For the month of June here at Cook the Books, we decided to try our hand at some street food. I don’t need to tell you that food from carts and trucks has never been more popular. Expenses are low and experimentation is high. This is why I chose this book. And I really liked it. And so did all of this month’s participating bloggers!
The author of this month’s time is Susan Feniger, Food Network personality and chef-owner of several restaurants in LA and Vegas. In Street Food, she documents her travels world wide sampling food from trucks and stands and carts and home kitchens and shares some of her favorites.
Susan talks about flavors as the book opens: salty, spicy, sour, sweet. Flavor is really what this book is all about. And I think, as a group, we just about covered them all!
So what did everyone make? Well, it’s summer and the cook the books numbers are dwindling. I don’t blame y’all, it’s summer…get out and enjoy it! We did have some people cooking along though, and they had fun!
Sarah at Eat Locally, Blog Globally made Coconut Curry Caramel Corn and took it to a bar snack themed monthly food meet-up. Glad to hear this was a hit, Sarah! Sarah tells us how she later took the rest of the popcorn to a bar, and the coconut curry popcorn was a hit. So much so that Sarah gifted the rest to the bartender who shared it with his lucky customers. Damn, these recipes make a LOT of food, don’t they? Regardless, success!
Karen at Prospect: The Pantry made: Tunisian Chicken Kebabs with Currants and Olives (page 34), Five-Spice Marinade (page 161), Thai Drunken Shrimp with Rice Noodles (page 130), Thai Curry Paste (page 171), Coconut Curried Mussels with Smoky Chorizo (page 118).
Nice work once again, Karen! Wow, you made a good selection of dishes. And I like how you think with the making of the spice mixes. These spice mixtures may be what I return to most in this cookbook. I liked how Susan spoke about making the Thai Curry Paste in advance then busting it out for a delicious Thai meal instead of ordering take out. Great idea. Karen made her curry paste into a easy vegetarian meal, which seems genius to use with all my fading snap beans out in the garden. And soon I’ll do like Karen and use it with the explosion of zukes that is about to happen at the homestead garden.
Karen really liked Susan’s sidebars explaining some of the more unusual spices. And lucky Karen, she grows a lot of these in her garden: shiso, shado beni, epazote, lemongrass, and Thai basil. You grow lemongrass? Damn, girl, I’m jealous! I’ve always wanted to grow epazote but it seems so small and delicate. Perhaps I’ll give it a shot next year! Thanks for playing along, Karen, and glad you liked the book!
Cyn at River Dog Prints made Coconut Curried Mussels with Smoky Chorizo. Cyn, like me, enjoyed Susan Feniger from her time on Top Chef Masters. Shouldn’t that be coming on again soon? Isn’t Susan so fun and friendly on there? Love it. Anyway, Cyn marveled at the beautiful color and aroma of this mussel dish, and tells us how her and her husband ate every last mussel, whilst dipping their fresh sourdough bread in the sauce. One of the true pleasures in life, am I right, Cyn? Awesome!
Angela at Tea Time Adventures made Heirloom Tomatoes with Garlic and Balsamic Vinaigrette, and then had a lunch spread with friends where they enjoyed Cactus Rellenos with Corn Salad and Arbol Chili Salsa, which they ate while imbibing in the Canton Ginger Kick cocktails, and finished with Danish Black Licorice and Cherry Biscotti with Buttermilk Koldskal. What a lunch! I wish I was in your lunch club!
Angela used cactus paddles (aka nopales) for the first time as well. It seemed liked lunch went well and everyone enjoyed the recipes. And sorry you didn’t get those matzo toffee things, Angela! I wanted to make those too but never got around to it.
Angela also made Earl Grey Tea Dust and Rooibos Dust, inspired by Susan’s Ginger Dust (page 209). She took these and her tomato salad to a food swap and all were hits. Congrats Angela!
Aimee at Homemade Trade made Croatian Sour Apple Fritters with Orange Sugar, Coconut Curry Caramel Corn, Thai Tea Pudding, Brussel Sprouts with Goat Cheese, Apples, and Hazelnuts, and Chilled Soba Noodles with Spicy Orange Sesame and Tofu. Holy crap!
Aimee, you are my hero! You made awesome stuff too! I wanted to make the popcorn! Look at the visible spices in her photo! Intriguing!
Aimee also did a much better job than yours truly on her sour apple fritters. I agree with you on two key points, Aimee. 1) Who the hell could eat this many fritters? and 2) Do NOT skip the orange sugar!
Aimee also got her hands on chocolate sugar and Earl Grey tea dust, both scored from Angela at Tea Time Adventures at a local food swap. I love it!
My partner in crime Meg over at Grow and Resist also made some great looking recipes from Street Food. Meg made Lamb Meatballs with Date and Carob Molasses (p. 38), Scandinavian Mixed Greens and Apples with Juniper Vinaigrette (p. 53), Couscous Tabbouleh with Dried Apricots and Pistachios (p.91), Danish Black Licorice and Cherry Biscotti with Buttermilk Koldskål (p.181), Thai Tea Pudding with Lime Caramel and Candied Cashews (p. 186), and Mango Lhassi (p.214). Nice work, Meg! Meg also introduced next month’s gigantic and awesome looking selection, Gran Cocina Latina. Check it out here!
Ok, so what about me? Look, I’m gonna be frank. First, don’t call me Frank. Second, it’s summer in Seattle and it’s 90 degrees and sunny as I type this. That just doesn’t happen here very often, so I gotta get out and enjoy it. Not to mention that tomorrow is a holiday. Also, Double S and I went camping in Eastern WA over the weekend and went cherry picking. So I also need to make this short and sweet cuz I’ve got about 40 lbs of the 70 lbs of cherries we picked left at home to finish freezing, drying, and otherwise processing. I always know its summer around the homestead when I’ve got boxes of WA fruit to deal with. Also, I’m gonna try my hand at a little Cherry Garcia ice cream this weekend.
So, I really liked this book. I made quite a sampling of things. As I already told you, I made artichokes with za’atar dipping sauce that was to die for. Besides that, I also made the Indonesian Tek Tek Noodles, Saigon Chicken Salad, Black Kale Crostini, and the Croatian Sour Apple Fritters. Thus I tried some appetizers, a salad, an entree, and a dessert. Way to be well rounded, me!
Verdict: aside from the massive portions that each recipe made, I really liked this book. The theme is flavor, and the flavors didn’t disappoint.
Indonesian Tek Tek Noodles: I’m usually someone who finds Asian dishes with peanut sauce to be too sweet.
I tried this one because Susan infuses it with a lot of tamarind. I love the sour sweet goodness of tamarind. For this dish, you also must make the tamarind paste.
This recipe is a keeper, and easy to make once you have the ingredients. It’s versatile too. You could easily sub in chicken or other veggies in place of the tofu and bok choy.
Saigon Chicken Salad: this is Susan’s take on one of my favorite things to order when I got out for Thai food: papaya salad.
Susan kicks this one up a notch with the addition of lemongrass poached chicken. I also appreciated learning another recipe for nuoc cham, the salty, fishy, sweet dressing that is key to so many dishes in this tradition.
We grow a lot of kale in the Pacific Northwest, so when I saw Susan’s recipe for Black Kale Crostini, I had to try it. And holy crap, is this one good. Perfect little crostini appetizer for a party, and so flavorful. We’ll be eating this one come fall and winter when our now effing rocking garden is down to just kale.
Sour Apple Fritters: I had high hopes for these but they were my least favorite of the things I made. Ok, so these were still fried sweet things, so even being my least fave they were still good. But I was disappointed because the finished product looked nothing like the pictures. The photo looks like a perfect fritter with apple bits inside. The finalized product just looked like a blob of fried dough. No visible apple chunks and the most distinctive flavor was kinda of just grease. Now fried things are always good so this wasn’t unpleasant to eat, but I was disappointed in the flavor.
As I said above, I don’t have time to do a full review this month, so a few quick points about Susan Feniger’s Street Food, to wrap up the month.
- I really liked this book. Some may wonder about a unifying theme, but I think there most definitely is one: flavor. Bold flavor. Perhaps unusually flavors. Tips on how to get a favorite flavor from a new source: salt from fish sauce, sweet from palm sugar, and so on.
- The book and the accompanying photos are lovely. And for the most part the recipes come out looking like the photos. But, Susan, how did you get your fritters to look like that?
- The recipes call for ingredients you regularly may not have in your pantry. But I like how she challenges home cooks to try new ingredients and maybe explore new markets in their cities. I had no problem finding the more unusual ingredients she calls for.
- This book is good for parties. First, because these recipes produce ginormous quantities of food. And second, because the home cook can create a spread with a wide array of flavors, sure to please a lot of different partygoers.
Ok, that’s it for street food, though I will certainly be returning to it this summer when my tomatoes come in season, and also to make some more of Susan’s recipes for various spice rubs and pepper-centric hot sauces. On to July!