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Cat Cora's Kitchen: Favorite Meals for Family and Friends Paperback – Bargain Price, July 31, 2004
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About the Author
Cat Cora is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She was Chef de Cuisine at Napa Valley's Bistro Don Giovanni and went on to be executive chef of Postino in Lafayette, California. Cat has been featured on the TV Food Network's Melting Pot and Date Plate and she writes a biweekly food column for the Contra Costa Times . She lives in Northern California.
Ann Krueger Spivack wrote the series Michael Chiarello's Napa for public television. She lives with her husband and two children in Berkeley, California.
Maren Caruso is a San Francisco-based photographer whose work also appears in The New Complete Coffee Book (0-8118-2867-0). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Fair enough. But it is the recipes that make a cookbook. And, I must say, I find some interesting exemplars here. One can assess a recipe pretty handily after having cooked a bunch over time. And this book contains a bunch of nice recipes that I aim to exploit in the near future.
For instance. . . .
"Chicken stewed in wine, garlic, and cinnamon." Pretty straightforward ingredients (e.g., chicken, cinnamon, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, cloves of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, chopped onions, dry white wine, water, tomato paste, and grated Myzithra cheese [which I had never known about]). There is some work with the recipe, but it is clearly doable--and it sounds like the end result would be a delicious treat!
"Slow roasted pork with Bourbon." Kosher salt, black pepper, pork butt/shoulder, cloves of garlic, sage leaves, flour, olive oil, sweet-hot mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and bourbon. Again, the process seems like ordinary cooks can handle it pretty well.
One of the key little pieces of Greek cooking is something called "Tzatsiki" (cucumber yogurt). The recipe here is so straightforward that it is scarcely possible to fail to create something that will be tasty!
"Grilled asparagus with tangerine aioli." This will probably take someone like me a bit of extra effort. But, I really enjoy asparagus, and anything to add some taste highlights makes sense to me. And this recipe surely does that.
All in all, a solid cookbook. The photos that are in the book give a nice sense of the outcome of the process (I wish that there were more such photos). Overall, this book provides a set of recipes that look quite doable and that promise tasty outcomes!
Unlike Cora' more recent book "Cooking from the Hip" which emphasizes quick and easy recipes this is a more classic cook book with an emphasis on some known and not so well-known Greek as well as other recipes that integrate fresh (California) ingredients.
The book is divided into sections according to menus. I prefer to have recipes divided by type but that is a matter of personal preference. This is a well-put-together book and the recipes are fully tested. Each one I have tried has been a winner. A few of the recipes are complicated and require time and effort, while others are simple. There are some great classics that are delicious such as the Greek style stuffed peppers and Moussaka.
Cat has been working several different Food Network shows as well as several of her own California culinary shows and appearances on network talk shows for the last few years, establishing herself as a culinary celebrity staple equal to Tyler Florence and Sara Moulton, and just a notch below fast cooking diva Rachael Ray and super food nerd Alton Brown. This is her first book of recipes / memoirs and she has matched the quality of her equals, Tyler and Sara, and has made a very worthy contribution to the literature on Greek cooking.
This is not a reference book on Greek food like Diane Kochilas' `The Glorious Foods of Greece' nor is it a popular survey of Greek cooking such as the recent `The Olive and the Caper' by Susanna Hoffman. It is a personal history of Cat's food experiences in her childhood Jackson home, in the ancestral home of her family on the Aegean island of Skopelos, Greece, in her California restaurant kitchens in northern California, and in her modern home kitchen. This orientation with the liberal notes on the niceties of Greek ingredients, her experiences with famous influences such as Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Thomas Keller, and Alice Waters, and stories of her US and Greek family members make this a more than usually entertaining personal cookbook.
Although the recipes are divided between four different venues, there is not a lot of differences between, for example, the dishes prepared in Jackson and the dishes prepared on Skopelos. They are all Greek recipes, methods, and ingredients. The Jackson recipes are the least Greek, as there is some Johnny Reb influence in some barbecue recipes, but every single recipe has both an English main name and an Greek name. Extra points to Cat for consistency in uniformly providing both names. Makes things much easier when comparing her recipes to standard works such as Kochilas' book.
The first overall impression is the omnipresence of lemon as an ingredient. It is so pervasive that I wonder why Nancy Harmon Jenkins did not feature lemons in a chapter of her excellent `The Essential Mediterranean'. Another oddity is that the recipes from the island of Skopelos contain no fish. While Cat makes no note of this fact, it confirms an observation I saw in a book on Greek island cuisine that all the good Aegean fish is carted off to Athens to be sold. Little of it is eaten at home.
Menus of dishes that typically go together organize all the recipes in the four sections. This enhances the use to which books of this type are most commonly put, as sources for themed entertaining. If you want to do a Greek dinner, this book is an excellent resource.
Cat has the usual litany of praise for fresh ingredients and the usual tips for finding them. She has some special comments on important Greek ingredients such as feta. Apparently, most non-Greek Feta is bland when compared to the real thing, and, Dutch feta seems to be especially off the mark, but Cat does not elaborate. She is also especially fussy about getting red pearl onions instead of white for several dishes.
I have made several dishes from this book and these I have found uniformly tasty and relatively easy to make. As all recipes are organized by dinner menu, there are a roughly equal number of appetizer, main dish, salad, and dessert recipes. The star of many of the dessert recipes, of course, is phyllo dough. I wish she had not mentioned that our freezer staple phyllo dough is a pale, fragile product compared to fresh phyllo, but I'll live, and may even seek out a local source for fresh phyllo.
Like the Italian cuisine, there are lots of recipes for wild and bitter greens, beans, artichokes, tomatoes, bread, shellfish, and sardines. There are also plenty of recipes for chicken and lamb, some recipes for pork and rabbit, and not many for beef, although veal stock does play an important role as a pantry item. There is a really super lamb and cheese sandwich recipe and a fair number of grilled food recipes.
This is very much the kind of cookbook you want to get if you just happen to be in an adventurous culinary mood, but don't want to spend a lot of loot. The book has just the right mix of easy recipes, showoff recipes, and unusual tastes.
Highly recommended for a good read and a very good culinary change of pace.
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Books were in good shape.