Pros: beautiful pictures, delicious food
Cons: not enough vegetables
Just as it's rare to find a music album where every song is amazing, it's rare to find a cookbook where every recipe begs to be made. I can think of very few cookbooks that I have flipped through slowly, practically drooling over the recipes, but Cooking My Way Back Home is definitely one of them. The photography in the book only helps to highlight the beautiful food and creative recipes, all of which can definitely be made in a home kitchen. There are very few hard to find ingredients, and although some of the instructions can be a bit long, the recipes are definitely doable for most home cooks.
The first recipe I tried was the Creamy Stone-Ground Grits with Vermont Cheddar. Even though I used regular store-bought grits (and not the specialty grits from South Carolina the chef recommends) and British white Cheddar, the grits turned out fabulously creamy and satisfying. I would almost add more cheese to give the grits a little more of the sharp flavor, but the crispy top from a run under the broiler more than made up for it.
The second recipe I tried was the Peach-Blueberry-Brown Butter Crisp. Even though it's currently summer, and I generally gravitate towards items that don't need 45 minutes in a hot oven, this crisp makes such good use of the beautiful peaches and blueberries in the market that I couldn't resist. The fruit becomes soft and syrupy, and the crumb topping is incredibly complex and flavorful. The crumb has a grittiness from the cornmeal that works really well against the soft fruit, and the cinnamon, vanilla, and almonds really add depth. The only potential issue I noticed was that there almost seemed to be too much crumb topping, to the point that it became the star and the fruit was second fiddle.
I would highly recommend this cookbook to anyone with even a general knowledge of cooking since the recipes are easy to recreate and would likely be popular with families. I can't wait to try some of the appealing meat dishes, including the Roasted Veal Meatballs with Green Peppercorn Sauce. I'm sure they're bound to be as amazing as the other dishes I've tasted.
Peach-Blueberry-Brown Butter Crisp
6 to 8 peaches, halved, pitted, and sliced
1 pint blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup coarsely ground toasted almonds
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 325F. Have ready a 2-quart baking dish.
In a bowl, combine the peaches, blueberries, sugar, tapioca flour, and lemon juice and stir gently to combine thoroughly.
To make the topping, in a small saucepan, melt half of the butter with the vanilla bean over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the butter is browned and has a nutty aroma. Remove and discard the vanilla bean and set the butter aside to cool.
In a second small saucepan, heat the remaining butter over low heat just until melted, then set aside to cool.
While the butters are cooling, in a bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, almonds, both sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
When the butters have cooled, drizzle both of them over the flour mixture, then toss lightly with a wooden spoon, being careful not to overmix. You want to have small clumps.
Distribute the peach and blueberry mixture evenly on the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon the topping evenly over the top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling along the sides of the dish and topping is browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.
To serve, spoon the crisp onto individual plates and top with the ice cream.