April 01, 2012
The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs
Food52 is a food blog, but now is a cookbook, filled with recipes from different cooks. And I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. Almost all the recipes turned out fantastic, although there were a few duds. It is a higher end, tougher cookbook; but I think that it would appeal to a wide range of people.
To date (4/1/2012) I have made 22 of the 140 recipes within this cookbook.
This book is separated into seasons. Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring, based on the ingredients available during the season and the general theme of food. As said before, a good portion of these ingredients are higher end. So this isn't a budget cookbook, nor is it a quick fix cookbook.
At the front of the book is actually a bonus chapter, known as the test run that has three recipes. I haven't tried either, but they seem simple enough, although the one calls for an obscene amount of butter. They include a salad, pasta dish, and a dessert.
The first recipe in this section is the Summer Corn Chowder. This is one of the ones I've made and it was extremely good. The removal of the corn from the cob took a little time, but otherwise it wasn't a complicated dish to make. It just took a little time. The Blueberry-Coconut Muffins were also extremely good, with healthful ingredients, and were a quick mix to stir up. They'd probably be good with another kind of berry as well. Daddy's Carbonara was interesting, because of the use of eggs. But it tasted good and it didn't require a lot of prep work. I do think it could have used a touch more seasoning. A snack of Rosemary Thyme Pita chips was simple to make, although I found peeling apart the pita layers much more difficult than the book would leave me to believe. But they tasted much better than any pita chip you could find in a bag at a store. For cookies, the Zucchini-Lemon Cookies were very healthy tasting and almost made you feel like you were getting away with something even though you were having a cookie. Another dessert, the Simple Summer Peach Cake, was enjoyed by my coworkers, but it was kind of dry and crumbly. For another Zucchini Dish, the Zucchini Pancakes did not turn out well at all. I had an inkling at the beginning that they wouldn't hold together based on the ingredients and I was right. The taste was a little bland too. The Eggplant Parmesan was another one of those failed recipes for me. It was complicated to make and definitely not worth the time it took. It wasn't very flavorful.
There were plenty of other recipes from ribs, to fried chicken, to other things, and I definitely plan on trying some more of these dishes. They fit the Summer theme well and I imagine the vast majority of them are tasty.
I absolutely loved the Savory Bread Pudding. It was easy to make and with the mushrooms and gruyere cheese, it was definitely savory. I really enjoyed it. Continuing with the mushroom theme, the Creamy Mushroom Soup was delicious as well, although it was quite time consuming to make. A great snack was the Smoky Fried Chickpeas. They didn't last very long because they were so good though. I didn't really enjoy the Chicken with Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce. It sounded so delicious but was quite plain and took a long time to make. It should be forewarned that the Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies will keep you up all night if you eat too many of them. I speak from experience. I do have to say, as delicious as they were they would have been great with some dried cherries added in. The Southwestern Spiced Sweet Potato Fries with Chili-Cilantro Sour Cream turned out some fantastic fries, but the sour cream dip was not very good. I ended up using ranch dressing instead.
There's once again some great recipes I haven't yet got to try in this chapter. I look forward to some of the heavier meat dishes, like the Rib-Eye with a chocolate sauce. It just sounds intriguing.
Lentil and Sausage Soup for a Cold Winter's Night was exactly that. Perfect for a colder day. It was heartier healthier fare. It did take awhile to make though. Moving on to the Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli, I just wasn't impressed. The flavors, despite having somewhat bold ingredients, weren't very strong. The Creamy Sausage Stuff Mushrooms were easy to make and had a fantastic flavor. I liked the use of Asiago cheese in the filling.
I have to admit, there just weren't as many recipes that intrigued me in this chapter. There were a couple of seafood recipes that would probably be good. But I didn't really see the heartier fare that I expected. There also weren't as many desserts in this chapter either, as compared to the others.
The Chewy Sugar Cookies were not very flavorful, but they were easy to make. A great spring ingredient is asparagus, and the Absurdly Addictive Asparagus is extremely good. I loved the pancetta that was mixed in with it. It was even easy to make. Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream was also another wonderful dish. And again, east to make and a quick fix. The Maple Yogurt Pound Cake has been voted the best baked good I have brought into work thus far. It was just moist enough, and had great flavor. My mom is the connoisseur of Creamy Cucumber dishes, and the Creamy Cucumber Side is one of the best she's ever had.
I haven't tried too many recipes from this section yet, but I'm eager to. Since we're just getting into spring I look forward to trying more of these. Especially the Caramelized Pork Bahn Mi, it just looks delicious.
So overall everything in this book was very good. Its rare to find a cookbook that has every recipe turn out perfect or be tasty, so the few that aren't are acceptable. I do think that the expensive or odd ingredients might make it difficult to make some of the recipes, or turn more strictly down-home type of cooks off. Because some of them can be hard to obtain, and my family didn't even know what a good portion of them were (porchetta, Sriracha, etc.). So this book is definitely more of an adventurous culinary trip.
The layout of the book is nice. Despite having a hard back cover, it sets open easily enough. The recipes are easy to read with a large enough font, and almost every recipe has a picture. Some even have some preparation pictures the ones that are taken are quite beautiful and make the food look delicious. I do have to complain though about the way the recipes are sorted. Since its by seasons I didn't expect desserts, main dishes, etc. to be in separate chapters. But I at least expected them to be organized within the chapters themselves. This book had a week type structure, but I think it would have been better served to have everything separated by type of food within the chapters. I didn't enjoy flipping one page from a main dish, to the next to a dessert, to a side dish, back to a main dish, another dessert, etc. It just makes it harder to find things as I'm not one for really looking at the appendices or table of contents.
I do like this book, and its definitely deserving of a permanent position on my cookbook shelf. I plan to refer back to it again, especially for some of the recipes I have already tried, like the chickpeas and a few others. They seem to be good standbys with great flavor.