A good start

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - T PEOPLE -

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.

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