Reading & Recipes

The Epicurious Cookbook

Jennifer Gagel
Written by Jennifer Gagel

 

Epicurious.com, one of the most widely recognized and respected online sites for recipes is taking it old school. Beginning in 1995 as a digital recipe database hand-coded by a small order of monks in upstate New York, it was intended as an online collection of recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appétit magazines. It has grown to become a force in its own right under the care of Tanya Steel, editor-in-chief since 2005. An estimated 8.5 million sign on each month to find (and rate) recipes by some of the best chefs in the business, and ninety-six percent of the professional recipes on the site have been tested its readers posting their recommendations and reviews.

Now fans of the site can cook with their own book on the kitchen counter; its pages soaking up the love and mess from their favorite recipes just as any beloved cookbook should.

The Epicurious Cookbook includes a selection of recipes from the thousands submitted and reviewed on Epicurious.com receiving the highly coveted four-fork rating,. Recipes chosen were based on those with the largest number readers who said they would most likely make them again, and includes those from devoted home cooks whose recipes received the same rigorous treatment as those created by world-renowned chefs.

While there isn’t a picture of every recipe, there are 100 stunning photographs by preeminent food photographer, Ellen Silverman, that bring a clean, homey look to the recipes. Recipes in The Epicurious Cookbook are organized by season rather than by course, making it easy to cook what is fresh and available. The editors do promote local, fresh ingredients but also recognize that in some areas and some seasons, the supermarket aisle is as fresh and local as it gets. This can be a refreshing change when you’re feeling overwhelmed by pressures to shop from only those places within walking distance.

An outstanding supermarket standby is Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas. In the time it takes to boil water and cook the gnocchi for 5 minutes, a light but satisfying meal is served. The gnocchi lends substance, while the peas, spinach and lemon keep the dish light and bright. And while you can certainly use fresh ingredients, the results with frozen are worth having over and over again. It’s also a versatile recipe. Add other veggies, or crumbled bacon bits. Just don’t omit the lemon; it makes the dish.

The diversity of the recipes reflects the diversity of the many chefs and home cooks who created, tested, reviewed and loved these dishes. You can find a range of dishes for any season, style or occasion, and the menu plans will help you pull it all together. Beside the professional recipes you’ll find tips and substitutions from readers reminding us of the collaborative roots that goes into Epicurious.com, which brings together food and technology, famous chefs and the unknown but avid home cooks. Pretty good for a little old style printing press technology.

 

Freelance writer JENNIFER GAGEL works as a research assistant at London Public Library, and as a business process consultant at Cunningham MacGregor & Associates. Contact jennagagel@gmail.com

 

Recipes courtesy of The Epicurious Cookbook: More Than 250 of Our Best-Loved Four-Fork Recipes for Weeknights, Weekends & Special Occasions; Tanya Steel editor-in-chief of Epicurious.com & the Editors of Epicurious.com; Oct 2012; $29.99; Appetite by Random House.

 

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

Lemon lovers adore this simple and satisfying pasta. Lemon zest and juice brighten peas and spinach while lightening the creamy Parmesan sauce. You can also use penne, orecchiette, or another small pasta. To cut back on calories, use whole milk or half-and-half in place of the some or all of the heavy cream.

Makes 4 servings

1 cup (250 mL) frozen baby peas (not thawed)

½ cup (125 mL) heavy cream

¼ tsp (1 mL) dried red pepper flakes

1 garlic clove, smashed

¼ tsp (1 mL) salt

3 cups (750 mL) (packed) baby spinach (3 ounces)

1 tsp (5 mL) grated lemon zest

1 ½ tsp (7 mL) fresh lemon juice

1 lb dried gnocchi

¼ cup (50 mL) grated Parmesan cheese

 

1 Simmer peas with the cream, red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt in a 12-inch skillet, covered, until tender, about 5 minutes.

2 Add spinach and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, stirring, until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice.

3 Meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tbsps salt for 6 quarts of water) until al dente. Reserve ½ cup (125 mL) pasta-cooking water, then drain gnocchi.

4 Add gnocchi to sauce along with the cheese and reserved cooking water and stir to coat. Thin with additional cooking water, if necessary.

ED note: Fresh gnocchi will turn out like little pillows of heaven. If using fresh peas instead of frozen, add them to simmering sauce 1 minute before adding the spinach. ½ tsp of red pepper flakes makes for a medium hot dish. ¼ tsp suits lighter palates.

 

Pork Tenderloin with Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

Tender pork is roasted with rich, warmly spiced chutney so that the fruity condiment gets a chance to cook into the meat. The woody, sweet notes of the chutney are also great atop chicken, lamb, or duck — or just on a spoon, straight. Rhubarb is at its prime in spring so for a fall-friendly chutney, replace it with fresh apples and figs.

Makes 4 servings

For Chutney

¾ cup (180 mL) sugar

1/3 cup (80 mL) cider vinegar

1 tbsp (15 mL) minced peeled fresh ginger

1 tbsp (15 mL) ground garlic powder

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin

½ tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon

½ tsp (2 mL) ground cloves

¼ tsp (1 mL) dried red pepper flakes

4 cups (950 mL) (½-inch) cubed fresh rhubarb (about 1½ lbs)

½ cup (120 mL) (generous) chopped red onion

1/3 cup (80 mL) dried tart cherries or golden raisins (about 2 ounces)

 

For Pork

2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/2 lbs total), trimmed

2 tsp (10 mL) ground cumin

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

Fresh cilantro sprigs

 

For chutney:

1 Combine first 8 ingredients in heavy large Dutch oven. Bring to simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

2 Add rhubarb, onion and dried cherries; increase heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. (Can be made a day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)

For pork:

3 Preheat oven to 400° F.

4 Sprinkle pork with cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to roasting pan.

5 Brush pork with 6 tablespoons chutney. Roast until thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 155° F, brushing occasionally with 6 more tablespoons chutney, about 25 minutes.

6 Slice pork into medallions. Garnish with cilantro and serve with remaining chutney.

About the author

Jennifer Gagel

Jennifer Gagel

JENNIFER GAGEL is a culinary enthusiast and multi-faceted freelance writer who can be reached at jenna@gmail.com