October 09, 2011
In The Small Kitchen by Cara Eisenpress
Recipes Tried (8.17.2011):20 of 100
Ah, another cookbook based off a blog. Filled with stories and anecdotes along with recipes. I should learn by now that these aren't really to my taste but I always hope that the recipes will be more than enough to make up for the other stuff I must sift through. I'm not going to say this is a bad cookbook by any means, but I won't say it is excellent either.
The two authors of this cookbook are friends, who, as they grew up, moved to college, and beyond took their friendship to the kitchen. The express their love of cooking, their mistakes and their successes. They also share dinner party tricks and tips and other sundry items and stories. I have to confess that I wasn't very fond of their stories; like most personal anecdotes I read in cookbooks its probably great for those who known them, but to the stranger it can be hard to connect.
There are several chapters including Getting Started, which doesn't have recipes but rather is a how-to and pantry stock of sorts. Next chapter is Cooking for One, which as it sounds is cooking for one. Despite it being named this however, many of the recipes could easily be shared, at least the ones I tried. I have tried the Peas for One, which was good but made quite a bit. The Spinach Pie Quesadilla, which really wasn't anything special which is the same comments I have for the Swiss Chard Frittata. The Yogurt Carbonara was quick to make but really not so excellent as well. The Soft Scrambled Eggs and Gooey Grilled Cheese Sandwich were both things that are pretty standard and basic to make. I did really like Phoebe's Pesto Panino and thought it had a great mix of flavors. In the soups range, I did try the My Mother's Garlic Soup which for the amount of garlic it had in it, had surprisingly little taste.
The next chapter focuses on Potlucks and has all sorts of dishes you can make and share with your friends (and drinks). It was a smaller chapter, but I did try the Fusilli with Pomodoro Fresco which had a good sauce but wouldn't stick to the noodles for some reason (could be my error). I also tried the Sexy-Ugly Onion Tart which was pretty good but could have been spiced up a little bit. The pie crust recipe that accompanied the tart turned out a really good buttery crust.
Cocktail Parties was next and as expected a lot of finger foods and dips enveloped this chapter. My first stop was the Noodles with BGSK Peanut Sauce that I absolutely loved but couldn't figure out why it was in a cocktail party section. The White Bean and Rosemary Dip I made was good and very popular at our family reunion, but at the same token the Black bean Dip didn't go as well as it was insanely spicy. There are some empanada and drink recipes in this chapter too that I can't wait to try.
Dating and Food came next and it contained an array of different types of foods for different types of the day. I haven't tried too much in this section yet, but the Plain Jane Pancakes tasted ok but didn't cook evenly even in my cast-iron skillet. I can't tell if the fault lied within my ingredients being bad or the ratio of ingredients being off. The Barbecued Lentils were surprisingly good and filling and definitely something I would consider making again. However I would have to give myself plenty of advanced notice as they were somewhat time consuming.
Brunch contained just what it sounds like, Brunch recipes. There actually aren't very many recipes in this chapter (5) and I haven't tried any of them yet. However, a couple of them are compotes and really, one is kind of a build your own thing so I'm not sure how to really define this chapter.
Giving was a chapter all about desserts. I made quite a few of them. The resignation brownies were ok but didn't have the normal consistency of a brownie. The Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies were crispy outside, chewy inside and had great texture, but were only average on taste. The Banana Chocolate Chip Bread was a good idea, but ended up being too sweet for me but easy to make.
The Dinner Party was one of the largest chapters in the book with a myriad of different food options. Most of them are pretty involved and while I would have liked to explore in this chapter more, to date I have only made one recipe, the Provencal Baked Chicken. Like the rest in this chapter it was very involved to make, but tasted wonderful. I can't wait to try more from this chapter of the book.
Leftovers sounds pretty self explanatory. But it's not. Not only do they give you good ideas to use left over foods, they also have recipes for basic condiments such as ketchup. I made the Pesto and it tasted like a standard basil pesto, which is not a bad thing. I also made the Chana Bateta out of several things that could be found in your pantry and was pretty impressed with it as well. It did take some time to make, but the steps were relatively easy.
One Year Closer to Thirty was kind of an odd array of comfort food. I regret to say I've tried nothing in this chapter yet although the White Cheddar Mac and Cheese sounds good as do the cupcakes.
The recipes overall were ok, to me a lot were bland and while I do like a healthy amount of spice in my food, I don't think my taste buds are that crazy. It seemed like almost every recipe I was adding something to it to give it a stronger flavor. The directions were easy to follow and produced what they should have. I guess I just don't really understand who this book is marketed to. Some of the recipes are so easy that it would lead you to believe it is for someone just starting out or learning to cook, but then the ingredients can actually be quite expensive (pesto anyone?) for a college budget or anyone on a limited income. I also don't see many people this age holding dinner parties either (and I am just out of this age). My next thought was that yeah its about their progress through life but to be honest, with the exception of a few classic cookbooks, there aren't many people who return to the same cookbook for a decade so it may not have the same effect on the audience.
This isn't my favorite cookbook but it's not one that I'd recycle either. There's a few good recipes that I would use again and there are a couple still that I look forward to trying out. I guess all I'm trying to say is that there are other books I'd choose before this one.
In the Small Kitchen