Did someone ask for more recipe pointers?

Another three cookbooks’ worth of interesting recipes:

Not to worry: I’ve almost run out of bookmarks so I don’t have too many more of these to go. I hope they prove useful to someone.

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Week 5 chocolate tasting results

This week’s chocolate tasting was a tough one, compromised somewhat by low attendance and a very similar set of chocolates. My summary from our wiki:

With only six participants, abd seven very similar products, it’s difficult to name a clear winner in this tasting. Sue suggested that I describe this week’s theme as “The Battle of the Blands”, and around the tasting table, all panelists commented on the difficulty of choosing a favorite. The Divine Intensely Rich Dark Chocolate and Whole Foods Dark Chocolate: Tanzania Schoolhouse Project tied with two first-place votes each, but neither one received any second-place votes. Both Valrhona Andoa and reference Valrhona Guanaja received a single vote each for both first and second place. The reference TCHO Dark chocolate discs received three second-place votes, and TCHO PureNotes “Chocolatey” received the final second-place vote.

I have a suspicion that the Whole Foods product, which is made in Belgium, may actually be Callebaut.

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Nutrition information for high-test chocolate

As I’ve noted before, good chocolate can vary quite substantially in its nutritional value, as manufacturers adjust the ratio of cocoa solids to cocoa butter, even when keeping the overall percentage cacao the same. Taken from the CSAIL Tasters wiki, here is a composite nutritional picture based on 16 products claiming between 70% and 72% cacao.

Per 100 grams chocolate
575 kcal
2409 kJ
40.7 g fat
26.0 g saturated fat
45.6 g total carbohydrate
9.4 g dietary fiber
44.0 g sugar
8.1 g protein

Note that I don’t have numbers for iron, which is the only other FDA-required nutrient disclosure which chocolate contains in a significant amount. While it’s always better to reference a specific product’s nutrition labeling, hopefully this will help people figure out how much they can have when no label is provided.

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Other people’s recipes: Sweet cherry streusel pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds

This gallery contains 15 photos.

It’s been a long while since I’ve made an actual pie — I think it would have to have been a pumpkin pie, some year around Thanksgiving. But earlier this year I bought The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book … Continue reading

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Other people’s recipes: Chef Aniceto’s summer vegetable soup with sausage and green lentils

It’s been too long since I last did a serious recipe post from my queue, so this weekend I did two! First, I made a cherry pie, and then after that was done, I made Chef Aniceto’s summer vegetable soup, which appears in Joanne Chang’s cookbook flour, too under the heading “Autumn Vegetable with Sausage and Green Lentils” — the summer vegetable soup is a variant listed at the end, which substitutes summer squash and corn for winter squash, turnips, and mushrooms. Chang describes the original version of the soup as “hearty and stewlike”; while it did reduce substantially, I’m not sure I’d make that claim about this version.

I had a seven-ounce sausage from Formaggio that was left over from a previous recipe (kept safe in the freezer, of course), which was not quite the eight ounces called for here, but seemed like it would be enough. However, having made the soup I’m not sure how much the sausage really adds — it seems to me to be almost completely overwhelmed by the volume of vegetation and liquid to the point where you might think about making this a vegetarian soup by adding a bit more oil at the beginning and replacing the meat with some beans or additional lentils. Or perhaps going the other way, maybe it would be better with more and larger chunks of a spicier sausage like chorizo (which I suspect would complement the pimentón quite nicely).

The liquid component of the soup is surprisingly flexible, allowing for “Vegetable Stock, Chicken Stock, or water”; I chose to use commercial chicken broth, having been unsatisfied with Chang’s vegetable “stock” back when I made the pea soup and having a very busy day already — commercial low-sodium chicken broth surely must be more flavorful than water, right?

The preparation of a soup is really not much to look at, and rather uninteresting to photograph (how many photos of a mirepoix do you really need, anyway?), so all I’ve got are these two photos of the finished soup itself, first in the pot:
Soup, in my French Dutch oven
…and then a single serving in a bowl:

Bowl of soup

Chang’s recipe makes a lot of soup — more than three quarts — so a single serving is substantial enough for a meal. (And leaves more room for dessert!)


Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1¾ cups
Servings per container: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 329 Calories from fat 108
% Daily Value
Total Fat 12g 18%
 Saturated Fat 3g 16%
 Monounsaturated Fat 3g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 27mg 9%
Sodium 1464mg 61%
Potassium 996mg 28%
Total Carbohydrate 37g 12%
 Dietary fiber 9g 37%
 Sugars 10g
Proteins 19g 39%
Vitamin A 86%
Vitamin C 41%
Calcium 9%
Iron 23%
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Week 4 chocolate tasting results

Yesterday we held our fourth weekly chocolate tasting. This week’s theme was “Taste of Somerville”, and the local products were widely panned. My summary of the results:

This tasting was a bit of a challenge for the panel; Shirley described it as “rang[ing] from unremarkable to bad”, and other tasters made similar comments. (At least we’re done with the Taza, which only David liked. Maybe I’ll give the rest of the leftovers to him!) That said, there was a consensus winner; unfortunately, it was one of our “reference” chocolates, Whole Foods Costa Rican Dark Chocolate 71%, with four first-place votes and four second-place votes (including one tie for second). Xocolata Aynouse L’Artesà Amarga came in second, despite receiving no second-place votes, on the strength of three first-place votes. Valrhona Noir 68% “rond et chaleureux” received three second-place votes but was nobody’s favorite, and Somerville Chocolate CSA Hawaiian 70% received two first-place votes and one second-place vote. Taza 80% Dark Stone Ground Chocolate received the one remaining first-place vote and also one second-place vote.

For the tasters’ comments and more detailed information about each chocolate tasted, see our wiki page for week 4.

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Really simple recipes: another way to do pork chops

Tonight I did pork chops using a variant of the cast-iron skillet method I originally described for “Jeff Smith’s Serbian Pork Seasoning” that turned out particularly good, and may be better for when you have thinner chops (less than an inch). Oddly enough, it’s based on the procedure found on the pork chop packaging.

Get two eight-ounce bone-in pork chops (I used du Breton organic pork chops from the meat case at Whole Foods) and “Milwaukee Iron Seasoning” from The Spice House. Thoroughly dry the pork chops with a paper towel. Cut through the fat side of the chop in two places on each chop, without slicing into the meat proper. Thoroughly cover each chop with the seasoning on both sides and shake off any excess. Place another paper towel on a plate, put the seasoned chops on the towel, and refrigerate, uncovered, for an hour.

Place a wire rack on a sheet pan and put both in the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Meanwhile, in a ten-inch cast-iron skillet, heat two tablespoons of peanut oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the pork chops and sear, three minutes per side. Remove the chops immediately and place on the wire rack in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the deepest part of the pork chop reaches a temperature of 140–145°F (60–65°C). Serve with Antonia’s Hoarlese Mosterd (a grainy Dutch mustard), steamed spinach, and the starch of your choice. Yum!

(The mustard is available in the US from Formaggio Kitchen.

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Hey, even more recipe pointers!

Continuing my trip through the cookbook bookcase (“cookbook case”? “cookbookcase”?), I’ve added some additional recipe pointers:

In addition, recipes from America’s Test Kitchen TV and Cook’s Country TV have been moved to separate subpages, and I’ve added some recipes from next month’s issue of Cook’s Illustrated.

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Week 3 chocolate tasting results

We had our third weekly chocolate tasting today, finishing up (for now) our set of mixed-origin chocolates with some boutique and artisanal products — which, surprisingly, did not rate especially highly. I summarized the results this:

Contrary to week 2’s experience, the panel was fairly united on this one: Venchi Extra Fondente 75% was the clear winner, with seven first-place votes and two second-place votes. The low-priced Icelandic bar, Nói Síríus Traditional Icelandic Chocolate, came in a surprise second place, with one first-place vote and five second-place votes. Two tasters gave top marks to Patric Chocolate Signature Blend (which was also tied with the Icelandic for one of the second-place votes), and one preferred the reference Valrhona Manjari. One of the first-place votes for the Venchi 75% was a tie with the same maker’s 85%, which also received a second-place vote.

See the wiki page for more details.

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Other people’s recipes: Martha Holmberg’s Risotto with Very Meaty Tomato Sauce

Yes! A cookbook author who understands how to do metric conversions!

Far too many cookbooks give metric conversions in volumetric units that no metric-using cook would ever use for measuring that sort of ingredient. It’s great to see at least one person understands that chopped onion belongs on a scale! (As a bonus, that also allows the cook to easily determine how much onion to chop in the first place.)

This is the first recipe I’ve attempted from Martha Holmberg’s cookbook Modern Sauces (Chronicle Books, 2012). Risotto with tomato sauce sounds like an odd thing, but when you use the proportions and serving sizes indicated, the result is quite tasty and not nearly as calorific as you might think. It’s also a lot of work, but the way the recipes in this cookbook build upon one another, it would be easy to spread the work out over three or four nights. As it was, I had to do it all in one day, and it took about four hours of work. The process starts with making a simple marinara sauce — and could end there, if that was what you wanted. Once the marinara is finished, the next step is to turn it into a meat sauce (the “Very Meaty Tomato Sauce” of the title), and again, the process could stop there; indeed, for most of the meat sauce, it does stop there, because the meat-sauce recipe makes eight cups of sauce, but only two cups are required to accompany the risotto — which is part of Holmberg’s point in the book, that these sauces are versatile and can all be used for more than one purpose. I probably won’t have much else to do with the meat sauce this week (I should get four meals out of the risotto), but I can freeze it and bring it out another time for a simple spaghetti dinner. Similarly, the basic marinara is used as a base for several other of Holmberg’s tomato sauces, and it can also be used directly on pasta or pizza, so there’s no waste.

(Incidentally, I consistently get Holmberg’s given name wrong, making her “Marie” rather than “Martha”. Perhaps that’s some heretofore hidden Scandinavian stereotype coming into play.)


The marinara sauce starts with a fairly standard mirepoix. I don’t think it’s called mirepoix in Italian. The recipe said I could grate the carrots, so I did, but I used the wrong grater (should have been the coarse holes) — not that I think it made a difference.

Half a cup of extra virgin olive oil looks like rather a lot when you measure it out. It’s a lot darker, too, when it’s not in a glass bottle.
Olive oil

The mirepoix is now in the pan with the olive oil, sweating away.
Mirepoix sweating

After sweating the mirepoix, canned crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen’s “fire roasted” style, because I like the flavor) and chopped basil complate the sauce. It has to reduce for about 20 minutes before it’s ready for the next step.
Marinara reducing

Putting a splatter guard on the pan helps to keep my rangetop from becoming even more of a mess than it already is. The fine mesh screen allows water vapor to escape while keeping larger oil (and tomato!) droplets inside the pan.
Splatter guard

The marinara sauce recipe makes about six cups, but all of it goes into the meat sauce. I had to get it out of the pan so I could rinse the pan off and start cooking the meat for the meat sauce. (No fan of unnecessary dish-washing am I, so the same plastic container will be used to hold the finished meat sauce as well, at least until I portion and freeze it.)
Finished marinara sauce

Very meaty tomato sauce

The recipe starts with mincing a quarter-pound of frozen pancetta in the food processor, after which it is cooked separately (along with more olive oil) to render its flavorful fat. In addition to the pancetta, the recipe calls for half a pound of ground beef and half a pound of mild Italian sausage to be cooked and crumbled — all, like the pancetta, to be cooked without browning. I got the pancetta at Formaggio along with the sausage (I used their fresh fennel sausage, which is certainly close enough to “mild Italian” for my taste), since I was already going there to buy chocolate, but given the nature of this dish I did not consider it worth buying a (more expensive) artisanal pancetta — I just stuck with the national brand Fra’mani.
Meat cooking

After cooking the meat, more herbs and the entire batch of marinara are added to the saucepan, along with some chicken broth, and cook for nearly an hour, with the last few minutes uncovered so the sauce can reduce to the desired consistency.
Meat sauce cooking

One batch of the meat sauce is about eight cups, which is far more than the two cups required for the risotto. (Good thing it can be frozen! It will get portioned out and frozen in individual packages.)
Two cups of meat sauce


The process of making the actual risotto is fairly boring and in any case hard to photograph as one is supposed to stir pretty much constantly. I used Carnaroli rice, because it was what I already had. Chopped onion is sweated in the pan with butter, then the rice is added and fried for a minute or so. The pan is deglazed with a half cup of white wine (thanks to the folks at the liquor store for stocking those tiny little single-serving bottles of wine, which make many recipes like this one accessible to non-drinkers), and then the laborious process of adding chicken stock, stirring, adding stock, stirring, and so on, begins. After twenty minutes of pouring and stirring, stirring and pouring, the risotto is finally done: creamy in texture but still slightly toothy when chewed. It’s thick enough to leave a clear spot behind in the pot when the spatula is dragged through.
Finished risotto

This recipe calls for the grated Parmigiano Reggiano (also from Formaggio, because what’s a cheese shop for, anyway?) but just puts it on top of the finished dish — it’s not stirred into the risotto, which was so surprising to me that I had to double- and triple-check to make sure it really said that. (I just checked it again, and that is absolutely how Holmberg wrote it.)

Finished dish

While the risotto is cooking, the meat sauce is being reduced. The recipe starts out with two cups of meat sauce, but I didn’t measure the volume after reduction, so I can only say that it cooks down to about 12 ounces avoirdupois. A quarter of the risotto (6½ ounces) is placed on the dish with a well hollowed out in the center for the reduced meat sauce (3 ounces), and the whole thing is topped with the grated Reggiano. I didn’t have the sort of wide, shallow bowl the recipe calls for, so I just used a plate. It seemed to work OK. Had I not spent the past four hours over the stove making this dish, I would have whipped up a quick serving of steamed spinach to accompany this dish. Here’s an overhead view of my plate:
Overhead view

And here’s the side view:
Plate up!

UPDATE 2014-07-30: I portioned out the rest of the meat sauce for freezing today and found that I had made 9 2/3 cups originally (about 19 servings); I’m assuming that it probably didn’t reduce quite enough during cooking. The numbers below have not been adjusted to reflect that.


It’s really not as bad as you might expect, provided you stick to the suggested serving sizes.

Complete recipe

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 6½ oz risotto, 3 oz sauce, ½ oz Parmigiano Reggiano
Servings per container: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 508 Calories from fat 221
% Daily Value
Total Fat 25g 38%
 Saturated Fat 10g 49%
 Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
 Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 51mg 17%
Sodium 985mg 41%
Potassium 357mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 49g 16%
 Dietary fiber 3g 13%
 Sugars 3g
Proteins 17g 34%
Vitamin A 27%
Vitamin C 21%
Calcium 17%
Iron 12%

Very meaty tomato sauce

This is for the sauce alone, and unreduced. I suspect it would make a great accompaniment for cheese-and-veggie ravioli (and will report back once I have had a chance to try), although obviously one would want to have fewer ravioli with this sauce than one would with a regular (much lower-fat) pasta sauce.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: ½ cup
Servings per container: about 16
Amount per serving
Calories 211 Calories from fat 141
% Daily Value
Total Fat 16g 24%
 Saturated Fat 4g 21%
 Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
 Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 28mg 9%
Sodium 436mg 18%
Potassium 331mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 3%
 Dietary fiber 2g 9%
 Sugars 1g
Proteins 9g 18%
Vitamin A 23%
Vitamin C 18%
Calcium 5%
Iron 10%
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