“Can you get us pears?” I asked Suzen.
“Of course, they are in season,”
“I know,” I said. I did not say it well. Bad tone.
“What’s wrong?” she came into my office from hers.
“Nothing,” I said. “I just have this great recipe: Honey Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts.”
“Sounds great. Can we do pecans?” Suzen hates walnuts. “Where did this recipe come from?”
“Wonderful book. Wintersweet.” I was being careful.
“Let me see,” Suzen took the book from my hands. She scanned pages. “Wonderful,” she observed. “Wait,” she paused, “this says it was published in 2013. You just got this?”
“Kinda,” I said. I was nearly trapped.
“When did you get this?”
“2013,” I had to admit.
“What year is it now?”
“Uh, let me think,” I began. Suzen did not smile. “2015,” I concluded.
“Was this another buried book?”
“Yeah, kinda. It was there on the shelf and I thought I had written about it and then I picked it up and I realized I probably had not written about it so I checked on the blog and I could not find any trace, so …” Suzen held up her hand. “No, I screwed up,” I concluded. Big time.
Suzen left my office. “Where are you going?” I asked.
“To order pears.”
I really wish I had not lost this book but I am fortunate to have found it at just the right time: the dead of winter. Author Tammy Donroe Inman lives in Boston, the land of feet and feet of snow, and she ardently believes that winter offers the opportunity to use many “in season” ingredients: late season apples and pears, pumpkins and squash, nuts and chocolate, persimmons, cranberries, pomegranate, quince, cheese and maple syrup. Plus citrus fruits, particularly Meyer lemons, grapefruits and oranges.
Her creative ideas, her philosophy, and her recipes all appear in Wintersweet. Asked if she is a chef, she modestly says no. But she is a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and worked at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and the matching television show America’s Test Kitchen.
Tammy knows how to cook and she really, really knows how to fashion exceptional desserts. Just look at that book cover: Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova. That idea sets the tone for this book: distinctive recipes planned with care and graciously presented for the home cook. Not all of us went to culinary school, but all of us want a great dessert.
The book’s chapters flow by ingredient. Here they are with some sample recipes:
Cast Iron Apple Cake with Maple Brown Butter
Apple and Walnut Bread Pudding with Cinnamon-Cider Sauce
Baked Caramel Apples
Pears and Quince:
Gingerbread Cake with Brandied Pears
Pear Cardamom Crostada
Honey Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts [or pecans!]
Nuts and Chocolate:
Chestnut Fudge Cakes
Maple Walnut Babka
Pistachio Ice Cream
Persimmons, Pomegranates & Cranberries:
Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova
Grapefruit Buttermilk Cake
Rosemary Meyer Lemon Tart
Roots, Tubers & Gourds:
Pecan Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Gingersnap Crusted Pumpkin Cheese Cake
Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting
Goat Cheese Cake with Dried Cherry Compote
Blue Cheese Fondue
Spicy Prune Cake with Penuche Frosting
Rum Raisin Cheesecake Bars
Cinnamon Date Ice Cream
This book is distinguished for its creativity and consideration. Tammy says that if you like carrot cake, then why not use sweet parsnips in those cupcakes. And if you have a prune cake, then surely the only way to frost it with penuche. These are recipes just this side of deliciously outrageous, recipes to give you pause, and recipes that surely will give you pleasure.
For God’s sake, don’t waste two years as I did. Go get Wintersweet and get baking. We probably have two months of snow left. Maybe three. I’ve actually worn out my snow shovel. Now, I just want my Honey Roasted Pears.
This year’s Valentine’s Day feast at Cooking by the Book featured duck breast:
To complement the duck, we served twice-baked potatoes with caviar and these green beans. Green bean flavor is not quite harsh but surely intense. To create a dish that has a wider flavor profile, that is a side dish to capture your attention, we paired the green beans with this vinaigrette of vinegar, mustard and roasted chestnuts. Yes, chestnuts. With their own distinctively intense flavor, the chestnuts can stand on their own and successfully compete and then complement the green beans.
The beans are wonderful for strong protein dishes, whether four-footed, or winged, or finned: steak, duck or chicken, or certainly salmon.
Green Beans with Roasted Chestnut Vinaigrette
Yield: serves 8
For the vinaigrette:
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon hot Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 to 4 roasted chestnuts, peeled, and minced or grated (depending on desired consistency)
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the beans:
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound green beans, stem end trimmed, beans halved diagonally
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 10 fresh shitakes, stems discarded, caps julienned
In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar and Dijon until well combined. Whisk in the oil until emulsified. Stir in the chestnuts, 1 tablespoon at a time to ensure desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a large pot filled with salted water over high heat, blanch the green beans until tender but still slightly firm, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss with chestnut dressing.
In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the shallots until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, toss well, and continue to sauté until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes more.
To serve, transfer the beans to a serving dish. Garnish with shallots and mushrooms and serve with extra dressing on the side, if you wish.
Source: Corinne Trang at Cooking by the Book with inputs from Wikipedia
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.0 for 1/60th second at ISO‑400