Books That Cook: 'Plum Gorgeous,' 'Healthy Eating During Pregnancy' and 'Low-Salt Cookbook'

Title: Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard by Romney Steele (Andrews McMeel, $25, 192 pages)

Generally speaking: At first glance you may think this is a cookbook about plums. But it is so much more. Inside are recipes using seasonal fruits in sweet and savory recipes. It is important to take a close look at the recipes if this is a cookbook that intrigues you. There are many unusual ingredients that are not easily available. Some of those ingredients include orange flower water, oloroso sherry, burrata cheese, elderflower syrup, gooseberries and mache, a salad green with a mild lettuce flavor, to name a few.

For: A more experienced home cook and those familiar with unusual ingredients. If you're up for a few challenges, this could be your book.

Recipes: Rangpur lime mascarpone tart, September salad, honey-baked figs with lavender and wine, fresh peach gelato, herb-roasted salmon with wild huckleberry sauce, lemon thyme risotto, wild plum lavender jam, cherry clafoutis, gooseberry yellow plum fool, raspberry rhubarb rose petal jam, raspberry ratafia, wild strawberry tartlets, kumquats and toasted couscous with halloumi, marmalade chicken and slow cooked apple butter.

Title: Healthy Eating During Pregnancy: 100 Recipes for a Nutritious, Delicious Nine Months by Erika Lenkert with Brooke Alpert (Kyle Books, $16.95, 144 pages)

Generally speaking: While this cookbook is primarily targeted to expectant mothers, it is full of recipes that will appeal to many. There is a lot of information for pregnant women, but some of the recipes are too good to pass up.

For: Pregnant women or anyone wanting a healthy diet. Many of the recipes would be good for a dinner party.

Recipes: Beef and vegetable skewers, creamed Swiss chard, roasted cauliflower with caper vinaigrette, lime rice with black beans and cilantro, apple and celery salad with currant and champagne vinaigrette, Korean beef broccoli, pasta Bolognese, rosemary and garlic chicken under a brick, stewed tomato and white bean bruschetta, eggplant Caprese napoleons, zucchini, basil and Parmesan frittata, Chinese chicken salad, paella, curried scallops with smoky lentils, chocolate coconut oatmeal cookies, watermelon-yogurt granita and tropical tease.

Title: Low-Salt Cookbook (fourth edition) from the American Heart Association (Clarkson Potter Publishers, $23.99, 342 pages)

Generally speaking: If you are trying to reduce the sodium in your diet, this cookbook is a great place to start. There are many recipes that will appeal to a wide range of tastes. Many of the recipes are easy to prepare and come together relatively quickly.

For: Anyone instructed by their physician to manage salt intake, or anyone who is independently concerned with the amount of salt in foods today. This cookbook will help you achieve that in a very delicious way.

Recipes: Lamb curry, ratatouille-polenta casserole, braised lentil and vegetable medley, turkey stew, blackberry-balsamic chicken, Spanish-style crab and vegetable tortilla, shrimp and spinach pasta, sauteed trout with cucumber-melon salsa, sliced mango with creamy orange sauce, Caribbean jerk pork, one-skillet beef, pasta and broccoli, Hungarian pork chops, roasted plums with walnut crunch, corn muffins and creole chicken stew.

>>MODERATE

Slow Cooked Apple Butter

3 pounds heirloom apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

1 1/4 cups apple cider

1 cinnamon stick

2 (1/2-inch) strips lemon peel, plus the juice of 1 lemon

2 1/2 to 3 cups sugar (or use a little honey in the mix)

Pinch fresh ground nutmeg

Pinch ground cinnamon

Place the apples in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with the apple cider, cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Cook over medium heat, occasionally stirring until the apples are soft and pulpy and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 45 minutes. If the cider evaporates before the apples are cooked through, add a little water.

Push the apples through a sieve or food mill for a smooth butter, or simply mash with the back of a wooden spoon for a chunkier texture. Discard the lemon peel and cinnamon stick. Return the pulp to the same pot. Add the lemon juice, sugar (more or less depending on the tartness of the apples) and ground spices and bring to a simmer until the sugar dissolves.

Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Take care to use a long wooden spoon and perhaps wear gloves, as splatters burn. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until the butter is thick and syrupy and a golden strawlike color, about 45 minutes. If you'd like it more caramelized, continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes or so. Ladle the apple butter into hot, sterilized jars, cover with lids, turn over and let stand overnight.

Makes about 4 half-pint jars.

Source: Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard by Romney Steele (Andrews McMeel, $25)

>>EASy

Rosemary and Garlic Chicken Under a Brick

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds

2 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced

2 (8-ounce) skin-on boneless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the carrots and cook for 4 minutes. Add the zucchini, cook for 2 more minutes, then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, rinse and pat dry the chicken.

Mix together the rosemary, garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and rub it all over the chicken. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin side up. Place a heavy pan or foil-wrapped brick on top of the chicken and cook for 6 minutes. Flip the chicken, put the pan or brick back on top and cook for 6 minutes more. Remove and let rest.

Add the carrots, zucchini and 1 teaspoon water to the pan and deglaze while heating and coating the vegetables with the pan juices. Season with salt.

Slice the chicken, divide among 4 plates and serve with the zucchini and carrots.

Serves 4.

Source: Healthy Eating During Pregnancy: 100 Recipes for a Nutritious, Delicious Nine Months by Erika Lenkert with Brooke Alpert (Kyle Books, $16.95)

>>EASy

Hungarian Pork Chops

1 teaspoon paprika

¾ teaspoon dried dill weed, crumbled

½ teaspoon caraway seeds

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

4 boneless center loin pork chops (about 4 ounces each), cut ½-inch thick, all visible fat discarded

Cooking spray

½ cup water

½ cup fat-free sour cream

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion

In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, dill, caraway, onion powder and garlic powder. Sprinkle on both sides of the chops. Press the rub so it adheres to the pork.

Lightly spray a large, heavy skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook the pork for 4 minutes. Turn over and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until slightly pink in the center. Transfer to a large plate. Cover to keep warm.

Increase the heat to high. Pour in the water, scraping the skillet to dislodge any browned bits. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to ¼ cup. Reduce the heat to low.

When the boiling stops, whisk in the sour cream and salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through, whisking constantly. Don't let the mixture boil. Serve the sauce over the pork. Sprinkle the green onion on top.

Serves 4.

Source: Low-Salt Cookbook (fourth edition) from the American Heart Association (Clarkson Potter Publishers, $23.99)

Books That Cook: 'Plum Gorgeous,' 'Healthy Eating During Pregnancy' and 'Low-Salt Cookbook' 09/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 5:30am]

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