Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Unrest in the Realm of Ray

Things are not going well at all. If these end-results continue in this vein, it will be proof-positive that tastes change over the years. Remember when I commended RR for not being afraid of spice? Nix that. It's hard to muster the interest to blog about lousy recipes, much as I'm sure it's hard to muster the interest to read about them, so I won't linger long on any one disaster.

Oh, and this book's format is driving me INSANE. I jot down the page # of the recipes I plan to cook on my grocery list so I can go back and find them when I'm ready to cook, but the list inevitably finds its way into the trash after the first or second meal, and then I have to scan the index to find the recipe I planned to make. Super annoying. Moving on...

The least offensive dish of the lot, Ricotta Pasta with Zucchini, Garlic, and Mint (pg 171 of 365: No Repeats) tasted even blander than you would expect from the title. I picked this because I had half a container of ricotta that needed a meal to call home. I used the whole pack of mint, but the flavor was still very light. I barely tasted garlic, even though I used extra. Snooze-fest.
Conclusion: Just okay. I'd only make this again if I had all of the ingredients wasting away in my fridge.

Now, welcome to the danger zone.

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar and Chive Toast (pg 149) was inedible. I think the liquid-to-solid ratio was off, because blend as I might, this never coalesced into a lovely, soupy puree. It was a solid pile of mush with some puddles. This was frozen chopped broccoli. It shouldn't be hard to puree. Ignoring the texture, it didn't even taste good. To finish the soup, you're instructed to add lemon zest and juice to the creamed soup. This gave it an unpleasant sour flavor. Bad. Just bad. All I ate was the toast, which had chives, bacon, and cheddar melted on top.
Conclusion: Yuck. Hated it.

Dinner last night was no better. Involtini all'Enotec'Antica with Gnocchi (pg 166) sounded interesting. Meatball-stuffed radicchio leaves simmer in a thick tomato/wine/beef stock sauce until the meat is cooked through. Polish stuffed cabbage is delicious, so I thought this would be similar, and worth trying. Wrong.

The meatballs tasted like any other meatball you've ever had. Cooking them this way didn't impact the flavor.

Radicchio, in my opinion, needs to be used in small doses, and balanced with a sweeter flavor to counter its bitterness. It's too harsh to be eaten in big chunks at a time.

Matt asked what in the world I'd done to the sauce, because it tasted like Chef Boyardee. He was 100% right.

Conclusion: Hated it. I'm also giving up on gnocchi until I find myself in a restaurant that specializes in it. I've never liked it. Every time I've ordered it, or, in this case, boiled up the store-bought version, I get dense dough-bombs. On Top Chef and assorted other food-related programming, I've heard gnocchi described as light and pillowy. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt that it CAN be good, but I'm not wasting my time on it until I find a version with a reputation of excellence.

To pull myself out of my food doldrums last night, I threw together Very Spicy Baked Pears with Caramel (pg 107) from Ready for Dessert. It was exactly what I needed: easy to make, complex flavors, and all the ingredients were things I had on-hand. All you do is mix melted butter, brown sugar, rum, and a smashed medley of cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and black peppercorns, and bake. This smelled sooooo good when it was baking. Once the pears are cooked, remove them. Pour the spices and drippings into a skillet, add cream, and cook until you have caramel. I've never made caramel before, and I think I could have left it on to thicken up a little more, but I was afraid I'd ruin it. Next time, I'll wait longer.
 I have no problem with the standard Fall spice mix of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, but I was pleased that the omission of nutmeg and the addition of star anise, pepper, and rum changed the flavor enough to make it both familiar and surprising at the same time.

Conclusion: Liked it. It cries out for a scoop of vanilla ice cream, though.


  1. BOOO! HISSSSSSS! This is a poop book!

  2. Hilarious title for this post. do yourself a favor- cozy up to Marcella Hazan!!!

  3. I was eyeballing Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking on Amazon lately, but haven't bought it yet. It may be just the thing to replace Miss Ray on my bookshelf. :-)

  4. DO IT!!! not only b/c you are moving there but b/c you like good food and why cook yucky contrived food POP TV celeb recipes, when you can learn to make delicious classics from a real PRO Italian chef? I have been cooking from her classics book for years- Marcella has NEVER let me down.

  5. Wow, sounds like it wasn't a fun week. At least you finished with a great dessert.

    And please don't give up on gnocchi, when it's good it is oh so good!

  6. Sorry this isn't going to well. That toast does look delicious, though.