Cookbook review

Italian dinner for seven awaitsAfter trying out recipes from a Tagine cookbook and a Cake cookbook , the next supper adventure for the SASSY Supper club was to try the recipes from Italian SENSATION! (cucina). This is a coffee table-perfect work of love for all things Italian, written by a Vancouverite, who has cooked Italian family dinners most of her life.

Seven members of the SASSY Supper Club picked a range of recipes from the book, encompassing seafood, chicken, vegetables, pasta, salad and a frittata. Four of us original SASSY Club members picked our recipes during our SASSYs Taste Soft-Ripened Bloomy Rind Cheeses evening.

Shallots, Pepper Salad and Asparagus (with Asiago Sauce) The other three guests,  all of whom live various walking distances away, on a later occasion picked recipes that appealed to them, and that could be carried easily. The consensus was that the recipes seemed straightforward family style cooking that we should all be able to handle easily.

Since I was host, and instigator of the SASSY recipe testing series, I thought I would try something special and chose a lobster dish - Lobster (surely there is an Italian word for lobster) con Arance & Limoni. Disobeying my own injunction to stick exactly to the recipes, I headed off to Costco and bought two boxes of frozen lobster tails. A bit pricey but this was going to be something special.

Lobster and orange saladThe recipe looked so simple that I felt a little guilty about only doing one dish, so I turned to a page that had a  picture of a delectable looking Pepper Salad, and decided to make that. scallopsUrban fare was featuring shallots this week so I added the Baked Shallot recipe on the same page. Then I looked at the dish I was going to serve them in and decided that green asparagus would finish off the look of the dish. So I found a recipe for Sauce All' Asiago- milk, cream and Asiago cheese that could be poured over the asparagus ... and thought "how simple is that?"

a medium and large tagine on the stovetopFor the first of what I hope will be many Cookbook Critiques on this website, I enlisted the help of my fellow foodies of our SASSY Supper Club to try out a range of recipes from Pat Crocker's "150 Best Tagine Recipes."

Since we were simultaneously trying out recipes from Camilla Saulsbury's  "Piece of Cake!" cookbook,  we enlisted 5 additional couples as "honorary SASSYs" for the evening. Three of these guests volunteered to make recipes from the salad and dips sections of the Tagine book. Three guests (two regular and one occasional cake baker) undertook to provide desserts from the cake recipe book. (The SASSY Club Eats Cake)

150 Best Tagine Recipes
by Pat Crocker
240 pages with 16 colour photos
Publisher: Robert Rose Inc.
ISBN 978-0-7788-0279-2
Cover price US$ 24.95 Can 27.95

When I first examined the brightly coloured cover of this paperback cookbook, my attention was caught by the description of the author as a culinary herbalist. I assume that the herbs and spies that are so widely used in the cuisines of the North African countries of the Maghreb (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) must make these foods particularly interesting to a writer with a strong interest in culinary herbs.

After a brief summary of the culinary specialties of North African cuisine, the author introduces the concept of tagine and tagine cooking. 

A medium sized tagine from Le CreusetA Tagine is a two part, conical-domed cooking dish based on the traditional Moroccan clay pots used for slow cooking  of stews on stove top or in the oven.  The term tagine" is also used  as a name for the food prepared in one of these vessels. She describes how modern tagines have been derived from the traditional clay pot,  provides a table for comparison of four popular brands of tagines and talks about the use of tagines in meal preparation and service.

I liked the illustrated section on herbs and spices that make up a North African Flavour Footprint.  A series of recipes for rubs and other spice combinations is followed by recipes for tagine dishes. The sections include recipes for poultry, lamb, beef, seafood and vegetables. Other recipes include those for dips and sauces, sides and salads, beverages and sweets.

For a fair evaluation of recipes in this book I enlisted members of our Supper club to join me in cooking. We planned an evening to taste recipes from this and another cookbook. The appetizers and entree recipes came from this book (The SASSY Club Tastes Tagines) while our desserts were cakes from the second cookbook (see The SASSY Supper Club Eats Cake). And for my experiences in acquiring and cooking with a tagine  see Gillian Tries out her Tagine.

Piece of Cake!
by Camilla V. Saulsbury

288 pages
Publisher Robert Rose Inc.
ISBN 0778802779

Well I confess that from sheer metabolic necessity  ( I put on weight just thinking about food) I rarely eat cakes or desserts but the picture of a luscious Cream Cheese Frosted Red Velvet Cake on the cover of Piece of Cake! was not to be denied. I paged through the book looking at more mouth watering pictures and reading recipes. Who can resist the thought of Mocha Cake with Coffee Buttercream or Butterscotch Blondie Bundt? I just had to try some of these cakes.

So with the help of my SASSY Supper Club, I persuaded some of my friends who regularly bake to produce some cakes from this book as desserts for a dinner in which we would evaluate two cookbooks.

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