Cooking

How to Cook Like a Top Chef by Emily Miller

I'm a big fan of Bravo TV's Top Chef  (currently in its seventh season) so I was thrilled to get my hands on How to Cook Like a Top Chef by the creators of the show (foreword by Rick Bayless, text by Emily Miller, photos by Antonis Achilleos).

Top Chef contestants and judges from all six seasons, including Top Chef Masters,  take you through appetizers & sides, proteins, seafood, cooking with ethnic flavors, advanced culinary techniques, and desserts. Although the book is more or less organized around courses, it's slightly chaotic in structure (cooking tips and Q & A's with "cheftestants" and judges are  thrown in sort of haphazardly amongst the recipes), but I don't mind a bit. It has the feel of yearbook more than a typical cookbook, which makes it a fun overview of the past six seasons.

Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health

I’m a fan of the Moosewood Collective and own a lot of their cookbooks. Last year, I was given another entry to their line, Cooking for Health. I was pleased to see their fresh and easy philosophy of the 1970s had been updated for modern tastes. Never heard of Moosewood? Not everyone has, yet they were named one of 13 most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appétit magazine, and our own Sammy T’s seems to have drawn on them for vegetarian inspiration. 

Moosewood Restaurant began in 1973 in Ithaca, New York, back when vegetarianism was a new idea for most Americans. It was a popular place, and soon enough their dishes were gathered into a bestselling book. The listings in the first editions of the original Moosewood Cookbook drew a lot on established recipes that happened to be vegetarian and were adapted to be prepared easily with nothing fancier than a blender.

Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday

I love the rich, warm flavors of Mexican food, but trying to create anything more than a simple, kid-pleasing taco or Sundays at Moosewood’s tortilla casserole (a family favorite) has left me uncertain as to how to begin.

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

I've been following Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks blog for several years now, and although I doubt I'll ever become a vegetarian, I do turn to her blog often when looking for tasty, healthy recipes.

She started her blog by cooking recipes from her favorite cookbooks, and now she's written several of her own: Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to the Vegetarian Kitchen and most recently, Super Natural Cooking, a 2007 James Beard Foundation Book Awards Nominee in the "Healthy Focus" category.

Although many of her recipes use ingredients you might not normally have or be familiar with, most recipes are fairly easy and approachable. Her first chapter, "Build a Natural Food Pantry," helps to break the ice for those of us who might not be familiar with ingredients such as amaranth flour or agave nectar.

Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes

I bought my first grill last year and although I've learned how to get the coals going, I'm ashamed to say I haven't actually grilled anything myself.

That's all going to change, and I'm going to use Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes to help me get over my grilling jitters. My plan is to master grilling one thing this year, and it's going to be the burger!  Making the same burger over and over again might lose its appeal though, and that's where Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes offers real inspiration. I can grill until January and never make the same burger twice!

Flay's burgers range from the elegantly simple "Garlic Butter Burger" (using just butter, garlic, shallots, herbs and pepper) to the Cuban inspired "Miami Burger" (a take on the classic Cuban sandwich with swiss cheese, ham and pickles) to the "Oaxacan Burger" (dressed with a homemade mole sauce which includes chile powder, chocolate and maple syrup). It might be a good idea to give the arteries a break with the "Salmon Burger with Honey Mustard-Dill Sauce" or the "Tuna Burger with Pineapple-Mustard Glase and Green Chile-Pickle Relish." Speaking of being health conscious, each red meat burger recipe states that you can use 90 percent lean ground turkey as an alternative.

It's going to be hard to choose which one to make first!
Maybe the "Crunchburger (AKA The Signature Burger)," which is topped with potato chips and is the house burger at Flay's "Bobby's Burger Palace."

So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Krieger

I liked this book so much I put it on my Amazon.com wish list. (Use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature for a peek at the book.)

It's always a challenge to come up with new and interesting recipes that are quick, easy, and healthy. So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Krieger is a great resource for fast, nutritious meals, and I can see myself going back again and again to try new recipes or make a favorite. In this clip, featuring some of the recipes from her book, Ellie explains how a pantry stocked with some of her favorite basic ingredients can make a healthy, delicious, quick meal "so easy."

I'm familiar with Ellie Krieger through her "The Good Life" column which appears in each issue of Fine Cooking. I've never seen her Food Network show called "Healthy Appetite," but I'm sure it's good. I love that Ellie embraces the "lusciousness" of food and the enjoyment of eating foremost while gracefully incorporating a nutritonal approach to cooking. 

Southern Living's Farmers Market Cookbook

The farmer's market beckons us with spring's arugula, peas, and asparagus and continues its siren call until the fall's first frost. We return with bags overflowing with berries, new potatoes, sugar snap peas, and herbs to plant in the garden. Of course there are tried-and-true recipes that we fall back on each year to use up the produce, but new inspiration is always welcome. Southern Living's new Farmer's Market Cookbook is a great resource for "celebrat[ing] the seasons with fresh-from-the-farm recipes."

The cookbook is divided by season and then further subdivided by appetizers, beverages, main dishes, soups, side dishes, jams/jellies, salads, and desserts. The format is lovely, with beautiful pictures enticing you to recreate the recipe. There are plenty of recipes that employ such typical Virginia bounty as tomatoes and zucchini, but there are also more exotic subjects like mangoes and avocadoes.

Since we are at the beginning of summer at the time of this review, here are the recipes I plan to try in the next two months: Blackberry Iced Tea, Pan-Seared Trout with Italian Style Salsa, Gazpacho, Skillet Creamed Corn, and Summer Squash Casserole. We have peach trees in the backyard, so I think I'll try the Grilled Peach-and-Mozzarella Salad as well. The Tomato-Cucumber Salad should nicely take care of extra cukes and tomatoes from the garden. Then I can look forward to fall's scrumptious apple recipes. (See a selection of recipes online).