Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekend Cooking...Zingerman's Guide To Good Eating [45]

Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating by Ari Weinzweig
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0395926161)

In the subtitle, this book tells us that it is a guide to "How to choose the best bread, cheeses, olive oil, pasta, chocolate and much more" and that is exactly what it is. Oh, there are lots of great cookbooks out there, and while it includes a number of recipes, the focus of this book comes before you even start to preheat the oven. This book is about how to understand what is at the heart of a good ingredient and how to pick from the often dizzying array of choices available to us these days.

You know what I mean. You need, say, olive oil, and out you head to the store, whether it be the local supermarket or a fancy food shop. Now, how to pick? Imported from Italy..or Spain..or how about the domestic oil from California. Is that very expensive one really better, or can we save a buck and still get a quality product. What is with this 'extra virgin' and 'cold pressed' and why is some of it so expensive..and some not so much..and does it all really make a difference?

Well, have no fear! Mr. Weinzweig, one of the owners of what is considered one of the best deli's and food emporiums in the US, Zingerman's of Michigan, has volunteered in this book to be our guide to six different groups of ingredients- oils and vinegars, grains and rice, cheese, meat and fish, seasonings and wrapping it all up with honey, vanilla and, my personal favs, chocolate and tea.

For each ingredient, he takes us on a little travelogue, from a Parmigiano dairy to visit the cows that are key to a wonderful cheese and Valencia to see what sort of rice we need for a perfect paella. Needless to say, you will not look at that stuff in the green can or old Uncle Ben quite the same way again. As he says in the introduction, he wants each of us to become a 'mindful eater', to overcome our intimidation at the man behind the counter, to actually do our own taste tests and compare the differences, how they look and feel and smell. He helps us do this by giving us some knowledge, his opinion on the best brands and some great online sources to buy them too.

A fascinating, and fun, read, with cute illustrations, a ton of information, a perfect read for the foodie, the would be foodie..or just someone who wants to know their oolong from their assam.

Now, to entice you just a little more, I will pick a recipe to share from the book...and it is hard to pick just one. I confess, I have not made it, yet, but it sounds like a lovely summer dish. I need to go shopping...

Pugliese Orecchiette and Broccoli Rabe

Serves 4

Orecchiette is the prestigious pasta of Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot. The name means "little ears," and the indentations in the pasta catch the sauce. The rim of the orecchiette, a bit thicker than the depressed center, stays firm when you cook it, creating an interesting textural contrast as you eat.
The traditional Pugliese way to eat orecchiette is with broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, in a simple sauce seasoned with hot peppers and anchovies. It has become one of my favorite meals.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile pepper, chopped, or hot red pepper flakes,
preferably Marash (see page 58 of book), to taste, plus more for serving
3 anchovy fillets
Coarse sea salt to taste
1 pound orecchiette
1 small bunch broccoli rabe or dandelion greens
(4 ounces without tough stems), coarsely chopped
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in another large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the serrano pepper or pepper flakes and sauté, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup of hot water from the other pot and the anchovy fillets to the onion mixture. (They'll melt into the sauce, so there's no need to chop them.)

When the water in the first pot boils, add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and the orecchiette, stir well, and cook until the pasta is almost al dente.

Meanwhile, add the broccoli rabe or dandelion greens to the onion mixture. Stir, add a pinch of salt and another 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the pasta is done. Add more of the pasta cooking water, if necessary, to keep the greens "saucy."

Drain the pasta and add it to the greens. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes, or until well combined. Add a little more olive oil, some grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper. Serve in warm bowls with a dollop of ricotta cheese and additional hot pepper flakes on the side.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. Oh, this does sound wonderful! I love "cookbooks" that also take me on a culinary vacation. I will definitely have to check it out.

  2. I always wanted to go to Ann Arbor just so I could go to Zingerman's, but I never could convince anyone that was a good enough reason to make the trip!

  3. it does seem like a slightly weak

  4. Zingerman's is so worth the trip! Of course, Ann Arbor is worth the trip all on its own. But we used to drive the 45 minutes each way just to hit the deli. I love Zingerman's! I don't have this book though. Hum, just another excuse to visit the store next time I visit my parents.

  5. This does sound like a fabulous resource! I'm sure there are ways I could be saving money at the grocery store.

  6. I like the idea of this book. Olive oil and vinegar are two items I'm always uncomfortable buying. There are so many choices. I'm going to check this book out.

  7. Oh man, this looks like something I NEED. I do pick up tips and things from Food and Wine, and I will go to the ends of the earth to find the best ingredients. a birthday in a couple of days. I think I can justify the purchase!

  8. This sounds like a useful book. I have to go and have a look whether it is available over here. Should think so. I need that!

  9. Hi!
    Great book! I guess I'll have to check this out as I never know which olive oil to buy. Have a great day!

    Just Books

  10. reading this cook will really makes for a more knowledgeable shopper on some of these stable will also make you


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