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Books That Cook: 'Delicious Variations on Favorite Foods,' 'Choclatique,' 'The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook'

TITLE: 365 Ways to Cook: Delicious Variations on Favorite Foods

By Eleanor Maxfield, editor (Firefly, $19.95, 255 pages)

GENERALLY SPEAKING: Each chapter is devoted to a specific item like spaghetti, eggplant, cod, bacon or steak. Within each chapter are 10 recipes using that item, including a basic recipe, a recipe with a twist, a time-saving choice and a weight watching recipe.

FOR: Anyone looking for a fresh approach to family meals. With so many recipes, you are sure to find something for everyone.

RECIPES: Red pepper and munster tarts, sesame tuna with spicy noodles, onion and mushrooms quesadillas, ginger rice noodles, marinated minty lamb kebabs, red rice and squash risotto, steak sliders.

TITLE: Choclatique: 150 Simply Elegant Desserts

By Ed Engoron with Mary Goodbody (Running Press, $27, 272 pages)

GENERALLY SPEAKING: With a name like Choclatique, this cookbook sounds as if it is for an expert home cook. Not so. While many of the recipes have very long ingredient lists and multiple steps, there really aren't any difficult techniques. Because there are so many steps, be sure to read through each recipe before beginning. Some require chilling for a lengthy period of time.

FOR: Chocolate lovers. Every single recipe uses either milk, white or dark chocolate and one of the five ganaches found in Chapter 5. Chapters include recipes for cookies, cakes and cupcakes, cheesecakes, pies and tarts, and candies. Two of the best chapters are "Chocolate in the Morning" and "Chocolates Out of the Box." They include very unusual recipes.

RECIPES: Tres leches chocolate cake, ultimate white chocolate cheesecake, frozen chocolate mousse meringue pot pie, white chocolate fresh strawberry ice cream, chocolate almond butter toffee crunch.

TITLE: The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes

By Robin Miller (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $24.95, 288 pages)

GENERALLY SPEAKING: If you are any sort of foodie and are a fan of Food Network, you know how popular cast iron cookware has become (even though many cooks have always known how well it conducts heat and cooks more evenly). Cast iron pans are handed down through generations and many of those pans are made by Lodge Cast Iron in Tennessee.

FOR: Owners of a variety of cast iron pans. These recipes use more than the basic skillet. They call for different sizes of the Dutch oven and skillet plus other, more unusual pans like a wedge pan for cornbread.

RECIPES: Fish tacos with mango slaw and avocado crema, "cin-chili" chili, Polish pork and cabbage stew, seasonal breakfast frittata, black pepper skillet shrimp, hot lava chocolate cake for two, kidney and mushroom pie.

>>MODERATE

Eggplant With Goat Cheese Gratin

Cooking spray, for oiling

2 cans (14 ounces each) chopped tomatoes

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 eggplants

8 ounces soft goat cheese, sliced or crumbled

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly oil a six-cup baking dish with cooking spray. Put the tomatoes, garlic, half the oil, sugar, basil and salt and pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until reduced and thickened.

Cut each eggplant lengthwise into six thin slices. Season the remaining oil with salt and pepper then brush the eggplant slices with the seasoned oil.

Cook under a preheated broiler for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until charred and tender.

Arrange one-third of the eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly, in prepared baking dish. Add one-third of the tomato sauce and one-third of the goat cheese and Parmesan. Repeat these layers finishing with the two cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbling and golden.

Serves 6.

>>DIFFICULT

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart

For the pastry shell:

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons toasted whole blanched almonds

¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted

Pinch of salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a small bowl. Add the egg yolk and stir to blend. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and stir to blend.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, mix together the confectioners' sugar and almonds and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the egg yolk mixture and pulse just until the dough begins to hold together. Do not over process; the dough should not form a ball.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and very gently pat it into a disc, handling it as little as possible. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until well chilled.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch round. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, rub some flour on the pin. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and gently press against the sides, allowing for ½ inch overhang. With a fork, prick the bottom of the dough all over and refrigerate the crust again for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Set the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for about 5 minutes, until the pastry begins to firm up. Remove from the oven and, with a sharp knife, carefully trim and discard the overhanging pastry to make a smooth, even edge. Return the pan to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes longer, until the pastry is nicely browned. Transfer to a cooling rack and let the crust cool completely before filling.

Do not turn off the oven.

For the dark chocolate ganache:

1 ¼ cups water

2/3 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate (at least 64 percent), coarsely chopped

1 ¼ teaspoons chocolate extract

In a large, heavy saucepan, bring the water, corn syrup, cocoa powder and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk until blended. Remove the pan from the heat.

Immediately add the chocolate and chocolate extract to the pan and whisk until smooth. Set aside for about 1 hour to cool completely, whisking every 15 minutes or so to keep the ganache emulsified.

When cool, transfer the ganache to a rigid plastic or glass container, cover, date and refrigerate for up to three months.

For the filling:

¾ cup heavy cream

1/3 cup milk

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark chocolate ganache (above), at room temperature

1 large egg, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder, for sifting

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream, milk and sugar to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat, add the dark chocolate ganache and stir until melted. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm and then whisk in the egg until thoroughly blended.

Pour the custard into the pastry shell and bake in the middle of the oven until the filling is almost set but still trembles in the center, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool. Sift the cocoa powder over the tart and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8.

>>MODERATE

Simple Berry Skillet Cobbler

1 (10-ounce) package frozen or 1 pint fresh raspberries

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ cup butter

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together the raspberries, ½ cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, lemon juice and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Melt the butter in the skillet in the oven until it starts to brown around the edge and foam. It's important to have the butter sizzling hot!

While the butter is melting, stir together the remaining ½ cup flour and granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and milk in a large bowl. The batter may still have a few lumps, but it should be about the consistency of pancake batter.

Pour the batter over the butter in the hot skillet. Do not stir. Immediately spoon the berry mixture on top of the batter. Bake until the crust looks golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

Books That Cook: 'Delicious Variations on Favorite Foods,' 'Choclatique,' 'The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook' 02/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 3:30am]

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