Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cookbook Review: Without Reservations


I know I'm not alone here. Getting a new cookbook is like receiving an un-birthday present.

I get the book, and I grab a pack of sticky tabs. I run through the recipes, affixing a tab to each page that catches my fancy. I have hundreds of cookbooks that are sprouting neon colored rectangles.

I have noticed, lately, that I've become a bit more discerning with tabs. I still get that 'thrill', but it's possible I've seen one recipe too many. So these days, I have to really like it, really be impressed, to pull off that pink or green piece of self-adhesive.

When I got my hands on a copy of Without Reservations by Joey Altman, I prepared for the usual routine.

New pack of sticky tabs, a little 'me' time, and off we go.

This is a well laid-out book. Easy to read, easy to find things...and while not every recipe has a photo, there are plenty.

I went through every recipe, yet only found about a dozen or so that jumped up and down and yelled 'look at me'.

Like Chinese Chicken Salad and Grilled Steak Texarkana Hand Rolls, or Sweet & Spicy Watermelon Salad.

In the book's defense, there are a fair number of seafood recipes, which we simply do not do. Matt eats salmon, a little tuna now and then, but that's it. Until they come out with meatless fish sticks, no seafood for me.

I made three dishes. One was a big hit. The other two were really good. While I liked his style, I felt a bit of frustration at the recipe-within-a-recipe format. You know, you see a recipe you want to make, glance at the ingredients only to see that to make it, you need to first make at least two separate recipes. Second only to 'meanwhile' in annoying cooking instructions.

That aside, the results were pretty good.

Spicy Lamb Sliders with Cilantro-Cumin Yogurt Sauce

I get kind of icked out by dealing with lamb, so since this was for Matt anyway, it was all his to make.

I can't say much about this. I didn't make it, and certainly didn't eat it. But Matt? Really liked it. A lot. I mean, really a lot. The recipe makes about 20 tiny burgers, and he ate...oh, six or seven that first night. They were a happy left-over for lunch that week, too.

Onions, pine nuts, garlic (our usual replacement for cilantro) parsley are cooked up. Mint, oregano, cumin, chili powder and cayenne are added in.

Ground lamb, pork and feta are mixed up, the onion mixture is added, formed into patties and baked. Yeah, baked. Save some calories there.

Serve on small pitas with a sauce of yogurt, cumin, garlic & (see above) parsley. Marinated onions are part of it, but he wasn't interested.

Hugely successful, in Matt's opinion.

Joey's Huevos Rancheros

Matt is immensely fond of huevos rancheros, so this was an obvious choice for us.

Deceptively simple. I say that because this is one of those recipes-within-a-recipes.

Refried beans, tortillas, shredded cheese, eggs. However, it also called for a Ranchero Sauce and a Cumin-Lime Cream.

They, themselves, weren't difficult. It was just a case of 'one more thing...'.

Spread one tortilla with refried beans, another with cheese. Grill till cheese melts, top one with another, grill till crunchy (grill marks). Cut into wedges, top with the ranchero sauce, the eggs (calls for poached but I prefer them fried), and finally the cumin-lime cream.

Good stuff. Filling. Oh, man. Seriously. I could barely finish it. Interesting flavor combinations. Rich beans and cheese, spice from the sauce, tang from the cream.

Pimento Chicken (or Veat) with Piquillo Pepper Sauce

This is one I'd been looking forward to.

Chicken (or some meat substitute) marinates in a spice mixture of olive oil, garlic, paprika, salt, cumin and pepper. Bake (the recipe calls for bone- and skin-on thighs, which we have the worst time finding), serve with a nice sauce of garlic, paprika, piquillo peppers, toasted almonds, lemon juice and crackers ground up in a food processor.
It was a good sauce, but it was a quite a bit of effort.

Served with roasted potatoes and a simple salad, it was a good meal.

Without Reservations is a nice book. There's some really interesting options; some 'basic', others more exotic. I can't say it'll become my favorite, my go-to book. But there's still a good number of recipes with sticky tabs marking them...

You're invited to celebrate Blog Party's 3rd anniversary! Help make this a fantastic party, and bring your Blogger's Choice entries to thehappysorceress at gmail dot com no later than Thursday, 24 July. Hope to see you there!

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10 Thoughts for food:

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Jules said...

Good to see I'm not the only one who gets tab-happy when they get a new cookbook!

I love the sound of the dishes you've featured.

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Joey Altman said...


1st, thank you for giving my recipes a whirl and featuring my new cookbook in your blog along with pictures of your results. It looked to me that you nailed them!

2nd, Your comments where very good and useful. The "recipe within a recipe" is a frustrating aspect of dealing with dishes that have "components" that are made to embellish a dish and make it more "restaurant-like". I was hesitant to lay them out that way for the exact reasons you stated. But from a publisher's perspective, they're arguably not essential to the dish so should be listed separately as not to scare off a reader from a complicated recipe.

That said, I did stay away from any recipe that stated "Day One..."

I Enjoy your blog, thank you.

Joey Altman

At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Mrs. L said...

Yes, I'm a tabber too!

I have to buy this book by default. I met Joey many years ago before he even started cooking on TV (he dated a sister of a girl I worked with). I've kinda followed him ever since! Cool that he commented on your blog.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Melody said...

Ha! I just posted about all the tabs in my cookbook. And my many cookbooks.

But like you, there is always one more.

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Debinhawaii said...

I wish I had bought stock in the 3M company as I buy so many Post-its, tape flags etc. that adorn my books and it appears I am not alone. The recipes you featured looked good. I also had to laugh at Joey's comment about staying away from recipes sayng "Day 1" :-)

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Jules; I think those sticky-tabs are one of the greatest things to happen to cooking since the ceramic knife!

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Joey, thanks for stopping by!

I get how publishers work, my husband's dealt with them for years. I know there's a certain amount of the process out of the author's hands.

But I think it is a very accessible book, for both novice and experienced cooks...and everything we tried was good.

Btw; I do remember your show, Appetite for Adventure, from the early days of food tv...that was good stuff!

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Mrs. L, I think there's a growing number of us tabbers!

How funny...

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Melody, I know have piles sitting in FRONT of the dining room cookbook shelf, we've so desparately run out of room...

Yet I keep on buying them, sigh...

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Deb...oh, man, to be have been in on the ground floor!!

Like Rick Bayless's mole recipes; the black and the red, definitely factor in a day or two for that one.


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