Mayonnaise probably isn't the first ingredient you think of when you hear the words "barbecue sauce." It might even be the last thing that crosses your mind (especially if you're not a coleslaw-on-pulled-pork kind of person). Yet the creamy condiment is, in fact, the main ingredient in Alabama white barbecue sauce, a tangy and sweet blanket for slowly grilled chicken.
Coleslaw and potato salad may be more famous outside of Southern takeout counters, but carrot raisin salad is just as common at picnics and potlucks. In it, grated carrots and plump raisins are mixed with a rich mayonnaise dressing spiked with curry powder.
Smoked ham hocks are a magical, transformative ingredient. The collagen-rich bony cuts of pork leg boast intense levels of umami and the ability to turn mere water into a silky broth in a matter of hours (a.k.a. pot liquor). Throw in freshly shelled crowder peas (a small Southern shell bean) to that cooking water, as Donald Link does in his new cookbook, Down South, and you'll wind up with a homey yet flavor-packed dish.
Down South hits all the major categories of a good Southern meal, from bourbon to barbecue to biscuits. Chef Donald Link manages to include classic dishes from all regions in the South while also keeping his eye towards his home in southern Louisiana.
Jeff Koehler wrote the cookbook on paella. Literally. So I was keen to try out the paella recipes in his new cookbook, Spain. His shellfish paella is based on a recipe from his mother-in-law, who has been making this particular pan of rice every weekend for close to 50 years; for a paella newbie like myself, it seemed like a well-tested place to start.
Jeff Koehler's fish soup from his new cookbook, Spain, is based on a classic dish from the island of Menorca. Traditionally prepared in a deep cazuela and enriched with saffron and the roe of spiny lobsters, this style of soup is fragrant and truly velvety. Spiny lobsters are hard to find outside of Spain and they have a sliver of a short season, so Koehler has shared instead a twist on the soup that can be eaten year-round, anywhere in the world.
Salt cod makes several appearances in Jeff Koehler's new cookbook, Spain. Some recipes use it for seasoning rather than a centerpiece, while others offer it on a plate with little more than olive oil. I wanted to strike a balance between the two, and chose to prepare a simple salad of salt cod, orange, and black olives.
My previous experience with empanadas consisted of individual hand-pies filled mostly with sweet ground beef and olives. But my perception of the savory pastries has totally shifted as of this week. Tucked into the tapas chapter of Jeff Koehler's new cookbook, Spain, is a recipe for a giant pie filled with slivers of paprika-marinated pork mixed with caramelized onions and peppers.
Miniature fried savory patties are some of my favorite small bites. I'm most familiar with hearty arancini and fluffy salt cod fritters, but I'll eat just about anything bite-sized that's served hot from the fryer. And based on the description in Jeff Koehler's new cookbook, Spain, Spanish croquettes offer something a little different.
Despite the popularity of tapas restaurants and high-end Spanish cuisine in restaurants these days, I've had surprisingly few new Spanish cookbooks cross my path. Occasionally I will notice Spanish influence, or else find chapter headings for "[insert alternative cuisine here] tapas," but these nods towards the country are less than satisfying. So imagine my delight when my copy of Spain arrived in the mail.
Roberta's chef Carlo Mirarchi cooks this chicken in two steps: he starts it whole in a hot oven before separating the legs from the breast and sticking it all on the grill. This (admittedly laborious) process results in perfectly cooked leg and breast meat, infused with smoke from the grill. Around the chicken are pieces of roasted Japanese turnips, buttery Savoy cabbage drizzled with maple syrup, and thin rounds of spicy black radish.
The pasta chapter in the Roberta's cookbook is primarily about fresh pasta. There are a couple of recipes that call for dried, but if you want to cook Roberta's pasta, you've got to be prepared to pull out a pasta machine. Carlo Mirarchi's basic pasta dough is egg-rich and a beautiful shade of yellow. It pairs well with countless sauces and fillings, and today we'll be braising a rich and meaty duck ragù.
Like the restaurant itself, the Roberta's cookbook begins with pizza, so we too will kick off our week with a pie. The Speckenwolf is a mainstay on their menu: a simple white pizza topped with paper-thin slices of smoky cured speck, creamy fresh mozzarella, earthy mushrooms, and sharp red onions. It's the tiny sprinkle of oregano, though, that totally makes the dish.
The Roberta's cookbook tells the tale of the storied Bushwick pizza-and-more restaurant from its ramshackle beginnings through its growth into more than just a hipster destination. It in there is a profusion of Instagram-worthy photographs that lend the book a creative and honest dynamic; it's just as much fun to read the book as it is to explore the food.
What did a rice-lover like Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo do to satisfy the craving once she switched to a Paleo (a.k.a. rice-free) diet? Started making rice from cauliflower, of course. Okay, perhaps cauliflower "rice" is not an obvious choice to anyone unfamiliar with the Paleo diet, but the bright white vegetable makes for a texturally similar dish to rice once spun around in a food processor for a few minutes.
Big, meaty entrées are the first thing I think of when I think of the Paleo diet. Think steak topped with bacon topped with steak, all fried in lard. The cowboy chili in Michelle Tam's new cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo, fits right in with those expectations, but it also wouldn't be out of place in any other omnivorous American cookbook.
This trio of eggplant, tomato, and ricotta cheese makes for a hearty, if not terribly exciting, twist on a caprese salad. Give the appetizer a Paleo twist, though, and the dish transforms into something far more interesting. Michelle Tam's recipe in her new cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo, pairs eggplant slices (coated in ghee and broiled) with thick tomato steaks, a balsamic and shallot reduction, and her own macadamia nut-based ricotta "cheese."
Nut "cheese" is not the first thing I expected to make from a Paleo cookbook. Most nut cheese recipes call for cashews; as someone with a cashew allergy, I have tended to avoid all dairy-free cheeses for the sake of safety. So I was pleasantly surprised when Michelle Tam's recipe for nut "cheese" in her new cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo, called for macadamia nuts. Mild-tasting, rich, and sweet, these round nuts not only fit into my diet, but they also seem like an ideal substitute for ricotta.
Despite my fanatical allegiance to grains, I'm willing to experiment with some Paleo cooking with the help of well-known blogger, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo. (Consider this week my equivalent of Kenji and Ed's vegan experience—except it's kind of the opposite.) Tam, along with her husband, Henry Fong, just released a graphic novel-esque cookbook celebrating their quirky approach to the popular Paleo diet.
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