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The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of Txikito

by Alexandra Raij

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263697,687 (3.92)1
Whether it's a perfectly ripe summer tomato served with just a few slivers of onion and a drizzle of olive oil, salt cod slowly poached in oil and topped with an emulsion of its own juices, or a handful of braised leeks scattered with chopped egg, Basque cooking is about celebrating humble ingredients by cooking them to exquisite perfection. Chefs Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero are masters of this art form, and their New York City restaurant Txikito is renowned for its revelatory preparations of simple ingredients. In this much-anticipated and deeply personal debut, Raij and Montero share more than one hundred recipes from Txikito - all inspired by the home cooking traditions of the Basque Country - that will change the way you cook. Dishes like Salt Cod in Pil Pil sauce have fewer than five ingredients yet will astonish you with their deeply layered textures and elegant flavors. By following Raij's careful but encouraging instructions, you can even master Squid in Its Own Ink - a rite of passage for Basque home cooks, and another dish that will amaze you with its richness and complexity. The Basque Book is a love letter: to the Basque Country, which inspired these recipes and continues to inspire top culinary minds from around the world; to ingredients high and low; and to the craft of cooking well. Read this book, make Basque food, learn to respect ingredients - and, quite simply, you will become a better cook.… (more)
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The Basque Book is quite a satisfying book to read in addition to its quality as a cookbook. Ms Raij, with the help of Rebecca Flint Marx, writes a personal history, the story of her marriage to Eder Montero, and the story of what they are trying to do in their restaurants, with the food of Txikito restaurant taking front and center.

The book's layout is comfortable with the TOC organized by class of food. The headers for each recipe are well written with no wasted words. My only complaint is that sometimes information that was presented earlier is repeated. We read several almost identical sentences about the Basque love of onions.

Because most of us have not been to Basque country, Ms Raij and Mr. Montero offer four sample menus to show us the Basque approach a meal.

The index is alphabetical with recipes listed by themselves and as needed under the important ingredients so a recipe might appear more than once in the index. Individual index entries in Euskera are not translated but appear as a separate entry alphabetized by the first letter. This is an odd choice but it causes no trouble because you can ignore the Euskera and read only the Eng to get where you want. Pantry items, source list and acknowledgements are placed at the end of the book, a placement I like so much better than at the beginning.

I always like the master recipes approach. Here Ms Raij and Mr. Montero (although his voice never really comes through in the text) present basic sauces and preparations that are used over and over again in various dishes. The three onion-based sauces are like nothing I have seen before and I think they will inspire a great deal of thought and experimentation.

There is nothing difficult about the recipes in this book and other than the specific Basque chilies called for, there isn't much that will be difficult to find, although the salt cod in your local supermarket (yes, it is often there, even in the heartland) might not be best quality, you can get the idea on the first try and then revise the recipe to create something great.

Caterers would be one of the audiences for this book, I think, because the ingredients and the preparation are straightforward, but the flavors are complex.

I agree with some other reviewers that I would have liked Ten Speed to have chosen some other photos for us. I am very very curious what "Sardine lasagna" looks like.

On a final note, the cocktail "Kalimotxo" which is red wine and Coke, sometimes with added rum or lime and cinnamon over ice sounds like something from a frat party. I might try it if I ever have all the ingredients in one place, but I don't think I would serve it to guests.

I received an electronic review copy of "The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of Txikito" by Alexandra Raij, Eder Montero, and Rebecca Flint Marx, photos by Penny De Los Santos (Ten Speed) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Aug 7, 2016 |
3.5 Stars
An in-depth introduction to Basque eating, drinking, and cooking with beautiful pictures and eclectic but authentic recipes. It's interesting and well-organized, but for more advanced cooks. There's quite a few seafood recipes, so some ingredients may be harder to come by for landlubbers. There's a nice section on wine that I loved. For more experienced chefs and anyone interested in Basque culture.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. ( )
  LibStaff2 | May 30, 2016 |
The Basque Book by Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero is far more than a cookbook. It’s a primer on a new approach to cookery, an exploration of Basque cuisine and culture and a love story. There is more personal narrative and explanatory text than the average cookbook. The latter is important because Basque cuisine does have a few significant differences that set it apart.

For example, I have never considered brining onions in cold salt water prior to cooking in order to season them more effectively. The onion sauce that is the base of many recipes is new to me, as is the heavy use of salt and olive oil. For example, using a couple tablespoons of salt on a steak? Who would do that? Well, these chefs would before cooking and then brush most of it off so the steak is not salty, but beautifully seasoned.

There is a chapter on some foundational ingredients and sauces in Basque cooking, on the whole Basque approach. I think it’s something worth reading twice over because it has the potential of shifting how you cook, not just in these recipes but in your daily cooking. This cuisine has a very different foundation than what I am used to, so in that aspect, the book was a revelation.

This is definitely a book for seafood lovers. There’s lots of recipes with anchovies, though mostly anchovies in oil. My Swedish cooking background makes me shudder a bit because I want my anchovies in water or in salt. However, they recipes call for salting the anchovies to firm up the flesh so there’s that. But there’s a lot more than anchovies. There’s cod, mussels, crab and every other fishy thing you can think of, it seems.

There are a few, not many, recipes with other meats. She details a way of cooking steak that I am eager to try. I mean, if the pages of this book could be flavored, that page looked like the best steak on the planet. I have never cooked a steak that way, never heard of cooking a steak that way, but I can almost taste it. Unfortunately, my budget is not stretching to big rib steaks, so I will just imagine it for now.

Normally I test the most tempting instead of the most questionable recipes before I write my reviews. For lunch today, I made the Potato and Romano Bean Stew. I chose that recipe to test for this review because it sounded so unlikely. Can the broth really be rich in that cooking time with just some salt? Reading it, I was not able to picture it being particularly delicious. It’s so simple and unadorned. Could it really work? My thinking is that if this recipe as delicious as the introduction promises, then Raij and Montego are miracle workers.

As an aside, slicing the garlic paper thin made me think of Pauly in Goodfellas. True confessions, I did not use a razor.

Well, they were right. I just ate a bowl and am going to have a second. It is delicious and so simple, easy and affordable, some potatoes, beans, salt, garlic and olive oil. Of course, that is the theme of this cookbook, there are many layers of flavor in simple ingredients if they are prepared with intention.

If you love to cook, this is one of the cookbooks you simply must have because it will change the way you cook in subtle ways. I am eager to try incorporating the Basque way of preparing onions into other foods, not just these recipes, but into other cuisines to see how elevating that basic ingredient will add depth and richness to those recipes. I have depended so much on mirepoix in creating new recipes and making standard dishes, but perhaps I might try sofrito instead and see where that takes me. I am excited, not just by these recipes, but to see how my own cookery evolves with these new basics.

I received a copy of The Basque Book from the publisher via Blogging For Books.

http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/the-basque-book/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | May 12, 2016 |
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Whether it's a perfectly ripe summer tomato served with just a few slivers of onion and a drizzle of olive oil, salt cod slowly poached in oil and topped with an emulsion of its own juices, or a handful of braised leeks scattered with chopped egg, Basque cooking is about celebrating humble ingredients by cooking them to exquisite perfection. Chefs Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero are masters of this art form, and their New York City restaurant Txikito is renowned for its revelatory preparations of simple ingredients. In this much-anticipated and deeply personal debut, Raij and Montero share more than one hundred recipes from Txikito - all inspired by the home cooking traditions of the Basque Country - that will change the way you cook. Dishes like Salt Cod in Pil Pil sauce have fewer than five ingredients yet will astonish you with their deeply layered textures and elegant flavors. By following Raij's careful but encouraging instructions, you can even master Squid in Its Own Ink - a rite of passage for Basque home cooks, and another dish that will amaze you with its richness and complexity. The Basque Book is a love letter: to the Basque Country, which inspired these recipes and continues to inspire top culinary minds from around the world; to ingredients high and low; and to the craft of cooking well. Read this book, make Basque food, learn to respect ingredients - and, quite simply, you will become a better cook.

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