Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Taste This!

I have been a cooking fiend the last few days. I serendipitously received a new cookbook on my doorstep last Friday. I generally read cookbooks like they're novels. I pore over them in the bookstore, thumb through dogeared pages among the racks at used bookstores, and spend hours gazing at recipes online. On rainy days I curl up with a cup of Tension Tamer tea and browse through a stack of cookbooks. I clip recipes from the likes of Cooking Light , Food & Wine , Cookie , Bon Appetit , and Southern Living, all of which arrive in my mailbox monthly. You know what? I never make a single recipe.

I use cookbooks, recipes in general really, as inspiration. I don't measure a thing and am fond of substitutions when the recipe calls for something I don't have on hand and can't manage a trip to Harris Teeter. I joke that I am the queen of "kitchen sink cooking;" I can muster up a great meal with a dash of this and a dollop of that, whatever lurks in the back of the pantry or in the bowels of the freezer are fair game. I consult a recipe just to get ideas for spice blends, cooking times, food pairings, or menu options. It is rare that I cook with a book propped open.

Until I discovered Taste This! by Gina Von Esmarch.

I was immediately drawn to the photographs. I hate when cookbooks don't have pictures. It must be a Pavlovian thing. I made three things out of Gina's cookbook over the weekend, improvising just a tish, as any creative cook is wont to do. Let me tell you, this is the first time in my life that what I cooked turned out exactly like it looked in the picture. I'm telling you, her photos could have very well been from my own little kitchen.

Here's what I cooked up:
Chicken Jerusalem, delectable shredded chicken and artichoke hearts in a wine and cream sauce served over rice. I added garlic and used gewurtraminner since I was plum out of sherry. In a rare twist, we didn't have leftovers. Deal even asked for some the next day for lunch. It's been only three days, and Mac Daddy is asking for this dish again. Sure signs of a family keeper, no?

Parmesan Crisps, sourdough bread coated in finely grated, you guessed it Sherlock, Parmesan. Butter, bread, cheese. How could one go wrong?! We could barely stop nibbling on these while I was dishing up dinner. D.I.V.I.N.E. Gina has these babies in the appetizer section, but they are so good that you'll want to serve them with the main course too. I put them in a cool glass bowl on the table so we could help ourselves as we enjoyed our meal. I stopped counting at five. Like I said, butter, bread, cheese. Can you blame a girl?

Needle in a Haystack, chocolate candy, 'nuff said. Pretty much the only dessert I can make without screwing up is instant pudding. But I mastered these on the first try. Who knew chow mein noodles and chocolate are long lost soul mates? We devoured these. The best part? So easy and fun to make with the kids! I used half chocolate, half butterscotch chips. I added unsalted peanuts, mini marshmallows, and shredded coconut. The recipe recommends raisins too, but you know how I feel about those wrinkled has-been grapes. This treat is going to be my go-to recipe for school room mom duties, holiday gifts, block parties, you name it. Delish.

Think I'm gushing? Here are some family testimonials:

"This is the BEST haystack I've ever had!" exclaimed Deal, age 3.

Commenting on said treats, "I know a way to get rich, Mommy. Let's make and sell these!" remarked my entrepreneurial, if not somewhat cheeky, Bird, age 5.

What's so great about Taste This! is that there is nothing chi-chi about it, no trips to the fancy food show to track down obscure ingredients. Easy, family friendly, fast cooking. No chicken nuggets or other such crap posing as healthy kid fare. These recipes are family fare. You know me, no cooking two separate meals for parents and children. The whole family eats the same meal; I am not a short order cook (no short jokes, please). This cookbook is great for a seasoned cook and a kitchen greenie alike. The Finger Lickin' Chicken is next on my list.

Oh, want to get your hands on this too? Check it out .

I can't wait to try more from this cookbook. I have a feeling it's going to be dogeared and sauce splattered very soon.
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Jen L. said...

Thanks for the link...what a great site! My husband and I were talking about haystacks last night! I've never mixed the butterscotch and chocolate, only done each version separately. Will mix next time. Sounds YUMMY!

Anonymous said...

Yum! Thanks for the link and the book! I LOVE cookbooks. Have tons and tons and love browsing through them and trying stuff out. Will pick this up next bookstore trip for sure!

Anonymous said...

Now I'm hungry.

Kim Moldofsky said...

I have this, too, and the review is on my to-do list. I might just send everyone over here and say, "what she said."

The book makes cooking seem so simple I wonder why I don't prepare fabulous meals every night. (Oh yeah, Twitter.)

San Diego Momma said...

YOU are my cooking inspiration (I live for your what's for dinner tweets), but I will consider getting Taste This! and adding to my cooking role model list.

The Chicken Jerusalem sounded awesome and I've always loved me some needle in haystacks.