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Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees...a Chinese tutorial

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees is a tutorial; a tomb of knowledge.  Recipes for cooking up some delish Chinese fare do not truly begin until page 100.  Page 100 people!  So, the first 99 pages are devoted to teaching us the what, why, and how of Chinese cooking.  Personally, I find this enticing and exciting….it allows me to explore why I enjoy Chinese food and it gives me the essential tools that I need to be successful in the kitchen.  The chapters within the first 99 pages include the essence of Chinese food, the Chinese kitchen and pantry, basic ingredient preparation (key) and Chinese stocks.  Each chapter that includes recipes also include further knowledge to ensure that we (I) are successful with the Chinese cooking technique being taught within that chapter.  There are even detailed descriptions and pictures on how to create certain iconic dishes.  Moo Goo Gai Pan, anyone?  How about Salt Baked Chicken, no?  I know you want to make Peking Duck!!!  There are 14….count them 14….pictures that show you (me) step-by-step how to make this dish! There are even tutorials…pictorials…on how to clean a whole fish.  To be honest with you and truthfully myself, I sincerely doubt that I will ever do this (I won’t say never because you know what they say about saying never).  Even with that, I like the fact that I will be able to say that I, technically speaking, ‘know how to clean and filet a whole fish’. 

This book is more than a cookbook to me; it is one that is currently in my bedroom.  I find myself dragging it with me from den to bedroom.  I am enjoying reading it as I would a novel.  There is such a depth of information in this book.  This book will help me be successful with my other Asian-style cookbooks (or cookery bookery as Julia would say).

The photos beautifully capture the recipes.  They will call out to you…make me, you must make me….  The book cover photo is of Stir-fried Ho Fan.  Like the photo said….I gotta make it.

P.S.  I love General Tso’s Chicken.  I admit this is one of the dishes that I always order at PF Chang’s.  In the book is an authentic recipe, along with how-to pictures.  I will be making this dish. 

P.S.S.  This book is a keeper.



Lucky Peach

I received Lucky Peach's 101 Easy Asian Recipes in the mail this week.  I think it came on Thursday. I wasn't expecting it to arrive so soon and when I saw the box on my front doorstep, I gotta tell you, I was excited! The book is a nice hardbook, easy to hold even with 272 pages.  The pictures included in the book are of a cheeky manner.  And I love the text...kind of tongue-in-check with a little smart-ass thrown in.  My kind of book!

It's raining today (again) so I'm starting my grocery list using this book.  The recipes DO seem easy and DO seem like the ones I will want to make, the one's that I like from the local Asian places.  I recently tried making Pad Thai from a Thailand cookbook...mistake.  But the mistake was on my part, somehow the noodles that I used became extremely gummy and left a thick coating in the mouth.  Can you say 'nasty'??? I'm going to try to make it again, using the noodle recommendation from this book.  (One thing that I really love in this book and one of the reasons that I ordered this book was the fact that it has pages upon pages of pictures of the ingredients that I will need to become a master of the easy Asian recipes, and then, a description of those ingredients!  Take a picture of the page; you (I) don't really want to drag a hard-back book to the grocery store. So, what I'm thinking is starting with the novice recipes and working my up....slowly but confidently.  I can do it!

What I really was giddy about was that the book contains recipes that I enjoy eating.  I am starting with Soy 'n' Sugar cucumber pickles and maybe Chineasy cucumber salad (yes, I like this one!...there is a version of this at my local burger-sushi place and this dish is so addictive for me...I now will know how to make it!!!!) and maybe RAMEN (YES!!!) and even maybe chicken adobo and YES!!  Mall Chicken!!! (hahahahaha).  Oh my gosh, it even has a recipe for lacquered roast chicken.  I am a happy girl right now!

This book has become a favorite before I've even had a chance to cook from it.  I cannot wait.  I was so excited that I had to share the news as soon as I opened the pages!  Happy Cooking!


This is Camino

What a great cookbook...I really love a cookbook that I can sit in bed and read like a novel.  This is one of those books!  And, one that I will read, and cook from, over and over.....

I hadn't really heard of this restuarant; wait that's not true....I hadn't heard of this restaurant until I started seeing the cookbook and then it was as if my conscienciousness awoke and now I hear of Camino all the time! Next time that I am traveling for work and I happen to be in the same zip code, I will have a reservation at this gem! These guys (Russ and his wife Allison) primarily cook with an open flame.  I can only imagine the wonderful tastes that they are able to create!  The cookbook does have a section to teach how to cook with fire but the cookbook recognizes that home cooks do not have the tools (read a fireplace in the kitchen) that the restuarant does and so the cookbook gives you instructions on how to use your kitchen. 

The photos are sumptuous and yes, they make me want to build an outdoor spot to cook my hanging leg of lamb. Not sure what my HOA would say about that one! (but they might be enticed by aroma to a) join the party and b) let me keep my fire hole.  I know I'm dreaming on that one.

Seriously, though.  This cookbook is divided into various chapters:  veggies, fish, chicken & egg, duck, lamb, port, dessert, and cocktail!  All you need to have a fabulous feast!  As a little extra, the authors even threw in a chapter on 'a week at camino' so all of us wannabes can pretend we are a little part of Camino for a bit.

This is a book to have many splatters!


Alex's TACOS

I like a good taco.  I even like to make a good taco but usually the buying of a good taco wins out.  There is a little Mexican restaurant here in Charlotte that makes rrreeeeaaaaaalllllllllyyyyyyy good tacos so I usually just go there.  It's easier.  Simpler.  I like to sit outside on their patio overlooking a large outdoor fountain that has a little play in it.  If the wind is blowing just right, I get a little spray of water every once in while (which is such a fabulous thing during our summers).

After reading Alex Stupak's book on tacos, I am enlightened that the tacos that I used to make were obviously (and painfully) very ordinary. I  would use locally-sourced chorizo and make my own pico de Gallo that was it.  No fabulous salsas and definitely not my own tortillas!  Alex's book will change that (although I will have to be in a really industrious mood to make my own tortillas).

I was smitten with this book from just taking it out of the box.  I love the feel of the book....I call it the page feel.  It doesn't have a glossy cover and doesn't have glossy pages.  The page feels nice under the palm of your hand; I like to rest my hand on the book as I am reading.  (Am I weird?   Page-feel is so important to me).

The book is a tomb of knowledge as it relates to tacos.  There is an entire chapter (entire chapter people!!!) on making tortillas; everything from the corn to nixtamalization to masa to detailed descriptions and pictures that walk one step-by-step through the process of making tortillas.  I know what you are thinking...what is nixtamalization???  Well, let me tell you (because I now know!  I'm a miss smarty-pants right now) Nixtamalization makes the vitamins found in corn, like niacin, be able to be absorbed better by the body.  Who knew that tacos were so good for you!   Tacos also has a wonder chapter on salsas, whether they are fresh chile salsas, tomato-based salsas, tomatillo-based salsas, or nut-and-seed based salsas and moles.  The recipes are authentic salsas for taco makings and are vibrant with the heat of the peppers and the cool of the citrus.  I have so many flagged!  

Then we get to the piece-de-resistance....the chapters on the taco fillings.  Chicken, beef, port, offal and other meat (think tripe and goat), seafood, veggie, eggs, and sweets.  I will not be partaking in tripe tacos nor goat tacos (I think goat smells and the smell lingers on your hands, even after washing them like a hundred times and I have a pet goat so I'm just not eating it).  I will, however, be partaking in the chicken tacos with salsa verde, skirt steak tacos with mojo de ajo, salpicon tacos with xni pec (this is a real taco...I did not screw up the spelling), slab bacon tacos with salsa negra (love me so pork belly!), tacos al pastor, potato and chorizo tacos, and canitas tacos.  No name just a few.  I could go on and on.   

But I won't.  Go on an on that is.  Tacos is 240 pages of in-depth knowledge.  Alex shares with us his love for tacos and his secret recipes of his success.  This book implores us to not go to the little Mexican joint and sit in front of the fountain hoping for a little spray of water; this book beckons you into the kitchen and then to your little patio out back to enjoy a sunset while sipping a pineapple margarita of your making and chowing down on a Tacos taco.......


New Sugar and Spice

I so enjoyed this cookbook!  I read it as if it were a great novel!  I love that Samantha uses unusual spice combinations (or at least they are to me!) in her baking to to derive delicious baked goods.  I have my little accounting-type flags marking soooo many pages of this gorgeous book.  This book's chapters are broken down by spice; a great way to quickly find what particular fun spice you want to try on a given day.   I cannot wait for the holidays to make the apricot and ginger cookies, the gingerbread (which I plan to pair with a mouth-puckering velvety lemon ice cream), and the cinnamon bread pudding for an early-morning breakfast.
Fall has arrived and it is raining here today...all day.  The warmth of cinnamon and cardamon would be comforting as this cold wet weather drags into my bones.  After my husband's birthday dinner tonight, I plan to curl up with Samantha's book and select which dessert will be making an appearance at my table tomorrow.  Bowls are at the ready!

Cute anecdote: My sister and I were at lunch on Friday with one of my girlfriends (Jane).  Jane noted that my sister and I are like sugar and spice...Anna is the sugar because she is the sweet southern gal and I am the spice because I can cuss like a sailor....