Monday, October 27, 2008

And the winner is...

Starre from Arizona! I only have time for a quick post today to announce the winner of the latest book giveaway. To enter the contest, I asked readers to leave a comment about what they like to eat for lunch, since I'm out of ideas for the midday meal.

The random number generator chose Starre to receive a copy of Mediterranean Fresh by Joyce Goldstein. Starre's lunch pick? An apple with peanut butter and some dates on the side. While I'm not a huge apple person, I love peanut butter, and I literally always have dates in my pantry--so she and I have some tastes in common.

Congrats, Starre! Send me an email and I'll have your book on its way.

So what's up next? I'm busy trying to figure out what kind of birthday cake/dessert I want for my birthday this week. If you have a fabulous suggestion, traditional or not, send it my way. When it comes to desserts, I am very good at crippling my decision-making abilities with far too many options!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October Book Giveaway: Mediterranean Fresh


It's time to give away another book! As I write that, I realize my birthday is 1 week away. Turning 30 is...fine. I'm actually too busy to get philosophical about it. The closest I've come to deep thoughts on aging is carefully conducted research into my skin care options. Which is kind of fun.

Last week, a clerk at the grocery store gave me what I can only describe as a verbal sneer as she demanded my I.D. for a wine purchase. Like she was disgusted by this 14 year old in front her trying to buy alcohol. When she saw my driver's license, she apologized and went on and on about how I look young for my age (but not young enough to be sneered at, seriously). She may have been a little wacky--or rude, if you want to get technical--but I'll take it:)

Now about this book: Joyce Goldstein's Mediterranean Fresh: A compendium of one-plate salad meals and mix-and-match dressings --pausing to catch my breath-- has a long subtitle. But, it only sort of sums up the recipes. If you think a book of salad recipes would get old, you'd be right. Luckily, this book uses the most expansive definition of "salad" available. It encompasses salads like Baba Ganoush (the Middle Eastern eggplant puree), shredded carrot salad with citrus dressing, lentil salad with chorizo, and collard green salad with yogurt dressing.

These salads could be mains, sides or appetizers. Some are meatless, some aren't. Roughly the first two-thirds of the book is composed of the salad recipes divided into various categories. The remainder is a collection of dressings that will delight anyone who prefers their food with something drizzled on top. I like how she points out that some dressings double as dips and some start out as something else entirely--think pesto, tapenade, harissa. These three examples are actually sauces or spreads that may be converted into dressings.

As before, I'll be giving this book away through a random drawing. Here's how you enter:

1) Leave a comment telling me what you typically have for lunch on a workday. I have been so tired of lunch lately, and I want to know what other people do. Yesterday I had one and a half pieces of whole grain toast with butter, cottage cheese and black pepper. Sounds weird, really tasty. But not much of a lunch.

2) Tell me your first name and your city. You must be located in the continental U.S. to win. Sorry, snail mail is pricey!

3) Leave your comment by Sunday, October 26, at 6 pm eastern time. The winner will be selected at random and posted by Monday, so check back to find out if it's you! Then email me your address so I can send your prize.

A copy of Mediterranean Fresh was generously provided by the publisher, W.W. Norton.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Popovers

If you've never had straight out of the oven popovers, you don't know what you're missing. With just eggs, milk, flour, salt and butter, you get big puffs with a crisp exterior and an airy center. Actually, if they work out for you, there isn't much substance in the center--just thinly stretched pieces of the eggy, cream puff-like dough. If you've had gougeres, that's probably the best comparison, but these are airier, thanks to that popping effect.

I used to make them according to a recipe in King Arthur Flour's Baking Companion, which calls for mixing in a blender. This is easy for sure, but the King Arthur bakers recently re-jiggered their recipe and discovered that whisking the batter by hand makes the puffiest popovers. I came across the King Arthur blog describing the results a few days after Mike and I screwed up a batch of popovers by inaccurately halving it and ended up with leaden shells rather than light, crisp puffs.

It was total serendipity that I came across the King Arthur blog on the topic, and we tried them again the next weekend, this time with the correct measurements and the whisking method. Perfect popovers! The picture above looks just like the ones on their blog, where you can see the difference in puffiness with 3 different methods.

But aside from all the little details of my popover adventures, I just want to make one thing clear--you have to try these sometime! Sure you could make homemade dinner rolls with yeast and hours of rising time and kneading and shaping. Or you could just whisk together 5 ingredients and get a really delicious accompaniment to your meal. I love these as a starch with steak and salad or fish and roasted veggies. And plan for 2 or 3 popovers per person--they are very easy to eat (with butter, naturally).

The only thing to consider is coordinating the rest of the meal so you don't have to open the oven more than once (quickly) while they cook. It helps the popovers reach their fullest potential. Otherwise, there aren't many simpler ways to make a dinner feel special. After all the great fall cooking ideas you guys suggested in the comments for my last giveaway, I figured I should contribute something too!

I'm linking to the popover recipe on King Arthur's website. I followed it as written, but was just a little heavy-handed with the salt--as I tend to be when baking. They specify King Arthur flour in the recipe, but I used another brand and it worked great (but I do generally recommend all the KA flours).

I'm going to do another cookbook giveaway this week, so stay tuned! Remember, you can always sign up to receive new post delivered to your email box, so you won't miss anything. Just type your email address in the box below my picture in the left sidebar.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Green Black Red Book Giveaway Winner!

Is everyone enjoying October, my favorite month? By the 67 comments in the last post on favorite fall dishes, it definitely sounds like you are! Thank you so much to everyone who left a comment to inspire me to get cooking!

I announced last week's book giveaway winner while watching the presidential debate (which was kind of a snooze, right?), and here I am again this week--except tonight, I'm going to vote! Did you know that anyone can vote by absentee ballot, whether you're away from your polling place on election day or not (at least you can in FL, and I think it's true in other states)? I requested my absentee ballot a few weeks ago, and now it's here and ready to go (it looks like a flashback to the SAT's, except with more folding involved).

I won't be traveling on election day, but I would like to miss out on the crowds, the waiting in line and the funny little curtained voting booths. It's definitely a bit of a thrill to vote in the traditional way, especially if it's your first time, but I'm over it. Requesting an absentee ballot from your supervisor of elections means you can vote at your leisure and not have to worry about being too busy on November 4. One more public service announcement: if you want to vote in person, many states offer early voting--even on weekends! So, there's no excuse not to cast your vote.

I'm officially done with my spiel and happy to say, we have a winner! By the grace of the random number generator, Lori from California--who blogs at The Recipe Girl-- wins a copy of Green Black Red, filled with fabulous ideas for cooking with grapes. Email me at aminglingoftastes @ gmail .com by Monday, and your book will be on the way.

I have another giveaway coming soon, since I've decided October is the month I'll give away as many free books as I can to you, my lovely readers. But, for my next post I actually have a recipe to write about. It feels very fall-ish, although I can eat this food anytime. Here's a hint: they blow up like balloons and are easy enough for the baking-impaired.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October Book Giveaway: Green Black Red


Did you know that it's grape season? I didn't. Grapes are one of those fruits that always seem to be around. Like bananas. Even though apples are also available year round, most people associate them with fall, probably due to the popularity of apple pie and pick-your-own apple farms. But grapes don't really have an identifying season.

So, now that we know, we can make it a point to eat grapes when they're in season, and I have just the cookbook to help: Green Black Red: Recipes for cooking and enjoying California Grapes by Susan Volland. Most domestic grapes are indeed grown in California and are available July through December. In this very pretty book with lots of dreamy photos of grape-centric recipes, Volland provides ideas for drinks, appetizers, quick dishes, kid-friendly dishes and desserts. She also does a chapter of recipes for entertaining, and a chapter of "classic" recipes with a grape-y twist.

It's all very fresh, light, produce-focused food that has come to characterize California cuisine. I think Volland's green grape gazpacho looks lovely; the sauteed sweet potatoes with bacon, kale and grapes sounds like a perfect balance of good things; and her grape and Brie fritters are imaginative and casually elegant--very California.

What do you have to do to win? It's easy! But you must be located in the continental USA, so I can afford to mail your prize and still fund my Veuve Clicquot habit...kidding! Prosecco is much more affordable in these rough economic times. To enter the book giveaway follow these steps:

1) Leave a comment telling me your favorite fall dish made with seasonal produce, whether it's grapes, apples, cranberries, whatever. (I came up with this question for selfish reasons: I want to cook some new fall dishes and need inspiration!)

2) Tell me your name and where you live.

3) Leave your comment by Wednesday, October 15, at 8 pm eastern time. The winner will be selected at random and posted by Thursday, so check back to find out if it's you! Then email me your address so I can send your prize.

And remember, I'm giving away recently published cookbooks throughout October since it's my birthday month. So if you don't win this time, you'll have more chances to come. Good luck!

A copy of Green Black Red was generously provided by the the publisher, Chronicle Books.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

October is Book Giveaway Month! And the 1st winner is...

I love October. I think a lot of people do because of the beautiful fall weather, the chance to make soups and roasts, and the last moments of calm before the holiday season starts. I love it for those reasons too, but also because it's my birthday month.

After I posted the last book giveaway, it hit me that I should do this all month. My birthday's coming, so I'm going to give gifts to you. Sounds a little saccharine, I know, but I really do love October, and this just makes it more fun. I have a pile of recently released cookbooks that need to be reviewed, and I'll use the same method to give them away as I did for The Flavor Bible.

Speaking of which, the winner is Katelyn, who also blogs at Katelyn's Food! So send your mailing address to aminglingoftastes @ gmail .com (no spaces of course! just typed it that way to elude web crawlers) by Friday, and your book will be on the way. If anyone is curious, I used this random integer generator to choose the winner by assigning a number to each comment.

By the way, I absolutely loved reading everyone's tips and tricks for punching up flavor in your cooking. I learned a lot, and was impressed at the diversity of answers, from good old-fashioned salt and pepper, to pickle juice, to nutmeg in savory dishes. Check them out if you haven't yet.

Want to know what the next book giveaway will be? You'll have to wait for the next post. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up to receive new posts by email. Just use the box in the upper left sidebar, right below my glamour shot:) Your email address will never be shared or used for dubious purposes!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Book Giveaway: The Flavor Bible


There's nothing as sad as a dish that has no flavor. Well, pretty much all food has some flavor, but you know what I mean--big, bold, sometimes complex flavor that makes food tasty.

It seems that Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, the authors of The Flavor Bible, agree. Their new book is subtitled, "the essential guide to culinary creativity, based on the wisdom of America's most imaginative chefs." It's not a collection of recipes, but rather a tool to help you match, build and enhance flavor in anything you cook.

Two introductory chapters discuss the concepts and terms associated with taste and flavor, but the bulk of the book consists of charts. Nearly every food is represented and comes with a (sometimes long) list of ingredients or seasonings or cuisines that "work" with that particular food. On nearly every page, you'll also find musings, tips and advice from professional chefs, along with descriptions of dishes they serve at their restaurants highlighting that page's ingredient.

So, if you like the idea of a well-organized reference book applied to flavor, this is definitely for you. It seems like the kind of book you could flip open to any page and find some good ideas and inspiration. I particularly like the examples of chefs' dishes--definitely good creativity fodder!

So here's the deal: leave a comment telling me how you add flavor to your cooking, whether it's something you do when you make a favorite dish or a trick/ingredient you use to punch things up in general. Comment between now and Tuesday, October 7 at 8 PM eastern time, and make sure you leave your name (I don't need your full name, but "Sandra from Cleveland" is nicer that "baconlover34").

I'll draw a name at random on Tuesday night (While I'm watching the Presidential debate, naturally!) and announce the winner on the blog on by Wednesday. You'll have to check back next week, and if you're the winner just email me with your info by Friday, October 10. The only catch is that you must be located in the continental U.S. to win, since my postage budget isn't limitless. Sorry about that, international readers. Good luck!

A copy of The Flavor Bible was generously provided by the publisher, Little Brown & Co.