Anyone who thinks the Internet is a death knell for printed cookbooks hasn’t been in a book store lately. Or, actually, on the Internet, where I found T. Susan Chang’s delightful reviewof her top 10 cookbooks for 2012. Chang, who regularly reviews cookbooks for National Public Radio, tagged her picks as “a year of contrarian cookbooks,” reflecting our “global, crowd sourced, Web-fueled world” where “people no longer cook according to some received wisdom handed down by a guy in a white toque.”
“They figure it out as they go along, and if they stumble on a shortcut, it’s blogged and shared in no time flat,” Chang adds.
Two of the books are, in fact, by food bloggers: Sara and Hugh Forte’s blog and book, The Sprouted Kitchen, prioritize “whole, clean cooking” with seasonal ingredients; Deb Perelman blogs and authored The Smitten Kitchen, in which she “is fussy about making good things simply,” Chang says. Perelman offers such “contrarian” advice as recommending you toss the whole lemon in your Cuisinart when making lemon bars (after removing the pits, of course).
I was highly intrigued by Chang’s pick of Susan Feniger’s Street Food, subtitled “Irresistibly crispy, creamy, crunchy, spicy, sticky, sweet recipes.” Chang notes the book is “full of fried things that will soil your backsplash, tomatoey things that will spot your apron, and sauces that will end up unidentified in Tupperware in the fridge.” It also offers “food from all over the world that’s so bone-suckingly good you will stop at nothing to have or make more.” Please: If someone makes Feniger’s Singapore crab cakes with red chile sauce, invite me over. I promise to wash the dishes.
Were I to buy one book on Chang’s list for myself or as a gift, I’d probably go with the Cook’s Illustrated Magazine collection, The Science of Good Cooking. Then maybe I could clear off my cookbook shelf and get rid of the piles of recipes spilling off my counter. Being a big fan of roasted vegetables, I immediately snapped up the recipe below and its useful advice to steam veggies before roasting, which makes them both tender and caramelized.
Roasted cauliflower with sauce and almonds
- 1 head cauliflower (2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Trim outer leaves of cauliflower and cut stem flush with bottom. Cut head into 8 equal wedges through center core. Place wedges cut side down on aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Gently rub seasonings and oil into cauliflower. Gently flip cauliflower and repeat on second cut side with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper.
Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast until bottoms of cauliflower pieces are golden, 8-12 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully flip wedges. Return to oven and roast until cauliflower is golden all over, 8-12 minutes longer. Serve immediately.
Sherry vinegar-honey sauce with almonds
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup regular or golden raisins
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (see below)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
First toast the sliced almonds by placing them in an ungreased 8-inch skillet on the stove over medium to medium-low heat. Stir frequently until the edges brown slightly, 3-5 minutes; pour immediately into another dish to cool. Let the skillet cool for a few minutes.
Heat oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add raisins and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add water, vinegar and honey. Simmer until lightly syrupy, 4-6 minutes. Stir in almonds, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle sauce over cauliflower and garnish with chives.