that zucchini and pasta recipe, a Kitchen Conclusion

I did a silly thing.

I kept coming across Meghan Markle’s “zucchini bolognese” recipe on the internet recently.  To the point where I saw the Buzzfeed follow up on it, and was just like “EFF IT.  I’M TRYING IT MYSELF.”

Prepping zucchini… Can you guess for what?

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I kept pretty close to the original recipe as posted by Delish, with the only change being a swap for Parmesan cheese with Grana Padano cheese, because it’s cheaper per pound and good enough for me.  (I’m a plebeian who sometimes prefers to be thrifty over being cultured.  Sorry not sorry.)   Oh, and one tiny eggplant found its way into the recipe because it was in my fridge and about a sneeze away from going bad (that’s a unit of measuring time, right?).  These aren’t huge changes in my opinion, but I’m sure someone out there is more than happy to disagree with me.  Anyway…

My personal experience:

  • It’s easy to make.
  • With a tightly fitting dutch oven, it’s hard to burn.  A good amount of liquid exuded from the veggies.  (FYI, I used my 5.5 quart Le Creuset.)
  • It makes a lot, and is a great make-ahead option.
  • There is so much raw zucchini going in that I would not feel comfortable doubling this recipe unless I had access to a really large soup pot.

This was towards the end of cooking. Full post on the blog!

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As for my feelings after cooking and upon consumption, the sauce was kind of “meh” to be honest.  It’s just good enough.  I certainly wasn’t impressed.  If I were to make it again in the future, I’d want to make changes.  Adding herbs is the first thing I can think of.  With some of my leftover sauce, I added fresh basil and marjoram.  Slightly better than without but not quite what I wanted.  Using dried herbs during the long cooking process might make the better choice.  And I’m half wondering what it would have been like had I added some ricotta just for extra depth and texture.

So, am I making this again?  Probably not.  Or at least not the printed version of the recipe.  I’m not against nor above altering it, sticking it in the slow cooker, and declaring it a great summer recipe.  (So that might happen in the future.  Maybe.  A very strong maybe.)

Reference Links:

https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipes/a58228/zucchini-bolognese-recipe/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/michelleno/meghan-markle-zucchini-bolognese-recipe-real-life-test?utm_term=.uyz5Lr3vM#.bddQyl9qO

Previous Kitchen Conclusion Post:

https://awesomesauceeats.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/cardamom-and-loaf-pans-a-kitchen-conclusion/

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The Easy Asian Cookbook, a cookbook review

True story:  Despite my love for all kinds of Asian food, I rarely cook any at home.  Also a true story: I love using my slow cooker.

(No, I haven’t jumped on the Instant Pot train yet, and I’m not sure if I ever will.  In the meantime, I really want to experiment with an air fryer. I will take sponsors.  lol!)

But if I can cook Asian food in a slow cooker, will I make it more often?  

If I’m to go by the recipe offerings in The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers by Nancy Cho, the answer might very well be a resounding yes.

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There are so many pros about this book in general.  The author hasn’t confined herself to just Japanese, Chinese, or Korean dishes.  Sri Lanka, India, and the Philippines are also represented. There’s per serving nutritional information listed.  It’s pretty basic information, but if you just want the calories, total fat, protein, carbs, fiber, sugar, and salt info (which is what most people want), it’s there!  There’s also general allergy information at the top of each page like nut-free and gluten-free.

The book is divided into these chapters:

  • Asian Slow Cooker 101
  • Rice and Noodles
  • Soups and Stews
  • Curries
  • Vegetables and Tofu
  • Chicken
  • Meat
  • Dessert
  • Side Dishes and Salads

 

The recipes I want to try most:

  • Mushroom jook (kudos to the author for using the word “jook” as it appeals to my Cantonese heritage)
  • Black bean sauce noodles
  • Pumpkin soup (has ginger, curry, and cream in it)
  • Lentil soup (Indian inspired)
  • Red lentil curry (Sri Lankan inspired)
  • Filipino chicken curry
  • Simmer pumpkin

 

The recipe I decided to start with was chicken lo mein because I was missing my mom’s version, and the book’s version sounded like it might be close.  It’s got chicken thighs, chicken stock, garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, white pepper, bok choy, shallots, red bell pepper, scallions, cornstarch, and store bought lo mein noodles.

Mess in place

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I made the recipe as closely as possible.  Ultimately, I had to cut back on the shallots and scallions, and replace the bok choy with napa cabbage.  I also had to make the noodles separately the day after making the sauce and chicken, because of time (but also because someone… aka me… forgot to pick up noodles earlier that day).

Chicken finishing in the slow cooker

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Overall impressions, the sauce is really good.  It’s a bit salty on its own, but once mixed with the noodles, it’s perfect.  It does remind me of something my mother might make. The chicken was also really good.  I’ve made some Asian inspired sesame and garlic chicken in the slow cooker before that I wasn’t totally won over by.  This one? I’m happy to make it again in the future.

But!!! There’s a lot of sauce and noodles in this recipe!  I think I could scale down both and up the amount of veggies.  That’s just me nitpicking, and me trying to cut down on the amount of simple carbs I eat.  For other people, the sauce-chicken-veggie ratio might be perfect. I’m not that person though.  I ended up adding more veggies as I needed to when I ate a serving. And because it made a lot, it was a good meal prep option for dinner this past week.

I am definitely recommending this book if you want to make more Asian flavored dishes and/or want to experiment with your slow cooker.  I was more than satisfied with my first recipe attempt.

(Sorry I don’t have a flip through video of this cookbook – the copy I have is a .pdf file, not a hard copy.)

Disclaimer – I received this book from Rockridge Press for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Tiny House Cooking, a cookbook review

I have a fascination with tiny houses and the tiny house movement.  I’m not the only one. My brother-in-law and I have lofty plans to build a tiny house in the Berkshires.  Maybe it’ll happen. Most likely it won’t. But it’s still fun to dream.

As such, I was excited to get a chance to flip through ‘Tiny House Cooking: Satisfying Meals with Minimal Equipment’ by Adams Media and Forward by Ryan Mitchell.  I wasn’t sure what the recipes were going to be. I thought, in addition to stove top only recipes, that the recipes might also use a scaled back number of ingredients.

It turns out that the recipes are all scaled for about two servings.  Some recipes have a long ingredient list, I think the most was 16 ingredients?  But that was including salt and pepper, so you could argue that it’s more like 14 ingredients.  The recipes are fairly varied, and nothing looks intimidating. The book is broken up into these sections:

  • Cooking in a Tiny House
  • Breakfast and Brunch
  • Sandiwches
  • Appetizers and Snacks
  • Soups
  • Salads and Dressings
  • Side Dishes
  • Chicken Main Dishes
  • Beef and Pork Main Dishes
  • Fish and Seafood Main Dishes
  • Pasta, Beans, and Rice
  • Desserts

 

Some of the recipes I want to try in no particular order are:

  • Japanese-Italian Angel Hair Pasta
  • Cavatelli with White Beans and Arugula
  • Scallop and Corn Saute
  • Chicken and Black Bean Stew
  • Chicken and Ricotta Polpette
  • Warm Spinach Salad with Deviled Egg Croutons
  • Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup

Peanut butter and chocolate chip pancakes

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But for now, I’ve only made the peanut butter and chocolate pancakes.  In general, I like pancakes but I hate making them at home because it takes forever to make a stack of pancakes.  I’ve made a couple of small batch recipes that I didn’t really like, but to be fair I think they were were all super-duper healthy pancakes.  This one is fairly straightforward and almost ordinary. I like the addition of peanut butter and chocolate chips, but I think I might try to up the amount of peanut butter next time or maybe play with using peanut butter powder.  (I love peanut butter! My whole childhood was filled with a lot of plain peanut butter sandwiches because I was such a picky eater.)

My pancakes look nothing like the book’s photo, but I realized afterward that the chocolate chips in the photo were not cooking in the pancakes to make them look prettier.  That’s cheating! lol! However, the amount of pancakes was perfect for my level of pancake-making-impatience, and flavor-wise were quite satisfactory.

So, I’m happy to say that this book is staying on the bookshelf right now.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Simon and Schuster, Inc. for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Flavor Bombs by Adam Fleischman, a cookbook review

Sometimes I don’t know how to review a book.  You might be thinking “that’s stupid” or “you write reviews often, most of the time positive reviews, so just say something positive.”  There is truth to that last statement, but the reality is that I try to review books that I feel fairly certain I am going to instantly like.  

COVER_Flavor Bombs

My current conundrum is “Flavor Bombs: The Umami Ingredients That Make Taste Explode” by Adam Fleischman, with Tien Nguyen.  The premise of the book is to build up an “umami pantry” and cook delicious recipes with those ingredients. The book is broken down into these chapters:

  • The Basic Pantry
  • The Umami Pantry
  • Umami Sidekicks
  • Umami Master Recipes
  • Basics and Condiments
  • Apps and Little Meals
  • Soups and Salads
  • Mains
  • Sides
  • Drinks and Desserts

The good?  The chart with umami ingredients is useful.  I hadn’t realized that umami was broken down to glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate.  I thought it was just glutamate (hence, monosodium glutamate aka MSG).  And I like that the recipes themselves are varied.  Here are the recipes that I would love to eat:

  • Roasted fingerling potatoes stuffed with smoked trout mousse
  • Nontraditional umami-spiked chowder
  • Five minute pork-conquered salad
  • Koji-porcini resting sauce
  • Chicken confit with dirty farro
  • Puerto Rican mofongo
  • Fancy make-ahead restaurant sauce
  • Sweet and savory brisket
  • Umami’d fregola sarda
  • Matcha magic cake

The bad for me (but not necessarily for you)?  A lot of these recipe require making the master recipes ahead of time.  There are just three master recipes: umami master dust, umami master sauce, and umami ketchup.  But that does mean that I’m either doing some planning or doing a weekend project. I meal prep my meals on the weekend so I am less inclined to throw in a weekend cooking project on top of my regular meal prepping.  The other minor gripe I have is sourcing the ingredients, specifically powdered soy sauce, truffles, and truffle honey. I’d probably look for substitutions or skip altogether, which will change the flavor of the end product some.

(Oh, one last issue but this one is purely from an aesthetic standpoint.  The pages have a black background. It’s going to look grimy quickly if your hands are not dry and clean.  I’ve had this book for less than a week, and I can see fingerprints on a number of pages already. lol!)

As for recipe testing, I settled on making the midnight garlic noodles.  I felt that the recipe was a good representation of the book without feeling overwhelming.  The two items that needed prep ahead were fairly hands off: burnt miso and garlic confit. Otherwise, it was pretty easy to put together requiring noodles or pasta, shio koji (which I am weird enough to have), butter, black pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano if you have it (which I am weird enough to not have).

Burnt miso (on purpose)… not very photogenic

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Garlic confit in progress

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How did it taste?  It was good.

Was it good enough to make the recipe as is again?  Eh, no, not really. I think if I make it again, I’ll take the lazy way out with regular ol’ miso and roasted garlic.  Or if I insist on the burnt miso, I can pop in a garlic head in the oven at the same time to make roasted garlic without using more effort or resources.  The burnt miso smelled fantastic as it baked, so I’m not hating it. (But I do feel bad for the parts of miso that burned as it’s not useable.  It seems like such a waste.)  And garlic confit can be used for other applications, so I am not necessarily hating on it either.  But as I said earlier, I’m mostly cooking to feed myself properly. I’m generally inclined prefer recipes that taste good without too much effort.  (P.S. I also served the sauce with some rotisserie chicken and plain asparagus on another night.  I think that was more interesting than serving it on noodles/pasta.)

Noodles dressed in miso garlic sauce

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So, in the end, if you’re more of a functional cook like me, you may not want this book.  If you’re a cooking enthusiast, I can recommend this book, and I think you’ll find it to be fun and adventurous.  

Disclaimer – I received this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Breakfast with Beatrice, a cookbook review

I have delusions of grandeur when it comes to breakfast.

I want ricotta on challah toast (or fresh fig jam and mascarpone, if I’m at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge).  I want eggs with pepperjack cheese and avocado slices. Oooh, or something I’ve been meaning to do – seared scallops with bacon, fried egg, and grilled tomatoes.  (Yes, I am influenced by Sorted Food youtube videos.)

In a similar vain, I have ambitious plans of questionable achievement when it comes to cooking/baking Nordic foods.  Either I’m subconsciously addicted to Ikea (which probably would be true if I lived closer to one) or I’ve watched too many videos featuring Magnus Nilsson and Rene Redzepi (this is definitely true).

The reality is that I meal prep my breakfasts most of the time, and I want something quick to put together.  Lately, I’ve been making the same baked oatmeal recipe for a few months now.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not on the lookout for new ideas.  Let’s be honest – it’s only a matter of time before I hit baked oatmeal fatigue.

When I saw the cover of “Breakfast with Beatrice” by Beatrice Ojakangas, I was intrigued.  The cover has minimalist but colorful Scandinavian inspired kitchen illustrations.  The tag line under the title says “250 recipes from sweet cream waffles to Swedish farmer’s omelets.”   It sounded like it had variety.  It had the word Swedish in it.  It was 250 recipes.  What’s not to like?

#cookbook #breakfast #beatriceojakangas #food #recipe

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First impressions?  This cookbook is old school.  There are literally no photos.  It’s a straightforward recipe book.  Some recipes have a short introduction, but many don’t have any commentary.  (For the record, some of my favorite cookbooks are ones without any photos… Kathy Farrell-Kingsley’s “The Big Book of Vegetarian” comes to mind.  Substance is more important than appearance.)  

Before this book, I hadn’t heard of the author before.**  While her culinary heritage is Scandinavian, Beatrice Ojakangas is from Minnesota where she still lives.  There are many recipes that aren’t Nordic. In addition to recipes like hätäleipä, and cream cheese and salmon smørrebrød, be prepared to find recipes like Tex-Mex strata, beignets, colonial brown bread muffins, and old Virginia cheddar biscuits.  According to the book’s introduction, she “selected many of [her] favorite breakfasts for Breakfast with Beatrice.” 

(** Hilariously, I should have been familiar with the author’s name.  I own one of her other books, “The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever.”)

The book is broken down into these sections:

  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Savory breakfast and casserole dishes (smørrebrød and porridge recipes are filed here)
  • Pastries and coffee cakes
  • Breakfast breads (has both yeasted breads and quick breads)
  • Muffins, biscuits, and scones
  • Smoothies, jams, and preserves (FYI, there is just one smoothie recipe)

 

Normally, this is the part of the post where I like to list the recipes that I’m particularly interested in making.  However, I’m not going to, because I’m not sure that there’s a recipe in the book that I don’t want to make.  In general, these recipes aren’t trendy. They aren’t ingredient crazy or meant for a large weekend project.  Instead, they sound like the kind of recipes you inherit from a beloved family member or recipes you have fond memories of. 

I had trouble picking out a recipe test out… too many sounded delicious. I originally thought about making the wild rice and blueberry muffin recipe, but I didn’t have any wild rice in my pantry and was unwilling to buy some.  (Note to self, clean out your pantry so that you can do things like buy wild rice without feeling bad about it.)  I eventually settled on the yogurt nut brown bread recipe, which only has 8 ingredients: rye flour, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, plain yogurt, light molasses, and chopped nuts.  I don’t keep whole wheat flour in my kitchen because I’m convinced that most commercially available whole wheat flour doesn’t taste very good, so I subbed with spelt flour. I also didn’t have light molasses but that was easy to substitute with a blend of regular molasses and maple syrup. Other than that, it was very easy to put together.  I didn’t need to break out a mixer for this. Using a whisk and a spatula was good enough.

Baking day! UPDATE – related blog post is up now!

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In the author’s own words, this bread is “compact, dark, grainy, and rich-tasting.”  It is definitely dense and dark, but I wouldn’t say it’s grainy even though I know that it’s made with whole grain flours.  I thought it was a bit chewy (in a good way) and moist. The molasses flavor hit my tongue first, but quickly gave way to an earthy flavor.  The more bites I took, the less I noticed the molasses. I ate half a slice with some almond butter, and enjoyed that too. I think this recipe makes for a great everyday quick bread, perfect for those times I want bread but am too impatient to work with yeast.  

Later this week, I think I’ll see how it pairs with other foods like eggs, ham, or cheese.

Overall, I’m quite delighted by my initial results.  I look forward to working more from this book.  If you’re someone who loves cooking/baking, and doesn’t need to be bedazzled by fancy pictures, I wholeheartedly recommend “Breakfast with Beatrice.”  

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from University of Minnesota Press for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Reference Links:

http://beatrice-ojakangas.com/

https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/breakfast-with-beatrice

Because I wasn’t making it up, Sorted Food’s Full English Breakfast video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1DTeah8YAs

 

Sometimes, it’s ok to call it quits

In a perfect world, I’d be experimenting with sourdough breads regularly.  I’d create boules of beauty, and share them with friends and family.

However, this isn’t a perfect world.  A handful of close friends are gluten free.  I rarely get to share the things I cook and bake because I’ve messed something up just enough that it doesn’t feel fit for sharing, or I’m just make enough food for myself for the week.  At the end of the day, I’m just feeding myself.

I do make bread on occasion.  I even had a rye sourdough starter going for over a year.  But those two statements?  Rarely done at the same time.  When I make bread, it’s usually with SAF instant.  When I was maintaining my sourdough starter, I was just finding ways to cook the discarded starter.  I was almost never making proper bread with my starter.  It even got to a point where I forgot I had a starter hanging out in my fridge.  I literally did not notice it in my fridge until about two months after its last feeding.

Even then (!!!), it took me a couple of weeks to finally toss it in the trash.  Some part of me hated feeling like I was giving up on a project.  But logically, it didn’t make sense to try again.  More so, because I have a place in a 10 minute walk away that does a wonderful sourdough.  I’ve started going there a bit more frequently because I absolutely love their sourdough pizzas, but you can pick up bread to take home.  I can spend 2-3 days making sourdough bread on my own, or I can spend $4 – $7 at my local restaurant.

Pizza at my favorite place #food #pizza

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It will do me more good than harm to recognize what I am willing and not willing to do.  If I didn’t live so close to awesome bread, I’d probably feel differently about this.  Or if I had a large family to feed, which I don’t.

But you know what they say: when one door closes, another opens.

Acid Trip with Gabriel and Michael (crosspost)

Acid Trip author Michael Harlan Turkell and La Bodega chef Gabriel Bremer recently visited Harvard SEAS for an off-season lecture.

Went to a lecture about vinegar #harvard #food #vinegar

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I was really hoping we’d get a chance to sample some Japanese sweet potato vinegar, but alas!  It was not meant to be.  The bottle meant for the public lecture broke in transit.

On the bright side, I was introduced to and got to sample Gegenbauer vinegar.  Gosh!  That was pretty good.  It’s meant to be a drinking vinegar/finishing vinegar.  I had a lot of trouble tasting the apple cider vinegar sample.  The agrodolce vinegar sample (I forget the brand) fell somewhere in between in terms of flavor and sharpness.

But we did get a couple of Gabriel’s recipes and a cooking demo.

The suggestions given for experimenting with vinegars was to 1) reduce the amount of salt and add vinegar, and 2) experiment with a favorite recipe and see what happens when you add vinegar.

No lie, I’m a little inspired to try cooking beef tongue.