Posted on Fri, November 18, 2011 by Slow Food USA
3 Comments | Categories: Cooking,
by Slow Food USA intern Kate Northway
As our food system becomes more complex and consumers are taking an interest in the politics of production, supermarket aisles become more perplexing to navigate. Thankfully, Sam Mogannam, of Bi-Rite Market, and Dabney Gough, have created the perfect recipe for a new cookbook, Eat Good Food. Alongside delicious meal ideas, Sam provides a commentary on how to shop for the highest quality foods. From produce to meat to breads and beer, Sam covers every part of a meal.
With the book in tow, I headed to my local market to see how the Bi-Rite book could help me craft a meal for a few friends. Throughout the book, Mogannam and Gough push the reader to become an active shopper, asking grocery store staff questions about where each product originates. The authors stress the importance of becoming a more conscious shopper as a way to become a better chef in the kitchen. After scanning the book, I had picked out three recipes: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caper Lemon Butter, the Pescado Veracruzana and Chocolate Sour Cream Cake with Chocolate Glaze. All three recipes used simple ingredients easy to find at most stores.
Brussels sprouts have never been at the top of my list of favorite vegetables, so I wanted to see if Mogannam and Gough could turn me into a sprout fan. Using their advice, I looked for sprouts that were smaller, as they would produce a sweeter and more tender dish, and roasted the sprouts to obtain the most flavor.
While my local market has a bounty of produce, high quality cheeses and unique canned goods, the fish selection is sparse, selling mostly salmon and tuna. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t find the rockfish called for in the Pescado Veracruzano recipe. Instead, I decided to put the rest of the ingredients on top of farfalle, allowing me to use the authors’ tips for serving up some delicious pasta.
I already had most of the ingredients for the chocolate cake, but was missing the star of the show: chocolate. The sweet aisle in the store had plenty of organic, artisan bittersweet chocolate, but all were not in my price range. Sam and Dabney note that most grocery stores have large, random-weight pieces in the deli section that they weigh and price themselves and are almost always a better value than the bars or chips in the baking aisle. Plus, the large blocks of chocolate have a longer shelf life.
When I reached my apartment, I began to worry my cooking skills would not be up to par to create the meal. My nerves were soothed when the Brussels sprouts came out of the oven perfectly browned, the sauce thickened and soaked into the pasta, and the chocolate cake was moist and rich when tasted.
My college friend, also unsure of my cooking skills, was surprised when he tasted his full plate of pasta. “Wow, this is really delicious,” he commented.
My roommate Eliza especially loved the Brussels sprouts. “I could eat a whole plate for dinner. I can’t stop munching on them!”
The chocolate cake was polished off in less than 24 hours and retained its moisture overnight, making it a huge success.
Down below are their tips and tricks for cooking dried pasta. It’s a bit more complex than simply throwing the pasta in the water, but brought out all the flavors in my farfalle dish:
• Use lots of water – A nearly-full soup pot is about right for a pound of pasta.
• Salt the cooking water generously – It should taste salty like the sea. How do you know? Dip a spoon in and taste it!
• As soon as you add the pasta, do two things – stir for the first few minutes, and make sure the heat is cranked all the way up.
• Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce – scoop out and reserve a cup of the starch-enriched pasta cooking water, and drain the pasta a minute or two before you think it will reach al dente. Combine the pasta with the sauce and add a splash or two of the pasta water. Continue to cook over medium to low heat, stirring frequently until the sauce has thickened and absorbed into the pasta
Head to BiRite.com to order your own copy and see when the authors will be in your area.