Posts Tagged ‘cooking’


Cooking [with] the books

by Candice Smith on May 23rd, 2016
Cooking [with] the books Cover Image

I’ve recently gotten into somewhat of a rut with cooking–but it’s a delicious, self-created rut. I am trying out different recipes for an Italian dish called cacio e pepe, which translates into ‘cheese and pepper.’ Simple, right? Yes, and no. Though recipes vary, the ingredients are generally the same: water, pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pepper. You boil the pasta, grate the cheese, grind some pepper, then combine it all into a pan with a little bit of the pasta water. You end up with a well-coated plate of noodles. The not-so-simple part? First, deciding which recipe to use. I found at least five different ones in various cookbooks at the Library, all from well-known and respected chefs, several of them Italian, each one apparently saying that their recipe is the one to use. Some use the basic ingredients listed above, some add oil and/or butter. Some say that you should only use pecorino, while others also use Parmigiano-Reggiano or Cacio de Roma–all seem to use slightly different amounts. Some toss the pasta and cheese with a little oil or butter. Some sauté the pepper in some oil. Others toast the peppercorns in a pan before grinding. There is a lot of slight variation.

No problem, really, right? They’re probably all good, so just pick one and go with it. Then you get to the other tricky part, which is really the only thing you ‘do’ besides prep and boiling–the mixing. When it goes well, you get a nice sauce. When it doesn’t go well–and out of the four times I’ve made this, it hasn’t gone well twice–you get the dreaded clumpy cheese. The recipes also vary quite a bit here, with different ones saying what to mix the ingredients in (warm dish, warm pan, cold dish), when to add cooking water and how much, and how to add the cheese and how to toss the pasta with it. Seems trivial, until you try one way and your cheese turns into small bits of pepper-flaked goop. Luckily, it still tastes very good.

I made cacio e pepe a couple nights ago, and I think it was my best one yet. I used a recipe from Lidia Bastianich. It’s one of the simplest ones I’ve come across, so I wonder if I just got lucky. If you’d like to try your hand at mastering this deceptively simple dish, the Library has a wealth of Italian cookbooks for you to peruse to find a recipe. Let me know if you find a good one. Please.

Buon appetito!
cacio

In Search of the Best Paleo Cookbooks

by Heidi Kuchta on October 21st, 2015

As I have perused the masses of so-called Paleo (read: veggie and meat based, no-to-little grain and dairy) cookbooks here at ICPL, I have had to be brutally honest with myself. Am I really going to use a mandoline slicer (which I don’t own) to cut zucchini into long, thin slices that can be used like noodles? No. Might I benefit from a new coleslaw recipe or two (or three?) Heck yes. Might I substitute mashed sweet potatoes for the less nutritious white potatoes in a shepherd’s pie? Sure. Does a grain-free coconut-based “oatmeal” sound like an amazing make ahead breakfast? Yeah! OK – onward.

One thing I have learned and had to accept is that most paleo cookbook authors have differing opinions on certain foods. Some people swear that white potatoes are fine – “nutrient rich” even, others claim that they’re trash. Eggs and so-called “nightshade vegetables” like tomatoes and peppers are ingredients that some laud and others eschew. At the end of the day, it’s a lot for me to just give up grains, so I have welcomed cookbooks with strict and less strict sensibilities alike.

So, here’s my fave paleo cookbPaleo Lunchesooks (so far)

1. I have used this cookbook the longest and can vouch for the deliciousness of many recipes herein! I love the egg muffin recipe for making ahead for quick breakfasts. My favorite salad recipe in this book is the Wild Tuna, Orange, and Parsley Salad. Runner up favorite recipe is the simple and amazing Chicken, Celeriac, and Mustard Salad Wrap. I had never previously eaten celeriac (celery root), and now I consider it my favorite slaw veggie! The coconut crepe recipe in the cookbook is an amazing Naan substitute for Indian food or a good wrHomegrown Paleoap-maker.

Also check out Diana Rodgers’ most recent collection of recipes, The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook!

 

2. TheZenbelly Cookbook Zenbelly Cookbook By Simone Miller is so much fun to read, and the recipes are mostly pretty simple. I’ve never cooked a whole chicken or made my own broth: after reading this book I now feel confident enough to do both. Also, the photography is a visual gift: Before each recipe is a photo of all the ingredients needed to make it. This visual guide is so helpful to figuring out at a glance whether I have what I need for a recipe or not. Recipe highlights include Pork Chops with Stone Fruit Slaw, Jicama Slaw (because I am slaw-obsessed), Cauliflower ‘Rice’, Sesame Shitake Broccoli, and Moroccan Shepherd’s Pie.

3. One-Pot Paleo by Jenny Castaneda: One Pot PaleoYES! The concept of this cookbook is perfect for me, a woman sans dishwasher. It is also full of flavorful and fun ideas: Plantain Chilaquiles, Loaded Spanish Tortillas, Brussels Sprouts Favorite, Honey Dijon Salmon Steaks and many other good-looking seafood recipes.

4. Nourish by Rachael Bryant is another visually pleasing cookbook, like Zenbelly. I enjoyed its recipe for Coconut Oatmeal IMNourishMENSELY. Other good recipes from here include Butternut Squash Skillet with Leeks and Spinach, Pork Belly Carnitas (cuz duh, Carnitas), and Bison Chili.

I’m heading back to school.

by Candice Smith on October 9th, 2015

pieblogPie School, that is.

Several years ago, a friend of mine confided in me that she was really nervous to bake a pie that she would be sharing with other, more accomplished pie bakers. She was, in particular, worried about the crust–she’d heard rumors that one of these other pie bakers could make the perfect crust. Now, I know from experience (okay, experiences…) that my friend is no slouch in terms of baking–or cooking in general, for that matter–so I was perplexed and dismissive of her worry. I didn’t get why she would be concerned about it when, in the end, we all knew the pie would be good enough.

After baking my first two pies, I get it.

With me, it’s not so much worry, since I’m sharing the baked goods with a captive audience who is 1) fond of dessert, 2) often hungry, and 3) legally bound by marriage to me and therefore must eat what I bake (it was in the vows). It’s more of a strong desire to keep making pies–better pies–and that means better crusts. I’m finding it’s not so simple as I previously thought; there are any number of pie crust recipes, using mostly the same ingredients but with small differences in the amounts, some additions, some substitutions. All of those little differences make for crusts that have varying characteristics. Theoretically, these recipes should make for pie crusts that are perfectly good. It’s not just the recipe you have to worry about, though, it’s how you put the ingredients together. How cold is your water, and how do you add it to the dry mix? Mixing by hand, or in a mixer? How are you adding your butter into the mix–literally, how are you rubbing the butter and dry ingredients together, and for how long? Chilling the dough, rolling the dough–there are so many variations on this process and the techniques. Yes, most of these crusts will taste good. BUT–will they be perfectly browned, with the right amount of bite? Will they have tender layers and not crumble apart, but still have nice flakiness?

I’m just a newbie at this. First crust was a bust, second was much better (not beautiful, but tasty). Both have been apple. I’m going to do a couple more tries on a basic crust and fruit pie, then maybe move on to something slightly more adventurous…I’m thinking the gouda and pear pie in Kate Lebo’s Pie School. If you want your own piece of the action, head to the 641.8652s, find a book, and get in the kitchen.

Jalapenos @ the IC Farmer’s Market

by Kara Logsden on August 18th, 2015

Jalapeno Poppers are a family favorite and the Iowa City Farmer’s Market is the best place to purchase fresh jalapenos this time of year. Often these morsels serve as a meal at our house. Baked Poppers can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple days (although they rarely last that long at our house) and are delicious cold as well as reheated.

Jalapeno Peppers from the Iowa City Farmer's Market

Jalapeno Peppers from the Iowa City Farmer’s Market

We have many variations of our Jalapeno Popper recipe and often the final product is contingent on what’s in the refrigerator. Crumbled crispy bacon, goat cheese, and artichoke dip can all be substituted into the basic recipe for delicious results.

One word of caution: Make sure you remove all the seeds from the jalapenos. In general, Jalapeno Poppers are only a bit “warm” – especially with the delicious cheese to cool down the palate. Forgotten seeds can surprise the person eating the popper, though, so caution is needed if consumers are wary of hot food.

Here’s our basic recipe:

Logsden Jalapeno Poppers

Select fresh, large Jalapenos.

Cut off the top and split in half lengthwise.

Remove all seeds.

Fill with cream cheese.

Wrap with Prosciutto (we prefer Iowa-made La Quercia)

Logsden Jalapeno Poppers

Logsden Jalapeno Poppers

Arrange on cooking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Check after 15.

If you are looking for summer recipe inspiration, browse our catalog or check out the many awesome books at the Library. 641 is the call number to get you started.

Let us know which delicious dishes you are creating from the fresh ingredients you find at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market.

See you at the Market!

 

Trying New Ingredients

by Anne Mangano on May 26th, 2015
Trying New Ingredients Cover Image

I always found spring the hardest season for cooking. Fall has an abundance of squash and sweet potatoes. You can do so much with summer tomatoes and eggplant. But spring, there are lots and lots of greens. And asparagus. You eventually grow tired of both. However, one of my favorite things about the Farmers Market is exploring new ingredients, which matches nicely with one of my favorite things about the library’s cookbook collection: finding new recipes. And through both of these Iowa City institutions, I’ve learned that I am wrong about spring. There are many ingredients available and dishes to make with them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Smoke & Spice Updated

by Kara Logsden on May 16th, 2015
Smoke & Spice Updated Cover Image

We have a new smoker/grill at our house, just in time for summer. Our challenge now is to learn how to use it. Have no fear, the Library is here! We’ve had some delicious meals including Slaw Burgers (a family favorite of smoked pork on a bun with traditional cole slaw), marinated smoked vegetables and some great salmon. Now we’re ready to try some new meals.

A quick search of the Library’s catalog shows there are many books to help learn how to use a smoker. Subject headings of “Barbequing” and “Smoked Foods” were most helpful. I found a new book, Smoke and Spice 3rd Edition, that had some great recipes. Two recipes looked especially good – Peabody-Style Stuffed Onions and Deep-Dish Smoked Mozzarella Pizza. Yummy!

If you are ready to relax and enjoy some great summer food, but need some culinary inspiration, give us a call or stop by. The call numbers 641.5784 and 641.61 are a great place to start.

Veggie Recipes for Big Batch Cooking

by Melody Dworak on March 31st, 2015
Veggie Recipes for Big Batch Cooking Cover Image

If it takes 90 days to create a new habit, then by-golly I may have just succeeded at one of my New Year’s Resolutions. This resolution was inspired by that 5 o’clock HANGRY feeling.

You get off work, drained from the day, and you have no energy or patience to deal with making cooking decisions. Eating–a core function of sustaining your existence–takes the backseat to meal prep, or arguing about meal prep, or whining about why you can’t ever eat the salad greens before they turn to slime.

The solution? Big batch cooking on the weekend, or whatever days off you might have. I’m happy to say this has worked for me for 13 weeks in a row. I use recipes from library cookbooks to shake up the flavors, only repeating my favorites. And I’ve started collecting these recipes by scanning the pages with Evernote’s Scannable app (Apple) and saving them to the Evernote Food app (Andoid, Apple).

Here are a few of the books and recipes that have allowed me to conquer the 5 o’clock HANGRY.  Read the rest of this entry »