Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pow! Zap! Taking That Cookbook Challenge Down

Having boarded the sushi train the previous day, our foodcentric weekend continued on Sunday with an epic takedown of The Cookbook Challenge. We cooked up four, count 'em, four recipes in order to whittle the Challenge down to two remaining recipes. Visualizing the classic fight graphics of the late, great 60's Batman show, we took each one out with a flourish. At least, I call it a flourish....were one to spontaneously step in during that visualization process, they might prefer to call it a "nervous, twitchy breakdown". Whatever.

Ah, Batman....the staccato speeches of Adam West as Batman. The always stalwart assistance of Burt Ward's Robin. The sounds of Eartha Kitt purring as Catwoman or the very sight of Julie Newmar poured in to that catsuit. Batgirl attempting a few fight scenes but seemingly thwarted by her skintight suit and high heels. Frank Gorshin mugging as the Riddler and Cesar Romero maniacally laughing as the Joker. Romero's Joker seems downright quaint compared to the late Heath Ledger's unsettling post-punk take on the classic villain, but the TV show was undeniably fun in a goofy kind of way. Everything involving the bad guys was viewed at a slant as if everyone should be rolling down the incline. When the final battle with the villains and their endless supply of henchmen inevitably erupted, the scene would be highlighted with fight graphics: Kapow! Biff! Wham! I discovered the show at my grandmother's home....wedged between a Looney Tunes cartoon and a bizarre Japanese hero show called Ultraman that resembled the old Godzilla flicks. I was hooked, and Batman would ignite a lifelong love for all of the caped crusaders....but that's a story for another day.

Imagining a blast of Kaboom!, we tackled four of our remaining cookbooks. We began by taking delicious advantage of the fresh garden eggplants that our friend Kiko gifted us with. We first utilized a smallish cookbook called Masterchef Appetizers and Apertifs that apparently came with a recipe CD-rom that K had purchased long before I came along. We chose the Caponata, as it utilized one entire eggplant. Caponata is a flavorful, aromatic and spicy eggplant and tomato spread. We also made a Creole salsa from Mark Millar's Salsa cookbook. Our dear friend Annette, who just celebrated a milestone birthday (Happy, happy, Honey!) bought me this cookbook when we lived together on St. Simon's Island, GA. She made a hella good homemade salsa and inspired me to do the same and we have been making salsa since. One of my faves from this book is the black bean salsa that features a hit of orange zest. We loved it. We made both of these on Saturday to chill and "fester" as K puts it and busted them out on Sunday to nibble on with pita bread while making the other two dishes. The caponata was a hit...the fresh eggplant rang true through the dish and the flavors all combined beautifully. The creole salsa....well, we used the Roma tomatoes we grew in our garden. Typically full of flavor, these tomatoes tasted a bit flat and we thought the other herbs and spices would kick it up a bit, but it still lacked a certain zing. We added a well-known Bam with a few generous hits of Essence of Emeril and that brought it around.
Our breakfast treat came from A Baker's Odyssey cookbook. This is a gorgeous and comprehensive cookbook featuring favorite baked goods from around the globe. We went with the Puff Puffs; one of Nigeria's leading sweet treats. These are super-yummy round little doughnut holes punched up with nutmeg. We rolled most in sugar as the recipe dictates but also added cinnamon to a few and they were excellent as well. Our final entrant to the Challenge came from a Tyson Holly Farms Chicken cookbook from 1994. This Hearty Healthy Chicken Salad is an interesting one....not for sandwiches, apparently, as it includes cooked macaroni and tomatoes as ingredients. The final result was like darling Mary Lou herself...bright and cheery. Once again, though, we needed to add some spice and we did...locally made Chef Mark Alan's Garden Goodness; a mix of herbs, spices and citrus that woke the chicken salad up a bit. YUM. These were CC # 67,68,69 and 70.
Finally; unrelated to the Challenge, The K-Man set forth to use his farmer's market and garden bounty of tomatoes to make some salsa for canning. He used the Ball salsa mix to set up the first six jars for winter canning. We listened intently as the vacuum seal popped on each jar....it will be so fantabulous to have garden-fresh salsa come the ill winds of winter. Just look at that technocrat chef...watching his iPad while making his salsa.
So, the Cookbook Challenge is gasping its last breaths, but the Fat Bastard ain't sung yet....we still have a seafood recipe and for the final attempt; Julia Child's Coq Au Vin. Stay tuned for the recipe for the caponata..

1 whole globe eggplant-diced without peeling
1 med. onion-coarsely chopped
1 med green bell pepper-chopped
2 cloves garlic-minced
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped olives
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
Black pepper to taste
1 dash hot sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons capers (these are optional, but we used them)
4 anchovy filets (these are also optional and we used anchovy paste instead)

Saute first 5 ingredients in oil in a large skillet. Add tomato sauce and next 5 ingredients; cover, reduce heat, simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in hot sauce, oregano, and salt and pepper; chill 24 hours. Serve with crackers or thin slices of French bread.

The cookbook authors also point out that this is a very flexible recipe. In Italy, no two caponatas are alike. So play with your food and make it work for you!


Lisa Mandina said...

Those donut holes sound yummy.

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