A good start
Everything you wanted to know about ingredients.
IF those mak datins only knew that they could grow their own Botox bacterium in their kitchen, it would save them a couple of bucks on their wrinkle treatments.
Apparently, when you mix chopped garlic and oil, and store it for long periods of time, there is a small risk of botulism – caused by botulinum, the bacterium that causes flaccid paralysis of muscles (a serious ailment) and the same one used in Botox injections (a cosmetic treatment used by seriously silly people) – in this anaerobic (no air) mixture.
This is some of the information you can read in Aliza Green’s Starting With Ingredients: Quintessential Recipes For The Way We Really Cook (2006, Running Press).
Green has filled her book not only with recipes, but also historical and cultural facts, techniques and abundant background information on food ingredients. In fact, turn to any of the 1,035 pages (not counting the index) and there will be something to catch your attention. It won’t be a picture, though, since there are none.
This book has 100 chapters and each one focuses on a single ingredient, starting with Almonds and ending with Zucchini & Other Summer Squashes. In between you’ll find information and recipes for Beets, Calamari & Octopus, Honey, Kasha & Buckwheat, Tuna: Canned & Fresh, and Yoghurt, among others. There’s even a chapter filed under X for XTras on “Basics & useful information for the cook”. This is a particularly good chapter as it gives recipes for eight basic stocks, along with dough for pizza, pasta (including forming ravioli) and brioche, as well as different kinds of pastry dough.
Some ingredients may be more familiar than others and a few may not be easily available here – quince and rhubarb, for example. But it’s worth trying out some of the recipes because they are quite unusual – for any one ingredient, Green will have recipes from various parts of the world. When discussing eggplant (or aubergine or brinjal), for example, she has recipes from the Middle East (Baba Ghanoush and Grilled Eggplant with Mint Pesto and Sumac), Romania (Chopped Eggplant Salad), Haiti (Roasted Eggplant Salad), Italy (Eggplant Parmigiano al Forno) and Japan (Eggplant Chips with Nanami Togarashi).
But it’s not just about cooking as seen by the safety tip on garlic and oil. She includes much more – from an extract from Hermann Melville’s Moby Dick: “chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, until you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes” (in the chapter on clams); to a commentary on onions and civilization.
Turn to the egg chapter and you have information about storing eggs (keep large end up so that the pointy bottom is filled for longer freshness) and freezing egg yolks (mix with either sugar or salt to stabilize before freez- ing).ing). Green also shows she has a sense of humour with an observation about egg sizes: “Eggs are sized from medium to jumbo (as in condoms, there is no such thing as small) ...” Cute.
Now, a little bit about the recipes from Green’s book that are featured here. Her crumb-topped mac ‘n’ cheese is the ultimate recipe of its kind because it uses four cheeses (although instead of macaroni, she uses penne). Unlike many recipes for the dish which require making a béchamel sauce, Green simply whisks eggs and milk together 4 eggs Salt, freshly ground black pepper, fresh grated nutmeg and cayenne pepper to taste 170g Monterey Jack, shredded 170g Emmenthal or other Swiss cheese, shredded 170g sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded ½ cup grated Asiago, or other sharp grating cheese 1 cup homemade or Japanese panko breadcrumbs 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted 450g ridged penne pasta ■ Marty’s food blog is at martythyme.blogspot. com
The Don’t Call Me Chef team of Hungry Caterpillar, Marty and Veggie Chick (whose cookery column appears in StarTwo on the first Monday of every month) reviews cookbooks in this regular series. To give readers an idea of what the books are about, they also test recipes from the publications. Preheat oven to 190°C. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Mix in Jack, Swiss and Cheddar cheeses. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Asiago and butter and reserve for topping.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for about 6 minutes or until mostly cooked with a small, hard, pearly core. Drain but do not rinse.
Combine cooked pasta with egg-cheese mixture. Transfer to an 8-cup (6cm deep) baking dish. Top with crumb mixture and then bake 30 minutes or until bubbling and browned on top.