In exploring our Cook the Books June selection, Street Food by Susan Feniger, I went for recipes that I already had most of the ingredients for. I barely managed to grocery shop at all this month, so the shopping I was willing to do was firmly planted in the most basic category. In fact, if a recipe required me getting more than 1 additional ingredient, I pretty much just skipped it for another time. Not awesome, but it is just how June rolled for our family.
I ultimately stuck to the simple and the basic and, except for the lamb meatballs, all vegetarian. I am pretty much off eating chicken (a post for another time), and the non-vegetarian recipes were largely chicken-based or seafood-based (which I still don’t love).
- Lamb Meatballs with Date and Carob Molasses (p. 38) While there was nothing earth-shattering about the meatballs themselves (lamb, onion, garlic, parsley, paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper), the slice of date and drizzle of molasses knocked them up a notch. I used the alternate recommended pomegranate molasses since I already had some and it worked great. Though, I am curious about date molasses in general as I imagine it is fabulous! I’ve made meatballs the past 2 months for Cook the Books and clearly need to make them more often. They are so quick and easy, plus they freeze well. (items needed: lamb and dates)
- Scandinavian Mixed Greens and Apples with Juniper Vinaigrette (p. 53) My Mom’s side of the family is largely Norwegian and the Babylady (by way of sperm donor) is ½ Danish, so I am generally curious about things touted to be Scandinavian. I am also a salad freak, so I naturally I needed to try this intriguing combination. The salad was a combination of watercress, lettuce, apples, gouda, parsley and a vinaigrette that included ground, dried juniper berries. I didn’t like the watercress alone, but it added a needed bite to the mix that I ended up enjoying. If I make it again, I would add more parsley. The relatively mild creaminess of the gouda was perfect and rounded out the salad well. The vinaigrette reminded us (naturally) of gin, which isn’t a bad thing, but certainly unexpected in a salad. It was most definitely unique. Now, all that being said, while I liked it, I am not totally sure I’d make it again. I am just not sure what kind of meal I would serve it with, as the juniper has such a pronounced flavor that it limits pairing. (items needed: watercress & gouda)
- Couscous Tabbouleh with Dried Apricots and Pistachios (p.91) I enjoyed the version of tabbouleh that used dried fruit and pistachios, in place of the more traditional cucumber and tomatoes. Pistachios are my favorite nut (well, kind of one of the only nuts I like) and I always have dried fruit on hand. It came together quickly and tasted good! I would make it again and switch it all up based on what I had on hand in terms of dried fruit and fresh herbs. Omitting the more seasonal cucumber and tomatoes means you can make this year-round (items needed: nothing! score!)
- Danish Black Licorice and Cherry Biscotti with Buttermilk Koldskål (p.181) Again with the Scandinavian thing! I understand that black licorice has a fairly divisive flavor. I, for one, love it. I was somewhat shocked that the Babylady didn’t, as she will eat fresh fennel fronds by the fistful and doesn’t shy away from intense flavors. The licorice intensity is tamed in the biscotti after cooking, so unless you are completely horrified by the flavor, I would give this a go! I thought the little biscotti were fantastic. I haven’t made biscotti before. I dunno. One of those “bake twice? nah, that sounds fussy” things. Yes, it is true, I tend to blow recipes off based on some fairly ridiculous criteria. In all honesty, the most difficult part was chopping the licorice. And the koldskål was delicious. It can be used as a dessert, a snack, or meal and is commonly served in warm weather. At first I thought it sounded odd — a cold soup of buttermilk, sour cream, sugar, and cherries? But it was delicious! A bit like kefir, but better. (items needed: sour cream and cherries)
- Thai Tea Pudding with Lime Caramel and Candied Cashews (p. 186) I really love pudding. And thai tea pudding sounds like perfectly grown-up pudding doesn’t it? Plus, I had pretty much everything on hand. Except for, you know, dried thai tea mix. Now, you might think that means I was missing a rather crucial ingredient, but a quick google search on just what was in thai tea mix helped. Ingredients varied between sources, so I just went for it. Instead of adding the thai tea mix, I steeped the half-and-half with several bags of lemongrass black tea and a tea infuser full of assorted spices (cinnamon, cloves, vanilla bean, cardamon, and star anise). Perhaps not totally authentic, but then again neither is thai tea pudding. So, how was it? I’d call it “interesting.” Oddly (since I chose the recipe), I don’t love thai tea, though I also don’t dislike it. So, it was no surprise I am not totally sure how I feel about the pudding. Since I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, I don’t really have a way of knowing if my spice combination was too bold or not, but my version was fairly intense. However, adding the lime caramel (which was fantastic!!) somehow tempered the intensity and made the whole thing work. If I was looking for an different dessert for friends I knew liked thai tea, I would definitely make it again (and lighten up on the spice). I know I will make the caramel sauce again. Spoon-licking good! (item needed: whole milk)
- Mango Lhassi (p.214) This recipe makes an enormous amount of mango lassi. As in 4 quarts of lassi. That is a lot of lassi. I halved the recipe and it was still a lot of lassi. I really like mango lassi… I mean, it is essentially a mango smoothie right? The evening I made it I thought it needed something, though wasn’t sure what. The next morning both the Babylady and I were fairly ambivalent about it so I put it back in the Vitamix with some blueberries. Better, but still not amazing. On the 2nd day, however, I suddenly loved it and couldn’t get enough. Was it the hot day? Did it get better with age? I don’t know, but I loved it. I’ll make it again, but probably add something. It seemed to need a dash of something (cardamom maybe? Or maybe a touch of something acidic, such as a squeeze of lime? (items needed: mango and mango pulp)
- Did the recipes taste good? Overall I think they turned out well. I appreciate Susan’s eagerness to try food and re-create them at home, as well as her excitement about introducing new flavors to readers.
- Would I use it again? Likely. There were a lot of things that sounded fantastic and that I bookmarked (green sriracha sauce, moroccan carrot salad with harissa vinaigrette, egyption bus stop kushary, and anatolian ravioli with chickpeas, feta, and brown butter), but I didn’t have the time or inclination to go ingredient shopping. I don’t think any of the items would have been difficult to source, but my life has been a mess this month. I’ve barely been home and, other than what I did for Cook the Books, it has been a month heavy on the taco truck and pizza by the slice. To that end, a post on grief is forthcoming.
- Is it reliable? Yes
- Does it use real food? Yes
- Can I replicate the recipes and are the results worth the effort? The recipes I chose to prepare were simple to replicate, easy to get ingredients for, and I believe worth the effort.
Other: Street Food is chock full of things that I would love to eat… if someone else made them for me. It is the food I love to eat, but don’t always enjoy cooking. Some gems though: I love that I can now make biscotti! And that I discovered koldskål, something I didn’t even know existed.
I am really glad that Briggs and I schemed up Cook the Books on a whim. I am grateful that I am getting pushed out of all my cooking ruts, trying ingredients I normally don’t use (juniper berries!), digging into recipes I ordinarily might not give more than a cursury glance, and continuing to cook when I honestly don’t feel like I have it in me at all. I’ll return to it when I am in a better place to give a more thorough range of recipes a go!
Coming up next: Gran Cocina Latina (The Food of Latin America) by Maricel E Presilla is our July pick. I’ll do a quick introduction later on this month, so stay tuned as this is a giant (850+ pages!) cookbook chock full of amazing sounding recipes!