Archives for category: Celeb Chef
Mashed turnips, potatoes, and goat cheese with sauteed broccoli rabe and onions by Carmyarmyofme
Mashed turnips, potatoes, and goat cheese with sauteed broccoli rabe and onions, a photo by Carmyarmyofme on Flickr.

This is from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers but you really don’t need a recipe for it. Mash 1/2 potatoes & 1/2 turnips (or 2/3 & 1/3). Top with sautéed greens and onions. Eat.

Simple.

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Imam Bayildi, a Turkish braised eggplant dish

The Anthony Bourdains in the world can have all of the offal and nasty bits from the butcher shop, I’m here to conquer the vegetables in the world.  Although I am not a vegetarian (full disclosure: anymore), I absolutely love cooking and eating  fruits, greens, and legumes.  I like to eat things that make me feel good so a book like Veg, which is wholly about choosing and cooking vegetables, was bound to attract my eye.

When I saw Gregg Wallace’s book at the library, it reminded me of Russ Parson’s How to Pick a Peach, a book of which I am very fond.  Both are divided into chapters devoted to a particular piece of produce, and the authors give background on the items, explain when they are in season, which ones to purchase, how to store them, and a sampling of recipes.  I’ve found How to Pick a Peach to be a very useful addition to my library.  After all, I was putting eggplant in my refrigerator before I read that book and now I certainly know better.

I thought that Veg might even be a step up from How to Pick a Peach because of the absolutely gorgeous photographs throughout the book.  I picked out three in season veggies: eggplant, tomato, and artichoke, and some recipes to prepare them.  Wallace admits that the tomatoes and eggplants are actually fruits but doesn’t mention that artichokes are flowers.  I’ll leave it to others to debate whether or not these items belong in a book titled Veg.  The taste of the food is far more important to me.

Globe Artichoke with Tomato Vinaigrette

Wallace is a long-time BBC television chef, and Veg is a British book, so the vegetables are referred to by their European names: eggplants are aubergines, endives are chicory, zucchini are courgettes, chiles are chillies, and rutabagas are swedes.  Measurements are metric, with some conversions to ounces and cups.  The ingredient lists require an occasional dart over to the internet for word and measurement translations.

My first dish was a globe artichoke with tomato vinaigrette.  Instead of butter or aioli, Wallace argues that serving artichoke with a tomato vinaigrette is “much more civilised, tastier and better for you.”  Sounds fine to me, so I gave it a spin, but the results were just okay – it paled in comparison to a roasted garlic and wine dip I once made.  Part of it was the fault of the tomatoes: shame on Whole Foods for their absolutely craptastic tomato selection – it’s tomato season, dammit!  I also think that a warmed sauce would have been a better accompaniment than a cool vinaigrette.  Thirdly, there was not much kick to the vinaigrette.  Artichokes are so mild in flavor that I think they deserve a bit of oomph, and sugar was absolutely unnecessary in the dressing.  This dish needed some chile oil, ground chipotle, garlic, or something to make in less bland.  I could work with the recipe, but as is, I give it a C+.

Tomato Tart

Next up was a tomato tart.  This was quite good and very simple.  First, roll out some thawed puff pastry sheets.  Wallace recommends cutting them into circles but I cut mine into squares so that I didn’t waste any pastry.  Leave an edge on your pastry, spread with pesto, add goat cheese crumbles, then sliced tomatoes, some chopped oregano and rosemary, wipe the edges with olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes.  Uncomplicated and flavorful.  Grade: B+, and probably even better if you have some handsome heirloom tomatoes to give those tarts a little extra somethin’-somethin’.

I was excited about making the eggplant dish.  It’s a Turkish braised eggplant dish with such a delightful name: Imam bayildi, which translated to “the priest fainted” (presumably because the dish tastes so good).  It was quite a production to make.  There is over an hour of cooking plus prep time and the dish is refrigerated for at least 24 hours before serving.  Thoroughly excited about my dish before I sat down to eat it, I found that the results did not make me faint, or even swoon.  Once again, the food was just okay.  Was it my fault for following a British recipe for a middle eastern food?  Perhaps I should have sought a Turkish cookbook before my attempt on Imam bayildi.  This one was a B- at best.

Wallace and I must not align when it comes to our palates.  I kept expecting just a bit more from all of these dishes, and they certainly had the potential for more than the recipes delivered.  Maybe my love for spicy tastes has corrupted me against Wallace’s British tastes.

Veg: The Greengrocer’s Cookbook by Gregg Wallace.

Verdict: Shelve it.

Everything looked tempting, but there were some disappointments in the department of flavor.

Strawberry Fields Banana Muffins Forever

“You might think that muffins are for women, but you listen to me, motherfucker, muffins are for everybody!” — Coolio, from his cookbook Cookin’ with Coolio.

I made these muffins on Thursday morning, right before I found out that I was laid off from the library.  They were good muffins: the fresh chopped strawberry and banana keep the muffins moist and they are rustic and filling.  Unlike terrible box-mixes for muffins, Coolio actually delivers a recipe that feels classic and homey.  I will probably replace half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour when making these in the future, but that’s only because I’m a whole wheat kind of girl, not because they was anything wrong with the way these muffins tasted.

I have a soft spot for Coolio for the silliest reason.  When I was an undergrad, my college roommate had a dog named Buddy.   When Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage” was popular and often played on radio and tv, Buddy would jump around on his hind legs and it looked just like he was dancing.  He only really “danced” to this song, it was the damnedest thing.  My roommate and I thought it was so hilarious that we bought a Coolio poster and hung it really low on the wall at dog-eye level and told people that it was Buddy’s favorite musician.  Ah, college.

I'm-Gonna-Slap-You-with-My-Whisk Tomato Bisque

I just had to give the recipes in this book a try to see if Coolio was all gimmick or if the recipes were any good.  Yes, the book is 90% contrived posturing, but the food is good.  Basic, but good. You can view the man himself making these recipes on his web based cooking show.

My husband and I put on a mix of old-school rap the night we made the recipe for I’m-Gonna-Slap-You-with-My-Whisk Tomato Bisque.  The cookbook is fun, so we had fun with it.  There’s nothing wrong with dancing around the kitchen while you whip up a decent meal for dinner.

Coolio says, “Don’t even think about reaching for that damn can!  I will bust your head like Gallagher busts a watermelon.  I’ll be goddamned if I feed that much sodium to my kids or myself.”  Well, at least his heart is in the right place and he’s aware of the nutritional traps of processed foods.  All of the recipes have punny or silly names such as “Karate Meat”, “It’s Stew Beefy”, and “Heavenly Ghettalian Garlic Bread”, though I was a fan of “Cold Shrimpin'”. You will have to figure out how much a “dime bag of salt” is and shop confidently for “big-ass avocados” if you want to cook from this book and stock your “pimptry.”

The Cookin’ With Coolio old-school hip hop music mix (guaranteed to improve the cooking experience):

  • “All I Need” – Method Man
  • “It Was a Good Day” – Ice Cube
  • “Protect Ya Neck” – Wu-Tang Clan
  • “3 Minute Rule” – Beastie Boys
  • “Who Shot Ya” – The Notorious B.I.G.
  • “Gin & Juice” – Snoop Doggy Dogg
  • “Yo Momma” – The Pharcyde
  • “Ital” – The Roots
  • “Brooklyn” – Mos Def
  • “Damn It Feels Good To Be a Gangstah” – Geto Boys
  • “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” – Ol’ Dirty Bastard
  • “Shadowboxin'” – GZA the Genius
  • “La Di Da Di” – Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh

Cookin’ with Coolio: 5 Stars Meals at a 1 Star Price by Coolio the Ghetto Gourmet.

Verdict: Check it out.

It’s very silly, but it might be the sort of thing that sparks an interest to cook in those who didn’t have it. Remember, “a kitchen pimp fears nothing.”

Oh yeah, that is a combination stove burner and turntable on the cover, your eyes do not deceive you.