Friday, February 16, 2018

February 16, 2018 Let's talk about food

As you know, I enjoy cooking. This is because I enjoy eating good food that has been well prepared, at least most of the time. Sometimes what I cook doesn’t turn out quite right, but that’s all part of the fun of cooking, learning how to cook something, and playing with the ingredients. I have managed to pare down my selection of cookbooks to a handful, or two, of favorites, The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian see the 10th anniversary edition hereboth being near the top of the stack. 

There are always new recipes coming out, magazines like Bon Appétit and Cook’s Illustrated always having something appealing. We used to subscribe to Bon Appétit and had a lot of fun working with the recipes there, finding some new favorites and realizing that sometimes their recipes call for way too much olive oil. 

While standing in line to pay for groceries I notice the shiny magazines with their beautiful photos of luscious dishes with promises of this being the next best party dish. I usually avert my gaze and remind myself I have stacks of magazines at home with recipes waiting to be tried, my cookbooks and of course, the internet. Last year I fell for one, this one, with an amazing chocolate cake on the cover. I vowed I must make that cake for my birthday. So I shelled out the 10 bucks without hesitation and brought home the magazine. I must admit this was a good investment. There hasn’t been a bad recipe in it that I have tried and some we have had more than once. 

I did make the cake. Including the caramel filling, I had never made caramel before and it was a challenge. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour as called for in the recipe. I know better than to make that type of substitution, especially with baking cakes. But I had cake flour I wanted to use up, and really, how much difference would it make? A lot. The flour didn’t have enough surface area to absorb the moisture and didn’t raise properly. It stuck in the pan, the layers were thin and full of large bubbles. But I was insistent. I made the caramel, and spread it over the thin layers made by slicing the cakes in half. I watched it disappear into the cake itself. All those big bubbles were just holes for the caramel to soak in to. There were no layers of cake and caramel. 

It had an interesting texture. Very soft, not cake like at all and very sweet. The next day, after it had time to set up, the caramel became more like caramel and the whole thing was more like a dense, gooey coffee cake. Some day I may try it again, but without the caramel filling. Or I may just go back to a good solid cake recipe from my Cake Bible cookbook. 

looks just like the picture in the magazine!

get this at Trader Joe's

Further perusal of the magazine led me down another path. I always have a couple of cans of chickpeas in the pantry. They are a great staple to have and easy to toss in to a salad or soup, so I was happy to see a recipe using them in this magazine, Pasta e Ceci. Pretty quick and easy, especially with the pancetta cubes from Trader Joe’s. I always pick up a couple of packages when I’m in Tucson and have them on hand in the freezer. So with just a few simple ingredients of things typically on hand in the pantry and fridge I can whip up a tasty meal. 

If you like chickpeas, I also found this recipe, Kung Pao Chickpeas, which is delicious and vegetarian. It’s from The Splendid Table, a radio cooking show on NPR and you can also sign up for their email list and they send you weekly recipes and kitchen tips.

As for that pile of Bon Appétit magazines, well, I’m still lightening the load and most of them made their way to the recycle bin last week. I actually moved 10 pounds of magazines from Bellingham to Arizona 3-1/2 years ago. I figure if I haven’t opened one of them since then, it’s time for them to stop collecting dust and move on. 

Cook well and in the famous words of Julia Child, Bon Appétit!

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