Complex recipes and fine photos

BOOKMARK

August 03, 2005|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,SUN STAFF

The best thing about cookbooks is often the pictures, and that is certainly the case with Tyler Florence's second collection of recipes.

A picture of Florence, People magazine's sexiest chef alive in 2003, graces the cover of Eat This Book: Cooking With Global Fresh Flavors (Clarkson Potter, 2005, $32.50), and you can catch glimpses of his tousled-hair good looks inside, too.

Florence is a rock star of a chef, and he has three shows on the Food Network at last count: Food 911, in which he goes to the rescue of people in culinary distress and cooks in their kitchens; Tyler's Ultimate, in which he visits local cooks around the world and creates with them; and How to Boil Water, a show for the cooking-impaired.

Eat This Book appears to be the result of Florence's world travels because the recipes are very international.

But the stated purpose of the book is to make cooking straightforward and not too complicated for a nation of people eager to cook, and he doesn't always accomplish that.

These recipes are complex and include many, many steps and some exotic ingredients, reflecting Florence's international research. They are not "incredibly doable," as he promises in his introduction.

And they are not always worth the trouble, as was the case with his recipe for grilled steak salad with peaches and lime dressing.

The grilled peaches were bland, my guests left the caramelized lime slices on their plates and it would have been easier to purchase a chili rub for the steak than to make my own.

However, his recipe for Pappardelle Bolognese was worth every minute of the three hours it took to prepare.

I cheated and bought the tagliatelle because I have never found making homemade pasta as easy as cookbook authors like Florence say it is.

Besides, the Bolognese sauce was plenty of work. It required lots of chopping and browning and adding - plus two hours of simmering. But it was terrific. And the bonus? You can put half of it away for another day.

Florence may be as good-looking in life as he is in the pictures in this cookbook, but the pictures of food don't always reflect the way the dishes will look. I was waiting to add the ricotta to the top of the sauce and noodles - sort of like a dollop of whipped cream - because that's the way it is shown in a luscious picture.

But Florence instructs us to add ricotta to the sauce just before serving, to thicken it.

As is the case with a number of cookbooks these days, Florence begins with recipes for "the basics," as he calls them. Mayonnaises, aiolis, rubs, sauces, stocks. Everybody wants to make sure we have a well-stocked and sophisticated pantry.

However, Florence chooses an off-beat series of titles for the sections of his book, none of which give you a clue to what's inside: "eating," "devouring," "noshing," "consuming," tasting" and "licking the plate clean" are among them.

It is tough to tell whether he has organized the book by course, country or season.

But if Florence is right and Americans are ready to learn to cook and are soaking up all the teaching they can find (to which his three shows on the Food Network attest), then this cookbook takes home cooks to the next level.

His recipes are a little more complicated, a little more exotic. They take a little more time and a little more skill.

And the pictures, especially of the chef, are terrific.

Pappardelle Bolognese

Serves 4 to 6

BOLOGNESE SAUCE:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground veal

1 pound ground beef

1 cup dry white wine

two 28-ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand

4 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons ricotta cheese

PASTA:

1 pound dried tagliatelle

1 handful fresh oregano sprigs or basil leaves, torn into small pieces

1 handful freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

olive oil for drizzling

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, until the vegetables are very tender but not browned.

Raise the heat a bit. Break the ground veal and beef into chunks and add them to the pan. Brown, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated.

Then add the tomatoes and stock and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer very slowly for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring now and then, until the sauce is very thick.

Now add the milk - the milk will make the meat nice and tender - and simmer again until thickened, another 20 to 30 minutes. Taste again for salt and pepper. Mash the sauce against the sides of the pot to really blend it.

Transfer half of the sauce to a container and refrigerate for up to a week. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Stir in the ricotta cheese, pour the sauce over the drained pasta and give it a good toss. Garnish with oregano or basil, the graded cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Per serving (based on 6 servings): 701 calories; 42 grams protein; 25 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 75 grams carbohydrate; 6 grams fiber; 101 milligrams cholesterol; 857 milligrams sodium

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