Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I don’t get the big deal with chicken Parm, so it wasn’t the title of this recipe that drew me in—just the alluring photo of cheese-blanketed tomato-sauce-glazed chicken meatballs nestled alongside wilted spinach I spotted while paging through Dinner: The Playbook at the library. Apparently this is one of the most popular recipes at Dinner: A Love Story, but had somehow missed it until the book version. I figured meatballs are always a crowd-pleaser, and not surprisingly, our crowd of two was very pleased with this light, easy weeknight comfort meal.

Of course you can serve the meatballs with any vegetable side you want, but I like the red-and-green color contrast and the way the tomato sauce spills over and infuses the spinach. It’s pretty basic; I just heated 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; added 12 ounces fresh spinach, 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper flakes; stirred until wilted and seasoned with salt and pepper. You can do it while the meatballs bake.

1¼ pounds ground chicken
½ cup dried breadcrumbs (I used panko)
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 egg, whisked
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
14 ounces pizza sauce (I just doctored canned tomato sauce with dried oregano and basil, but this sauce would be even better)
About 4 ounces fresh mozzarella (16 thin slices)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together the chicken, breadcrumbs, onions, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, fennel, egg, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Shape into 16 golfball-size balls and place a few inches from each other on a lightly oiled foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix a few tablespoons of your pizza sauce with the olive oil. Brush this mixture on top of each meatball. Bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove meatballs from oven and turn on the broiler. Spoon some pizza sauce on top of each meatball, and cover each with a slice of cheese. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.
  5. Warm remaining sauce in a small saucepan. Serve meatballs with a dollop of sauce.
Serves: 4
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Good. You can also freeze the baked meatballs after Step 3. Thaw them in the fridge the day you want to eat them, then heat up in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes before continuing with the remaining steps.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


 I messed up big time. I first made this dish (by Melissa Clark via Elly Says Opa) on May 7, 2013. I took a photo. I recall enjoying my meal. Then, for some reason, the recipe languished untouched in my “Try Again” file for the next year and a half—so long I couldn’t even remember why it was there anymore. Was it blogworthy? Was it worth revisiting? When are blood oranges in season, again?

At last, seized by a recent fit of New Year’s-inspired mental housecleaning, I spotted blood oranges at the farmers’ market and decided to release the recipe from its limbo one way or another. And the joke’s on me, because this is one of the most delicious chicken recipes I’ve made in recent memory, and we all could have been eating it on the regular for the past 18 months if I hadn’t been such a putz. An unusual assortment of super-flavored ingredients are pureed into a vibrant green paste somewhat reminiscent of Cuban mojo sauce, but with the spicy bite of ginger in there too. I actually wouldn’t say the smoked paprika and blood orange of the title are the dominant tastes (in fact, I don’t see much reason why you couldn’t just use a regular orange, except that blood oranges are cool and I never remember to buy them otherwise)—cilantro and jalapeno are at the forefront for me, but maybe that’s just because I can’t resist using double or more the quantity of cilantro (2 tablespoons just looks so scant!). I’ve always been a sucker for tomatillo salsa, green chutney and Peruvian green sauce, and this fit right into that family.

After some marinating (a whole day is preferable) and a stint in the oven, you get tender, burnished, brightly flavored roasted chicken and a sauce so fantastic you’ll want to make sure you have something to soak it up. I highly recommend baking a batch of Smoked Paprika Roasted Potatoes along with the chicken and then drizzling them with the pan juices. Throw in something green (asparagus or green beans or salad) and you’ve got a lively, mostly hands-off dinner for just about any season. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on it for so long.

1 teaspoon orange zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, preferably blood orange
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-4 tablespoons cilantro
1 jalapeño, seeded if desired, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
1¾ to 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, or whole legs
Sliced scallions, cilantro, and orange wedges for serving
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the orange zest and juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, ginger, salt, and paprika. Blend until pureed. Combine the chicken and marinade in a large bowl; cover and refrigerate 1 to 24 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the chicken and its marinade in a 9-by-12-inch baking dish and roast until skin is browned and meat juices are no longer pink, about 45 minutes. Serve drizzled with juices and sprinkled with scallions and cilantro, with orange wedges for squeezing over the meat.
Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour, plus 1 to 24 hours of marinating
Leftover potential: Good.

Thursday, January 08, 2015


Let’s just forget about my previous cauliflower soup. That perfectly serviceable recipe made cauliflower palatable to me, but this curry-spiked one (from Food and Wine via Joy the Baker) renders it downright delicious. All of you who are freezing your butts off in the wintery parts of the country should cook this ASAP. Rich and creamy (but not heavy), with warming toasted spices (my first time using cumin seeds and I’m a convert!) and a gentle sunny hue, it’s a bowl of comfort and cheer that fits right in with your eat-more-vegetables resolutions. I know I’m as guilty as any food blogger of tossing around clichés and hyperbole, but this soup honestly was a revelation for me. If I’d managed to post it before the 31st, it would have made the 2014 favorites list, even in a field of heavyweight contenders.

I suspect you could leave out the butter if you want to lighten things up, but I wanted to make the recipe as written the first time and it was so wonderful I’m not sure I dare to mess with it—but maybe I’ll try decreasing to 2 tablespoons and see how it goes. I added about ½ to 1 cup more broth, because I like my pureed soups on the thinner side, and probably a bit more yogurt as well, because it really is a genius finishing touch—adding creaminess (especially if you use Greek yogurt) but also that zip of acidity that most pureed vegetable soups cry out for. Joy suggested pairing this with “some sort of cheesy bread situation,” and following her advice is an excellent call; alternating spoonfuls of soup with bites of melted sharp cheddar on baguette was heavenly.

1 large head cauliflower (1½ to 2 pounds), halved, cored, and cut into 1.5-inch florets
1 heaping teaspoon cumin seeds
1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 small to medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup plain yogurt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread cauliflower florets on a large rimmed baking sheet (lined with parchment if desired for easier cleanup) and sprinkle with cumin seeds and curry powder. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Season with a big pinch of salt and another of red pepper flakes. Place in the oven and roast until just tender, about 25 minutes
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, warm the last tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the roasted cauliflower to the pot along with the butter, bay leaf, and broth. Simmer over medium heat until liquid has reduced some and the cauliflower is very tender, about 15 minutes. Pick out and discard the bay leaf.
  3. In a blender, carefully puree the soup in two or three batches until very smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan and stir in the yogurt. Rewarm over medium heat, adding more broth to create a thinner consistency if you’d like. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great; freezes well.

Sunday, January 04, 2015


In my 2013 roundup, I spent a lot of time lamenting how infrequently I’d blogged that year. In 2014, I reached a new all-time low of just 32 posts. I still want to write more, but this year I’m not beating myself as much up over it. Reviewing those 32 recipes, I realized that nearly all of them are solid-gold keepers. Having limited time to blog can be frustrating, but at least it’s really helping the cream rise to the top. I try a lot of recipes that I never even bother to write about, because when I look back at the photos a month later (which is about how long I’m usually running behind on posting), I don’t feel like saying anything about them—a good sign that I might never bother cooking them again, either. With 550 recipes in my archives, I don’t have room in my life for new ones that are just OK.

The recipes that make it to Bookcook these days are the ones I can’t wait to tell someone about, the ones I want to urge everyone to try, the ones I’ve already made several times and already want to eat again. So even though this year only yielded a small pool of new posts, it was tough to choose favorites when so many have already become standbys. But here are the 10 that stood out as so magically tasty I can’t imagine life without them anymore.
  1. Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies: This was the first recipe I posted in 2014, and I correctly pegged it as a contender for the year-end best list. With three of my favorite cookie ingredients, how could they not be great? I did also used the word “favorite” a few months later to describe Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies, but ultimately, if I had to choose just one cookie to eat for the rest of my life, it would be these.  
  2. Carnitas: Meltingly tender, super-flavorful pork with very little effort = Miraculous.
  3. Roasted Tomato Pizza Margherita: A game changer. As written, it helped me use up extra cherry tomatoes all summer long. Even without the roasted tomato topping, the sauce is so good it’s become my go-to, supplanting the recipe I’d been using for 10 years. I haven’t looked back.
  4. Winter Panzanella: When I want a main-dish kale salad, this is it. The cheese, croutons, squash, and apple give it satisfying substance, and the flavors are phenomenal. Forget winter; I’ve been eating it year-round.
  5. Baked Egg Rolls: Deliciously crunchy and fairly wholesome, these made A especially happy and helped me get more comfortable with cabbage.
  6. Chicken Fajitas: An invaluably easy and crowd-pleasing weeknight staple.
  7. Potato Salad: The recipe that overcame my lifelong aversion, made me an instant convert, and got me through the interminable Southern California summer.
  8. Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding: I love pudding, and I love chocolate with peanut butter. Win-win.
  9. Vanilla Roasted Pears: It doesn’t get much simpler or more transformative than this. Fruit for dessert will never be a letdown with this recipe.
  10. White Bean Chicken Chili: I got this one in just under the wire because I knew it was listworthy. A smart, vivid iteration of the comfort-food standard.