Friday, March 17, 2000
The Best of Tastes: A collection of recipes from participants of 'Tastes of Our Towns'
As a person who curls up in the evening not with a novel but with a cookbook, I was happy to take on the assignment of reviewing The Best of Tastes, published recently by Concord Family Services. The cookbook is a compilation of recipes served in years past at "Tastes of Our Towns," an annual fundraiser presenting the work of chefs and caterers from throughout Greater Boston.
In a way, I'm historically linked to "Tastes of Our Towns." When the event first began eleven years ago, I was teaching cooking classes in my home and doing occasional catering jobs for friends and neighbors; additionally, I'd just published my first cookbook. When asked if I would contribute a dessert to the dinner, I was pleased to oblige. That year, I bought an enormous bowl at a restaurant supply store and filled it with a light, creamy concoction called "Strawberry-Raspberry Bavarian" (page 202 of The Best of Tastes). The second year, for what was by then called an annual event, I made enough "Cocoa Angel Pies" (page 183) to serve 100 people.
The extravaganza has become more successful with each passing year. Well-known chefs and caterers from local and Boston restaurants generously contribute their time and talents. Jasper White, Honorary Chairman of "Tastes," has written the foreword to the book and has contributed several recipes.
The cookbook includes many enticing recipes in its 215 pages. Categories move from Brunch to Desserts. Clever drawings separate the chapters. Recipes range from simple to difficult with many in the "in-between" category. Quarterdeck Seafoods offers what is probably the simplest recipe in the cookbook: Pour some Paul Newman salad dressing on a scrod fillet; dip in Progresso Italian-flavored breadcrumbs; drizzle on a little more dressing and bake at 350 for 18 minutes. Serves one.
Iguana Cantina contributes an appetizer called Snake Bites that looks like it might take somewhat longer to prepare. The challenge of stuffing jalapenos with cheese and tomatoes,then dipping them in flour, beer batter and cornmeal before frying, looks fun. I'm sure that the results are delicious and worth the effort.
Some of the recipes include interesting comments from the chefs. When Guida Ponte and Edward Micu talk about their Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale Soup), the reader learns something about the culture and cuisine of Portugal. I laughed when I read the recipe for Savoir Faire's "Mouth-Wateringly Moist Roast Chicken with Lemon and Onions." Describing how to put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast side up, the chef says, "Fold wing tips behind neck of chicken (as if it were sunbathing on its back)".
As is inevitable in a cookbook with many contributors, some recipes are easier to understand and follow than others. Most home cooks know that four ounces of butter are the same as one stick but how many cups of flour equals eight ounces?
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
The thought of Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms from Vincenzo's Ristorante made my mouth water, and I set about making them right away. I was not disappointed.
I wanted to make a vegetarian dish so I omitted the prosciutto, although I'm sure that it would have been a tasty addition. Otherwise, I made the dish as written. I think that three cups of fresh bread crumbs would have been sufficient as a binder.
The entire proceeds of the cookbook go to benefit Concord Family Services and the good work that they do. It's a good opportunity to make a worthwhile addition to your cookbook shelf and support this fine organization at the same time. Books may be ordered by sending a check for $23.50 made out to CFS "Tastes" Cookbook, Concord Family Service, 380 Massachusetts Avenue, Acton, MA 01720.
Supply is limited so order now!
Recipe: Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
8 Portobello mushrooms (of approximately the same size)
12 ounces fresh spinach, cleaned and chopped
3/4 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup thinly-sliced prosciutto, diced
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup grated Fontina cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Break the stems off the mushrooms and brush the dirt off the caps (do not wash). Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cap side up on a cookie sheet and bake at 450°F. for approximately 15 minutes. This can be done a day in advance.
2) Heat sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté onions in olive oil until they are transparent, but not brown.
3) Add prosciutto, garlic and lemon zest and sauté for another 4 to 5 minutes.
4) Add the spinach and cook until it is wilted.
5) Add the wine and continue to cook until it is reduced, approximately 3 minutes.
6) Remove from heat and add bread crumbs, one cup at a time, making sure the mixture does not become too dry (it should be the consistency of stuffing). Fold in parsley and Fontina cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. This can be prepared a day ahead.
7) Place about 1/4 cup of stuffing on each mushroom and press down to flatten, covering most of the cap. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 450°F. for approximately 15 minutes or until the stuffing begins to crust and brown.
Serve with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito