Suzi’s Blog

TBT Cookbook Review: Mediterranean Grilling by Diane Kochilas

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Diane Kochilas has a new cookbook out, Ikaria, based on the foods of her native Greek island. Yes, I’ll review it soon, but seeing her name reminded me of all the grand books she has written in the past. Like Mediterranean Grilling from 2007.

All grilling books do have a common core. So, Mediterranean or not, there is a burger here but one dressed in Greek glory: Grilled Beef Burgers with Red Pepper and Roquefort. That’s typical of Diane’s upscale approach to her recipes. There’s familiarly there, the burger part, and some additions, the peppers, and then just plain elegance, in Roquefort.

Everything can be grilled in Diane’s world. There are chapters for salads, veggies, bready, and pasta. There’s a soup chapter, too, well, grilled ingredients that slide into soup eventually. Protein chapters abound: kebabs, ground meat, searious meat as she says, wings, and fish. There’s even a dessert chapter but I have to say, aside from gilling some bananas, I do my desserts in the oven.

You’ve probably had a kebab or two in your life. Here they have happy variation and color. And they are not cooked until dry as the desert.

There gem recipes here you are sure to want to try:

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich with Yogurt-Tahini-Chipotle Dressing

Grilled Sweet Potatoes and Leeks with Mint, Orange and Olive Vinaigrette

Smoked Green Garden Packets

Sweet Tomato-Glazed Duck Breasts

That’s a picture of the duck breasts at the end of the post, surely a dish that you can consider for a fall Sunday dinner.

As with most Mediterranean cooking, these recipes are rich in flavor but do not demand rich ingredients. It’s herbs and veggies with basic meats and fish that are assembled in ways to make you pause and smell before that first bite.

The kebab chapter offers you a bevy of ideas to make your grilling grander:

Breaded Mozzarella and Cherry Tomato Brochettes

Classic Greek Chicken Kebabs

Chicken Kebabs Marinate in Cumin Yogurt

Classic Shish Kebab

Turkish-Style Lamb Kebabs

Lamb, Quince and Onion Skewers

Provencal-Style Lamb Brochettes

Provençal-Style Beef Tenderloins with Garlic, Bacon, and Anchovies

Spanish Style Kebabs with Smoked Sausage and Shrimp

Pinchitos-Spanish Pork Kebabs

Those kebab recipes give you an appropriate impression of the span of this book: the Mediterranean from the far West to the far East – well, technically the Middle East but you understand. The variety of recipes, and surely the quality, will have you standing by your grill as the leaves fall and perhaps as the snow begins to trickle down. You can ignore the cold, pretend you are somewhere near the sea, and continue with Mediterranean Grilling.

 

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TBT Recipe: Tzatziki from Balaboosta by Einat Admony

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Cool. Refreshingly cool. Tzatziki, a combo of sour cream and cucumber, is a side dish that is a hallmark of Middle Eastern Cuisine. It should be on all our plates as well. Here you see it paired with meat kabobs [yes, the recipe is coming tomorrow!]. But tzatziki is a striking accompaniment to proteins of all shapes and sizes. Think of those cucumber notes reverberating with salmon. Or chicken. Or, even, on top of a burger.

Contrast in color, flavor and temperature is an easy way to generate excitement on your plate. This tzatziki can be made in seconds. Well, technically, over 60 seconds, but it is quick. And, as noted in the recipe, while it can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, it really is best fresh from your cutting board.

In the ingredients below, there is a range for the amount of garlic and cucumber. The low numbers are from Einat Admony’s Balaboosta and are her genuine proportions. If you do happen to look at other recipes, they generally tend to be more generous with these ingredients. Try the recipe with lower amounts and adjust to your own taste and the intensity of your fresh ingredients. You can always add garlic, but it’s tough to subtract.

I’ve tired the burger with tzatziki. Loved the idea. Even better is dipping the fries into it. That’s probably not an ancient Middle Eastern custom. But it's a grand New York City one.


Tzatziki

Yield: about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ⅓ to 1 cup finely chopped unpeeled cucumber
  • ½ to 2 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Keep the tzatziki chilled until ready to use.

It's best used that day, but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Source: Balaboosta by Einat Admony

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/5 for1/30th second at ISO‑3200

 

Cookbook Review: Make Mine a Martini

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The good news is that there are great, classic martini recipes in Make Mine a Martini. The better news is that the book goes far beyond mere martinis.

Oh, have I offended? Do you view martinis as the ultimate drink, the only drink? I understand. I watched those first James Bond films, too, and I wanted mine shaken and not stirred. Although here, author Kay Plunkett-Hogge does explain that shaking a drink can chip off little pieces of ice that affect the ultimate flavor while stirring is the safer route to a superior martini.

That’s one of the insights that make this a very good cocktail book for you to consider. This actually is a cocktail party cookbook. Even experienced cooks, like my wife, can be a tad nervous when offering up a dinner party. How do you begin it? What beverages, what foods to start with. We often put all our time and attention into the main course and then, at the last hour, begin to worry about how the entire evening will begin.

That’s where Make Mine a Martini comes into play. Here, you have an array of beverage ideas, mostly classic but with some new ideas, paired with an extensive, excellent assortment of app ideas.

All the classic cocktails here: martinis, margarita, Cosmos, … The entire set. And, the drinks are arranged with interesting side bars and comparisons. What’s the difference between The Gin Fizz and The Tom Collins? Same ingredients actually, but different techniques to achieve a different cocktail.

Beyond the classics, assembled from bars around the world, there are some new ideas you’ll want to try. There is The Fine & Dandy: lemon juice, Cointreau, gin and bitters. The cocktail is a brilliant yellow offering of sophisticated flavor. I’m posting the recipe later this week.

You enjoy drink avocado? Yes, drinking. That is not a typo. From mixologist Julin Cox in LA there is The Avocado Project: rum, lime juice, agave nectar, and sweetened avocado puree. That puree is avocado, agave and more lime juice. My wife and I are ripening avocados now to try this out.

Where I think this book shines is its vast array of food ideas for cocktail apps. They are grouped by cuisines type, so you can find, say, an Asian Platter of ideas: Quick Curry Puffs, Asian Scallops, Thai Fish Cakes with Cucumber Pickle, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, and Thai Peanut Brittle Dipping Sauce. There you go, an incredible spread of tasty ideas, all packaged and ready for you to supercharge your cocktail party.

If you stress over your cocktail parties, this book is better than a bottle of Valium. Seriously, Make Mine a Martini makes your life blissfully tranquil.

The book is filled with excellent photos that are appealing and, yes, totally appetizing. It’s a great book for party novices. And even for nervous pros. I know. Our next cocktail party, we may do this Asian portfolio, but the French-Trimmed Lamb Cutlets with Salsa Verde is hard to resist.