Olivia Dish

Archive for the ‘Cookbooks’ Category

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

In Cookbooks, Homemade, Sweets, Taste Tests on August 1, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At (my) Home

I knew from the moment I saw it that I would eventually buy the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home recipe book.

I’m a bit of an ice cream making nut, myself.

I’ve also been to Jeni’s original shop in Columbus‘s North Market.

I’ve been reading about this woman and the magic she works for years.

Maybe you, like me, expect homemade ice cream to be different from store-bought stuff–not as scoopable, say, but the flavor makes up for it.

Jeni has experimented–and studied chemistry–to fine-tune her recipes, so that you can have your flavor-packed homemade ice cream and scoop it too.

The recipes work.  Everyone says so.

But….do I like the ice cream?

I bought Jeni’s book this week. I thought the best place to start was comparing her version of fresh mint ice cream to the recipe I’ve worked out on my own over the years.

I had plenty of mint growing in my backyard, ready for Jeni’s Backyard Mint.

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Souffle to Lift the Spirits

In Cookbooks, Homemade, Paris, Sweets on December 20, 2010 at 9:01 pm
Saveur Souffle

A souffle to banish the "my car's been towed" blues

I skipped down the steps of the hair salon, tossing my mane and feeling saucy….only to discover that my car had been towed.

Well, that little boost to the spirits was short-lived. Now, sleek hair be damned, I was trudging over to pay off parking tickets I didn’t know I had, then walking to my next appointment, then catching a ride to pay even more money to get my ride back.

By the time I got home, I needed some cheering up, the sort one might get from a quality bourbon, or, yes! A dark chocolate souffle!

Souffles, if you’ve never tried whipping them up, are surprisingly easy to make.

As Mr. DeSpoon can vouch, I’ve been known in restaurants to turn to my dinner companion and say, “let’s skip dessert and go to my house. I’ll make souffle.” Within 30 minutes or so of getting started, I’ll  take a few eggs from the fridge and a couple of pantry items and deliver a precious puffed-up-but-gooey darling.

So, forget a sensible dinner. Tonight’s meal is rising in the oven even as I type. Take that she-whose-name-will-not-be-mentioned and 30 Minute Meals!

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Tart for Dinner

In Cookbooks, Homemade, Kitchen Equipment on September 22, 2010 at 11:11 pm

I'm quite sure I heard them say "bake me"

Pies take time to make.  But get carefree, dare I say even a little sloppy, call it a rustic tart (or as some do, a galette), and you’ve got pie without the prep time.  I’m not sure it makes sense. But I know it’s true.

I have to set aside a chunk of time to make an apple pie.  Time to peel and core and cut up the apples.  Time to make the crust, roll it out, weave the lattice top.

I enjoy making a proper apple pie, but I don’t always have the time to do it.

A perfect excuse to break out the apple plates.

Yesterday, I threw together a rustic apple tart, though, on a day when I was so busy I should have ordered Chinese take out.

What made that so quick while an apple pie takes so long?  It’s a lot of little choices that add up.

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Bigger than a Breadbox

In Cookbooks, Homemade on September 5, 2010 at 10:08 am

Taming the giant zucchini

My neighbor gave me a bag of fresh vegetables and at the same time, dumped a giant green log into my arms.

Great. An ancient zucchini. What to do with that.

I vaguely remembered my friend Whit DeSpoon talking about the giant zucchini of his childhood days in Italy: they’d keep one on the counter, cut off a bit of it and use it. Sort of sounded like the way we used a piece of cured meat in our eastern North Carolina kitchen growing up.

So I let the giant zucchini sit on the counter for a while. I eyed it. I tried to think of a reason to hack off a piece and add it to  a dish. Honestly, I didn’t want to risk ruining anything I was cooking.

I thought about tossing it into the garbage, but that made me feel guilty.

Plus this zucchini was so big, I thought it might climb out of my herby curby and let itself back into the kitchen with a “hiya, whoops, don’t think you meant to throw me out.”

This morning, I decided it was time to roll up my sleeves and have a go.

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Mushrooms Now and Then

In Cookbooks, Homemade on August 9, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Chanterelles, bacon and farro, oh my

It’s been a couple of months since my journey to Mushroom Mountain, and my patience is wearing thin. I have containers of mushroom matter sitting around my kitchen, but nary an oyster mushroom in sight. Under a tree, my inoculated shitake logs are about a month into their six-month process.

Shitake, wherefore art thou?

Fortunately, Mr. Whit DeSpoon showed up at lunch with a bag full of freshly-foraged chanterelles, just for me.

“They’re pretty dirty,” he said, scrunching his eyebrows together and frowning. I didn’t care. I couldn’t wait to clean and clean and clean them. I had mushrooms now.

I did have to clean and clean. I contemplated using the vacuum cleaner. Instead, I defied all advice and used ample amounts of water–a little less flavor, I reasoned, in exchange for a little less grit.

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My Scrappy Stock

In Cookbooks, Homemade on April 30, 2010 at 6:14 am
Zuni Cookbook

Serious about stock

I’ve always loved the story of Stone Soup, people adding a little of this, a little of that, and before you know it, you’ve got something delicious. Maybe the tea partying crowd would call it communism. I call it scrappy stock.

Most of my cooking life, I’d saved chicken backs and wings, then added carrot, onion and celery to make chicken stock.  A few years ago, I was reading Judy Rodgers Zuni Café Cookbook, and my ideas about stock came under challenge.

Rodgers advocated using not scraps, but a whole, fresh chicken (save the breasts). Yes, she acknowledged, it was extravagant. But she also writes, “ Chicken stock brewed mostly from bones, especially stockpiled, tired ones tastes dull to me and isn’t worth the trouble, or small expense.”

Who am I to argue with Judy Rodgers, I thought. I tried her method. It did produce a gorgeous golden chicken stock. No doubt about it. But it left me feeling guilty, wasteful, and food-snobby.

My friend Whit DeSpoon has an entirely different idea about stock.  His approach: the scrappier, the happier.

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Chickpeas Easy Peasey

In Cookbooks, Homemade on February 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm
chick peas

Lazy me--cooking these was embarrassingly easy

I had always been too lazy–and the cans too convenient. But last week, I finally decided to cook that bag of garbanzo beans in my pantry. It was very easy, I’m ashamed to say.

Yes, I soaked them–that had been one of the hurdles. Who could remember to soak beans? But I put them in water while I was making lunch; by dinnertime, the beans were ready for cooking.

That turned out to be no big deal either.  I remembered that some cable TV food guy recommended using the oven rather than the stove top, so I pulled out his first cookbook for the details.

I skipped all the flavoring, put my soaked beans in a pot with four cups of water and some salt, brought them to a boil on my cooktop, then put the lid on and transferred the pot of beans to the oven to cook at 250 degrees for about an hour and a half.

Chickpea perfection.  The smell alone was enthralling, a bit like bread baking. Now that I had a heap of beans, what to do with them? Read the rest of this entry »

Cake: It’s What’s for Dinner

In Cookbooks, Homemade, Sweets on January 2, 2010 at 11:27 am

Turkey cake at Publix

My friend Smilen Seychees and I were talking about Cake Wrecks. Smilen, a photographer, said “I’ve got to send you pictures of two cakes I saw in Atlanta.”

And here’s the ham

The cakes were fabulous—and kind of ridiculous.  And after watching Food Network contests, seeing how much people handle those cakes, I don’t want to eat them. My ideal is made-from-scratch, for eating not ogling.  After months of craving, I baked one to start the new year.

My mother baked cakes when we were growing up.  She let us measure the ingredients, handle the mixer, spread the frosting on the layers.  I am wondering now if I grew up in some kind of golden age of cake baking.  Cake had ceased to be a political issue that could send you to the guillotine.  Cake had not yet become the guilt-laden child-killer that is banned from schoolyards everywhere.

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Silver Palate Farewell

In Cookbooks, Homemade on September 1, 2009 at 1:56 am

Well-used, well-loved

Back in my early adult years, there were three books I went to when I needed to work out a recipe. The New Basics by Sheila Lukins & Julee Rosso was one of them.  I was sad to read that Sheila Lukins died yesterday.  It inspired me to pull out my beat up copy and try to remember why it used to seem so essential.

It’s been years since I’ve used it.  I still go to my other basics–The Better Homes and Garden red gingham notebook that was my mother’s in the 60s and something called The Woman’s Home Companion Cookbook.

But, at least to me when I bought it back in the 1980s, The New Basics was exactly that,  everything I could possibly need to know about then-trendy food.  Risotto?  Who stirred rice and made it gummy? Read the rest of this entry »