Review: Martha Stewart’s Vegetables

Sorry for the radio silence over here, friends. I was feeling pretty uninspired all of October, I don’t think I even finished a single book. And then this past week has been a doozy, hasn’t it? I am emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I have been pottering around the kitchen and taking a lot of naps. I thought I’d focus some of my energy away from politics and the news by adding what I hope becomes a regular column about Learning to Cook. Here, we will be doing our usual cookbook reviews, but also (hopefully) sharing other recipes and stories with you as well. What better way to start a culinary adventure than with Martha Stewart?


Martha Stewart, domestic and culinary goddess, recently released a new cookbook on Vegetables. I have been searching for ways to bring more veggies into my life. While I love salads and stews, sometimes you just want something different. Do not be fooled by the title, this is not a book for vegetarians. I was a little disappointed by this, because while veggies are in every recipe, they are not necessarily the star of each meal. I don’t need Martha to tell me I can add onions to a stir fry, do you?

The book is organized by types of vegetables – flowers, tubers, legumes, etc. While I can understand this categorization, I think I would have preferred the book to be organized by season. (I know, I know, you could also argue that different types of vegetables are also a form of eating seasonally.) There are photographs of each recipe, which I really loved. The food is all beautifully plated and presented – the photographs alone are worth flipping through the book to look at.

The first recipe I tried was her Roasted Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes and Apples, because I was feeling the autumn crisp in the air and excited for fall produce. I’ve shared the recipe below, along with some of my notes:

Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, each about 1 inch thick (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 apples, preferably Honeycrisp, thinly sliced, seeds removed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; swirl in oil. Cook chops until golden brown, turning once, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Remove all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet.

  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add potatoes and onion; season with salt. Cook until golden in spots, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and cider. Cover and simmer, stirring a few times, until potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with caraway seeds. Return pork and juices to skillet; tuck apple slices between chops. Roast until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of chops (without touching bone) registers 138 degrees, about 10 minutes. Serve pork, vegetables, and apples with pan juices.

Jessica’s Notes:
I am not especially a fan of sweeter dishes. I generally prefer savory, spicy, & salty things. That being said, this recipe made some very juicy and tender pork chops. I think the combination of sweet potato, apples, and apple-cider vinegar was a little too much for me. I think next time, I would replace the sweet potato with normal potatoes and throw in some jalapenos or star anise for an extra kick. The recipe suggests you could use apple juice instead of apple cider vinegar, but I think the acidity of the vinegar is really necessary. As I’ve been cooking more and more, I have become feeling more confident about modifying recipes. I might try tweaking and writing my own recipes in the future.

The recipes in Martha’s book range from very simple salads to slightly more complex meals. I think it’s a pretty safe choice for beginner cooks like me, because you could slowly build a repertoire that you feel confident about. There are a wide range of recipes, so there will be something for any palate. I like that there are a manageable number of recipes, so that you don’t feel completely overwhelmed the way you might when you’re browsing online.

***

I would recommend this book to people who love beautiful cookbooks and who are looking for ways to incorporate more veggies into their lives. However, like most recipes, a lot of these are available on Martha’s website.

  • I’d like to thank Blogging for Books for sending me this book in return for an honest review.
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Book Review: A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches

Tyler Kord is the chef of the No. 7 Sub restaurants in New York and author of A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches.

The New York Times said I might be “the Willy Wonka of submarine sandwiches,” but I prefer “Sandwich Batman”.

Kord comes off as an irreverent sort of guy, but the sandwiches look delicious. The text in the cookbook includes quips, sarcasm, and notes from the editor left in for humor. The writing is a bit sophomoric, but the real content are the recipes, right? (How much value do you place in non-ingredient bits of a cookbook?)

The sandwiches are definitely more creative than what you can get at Subway, and so are their names (“The Battle on Pork Chop Hill”, “Lazaro’s Revenge”). They’re divided by what the main component is — you are probably thinking this means what meat but one section is dedicated to broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and another to muchim, a Korean brining/seasoning mix.

Included are directions for how to make a great but simple main component (how to make your own chorizo sausage, roast a chicken, and anything else needed) as well as recipes for sauces and sides that you might want with your sandwich — chips, salads, coleslaw, etc.

Overall, I think these sandwiches are very inspiring and require a bit more work than your usual ham and cheese. The book is also pleasantly well-organized, and I appreciated the extra recipes at the end. I would recommend this book to adventurous sandwich-lovers. Below is the recipe I am most looking forward to trying (though there are many close seconds).

This is a Chicken Sandwich
Makes 4 of the best sandwiches you ever had

  • 1/2 cup Special Sauce
  • 4 kaiser rolls, split in half
  • 2 cups shredded Roasted Chicken
  • 4 large slices Fried Eggplant
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 4 thick slices
  • 2 loosely packed cups of arugula

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

Book Review: Food with Friends

Food with Friends: the art of simple gatherings is a recipe book by Leela Cyd, who is a self-proclaimed “food, lifestyle and travel photographer and storyteller.” As can be imagined, the photos are beautiful. In the introduction, Leela states that she emphasizes “food that looks and tastes good.” It shows in the photos. I would argue she is bigger on style than substance. (How many flower petals do you really need to eat?)

book

The book has a touch of whimsy throughout from the ingredients to the garnishes to the table settings. The love she has for her life shows through in the writing. The collection of recipes are nicely eclectic (South Indian Kesari Bhath, Socca Cakes, Matcha Egg Cream, Challah Bread) as a result of her travels and include a lot of dishes and ingredients that I’ve never experienced. The dishes are unique, beautifully presented, and will probably delight any dinner guests.

The general flaws of the book are few; it leans heavily to sweets (not such a bad thing) and the chapters are arbitrary, why put Hazelnut Tea Cake with Plums under “potlucks & picnics” instead of “teatime”or “desserts”?

This book is as much about lifestyles as it is about food. I think I would have liked the book much better if I didn’t read any of the non-recipe texts. The very distinctive feeling I get from this book is that it is not actually food for friends so much as for people who are active on social media in whom you delight in evoking jealousy by presenting some over-garnished side dish. You say loudly how simple it was to throw together while everyone else tries to find the best light for their Instagram photos.

Bottom line: If you’re a good friend, I make you bacon and various potato dishes and burritos over-stuffed with good things. If you’re a frenemy, I’ll give you the Warm Olives and Spa Water.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review

Book Review: The Basque Book

The Basque Book: a love letter in recipes from the kitchen of Txikito is a beautiful cookbook and guide to Basque food. When I chose the book, I had no idea what Basque food looked like, and I had a fun time finding out. book

The book is by Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero, the chefs of the restaurant Txikito based in NYC. The love Alexandra, who writes the introduction, and Eder have for really sharing the roots of their food come through in the book. They take time to explain what ‘the basics’ look like in Basque cuisine (how to cook an egg four ways, how to make your own mayonnaise, and many other stock items), how to put together a coherent meal using recipes they provide, and plenty of other information and anecdotes that go beyond the recipe.

The photos are really beautiful, the writing is meaningful, and the recipes range from pretty easy three-ingredient (albeit maybe more exotic ingredients than you can find at your chain grocery store) recipes to half-day endeavors within each division. While I am still not sure I could explain Basque cuisine to a friend, I do think I learned enough to know it doesn’t really suit my tastes (I’m not really into olives or anchovies or seafood in general…) but it was a wonderful journey regardless.

The book is available from the publishers here. Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review