This guest post was written by Samatha Tackeff over at The Second Lunch. Please welcome her!
One of the most common requests I get at Omnivore Books is for really useful cookbooks: easy (but not boring) recipes – with pictures please! – for relatively healthy food that would be good for someone either starting a family, wanting to learn how to cook, or just looking for something to get excited about. I’m pretty sure I’ve found the perfect one: Mad Hungry Feeding Men and Boys is one of the best cookbooks I’ve come across in the past year. “Just ignore the title!” I say, pleadingly when the customer gives me a skeptical look- this book is for EVERYONE. And after about 45 seconds of flipping through it, they are sold.
Usually when I pick up a new cookbook, I read it through, cover to cover, and then maybe make a recipe or two. I keep cookbooks for inspiration, but rarely stick to the details – it’s just adding to my body of knowledge and helps to make me a better cook. In the few months that I’ve had this cookbook, though, I’ve been inspired to pick it up again and again, cooking more than a dozen of its recipes. And every one of them has turned out deliciously.
Mad Hungry has even taught me new tricks in the kitchen. Each page of this cookbook is filled with those ingenious steps that you feel like slapping yourself for having not learned sooner. This book is about good food, empowering your family to cook, and passing down cooking skills that would otherwise leave our cultural consciousness.
“Cook for the men in your life and teach them to cook for themselves”
When I first came across Mad Hungry – Feeding Men and Boys I was a little skeptical. Ok, really skeptical. I went to a women’s college, and anything that suggests catering to men immediately alerts my “is it sexist???” alarm. But after thinking about it – having grown up with lots of boys and currently living with a hungry man – I will concede that they require a lot more food, and won’t settle for say, a bowl of roasted broccoli for dinner. And the author has great primary experience as the mother of three teenage boys. Feeding a family takes skill and experience, and this book will help you get there.
In addition to being a mom, Lucinda Scala Quinn is the Executive Food Director at Martha Stewart Omnimedia and is passionate about teaching. It takes just a glance at the organization of this book to know you are in capable hands. The beginning starts with the “Ten Tenets”, what Quinn calls an action plan for how and why to feed your family. The book is then organized into useful categories – “Tools, Flavors, and Theories” – a crash course on kitchen tools, shopping, creating a pantry, meal planning, and enhancing your cooking, and then breaks down into aptly titled: “Breakfast – The virtue of a thankless task”, “Lunch – It really matters”, “What’s for Dinner? The most burning question”, and finally “Down-home Desserts – they’ll take it any way they can get it”.
Here are some of the recipes I’ve tried:
Blueberry Bran Muffins (p.49): These have been great for both breakfast and afternoon snacks. A perfect combination of moist muffins that aren’t too sweet and pack a healthy punch, I had no problem making these as suitable replacement for an on-the-go meal. They also lasted well for a whole week. Another time I made the Creamy Spiced Oatmeal (p.36) for breakfast, and found it incredibly satisfying. I also made myself the Spiced Chai Lattes (p.58) a few times, which I consumed both in the morning and the evening with great pleasure. Quinn has several other delicious-looking recipes for drinks in her book, which I’m fairly sure I’ll be making soon!
One cold afternoon, I cracked out Quinn’s recipe for Lentil Vegetable Soup (p. 87) and was charmed by the deep flavors and crunchy topping of home made croutons. I’ve also made a few of her salads – a.k.a. “Boy Salads” – including the White Bean Salad (p.100) (pictured above), featuring a recipe for a very useful Rose’s Vinaigrette (p.96), which I’ve made more than a few times and keep extra of in my fridge.
Another day I made her Chinese Celery Salad (p. 103), a perfect use of celery served as a vegetable rather than a garnish (i.e., a saving grace when I have extra celery in my farm box). I ate it with her Cold Sesame Noodles (p.104), another winner.
Quinn dedicates a whole section of her book to chicken (she has two pages of ‘chicken answers’ to common chicken cooking questions) and I’ve tried quite a few of the recipes. My favorite was the Flat Roasted Chicken (p.120) – I did it with a half chicken from the market (did you know that you can buy a half chicken? I did not), roasting some potatoes, shallots, and carrots in the same pan. I’ve also made the Baked Chicken with Honey-Whole-Grain Mustard Glaze (p.122) , a recipe created by one of her sons, and eaten it with the Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges (p.200) (see the picture below). Then I made the Vinegar Glossed Chicken (p.129) and served it another night over some creamy polenta.
On a night I was craving seafood, I cracked out her recipe for Shrimp Scampi (p.172) on whole wheat shells, served with her recipe for Caramelized Cauliflower (p.202). If you haven’t been cooking caramelized cauliflower, it’s the most rewarding thing: toss cauliflower with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place it in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning mid-way through. It’s crispy, sweet, and unlike anything else. It will convert even the cauliflower haters, I swear.
And on the advice of my friend Kristin, I went ahead and made the Pork Chops with Apples (p.162) even though I rarely make pork chops – and the use of spiced cider in this dish made it a smashing success.
Of Quinn’s desserts, I made the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 252) (see note and recipe below).
- The author runs not only a busy test kitchen at Martha Stewart, but holds the helm of a busy home kitchen too. Her tips and tricks are tried and true, and will help anyone who picks this book up become a more successful cook.
- This is home cooking for the modern kitchen – the variety of flavors and ethnic influences in here are refreshing – ranging from classic American cooking to Mexican, South Asian, or fusion such as an Italian-Greek twist on a Korean specialty called “Paulbimbop”.
- Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys is a well designed hardcover cookbook with beautiful photos, excellent design and an easy to read layout. This is a cookbook that you want in your kitchen both for how it looks and how it performs. Bonus – makes for a great gift!
- The title and broad concept of the book may be a hard sell. This is easily mitigated by flipping through the cookbook and actually taking a look at the contents.
- I’ve noticed one typo – actually in the cookie recipe below (she called for the dough to be dropped in teaspoons whereas it should have been tablespoons. Otherwise, every other recipe that I tried seemed correct.
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pans
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon water
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (Note: I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips, a recommendation of America’s Test Kitchen for their superior chocolate taste and shape – and they’re slightly flatter because of a higher cacao butter content)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter or line 2 rimmed baking sheets.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and water. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.
- Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, spacing the dough 1 inch apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly golden in color. Remove to cooking racks.
Supplies needed for these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies:
If you bake a lot of cookies, or plan to start, invest in a few supplies that will make the effort much easier. Goodbye crusty old pan, and hello:
- Rimmed baking sheets (also known as jelly-roll pans or half-sheet pans)
- Baking parchment paper or plastic heat-proof liners for baking sheets to prevent cookie from sticking; Silpat is a good brand
- Wire cooling racks, which allow air to circulate and quickly cool cookies. Choose racks that fit inside your baking sheets so they can be used in a variety of ways
- Thin metal spatula for lifting the baked cookies onto the cooling racks
Quinn’s notes for Successful Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies:
- Space the cookies at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheets to prevent them from melding together during baking
- Rotate the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking
- Let the cookies cool on the hot baking sheets for one to two minutes before transferring to a wire rack