Tag Archives: cookbook

Qualcosa de Mangiare

veniceandfoodEn route from Vienna to Avignon a few years back, I stopped in Venice for a few days. Unfortunately, it was a hot summer day and the city was teeming with tourists. I chose to stay at a hostel in Mestre to stay within my student budget, so I didn’t have much of a chance to visit this unique city. I explored the many little alleyways, canals and colorful buildings, but aside from some excellent gelato, I didn’t get to try much of the food.

Luckily, I had the foresight to pick up Sally Spector’s delightful book Venice and Food. Part history book, part cookbook, part travel guide, the book features hand-sketched drawings of Venetian bridges, plazas and symbols, along with historical tidbits.

Spector takes you through the history of each of Venice’s important ingredients, from riso (the word originates from the Greek word Oryzo – who knew?) to aglio to prezzemolo (parsley). She includes both the Italian words for the dishes and ingredients, as well as words from the local Venetian dialect.

The recipes are simple and divine. From Risi e Bisi, the local favorite (rise and peas) to biscotti, this is one gorgeous book. I can’t wait to go back to Venice and try out all of the foods she discusses. And next time, I’ll go anytime but the summer months to avoid the tourist craziness!

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Posted by on November 25, 2008 in Food Reads


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“bills open kitchen” verdict

This week I’m cooking with bills open kitchen, a cookbook written by Sydney chef Bill Granger (his restaurants include bills and bills2). The cookbook is visually stunning. The photos are luscious and some feature his adorable daughter.

The recipes… well, let’s just say they needed some tweaking. I’ve found that this often happens with cookbooks created by chefs. Proportions, flavors, cooking times vary vastly from a large restaurant kitchen to a home kitchen. Good cookbooks are tested in a variety of kitchens and tend to be very specific. Instead of calling for “two pears, chopped,” they’ll ask for one cup of chopped Anjou pears, for example, knowing well that pears vary in size and shape.

This is precisely what happened to me when I tried Bill’s oat, pear and raspberry loaf. The recipe idea is fabulous. A fresh pear and raspberry filling is encased in a crumbly oat quick bread — perfect for an afternoon snack or for brunch. But the recipe needed some work. My modified recipe is below.

I also attempted the Vietnamese chicken salad yesterday. The dressing was altogether too salty and the salad lacked a balancing sweet flavor. I added mandarin slices to make it more enticing. I won’t include the recipe only because it’s not one I would recommend — it took way too much tweaking.

Final verdict: bills open kitchen provides some wonderful breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas, but be sure to taste along the way to make sure the flavors are balanced and that the proportions are right. Adjust accordingly. If you’re a stick-to-the-recipe person, this book isn’t for you.

Oat, Pear and Raspberry Loaf (modified from bills open kitchen)


topping —

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. butter (or Smart Balance) cut into small pieces

bread —

1 cup rolled oats

1 1/2 cups boiling water

3 Tbsp. butter (or Smart Balance) cut into small pieces

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

a pinch of salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 cup white sugar

1 ripe pear, cored and diced

1/2 cup frozen raspberries (I used these neat black raspberries available at Trader Joe’s)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray to coat a loaf pan (7 1/2 by 4 1/2).

2. To make the topping, combine the topping ingredients with your hands in a small bowl until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

3. Toss the pears and raspberries with the white sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over the oats and stir until the oats are covered with water. Set aside and let cool.

5. In a large bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar and using a hand-held beater, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture becomes pale and creamy. Slowly add the applesauce and the vanilla extract.
Add the eggs one at a time until well mixed.

6. Slowly add the flour and baking powder into the bowl and fold in slowly, making sure not to overbeat. Drain the excess water off the oats and add them into the flour and butter mixture.

7. Spread two-thirds of the oat-flour-butter mixture into the loaf pan. Add the sugared fruit in an even layer and cover with the rest of the mix. Sprinkle the crumbly topping over the quick bread.

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Posted by on April 10, 2008 in Breads, Food Reads


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