any time you were ailing. Now there is actual science behind the healing properties of this healthful liquid. The great value of this book, of course, is in teaching you how to do it.
This book is equal part text and recipes. You will learn a lot about the author, his experiences, and absolutely everything you have every wanted to know about broth. You will learn how to put your own personal spin on the broths through the addition of various add-ins and infusions. In addition to recipes for the broth itself, you will also find recipes for using the broths such as delicious risottos, and what a difference homemade broth is going to make in your next batch of risotto!
The recipes in this book are for making large (read: 9 quarts in some cases) of broth. Don't be put off by this. Recipes can be halved or quartered. I was particularly intrigued by the mushroom broth because I love all things mushroom, and am always looking for ways to improve my homemade mushroom soup, so made this recipe first. I pulled a four-quart stock pot out of the cupboard and adjusted the quantity of ingredients accordingly. It was marvelous!
One thing I found here is that even a seasoned veteran like me can learn something new. In all of my years of making stock, I had never roasted or seared any of the vegetables beforehand. Learning this technique alone is well worth the cost of the book. What an amazing richness this gives even the simplest of broths!
Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Pasta con Brussels Sprouts

If you're looking for a meatless main dish, or an easy to prepare, yet elegant side dish to serve with a nice cut of meat, you need look no further. Thanks to Melissa's Produce and their vacuum sealed roasted Brussels sprouts, this dish can be ready in under twenty minutes. This variation on Pasta con Broccoli is decadently rich, so a small portion will do. Use an ice cream scoop to fill warmed ramekins and carry them to the table on an attractive serving tray.
Pasta con Brussels Sprouts

8 ounces small penne pasta
4 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
6 tablespoons butter, divided
½ pint heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large saucepan to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions; drain. While water is coming to a boil, slice each of the packaged Brussels sprouts in half.

In a 9-inch saute pan, saute mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the butter; set aside.

Melt remaining 4 Tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Slowly add cream, cheese, and seasonings, stirring until cheese is melted. Stir in mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts, and parsley. Fold in cooked penne. Serve immediately.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Better Than Starbucks Lemon Loaf

If you like lemon cake as much as I do (the one offered at Starbucks in particular) and if, also like me, you have been looking for a truly good recipe for said lemon cake, and have continued to come up short, have I got a cake for you! I have tried recipe after recipe, and while all of them are perfectly good, none of them have the deep lemon flavor for which I long. Finally, after much experimentation (and inches added to my hips), I have come up with the be-all of lemon loaf cakes in this tasty recipe.

One of the things that makes this cake particularly good is the use of lemon oil. I use Boyajian Lemon Oil from Sur la Table and, no, this isn't a sponsored post. I just love stocking lemon, orange, and lime oils in the pantry, the addition of which truly takes whatever citrus dessert that I'm making right over the top. Fresh lemon juice is also the key, and from flavorful Meyer lemons. Lastly, lemon zest, and lots of it, provides a dense and fresh lemon lift. When using zests, always, always use organic citrus. Heaven only knows what you'll be putting into your baked goods by way of toxins and pesticides if you don't.
Better Than Starbucks Lemon Loaf

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pure lemon oil
3 extra-large eggs
1/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (I use Melissa's)
1 Tablespoon Meyer lemon zest (ditto)
1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon cream
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon oil

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 9” x 5” loaf pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients; set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, cream sugar and butter. Add vanilla, lemon oil, and eggs, beating after each addition. Beat in lemon juice. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients, alternating with oil. Beat until blended.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake in the center of the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until cake tests done. Remove loaf from oven. Let rest in pan for ten minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When loaf is cool, whisk together glaze ingredients and pour over top. When icing has set, slice and enjoy.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Relax & Regenerate

When I was a little girl I couldn't wait to grow up. I was convinced that life would be so much easier. I wouldn't have to ask permission to do anything; I would be completely on my own to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. As a seasoned veteran of adulthood, I have to say that I miss those old days of playing in my room and having all of my meals prepared for me. I wouldn't even mind it if someone told me to take a nap, in fact, I think I would like that very much.
 The older I get, the more complicated life seems...complicated, exhausting, and stressful. One of my plans (I won't say resolutions) for the New Year was to try to carve out some time each day to decompress. Time to give myself permission to read a chapter in a book, watch an old Grissom episode of CSI, knit a few rows in my ongoing attempt to try to knit something (anything!), or have a cookie and a nice cup of tea.
 Rituals are important in daily life; they ground us, and these days, how I long to be grounded (as it were).
I have a special place for my daily dose of relaxation. It is in the great room near large windows, in the quietest part of the house where I can think (or not) and just breathe.
Setting up a special place for this activity ensures that I will treat myself. Here is my cozy corner, in afternoon light, waiting for me.