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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cookbook Review: A Century of Flavors: Nielsen-Massey Vanillas


Spa Salad with Almond Vinaigrette

I've never really understood why the term 'vanilla' is commonly used to describe something that's safe or bland. Because in my experience, vanilla adds excitement & depth to just about anything.

When I received my copy of the book, and seeing the recipes offered by the folks at Nielsen-Massey, I knew the only real challenge would be my foodie OCD. Too many tempting dishes to choose from...and of course, I wanted to try them all.

It's a small but beautifully photographed book, with a good range & selection of recipes. Sweet & savory. Typically, it wasn't easy to whittle the down but I finally choose these three, starting with the Spa Salad.

The salad itself was light, as it's name suggests, with baby spinach, red onion, strawberries & sliced almonds.
It's the dressing, the vinaigrette, that really gave it some 'oomph'; mustard, maple syrup, vanilla & almond extracts, oil & rice vinegar.

The vanilla & almond went very well with the strawberries, which in turn pairs well with the spinach.

This was the only one of the three I tried in which the vanilla was present as a primary flavor, rather than an underlying enhancer.

Fillet Mignon with Vanilla Wine Sauce

This one...well, this one is going on the 'serve to company' short list.

A nice cut of beef gets seared & finished in the oven; that part's simple. But it's the Vanilla Wine Sauce that sends this over the top.

Beef stock, red wine, onion, marjoram, garlic, vanilla extract, tomato paste & brown sugar are simmered till reduced, then strained. Butter is whisked in till the sauce becomes glossy.

Thinly sliced mushrooms are sauteed in clarified butter till browned.

Steak, sauce, mushrooms...set it down in front of your guest & watch in amazement as it's literally inhaled before your eyes.

Matt made a lot of "mmmhmm" noises during this time. Eventually was able to tell me just how good it was.

Sauce was very smooth, very deep; complex but unobtrusive, so it went very well paired with a piece of meat you really want to emphasize.

And thanks to the advances in modern culinary sciences, I was able to produce both the original here & a veg version for Alex & me! (see below for Alex's plate!)

Using vegetable stock in lieu of beef, & half a recipe, even with faux beef strips this sauce was fantastic.

Vanilla Cashew Caramel Corn Crunch

Caramel corn; that's good stuff. But when you add some quality vanilla & perhaps some chopped cashews well...you can take your Cracker Jack & leave, thank you.

The smell alone makes you want to dive in, though it's best to wait till the caramel's cooled a bit...there's such a deep mix of flavors, a richness. Hard to stop eating it.

The book gives some basic ways to use vanilla, as well as some unexpected options. Whether showcasing or adding a layer of flavor, the Nielsen-Massey cookbook is a good one to have around.

Veg version, Morningstar Farms 'steak' strips replacing the actual steak.

4 Thoughts for food:

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Bellini Valli said...

Another excellent cookbook review. I suffer from the same disease of not being able to narrow down my choices to just onde dish. It says volumes for the cookbook.

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Mrs. L said...

That fillet sounds great, but it's the salad that interests me. I keep coming across salads with Strawberries in them and I've been craving one ever since!

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

BV; thanks!

It's not a large book, either...but there's plenty to try. Plus...vanilla! How can anyone resist?

At 3:54 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

MRs. L; I first tried a strawberry-spinach salad at a girlfriend's bridal shower...yikes...eleven years ago. I was skeptical at first, but wow...what a surprise. So, do try one. It's a neat combination. And here, with the vanilla in the dressing? Even better.


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