poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie

POU Project: A Visual Companion to The New Best Recipes


Remember when I was unsure about my Period of Official Unemployment (POU) project? Well, I’m happy to announce that I’ve come to a decision: I will provide a visual companion to The New Best Recipes cookbook (TNBR, henceforth). The thing is, as great as TNBR is, it doesn’t feature any photos. And since the recipes are already close to perfect, I’m not going to tweak and repost them here. So, I thought, “Why not show the photos of the stuff I’ve made as I go along? Maybe something along the lines of the plum crisp post.”

So, without further ado, here are my cooking adventures from the past few weeks:

1. Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms and Thyme (p. 264)
This recipe called for campenelli or farfalle pasta, but I only had rotini on hand.  I also omitted the 1/2 cup of cream (due to my lactard status). Despite these alterations, it turned out great. The one cup of Parmesan added at the end added surprising, delicious creaminess, and I feel that the heavy cream would’ve sent this pasta over the edge. At least for my taste, anyway. Super highly recommended!

2. Pasta and Quick Tomato Sauce (p. 245)
What can I say? I was on a pasta kick. And a mushroom one too, apparently; I thought I’d add some substance to this recipe to make it more of a meal. (Ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, sugar, salt, pasta.) While it was easy and quick, I’d only give this recipe a 7/10 because it doesn’t reheat well…which, given how much leftovers I eat, is a major minus. But when freshly prepared, it’s very good. My recommendation: this would be great as a no-fuss carb portion for a dinner party.

3. Hummus and Homemade Pita Chips (pp. 13, 16)
I had never made hummus before, and after this recipe, I will never buy hummus again. It’s so easy! Great for parties too: I made this twice in one week. I feel that this recipe is a little heavy on the tahini; I might cut back a little next time. Also, I’d like to experiment with adding some roasted red peppers, spice, or pine nuts. Anyone out there have a good recipe? I’m still on the fence about the homemade pita chips. They are pretty good, but also a bit of a hassle. You only save a couple of dollars, max, but I suppose they are healthier for you than store-bought chips. Also, you get to tell everyone, “These are homemade pita chips, I made them myself.” And that, my friend, is worth a lot more than a couple of bucks in my book.

4. Black Bean Soup and Cornbread with Jalapenos (p.63, p. 693)
This represents my favorite and least favorite out of everything I’ve made from TNBR. The black bean soup, while time-consuming, was Awesome. (Yes, that’s Awesome with a capital “A.”) Despite ZB’s (aka “The Prince of Beans”) strong recommendation of using ham hock to cook black beans, I had always omitted it, mostly out of laziness or frugality. Well, for this recipe, I finally went to the butcher and asked for a ham hock (about $4.50 for a decent sized piece). It was SO worth it. The ham hock added a smokey richness to this soup that was magnificent. I was also delightfully surprised at the raw, diced red onion garnish. It wasn’t pungent at all, but added a fresh crunch that nicely complimented the soup.

On the other hand, the cornbread was a disaster. I don’t know what happened. It could’ve been that the cornmeal I bought was poor quality, or maybe I over-mixed it. Also, the recipe said to omit the sugar if adding peppers, which I thought was odd. As it turned out, it probably would’ve been better with some sugar in it. I love cornbread too, so this was particularly disappointing.

5. Quick Tomato Sauce for Pizza (p. 669)
Sorry, no picture. This sauce was very quick, easy, and tasty. Highly recommended.

Bonus: a completely unnecessary photo of a nearly empty brownie pan, just because.
This was a pan of brownies that were eagerly consumed following a chili cook-off. I followed a recipe called “Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies” from The Gourmet Cookbook. It’s very simple: chocolate baking squares, butter, egg, flour, salt, vanilla. The resulting brownies are thick, a little dry (in a good way), and rich.

Author: Jen

Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

9 thoughts on “POU Project: A Visual Companion to The New Best Recipes

  1. These look delicious! How did you saute the mushrooms and what types of mushrooms did you use?

    (and I told you so ;-))

    For the lazy, Jiffy Cornbread Mix (all I could ever find in Cali was Corn Muffin Mix, which is decent, but sweeter) is a good cornbread, especially when you add diced pickled jalapenos. What made it a disaster? One of the secrets I’ve found is to use a preheated cast iron skillet with some bacon grease in the bottom.

    • 1. Mushrooms: 10 oz shiitake, 10 oz cremini. Heat butter and oil, add shallots then garlic. Add shiitakes first, cook for 2 min. Then add creminis and some salt. Cook for another 8 min, until moisture is evaporated.
      2. Yes, you did tell me so, and you were right.
      3. Yeah, I love Jiffy. That’s what I grew up with. Since I’ve been in CA, I’ve only used TJ’s cornbread mix, which is so-so. The one I made was “a disaster” because it turned out really dry, flat, and tasteless. Pretty much the antithesis of what cornbread should be.

  2. It’s so hard for me to be inspired by cookbooks that don’t have photos! So how are you going about these recipes, is there any particular order? Or whatever strikes your fancy?

    • It’s a combination of whatever strikes my fancy, “hey, I’ve never made that before and have always wanted to!” and “I want to make something with a particular ingredient.” This cookbook is a nice addition to my collection because it features a good sampling of the basic, standard recipes, whereas my other cookbooks are good for fancier dishes.

  3. Yay, I’m glad you decided to do this. Just last night I cooked the broiled salmon with potato crust from TNBR (potato chips are the secret…who knew?!) and it was real purrrty too. Their breakfast strata is amazing too, especially since I’m a shallot-o-phile.

  4. For hummus, I just take a can of garbanzos, about 1.5 Tbs. of tahini thinned with 1 Tbs. of warm water, 1 tsp. of cumin and then drizzle in olive oil until it is creamy. Depending on my taste, I add any of the following: roasted red peppers, roasted garlic (or fresh), lemon juice. It always turns out great.

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