Pros: Fresh, appealing recipes
Cons: Some recipes call for unusual ingredients that might not be for the less adventurous diner
Review by Sharyn Harding
When Merrill Stubbs was assisting Amanda Hesser on The Essential New York Times Cookbook they realized that some of the best recipes had come from home cooks. Perhaps it’s that whole necessity-as-the-mother-of-invention that gets mothers tweaking recipes to make them easy to prepare or appealing to picky eaters. To showcase this creativity, the FOOD52 website was created. They ran recipe contests each week for a year with categories such as Best Apple Cake or Best Recipe for Beans and the winner in each category is presented in the book.
The recipes are grouped by season and all have photos, information about the cooks who submitted the recipes plus feedback from the website. Since this is a collection from different cooks, there is quite a range of flavors and ethnic influences, but most of the recipes appear rather easy. And even more importantly, I found them incredibly appealing. As I first flipped through the pages, I immediately found recipe after recipe I wanted to try. For me, this is quite a win. I already have a lot of cookbooks so was very excited to see so many recipes that seemed fresh and new.
The first recipe I tried was for Spicy Shrimp and it was fantastic. This consisted of a very simple marinade thrown right into a plastic bag with the shrimp. After chilling for a few hours, the shrimp were thrown on the grill for 5 minutes and -voila! -irresistible shrimp. The dish got its kick from Sriracha, but had just a touch of sweetness to balance the heat. This is a recipe I would easily go back to time and time again.
For dessert, I made the Pudding Chomeur, a Canadian dessert that involves baking a buttery biscuit dough in a maple syrup and cream sauce. I am very glad the comments on this recipe warned me about possible overflow or I would have made a mess in the oven. But the chomeur was so delicious, I don’t think I would have cared. The biscuit interior was exactly the right texture to eat with the maple sauce. It was quite rich, but completely addictive.
The recipe that won week 51’s contest for Best Pork Sandwich was Caramelized Pork Banh Mi. A pork tenderloin is sliced, pounded thin and marinated, then cooked over high heat and layered with the traditional banh mi accompaniments of pate, lettuce and pickled vegetables in a baguette. The pork would have easily stood on its own as a delicious entrée, but was a great component in this flavorful sandwich.
With three out of three winners, I can’t rave about this cookbook enough. There are still many more recipes I plan to make and I have now started following the food blog to see what their current recipe contests are.
Week 6 winner of : Your Best Shrimp Recipe
1/3 cup Sriracha
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp (16 to 20 count), peeled and deveined
Mix together the Sriracha, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cilantro, and sugar. Season aggressively with salt and pepper. Put in a 1-gallon plastic bag, add the shrimp, and mix together in the bag. Marinate in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours. Or longer.
Heat a grill. Skewer the shrimp (4 to 6 shrimp per skewer) and grill until pink and delicious, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Remove the shrimp from the grill, slide the shrimp from the skewer using a fork, and pile on a serving platter. Sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro, and throw a few toothpicks in a few shrimp. Watch them disappear.