TITLE: Back of the Box Cooking — 30 Minute Meals, 500 Quick and Easy Family Recipes From America's Favorite Brands, edited by Barbara Greenman (Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 352 pages, $19.95)
Generally speaking: Some of the best recipes come from the packaging for name-brand products. This cookbook is full of them, many innovative.
For: People who tend to use a variety of convenience foods, such as bottled salad dressing, packaged, store-bought cooked chicken breasts and refrigerated pasta.
Recipes: Easy chocolate peppermint pie, penne with spicy sun-dried tomato cream sauce, Moroccan spiced salmon, black bean and mango chicken salad, 30-minute chili, tropical waffles.
TITLE: The Culinary Institute of America: The New Book of Soups (Lebhar-Friedman Books, 256 pages, $35)
Generally speaking: The soups and stews in this cookbook will certainly warm you up on cold winter days, or provide comfort any time of year. There are also recipes for cold soups.
For: Soup aficionados will thoroughly enjoy this cookbook. These recipes are homemade with fresh ingredients that will produce great, flavorful soups. There is a satisfaction in making a soup or stew from scratch.
Know your terminology: You may not know some terms. Ghee, for example, a type of clarified butter, is used in Indian cooking and there is an explanation as to how to make it if you are ambitious. There is also a substitution offered. Bouquet garni and chiffonade are other terms you should know.
Unusual ingredients: Some ingredients — palm sugar, tamarind pulp and dashi — may be difficult to find.
Recipes: Duck, shrimp and andouille gumbo, goulash soup, ham bone and collard greens soup, green chili and pork stew with potatoes, apple soup, roasted tomato bisque, chilled cream of avocado soup.
TITLE: The Best Soups in the World, by Clifford A. Wright (Wiley, 480 pages, $22.95)
Generally Speaking: Some of the recipes seem like more work than they are worth. The stinging nettle soup is one example. First, stinging nettles are hard to find. The author suggests farmers markets, but make sure they are stinging because not all nettles are. If they are, you must clean them with gloves on or under water. On the plus side, fresh ingredients make these recipes flavorful.
For: Adventurous soup lovers. Some recipes have unusual ingredients like the nettles mentioned above, salicornia, chayote and goose fat. This cookbook may be too advanced for novice cooks.
Word of Warning: Read the introduction to each recipe as often it will contain pointers about the recipe. For example, by just looking at the ingredients in the recipe Soup of Upland Cress you may think, what is upland cress? Well, the answer is in the introduction to the recipe. The author says it's a salad green and watercress can be used as a substitute.
Recipes: Cream of celery soup, stinging nettle soup, cream of plantain soup, lentil and mint soup, Hungarian bean and ham hock soup, roasted garlic soup, artichoke veloute and five dal soup.
Mini Italian Meat Loaf Burgers
1 (14.5-ounce) can Del Monte diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
1 pound ground beef
¾ cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
½ medium green pepper, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain tomatoes, reserving 1/3 cup liquid. Combine reserved tomato liquid with tomatoes, beef, bread crumbs, pepper and egg in large bowl. Shape into 6 patties, top with cheese. Place patties on baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes to desired doneness or until an internal temperature of 160 degrees is reached.
Source: Back of the Box Cooking — 30 Minute Meals, 500 Quick and Easy Family Recipes From America's Favorite Brands, edited by Barbara Greenman
Green Chili and Pork Stew With Potatoes
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt, freshly ground black pepper as needed
2 large yellow onions, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
¼ cup tomato puree
3 to 4 fresh poblano chilies, roasted, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons mild red chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground Mexican oregano
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely minced
2 tablespoons green Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar
3 cups cubed red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled
Heat oil in a casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat until it shimmers. Season the pork with salt and pepper and saute until lightly colored on all sides. Transfer the pork to a plate using a slotted soon, allowing most of the oil to drain back into the casserole. Return the casserole to the heat, add the onions and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
Return the pork and any juices it may have released to the casserole. Add the broth, tomato puree, poblanos, chili powder, cumin and oregano; bring the liquid to a boil. Immediately adjust the heat for a gentle simmer. Simmer the stew, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Add the jalapenos, Tabasco, vinegar and potatoes. Continue to simmer, covered, until the potatoes and pork are very tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in heated bowls.
Makes 6 servings.
Source: The Culinary Institute of America: The New Book of Soups
Tuscan Cabbage Soup
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1 ounce prosciutto fat or ham fat, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 pound green cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored and chopped coarsely
½ pound red cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored and chopped coarsely
1 ½ quarts water
½ pound (1 cup) dried cannellini or other white beans, soaked in cold water to cover for 2 hours and drained
1 pound boiling potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and diced large
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ pound pennine or other small tubular macaroni
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the onion, carrot, celery, pancetta, prosciutto fat, parsley and basil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and some fat is rendered, about 10 minutes.
Add the cabbage and toss with vegetables until all leaves are coated. Add the water and beans. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the beans are slightly softened, about 1 hour, with the soup gently bubbling. Add the potatoes and cook just until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Season the soup with salt and pepper and add the pasta. Cook the pasta, uncovered, until it is al dente, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with the cheese and more olive oil, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.
Source: The Best Soups in the World by Clifford A. Wright