Saturday, February 26, 2011

Slow going

If you thought all slow-cooked meals taste about the same - bad - then "Slow Cooker Revolution" by the editors at America's Test Kitchen should dispel you of that idea. The City Cook newsletter has a wonderful review of this book HERE.

Friday, February 25, 2011

New! (Almost) free cookbook to be offered each week

Reviewing cookbooks for so many years, I have more than I'll ever cook from. But that doesn't mean they are not worthy; in fact, some, especially the ones I chose not to review, either because the recipes were too redundant or complicated, or just didn't appeal to a general newspaper audience, are truly like new. And many have retail prices of $35-$40, although you can find many of them for a lot less at or Powell's Books. As you can see in the example here, you could buy "Living Raw Food" by Sarma Melngailis ($35, William Morrow, 2009, 376 pages) for $23.10 new or $16.99 used, a substantial discount.

But I've got even a better deal for you. Because you are a loyal reader of this blog, I thought I'd offer these hardback books to you, not for sale, but just for shipping and handling, $11.95.

If you want this week's book, "Living Raw Food," be the first to click the PayPal button (Buy Now) below, follow the directions to deposit a payment to my account, AND leave a comment at the end of this blog item with some way to contact you for your address or in case you were not the first one (I have only one copy of each book). I will send the book by Priority Mail on Monday. Offer good in the United States only at this time.

If you live in Charlottesville, you can save the money by coming to pick up the book. Be the first to leave a comment, with a way to contact you.

I will edit this entry to mark the book SOLD as soon as it leaves the house, by personal pickup or by mail.

To read reviews of this book, click HERE.

And to see if you might like what Ms. Melngailis has to offer, here's a recipe from the book.

Herbal Guacamole and Spicy Jicama in Romaine Leaves
Serves 6

6 ripe avocados
2 large handfuls of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 large handful parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced
2 teaspoons plus one pinch sea salt
2 cups julienned jicama
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 heads of romaine hearts
Additional parsley or cilantro, for garnish

In a large bowl, mash the avocados well with a fork.
Add the cilantro, parsley, 1/4 cup of lime juice, jalapeño and 2 teaspoons of salt, and stir well to combine.
In a separate bowl, toss the jicama with the remaining tablespoon of lime juice, the cayenne and a pinch of salt.
To serve: Separate the romaine leaves. Fill each leaf with a few spoonfuls of the avocado and arrange on a serving platter. Tom with the jicama and additional parsley or cilantro leaves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Light recipes redux

Trying to find some of my old cookbook reviews online, I came across this one with a light cheesecake (no, it's not really an oxymoron, although it won't qualify as health food, either). It sounded pretty good, so I'll share it. Now if I can only find the mystery torte recipe again...

Off the shelf: 
Low-cal, high satisfaction

By Lori Korleski Richardson

Sacramento Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, July 5, 2006

A favorite family recipe that makes an appearance every Christmas season is my mother's Mystery Torte. The mystery is what it is made of: People have guessed dates, raisins and more-exotic fruit. The secret, though, is in the cup of whipped cream that has to soak into the confection for at least three hours or, even better, overnight.

I don't think love is too strong a word to describe my feelings toward this

A relative begged me to share the recipe with his family, which I gladly did.
After thanking me profusely, he said, "Do you think it'd be OK to substitute
Cool Whip for the whipped cream?"

"It'd be better to eat smaller slices less often if you're worried about the
calories" was what I think I replied. Can't be sure, though. Shock does tend to
addle the brain.

So it was with a certain amount of hesitation that I picked up "The Best Light
Recipe" (America's Test Kitchen, $35 hardcover, 384 pages). The only reason I
did was that it said right on the cover: "From the editors of Cook's

Cook's Illustrated is a somewhat dull but exceedingly thorough and
well-respected magazine. Testing is what the folks at the magazine do best. And
they generally get it right.

Of course, I had to try that delicious-looking cheesecake that was on the cover.
They said they made 28 of them to find one they'd actually want to eat. You'll
want to eat this one, too (although one astute taster did say it was not as
smooth as traditional cheesecake).

Can't say the same for their lower-fat guacamole, however. They used baby limas
as the filler, and although the avocado taste did come through like a champ, the
overwhelming bright green was disconcerting. On the plus side, it was still
green the next day, although that may have had something to do with the juice
from two limes that was added.

For anyone who has been trying to replace unhealthful foods with more healthful
ones, there are not a lot of new tricks to be found here. The old ones bear
repeating: More sugar doesn't make something better; go easy on the salt, and
the flavor of the vegetables themselves will come through; use less fat;
substitute ground turkey for beef in spaghetti sauce; minimize fried foods; use
cocoa for chocolaty goodness in baked goods, etc.

And the recipes are good and plentiful. The Cook's Illustrated editors wouldn't
let anything through that didn't, to them, taste like the real thing.

Especially welcome is an extensive section of lower-calorie appetizers, always
the bane of dieters. And, of course, there are excellent fish and soup recipes,
as well as a decent fried chicken substitute and some sauces you'd swear were
full of butter and cream.

"The Best Light Recipe" has everything you need to cook full dinners through
several seasons, and the instructions are precise. If only it had a glossary of
cooking terms and instructions on how to set up a pantry and kitchen, it would
be suitable as a first cookbook. That is, if the new cook has been set up with a
food processor, a blender, a food mill, a V-Slicer and lots of cheesecloth.

There are 16 color photos (OK, 17 if you count the jacket), and most of the
recipes have a quick summary of how many calories were saved over the
traditional recipe and how they accomplished it. They had a lot of success with
most everything but desserts: There's no such thing as a low-fat pie crust, and
the number of calories saved per cookie was low. But they did go for full-size
cookies, not bite-size versions to lower the calorie count.

And the cheesecake, as fine as it turned out, is still 340 calories a serving.
Somehow, I hope my favorite torte will keep that part of its mystery forever. I
don't really want to know how many calories it has.

Light New York cheesecake
Prep time: 1 hour | Cook time: 1 hour, 55 minutes | Serves 12

This recipe is adapted from "The Best Light Recipe" (America's Test Kitchen, $35
hardcover, 384 pages). Be sure to use light cream cheese - it is most commonly
sold in tubs, not blocks. You can buy low-fat yogurt cheese (also called labne)
or make your own with low-fat yogurt - allow at least 12 hours for the yogurt
to drain. Nonfat yogurt also works fine, and has fewer calories.

Notes: The prep time includes the time it takes to drain the cheese.

The prep time does not include the 3-hour cool time after the
cheesecake is baked, the 3-hour refrigerator time or the 30-minute standing time
before slicing.

9 whole graham crackers (5 ounces), broken into rough pieces and processed in a
food processor to fine, even crumbs (about 1 1/4 cups)
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound 1 percent cottage cheese
1 pound light cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces (1 cup) low-fat yogurt cheese
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Vegetable oil spray
Fresh strawberry topping (optional) (recipe below)

First, line a medium bowl with a clean dish towel or several layers of paper
towels. Spoon the cottage cheese into the bowl and let drain for 30 minutes.

For the crust: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to
325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and
sugar until combined. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press
evenly into the pan bottom. Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to
brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For the filling: Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees. Process the
drained cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth and no visible lumps
remain, about 1 minute, scraping down the work bowl as needed. Add the cream
cheese and yogurt cheese, and continue to process until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes,
scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the sugar, salt, lemon zest
and vanilla, and continue to process until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down
the sides of the bowl as needed. With the processor running, add the eggs one at
a time and continue to process until smooth.

Being careful not to disturb the baked crust, spray the insides of the
springform pan with vegetable oil. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour
the processed cheese mixture into the cooled crust.

Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temperature
to 200 and continue to bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the
center of the cheesecake reads 150 degrees, about 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the cake to a wire rack and run a paring knife around the edge of the
cake to loosen. Cool the cake at room temperature until barely warm, 2 1/2 hours
to 3 hours, running a paring knife around the edge of the cake every hour or so.
Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3

To unmold the cheesecake, wrap a hot kitchen towel around the springform pan and
let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and blot any excess
moisture from the top of the cheesecake with paper towels. Let the cheesecake
stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before slicing.

Per serving without topping: 340 cal.; 11 g pro.; 57 g carb.; 13 g fat (8 sat.);
85 mg chol.; 350 mg sod.; 0 fiber.

Fresh strawberry topping
Prep time: 50 minutes | Cook time: 5 minutes | Makes about 3 cups

A ruby-colored, glazed strawberry topping is the classic accompaniment to New
York cheesecake. This topping is best served the same day it is made. If you
don't have strawberry jam, cherry works fine.

Note: The prep time includes the 30-minute wait time after the strawberries are
tossed with the sugar and salt. It does not include the 2- to 12-hour chill time
before serving.

1 pound strawberries, hulled and cut lengthwise into 1/4- to- 3/8-inch wedges
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon

Toss the berries, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and let stand until the
berries have released some juice and the sugar has dissolved, about 30 minutes,
tossing occasionally to combine.

Process the jam in a food processor until smooth, about 8 seconds. Transfer the
jam to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer,
stirring frequently, until dark and no longer frothy, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice, then gently stir the warm jam into the strawberries.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours or up to 12

To serve, spoon a portion of sauce over individual slices of cheesecake.

Per 1/4 cup: 60 cal.; 0 pro.; 16 g carb.; 0 fat; 0 chol.; 10 mg sod.; 1 g