Milk Street: Tuesday Nights by Christopher Kimball, Little, Brown and Company, US $35.00, Pp 406, October 2018, ISBN 978-0316437318
Rose’s Baking Basics: 100 Essential Recipes by Rose Levy Beranbaum, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US $35.00, Pp 374, September 2018, ISBN 978-0544816220
All-Time Best Dinners for Two edited by America’s Test Kitchen, US $22.99, Pp 182, September 2018, ISBN 978-1945256622
Traditional American cuisine is heavily influenced by the flavorless Northern European cuisines where only heat and time are used to flavor the food. Northern European cuisines are as cold as their weather is. You realize this only when you look beyond Northern America and Northern Europe for your food. In many parts of Asia and Africa — and even South America — herbs, spices, fermented sauces, chilies, ginger, scallions, lemongrass, smoked meats, and fish make cooking quicker, easier as well as flavorful and aromatic. Other ingredients to make cooking easier and flavorful include the pantry staples such as harissa, tahini, pomegranate molasses, salsas, chili paste, and vinegar. In Milk Street, Christopher Kimball has shared his secrets how to make food delicious and flavorful and provides over 200 recipes. Kimball writes, “This quickly leads to a new way of thinking about dinner. Yellow lentils become one of the main courses. Fried rice is the ultimate fast food. Stir-frying goes far beyond classic Chinese recipes, as in ‘lomo Saltado’ (a Peruvian stir-fry of beef and tomatoes) or Vietnamese shaking beef with soy sauce, sugar garlic, and watercress. Quick soups are made with stale bread, garlic, water, and smoked paprika, or chickpeas and a soft-cooked egg. And, of course, there are endless variations on eggs for dinner, from frittatas to omelets Turkish scramble.” The delicious and flavorful recipes from ‘Vietnamese Meatball Soups’ to ‘Indian Special Beef and Peas’ [It is more of a Pakistani dish and can be prepared with chicken or other meat] to ‘Shrimp with Feta Cheese’ to ‘Thai Grapefruit Salad.’ With dessert recipes like ‘Brazilian chocolate Fudge,’ you will not miss out on great desserts. The recipes are not just delicious and flavorful, they are really easy and quick to make. Milk Street is for those who love to eat good food. These recipes may be coming from regions as far away as East Asia, but do we really have food we can American? You would be tempted to keep this beautifully manufactured cookbook in your living area but the right place for this book is in your kitchen. If you insist on keeping it in your living area, buy two copies — the first one must go to the kitchen.
If you love home-made food, the chances are that you may still be buying your bread from the local bakery. The reason is that most of us tend to believe that baking bread at home is more complex than cooking your favorite recipe. We may be baking our cakes at home from time to time; we tend to go to the local bakery when we need a cake for a special occasion. The reason is the same; baking a cake involves a more complex process than making a recipe. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Rose’s Baking Basics makes it easier and possible for you to bake anything at home like a pro, provided you follow the tips intelligently. Rose is an award-winning author of ten cookbooks. Let us remember that baking may be excellent for one’s disposition but nothing is more disillusioning than to have disappointing results after you have invested time and ingredients in your baking project. Rose gives what she calls “ten golden rules for baking” in the very beginning of the book. Rose asks her readers to not begin making any recipes before they have read all the introductory chapters. She asks the readers to begin the “Solutions for Possible Problems” part in every chapter introduction. To be well-prepared with their equipment, they should read the equipment chapter to see the basic tools (such cutting board, measuring spoons, and silicone spatulas) they will need. She suggests you segregate equipment prone to retaining odors to use only for baking, so that it won’t retain odors such as garlic or spices from savory cooking. They must use an accurate oven thermometer or the baking time range specified in the recipe so that the recipe is neither over- nor under-cooked. They should also carefully read the ingredients chapter to understand the importance of using the correct ingredients and avoid substitutions they have tried the recipe for the first time as it is written. ‘Make this Recipe your Own’ at the end of many recipes gives tested idea for substitutions if you want to experiment. A good kitchen scale is essential for making baking easier, faster and more reliable as you use the correct amounts of ingredients. Using the correct volume of flour is equally important. Excess flour will make cakes dry, cookies and pastry dough crumbly, and bread dense. When you mix ingredients, you should start on low speed with a gradual increase in speed. Most importantly, high altitude requires adjustments to ingredients and baking temperature depending on elevation. There are many recipes for baking delicious cookies, great cakes, pies and tarts, and a variety of bread. Additionally, there are also recipes for topping like “Whipped Cream,’ ‘Chocolate Curls’ and ‘White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.’ Rose’s Baking Basics is a very creative and accessible baking book that provides over 100 baking recipes. It gives detailed tips not only on baking but also on each recipe included in this book. No matter how many baking books you have in your kitchen, you must have Rose’s Baking Basics as it is about baking basics. These baking basics go a long way to make baking enjoyable and delicious.
If you are just a couple or if you want to cook just two meals for yourself — because you prefer eating freshly-made food — you will probably take a recipe for four people and cut it in half or a recipe for six persons and cut it into three. Although most people would think that cooking dinner for two is as easy as cutting a recipe in half but, in reality, the process is a lot more complicated than simply scaling down the quantity of each ingredient. America’s Test Kitchen has especially edited All-Time Best Dinners for Two for its fans so that they can prepare and enjoy their favorite recipes with the original taste. They have reenergized many of their favorite recipes from the ground up to yield two servings, especially for this book. The goal is to ensure that their for-two versions are as good as their originals. They have included something for everyone. The editors and chefs of All-Time Best Dinners for Two also share everything they learned about cooking for two from shopping strategies — such as how to buy just the right quantity of ingredients so extras don’t go to waste — to how best to outfit your kitchen, as we recognize that storage and counter space can be more limited in for-two households. They say that they discovered that a loaf pan was the perfect vessel for baked brown rice and that ramekins worked well for individual chicken pot pies. The delicious chicken recipes include ‘Thai chicken with Basil.’ You have many beef recipes to choose from such as ‘Beef Stroganoff.’ Pork recipes include such creative recipes as ‘Garlicky Pork with Eggplant.’ If you want to eat seafood, you have many options such as ‘Clams with Israeli Couscous.’ If you are a vegetarian, there is a lot for you too that like ‘Skillet Summer Vegetable Tamale Pie.’ If you are in a rush on a busy weeknight, nearly half of these meals take 45 minutes or less to prepare, with a lot of meatless recipes. All-Time Best Dinners for Two provides for-two versions of some of their most popular recipes by America’s Test Kitchen chefs. These finger-licking recipes are creative and profoundly inspiring. It is a very accessible and practical cookbook for couples or for those who want to eat fresh food.
America’s Test Kitchen is located in Boston’s Seaport District in the historic Innovation and Design Building. It features 15,000 square feet of kitchen space including photography and video studios. It is the home of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and Cook’s Country magazine and is the workday destination for more than 60 test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Their specialists test recipes over and over again until they understand how and why they work and until they arrive at the best version.