Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: 'Sweet and Vicious' is sugar and sass for cooks and readers

  I spent a couple of nights last week curled up in bed with a great new book. It wasn’t the latest suspense novel or fantasy fiction. It was a cookbook, Libbie Summers’ new and delicious “Sweet and Vicious.”

  I come from a long line of cookbook readers. My mom prefers reading cookbooks to doing the real thing. My grandmother read every recipe she could put her hands on, and then re-crafted them on scraps of paper in a minimalist style that to this day defies interpretation.

  Summers’ “Whole Hog Cookbook” took a blue ribbon and with “Sweet and Vicious,” Summers drapes herself in girly pink taffeta, puts an edge on her frosting spatula and delivers plenty of buttercream smooth prose laced with edgy wit.

  Summers emerges as a Southern storyteller with anecdotes that brush hard up against risqué while blessing yo’re heart. It’s simultaneously sassy and inspired, informative and entertaining – it’s sweet AND vicious.

  I just have one nit to pick about “Sweet and Vicious.” I can’t decide which recipe to sink my teeth into – and then which one to follow with.

  Naughty little Retired Gingerbread Working Girls are tempting, but so too is the spicy Habanero Carrot Cake. I’m jonesing for Movie Night Cookies – soft chocolate and buttered popcorn-flavored cookies that get the flavor from Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly jelly beans. Baton-sized Majorette Biscotti await my attempts to one-and-two-and-three-and-four – dunk!

  Don’t you for one minute believe that all 100 of the book’s recipes are for wickedly yummy, sinfully satisfying sweet thangs. Summers takes readers – and cooks – through savory breads, sandwiches, pot pie, cookies – and devotes an entire chapter to dog treats. Angry Bird Hand Pies – Buffalo chicken pasties – are at the top of my “must make” list. Buy the book to see why this cayenne-fired recipe is not about the cult game Angry Birds – but finds its inspiration from a Key West chicken dance.

  There are shady rest stops along the way. Draw yourself a tall lemonade and take in Summers’ secrets for navigating the science and art of baking, cake decorating and pie dough making.

  Lavish in photographer Chia Chong’s images, which delve far deeper in some cases than just pretty food pictures. Some of her photo illustrations demand bourbon-fueled pondering. At her very fabulous chewy center, Summers is a food stylist. She has mad kitchen skills for sure; her food styling is replete with detail, panache and intricacy. The book itself is artfully designed, right down to the style maven’s signature pink fore edge color and spot-varnished cover. Easy-to-follow recipes and equally pleasing typography round out this beautiful cookbook package.

  I look at several award-winning cookbooks every year. If I have ever seen a volume worthy of the cookbook industry’s highest awards, it has to be “Sweet and Vicious,” and I’m not just saying that ‘cause Summers’ has sharp knives and knows where I live. This one is a keeper, and a gifter and never, ever a re-gifter.

  Pre-heat your oven, break out the cake pans and watch for UPS from Amazon – get your copy now of Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude.

Review: 'Wiley's Championship BBQ' cookbook is a pro primer for BBQ fans

  On my first meeting with Wiley McCrary several years ago, I came away with two important things.
First, Wiley believes that we all need to share our knowledge, especially when it comes to making great smoked meats. Second, making great barbecue isn’t about time, it’s about temperature.
  Fittingly, his new cookbook, “Wiley’s Championship BBQ: Secrets that Old Men Take to the Grave,” those are the same two messages from “The BBQ General.”
  Co-authored with his wife, Janet, and writer Amy Paige Condon, the book is one-part BBQ primer, one part time-tested recipes that Wiley and Janet have perfected after years on the competition barbecue circuit. One meal at their Savannah, GA, restaurant and you will know you have found the secret guidebook to award-winning BBQ. Still not convinced? The walls and shelves are covered with the hard won hardware attesting to Wiley’s mastery of the pit.
  In “Wiley’s Championship BBQ,” you learn the basics for equipment, fire building and proper temperatures for achieving the perfect low-and-slow smoking heat. Highlighted tips give you the additional edge to take this new found information to the next level.
  Publishers don’t want to tell us how many recipes are in a book anymore --- and I’m not counting. But among the book’s 216 pages, you are taken on a culinary journey through seasonings and spices. More than 50 pages are devoted to art of smoking beef, pork and lamb, poultry, fish and shrimp.
  You get the makings of great side dishes like Brunswick stew, Janet’s excellent potato salad and her Dutch crumble topped sweet potato casserole -- and more.
  Your sweet tooth is not overlooked in this BBQ master class. Southern peaches find a home here, as well as classic banana pudding and rich bread pudding with praline-bourbon sauce. Food styling by Libbie Summers and photography by Chia Chong bring classy, mouthwatering images to humble ‘cue dishes.
  Kudos for a cookbook with easy to read typography and ring binding – that lays flat when in use.
“Wiley’s Championship BBQ” is a must for any serious barbecue fan’s bookshelf. Don’t let the heft of other books fool you. This easy to read cookbook is the real deal, presented concisely with heart and passion, from authors who have hickory smoke running through their veins.
  Buy a copy from Wiley’s Championship BBQ, 4700 U.S. 80, Savannah, GA 31410. Visit them online.
Or click here to buy now, hardback or Kindle edition, from Amazon.

'Best Toast Ever' uses Great Harvest Bread Co. Cinnamon Chip loaf

  A pop-up toaster or toaster oven is one of those appliances we take for granted. We expect it to perform, to turn ordinary bread and bagels into crispy coated, toasted treats.
  But c'mon, admit it. What comes out of a toaster is pretty boring. We do the hot-fingered juggling act and hope to get butter slathered across the toast's surface while it's still hot. Then, it's really kinda dry, predictable...yeah, boring. I was motivated to move beyond bland old toast when I read this story about an eatery that gets $4 a slice for its toast. Off to the drawing board...
  Crank up your taste buds and expectations to "10" for this week's mouthwatering recipe - the Best Toast Ever!
  I used "special" bread from our local Great Harvest Bread Co. - Cinnamon Chip. The recipe works with plain old French or Italian bread. The trick is to slice your own bread - thick please - and, by all means, use real butter. This Great Harvest loaf also makes amazing French toast.
   Brew a pot of coffee, fire up the cooktop and let's get munchin' on the Best Toast Ever!

Comfort Food: Garlic Pot Roast with Rosemary

  Last week I changed my personal Facebook page "cover photo" to this image of Garlic Pot Roast with Rosemary. I received several messages about the recipe -and realized I've never used it in the newsletter. This image accompanied a recipe for Kabocha Squash Mac and Cheese that I offered last June.
  Well, here it is. For added dimension, replace part - or all - of the beef stock with dry red wine. And, as always, have fun playing with the recipe. Part of the joy of cooking is taking something you like - and making it into a dish that you LOVE!
  Get a warm, fuzzy feeling and the recipe by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Recipe: Avocado Salsa

Lots of great feedback from this reciep that appeared in last week's newsletter. Fresh, spicy and a nice alternative to traditional guacamole. 
Makes about 3 cups

1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 habanero chile with seeds
6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 (6- to 8-ounce) firm-ripe avocados, coarsely mashed (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped white onion
3/4 cup chopped cilantro

Purée chiles, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a blender. Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Flavors develop best if you can refrigerate this for a couple of hours before service.