Umami Bomb, a cookbook review

Umami…  One word with so many expectations!  Or rather, I tend to have high expectations when I see it thrown around.  The last time I reviewed a cookbook with the word ‘umami’ in it, I was underwhelmed by the recipe testing result.  Would “Umami Bomb” by Raquel Pelzel be equally underwhelming or will it pass expectations with flying colors?

The chapters are sorted by the main umami ingredient of the recipe.  The chapters are:

  • Parm and Other Aged Cheeses
  • Soy Sauce
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Caramelized Onions
  • Miso
  • Smoke
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Fish

What sets this book slightly apart from other umami focused cookbooks is that this one is (lacto-ovo and pescatarian) vegetarian.  For better user experience (ok, that’s the nerdiest thing I’ve said on this blog), recipes are marked if they are vegan, vegan-optional, and with a rating system based on the number of umami ingredients.  What makes this book possibly better than the other umami book I’ve reviewed in the past (based on appearance only) is how approachable these recipes are. Pelzel’s book isn’t asking for any specialty ingredients if you’re living in an urban area.  It’s not asking you to build a pantry of DIY pastes, seasoning, or sauces.  

And… there’s a wealth of recipes I want to try.  I just didn’t have time to make more than one in time for this review.

  • Killer Chocolate Cake (just because I want to put soy sauce in frosting)
  • Grilled Pan Con Tomate with Miso Butter
  • Tomato ‘Nduja
  • Sick Day Tomato Soup
  • Savory Mushroom Breakfast Porridge
  • Veg and Cornbread Bake
  • Falafel-Spiced Grilled Mushrooms with Miso-Tahini Dressing
  • Mushroom Gravy
  • Caramelized Onion Korean Pancake 
  • Miso Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Polenta with Smoked Cheddar and Kale
  • Eggplant “Meatballs”

In the end, I decided to make Toasted Sesame Granola with Coconut, Orange, and Warm Spices.  I’ve never tried using sesame oil in my granola before or fresh ginger. Or soy sauce for that matter.  I try not to meddle with recipes for review, but I had to leave out the orange for this. I forgot to pick it up at the store.  Another note, cinnamon is one of the ingredients, but Pelzel suggests smoked cinnamon if you can get your hands on it. And now that I’ve made this granola, I’m seriously considering sourcing some smoked cinnamon.  The flavors in this recipe are really bold, some of the other ingredients are sesame seeds, shredded unsweetened coconut, ground ginger and ground coriander. My taste buds couldn’t really taste the sesame flavors but the amount of saltiness from the soy was perfect.  For me, the main flavors were ginger and coriander so smoked cinnamon would have matched really nicely.

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Mmmmm granola

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Unadorned, the granola is almost overwhelming but I couldn’t stop eating it anyway.  (Isn’t that kind of the point of umami anyway?) But when I topped my plain yogurt with it, it was perfect in every way. Pelzel also suggests pairing it with chocolate ice cream so obviously I need to go pick up some chocolate ice cream, sooner rather than later.

Overall, I really appreciate how unique the granola recipe is.  It makes me excited to experiment with the other recipes.

The book doesn’t have photos for everything, but that’s ok.  The photos that are there are bright and appetizing.  I think the array of recipes nicely covers a little of everything from breakfast to dessert.  I also appreciate how approachable and functional the book appears to be.  It’s all very appealing.  I definitely recommend giving this book a try if you can.

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Workman Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  The book is released September 3, 2019.

Reference Links:

http://www.raquelpelzel.com/recipes/

https://www.workman.com/

 

Six Ingredients with Six Sisters’ Stuff, cookbook review

Cookbooks advertising minimal ingredient lists can really go either of two ways, right?  Either it’s minimal with little commercial products, or it’s heavy on the commercial products.  So, I didn’t know what to expect from “Six Ingredients with Six Sisters’ Stuff,” the latest book from sixsistersstuff.com.  I’m slightly acquainted with the recipe material they’ve posted on their website, but I’ve never done a deeper dive. Their website has a large collection of recipes but I guess I just never came across anything that really grabbed my attention.

The chapters in this book are pretty straight forward:

  • Main dishes
  • Side dishes
  • Desserts

… and that’s it.

First impressions of this book?  The recipes are about 50% commercial product involvement and, of that, I think it’d be pretty easy to replace the commercial product with something homemade if preferred.  Just a barometer of what to expect, there are 7 mentions of taco seasoning, 4 mentions of Italian seasoning (not to be confused with Italian dressing mix which is also used in the book), 3 mentions of canned cream of soup, and 6 mentions of bbq sauce.  (Yes, I tried to tally. No, I did not re-count and verify.) So, that’s not so bad. And it’s not as if I’m anti-commercial products. I just don’t keep this stuff around with the exception of bbq sauce.

A handful of the recipes use more commercial products.  For example, the 5-ingredient turkey meatloaf uses Stove Top Stuffing Mix, and Lipton Onion Soup mix.  But then, there’s a recipe for lemon and dill salmon that is simply salmon, salt and pepper, butter, lemons, garlic, and fresh dill.  

Here are some recipes that I may try in the future:

  • Avocado Chicken Bites
  • Savory Slow-Cooker Turkey Breast
  • Turkey Tenderloins and Asparagus
  • Grilled Mediterranean Pork Kabobs
  • Pesto Salmon
  • Mushroom and Garlic Quinoa Bake
  • Easy Homemade Rolls

For this review, though, I went with the Smoky Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork which uses a lot of liquid smoke.  (Like half of the bottle of fancy liquid smoke that I got from HomeGoods that one time.) This recipe uses paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, liquid smoke, pork shoulder, and bbq sauce.  The bbq sauce isn’t used during the cooking process, as it’s more for serving, so I didn’t worry about not having the full amount of bbq sauce. Everything else, I had in my pantry, and pork shoulder was on sale at one of my local markets so score!

Now, I may not sound overly excited for the book (that’s not a long list of recipes above that I want to try), but this pulled pork recipe?  IT’S FANTASTIC!

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Pulled pork ☺

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I kind of feel like the whole book was worth the pulled pork recipe.  I’ve used smoked paprika in the past to try to get some smoke flavor, but I never thought to douse meat with liquid smoke before.  I’ve certainly used liquid smoke before, but I’ve always been conservative about the amount used.  

For a pork shoulder that wasn’t actually slowly smoked, it’s a brilliant indoor version.  My only gripe is that the recipe says to “use a generous amount of salt and ground black pepper, up to 4 teaspoons each.”  I used 2 teaspoons each, and it was plenty. (I was using about 3.5 lbs boneless pork shoulder.) I think any more salt or any more pepper would have made the pulled pork less enjoyable.  

I served it with Trader Joe’s Organic Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce because that’s what I had on hand, but I think I would have been perfectly happy with just the liquid in the slow cooker.

Zero regrets, people!  And now I have delicious pulled pork for dinner all week.

So, I recommend this book with some reservations.  Your cooking style is going to determine how much use you get out of this cookbook, but I think there are, for me, a couple of hidden gems.

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Shadow Mountain for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  The book is released September 3, 2019.

Reference Links:

https://sixsistersstuff.com

https://shadowmountain.com/product/six-ingredients-with-six-sisters-stuff/

 

Rustic Joyful Food, cookbook review

This week, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing “Rustic Joyful Food, My Heart’s Table” by Danielle Kartes.  I can’t lie. I was really interested in the book for 1) the cover photo and 2) the title. The cover photo is of a ham and brie sandwich with green apple and mustard.  And it just so happens that one of my favorite sandwiches to pick up when I’m on the go is a turkey sandwich of similar construction. As for the title, it neatly compacts my feelings about good food and cooking.

Diving right in, the book is divided into these chapters:

  • Pantry Staples
  • Appetizers
  • Salads and Side Dishes
  • Soup’s On
  • The Main Dish
  • To Drink
  • Sweets
  • Simple and From Scratch

Many of the recipes from the Main Dish chapter that I originally thought about testing for this review didn’t happen this week because they felt more like cooler weather recipes.  There were also several recipes from the dessert chapter that I nixed for this review only because I’ve consumed a lot more sugar in the last few weeks than I normally do. (I made a layered birthday cake for a friend a couple of weeks ago.  I ate a lot during an overnight trip to NYC last week. Gotta live life a little after all.)

But just because I didn’t test them out, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to mention them.  Here’s a list of recipes that I really want to make when autumn arrives:

  • Beef Barcelona Stew
  • Roasted Tomatillo Chile Verde
  • Sister’s Turkey Minestrone
  • Perfect Braised Chuck Roast
  • Spanish Style Braised Chicken
  • Almond Butter Brownies
  • Banana Bread Made with Greek Yogurt and Pepitas
  • Perfect Apricot and Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies
  • Buttermill Vanilla Pound Cake
  • Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Coconut Custard Macaroons
  • Frangipane Jam Tart
  • Plum Preserves

As for the recipe I did test… Surprise!  There were three:

  • Spicy Baked Hominy
  • Turkey and Chickpea Greek-Style Pitas with Dill Yogurt Sauce
  • Quick Balsamic and Tomato Jam

I had originally picked the baked hominy as the only recipe I was going to make but it was so simple that I thought it wasn’t fair of me.  Overall, I liked this, but I think I’ll cut back the salt next time. I’m not sure if it was the salt I used, the brand of canned hominy I used, or both, but it was just really salty to me.  (I don’t cook with a lot of salt day-to-day, to be honest.) I couldn’t get it to bake up crispy so I might play around with the oven temperature and baking time next time. Having said that, I found that it made for a pretty tasty sandwich filling.  I ate most it on bread with cheese, and I liked it that way.

So for a second recipe, I went with the Turkey and Chickpea Greek-Style Pitas with Dill Yogurt Sauce.  As you can tell by my photos, I was using bread that was too small. (Ok, I can’t lie. I used toaster sized naan instead of pita.  I’m slowly making my way through breads that I’ve stored in my freezer. I refuse to make or buy more bread until the current stock is used up.)  My patties didn’t look as nice as the photo and I realized later that I technically used too much chickpeas (my fault for reading the ingredient list too fast), and so my patties crumbled too easily.  Having said that, I’ll probably make it the exact same way next time as I hate having unused chickpeas around. It didn’t affect the flavor at all. With my leftover patties, I tried a plating of cabbage instead of bread.  Delicious either way! And it’s easy. You’re making patties with ground turkey, mashed chickpeas, egg, black pepper, garlic powder, salt, and onion powder. The dill sauce is easy too, just Greek yogurt, dill, milk, black pepper, garlic powder, salt, and onion powder.  

Not in the mood for a dill yogurt sauce?  Not a problem. When I was sitting down to write this review, I noticed a recipe for balsamic and tomato jam toward the back of the book.  I had all the ingredients (there’s only 3 main ingredients, not including salt and pepper), and the sudden motivation to cook at 9:00p on a work night.  It smelled a~mazing when it was done. Since it was an impulse cooking session, I wasn’t sure what to serve it with. In the end, I tried some on a turkey chickpea patty.  I have no regrets, and I think you should try it too.

My overall impression is that this book is a great collection of well crafted and functional recipes.  I highly recommend giving them a go.

One last item to address is that the introduction chapter has faith-based commentary in it.  If that’s not your thing, simply skip the intro.  

 

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

Reference Links:

http://www.rusticjoyfulfood.com/

https://www.instagram.com/rusticjoyfulfood/

https://www.sourcebooks.com/