A sign of a good cookbook is one that inspires me to make the recipes, and that is just what “Modern Cookbook” did for me. What a lovely modern take on Potluck Food! These are all recipes you can also make and serve around the table at home. Kristin Donnelly brilliantly put together a wide collection of recipes from appetizers, drinks, salads and main dishes and desserts, all meant to be shared. By modern, Kristin explains she uses condiments newer to the modern pantry such as fish sauce, and the North African style condiment harissa which is a flavorful red pepper paste. She also uses more vegetables than in traditional potluck dishes and avoids processed foods…all ideas I can quickly get behind and embrace as this is how I prefer to cook on a regular basis.
In the book, there are plenty of potluck organizational ideas, food safety advice and assembly tips and tricks, and many new recipes and flavor combinations I’ve never seen before. I found myself wanting to try several recipes from each section, but surprisingly the dessert section had me most captivated. “Snacks and Dips” was the first lot of recipes and the Red Pepper, Eggplant and Walnut dip, and Watermelon Aqua Fresca caught my eye. In the “Main Course Salads and Room Temperature” section I found a great recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad with Salt and Pepper Candied Cashews. As soon as I saw the recipe, I started compiling a short shopping list and knew it would be dinner for my family the very same day I read the book. With ingredients like pulled rotisserie chicken, Napa cabbage, cilantro, and carrots, and a dressing made of lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, tahini, fresh ginger, olive oil, and chili garlic sauce, I knew this would be a winner for a casual summer night dinner. What takes this salad to the next level is the suggested accompaniment of Salt and Pepper Candied Cashews Recipe on pg. 220, I was pretty excited to make the cashews for the salad and they came out really well. My husband was beyond excited when he walked in the door and saw these cooling on the counter and tasted them after a long day at work…he said they were better than anything you could buy from the store, I would have to agree with him. Pictured below are the Salt and Pepper Candied Cashews which are crunchy, sweet, salty, and peppery-from black pepper, they are fantastic as a snack or on the salad as suggested.
The Chinese Chicken Salad, by the way, was light, flavorful and crave worthy. It is different from any other Chicken Salad I’ve made. I love the flavors of the tahini and the fresh ginger in the perfectly seasoned dressing, and the Salt and Pepper Candied Cashews really elevate the salad to the next level. I would definitely make this recipe again, my family loved it! Win!
Pictured Above: The Chinese Chicken Salad with Salt and Pepper Candied Cashews…I absolutely loved the first recipe I made from Kristin Donnelly’s book “Modern Potluck”.
The book continues with a “Slow Cooked-Hot” section. The Pumpkin Beer and Turkey Chili with Butternut Squash and beans looked tasty. I guess a potluck book would not be complete with out a “9 x 13 Pan” section, and the No Noodle Lasagna with Mushroom Bolognese and Ricotta looked tempting with a creative use of thinly sliced celery root as a substitute for the noodles. The “Baked and Savory”, “Sweets”, and “Condiments” sections were the last few sections of recipes in the book. I found myself drawn to recipes like, Spiced Carrot and Goat Cheese Strudel, Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Jam Cheesecake Bars, Lemon Berry Bundt cake with Ricotta, Cranberry Jam Streusel Bars with Walnuts, Plum Ginger Coffee Cake with Coconut, Triple Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango and Lime, Lemon Olive Oil Zucchini Bread, Potato Chip Crusted Magic Bars, Sweet and Salty Pistachio Cardamom Short Bread. I look forward to trying many delicious looking recipes from this book and I am really grateful I had the opportunity to receive and review the book with my honest opinions through “Blogging for Books”.
Since my initial review of the book I have made a few more of the recipes. The Watermelon Aqua Fresca, is really refreshing. I knew this would be good because my friend’s husband who is from Dominica made a similar drink for me when I was visiting them in Belize and I loved it. I made a huge batch for a party and it was enjoyed. I made the drink non alcoholic by not adding the bitters.
I also tired the Strawberry Jam and the Strawberry Jam Cheesecake Bars. As soon as I saw these pictured in the book I could not get them out of my mind so I made these for a party I was hosting-generally I follow Ina Garten’s rule of never making an item for a party that I have not tried first…I’ve broken that rule a few times and I always learn she is right. The good: The strawberry jam is delicious and so is the cheesecake filling. The bad: The buckwheat in the crust has a sharp finishing aftertaste. Just when you bite into what tastes like a buttery traditional graham cracker crust and have a bite of the wonderful cheesecake and jam, you get the assertive sharp taste of buckwheat at the end. I much prefer a traditional graham cracker crust but my guests said they liked the bars. I personally was not thrilled with the taste of the crust although the texture was great. I would keep the jam recipe and cheesecake recipe and even though graham crackers are processed, change up the crust and used crushed Organic graham crackers instead of the buckwheat.