COOKBOOK REVIEW Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices

Edited By Barnaby Dorfman, Sheri L. Wetherell & Colin M. Saunders

Cookbook review written by contributing writer Aimée White

Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores

As much as I dislike the winter and being overly cold, there’s just something magical about putting on the first scarf, fleece jacket, or chunky, woolen sweater of the season. Something that makes you inch a little closer and talk a little lower. It’s also a convenient time of year to get back into books of all kinds. You know; the ones left neglected while the summer sunshine shone. Are you feeling guilty like me?

Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook (published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99 USD) is one such book which I’ve been dying to give some attention. It’s an interesting choice for my inaugural review, it has to be said, given that the book is written by 100 home cooks and not simply by one author.

“This book is for all the food bloggers and home cooks of the world. Your passion inspires us and we thank you,” (Foodista). 100 different palates. 100 different personal bests. 100 different recipe-writing styles and flairs in the kitchen. It’s difficult enough to give an overview and rating on a cookbook from one author, never mind one hundred, but choosing, testing, and eating three recipes from this cookbook was such an enjoyable venture. It was one I was able to share with several people close to me, including the wonderful friend who gave me this cookbook, who just happened to be in town during the testing period.

My overall impression of this cookbook is that it’s an excellent purchase if you’d like to up the ante in your kitchen with an eclectic array of challenging recipes, as well as support your blogging community. There’s an excellent assortment of dishes from around the world, as well as some new takes on classics. My guess is that, quite naturally, each blogger probably wanted to put in their most interesting or impressive recipe. As a result, I will say that for most recipes you’ll have to take an extra run to the supermarket or to a speciality food store. Very few of the recipes could be made sans an ingredient run – even with if you happen to have a very well-stocked pantry (if I may be so bold as to classify my pantry as such!) In that sense, the cookbook may not be the best for beginners. But if you want to take your cooking up to the next level with some tried and true personal bests and favourites from some amazing home cooks, this book is for you.

On an editorial note, I wished they had placed the photos of bloggers next to their recipes rather than indexing them in the back of the book. I often recognize some of my favourite bloggers by their avatar or logo, and not always (immediately) by the name of their website.  Having the photos with the recipes would create a stronger association and connection between the featured blogger and the recipe. That being said, it was great fun flipping through and seeing those familiar faces in the back and admiring them for having their recipes published in this great and inventive compilation.

Luscious Thai Chicken Pineapple Curry (by Spicie Foodie)

RATING: 5 out of 5 (restaurant worthy!)

THE TEST: Thai food is easily one of my favourite international cuisines. The spicy, milky curries and the addition of nuts in so many dishes make me absolutely swoon. So how pleased was I to discover I could make a curry at home that would measure up to the ones I’ve tried in restaurants? Pretty gosh darn pleased!

I tracked down all the necessary ingredients at my local Asian Market and got to work. I accidentally purchased yellow curry and not the red curry the recipe called for, but it was still spicy and delicious. For the sake of expediency, and because I only had time to make one stop that night, I wound up using canned pineapple which went against the Spicie Foodie’s recommendations. I did find some pickled Laos-style Bamboo Shoots, which added a whole new flavour and aromatic dimension to this dish. I recently scored an electric wok, so I decided to put it to use for the first time.

Photo courtesy of Aimée White

THE RESULTS: Despite the fact that this curry was unbelievably easy to make, I couldn’t help but feel extremely pleased with myself over the results. I sat there eating, practically in shock at how tasty everything turned out! Previous to this recipe, I tended to haphazardly stand over a wok mixing curry paste and coconut milk to taste. It was always missing something and this recipe solved that problem! I would recommend using a regular wok, however, due to the electric thermostat cutting in and out and causing the sauce to boil when it only needed to simmer. It would be better to have more control over the temperature using a stove-top wok.

The pickled bamboo shoots I mentioned earlier got mixed reviews in terms of flavor. I loved it, but my dinner mate was not as enthusiastic. If you’re sensitive to overly aromatic ingredients, maybe try substituting it for something else, like potato. I will be making this recipe again, and often!

Photo courtesy of Aimée White

Double-Cheese Soufflé with Spiced Pear (by My Delicious Blog)

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars (simple & tasty foray into the world of soufflés)

THE TEST: As soon as I saw the soufflé recipe on page 6, I knew it was going to be one of the three recipes I tested. I’ve never made a soufflé but have always wanted to try. And doesn’t that word just roll off the tongue nicely? Soufflé. Used in a sentence it sounds even better: “Here you are, I’ve made you a friggin’ soufflé!”

I decided to make this for dessert, throwing caution and culinary expectations to the wind primarily because of the addition of the spiced pears. While I was worried that the batter would be the most challenging part, admittedly, making the pears was the part I disliked the most. I found it difficult to make the pears look pretty

. They looked sort of choppy and lumpy with the spices while cooking.

Photo courtesy of Aimée White

THE RESULTS:This recipe was brilliant in that its simplicity gave this first-timer the courage to tackle a highly esteemed culinary dish. It also helped that by the time we finished dinner and I got around to tackling the soufflés, I already had two glasses of wine in me. Liquid courage? I’ll take it thanks!

In some places in the recipe I found myself wishing for more detail, such as how high to fill the soufflé dishes. I filled them 3/4 full in the end which seemed to be enough. My soufflés took almost 20 minutes to rise – not the 12 minutes called for in the recipe – which caused me to crouch very nervously in front of the oven for those extra 8 minutes. Thankfully my soufflés didn’t seem overcooked. In fact, they were exceedingly delicious

and I looked like the cat who swallowed the canary while eating mine.

Photo courtesy of Aimée White

The fluffiness and creaminess created by the cheeses contrasted with the flavour of the scallions, and was truly divine. My soufflés did collapse quite quickly, however, which was disappointing. They rose so beautifully, but in the time it took for them to travel from the oven to the table and right before I could snap a photo of their lovely stature…they had deflated. Ah, well. I still successfully made this delicious dish and proved to myself that I could do it, so next time I’ll take better care. And there

will be a next time. I can’t wait to perfect this dish!

Photo courtesy of Aimée White

Apple Pie Bars (by The Runaway Spoon)

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars (quick, satisfying dessert perfect for fall)

THE TEST: This recipe grabbed my attention for a number of reasons. First, autumn is starting to show its face in town and once that happens I begin my annual, lusty affair with apples. Second, after the challenges and firsts involved in making the other two recipes I wanted something that took the pressure off but that was still new to my repertoire. Imagining those butterscotch chips melting into the apple-filled dough put me over the edge and in the end the choice was easy.

Photo courtesy of Aimée White

I loved how the recipe called for three different kinds of apples. I didn’t have my 9×13 inch pan called for in the recipe – it’s off visiting a friend – so I had to use smaller baking dishes. I was worried it was going to skew the results, so I filled one 9×9 with 2/3 of the batter, and then filled a second 9×9 dish with the remaining 1/3, and baked it for half the time.

Photo courtesy of Aimée White

The Results: This recipe is incredibly user friendly and well written. When The Runaway Spoon says the batter will be very thick and heavy when folding in the apples, she’s not joking! However, knowing that information going into the recipe did save me from having to panic or wonder if I had gone astray at some point.

Photo courtesy of Aimée White

I whipped these bars up in about 10 to 15 minutes. They made the house smell gorgeous as they baked and they were even more satisfying to eat! My experimentation with the dishes turned out well, too. I kept the dish with the thinner bars for myself, feeling somehow a little less sinful in the process, but then gifted the prettier larger bars to my office kitchen. By 10 a.m. there was nary a crumb left in the dish. A win all round: the perfect recipe for a quick but so satisfying autumn treat!

Photo courtesy of Aimée White