Friday, April 22, 2011

Cookbook giveaway: Food for the Soul

Food for the Soul: A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in ParisMonique Y. Wells should have done a little research before naming her cookbook: It shares a title with at least a half-dozen others. But her subtitle is unique: "A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris."

It could have been an interesting book, and I had high hopes for it. Some of the stories are touching, some shed light on historical events and all are well-told, but they are hard to read, having been placed on pages with stripes. The recipes are defiantly non-French; they could come from any community cookbook published in the South, with a few notes on where to find Crisco and catfish in Paris. Her substitutions are grand: She suggests using the Dutch cheese Mimolette for Cheddar, the outer leaves of young cabbages or broccoli for collards, smoked chicken for ham hocks, TUC for Ritz crackers. She didn't find a substitute for Cool Whip, however.

The full-color photographs by Daniel Czap are professional and mostly on full pages in this large 9x12-inch book. The pastries show off Wells' French cooking school education and are as beautiful to look at as they probably are to eat.

If you'd like this cookbook, which originally sold for $45 in 2000, leave a note below (click on the word "comments") and send me an email ( on how to get it to you.

Here's an example of the recipes in "Food for the Soul."

Makes 10-12 biscuits
Oven: 475ºF

Monique Y. Wells writes: According to my mother, cream of tartar is the key to producing wonderfully light, tasty biscuits. Some of her friends have taken to adding it to just about anything they bake, apparently with great success.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup milk

Sift the dry ingredients together. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour the milk into it. Blend with a fork until the flour is moistened and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. knead lightly (10-12 times), then roll out to 3/4-inch thickness. Using a clean, floured cutter with a sharp edge, cut the dough into rounds. Do not twist the cutter or you will seal the edges and inhibit the rising action. Re-roll scraps lightly to make more rounds. If you want crusty biscuits, place the rounds 1 inch apart on cookie sheets; for soft-sided biscuits, place the rounds just touching into 2 well-greased round cake pans.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A little knowledge = danger

The City Cook, Kate McDonough, often rambles her way to an interesting column, and today's was definitely a winner.

When I left The Sacramento Bee, one of the notes I stuck on my calendar was to keep an eye out for Nathan Myhrvold's cookbook that was in the works. Well, it took three more years, and at $625 for the six volumes, I had neither the budget nor the time to review it when it finally did appear. But I've been keeping up with the press on it, and it's been interesting.

Here's a bit of what Kate had to say today:
In a Q&A about his book in Fine Cooking magazine, Dr. Myhrvold included a recipe from Volume 5, this one for a hamburger. It requires (his words) "...a bun toasted in beef suet; the glaze on the bun is made from suet, tomato confit, beef stock, and smoked salt. Then comes layers of maitake mushrooms and sous vided (Me: is that even a verb?) romaine lettuce that's been infused with liquid hickory smoke. Next, a vacuum-pressed tomato, a slice of cheese made from Emmental, Comté, and wheat ale; and a beef short rib patty that's been ground to vertically align the grain. Next a layer of cremini mushroom ketchup with fish sauce."
Reading this made me want a peanut butter sandwich.
To read the full item, click here.