For the record, I don't really do brunch. Actually I love breakfast, but you'll never find me downtown at a sidewalk cafe paying $15 for an omelet and sipping mimosas. But when I'm home on a lazy weekend, I don't mind making something extra yummy in the morning, and that's where this new book comes in. I was lucky to get a complimentary copy of This is a Cookbook by hip Brooklyn chefs Max and Eli Sussman the other day -- this book is really cool. Nothing I can say about it will do justice to how unusual it is, so please check it out for yourself. The design is so fun and fresh, it's like almost no cookbook I've seen before. Of course the design might not be your thing, but it's totally my style, so much so that I have to say I really wish I edited and published this one myself.This recipe called Turkish Baked Eggs starts off unusually for breakfast. You squish up canned San Marzano tomatoes and cook them with some spices in olive oil. Then try to resist the temptation to boil up a pot of pasta, which would go great with the sauce. Spread the tomato mixture into the bottom of a pan. It called for a 9-inch square baking pan, but I decided to use this gorgeous Anolon Nouvelle Copper pan I'd gotten at Big Summer Potluck.Next you saute some baby spinach, just briefly, and place that on top of the tomatoes. Lastly, and if there is a tricky part, this is it -- you make indentations in the spinach and crack raw eggs into them. My pan was obviously smaller than the intended one, so I could fit only five eggs instead of six as called for in the recipe, and the egg whites ran together a bit, but none of that matters much.You top everything with feta cheese and bake it in the oven. I baked mine a bit longer than specified because I wanted to get it more golden on top. Probably if I made it again, I'd just put it under the broiler for a minute at the end. By the way, I didn't show it here, but you serve it with a sauce you make from yogurt, milk, and lemon zest, and though I had my doubts at first, the lemon really brings out the flavors of everything else. Total breakfast decadence, although I suppose with all that spinach, this is relatively healthy. Shhh, I won't tell if you don't.
Several years back I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with the legendary Sylvia Woods on a cookbook. It was her second book, but the intention this time was to tell her incredible rags-to-riches story. That story would be incomplete if it wasn't all about family and friends, which is why we called it Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook. The interesting thing about the project is that I got to know so many members of the Woods family as a result. I remember the cover photo shoot like it was yesterday -- dozens of aunts, uncles, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews all dressed up for portraits. I also vividly remember the book launch party at Sylvia's. I made a speech, which I almost never do. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but I said that the book was about love and bringing family and friends together. I was inspired by the Woods family then, and I still am. I've dined at Sylvia's in Harlem more times than I can count now, often for special occasions like birthdays. And I've worn out that cookbook, making the recipes so many times. I can think of no more fitting tribute than to cook up a few of Sylvia's recipes.Amazingly, I'd never tried making her bbq pork before. The truth is, I don't have much experience roasting pork shoulder, but as you can see from the first photo, it turned out quite beautifully, not that I should have expected anything less. After the roasting, you chop up the pork, discarding the bone (and try to resist snacking the whole time).I won't spoil the recipe for the bbq sauce which you make from scratch (hint, it has applesauce in it -- trust me, buy this book!) while the pork is roasting. You toss the pork, bbq sauce, and some chopped onions together.Then you roast everything for another 30 minutes, and you get this. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.Sylvia's black-eyed pea salad has been a favorite in my household for years now. It's sweet, just like you might expect from a Southern-style dish, and the longer you let it marinate before eating, the better it gets.Then there's the tomato-okra stew. At least to me, this is what Southern cooking is all about. Every time I make a dish with okra, I wonder why I don't do it more often. The key to this recipe is the bacon, a half pound of it, chopped and cooked until crisp. Then you cook 1/2 cup of chopped onions in the bacon fat and stir in a tablespoon of flour (I used cornstarch) to thicken things up. Next you add a 15-ounce can of stewed tomatoes, 10 ounces of frozen, cut okra, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. I used fresh okra, the same measure -- 10 ounces -- and loved the results. The recipe says to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, but if you're using fresh okra like I did, you might want to cook it a bit longer until the texture seems right.So what did I do with all that great food? Zokos and Cookstr were holding a benefit potluck for City Harvest, so I brought all three dishes along with me. Besides the event being for a great cause (I think they raised about $1,000), lots of friends came out: Jackie, Margaret, Melody, Sara, Hazel, Emily, Yvo, Melissa, and more. There were quite a few raves for the stewed tomatoes and okra. My only regret is that I didn't make a bigger batch!
It's getting a little annoying, right? My slight obsession with Cook This Now by Melissa Clark, that is. Once in a while you come across a book that really speaks to you. This is the kind of food I love. That being said, I almost never make soup except for big holiday dinners. My thought is that on a normal night, like after a long day at work, soup just isn't going to satisfy me. But the flavors of this recipe sounded so right -- Curried Coconut Tomato Soup. Yes, yes, and yes.I added the sprig of cilantro just for the finished dish photo. In real life of course I chopped it up -- I'm one of those cilantro lovers, so there's no such thing as too much. The recipe calls for transferring everything to a blender to puree before adding the coconut milk, but that technique always makes me nervous (hot soup, blender, steam, explosion!). I made use of my handy immersion blender, courtesy of KitchenAid, and did the blending right in the pot (off the heat of course). I think it turned out slightly more chunky that way, but it seemed right. I served it with some toasted corn tortillas for dipping, and that worked pretty well for a real meal. Another winner by Melissa.