Category Archives: Recipes

We’ve made some recipes out of our favorite cookbooks.

A Brisket By Any Other Name

Poitrine, bringa, bryststykke. No matter how you say it, it’s still a brisket.

BUY IT - The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes

WARNING: This book is not suitable for vegetarians, vegans or herbivores of any stripe. However, if you love slow cooked, tender and delicious meat, grab a plate and get your fork!

It’s a cut of meat that slices across ethnic and cultural lines. A specific cut of meat. Not just a burger or a steak, it’s more than that. At first blush you would think, “How many ways could you possible cook that?”. You would be surprised.

In Texas, it is held aloft as a piece of BBQ lore and legend. Worthy of a battle for a medal, trophy or plaque. On St. Patrick’s Day, we can’t get enough of it served with a side of cabbage, potatoes and maybe a Guinness (or two). It has starring role on the other side of the world in Vietnamese Pho. And, it’s nearly impossible to imagine any Jewish holiday without a moist and flavorful brisket served on a big platter to a waiting table of family and friends.

Stephanie Pierson affectionately calls her cookbook a “love story with recipes”. When The Brisket Book hit my desk I thought, “OK, here’s another collection of the same re-tread brisket recipes”. Boring… This is a prime example of why you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. It is not possible to have been more wrong. Boring is the last thing this cookbook is.

I thought I knew about brisket. After all, I have cooked a small truckload of them. But, what I didn’t know about this versatile cut of meat could, well, fill a book. And Stephanie filled it up!

I love the list of “50 Things About Brisket That People Can Disagree About”. Example: #5 Electric Knife? You may as well give one person a can of gasoline and the other person a match and see how long it takes them to set each other on fire. People are just that insane about the topic.

Of course, I have to cook one of these versions. I opted for Chef Todd Gray’s, Classic Braised Beef Brisket. Anything classic should be a good test.

Here’s How To Do It

Classic Braised Beef Brisket

2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 3lb beef brisket, trimmed
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 quart veal stock
1 cup dry red wine
½ cup balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 350⁰. (Note: the recipe in the book does not specify an oven temperature. I used 350⁰, it seemed safe)

Mix together the salt, paprika, mustard seed and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the brisket all over with the spice mixture. It will look like this.

Classic Braised Beef Brisket

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot. Brown the brisket evenly on both sides. About 5 to 7 minutes per side.

Classic Braised Beef Brisket

Transfer the browned brisket to a large oven proof baking dish or Dutch oven. Add the rosemary and thyme sprigs. Also, add the garlic, stock, wine and vinegar. Cover the dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake in the oven until fork tender. About 3 to 4 hours.

When the brisket is cooked, transfer to a cutting board and cover with foil. Strain cooking liquids into a pan and reduce over medium heat to about 2½ cups. Slice the brisket against the grain and drizzle with the sauce.

Serves 6

Classic Braised Beef Brisket
Recipe adapted Classic Braised Brisket, Chef Todd Gray. The Brisket Book, Stephanie Pierson, Andrews McMeel Pub.

TIPS: I used beef stock instead of veal stock. It still turned our fantastic. This is a super easy brisket recipe. A home chef of any skill level should have no problem at all impressing their family and friends with their brisket expertise.

The Bottom Line: This book hits all the right notes. Not only is it a great collection of new (and old) brisket preparations, but, it also serves as a great resource. It’s a fun read. The contributions from professional and amateur chefs make it interesting on a lot of different levels. Writing a single subject cookbook can be tricky. Stephanie avoids the common mistakes that make these types of books a little on the dry side. Well done!

BUY IT - The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes

Author: Stephanie Pierson
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN-10: 1449406971

BUY IT - The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes


If you like The Brisket Book, here are few books from the Cookbook Man’s list that might interest you.

Backyard BBQ: The Art of Smokology Smoke & Spice: Cooking with Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook, with More Than 200 Recipes Big Green Egg Cookbook: Celebrating the World's Best Smoker & Grill

A Sunday Roast is a Thing of Beauty

Trying to resist the scent is senseless.

BUY IT! - Sunday Roasts: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts, from Old-Fashioned Pot Roasts to Glorious Turkeys, and Legs of Lamb

We have five senses. Some people say six. But, for the sake of this post, let’s just agree on five. When it comes to food they’re all pretty important. Obviously, taste is a BIG number one. After that smell, sight, sound and touch fall into line. I’ll let you argue the order of the remaining four.

Let’s try an experiment.

Close your eyes. Smell that smell. Something is roasting away in your oven. The particular scent can change from moment to moment. But, the familiar, comforting aroma still wafts through the house. As they say, “It smells so good you can almost taste it”.

You can vote for whatever sense you want. I’m logging smell in at an easy number two.

The smell of a Sunday roast is like no other smell. If you’ve been outside all day, you walk in the door and the rich aroma greats you like an old friend. It says, “come on in”. The scent breeds anticipation. It makes you sit up and take notice. Something delicious is about to happen.

We’ve all had the obvious Sunday roasts. Standing rib, pot roast and a perfectly roasted turkey all qualify. But, what if you want to mix it up a little. What are the options? Lucky for us there’s a more than able guide.

Betty Rosbottom’s aptly titled, Sunday Roasts, A Years’ worth of Mouthwatering Roasts will give you enough ideas for, yes, a year. After looking and cooking, you may want to set some time aside for drooling on these recipes. There are so many tempting dishes in this book, choosing one to make is a first class challenge.

I was looking for something a little different than the standard leg of lamb for my Sunday effort. After stopping at nearly every page to say, “WOW that looks great”, I settled on the Pork Loin with a Blue Cheese Stuffing and Roasted Pears. I think I made an excellent choice. You can decide for yourself.

BUY IT! - Sunday Roasts: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts, from Old-Fashioned Pot Roasts to Glorious Turkeys, and Legs of Lamb

Here’s how to do it.

2 ½lb. center cut boneless pork loin
2 Tbsp. rosemary, dried and crushed
2 Tbsp. thyme leaves, dried and crushed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1½ cups fresh bread crumbs (I used Panko instead)
1 cup blue cheese (I used Maytag)
3 Tbsp. + 1 cup chicken broth, reduced sodium
4 or 5 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Bartlett or Bosc pears, slightly under ripe
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Fresh rosemary and thyme springs for garnish

Take a long narrow knife and insert it through the center of the roast lengthwise. Push the knife all the way through the roast. Turn it to cut out a 1 inch pocket in the center all the way through.

Mix together the rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Place about half of this mixture into a bowl with the bread crumbs and the cheese. Reserve the rest of the seasonings. Combine gently using your fingers. Stir in just enough chicken broth to moisten the bread crumb mixture.

Blue Cheese Stuffing

Using your thumb, push the stuffing into the pocket. Fill to within ½ inch of each end. Keep pushing that stuffing in. It will take a lot. When finished, pat the roast dry and rub the whole roast with the remaining spice mixture.

Rubbed Pork Roast

Preheat your oven to 400⁰. Arrange rack to center position.

In a medium size bowl whisk together 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Add pears and toss to coat. In a large flameproof roasting pan add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and heat over 1 or 2 stovetop burners on medium high heat. Brown rubbed pork on all sides. About 6 to 8 minutes. Place pan in oven and roast for 10 minutes. Scatter pears around roast, skin side up around meat. Roast another 10 minutes. Turn meat and pears. Continue roasting until an internal temperature of 150⁰F is reached. About 20 to 25 minutes. Remove meat and pears from pan. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Remove any loose stuffing from pan. Skim off any fat that has accumulated.

Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over high heat. Add remaining 1 cup of chicken broth and 1 tbsp of vinegar. Reduce by one third while scraping bits from bottom. Swirl butter into the sauce. Salt if needed.

To serve, slice ¾ inch thick. Drizzle the meat (and pears) with some of the sauce. Serve!

Serves 6

Pork Loin with a Blue Cheese Stuffing and Roasted Pears
Recipe adapted from Pork Loin with a Blue Cheese Stuffing and Roasted Pears. Betty Rosbottom, Sunday Roasts, Chronicle Books © 2011.

TIPS: OK, I know all of that looks complicated. Let me tell you it’s not. It actually pretty easy especially when you see how elegant the finished product is. Any fine dining establishment would be happy to have this on their dinner menu.

The bottom line: Betty’s book is loaded (and I mean it) with delicious comforting roasts. From beef to chicken and lamb to seafood there is something for everyone’s taste and diets. There are some easy to make sides too. Be sure to check out the Best-Ever Mashed Potatoes. I could have that as my main course. Sunday Roasts is intended for those lazy Sundays that are the prelude to another busy workweek. But, any of these dishes would be a welcome mid-week indulgence.

BUY IT! - Sunday Roasts: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts, from Old-Fashioned Pot Roasts to Glorious Turkeys, and Legs of LambAuthor: Betty Rosbottom
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN-10: 0811879682



The Cookbookman Recommends

If you like Sunday Roasts here are a few other cookbooks for your consideration.

All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art Williams-Sonoma: Roasting All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking Roasting: Meat, Fish, Vegetables, Sauces, and More

Your Seat At The Greek Table

There’s more to great food than just a recipe.

Three Sisters Around the Greek Table: A Cookbook

Where does a recipe come from? At first blush, it seems like a simple question to answer. You have a basic idea of what you would like to make. You add some things to it and take some things away. You experiment with cooking times and techniques and before you know it, Voila! A dish is born.

Do you think that’s how your mother did it? Or, how about your great grandmother? I’m going to go out on a limb and say probably not. I’m not suggesting that there wasn’t some creating back then. But, I think there was a lot of passing too. Passing family recipes from one hand to the next. Hoping to preserve a legacy of great food and important family food traditions.

There’s a lot of history in all ethnic foods. None more so than Greek cuisine. The Greek culture is proud of their dishes. They are woven into the very fabric of their lives. For those of us who don’t share that heritage, it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to have an insider’s view. And, three sisters, originally from Toronto Canada are offering you a great look.

Their cookbook, Three Sisters Around The Greek Table is a tribute to the recipes of their past (and their future). These are classic Greek dishes that have more than stood the test of time. They hold a special meaning for Betty, Eleni and Samantha. For the rest of us the history might not be there, but, the amazing flavors sure are.

These dishes are presented in a simple and straightforward manner. There isn’t anything tricky about any of them. It’s more about a passion for sharing a piece of their culinary roots than anything else. That’s a good thing.

I wanted to make something that would really exemplify the rustic nature of traditional Mediterranean fare. The Grilled Whole Red Snapper would be a perfect choice.

Whole Roasted Ren Snapper

Understand, I fully intended to make this recipe using the above-mentioned red snapper. But, something unexpected happened when I was shopping for my ingredients.

One word, Branzini. I like red snapper, but, I love branzini. Whole branzini right there in my local fish counter. And, to make things even better, the sign below the fish read “Fresh From Greece”. There couldn’t be a better choice. I was living right.


The recipe is super easy. Have your fishmonger scale and gut your fish. Stuff it with some fresh oregano and lemon slices.

Stuffed Branzini

Heat your grill. Rub your fish with olive oil. Salt and pepper generously. Grill 6 to 8 minutes per side. I cut a couple of small slits in the skin on each side of the fish to help distribute the heat while it’s cooking.

Grilled Branzini

It’s just that easy. That skin was really crispy and delicious too.

The recipe calls for a Lemon, Oregano & Olive Oil Dressing to drizzle over the top.

You didn’t think I forgot a side dish did you? No way. The Horiatiki Salata (Tomato & Cucumber Village Salad) made an excellent partner for the fish.

3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
½ sweet onion, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. salt

In a large bowl, toss all of the ingredients together. Mix well. Add a little fresh feta to the top of each salad when serving.

I have a friend of mine who is from Greece. He’s from an older generation than I am (is that OK to say?). When I told him that I was going to make a Horiatiki Salata, his eyes lit up! He was happy to inform me that each small village or town in this native Greece, has their own unique variation on this classic dish. You could just see him effortlessly drift back in time. Amazing what food can do!

Horiatiki Salata
Recipe adapted from Tomato & Cucumber Village Salad, Around The Greek Table, Betty, Eleni and Samantha Bakopoulos, Adelfes © 2009.

Here’s how it all came together. The fish was light and flaky.

Whole Roasted Red Snapper

The Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for a cookbook that really captures the essence of traditional Greek cuisine then look no further. Around The Greek Table will make you feel like you have special access to the Bakopoulos sisters family recipe box.

BUY IT - Three Sisters Around the Greek Table: A CookbookAuthors: Betty Bakopoulos, Eleni Bakopoulos, Samantha Bakopoulos
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Delphi Distribution
ISBN-10: 098134050


BUY IT - Three Sisters Around the Greek Table: A Cookbook

Gumbo Fit For A Mardi Gras King


“People who come back from heaven all say the same thing… Try the gumbo”.


Gumbo. Just say the word and watch me start to drool. Everybody has his or her favorite. And, I’m sure there are as many variations as you would care to count. But, there’s only one that could get me to make a forty minute car ride into the city for absolutely no other reason.

In the Chicago loop, next to the “el” tracks on Wabash, tucked away on the seventh floor of an otherwise ordinary looking downtown professional building, is my personal gumbo mecca. The place is appropriately named, Heaven on Seven.

It’s housed in an old school Chicago building. A small convenience counter selling newspapers, gum and assorted sundries greets you when you make your way through the revolving doors. An attendant still directs you to the correct elevator. Even though the only place to go is up.

When the elevator doors push back you can only hope that the line of other salivating diners doesn’t stretch the full length of the hall. Usually it does. It’s a small space, compared to the mega eateries opening today. The line does move.

There’s usually a way to avoid the wait. It’s not a big insider secret. The counter. Yes, a full on coffee shop counter. And, most times there’s one vacant seat. You can settle in to a cramped stool, order a cup of gumbo and a jalapeño corn bread muffin and watch the frenetic pace of a Chicago dining landmark.

Since moving, I sometimes get an uncontrollable urge for their thick, super rich, Andouille laden stew. Especially around this time of year. But, at Heaven on Seven “It’s Mardi Gras All the Time”.

Mardi Gras Beads

I have been mostly disappointed with all other surrogate gumbos I currently have access to (although some have come close). I figured this year I should try my hand at creating the real thing.

Back in 2000, chef/owner Jimmy Bannos put out a cookbook containing some of the restaurants signature dishes. During the planning and editing process, someone made the very unselfish decision to include the world’s best gumbo. Thank you.

The Heaven on Seven Cookbook: Where It's Mardi Gras All the Time!

Lucky for me I had a signed copy my wife gave me years ago sitting on a shelf in the kitchen for just this very occasion.

As I read through the recipe it became immediately clear that making great gumbo doesn’t happen by accident. This isn’t for beginners. The recipe itself includes no less than four ingredients that have their own individual recipes (something like, see page 134). No one said this would be a stroll through Jackson Square.

I’ve got a great cast iron Dutch oven that was meant for this. I figured it would be best to approach the process in two parts. I made all of the side recipes and prepped on the first day. On day two, I put it all together.


Usually I would post the recipe here, but, it’s pretty widely available in print and on the web. You can find it without too much trouble. So instead, here’s the recipe for the Roasted-Garlic Puree that you’ll need for the finished product.

Roasted-Garlic Puree

1 cup, garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 300. Place all of the garlic in a small ovenproof dish. Cover completely with the olive oil. Cover dish with foil and place in oven. Roast 1 hour or until garlic is soft and golden brown.

When finished strain the garlic from the oil. Place the garlic in a blender or small food processor. Puree until smooth. Add a small amount of the infused oil to get a nice pasty consistency. Store the finished puree in a small container and top with a thin layer of the oil. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep for a few days. You can store the infused oil separately. The oil would be an amazing base for a great Caesar salad dressing.

There a lot of ingredients in the gumbo recipe. So, be careful to follow the directions carefully. Double check.

My gumbo in all of it’s deliciousness.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

I have to say it was right on! It turned out great. I was shocked at how close it was to the restaurant version. Amazing!

Oh, you can’t have Jimmy’s gumbo without a corn bread muffin or two.

Corn Bread Muffins

The Bottom Line: I’m not sure I’m going to make this on a weekly or even monthly basis. But, now that I’ve got this in my back pocket, I have a cure for the gumbo shakes should they arise. It would be WAY easier if Jimmy would just ship down a quart or two every year. Order up!

Buy IT! - The Heaven on Seven Cookbook: Where It's Mardi Gras All the Time!Author: Jimmy Bannos & John Demers
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN-10: 1580081681

Buy IT! - The Heaven on Seven Cookbook: Where It's Mardi Gras All the Time!

Recipe adapted from: Roasted-Garlic Puree, The Heaven on Seven Cookbook, Jimmy Bannos and John DeMers ©2000, Ten Speed Press


A History Of Community Cooking


There is nothing wrong with simple AND delicious.

BUY IT! - Three Rivers Cookbook I

The community cookbook. All of us have somewhere between two and two hundred of those plastic ring bound gems in our cookbook collections. They’re all little different. But, at the same time they’re all a little similar.

The Three Rivers Cookbook I fits the mold perfectly. The Child Health Association of Sewickley Pennsylvania thought 12,500 copies would do it back in 1973. Wrong. By 1990 they had printed an additional 400,000 copies. That’s when the edition I have was printed.

My wife doesn’t cook. At least that’s the story she tells. Actually, she just doesn’t want anyone to know she can do it. I think it takes the pressure off.

At one point in her life, she lived in the Pittsburgh area. So, she was pretty wide eyed when she saw me walk in with this Pennsylvania home cooking treasure. My friend Dennis, who has some PA roots of his own, thought it was a book worth checking out. Before I could even set it down on the counter, she had it on the couch.

Suffice it to say, I have A LOT of cookbooks that come in my front door. She usually just asks me what I’m making her. This was decidedly different. She flipped through those slightly worn pages with genuine interest.

Fifteen minutes past, then thirty, then a proclamation. “These Herbed Rolls look really good”. What? Really? Does she want me to make them or is this something she was going to tackle herself? Before I could sort through the possible answers in my head she filled in the blanks. She was going to make them for us tomorrow night!

I’m sure The Child Health Association of Sewickley Pennsylvania had no idea the magnitude of the breakthrough they had inspired. At least in my home. For the moment, my duties would include only photography. I could get used to this.

Herb Rolls

Here’s How To Do It

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. dill seed
1/4 tsp.onion flakes
1 package buttermilk biscuits, refrigerated

Preheat oven to 425F. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the parsley flakes, dill seed and onion flakes. Stir to mix. Cut the biscuits into quarters. Dip each biscuit quarter in the melted butter mixture. Arrange the pieces in a round Bundt pan, pie pan or square casserole. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand to cool before serving.

Serves 6

Herb Rolls

Recipe adapted, Herb Rolls, Three Rivers Cookbook I, Mrs. Robert A. McKean III, Child Health Association of Sewickley, Inc., 1973

TIP: It may be hard to find dill seed. We used dried dill weed and had a good result.

This dish was a home run. It’s easy to execute and loaded with goodness. This collection is a great representation of the recipes that are contained in most of the community cookbooks that were written in the 60’s and 70’s. Awesome, homemade, generational dishes that stand up over time.

Looks like my wife can now add these Herb Rolls to the now growing list of dishes that she can whip up. A couple more additions and she’ll have to shed her “non-cook” label. Sorry honey.

You can still get a copy of this classic. They’re used, but, lovingly used.

BUY IT! - Three Rivers Cookbook I Author: Norma Sproull
Plastic Comb
Publisher: Child Health Assn of Sewickley (June 1973)
ISBN-10: 0960763406



BUY IT! - Three Rivers Cookbook I

A Fish Story


What do a two year old and an Alaskan salmon fisherman have in common? Not much.

Salmon, Desserts & Friends

Back when my son was two years old, I thought it would be a good idea to teach him some basic man skills. Fishing. Not that I had actually mastered that particular skill myself, but, a two year old certainly wouldn’t be able to figure out that the instructor was nearly as green as the student.

A camping weekend was a good opportunity. We brought our gear. Which amounted to a couple of nearly new rods, some old lures and a few randomly collected fishing odds and ends. We were off to reel in the BIG one.

Our campground had a small lake, which I thought would be the perfect training ground for my son’s life lesson. We unpacked and organized our things for what was certain to be a killer afternoon of fishing.

We carefully baited our nearly rusty hooks with fresh night crawlers from the camp’s general store. Eyed the almost calm water and set about the business of emptying that small lake of its gilled contents.

Thirty minutes past. Which when your fishing with a two year old seems just a little longer. Another thirty gone. And, another. Either these fish were too crafty for us or someone had beaten us to our scaly treasure.

Then it happened! My son started reeling as madly as any two year old with a junior fishing pole could. He looked excited. As he brought his prize to the surface one thing became immediately obvious. Whatever was at the end of that hook certainly was not a fish.

When the reeling was finished, my proud son had landed himself a medium sized, water logged oak leaf. But, did that stop the celebration? Certainly not. His first catch may not have been edible, but, it was exciting as all get out.

After another half hour we decided to pack our gear and call it a day. With nothing but great fish stories in tow, we left the lake and grilled burgers for dinner. An unqualified success.

I recently came across another great fish story, Salmon, Desserts & Friends by fisherman/chef/author LaDonna Gundersen. But, unlike my tale, this story has an ending that involves actually catching fish.

LaDonna and her husband Ole operate a commercial salmon fishing boat in Alaska. This is REAL fishing. Thank goodness they can actually catch fish, because I love salmon. And, I would hate to see my supply dry up.

Canned Alaskan Salmon

This book is stocked with all kinds of great salmon recipes. Fortunately, you don’t have to execute them in an authentic, cramped galley kitchen like she does.

I thought I would try my hand at the Lemon Salmon Burger with Creamy Basil Sauce. I figured, hey, I have more than a 10 X 10 kitchen to work with. LaDonna probably wouldn’t know what to do with all that space.

Lemon Salmon Burger with Creamy Basil Sauce

Here’s how to do it

1 14 oz. can salmon, drained
2 eggs
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. onion, finely chopped
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
½ tsp. dries oregano
? tsp. salt
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 hamburger buns
4 crisp lettuce leaves
4 large tomato slices

Ingredients – Creamy Basil Sauce
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh basil

In a medium bowl, mix together the salmon, eggs, parsley, onion, bread crumbs, lemon juice, basil, oregano, salt and red pepper. Form into four patties.

Uncooked Salmon Patties

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the patties and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until nicely browned on both sides.

Method - Creamy Basil Sauce
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of the basil.

Place one cooked salmon patty on a bun bottom. Top with a spoonful of basil sauce. Top with one lettuce leaf and one tomato slice. Add bun top and enjoy.

Serves 4

Finished - Lemon Salmon Burger with Creamy Basil Sauce
Recipe Adapted from, Lemon Salmon Burger with Creamy Basil Sauce, Salmon, Desserts and Friends, LaDonna Gundersen, Todd Communications 2011

TIP: You may need to add more bread crumbs to get to the desired consistency to form your patties. Since you are using olive oil and not peanut or canola, be careful not to overheat it. It has a lower smoke point (but more flavor) than the other two.

The Bottom Line: LaDonna has put together a fantastic collection of salmon recipes. Not only are they fun and easy to make, but, her and Ole’s story is pretty unique and interesting. I wouldn’t mind spending some time on their boat honing my nearly non-existent fishing skills. Couldn’t everybody use a seasonal inexperienced deckhand?

One last thing. On page 25, there is a recipe for a dish called, Wild About Salmon. A cryptic dedication accompanies the recipe. I would love to know what all that means.

BONUS: I have signed copy of LaDonna’s book to give to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment to this post telling us how much you love salmon and we’ll pick one at random. Yes, it’s just that’s easy!

Author: LaDonna Gundersen
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: Todd Communications
ISBN-10: 157833523X


BUY IT! - Salmon, Desserts & Friends

Four Seasons, Four Stories


There is no better time than now to start making some great food memories.


Childhood memories. If you were ever a child, and, I’m assuming you were, then you have them. A smell, a taste or a sound, immediately drags you back to a different time in your life. There’s nothing you can do about it.

Many of these memories revolve around food. Funny how that happens. The people, places and circumstances vary, but, most of us have fond food remembrances from when were young.

There isn’t enough room in this post to start a recitation of the food memories from my youth. Suffice it to say there are lots. From a bowl of Chuckle-like fruit gels that sat on my Grandmothers coffee table, to my Mom barely simmering a big pot of chicken soup for hours on the stove. Those memories and more are easier than you would think to conjure up.

Children’s book author Litsa Bolontzakis has food memories too. The difference between her memories and mine are that she has memorialized them in a great series of books aimed at the younger set. Four books in all, one book for each season.

Winter: A Season for Chestnut, tells the story of Litsa’s love for this underappreciated nut with a Greek background. It’s a tale of her childhood and the foods that helped to make it special. It is part story and part cookbook. A great combination for kids.

I have to confess my chestnut knowledge is a little on the thin side. My only chestnut experience is probably similar to many peoples. Being in New York City, smelling the aroma of roasted chestnuts emanating from vendor’s cart, but, being too busy with the bustle of my day to stop and have a taste. Next time for sure!Chestnuts

If you would like to start making some chestnut memories of your own, it’s pretty easy to do. Here’s the way Litsa does it:

Roasted Chestnuts

1 lb. chestnuts

Preheat oven to 425. Cut a large X with a sharp knife all the way through the skin of the nut. Place the chestnuts in a shallow baking pan. Place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Shake the pan several times during roasting so the chestnuts will cook evenly.

As soon as the nuts are cooked, remove from the oven. Peel the roasted chestnuts once they are cool enough to handle. Once they cool completely they will become difficult to peel.

You can also roast your chestnuts on an outdoor grill. Or, over an open fire (think Christmas and Nat King Cole) using one of those fancy chestnut roasting pans with the long handle.

Litsa says the roasted nuts are great dipped in chocolate. I don’t doubt that.

The Bottom Line: Reading someone else’s childhood memories stirs up a few of your own. That in itself is fun. Litsa’s series is a great way to get kids interested in food and cooking. The illustrations by Daniela Zekina are beautiful and add a warm, nostalgic, dreamy feel to the book.

Now, feel free to go out and make a few food memories for someone in your life.

BUY IT - Winter: A Season for ChestnutAuthor: Litsa Bolontzakis
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Hummingbird Publications
ISBN-10: 097315991X

Recipe adapted, Roasted Chestnuts, Litsa Bolontzakis, Winter: A Season for Chestnuts, Hummingbird Publications, 2010

Want to Throw A Dazzling Dinner? Help is Here


The difference between dull and dazzling can be a pretty fine line.

Table Ready For A Party

I’ve published my own book. It’s hard. There’s a BIG difference between something being “not easy” and something being “hard”. Self publishing is the latter.

The book I published wasn’t a cookbook. It wasn’t a tell all novel or a how to manual. It was 168 pages of restaurant and dining information for Sarasota Florida. It sounds relatively simple. I’m here to tell you it’s not.

Every month I get cookbooks from self publishers delivered to my door to take a look at. Every time I open the shipping envelope I have an appreciation for the hard work, sweat and worry that goes into the process of creating a book on your own.

I’m not here to try and convince you that cookbook authors and writers who have a deal with a publishing house have it easy. They don’t. Anytime you attempt to produce something original the process comes with it’s own unique set of problems. But, I am here to tell you that those challenges are far more difficult to overcome when you’re out there tackling them alone or with a partner and without a clue (as was my case).

I’ll admit it. I have a soft spot for those willing to go it alone to see their vision become a reality. When Billa Reiss Rubenstein contacted me this fall to have a peek at a book she had published with two friends, Luci Paul and Michele Salomon, how could I say no?

I like to entertain. And, their book, Dazzling Dinners: Recipes, Décor and More looked like a natural party throwing asset. It’s crammed full of menus, recipes and tips each designed around one holiday a month. It’s creative too.

Dazzling Dinners: Recipes, Decor and More. Complete Dinner Plans for Parties with WOW!

Some of the “holidays” highlighted here would never be associate with food, April Fool’s Day? I have never been even invited to an April Fool’s Day brunch. Maybe I have the wrong group of friends.

I was a little disappointed to see that July’s menu didn’t revolve around Pandemonium Day (July 14th), but, maybe it will get it’s moment in the spotlight in my proposed sequel, Dazzling Dinners: The Forgotten Celebrations. Or, maybe not.

This book is at it’s best when you’re searching for a new idea. Something fun and out of the ordinary (think Columbus Day). It’s always great to get friends and family together to enjoy some great food and fun. So, why not make a celebration out of it? In my view, that’s the beauty of this book.

Since we’re right at the start of our holiday season, we thought we would share a recipe from the December section. Plus, this recipe uses one of my favorite, old school kitchen toys…

Potato Masher

The much beloved potato masher!

Here’s How To Do It

Box of Gold (Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes)

1 large, sweet potato, diced 1 inch
3 lbs., Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced 1 inch
3 Tbsp., butter, melted
¼ cup, heavy cream
½ cup, sour cream
½ cup, Gruyere cheese, grated
1 Tbsp., orange zest
1 tsp., salt
¼ tsp., white pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 8X12 casserole dish. Line the bottom of the dish with parchment paper.

Place both the sweet and Yukon Gold potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. When contents comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer 15-17 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. When cooked, drain and return pot to heat. Cook for an additional minute or so to remove any excess moisture.

Put the cooked potatoes through a ricer or mash (see utensil above). Add butter, cream, sour cream, Gruyere. orange zest, salt and pepper. Mix well to achieve a consistent color. Spread the potatoes into the casserole dish. Cover with foil.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and rest covered for 5 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, divide into eight rectangular pieces. Remove each piece and serve.

Serves 8

Recipe, Box of Gold; Courtesy Dazzling Dinners, Luci Paul, Billa Reiss Rubenstein, Michelle Salomon, Three Fare Ladies 2011.

Sweet and Yukon Gold Potatoes

Just look at that photo. Cantaloupe and pineapple maybe? It’s amazing how similar some foods look when there is no context to them. It’s a bowl of Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes. I swear.

The Bottom Line.
It’s a unfair to compare Dazzling Dinners: Recipes, Décor and More to a cookbook that has been released by a major publishing company. The advantage of having a crew of editors, professional photographers and recipe testers is unimaginably huge.

What do you look for when you buy a cookbook? There are so many answers and yours is right for you. If you’re looking for a coffee table cookbook, this isn’t it. If you’re more interested in a book that will help you plan a party and maybe get your creative juices flowing then this is a great choice. I guarantee after you throw a Grandparent’s Day party your friends will look at your entertaining prowess in a whole new light.

Authors: Luci Paul, Billa Reiss Rubenstein, Michele Salomon
Paperback: 254 pages
Publisher: Dazzling Dinners
ISBN-10: 0615478697


Dazzling Dinners: Recipes, Decor and More. Complete Dinner Plans for Parties with WOW!

Ching Delivers Great Chinese


I had always assumed that Chinese cooking was beyond difficult. It’s not.

Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes

It seems like every city and town, whether large or small has a Chinese carryout restaurant. Even if there is no sizable Asian population. Americans love their Chinese carryout. And, I’m no exception.

When I lived in Chicago I had my favorite, The Dragon Inn. As far as places like this go it was pretty swanky. A nicely appointed dining room with heavy red drapes and chairs to match. It was dimly lit with Chinese screens separating parts of the room. There was a small cocktail lounge off the waiting room. An old television behind the bar showed game shows or sports depending on the time of day. But, most importantly, they served great Chinese food.

Or, at least that was my considered opinion. Granted, I had a pretty limited frame of reference. I had never been to a country where this type of food was considered home cooking. And, there were only two other Chinese places in town. It tasted delicious, so, that was my criterion.

I also had a favorite dish (and still do). Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. This was the dish that all the other Chinese restaurants of my future would be measured by. I have consumed a LOT of different versions of this dish (probably too many). So far, not one has come close to the gold standard. It’s just possible that my bar might be a little high.

I love the cuisine, but, never dared to try my hand at it. I figured the “exotic” ingredients and prep methods would do me in. But, as I have just discovered, this couldn’t be farther from reality. It seems I’ve been cooking lots of other types of dishes at home just because I assumed they would be easier. They’re not.

How could this lifetime illusion of difficulty be shattered in one moment? The answer, Ching. More specifically Ching-He Huang. It seems that all of the magic that happened back in the kitchen of the Dragon Inn wasn’t really magic at all. Ching’s Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes, lifts the curtain to reveal just how easy it is to make your own Chinese carryout. And, trust me, it’s a snap.

Beef with bean sprouts and scallions

After paging through the entire book looking for something that a beginner Chinese chef could make, I was struck by one thing. ALL of these recipes can be easily executed by a beginner Chinese chef. The word easy in the title wasn’t a come on. There being no Shrimp with Lobster Sauce (I was only mildly disappointed). I opted for the Beef with bean sprouts and scallions.

Bean Spouts

All of the ingredients are easy to gather from your local supermarket. No real super specialty items here. They had some great looking spouts the day I shopped.

Here’s How To Do It

9 oz. beef sirloin, fat removed and cut into ½ inch slices
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
5 oz. bean sprouts
1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp. of water
2 scallions, chopped fine

Ingredients – Marinade
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. ginger, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Mirin

Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the sliced beef and mix well to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it marinate for about 20 minutes.

Heat a wok (or large skillet) over high heat just until it starts to smoke. Add peanut oil. Remove beef from bowl and reserve the marinade. Cook beef in wok for about 2 minutes.

Add the bean sprouts, reserved marinade and the cornstarch mixture. Toss together and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the chopped scallions. Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.

Serves 2

Beef with bean sprouts and scallions
Recipe, Beef with bean sprouts and scallions. Ching’s Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes, with permission from William Morrow, copyright © Ching-He Huang 2011.

The recipe suggest serving this with jasmine rice. But, as long as I was going this far, it was impossible to pass on a little homemade fried rice. I made Ching’s recipe for Egg and asparagus fried rice. It was unbelievably easy and amazingly light and delicious.

Egg and asparagus fried rice

Not bad for a rank amateur! If I could have scooped my finished product into a couple of cardboard cartons. Stapled them inside of a brown paper bag with a few packets of soy sauce and mustard and added two fortune cookies, you would never be able to tell the difference between me and the now defunct Dragon Inn. I’m not joking.

The bottom line. Now that the secret is out and I know how easy and delicious my own homemade Chinese food is I have mixed feelings. One part of me wants to go back to believing that my Shrimp with Lobster Sauce was created using some ancient, eastern culinary techniques and obscure, nearly impossible to find ingredients. The other side of me is happy that I can now have my Sunday Chinese carryout and not have to miss part of the football game to pick it up. Thank you Ching.

BUY IT! - Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes

BUY IT! - Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes

Author: Ching-He Huang
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks
ISBN-10: 006207749X

Everybody Loves Lamb

It’s easy to make and soooo good.


I never could understand people who didn’t like lamb. Let me restate. I never could understand carnivores that didn’t like lamb. If you pursue a vegan lifestyle, then I completely get it.

But, for those of us who occasionally indulge in a piece of red meat, lamb is a special treat. It’s fantastic, earthy flavor tops beef any day. After enjoying a hearty lamb based meal, beef or pork seem downright boring and nearly flavorless. Especially pork.

How easy is it to put some great lamb on your table? Plenty easy.

Here’s how to do it:

8 lamb rib chops, trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

About 30 minutes before your ready to cook, take your chops from the fridge. Brush lightly with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Preheat your grill. If you are using a charcoal grill make a two stage fire. If you’re using gas, heat one of your burners on low.

When grill is hot, place chops on cooking grate. Grill first side about 2-3 minutes. Flip chops and move them to the cooler part of the grill. Cook about 2-4 minutes longer or until done to your liking. Let stand about 5 minutes before eating.

Tip: Don’t cover when standing. They’ll continue to cook while off the heat and covering them will really keep them cooking. I like my lamb chops with garlic rosemary roasted potatoes.

Serves 2

Lamb Chops

What kind of a Cookbook Man post would this be without some handy dandy lamb resources? Well, not a very good one that’s for sure. So, in the interest of public service, here’s a bunch of great books to get you started on your own lamb-tastic dinner creation.

How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking
The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat
Sunday Roasts
Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork
The Complete Meat Cookbook (KE)
Luscious Lamb: The Ultimate Collection of the World’s Finest Lamb Recipes (KE)