Valerie’s Home Cooking: More than 100 Delicious Recipes to Share with Friends and Family

I had the chance to chat with Valerie Bertinelli when she was in Chicago a few weeks ago to sign copies of her new cookbook, Valerie’s Home Cooking: More than 100 Delicious Recipes to Share with Friends and Family (Oxmoor House 2017; $30). It’s always interesting to meet someone in real time that you’ve, in a way, grown up with. Not saying Bertinelli and I were from the same neighborhood or belonged to the same Girl Scout troop, but I was about her age when I watched her play the role of Barbara on “One Day at a Time,” which ran from 1975-1984. The sitcom was rather revolutionary for its time because it was about a divorced single mom raising two kids at a time where most family shows were about households with a mom, dad and a couple of kids.

“Barbara” was adorably cute, bubbly and, in my memory, almost always smiling. Flash forward 30 some years, numerous movies and a starring role on the TV series, “Hot in Cleveland” for which she won her second Golden Globe award (the first was for “One Day at a Time”) and Bertinelli could still be channeling Barbara. She’s warm and friendly and totally enthusiastic about cooking. Currently she has two Food Network shows, “Valerie’s Home Cooking” and “Kids Baking Championship,” the latter which she co-hosts with pastry chef Duff Goldman.

Her cooking style, she says, is all about simplicity and ease.

“Who wants to complicate their life any more than they have to?” she says.  “We all have enough complications going on in our life, so let’s make it easy in the kitchen. The last thing I want is for people to feel intimidated by my recipes so I work at making them easy to follow and delicious as well.”

Each of the 100-plus recipes in her book not only tell how long they take to make from start to finish but also the “hands-on” time. For example, hands-on time for her Spicy Arrabiata Penne is five minutes, total cooking time is 20 minutes. She also prefaces the recipes with a personalized anecdote about its importance to her and offers variations of the dish.

Describing herself as a Food Network addict, Bertinelli says it’s “crazy” to find herself starring in two shows on the channel and writing a cookbook, the title of the first being a take on her original TV series and called “One Dish at a Time.”

When asked how cooking at home differs from preparing dishes on her show, Bertinelli says she finds it challenging because when she’s cooking in her own kitchen she’s cooking alone.

“I don’t have to look up and talk and explain how and why I’m doing something,” she says. “It’s a little bit different of a muscle. It’s like cooking two Thanksgiving dinners every day as we shoot each show. You’re on your feet a lot and I’m exhausted everyday shooting the show. But it’s also invigorating as well because it’s so much fun to share something I love.”

 

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Author shares Rosh Hashanah recipes: Cookbook offers sweet, savory recipes to celebrate the new year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, celebrates heritage and a chance for rejuvenation.

Emily Paster, author of the newly released “The Joys of Jewish Preserving: Modern Recipes with Traditional Roots, for Jams, Pickles, Fruit Butters, and More — for Holidays and Every Day” said the most common Rosh Hashanah tradition is to eat sweet foods to symbolize the hope for a new year.

“Ashkenazi Jews, for example, often begin the Rosh Hashanah meal by dipping slices of apple in honey,” said Paster, who lives in the Chicago area and writes the popular blog westoftheloop.com. “Quince is the traditional Rosh Hashanah fruit for Sephardic Jews. Other foods are traditional because eating them is considered to be a good omen for the new year, bringing luck and prosperity. These traditions are often based on a food’s color or appearance; or, more obscurely, they are a play on the Hebrew or Yiddish name for the food.”

 As an example of this play on words, Paster gives the example of eftes de prasa, or leek fritters.

“With fall being peak season for leeks, these sweet, tender fritters are the perfect appetizer for your Rosh Hashanah meal. And, naturally, leeks are also a symbolic food for the start of the new year. The word for leek in Hebrew is related to the word kareyt, which means ‘to cut.’ Prior to eating leeks on Rosh Hashanah, Sephardic Jews recite a special prayer that those who wish to hurt them will instead be cut down.”

Some of the Rosh Hashanah recipes included in Paster’s book are Fruitful Fig Jam, Golden Pumpkin Butter, Quince Paste and Apple Honey and Rose Water Jam.

“Every recipe in my book was inspired by an idea, and I developed every recipe myself because I wanted it to be a cookbook that everyone can use,” Paster says.

Some recipes call for canning and the use of a pressure cooker. If you’re short on time, you can make the jams, ketchups, pickles, conserves, chutneys and pastes and then refrigerate them. It means a shorter shelf life but less time in the kitchen.

As for Paster, this Rosh Hashanah holiday she’ll definitely be making a round challah.

“Usually challah is a braided oval, but we make a round one on RH to symbolize the never-ending cycle of years and seasons, says Paster, a graduate of Princeton University and University of Michigan’s Law School and a former attorney whose interest in food segued into researching and writing about the subject.

“I begin the meal with chicken soup and a meat-filled dumpling called kreplach. These dumplings are not as famous as matzo balls, but they are very special and traditional for the High Holidays. Some people serve them the night before Yom Kippur — which is the day we fast. I also usually make brisket for the main course. These leek patties are a nice side dish. Dessert is often an apple or honey cake. I like to change it every year.”

Eftes de Prasa (Leek Fritters)

6 leeks, white and green parts only, halved and sliced thinly

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 eggs beaten

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs, such as Panko

1/4 cup chopped chives

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup neutral oil with high smoke point from frying, such as canola or grapeseed

Lemon wedges for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.

Sauté the sliced leeks until softened, about ten minutes, but do not allow them to brown. Adjust heat as necessary. Season well with salt and pepper.

Place softened leeks in a large bowl. Add beaten egg, bread crumbs, and chives and combine well.

Heat oil for frying in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat oven to 250. When oil is shimmering, but not smoking, form golf ball-sized balls of batter with damp hands and drop them, three or four at a time, in the skillet and flatten slightly with a spatula.

Cook fritters until browned on first side, 1-2 minutes and turn carefully turn them over and cook on other side, another 1-2 minutes until browned. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil to the skillet as necessary. Keep cooked fritters warm in the oven until all the batter is cooked.

Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Fritters can be made in advance and chilled until needed. Reheat in a 400 degree oven prior to serving.

Challah

Makes 1 loaf

4 cups all-purpose flour

2¼ teaspoons instant yeast

1 cup water,

approximately 110 degrees

3 eggs, at room temperature

¼ cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

Poppy or sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, and warm water. Stir to combine. Add 2 eggs, the vegetable oil, sugar, honey, and salt.

Mix the dough with the dough hook until a smooth dough emerges, about 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead by hand for an additional 5 minutes, adding more flour frequently to prevent sticking.

The dough should be smooth and elastic. It may be slightly tacky to the touch.

Place the dough in a bowl that has been oiled on all sides. Cover the dough with a clean cloth and allow it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down risen dough and divide into 3 equal parts. I like to use my kitchen scale to ensure my pieces are of equal size.

Roll each piece into a thin strand about 2 feet long. Pinch the 3 strands together at the top and then braid until you reach the end of each strand. Take the ends and pinch them closed and tuck the under the loaf.

Carefully transfer the braided loaf to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cover the loaf with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Before placing the loaf in the oven, beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water in

a small bowl. Brush the egg wash on the challah, making sure to get in the crevices of the braids. If desired, sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds over the top. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Apple, Honey and Rose Water Jam

Makes four 8-ounce jars

3 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-in dice (6 to 7 cups prepped)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1½ cups sugar

1 cup honey

1 teaspoon rose water

Prepare a boiling water bath and heat four 8-ounce jars.

Place the apples, ½ cup of water, and lemon juice in a wide, deep saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stir, and cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium, and cook until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking or burning.

Mash the apples coarsely with a fork or potato masher. Add the sugar and honey to the pot, stirring to dissolve. Return to a boil over medium-high heat.

Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and mounds up on a spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes. It will splatter, so use caution.

Remove the jam from the heat and stir in the rose water. Ladle jam into clean, warm jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace at the top. Bubble the jars and wipe the rims with a damp cloth. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings just until you feel resistance. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the water for 5 minutes before removing. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Fabio Viviani: Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian

“Good cooking and a lot of flavor don’t have to take a lot of time,” says Fabio Viviani, chef, restauranteur and TV personality, explaining why he wrote Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian (St. Martin’s 2017; $27.99), his beautifully photographed cookbook filled with wonderfully accessible recipes. “The whole premise is easy.”

Viviani, who grew up in Florence, Italy, started working in a bakery when he was 11 not so much from a love of food but because he needed to work to help out his family. But labor developed into a passion. Now 28 years later, he’s amassed a food empire with two California vineyards, several cookbooks, stints on several Top Chef show (he won Fan Favorite on Season Five), restaurants including two in Chicago—Siena Tavern and Prime & Provisions and his Mercado concept, described as a “rustic-yet refined eatery destination by celebrity chef Fabio Viviani” with locations that include Chicago, Tempe, Arizona and Benton Harbor, Michigan.

He also currently has a weekly web series, “Fabio’s Kitchen” and is doing “Dinner is Served,” an online video series

With such a busy schedule, I wonder if he ever gets tired of cooking.

“I like it,” he says, “sometimes I don’t. It’s like a marriage, you yell at each other and then you go back to it.”

Asked what recipes he might recommend for those who haven’t cooked Italian before, Viviani recommends the chapters on pasta and salads because they have, for the most part particularly if you don’t make your pasta from scratch, “have less ingredients and take less time.”

Noting that his Italian heritage taught him less is more, Viviani says “you don’t have to overdo it to put really good food on the table.”

Ifyougo:

What: Fabio will be doing a presentation, cooking demo, Q&A, & cookbook signing.

When: Tuesday, May 16 at

Where: Snaidero Showroom, 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL

King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World

For her new book King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World (Alfred A. Knopf 2017; $35), Joan Nathan, the multiple James Beard award winner, followed in the footsteps of Jewish traders as they circumvented the globe centuries and even millenniums ago. As they traveled, they brought the food cultures from the lands they’d visited before and adapted new ones but keeping close to their dietary laws, traditions and homelands.

Nathan, who has written almost a dozen cookbooks, recounts the culinary history and geography of these early travelers in her sumptuous new book featuring over 170 recipes.

It begins at the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi, Kerala where Nathan spies an inscription indicating Jewish traders might have crossed the Indian Ocean from Judea to India during the reign of King Solomon. Already a world traveler, Nathan next made her way to Chendamangalam, a hamlet 20 miles north of Kochi surrounded by a lush landscape of mango, coconut and cinnamon trees and pepper and cardamom vines.

“As I walked toward the bank of the nearby Periyar River, which flows into the Arabian Sea, I imagined ancient Hebrew adventurers and traders arriving on the shores and marveling at the lushness of the terrain,” writes Nathan in the introduction of her book.

And so we too are seduced by her journey into exotic lands, looking at how foods and ingredients have crisscrossed the globe originating far from where we first might have thought.

We chat about Malai, a Romanian cornmeal ricotta breakfast pudding that she features in her book and I tell her how I learned to make a polenta-like dish from my Romanian grandmother.

“Oh mamaliga,” she says, like everyone knows about mamaliga.  But then what would you expect from a woman whose book contains five recipes for haroset, a thick sauce or paste typically made of chopped fruits and nuts. It, like so many recipes, has morphed, bouncing back and forth between countries and continents, each time being tweaked just a little and Nathan includes a version from Brazil, Persia, Ferrara and, of all places, Maine.

Asked what recipes she’d recommend for those just starting using her cookbook, Nathan suggests Yemenite Chicken Soup with Dill, Cilantro and Parsley (“a really old recipe,” she says noting that historic records dating back to 12th century the healing power of chicken broth). She also suggests Malai, the Romania dish and Roman Ricotta Cheese Crostata with Cherries or Chocolate, a cheesecake recipe dating back to Imperial Rome in the 1st century. She also included a recipe from her friend, her friend Injy Farat-Lew, an Egyptian-Jew who grew up in Cairo and Paris, for a flourless chocolate cake and one for hard boiled eggs traditionally served ruing Passover on the Seder plate but can be used as a side for any meal.

“This recipe for long-cooked eggs with spinach came from the island of Corfu, Greece to Ancona, Italy, a seaport on the Adriatic coast,” writes Nathan, who first taste the dish in Rome, in the introduction to this recipe which also exemplifies the convoluted origins of food.

As she traveled (Nathan says her quest took her to approximately 30 countries over a six-year time span), the scope of her book changed. But it was all part of her culinary journey and one she continues to take.

Ifyougo:

What: Joan Nathan has two book signings

When & Where: Monday, May 1 at 6:00 pm, Bookends & Beginnings, 1712 Sherman Avenue, Alley #, Evanston, IL. 224-999-7722.

Tuesday, May 2 at 11:30 am-2pm, Standard Club Chicago luncheon, 320 S. Plymouth Ct, Chicago IL.

2:00pm.

 

Matt Moore’s Secrets to Good BBQ

When it comes to barbecue, geography is everything.

That according to Matt Moore, author of the recently released “The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection.” He explains how barbecue differs in the 12 southern states he calls the Barbecue Belt. And just to end the suspense, Indiana is definitely not one of them.

“In Northern Alabama, they combine vinegar and mayonnaise along with other variations to make a chalky white-style sauce,” says Moore, whose idea of a great day is turning up the volume on his favorite Grateful Dead songs, icing a case of beer, firing up the grill, inviting a bunch of friends and making some really good barbecue. “In Tennessee and Kansas City barbecue sauces are tomato-based, sweetened with molasses, and in Northeastern Kentucky it’s very dark, almost black. The reason why there’s a mustard-based sauce in South Carolina is because of all the Germans who settled there.”

Calling barbecue a second way of life down where he lives, Moore’s newest book takes us on a tour of some special pitmasters and their restaurants, sharing their stories and their recipes.

“I was seeking out not only great barbecue but also the best people,” Moore says. “I wanted to showcase the diversity and the ethnicity of this culinary tradition, which started more than a hundred years ago.”

Barbecue is complicated and beyond what to use to sauce the meat, there’s also the question of whether to go wet or dry. Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee, is where dry rubs — a mixture of spices and seasonings without any liquid — became famous. But that’s not all.

“Fuel is flavor,” says Moore, noting there are very involved discussions about what type of fuel is best to use.

And, of course, there’s what Moore calls, “All the Trimmings” in his chapter on side dishes.

Helen Turner, owner and pitmaster of Helen’s Barbeque in Brownsville, Tennessee, tops a lot of her sandwiches, including her smoked bologna and pulled pork with her special cole slaw.

At Bogart’s Smokehouse in St. Louis, Missouri, located on the Mississippi River, intriguing sides include their Fire and Ice Pickles, Deviled Egg Potato Salad and BBQ Pork Skins.

At Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta, Georgia, there are Kimchi Pickles and Candied Bacon at Burn Co Barbecue in Tulsa, Oklahoma. B.R Anderson, owner and pitmaster of B-Daddy’s BBQ, who says that barbecue saved his life, serves B-Daddy’s Jalapeno Creamed Corn at his Helotes, Texas, restaurant. For desserts there’s Caramel Apple Blondie Pie with Apple Cider Caramel Sauce, Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and Strawberry-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie with Gingersnap Crust.

“I wanted a cookbook that people can really cook out of,” Moore says. And indeed, this handsome book with lots of gorgeous-make-you-hungry photos has plenty of easy recipes as well as tips for making barbecue.

If you go

What: Matt Moore will be in Chicago for a talk and book-signing.

When & Where:

6:45-8:30 p.m. April 26 at Read It & Eat, 2142 N. Halsted St., Chicago

(773) 661-6158