There is literally one pasta dish that’s acceptable to my husband and daughter. One. There is no recipe — cherry tomatoes are oven roasted with a little EVOO, summer savoury and garlic and then served on spaghetti. Sometimes parm is involved or a nice crusty loaf of fresh baked bread (am forever grateful to the Lahey ‘no-knead’ method!). Other than that it’s not very exciting and my couple of one-trick-ponies like their pasta how they like it, so when I tell them we’re trying a new pasta dish there is so much belly-aching I can hardly take it. I know, I just know that when they try this pasta they’ll be won-over. This means that I’ll actually have to go out and grocery shop because there’s only the 4kg bag of spaghetti in the pantry and, to be honest, I’ve never tried ricotta salata either so I’m venturing into uncharted territory here. By the end of dinner that evening they are raving about how good the Orecchiette w/ Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce is!
What I don’t bother pointing out is that this is basically their favourite dish but better! So. Much. Better. The reason why our old stand-by worked so well is because it was so easy to prepare and I think this is one of the things that really caught my attention with Nick Fauchald and Kaitlyn Goalen’s The Short Stack Cookbook is that for all of the recipes that are a bit more complex and require more care and attention to create, there are just as many simple recipes that are wonderfully enjoyable without having to dedicate much time or energy to make. Even though I’ve only made a handful of their cookbook recipes so far I feel confident proclaiming how dependable each one is (7/7 recipes is a good record!).
Before this cookbook, I became familiar with their Short Stack Editions that started as a Kickstarter Campaign 4 years ago and now has over 24 volumes to it’s credit. (If you’re curious about it click here or read my review here). One of the reasons why I was only able to snag a few of the volumes is because the Canadian dollar is pretty low, which in turn makes anything coming from the US all the more expensive. This is where my glee enters because with their new cookbook focused on 18 wonderful ingredients, full of all-new, previously unpublished recipes this means that I’m able to get it through a Canadian seller! Also having this anthology-like edition of the Short Stack is very happy-making. Plus, they’ve included beautiful colour photographs of some of the recipes resulting in a very posh version of their original editions.
Where to start? It starts with ingredients…I think this is why their cookbook is so inspired. Each recipe is really a love letter, completely devoted to it’s feature ingredient. I’m not sure how they really did it but to choose only 18 must have been a serious challenge! This is where I need to note that this is not a special diet cookbook — while it does have some vegetarian recipes (and a few vegan or gluten-free), don’t open the cover expecting something it’s not. While I know there are straight-up meat/fish chapters (yeah, I’m looking at you Bacon, Chicken, and Shrimp!) I’ve picked up this cookbook because I find it so intriguing.
The recipes I chose to try were ones that took a simple ingredient and elevated it. Take this Skillet Apple-Oat Cake (pictured below) — anything that puts a cake, “the best bowl of oatmeal you’ve ever had,” Dutch baby, and cannelé together is totally worth trying! While I think the recipe was intended as a dessert I happily made it and served it w/ creamy greek yogurt for a weekend brunch. In case you’re wondering this cake totally lived up to the hype!
I like that they’re (not just Fauchald and Goalen but the 27 other contributors they’ve convened) inventive — take the recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash & Seeds w/ Za’atar. I know that the skin of a delicata squash is edible, as well as the seeds but it never occurred to me that one could roast the whole squash. Incredible! And incredibly simple too. Also, isn’t it the perfect way to cut down on needless food waste? I made and served this as a side dish to my (Canadian) Thanksgiving a week ago and it really looked spectacular on the serving dish covered in delicious and aromatic fresh herbs. This is what’s truly wonderful about this book — the recipes are novel (in the best way possible) and it’s not like rolling the Google-dice to see which
interesting sketchy recipe you’ll try (and most likely hate — we’ve all been there…getting sucked into a seemingly good recipe only to find lackluster results, a complete waste of time and/or ingredients).
If you’re not going to write a vegan cookbook at least include one vegan recipe so amazing that it might be the best recipe in the whole book (IMHO!) — I mean, just look at that Tomato Pepperoni! Tyler Kord (a chef and the author of Vol. 7 Broccoli) invented a plant-based dead-ringer for pepperoni!! When I made a vegan take on a Hawaiian Pizza, I kept having to remind myself that there was no actual pepperoni on the pizza! If you were going by the scent wafting from my oven you’d swear it was the real deal. For reals. Even my friends that enjoyed this pizza with me found it so remarkable that it should taste so precisely like the real thing. I think this recipe (one of many) goes to show how well-tested each recipe in the cookbook is because to have such a perfect recipe doesn’t just happen without lots of testing and re-testing.
The recipe for Labne & Roasted Grapes grabbed my attention because here again was a simple (yet not simplistic) recipe that had never occurred to me — roasting grapes! I managed to pick up some really beautiful, richly hued muscat grapes to use and after roasting them a sweetness was added to their primarily tart profile. If you’ve never tried (or made labne) it’s really the meeting point between yogurt and a soft cheese. Combining the grapes and labne is only complete after the ground sumac is added because it’s lemony touch really adds to the overall dish. I ate this as a snack but it could easily be served any time of day and for any occasion — couldn’t you imagine serving this at a brunch or conversely at a cocktail party? Perfection!
One of my favourite recipe headers was the one for Kimcheese, which briefly explained the history of pimento cheese and how it lent inspiration to this recipe. On it’s own the recipe is really great but as a Grilled Kimcheese Sandwich it’s so f*&king fantastic I really can’t stand it. As you can see I’ve waffled the sandwich for good measure but, really, it was one of the best tasting grilled cheeses I’ve ever had (and since making it for the first time it’s already been made a few more times). This is when you know you have a “keeper” cookbook on your hands — recipes so good you keep coming back time and again.
To end this review on a sweet note I present their recipe for Dark Chocolate Bark w/ Puffed Rice. I really loved the idea of popping rice to add into homemade chocolate bark and while most of my forbidden rice popped (albeit very modestly) it really tasted quite delicious! It
reminded me of that nutty flavour corn nuts have. I thought this would be a good place to end seeing as this recipe was inspired by the old Halloween fav: Nestlé Crunch bars. So instead of waiting until Halloween, you can totally pick up a copy of The Short Stack Cookbook to get a head start! I know I’ll be looking to add a hard copy of this book to my growing cookbook library.
** Due to unforeseen circumstances, blogs images prior to 2018 were deleted. Some images were recovered or replaced, some were not. Please accept my apologies if the text refers to an image that is no longer present.**
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Net Galley and Abrams Books for providing me with a free advanced e-copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.