For several weeks, I eagerly awaited notification from the public library that it was my turn to check out Rocco Dispirito's latest cookbook, Now Eat This. Then one morning I awoke to find that lovely email in my inbox stating I could pick it up at my local branch! The book cover states that inside, you will find "150 of America's favorite comfort foods all under 350 calories." I had seen him make some of his recipes on talk shows and hosts had mmmm'd and yummm'd over everything they tasted. Therefore, I was eager to try some of them myself. I went through the book and saw plenty of recipes that looked good. I sat down and planned my menu and grocery list around the cookbook. However, the 1st recipe I made taught me that Rocco and I have totally different palates, and subsequent recipes just reiterated that.
The 1st recipe I made was a mock risotto with mushrooms. I loved the idea that textured vegetable protein (TVP) was used in place of rice. I am always on the lookout for recipes that use TVP. If you have any, please send them my way! The finished product was very wet. Risotto is supposed to be creamy, but this was runny. Either there was too much liquid in the recipe or not enough TVP. No big deal, though; something I could fix next time I made the recipe. However, what I did not agree with taste-wise, was that the 1 cup of sliced scallions. They overpowered the entire dish and that is all you tasted. We did not like it.
The next recipe was Shepherd's Pie and the usual mashed potato topping was replaced with pureed cauliflower and Greek yogurt. I love cauliflower. I do not eat any kind of yogurt but I do use plain yogurt to replace sour cream in recipes. I had never used Greek yogurt before but assumed it would blend in like regular yogurt. I was wrong. I tried the topping before putting it over the filling and really did not like it. I just could NOT take the tang or sourness or whatever it was. I had the hubs try it, too, since he is a yogurt fan and the look on his face said it all to me. I threw it out and rushed to the basement for potatoes to made a quick mashed potato topping. But the filling of the pie was flavorless. 0 for 2.
At this point, the hubs asked if I was going to feed us any more recipes out of "that book". So I looked through the rest of my selections and picked one that I was sure would be good based on the ingredients. It was Beef Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Cauliflower. I prepped the ingredients before going to work and left the hubs the recipe. He had it all made and on the table when I came home and it was AWESOME! FINALLY! All 3 of us loved it! But here's the thing - the recipe called for 1/2 cup of cilantro. That was a surprise. And although I like cilantro, and it added an interesting and surprising layer of flavor, once again it was too much. Especially the next day when the flavor had intensified. We will mos def be making this regularly, but will use less cilantro. I'm beginning to wonder if a professional chef has so many different and strong flavors on a regular basis that they need to really intensify the flavor of their foods to enjoy them over time? You know, like how some people get used to using salt in most of their meals so food without salt or a lower amount of salt tastes bland to them? IDK, just a thought...
Riding the high from the stir-fry, I made his (Almost) General Tso's Chicken a few days later. This is our most ordered item from Chinese take-out places and I have wanted to make it home. This one was more labor intensive than the stir-fry recipe. You have to dip the chix pieces in whole-wheat flour, egg whites whipped until foamy but not forming stiff peaks, then panko breadcrumbs and baked on a rack. Took some extra time, but I appreciate that the chix is not fried like in the original recipe. You steam your broccoli on the side, make the sauce in a bowl and then toss the cooked chix and broccoli in the sauce. Now, once the chix is coated in the sauce, you cannot taste any of your dipping coats and the hubs thought it was a waste. However, I believe the point was to ensure that the sauce clung to the chix. If it was just plain, cooked chix, the sauce would slide off. But the sauce was the problem. None of us liked it. There was too much rice vinegar in it. The chili garlic sauce can be adjusted more or less to your spice tolerance, so that is not an issue. The hubs plowed through it reluctantly, but B and I could not eat it. I wish I had not tossed the broccoli with the sauce, b/c we could have at least ate that. So, I had to make something else for the 2 of us to eat. Since the sauce is pretty easy to make, I am going to work on perfecting that to my taste and only once I have done that, will I make the chix again. So now we're 1-1-2.
I had his Chicken Marsala on my list, but since it called for the Greek yogurt again, I just made it with butter. And the last recipe of his I tried were his Brownies, made with black beans. They are not the consistency of a regular brownie; they are like fudge that has been whipped full of air to make a very light, almost sponge-like chocolate cake. I like this as the alternative to a heavy brownie. I will, though, try making them without the espresso powder. I do not drink any form of coffee and that 1 tbsp is the only flavor that comes through. It is not bad by any means, but it is not a chocolate brownie. Once again, Rocco's adding another layer of flavor is kinda too strong or she-she-poo-poo for me. The hubs eyed them suspiciously yesterday but never tried one. I'm going to see if he'll eat one today. He is really good about staying away from chocolate, even though he loves it, but I hope the black beans and the fact that there is only 1.6g of fat and 53 calories in each brownie will persuade him to try.
Next on my list to try is Beef Stew-Fry (that is not a typo, it really is stew) with Shiitakes and Bok Choy. I will not be putting in the entire bunch of scallions it calls for nor all of the rice vinegar at first. Will let you know how it goes.
- I am a very lucky woman with a husband and son who are smart, witty and entertaining. Our son, B, attended public school for two years, and then we embarked on a new adventure in the Fall of 2010 - homeschooling. We don't have all the answers, but we know B and this has been the best thing for him. I blog to preserve our stories and our memories, share recipes, vent and ramble on about our crazy, yet blessed, life. Would you care to follow along?