Mighty Salads, a cookbook review

Wow, this post is a long time coming.  And by a long time, I mean an entire month because of shipping issues that were out of my control.  My Instagram account gets more regular activity than my blog (in case someone is interested), but that’s because it’s easier to post a photo than to collect my thoughts and try my best to jot it down in a manner that doesn’t make me sound like a rambling idiot. (Note, I am not always sure I succeed.)

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But about two weeks ago, my review copy of Food52’s Mighty Salads finally arrived at my doorstep.  People who know me best know that I don’t make salads much at home.  When I do make them, they are very simplistic.  My usual salad is arugula, tomatoes, and salad dressing.  This is not a joke.  My cooking in the last year has become about simple and functional recipes since I’m pretty much cooking every meal in advance.  In the last two months though, I’ve started to play the macro game.  (I’m trying to count my protein, carb, and fat amounts.)  And in playing the macro game, I’ve found that I’m terrible at it and often need inspiration.

I almost didn’t get Mighty Salads, but I found that other reviewer comments made me curious.  And I don’t refer to the positive reviews.  I wanted to know if I agreed or disagreed with the few negative reviews I found.  

The summation of the negative reviews I found is basically that the recipes were too complicated or used less common ingredients.  Really?

Here’s a sampling of recipes:

  • Grilled Peach and Apricot Salad with Kale and Prosciutto
  • Petits Pois a la Francaise Redux
  • Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Tomato-Cucumber Salad
  • Slow Roasted Duck and Apple Salad

Admittedly, I’m picking on the recipes that might sound less accessible based on title.  But here’s the thing: every recipe has a simplified subheading.

Food52 mighty salads

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Grilled Peach and Apricot salad with Kale and Prosciutto is essentially a six ingredient recipe if I don’t count salt, oil, and some bread to serve with.  The subheading is “sturdy greens + cured meat + grilled fruit + crumbly cheese”.  Petits Pois a la Francaise Redux?  It’s “charred greens + charred alliums + bacon + cream dressing”.  But what if you don’t want to pick out your own greens and alliums to brown?  Looking at the ingredients list, we’re talking about bacon, sugar, paprika, romaine lettuce, and green peas for the salad portion.  The accompanying creme fraiche dressing is mayo, creme fraiche OR sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice.  Creme fraiche could be difficult to get a hold of depending on your location, but, in the US, mayo/sour cream/buttermilk/lemons are pretty standard items at your local market.

Meanwhile, the lamb salad is broken down as “kebabs + vegetable chunks + herbs + yogurt dressing.”  And the duck?  “Fall apart tender meat + warm fruit + hearty greens + nuts + vinegar.”

When simplified to its basic building blocks, none of these salads sound that exotic.

What about in practice, how do these recipes turn out?

Well, that’s harder for me to answer.  I did “cook” from the book.  I say cook in quotes because I was strict about keeping to the amounts and ingredients for the Grilled Mushroom and Fig Salad recipe.  Here’s what I actually used:

  • 1 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • About half a bag of Trader Joe’s semi-dried green figs
  • About 4 cups of baby arugula
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese, amount unknown
  • Possibly two handfuls of regular almonds that I toasted

For the dressing, I actually kept to the recipe except for the minced shallots.  1) I got lazy.  2) I didn’t want onion breath while at work.

The original recipe was meant to serve 4, but my version was good for two lunches.  Overall reaction?  I liked this.  I should not have used Parmesan but I didn’t have time to pick up ricotta salata which was the cheese my heart really wanted to use.  (It was supposed to be Pecorino Romano but that’s not a cheese I use much.)  It was filling and good.  I wish I had marinated the mushrooms for longer than 30 minutes but I was assembling this salad at around 9pm.  And for a 9pm “OH MY GOD I NEED TO ASSEMBLE LUNCH FOR WORK TOMORROW” session, it wasn’t difficult or too time consuming at all.  (To be fair, I made the dressing earlier that day.)  Another plus for me personally?  Portabello mushrooms and cheese are decent sources of protein.

I will say that I have one issue with Mighty Salads.  I found some of the tips to be random.  For example, on the page for Freekeh, Fennel, and Smoked Fish Salad, there’s a “genius tip” regarding crunchy crumbled tempeh.  It give a gives a quick blurb on what tempeh is, and one method of cooking it.  It has absolutely no relation to the recipe on the page.  I’m mystified as to why the tempeh note is on this page.  And then I was mystified as to why there wasn’t at least one recipe that used tempeh, or at least mention in a recipe as a good substitution.

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So is this a perfect book?  No.  But I will get some use out of the recipes this summer.  It also doesn’t hurt that the photos in this cookbook are gorgeous.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Reference Links:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/536117/food52-mighty-salads-by-editors-of-food52-foreword-by-amanda-hesser-and-merrill-stubbs/

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/2114326/editors-of-food52/

 

 

Milk Bar Life (cookbook review)

I can’t lie.  I jumped at the chance for a review copy of Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi.  I thought Momofuku Milk Bar was a fun cookbook, albeit one that I was unlikely to ever bake from.  (Good thing it was a library book.)  Many of the recipes had more steps than I was willing to follow.

 

Milk Bar Life is a very different book, even though it’s still a bit quirky.  Actually, it’s very quirky.  There are many recipes that I’m unlikely to use, not because they are complicated, but because they’re not my thing.  At the same time, there are a handful of recipes that I really want to try out sooner rather than later.

The first section is dedicated to Hand-Me Down recipes.  Overall, they are very doable.  I’m eyeing the oatmeal cookies and the bread recipe.  Many of the recipes are very retro which just doesn’t appeal to me personally.  Examples?  The cocktail meatballs, the seven-layer salad, and the cheesy onions.

Of course, since this is a Christina Tosi cookbook, there is a chapter on cookies.  There are a couple of sugar cookie recipes, banana cookies, molasses-rye cookies… nothing with a long ingredient list like her compost cookie recipe.

The third chapter is supermarket inspirations.  It is, if you will pardon the expression, semi-homemade recipes.  Again, not really my thing.

The fourth chapter is filled with recipes that the Milk Bar staff has eaten during their breaks.  It brings me back to recipes I want to try like the tex-mex curried chili with avocado raita, or the jerk chicken recipe.

The fifth chapter brings us recipes that are quick to prepare but not all that healthy for the most part.  I really have to question the inclusion of tang toast.  It scares me a little?  haha.

The sixth chapter are “weekend recipes.”  They are recipes that take a bit more time and dedication.

The seventh chapter are cookout recipes.  It starts with lemon bars, includes a couple of delicious looking burger recipes, and finishes with a few cocktail recipes.

The eighth chapter is called “craft night/sleepover.”  I guess it’s more snacks and party food.  The jellies and jams sound really interesting to me.  I think blueberry miso jelly might be the first recipe I give a test drive from this book.

The final chapter is called “going out.”  They are recipes adapted from other restaurants.  I don’t think I’ll ever give the mac and cheese pancakes a go, but the arepas de pabellon sound good to me.

I’m hoping to make a couple of recipes in the near future but I should probably learn to stop making cooking/baking announcements.  I never get anything done in the time frame that I think I will.  But, let’s hope that I do.  And when I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/124929/christina-tosi/

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/233918/milk-bar-life-by-christina-tosi-author-of-momofuku-milk-bar/

First grilling session of the season

My brother-in-law and I grill together a few times a summer. We’re a bit too lazy to do it more often than that. Or maybe we’re just influenced by family members. My niece doesn’t like grilled food (she’s 10) so I guess there’s less incentive.

But July 4th weekend is usually when we break out the grill. I’m more experimental than the rest of my family, so I brought over my own meat to grill. BIL did some BBQ-sauced chicken and some teriyaki chicken. Meanwhile, I took some inspiration from “The Big-Flavor Grill” by Chris Schelsinger and John Willoughby. The whole book runs on the idea of “grill it, and flavor it afterward.”

I made pork tenderloin skewers, and then tossed them with the fresh herbs, garlic and lemon sauce recipe (the original published recipe paired the sauce with grilled chicken). My fresh herbs were oregano and tarragon from my garden. The original instructions has you keep the ingredients separate until you’re ready to toss but I don’t know why. I preferred dumping everything in a large mixing bowl so that I had an easier time bringing it outside.

Overall, we really liked it. I think my mom was the only person unimpressed but that’s only because she found the lemon juice to be too sour. I could barely taste it. I plated my pork with some stir-fried watercress (made by my mom) and some white rice. It was delicious.

I think I need a copy of the book for myself (I know… I have too many cookbooks) since the copy I was working from came from the library. There are lots of other recipes in the book that I would like to try before summer ends.

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