Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cook the Books 2013 - Street Food hits the food swap and our table

The June Cook the Books selection was Street Food by Susan Feniger. Ohbriggsy wrote a great intro for this cookbook—and the cook behind it—and then Grow & Resist followed suit with an excellent review, so I won't do too much more on that front here.

Most important is how excited this cookbook got me. As soon as I started turning the pages, lots of recipes instantly vied for my attention, and I quickly had a slate of dishes I was craving to make. And, I fared pretty well on that front this month!

Croatian Sour Apple Fritters with Orange Sugar

Homemade apple fritters seemed like a far-fetched dream. Ambrosia of gods I didn't believe in...about as likely to end up on on my table as, I dunno, something really fantastical. Maybe I'm just such a sucker for interesting providence and fun-to-make condiments, but this one got me hook line and sinker. I knew I had to make them. And so I did. Happy to report my first real deep-frying experience was carried out, over two days, with no burns and many piping hot, just-greasy-enough, airy fritters. I recommend these highly! Cooking notes include making them small enough to cook all the way through, and under no circumstances should you skip the orange sugar.

We made these over a Saturday, Sunday morning sequence because even with a half recipe this makes a lot of fritters. On the second day we didn't have enough of the orange sugar left, and no oranges on hand to make more, so I pulled a few things from the pantry for a fritter smorgasbord. Below left is Chocolate Sugar and Earl Gray Tea Dust (adapted from this book), both scored from Angela at the swap. They provided fun and flavorful variation—I would definitely experiment further on this front if we make them again.

Because we had so many fritters, we carried a plateful to our next-door neighbor's house. It was Father's Day and boy was he surprised and excited to receive an unexpected serving of homemade donuts! Yeah, that was fun too. Big ups to my sweetie for helping man the fritter factory and being my número uno partner in crime.

Coconut Curry Caramel Corn

This recipe was love at first glance too. First of all, I had never made caramel corn, and it seemed both challenging and fun. Secondly, the sweet/savory combo sounded awesome. And, it featured the Candied Peanuts made with kaffir lime leaves (an obsession of mine), which was an attractive progression from the Kaffir Lime & Chile Spiced Cashews I've made, and swapped, in the past. Plus it uses fresh curry leaf, an ingredient I see regularly at my favorite Asian market and have long wanted to find a use for. Winning all around. Lastly, making this coincided nicely with our June food swap, and a recipe yielding 18 cups of anything seemed made for swapping. The fresh curry taste from the leaves was amazing. Familiar, yet so different than what you get from powder. A definite candidate for future parties and camping trips.

Thai Tea Pudding

I work across the street from two different Thai restaurants, and Thai iced tea has become an occasional late afternoon treat instead of coffee or a sweet. (It's a natural twofer!). I'm a mad fan, and pudding is probably my favorite dessert in general, so this one was obviously going to make the cut. And again, it provided the opportunity to buy another strange ingredient from the Asian grocery. Happiness all around. When I asked if there were smaller bags than the lifetime supply size (1 lb.), the man shook his head no apologetically, but then countered with "but it's only $3!" Not really the point, but I appreciated, and succumbed to his salesmanship. My cheesecloth straining went a little awry due to my impatience trying to get this pudding in my mouth, but it was only a small amount of tea and fine spice particles, so it actually added nice dimension and visual appeal to this orange beauty. I skipped the lime caramel and candied cashews, toppings suggested in the book, but would for sure give them a try if making this for guests or a bigger crowd.

Brussel Sprouts with Goat Cheese, Apples, and Hazelnuts
No big story here except that I like brussel sprouts, thought cooking a veggie couldn't be a bad idea, and we have crazy delicious hazelnuts from Oregon from C's mom that wanted a date with apples and goat cheese. This was simple to make and a great side dish. I might even mix it up and bring this to Thanksgiving instead of my usual brussel sprouts preparation.

Chilled Soba Noodles with Spicy Orange Sesame and Tofu
We've been having totally wonky weather in SF recently. All year even. But right now, instead of June gloom, we have grey skies, actual rain, and humidity. It's weirdly warm. So cold noodles are just the thing. I skipped the scallions and used regular sesame seeds instead of black ones since that's what I had on hand. I also McGyvered the spicy sesame oil by using some regular sesame oil, some homemade spicy Sichuan oil, and some red pepper flakes. This dish had some kick! I felt like it would be better with more than just the tofu in it. I think the leftovers will get a dose of broccoli rabe and chicken for good measure. And I got lots of extra sauce on hand. Nearly enough for another round. We'll see what the weather brings...

So that's the cast of characters this month. All worthy of a redux. My only issue with this cookbook is the yield of the recipes. I don't run a restaurant, so for example, I don't need 40 fritters! Even when I cut recipes in half, it seemed like a lot of food. But in my experience the food from these recipes was reliably satisfying almost all the time. I liked the ingredient spotlights for things a little more out of the ordinary, the condiments section, and the easy-to-follow recipe directions. Even though I got it from the library, I'd rate this a keeper cookbook.