Golden Winter Puree

If the hit of ginger in this puree won’t warm your bones, you’ll need to check your pulse. I used fresh, grated ginger instead of ground ginger and I’m glad I did. The puree hovers on the sweet side — consisting of carrots, rutabaga, and pear. The soft heat of fresh ginger rounds the puree out nicely, as does the slip of heavy cream. We had ours with braised short ribs.


Recipe on page 235

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

This tart is so good, so rich, so salty sweet — it might make you sweat. A tiny sliver will do, my friends. There are 3 components: the chocolate dough, the caramel filling, and the chocolate glaze. And I admit I took a full Saturday afternoon to do it. (While piddling with smaller, non-essential tasks during the waiting periods.) But a grand prize awaits for you. Since it’s rich it will last a while (with 2 people, like here), and on that last slice, a week or so later — everything will seem worth it. We kept ours in the refrigerator when we weren’t indulging ourselves.


As a bit of history, Ms. Hesser explains that this tart made its creator (Claudia Fleming) famous and sparked the salt-in-desserts craze that we all know and love.


Recipe on page 847

Barley Risotto

I’d been curious about barley risotto ever since Nigella Lawson presented it as her no-stir, lazy version of the classic dish. The version in Big Red is as simple as Nigella claims hers to be. It having barley as an alternative as rice obviously gives it a firmer texture, but it’s all the more interesting this way. We had ours with pork chops and a cabbage slaw.


Recipe on page 327

English Gingersnaps

Confession: I have 9 posts in my queue to publish for this blog. All have photos, titles, and recipe page numbers. But they’re waiting for words. I clearly can cook faster than I can (or have time to) write. So, what’s a girl to do? Since the purpose of this space is to share enthusiasm for the breadth of recipes in The Big Red Book — I’m going to do it in a way that works for me.


Going forward, I will just be posting recipe names, page numbers, photos, and at most a single paragraph about each recipe. It will be brief, but it’ll give me more breathing room to showcase the fantastic selection in The Book and hopefully inspire you to reach for one of your own cookbooks, even if it isn’t Big Red.


Now, regarding the English Gingersnaps. Although they pack a nice ginger punch, they were more cakey than I’d like. I’ll leave them in the oven longer next time. I also couldn’t stop thinking about my grandmother’s peanut butter cookies that she crosshatched with a fork like this recipe suggests to do (see above photo). Next time, I’ll leave these cookies un-hatched — but that’s just personal.


That said, they give your house the perfect aroma to put up the Christmas tree and holiday lights. And that’s exactly what I did.


Recipe on page 693

Crispy Chickpeas with Ground Meat

If there’s one recipe in this book that I’ve made more than any others, this is it. I deviate a bit from the recipe as I don’t add very much liquid (always afraid it won’t cook off, despite Ms. Hesser’s assuring note in the header).


My husband especially loves this. It has a masculine quality without being too heavy. We have red meat a few nights a week, and this is the most common way we get it. It’s become a staple one-pot pantry dish, without feeling like one. We’re always excited to have it again. You can vary the intensity of the spices depending on what you serve it with, and you could even take it to the stew-level per the recipe instructions.


Plus, it’s really easy. You just heat a large skillet, brown your ground meat, and add canned chickpeas and stir until they start browning (and popping!). Then add your spices (cumin, chile) and aforementioned liquid. Let it simmer until the liquid is cooked off. The recipe calls for 1 cup of the reserved liquid from the can of chickpeas but I usually add just 1/2 cup.


Either way, have fun with it — make it and eat it often! Neither is hard.


Recipe on page 558 in The Book

Couscous Salad

Thanks to the Twitter-gods, I got virtual help with this recipe from Ms. Hesser herself. Not that I was in a real bind, but I wanted to know if she used regular or pearled couscous. Turns out either is fine; I used regular. I made it in early summer before my in-laws were about to arrive. It’s always A Thing, cooking for them. They’re from Eastern Europe and have relatively conservative and light palates. Despite what they say about not needing to go to such lengths to cook for them, I know they don’t travel across the world to eat more boiled eggs and cabbage. A diligent search through my cookbooks lead me to this recipe, and let me tell you — it was a pot of gold. In more ways than one.


The recipe is a combination of sweet and savory goodness. Among other things, it calls for carrots, celery, chicken stock, as well as cinnamon and dates. I left my celery and carrots on the coarse side (I was making these cookies at the same time and the oven timer was likely going off), but I wish I hadn’t. Everything in this salad wants to be on the small side.


I dubbed this the ‘cinnamon-scented pot of gold’ in a Tweet back to Ms. Hesser, a name which she eagerly approved of. I doubled the recipe and it also solved The Other Thing, making office lunches. It’d be good any time of year, really. To round it out as an entire meal you could even add bits of poached chicken.


Recipe on Page 321 in The Book

Cafe au Lait

I’m usually an extremist when it comes to coffe. Depending on the weather, my mood, or the morning’s breakfast prospects, I’ll either have it black or with a generous slip of cream. Rarely milk.


I don’t do lattes, but if I were to have milk with my morning java, it would most certainly be in the form of a cafe au lait. The 1:1 milk-to-coffee ratio in a cafe au lait sits fairly in the middle of my normal spectrum. The Book’s recipe, if one could call it that, comes to us as a letter to the editor which suggests using France’s cafe au lait habit as an antidote to our animal-heavy diets.


Give it what reason you will. I’m a cafe au lait convert.

Recipe on page 9 in The Book