Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Book Review: The Homemade Kitchen

Book Review: The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila (4.5 stars, which means I'll round to 5.)

This cookbook attracted me because several years ago, by necessity of my son’s health, I had to become a from-scratch cook. I couldn’t pop a frozen meal in the oven any more. So began my food journey. And along the way, I fell in love not so much with cooking, but with food. I learned that cooking from scratch changes your palate, you can taste the fillers and the thickeners and the sweeteners in processed foods—and they don’t taste good. And I learned to taste the nuances of foods. In short, I became a foodie.

So Chernila’s cookbook with its emphasis on courageous cooking and making things from scratch intrigued me. And I’m delighted to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

One of the best things I made from this cookbook was feta cheese. Wow! It was easier than I thought, affordable, and delicious. Creamy and salty without a hint of bitterness.

This is what it takes to make feta. Milk, salt, rennet, starter,
cheesecloth, and water.
Separating the curds from the whey.

The shakshuka recipe was great. I love shakshuka and this recipe had a perfect blend of fresh spices with the tomatoes and eggs. It’s my favorite go-to recipe when making lunch or dinner just for myself with a side of feta or goat cheese. (Sorry, there isn't a photo. Can't believe I didn't take one.)

And the whole family loved the Butter Lettuce with Dates and Ricotta. (Though I used goat cheese instead of ricotta—I’m not fond of ricotta’s texture.)

I also made the preserved lemons, which have uses in many Middle Eastern and North African dishes.

The preserved lemons were made with water, lots of kosher salt, bay leaves, and cardamon pods. And I'll admit, I've eaten the preserved lemons on their own. Yummy marriage of salt and sour.

On the downside, no one would eat Ricotta Mousse. But if you’re a ricotta-lover, it might be perfect for you. And the Coq Au Vin with Buttermilk Spaetzel was a lot of work, and not worth the effort. If I were going to remake this dish, I’d make it with dumplings. And I’d allow a much longer, slower cooking time to give the flavors more time to blend and penetrate the meat. (The meal was better when we had the leftovers for lunch the second day.)

Here I am making the spaetzel.

There are several
recipes I can’t wait to try. Radish butter. And Muhammara (a Turkish red pepper spread)—but my sumac supplier ran out. So I’ll have to order from Penzey’s.

And while I was doing a lot of cooking during our vacation, my husband was doing a watercolor. (And he helped with the cooking, especially the spaetzel--that dough was stiff.)

(I received this cookbook from Blogging for Books for a review.)


  1. Your recipes look really interesting! I'm a fan of Spätzle from when I lived in Germany :)

  2. Thanks, Megan! You should try the coq au vin recipe. I think you'd love it.

  3. This looks awesome! I'll have to check it out--I've been really into antique cookbooks lately for the back-to-basics cooking instruction they provide.

    PS I heart Penzey's.

    1. Rowenna, Penzey's is great. I need to order some Za'atar too. I used to be able to get it at World Market, but they aren't carrying it anymore. (Though if I order enough sumac, I could mix up my own za'atar. Yum!)

  4. It's great to hear you enjoy cooking from scratch. Takes longer, sure, but it is so much better. And... this is gonna sound weird... I think it's FUN, too. (Then again, I am kinda weird... the ONLY kind of shopping I enjoy is food shopping.) There's also a certain amount of pride involved in creating healthy nutritious dishes with fresh herbs, and homemade sauces and meats.

    I've never made homemade spaetzel, though, which is something I should try. It'd be great with sauerbraten, one of my absolute favorites.

    Great review!

  5. If it was my house, this would be the other way around. My husband would be in the kitchen, and I'd be in the creative mode. =)

  6. This book looks and sounds like something I'd enjoy going through. I'm still getting around to from scratch cooking, but I've noticed how much it makes a difference to the way I taste food to cut cane sugar out of my diet.