Friday, January 11, 2008

Encore, please!

I really want to like this Jack Bishop recipe. But I don't. Certainly, it's okay. But it's not stellar. It doesn't transport me. It just leaves me flat. Full, but flat. Part of it is ingredient error. I used Muir Glen brand diced tomatoes, and the pieces are too big. I should have chopped them up a bit, but I didn't. When I want beans and tomatoes, I want BEANS and tomatoes, not beans and TOMATOES. So, it's my own fault that I didn't fix that. But as usual, I was in a hurry. I also really like to follow a recipe without a riff the first time. After all, the author got paid MONEY to write their cookbook. I get paid bupkiss to cook from it. So, they must know more than me, right?

It seems like I've had a lot of uneven success with Jack Bishop recipes. When they work, they are sublime simplicity. They are always quick, and I like his balance of healthy ingredients when they work, and going with the less-healthy-but-better-in-this-dish when they don't. However, he just isn't one of those cookbook authors who I feel I could pull anything they have published and cook from it, ending with a happy dance. I feel that way about Ina Garten. I feel that way about anything Cook's Illustrated publishes. So far, I feel that way about everything I've cooked from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Robin Robertson never steers me wrong, either. So why is it that Bishop, a noted cookbook author, doesn't always get it right? I don't know, but I think I must turn my recipe instincts on when cooking from his cookbooks.

But wait! There's more! We haven't talked about this recipe yet. One of my issues with this was the bread crumb topping. It's not that I don't treasure bread crumbs, for I love all things yeast-based. But I had a concern about topping a 6-serving dish with breadcrumbs, then eating two servings. What, I asked, would happen to the toasty layer of bread crumbs on the remainder of the dish as it sat in the refrigerator? Here is where I must admit that I'm not a big fan of insanely, considering it nothing but soggy bread that sat too near leaking tomatoes. I could see a bread crumb version of this salad forming on top of my casserole, rendering the leftovers inedible. So, I made our servings in two ramekins (just purchased in the Crate and Barrel after-Christmas sale, thank you very much), topped them with bread crumbs, and broiled them. I then toasted the rest of the bread crumbs in a skillet and toasted them, storing them in a plastic bag after they cooled.

Well, let me tell you, the thick layer of bread crumbs in the original servings were panzanella-ish on the bottom, although nice and crisp on the top. We ate it. It was fine. I wasn't excited about eating it again. But I did--I took it for lunch today. (Yes, this is a stealth blog entry--I made this two days ago, but had to choose between sleep and posting.) It was better today, scattered with the fully toasted bread crumbs. However, it still isn't grabbing me. However, I have a plan. I think I know what to do with the remainder that will be really, really yummy. You'll have to check back, though, to find out. I think it will be tomorrow's lunch, maybe even tomorrow's breakfast. See you then!

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