Monday, June 1, 2009

Cookbook Review: Memorable Recipes

Getting a cookbook to review is always a treat, especially when it is a big, beautiful glossy cookbook like Memorable Recipes: To Share With Family and Friends, written by Renée Behnke, along with Cynthia Nims. Behnke and her husband purchased the original Sur La Table in the Pike Place Market in Seattle (one of my favorite places to hang out), and she was president of the company from 1995-2004. She is currently "president emeritus" and spends her time working with various food-related projects and entertaining her family and friends, as she believes that wonderful food is best when it is shared with others.

I opened up the book and immediately started tagging recipes to make. I like to make several recipes in different categories to get a feel for the book and everything looked and sounded so good in this one, it was really hard to choose. I ended up making eight different dishes, although I combined some into meals.

From the Appetizers chapter, I chose the Smoky Moroccan Meatballs, made of pork and veal and flavored with cumin and smoked paprika. The meatballs went together easily and were tasty. I have a tendency to like my spices to stand out a bit more so I would add more spice to them the next time. Served with pita and some leftover raita that had more spice to it, (see below), they made a fun little pupu.

I wanted to do a Soup and since the weather was warm and muggy last week, I tried the Chilled Cucumber-Buttermilk Soup. I think this may be the best cold cucumber soup I have ever had. The buttermilk and sour cream (I used low-fat for both), made it nice and rich, and the flavor of the cucumber and lemon really came through. The suggested garnish of chopped cucumber, dill and thinly sliced radishes, make it a bright, pretty appetizer that is perfect for a summer party. This one I will definitely make again.

I chose two of the Main Dishes, the first Sesame-Crusted Tuna with Soy Lemon Sauce which I paired with one of the Salads, the Ginger Asian Slaw. The tuna was delicious with its coating of sesame seeds that are flavored with lemon, ginger, garlic, soy and green onions. The tuna is seared and topped with an indulgent sauce of white wine, lemon, soy, sour cream and a little butter which gives it a lot of flavor and richness.

For a lighter dinner, I served the tuna on top of the Asian Slaw which is made with Napa and red cabbages, carrot, red pepper and dressed with a ginger-spiked dressing and topped with chopped peanuts and sesame seeds. I had to make a couple of changes to the ingredients based on what I had on hand. The Napa cabbage in the store did not look good so I replaced it with some local green cabbage in my CSA box. I also topped the slaw with toasted Mac nuts because I realized I was out of peanuts. 

Small changes and in keeping with the fresh, local flavors philosophy that runs through the book. I used some of the leftover slaw the next night with some local Opah fish and it was delicious.

Needing some meat and loving my lamb, I tried the Herbed-Rubbed Lamb Chops with Raita. With two of the Sides from the book, the Lemon Israeli Couscous and the Sauteed Tiny Tomatoes, it was the perfect dinner. The combination of herbs on the lamb chops was delicious and they were complimented by the slightly-spicy raita. I make raita or cucumber sauce frequently and I really enjoyed this recipe which with it's cinnamon, a little sugar and cayenne is a bit different than my usual recipe, and had a nice spicy-sweet taste to it. I used the raita with the meatballs above, as well as with some Stuffed Baby Eggplant I made using a recipe from Tyler Florence.

The Lemon-Israeli Couscous was delicious, I loved the lemon, mint and peas--it is a side dish I will happily repeat. My favorite part of the meal? The Sauteed Tiny Tomatoes. I have been roasting tomatoes in the oven with chili oil--thanks to Tyler Florence, and thought they were good, but this combination of sweet onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, parsley and mixed herbs, sauteed on the stove until the tomatoes are just splitting was even better. I will be making this quick, easy dish all summer.

Finally Dessert..., I couldn't resist the Sunken Chocolate Cupcakes, described as "barely sweet flourless cupcakes...deeply chocolaty with a bit of added crunch from the sugar that coats the muffin  cups before baking." I made a half-batch with some dark Valrhona chocolate I had and served them with some vanilla ice cream and fresh, local strawberries. I was expecting the little cakes to be more dense, fudgy and moist than they turned out, but the chocolate flavor was intense and with the ice cream and berries they were very good.

Although I preferred some recipes more than others, I was very pleased at how well everything I made turned out and I still have a bunch of recipes marked to try. With 140 recipes in the book and almost as many photographs, I have a feeling that I will be pulling this book from my shelves frequently. In addition to the recipes, there are also menu ideas and "do-ahead tips" with every recipe. A section on Menu Ideas, with different party themes and detailed menu plans and decor is fun, and there is good information on hosting, planning, and wine pairing and serving notes. Behneke has also includes chapters on helpful techniques that are used in the recipes and her ten favorite tools, (with her past life at Sur La Table, she should be the expert on good cooking tools!). 

I really don't have anything negative to say about this book. I am happy to have received a copy of it because my cookbook collection is so large that I have a tendency to buy more specific cookbooks (ethnic, vegetarian, healthy, etc.) This is a book I might have over-looked, thinking it was too general and that would have been a mistake because it has so much to offer. The recipes I tried would make for memorable evenings and events, so it is aptly named. Memorable Recipes is a beautiful book and is perfect for anyone who likes delicious, simple but elegant food and entertaining at home. 


  1. I love how colourful and alive it all looks. Perfect menu for warm weather or any weather.
    I had a part comment disappear, pardon me if it shows up later!
    Sounds like a great book for the food trends we are seeing right now. Local, sustainable, healthy and delicious.

  2. That dinner plate looks like an artists palate. It all sounds very good, but I love the thought of that lemony Israeli couscous. Have a great day.

  3. I love the look of the sides dishes with that lamb. Mmmm.. I might have to track down a copy of that cookbook.

  4. Everything looks so good, I don't know where to start! Great review - I'll have to check that book out.

  5. I don't eat lamb, but yours looks so incredible that were I there in person, I might have stolen a bite.

  6. Thanks for all those mouth-watering photos...great review, everything looks tempting!!

  7. sounds like a great book and I love how colorful everything was!

  8. All of these recipes sound great, I will definitely be checking this book out of the library. The tuna looks especially good. I love cookbooks with tons of good options to make.

  9. Looks like a great book! I've never made a cucumber soup before, but you've convinced me to give it a try.

  10. thanks for all of the great pictures, suggestions, and recipes. I love cold soup and am excited about the cucumber recipe! Thanks.

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  11. You have been a busy little cook! The Moroccan meatballs look especially good, and so does your chocolate dessert, with all them beautiful berries.

  12. All the recipes sound delicious, you wrote a great review and stunning photos.

  13. Wow, you have been busy, Deb! Everything looks amazing - you really have a knack for choosing interesting, colorful recipes and executing them beautifully. This book sounds really great - I will have to look for it!

  14. Great review! Everything sounds good. Those tomatoes do sound intriguing!

  15. After seeing your pictures, I tracked down a copy of the book and it just arrived today. I want to try those tomatoes and the couscous first.


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