Martha Stewart’s Appetizers

9780307954626Martha Stewart’s Appetizers is a revision of her original appetizers book, Hors d’ Oeuvres. It consists of over 200 appetizer recipes that covers everything from starters to small plates to drinks. I was a fan of the original appetizers book, and I am loving this one just the same.

When it comes to preparing foods for parties I host in my home, appetizers are my favorite to prepare. They are mood makers when it comes to serving full course meals, the can be icebreakers for guests, especially when a lot of them do not know each other, they can be the meal themselves, and overall they are so easy to make.

One of the great things about this book is that it provides variety which is what I try to strive for when making appetizers. I always try to create a variety of appetizers to appeal to everyone without isolating anyone such as vegans or vegetarians. There are recipes for different types of nuts from savory to sweet, side dishes such as potato bites and beans are included, and bite size main courses such as hand pies. The drinks chapter was only okay for me because they are recipes I can find in any bartending book. I was hoping there would be some mixology creativity because I have been inspired by Tipsy Bartender to step up my drink making game.

Throughout Martha Stewart’s Appetizers, it stays true to the idea of appetizers: bold flavors with minimum effort. All the recipes are easy to make and quick on time. They can be made ahead of time and some can be either refrigerated or frozen until serving time. A lot of the recipes I was already familiar with, but I did find a couple of new ones to make.

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Kitchen Matrix by Mark Bittman

9780804188012Mark Bittman, in my opinion, is the Godfather of cookbooks. I was so excited to see he had a new cookbook because he’s a great teacher to learn from, his recipes are simple, easy, and foolproof, and he brings out the joy in me as a home cook.

Kitchen Matrix is the basic blueprint for cooks to expand upon basic recipes they have mastered. Within the 304 pages there are over 700 recipes based on basic recipes that are mixed in a variety of ways so that you can get more out of one dish. For example, Bittman illustrates 12 ways to use tomatoes in a dish ranging from appetizers such as tomatoes, ricotta cheese, and mint, to fancy tomato soups as the main course. All in which are made with simple, fresh ingredients.

Bittman is a great storyteller which is why I am always enveloped in his headnotes for recipes. I am obsessed with reading the headnotes as much as I am making the recipes because I know there will be a great story from which the recipe originated, and it gives me inspiration for my own recipe development.

The recipes in the Kitchen Matrix covers the usual categories: Drinks, appetizers, soups, sandwiches, meat, vegetables, etc. No dish is left unturned, and Bittman provides you with plenty of options to put a spin on any classic dish.

I enjoyed all the recipes, even those ones where I was unfamiliar with the ingredient. The majority of the recipes are 30 minutes or less to prepare, while there are some they may take up to 1 hour to prepare. The ingredients used in the book are readily available in your home pantry or at your local grocery store.

Overall, I highly recommend buying a copy of Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix. It’s great for mastering basic dishes as well as inspiration for future dishes.

Book Review: Flour+Water Pasta by Thomas McNaughton

Disclosure: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Who knew there was more to pasta dishes than spaghetti with tomato sauce, lasagna, your occasional stuffed ravioli or spinach pasta? In Flour+Water Pasta by Thomas McNaughton opens your mind to unlimited creativity in using pasta in a variety of dishes—outside your typical safe recipes for pasta.

The preface and the introduction are the appetizers for Flour+Water Pasta. You get a profound understanding of who Thomas McNaughton is and his relationship with food, pasta in particular, and how Flour+Water Pasta was conceived.

The book is split into two parts: The Dough and The Recipes. The Dough part is the fundamentals of what pasta is, the ingredients which makes up pasta, how to combine them, roll, and cook the pasta. If you were unfamiliar with flour and eggs before, I guarantee the first part of the book will have you feeling like a professional chef—or at least a seasoned culinary student.

The second part of the book is the recipes sections. The recipes are divided into seasons: summer, spring, fall, and winter. I enjoyed how the recipes were categorized because I was able to step outside of my comfort zone in thinking pasta dishes are mainly for fall and winter. With the other seasons, I was able to think about using those seasonal ingredients that I probably would not have thought about using outside of fall and winter.

Because I have been cooking for quite some time now, I did not mind the length of the recipes; however, someone who is a novice in the kitchen, the recipes may seem a little intimidating because of the amount of ingredients included with each recipes. They are all fresh ingredients and sometimes it is hard to find fresh ingredients when they are not in season. All the recipes I read and tried are easy to make, but are quite laborious if you are someone who likes to work with five ingredients or less. However, the amount of flavors you achieve combined with the fresh, homemade pasta is well worth the amount of time spent in the kitchen.

Prior to receiving this book, I was quite obsessed when learning how to make pasta from scratch, and Flour+Water Pasta was able to open my mind to limitless possibilities of what I can do with pasta. I can add flavoring to the pasta itself making it more exciting to consume as well as combining it with interesting and unusual ingredients and sauces. If you’re a pasta person, I would highly recommend you purchase this book or buy it to add to your cooking skills.

Book Review: The Big-Flavor Grill

9781607745273Disclosure: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Big-Flavor Grill: No-marinade, No-hassle recipes is all about two things: Big flavors and simple cooking.

Grilling is one of those cooking techniques that is taken head on by dare-devil cooks and masters, while the timid seem to walk the tight rope of fear and lack of skills. However, grilling masters Chris Schlesinger and John “Doc” Willoughby skillfully prepare cooks, and non-cooks, to successfully tackle grilling with straightforward information and simple recipes.

The introduction is the most important part of the book, and by not reading it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to burn down your house. You learn why rubs are the best for infusing flavor to your meats, and how grilling is a worldwide practice. How few gadgets you need, how to set a proper fire, and techniques to help your food cook the best.

The best thing about The Big-Flavor Grill is that no food category is left unmentioned. Everything from meats to seafood to drinks are covered, and at the beginning of each chapter is a brief overview of the ingredient you’ll be using which I found to be beneficial for beginners like myself.

The layout is probably one of the best I’ve seen for a cookbook. It’s setup almost like a blog: easy to read and not congested with a lot of fillers just to take up space. The food photography is amazing because it visually puts you in the world of grilling, and it excites every sense making you even more eager to grill.

The recipes are great for any skill level cook, but they are best for beginners because they are simple and extremely short. The thing I love the most about the recipes is how simple the ingredients are. They can be found in any cook’s pantry–even those that don’t cook, and the directions are even shorter.

My favorite recipe to prepare was the grilled corn with basil and parmesan. I’ll admit while my corn on the cob is edible, it can be bland sometimes, and adding the parmesan with the basil, salt and pepper made it bold but in a simplistic way. Very few ingredients and easily prepared any day of the week.

If you’re a cook looking to expand your skills to grilling, then I highly suggest you pick up a copy of The Big-Flavor Grill.