Thursday, July 30, 2009

179. Maple Apricot Granola (p. 626)

After I made the Oatmeal Coconut Raspberry Bars, I had a lot of old-fashioned oats leftover, and I was looking for something to do with them. Since I haven't cooked much from the Breakfast and Brunch chapter yet, I decided to make this recipe.

The hardest part about this recipe was gathering all of the ingredients. Some of the components, like the aforementioned oats, and and some green pumpkin seeds (leftover from the Green Bean Salad with Pumpkin Seed Dressing), I already had on hand. For the rest of the ingredients, I went to the bulk aisle at Whole Foods. I bagged up a little scoop of flax seeds, a big bag of sliced almonds, some unroasted, unsalted hulled sunflowers seeds, some dried apricots and crystallized ginger.

The rest of the recipe is really easy. Just whiz up the flax seeds in a spice grinder, and mix them with the oats, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Next, I added some canola oil, pure maple syrup, and a little salt. I spread the mixture evenly on two baking sheets and put them in the oven for about a half-hour. About halfway through the cooking time, I stirred the granola and switched the position of the pans. While it cooked, the kitchen was filled with a great toasty, maple-y aroma. I was getting hungry already. I took the granola out of the oven, and while it cooled, I chopped up the dried apricots and the crystallized ginger and then mixed it in with the granola.

This was delicious granola. It was crunchy, chewy, sweet, but not too sweet. The Book says that the ginger is optional, but I couldn't imagine this granola without it's sparkling spicy kick. The maple flavor is subtle and a nice change of pace. We enjoyed this on yogurt (dairy- and soy-free coconut milk yogurt for my wife) for breakfast or a snack. Excellent. It was so easy, that I'll definitely try it again, and next time, I'll mix it up. Maybe I'll use dried cranberries instead of the apricots. I'll use walnuts or pecans instead of the almonds. The variations are pretty much endless.

This recipe makes a lot of granola, about ten cups. The Book says that it can be frozen, so I divided it into two large zip-top bags. One to eat now, and one to go in the freezer for later.

Date Cooked: July 11, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B+

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

178. Oatmeal Coconut Raspberry Bars (p. 692)

A few weeks ago, it was my wife's turn to host playgroup. In theory, the purpose of playgroup is for the babies to get to interact with each other. But, I have a suspicion that it's at least as much about the moms getting together to gossip ... and to eat. So, I wasn't surprised when my wife asked me to make something for her to serve to "the girls." I picked this recipe, and hoped they'd like it.

These were great, and pretty easy to make. In fact, I made them on a weeknight, which is a pretty good measure of how simple a recipe is. I usually get home from work pretty late, so, if I'm going to make something before bed, it's got to be quick and easy.

First, I toasted some sweetened, flaked coconut. After some less than stellar results in the past, I'm finally getting the hang of toasting coconut in the oven. The key is to stir it a couple of times while it toasts, and to keep a very close eye on it, since it can burn in a matter of seconds. Next, I pulsed together some flour, brown sugar and white sugar in the food processor. I added some cold butter, cut up into pieced, and pulsed it until a dough began to form. Then I transferred the dough to a large mixing bowl, and using my hands, kneaded in some old-fashioned oats and the toasted coconut.

To assemble the bars, I pressed the dough into the bottom of a baking dish, reserving some for the topping. I spread some seedless raspberry jam over the dough, and then sprinkled the reserved dough over the jam.

After the bars were baked, I removed them from the pan. The Book says to "loosen from sides of pan with a sharp knife, then lift out in 1 piece and transfer to a cutting board." Hmmm, sounds like a disaster in the making. So, to make it easier to remove the bars from the pan, I made an aluminum foil "sling." Before I put the dough into the pan, I lined it with the foil and let the foil overhang the edges of the pan. I was able to just lift the foil sling out of the pan and then cut the bars into 24 pieces.

These bars were delicious. Very sweet, and with a nice crunchiness from the oats and coconut, and a rich gooeyness from the jam. I think that the moms at playgroup liked them. I brought the leftovers to work, where they were gobbled up in a matter of minutes.

Date Cooked: July 6, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A

Monday, July 27, 2009

177. Papaya Pineapple Salsa (p. 897)

I used to think that I didn't like fruit salsas. But, this recipe* is the second fruit salsa I've made from The Book, and they were both better than I thought they'd be. (The other one I've made is the Strawberry Salsa that I made last summer.)

The recipe's instructions are deceptively easy. "Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl." That's it. But, that's not really all there is to it. You have to peel, seed and dice two pounds of papayas (be careful, they're slippery!), and you have to peel, core, and cut a pineapple.

The Book calls for a scallion and a half of a garlic clove. I'm generally suspicious about recipes that call for raw garlic, it can tend to overwhelm the dish. That's why I decided to try to substitute chopped garlic scapes for both the garlic and the scallion. The flavor is similar to, but milder than, garlic and onions. But it was not a success. The flavor was very bland. So, I tried to salvage it by adding a little bit of minced garlic and some chopped white onion. That seemed to do the trick, but something was still missing. What this salsa really needs is some heat to offset the sweetness of the fruit. If I were to make this again, I'd add a minced serrano chile, or at least a jalepeno to, as Emeril would say, "kick it up a notch."

I served it with tortilla chips, but as The Book suggests, I'm sure it would also be good as an accompaniment to grilled pork or swordfish.

Date Cooked: July 5, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B

* The recipe on is the same as the one in The Book, except that The Book's recipe has twice the papaya.

Friday, July 24, 2009

176. Sour Cherry Crostata (p. 779)

Nothing says Fourth of July better than cherry pie. I decided to make this recipe for our family's Fourth cookout with some sour cherries I had kicking around in my freezer since last summer. But this isn't your usual cherry pie. In fact, it isn't a pie at all. It's a crostata, a tart made with Italian pasta frolla, a shortbread-like dough that's sweeter, and more cookie-like than regular pie crust.

First, I made the pasta frolla. I beat some softened butter and sugar in my Kitchen Aid for a few minutes. Using a fork, I lightly beat an egg and put all but one tablespoon of it into the batter (the reserved tablespoon is for an egg wash on the top of the crust after the pie is assembled). Then I beat in some vanilla extract, flour, salt and lemon zest. I stopped beating once it formed a crumbly dough. I gathered it up into a ball, divided it up into two pieces, flattened them into discs and put them in the refrigerator to firm up.

Next, I made the filling. I heated some butter in a deep skillet and added the frozen cherries and some sugar. (The Book calls for either fresh cherries or frozen ones that are not thawed.) I cooked the cherries until they were soft but still intact, and had exuded a lot of their juices. Then, I mixed together some cornstarch and water and stirred it into the hot cherries and brought it to a boil. The cornstarch had the desired effect of thickening the filling, but it also had an undesired effect of making some big congealed chunks of cornstarch. (Maybe I didn't stir it enough or fast enough while it boiled?) Anyway, I was able to pick out most of the clumps, so it turned out OK. I spread the filling into a shallow dish and put it in the refrigerator to cool while I rolled out the dough.

I took one of the dough disks out of the fridge and put it between two pieces of wax paper and rolled it out into about a 12-inch circle. I really liked rolling the dough out this way. I didn't have to mess with flouring the board or rolling pin. It didn't stick to the work surface, and it didn't crack or break. I don't see why you couldn't roll out regular pie crust this way, too. I'm going to give it a try next time. After I rolled out the dough, I peeled off the top layer of wax paper and inverted the dough into a removable-bottomed tart pan. I folded the overhand over and pressed it into the sides of the tart pan to reinforce the edge. I put the tart shell back in the fridge and took out the other dough disk. I rolled it out the same as the first, cut it into ten one-inch wide strips, and put it back in the fridge for a few minutes to get them nice and firm.

Meanwhile, I put a foil-lined baking sheet into the oven and pre-heated it. I filled the chilled tart shell with the cherry filling and arranged the pasta frolla strips in a diagonal lattice. I brushed the lattice with the reserved egg and sprinkled the top of the tart with sugar. I baked the tart for about an hour. The long cooking time meant that there was a little over-browning on the edges of the crust (hello pie shields!) and some bubbling over of the filling (hence to baking sheet).

The Book says that this crostata tastes best the day it's made, but I made it the day before our Fourth of July cookout, and it was great. The crust was sweet and crisp and light. The little bit of lemon zest in the crust gave it an unexpected zip. The filling was excellent. Sweet and thick and full of delicious cherry flavor. And it looked great. It was a real hit at the cookout. Even my nephews, who never eat dessert (kids who don't like dessert? go figure), were all over it.

Date Cooked: July 4, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

Sunday, July 19, 2009

175. Braised Radishes with Raspberry Vinegar (p. 574)

If you're like me, you usually eat radishes raw, either sliced up in salads or with a little butter and salt, like the French eat them. But when I got a nice big bunch of fresh radishes in my CSA box, I decided to try this recipe* for braised radishes.

First, I washed and trimmed the radishes and arranged them in a single layer in a skillet. I mixed together a little sugar, some water, raspberry vinegar, and a little bit of salt and olive oil (The Book calls for a tablespoon of butter, but I used olive oil instead because my wife still can't eat dairy. I don't think the substitution harmed anything.) I poured the mixture over the radishes and brought it to a boil. Then I reduced the heat, covered the pan and simmered it for a little while. I took off the cover and simmered for a bit longer until the radishes were tender enough to pierce with a fork. I removed the radishes from the skillet and put them in a bowl. I boiled the cooking liquid until it was quite reduced and then poured it over the radishes. I seasoned them with a little bit of salt and pepper and sprinkled some finely chopped garlic scape tips on the top. The Book calls for chives, but I was looking for things to do with the garlic scapes I got in the CSA box, and the fine, tender tips of the scapes reminded me of chives in flavor and appearance.

This isn't a bad way to eat radishes. They look beautiful. The braising rounds out the sharp edges of the radishes' flavor. The raspberry vinegar give the dish a bit of a sweet and sour effect but they tasted a little pickle-ish. Not my very favorite dish, but certainly not bad.

Not part of the recipe, but I thought that I'd mention that I made a little salad from the radish greens. (Thanks for the tip, Ryan!) Since I knew the radish greens would be pretty bold (peppery with some bitterness), I wanted to pair them with a substantial dressing. So, I adapted the blue cheese dip I made for the buffalo wings I made a while back. I made it more of a dressing and less of a dip by adding extra yogurt. It was delicious. The creamy tang of the dressing was a nice pairing for the greens, and made for a nice change of pace for lunch.

Date Cooked: July 3, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B+

* This recipe isn't on

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

174. Dandelion Salad with Warm Pecan Vinaigrette (p. 137)

There's been a lot of talk lately about the benefits of locally-produced food. Heck, they just added the word "locavore" to the dictionary. And while the jury's still out on the environmental superiority of local food, I still prefer to buy local whenever I can. First, I like to support local small businesses. Next, there's something to be said for knowing the people who make your food and where it comes from. Finally, local food is fresh and in season, it has to be, and that means that it tastes better, which really makes all the difference.

Some people have taken the "eat local" movement to the extreme, like Barbara Kingsolver, whose Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles her family's year of eating only food they produced themselves or obtained from local producers. I loved the book, but I can't bring myself to follow in her footsteps all the way. (I'm sorry, but I just can't give up bananas and oranges. Import the stuff that's worth importing, I say.) And I don't have the space, sun, or time to grow my own vegetables. But, I still do what I can to eat more locally-produced food. I patronize my local food producers, Mann Orchards and Raymond's Turkey Farm. I visit the Manchester Farmers' Market near my office. And this year, I'm participating in a CSA.

If you haven't heard, CSA or "community supported agriculture" is an agricultural business model in which people purchase "shares" of a local farm's seasonal production. Each week during the growing season, the CSA members get a box full of whatever's growing on the farm. The CSA members share in the risks and rewards of the farm. The amount and variety of the produce in the week's box will depend on factors like weather and pests. CSAs have grown in popularity in the last couple of years, and in my area, there are many to choose from. Local Harvest is a good source for information on finding CSAs near you.

My CSA share is arleady paying dividends for The Project. Some of the ingredients called for in The Book are hard to find in the grocery store. In the first two weeks of the growing season, my CSA share has given me two such ingredients: purslane (watch for the post coming soon), and the dandelion greens I needed for this recipe.*

First, I washed the dandelion greens, trimmed off any thick stalks and chopped them into large, bite-sized pieces and put them in a bowl. Then I cooked some chopped garlic and chopped pecans in some olive oil, stirring until the garlic was golden. I stirred in some balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and drizzled the hot dressing over the greens.

This was a delicious salad. The greens were crisp and fresh with a nice peppery bite, but not at all bitter. The dressing was excellent. The nuts and balsamic vinegar gave the dressing a nice sweetness and depth. The garlic was just right, fragrant but not overpowering. I also liked the interplay between the cold greens and the warm dressing.

Date Cooked: July 3, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A-

*The recipe on is very similar to the one in The Book, but it uses hazelnuts instead of pecans.

Monday, July 13, 2009

173. Peanut Butter-Coconut Bars (p. 693)

This is the third peanut-butter-based dessert recipe I've made from The Book, and I'm sorry to report, that this recipe was nearly as disappointing as the other two.

First, I creamed some softened butter and sugar. Next, I added some Skippy regular creamy peanut butter, an egg, some vanilla, a bit of salt and some flour. Finally, I stirred in some sweetened flaked coconut.

I spread the mixture into a buttered baking dish and sprinkled some chopped, salted, dry-roasted peanuts on top. I baked the bars for about 20 minutes and then put them on a rack to cool.

The Book says to cut the bars into 24 pieces, and then to cut each in half diagonally to make 48 small triangles. After I cut the pieces in the picture above, I stopped cutting because they kept falling apart. That's right, just like the two different kinds peanut butter cookies I've already made from The Book, these bars were pretty dry and crumbly. But, maybe it's just me. I brought the bars to work and they disappeared quickly. A lot of people said that they were good, and not dry at all. Either I'm too picky, or my co-workers are too polite.

The flavor was pretty good, though. Plenty of peanut taste. I think that they would have tasted better, though, if the coconut had been toasted a little bit before it was stirred into the batter.

Date Cooked: June 26, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: C

Saturday, July 11, 2009

172. Baked Figs with Grand Marnier and Whipped Cream (p. 804)

I don't usually see fresh figs in the stores, so, when I spotted some a couple of weeks ago at Mann Orchard, I picked up a pint and figured that I'd find something to do with them. I picked this recipe because I it looked quick and I had all of the other ingredients on hand.

First I pricked the bottoms of the figs with a fork, then I arranged them in an ovenproof skillet. I sprinkled the figs with a good amount of sugar and added a bit of water to the pan. I put them in the oven and baked them for about a half hour, spooning the juices over the figs a couple of times while they cooked.

I moved the pan to the stovetop, added some Grand Marnier and brought it to a boil. And now for the dramatic climax of this recipe. The Book says to "Remove from heat and carefully ignite pan juices." Well, wouldn't you know it, my flambe wouldn't flame. I tried to light it a couple of times, and nothing. Not sure what the problems was. I've flambeed before. Maybe I boiled the Grand Mariner too long and too much of the alcohol cooked off. A bit dejected, I transferred the figs to a serving bowl and boiled down the juice until it was quite reduced and nice and thick and syrupy. I spooned the syrup onto the figs and set them aside while I made the whipped cream, which is heavy cream, sugar and a bit of Grand Marnier.

This is an impressive and elegant dessert. Just look at that picture. The colors are stunning. And the flavor is just great, too. Figs are luxurious and rich. Baking them gives them a nice softness without being mushy. The syrup is sweet, rich and silky with a hint of orange flavor from the Grand Marnier. It was a bit boozy, but I think that had something to do with my flambe failure. The whipped cream was excellent. It was creamy and sweet with an unexpected orangy-boozy kick. This whipped cream would even be excellent with some plain berries.

Date Cooked: June 26, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

171. Mexican Corn Soup (p. 86)

Summer's here, and that means a bigger selection of beautiful fresh (and sometimes local!) vegetables at the grocery stores and farm stands. One of the greatest summer vegetables is fresh corn, and this recipe* lets it shine.

First, I cooked some garlic, chopped onion and jalapenos in some olive oil. I added some cumin, coriander, salt and pepper, and chopped carrots and celery and cooked it for a while longer.

I shucked eight ears of corn and cut the kernels off the cobs. I put the cobs, some water and chicken stock in the pot and simmered it for a few minutes. This step seemed a little unusual to me at first, but when I thought about it, it made perfect sense. The corn cobs gave the finished soup a boost of corny flavor and a nice creaminess. I added all but one cup of the corn kernels and simmered it for a few minutes more. After the soup was finished simmering, I fished out the corncobs with some tongs and discarded them.

While the soup was simmering, I put a red bell pepper under the broiler, turning it frequently until it was nice and charred. I put the pepper into a zip-top bag to steam for a little bit, and then peeled off the skin (it slips right off), and chopped it and set it aside.

I blended the soup in batches in my blender. (I'm getting pretty good at the whole hot-soup-in-the-blender thing. All it takes is some self confidence. Put a towel over the blender cover, clamp down on the cover with your hand, and hold on for dear life!) The Book says that for an even smoother soup, you can force the blended soup through a fine-mesh sieve. I was pretty happy with the texture, so I skipped this optional step.

I blanched the reserved cup of kernels in some boiling water for just a couple of minutes, and then added the corn to the soup along with the chopped roasted pepper, a dash of cayenne, and a nice handful of chopped cilantro.

This was an excellent soup. It was sweet and creamy with just a suggestion of heat from the jalapeno and cayenne. The whole corn kernels and chopped cilantro gave it a very nice and bright freshness. Summer in a bowl.

Date Cooked: June 26, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

* This recipe isn't on

Saturday, July 4, 2009

170. Buffalo Chicken Wings (p. 54)

I've seen a buffalo or two at a zoo somewhere along the way (nothing like Teena's recent experience of getting stuck in traffic as a herd of them crossed the highway). But as best as I can remember, they don't have wings. Or do they?

Of course they don't. Everyone knows that Buffalo wings are chicken wings, but not just any chicken wings. This recipe comes from The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, the place that claims to have invented them in 1964. Not surprisingly, in Buffalo, they're just called "wings." Makes sense. Here in New England, we just call it "chowdah," not "New England Clam Chowder."

First, I made the blue cheese dip. (What are Buffalo wings without blue cheese dip?) I whisked together two parts mayonnaise and one part plain yogurt and then stirred in some crumbled blue cheese. I used twice as much blue cheese as The Book called for. What can I say, I love the stuff. This was an excellent dip. Just the right consistency, not too thick, not too thin. Nice and creamy with the tang of the yogurt and the bite of the blue cheese. This dip would also be excellent on a wedge salad. Yum!

Next, the wings. The Anchor Bar deep fries them, but The Book gives the option of frying or grilling. I chose to grill mine. I cut the wings in half (after I cut off and discarded the wing tips). I grilled them for a few minutes on each side on a preheated, lightly oiled gas grill. As the wings were grilling, I mixed some melted butter, Frank's Red Hot sauce, and cider vinegar in a great big bowl. I put the grilled wings in the bowl and tossed to coat them with the sauce.

I served the wings, with the traditional celery sticks, at my niece's middle-school graduation cookout (congratulations, Alex!). They were great! I'm sure that all of the Buffalo wings I've had at restaurants have been fried. I really prefer them grilled. They have a nice crispiness and that great grilled flavor. The little bit of butter in the sauce gives them just that extra richness and smooths out the flavor. These wings weren't too spicy (actually, they weren't spicy enough for my tastes, but they're good for a mixed crowd).

Date Cooked: June 25, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A

Friday, July 3, 2009

169. Frangipane Tart with Strawberries and Raspberries (p. 778)

It's strawberry season, and my go-to source for locally-grown produce, Mann Orchards, has been carrying beautiful fresh strawberries lately (the smallish, vibrantly red ones, not those humongous white-fleshed genetically-altered monstrosities that they sell at the mega-mart). I bought a few pints and went straight to The Book to find a good strawberry dessert and decided on this recipe.

The last strawberry tart I made, from Julia Child's MtAoFC, had a sweet, sugar-cookie-like crust and was filled with pastry cream. This tart, however has a Basic Pastry Dough crust and a frangipane filling. Frangipane, an almond-flavored pastry filling, is named after a 16th century Italian nobleman, the Marquis Muzio Frangipani, who was famous for his almond-scented glove purfume. Glove purfume? Really?

First, I made the tart shell. I rolled out the dough, fit it into a removable-bottomed fluted tart pan, and ran the rolling pin over the pan's rim to make a nice edge. (I actualy had to roll out the dough twice. For some reason, it fell apart the first time. I decided to ball the dough up and start over again. Worked out much better on the second try.) The Book says to put the tart shell in the refrigerator for an hour to chill it. I was in a hurry, so I put it in the freezer for ten minutes (same thing, right?). I pricked the tart shell with a fork, put some foil over it and filled the foil with some dried kidney beans that I use (and reuse) as pie weights. I baked it for a while, removed the foil and weights and baked it for a bit longer. I set the tart shell aside to cool for a bit and made the frangipane.

I beat together some sugar and softened butter in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. That's right, folks, my wife gave me a 5-quart Artisan Series mixer as a tenth-anniversary gift. Sure, she got a diamond ring, but I still think that I made out pretty well. I've wanted a stand mixer for a long time, and I know that I'm going to give it a real workout. Once the butter and sugar were creamed, I added an egg, some almonds that I'd ground up in the food processor, a bit of almond extract, and some flour and salt. (I didn't have any amaretto on hand, so I skipped this optional ingredient.) Once the frangipane was all nicely blended, I spread it in the tart shell. I put the filled tart in the oven and baked it for a while until the frangipane was golden and a little puffy.

Once the tart was cool, I sliced my strawberries and arranged them in concentric circles on top of the frangipane. Finally, I melted some seedless strawberry jam and brushed it on top of the tart. Now, you're probably saying, "this recipe is called Frangipane Tart with Strawberries and Raspberries. Where are the raspberries?" I left them out. You got a problem with that? I'm sure that they would have been delicious, but I really wanted to let my fresh, ripe strawberries be the star of this dessert.

This was a delicious tart. The crust was crisp, flaky and buttery. I was a little concerned that the rolling and re-rolling was going to make it less flaky, but no worries. The frangipane was sweet, rich and almond-y. And the strawberries? Perfect. Nothing better than fresh, local fruit in season.

Date Cooked: June 21, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Book before The Book

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through The Book looking for something to make for Father's Day. I absent-mindedly stopped at the Preface. Now, I'm sure that I read Ruth Reichl's introductory essay before I started The Project, but the first few lines apparently didn't register with me until now.

"The book that taught me to cook was a big brown leather-covered tome with The Gourmet Cookbook stamped in gold on the front. I called it 'the Book,' but to a little girl in the fifties, it was more than that."

What? But I thought that I was reading The Gourmet Cookbook? The Book was published in 2004, not the 1950s. It's yellow, not brown. Was Ruth mistaken? I needed to get to the bottom of this, so I put The Book aside and pulled up Google. I typed "Gourmet Cookbook 1950s" in the search window. After a few minutes, I had learned that, in 1950, as Gourmet Magazine was approaching its tenth anniversary, the magazine's editors decided to publish a cookbook "based on the cream of the recipes that had appeared in the magazine during the first decade of its existence." A few years later, in 1957, the editors published a second volume of The Gourmet Cookbook, meant to be a companion to the 1950 book, but at the same time "a complete and independent cookbook in itself." Whereas Volume I is a broad-based general cookbook, Volume II delves deeper into "pastry making a la francaise, outdoor cookery, and the accouterments of the grand buffet." After a number of printings, the editors undertook a complete revision, and in 1965, they published a second edition of the two volumes. (The early 1960s also saw the publication of a couple of other Gourmet books: The Gourmet Menu Cookbook and The Gourmet Basic French Cookbook.)

I had to get my hands on these books. My local library was no help. But e-bay came through. I found a set of the 1965 second edition available in an auction set to end in a couple of days. My first instinct was to lunge and make a "buy it now" offer, but I decided to play it cool. There were no bids yet, and the minimum bid was $9.99. I stalked the auction, checking it almost hourly as the end-date approached. A few hours before the auction ended, there were still no bids. I could smell victory. With only minutes left in the auction, I typed my bid into the dialogue box. After a few tense moments, and for the bargain price of $9.99 plus shipping, I was the proud owner of The Book's mama and papa.

A few days later, a great big brown-paper package (not tied up with string, but that's OK) was waiting for me when I got home from work. I tore the package open, and there they were. The pages were slightly yellowed and had that faint, mildewy high-school library scent. They are both big, heavy, and more than 700 pages each.

If The Gourmet Cookbook is the food Bible, the 1965 edition is the Old Testament. The pages are crammed with recipes written with an economy of words. The recipe for French Onion Soup, for example is only six sentences long. Notably absent, however, is the list of ingredients that precedes recipes in modern cookbooks. The recipes in Volume I and II are written in paragraph form, in the style of the classical cookbooks like Escoffier's. Apparently, ingredient lists, like those printed in the margins of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), were still innovative in the 1950s and 60s. The books are also liberally illustrated with red ink line drawings, and lush, if somewhat corny, technicolor photographs. For instance, the photo of Caneton a la Orange au la Bigarade (Duck with Orange) includes a creepy prop ceramic duck sitting uncomfortably beside its cooked cousin. And the photo of Chocolate Bavarian Cream is decorated with a statute of Napoleon and a model of the Arc de Triomphe.

As I sat on the sofa flipping through Volume I, my wife asked me, "So, are you going to cook through that book, too?" Just then, I happened to stop flipping at page 473. I looked down at the page, and without hesitating for a moment, I answered, "No, I am not going to cook through this book." The recipe I had stopped at was for Ours Grand Veneur, or "Bear Huntsman Fashion." That's right, a recipe for roast bear loin. Apparently, "bear flesh is rich, sweet, and delicious." I don't think that they carry it at Stop & Shop, though. But if you don't like your bear "huntsman fashion," perhaps one of the three other bear recipes will appeal to you. What's that, bear's not your thing? That's OK. There are six pages of recipes for venison, two recipes for woodchuck, and six for frog's legs.

So, while I won't be making Brunswick Stew any time soon ("Cut 2 plump young squirrels into serving pieces..."), I know that I'm going to enjoy flipping through the pages of these books for ideas and inspiration.

168. Summer Fruit Salad with Mint Sugar (p. 167)

I made this recipe to bring to a cookout with my wife's "moms group." It's just a simple fruit salad of cherries (pitted and sliced), peaches (pitted and sliced) and green grapes (seedless and sliced). But being a Gourmet recipe, it has a special touch that takes it from ordinary to extraordinary. That special touch is the mint sugar.

I took about a quarter-cup of packed whole fresh mint leaves and three tablespoons of granulated sugar and whizzed it up in the food processor. The mint leaves got finely chopped and fully incorporated with the sugar. When I opened the food processor, I was pleasantly surprised by the intense, sweet mint aroma. All of the mint's essence was released by the processing with the sugar. It had the smell of those LifeSavers Wint-O-Green mints, but it was a fresher, and even more intense scent. Awesome!

Right before we left for the cookout, I sprinkled the mint sugar over the fruit and gently stirred it to coat all of the fruit. As the fruit sat, the sugar combined with the fruit's juices to make a light, sweet and minty syrup. This was a delicious and simple fruit salad, and just the thing if you're looking for something a little different. The only drawback is that at first glance, the fruit salad looks like it's been sprinkled with dried oregano.

Date Cooked: June 14, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A