Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cook Club: Jamie's Food Revolution

Cheat's Sponge Cake

May/June Cook Club: Jamie's Food Revolution
Final Score: 3.78
Most Favorite Dishes: Chicken Korma, Pork Kabobs, Evolution Tomato Salad
Least Favorite Dishes: Everyday Green Chopped Salad, Quick Steamed Microwave Pudding Cakes

I headed up May/June Cook Club and couldn't resist picking Jamie Oliver's new-ish cookbook -- Jamie's Food Revolution.  I received this cookbook for Christmas last year.  After trying a few recipes out of it, I knew I was in love, and wanted to share this love with our Cook Club and see how the recipes would turn out on a broader scale!  I even enjoyed just reading through the cookbook.  Well, perhaps I should back up a little bit.  I loved this cookbook not just because of Jamie Oliver (who admittedly is cute as a button), but because of his mission behind the book -- to get people to cook more, to show people that cooking doesn't have to be a struggle, and to show what a difference passing on a few recipes can make in people's lives.  There is even a pledge in the book where the owner of the book promises to pass on multiple recipes to people (ok, so technically Jamie's asking us to teach the recipes to others, but I think we are doing this in our own way!).  The cookbook is filled with stories of people that he met and "passed" recipes on to and, well, it definitely inspires me to avoid ordering delivery and, instead, cook up one of these dishes.  I hope that you enjoy them as well!

And some feedback from the Cook Club about the cookbook in general!

Amanda: Can I start by saying how much I LOVE Jamie Oliver. The way his recipes were written were so laid back and user-friendly, I would definitely recommend this cookbook to anyone, no matter what their level of cooking experience. I'm thinking about buying this book for myself!

Michelle: I love this cookbook! It's the first one that we've cooked from that I'm absolutely going to go out and buy because I found the recipes to be not only delicious, but easy to make! And I had two more "complicated" items to make! Also, as an aside, I was recently at Rancho La Puerta (a spa just across the border from San Diego) and the nutritionist recommended this cookbook for everyone! I was so excited that we were cooking out of it!

And on to the dishes...

Shrimp with Old-School Marie Rose SauceSilvia's Shrimp and Avocado with an Old-School Marie Rose Sauce
Score: 4.0

I love shrimp and am always looking for new ways to use them in dishes, so I was really excited when I saw this recipe in Jamie Oliver's cook club. The recipe was very easy to follow yet it was still creative with bringing different ingredients together. I really didn't know what to expect from the sauce before I made it--the recipe called for mayo, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and whiskey! But it turned out to be very unique and delicious. The shrimp smelled superb as it was cooking in the olive oil and garlic. I loved how flouring the shrimp gave it a bit of a crisp texture. The paprika added both a beautiful coloring and lots of flavor. The fresh avocado and sprouts made for a great addition to the shrimp + sauce. We first ate the avocado and sprouts as kind of a mini salad and then had the shrimp dipped in the sauce separately... but then we went all out and made little stacked combos of the shrimp plus the garnishes--it came together very nicely and was very yummy!

Bolognese SauceRachel's Bolognese Sauce
Score: 3.75 (Jen = 3.5, Rachel = 4)

Looking at the ingredient list, I expected this to be super-flavorful. Bacon, onions, garlic, herbs, cheese - sounds delicious! I was surprised to find it a bit dull as I tasted it through the cooking process though, and ended up adding more sea salt and a mix of dried Italian herbs. About halfway through the meal I realized how much I was enjoying it - it really is a great combination, after adjusting for taste. Very much looking forward to eating the leftovers!

I used lean ground beef, and unfortunately had to omit the fresh basil as my grocery store was out. This recipe isn't difficult at all, but it does require a lot of time since it has to simmer for an hour. I couldn't make it on a normal weeknight, when I typically work a bit late, hit the gym and walk the dog before making dinner. It would be great for a Saturday afternoon when you're puttering around the house doing other things, enjoying the yummy smells.

One tip: definitely do not add the amount of water recommended (28 oz!). I don't know a lot about authentic Bolognese, but halfway through the cooking process it was obvious that I was going to have soup, not sauce, if I didn't do something drastic. I took the lid off and turned the heat all the way up for the last half hour. I would say add a cup of water and just keep an eye on it - if it seems like things are getting too dry or sticking together, throw in a bit more as needed.

Rachel's Hardly-Any-Prep Shrimp Stir-Fry
Score: 4

I had to make some adjustments to this one since I didn't have five-spice powder, fresh red chile, or cornstarch. I subbed in cinnamon, allspice and extra garlic for the five-spice and just went without the chile and cornstarch. My review is simple: this is a great recipe! The flavors are wonderful - I typically just use soy sauce and seasoned rice wine vinegar when I make stir-fry, and this is much fuller and richer. I've also never used rice sticks before, and they were a great alternative to rice. We both give this a 4.

Mini Shells with Peas, Bacon, and Basil SauceJackie's Mini Shell Pasta with Creamy Bacon and Pea Sauce Score: 3.8

I had been eyeing this particular dish for weeks now and we had contemplated cooking it while visiting with our little nieces (who are 4 and 5) because Jamie commented on how he loves to make it for his girls (and that him and Jools eat it up as well).  We ended up making the bolognese that weekend instead (Rachel made the bolognese for our Cook Club, see her review above!  I definitely agreed with Rachel's thoughts that this recipe called for much too much water and I would suggest not using diced tomatoes, but perhaps a mix of diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes.  Our 5 year old niece LOVED the bolognese -- she ate almost her entire bowl of pasta), but I cooked up this mini shell recipe last night for dinner.  It took a bit longer than the recipe called for (Jamie's 5.5 minutes compared to my approx 30 minutes) because the water took awhile to boil and then the pasta needed about 10-11 minutes to cook.  But the actual sauce was super simple and very quick.  I used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon and threw in four more slices (love bacon!).  Also, instead of mint, I used fresh basil.  The sauce didn't come out nearly as smooth or creamy as Jamie suggested it would in his recipe, but the pasta was still quite good and surprisingly light, so great for even a hot summer day (which we were most certainly having yesterday). 

Jamie Oliver's Chicken VindalooJackie's Chicken Vindaloo (with Cilantro/Lime Rice)
Score: 4.2

Much to my delight, Jamie offers a whole chapter of different curries (mostly Indian, but also a Thai green curry) in his cookbook.  J and I love Indian food, and J particularly loves the spicier curries so we decided to make the vindaloo.  The recipe calls for pork shoulder, but we had boneless skinless chicken breast in our freezer so we used that. (On an aside, I accidentally defrosted way too many chicken breasts, so I put in three rather sizeable chicken breasts in, more than the recipe called for -- as a result, I just topped it off with more water than was required, so that most of the mixture was covered). The recipe itself was straightforward -- in most of Jamie's curry recipes, he suggests using the Patak brand of jarred curry pastes and he also provides recipes for each of the different curry pastes if you want to make it yourself.  We went for the jarred curry paste to save time.  The rest of the recipe really called of just some chopping (which took no time at all with my new mini cleaver!) and then occasionally stirring the pot while the vindaloo is cooking up (the worst part of that is smelling the wonderful aroma and getting hungry!).  We piled the vindaloo on top of cilantro/lime rice (kind of based on Jamie's recipe) and then a dollop of plain yogurt.  Very tasty and not toooo spicy, just how I like it.  Will definitely make again (and will try other of the curry recipes). 

Lisa W's British Beef and Onion Pie
Score: 3.0

I chose this dish because I had never made a “British dish.”  Interestingly, I spoke to someone from England who laughed when I told her I made it.  She said that British pie is a “very old-fashioned dish that only people in poverty consumed.”  Very interesting prospective from a 60 year old native! Making this dish was quite the adventure as I used an unfamiliar ingredient – Marmite.  Marmite is made from yeast extract and according to my husband is not palatable when eaten alone! The dish took 3+ hours to create, which I believe is too long for the end result.  The day my husband and I made the dish, we rated it 2.5.  However, the next day, we rated the dish 3.0 as the flavors combined very well the next day!

Quick Salmon Tikka
Lisa W's Quick Salmon Tikka with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Score: Lisa's husband = 3, Lisa = 4; Average = 3.5

If you want a simple, quick, tasty recipe (prepped, cooked, and eating in 20 minutes), this is it!   I did not have the tikka paste, so I combined the dry tikka spice with water to create my own paste.    The salmon was also a little too “fishy.”  Next time, I would drizzle lemon juice on it prior to cooking vs after cooking (as the recipe indicated).

Stephen's Salmon En Croute
Score: 4.0
I made the Salmon en Croute. I used fresh King Salmon. I did make a substitution. I used green olive tapenade instead of black. Overall, the dish was good. The puff pastry crust is what set it apart. Crusty outside with a meaty inside, mmm. Good saltiness from the tapenade. My only hesitation is the tomato. I've personally never been a fan of a wedge of tomato in a hot, savory dish. If it were up to me, I'd switch to leeks next time. Also, crab was on sale :) so I bought some and made one with salmon plus crab. The crab gave it a really rich seafoody flavor along with a little sweetness. That one was my fav. (Anjali scored this dish a 4.25)

Michelle's Chicken Korma
Score: 4.5

First, let me say, this is my FAVORITE curry. I've tried millions of different store bought korma curries, and they never live up to the flavors of what you get at a good indian restaurant. This came shockingly close! It absolutely satisfied my craving for korma and it smelled AMAZING in my apartment. That being said, it is a bit of work (especially if you make the curry paste out of scratch like I did), but it's completely worth it. The textures are great and the flavors blend amazingly. I would add slightly less water to the curry the next time I make it (because it tells you to add water as you go to keep it moist), but that's because I like my curry a little bit thicker. I also added some sliced red bell peppers to mine, because I think all korma should have bell pepper. I would saute them first next time, because I think that is where a good part of the water came from. I will definitely make this dish again and again.

Michelle's Sizzling Beef with Scallions and Black Bean Sauce
Score: 4.0

This was quite a tasty little treat! I definitely recommend the trick of using the chilled rice, don't use hot rice, because it won't work properly. I would use a little bit less soy sauce than I did, but I'm not sure if that's because I used more than the recipe calls for or not (because you're told to just keep adding "a little more" throughout the recipe). Everything is to taste, but with soy sauce, the liquid reduces and leaves behind a lot of salt, so be sure that you use a light touch with the soy sauce. It takes a lot of arm strength to make this dish, because you have to keep stirring to prevent anything from burning. I will make this again when I'm not too tired and when I'm looking for something with a little kick. The flavors were great and, for a beef dish, it felt very healthy.

Cherry Tomato PastaAmanda's Cherry Tomato Sauce with Cheat's Fresh Pasta
Score: 4.5

When I was a kid, the joke in my family was that I would eat anything that had tomato sauce on it, which still pretty much holds true today, hence my recipe choice. The sauce for this recipe was very easy (like all of the others) and had only a few ingredients, but big flavor. I loved the combination of balsamic, fresh tomatoes, and basil! I will add more tomatoes next time (or use less pasta), simply because I love tomato sauce. Needless to say, this dish will make another appearance in my kitchen soon. (Anjali's score = 3.0)

Broccoli Pesto PastaAmanda's Broccoli and Pesto Tagliatelle
Score: 3.5

No cook club session is complete in my apartment without some type of mishap or grocery store search. This recipe presented a small challenge of locating tagliatelle. My usual store didn't have it, nor did whole foods. So, I consulted Wikipedia (don't tell my students ;)) and Epicurious and learned that tagliatelle is closely related to fettuccine. (This is what I love about cook club, besides the yummy food...I generally learn something new every time! :)) Anyhow, after solving my pasta problem, I got cooking. Again the recipe was super easy to follow, and took relatively little time. I liked the combo of broccoli and pesto, and the broccoli gave the pasta a nice texture. Overall, I thought the pasta was a bit lacking in the flavor department, and needed more salt, pepper, and pesto (I added lots of extra) than the recipe called for. This recipe is still a keeper, and I'm glad I have a new pasta dish.

Spicy Moroccan Stewed Fish with CouscousTracy's Moroccan Stewed Fish with Couscous
Score: 4.0

This was very tasty and not hard to make at all. I had to adjust the cooking time because I used frozen seafood instead of fresh. The flavors were well balanced and the fish was just toothsome enough to place itself squarely in the star position of the dish. Great as leftovers, which is rare for a seafood dish!

Pork KabobsBecca's Pork Kabobs
Score: 4.5

I made the pork kabobs and the mexican style corn. The kabobs were very easy to make and I appreciated that the seasoning was more of a rub than a marinade, so it's the kind of thing you could make any day of the week and still get good flavor. The cooking times were a bit unpredictable, but I think that's because I didn't cut the onions right so it was hard to get the kabobs down on my grill pan uniformly. If I ever figured out how to use my grill it would probably be much easier to get the cooking times down. I should have been more careful to avoid putting small pieces on the ends of the kabobs, those were harder to cook. Overall though I thought the kabobs were delicious and enjoyed them for dinner and for lunch the next day. The pork was very tender and it was fun to learn a good recipe for pork since I get a little burned out on chicken now and again. That said, I think the same recipe would work well for chicken as well.


IMG_7449Jackie's Evolution Tomato Salad
Score: 4.7

This salad was simply fantastic.  Perhaps it is because it is the perfect season for tomatoes, but I loved how all the elements of this salad came together.  I picked this recipe for a family barbecue we were having -- our barbecues are filled with grilled proteins (chicken wings, pork chops, hot dogs, etc), so I wanted something light to accompany everything.  This recipe was very simple to make and took no time at all.  The recipe called for a mix of tomatoes -- I used vine-ripened tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and grape tomatoes -- and basically a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil, sea salt, and black pepper (note: I did cut back a little bit on the olive oil because it seemed like a bit too much for the amount of tomatoes I had).  The olives added just a bit of saltiness and the cannelini beans gave a touch of creaminess and a different texture.  This recipe came from the cookbook's series of "evolution salads" -- basically, Jamie gives you the recipe for the basic salad (here, the tomato salad, but he also does a green salad, carrot salad, cucumber salad...) and then the salad "evolves" through three additional steps.  I incorporated all but the last step -- which was to add tuna in because we were certainly protein filled already!  I'm quite excited about all the leftover tomato salad I have (brought it for lunch today!) and definitely would make this salad again!  (Addendum: So, I slightly downgraded this recipe from a 5 to a 4.7... this salad really doesn't hold up as a leftover -- and I'm all about having leftovers to bring with me for lunch!  The tomatoes become mushy, the beans become too creamy, and all in all, it starts to not look very appetizing.  Still a fantastic recipe though for a fresh salad to be eaten THAT DAY.)

Everyday Green Chopped SaladRachel's Everyday Green Chopped Salad
Score: 2

Chopped salad is my favorite kind of salad - I just love all the flavors mixed together and all the nicely uniform pieces are so pretty. The veggie mix here - butter lettuce, scallions, sprouts, cucumber - is really nice. But once you add in everything else (oil! cheese! mustard! vinegar!), this seems like a salad for people who don't like vegetables. It's so creamy and over the top that all you can taste is the dressing, and that's even after I cut the dressing ingredients down from 2 avocados to 1, and from 6 tablespoons of oil to 1.5. This salad was a great reminder that butter lettuce and avocados should be getting in my cart a lot more often, but I can't say I will be making this one again.  I give this a 2 - great ingredients, but proportions are all wrong for me.

Mint PeasAnjali's Minted Peas
Score: 4.25

I really do love Cook Club, but some months just get too busy!  So this time I picked a side that looked simple and sounded yummy.  And it was!  I was taken aback by the addition of lettuce to the peas, but the end result was great.  The mint is the perfect complement to the buttery flavor of the peas.

Dressed AsparagusAmanda's Dressed Asparagus
Score: 4

I LOVE asparagus, so when I saw this recipe, I had to try it! The recipe was so very simple and easy; it took twenty minutes start to finish. The "dressed" portion of the recipe included balsamic and dijion mustard, both of which added a nice flavor to the asparagus, but wasn't too overpowering either. Overall I thought this was a fantastic recipe and will definitely use it again! Next time, I would like to try grilling the asparagus (my parents do this quite a bit and it's amazing), then drizzling the dressing over it-I think it would make the flavor a little different.  (Anjali's score = 3.75)

Becca's Mexican-Style Corn
Score: 4.0

The corn was also really yummy. I forgot to pick up fresh parmesan so I just used grated. It didn't look as pretty but it tasted good. The pepper bits added some nice heat which was a good contrast with the sweetness of the corn.

Quick Steamed Microwave Pudding CakesTracy's Quick Steamed Microwave Pudding Cakes
Score: 1.0

The texture of this cake was terribly heavy. The batter was gummy. The flavor was dull. All in all, a poor dish. I won’t be trying it again.Cheat's Sponge Cake

Silvia's Cheat’s Sponge Cake with Summer Berries and Cream
Score: 4.25

I am not the most skilled when it comes to making desserts. This recipe was the perfect answer to my quest to be a dessert diva! It could not have been easier. I got a plain cake and added delicious berries and cream to it, sprinkled some chocolate on top, and VOILA--a delicious dessert for me and my guy. I did have to improvise a bit, as I couldn't find panettone cakes at the store, which the recipe called for. But the lady at the bakery was very helpful--she suggested that I tried using a pound cake instead. It turned out wonderfully. Since Luke doesn't eat nuts, I skipped the sliced almonds and instead just used chocolate morsels. Before dinner, we had told ourselves we would only each have one slice, but the cake was so delicious we kept going back to the kitchen for more!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Jamie's Food Revolution Cook Club!!  Can't wait to see how everyone's dishes turn out for the next round...

And for those of you keeping track, here is the rankings for our cookbooks so far:

Barefoot Contessa Parties: 4.175
Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen: 3.975
Giada's Kitchen: 3.87
Jamie's Food Revolution: 3.78
Cooking Up a Storm: 3.717
Cooking the Austrian Way: 3.09