250 Cookbooks: Tastes Great! Summer Salads and Barbecue

Cookbook #2: Tastes Great! Summer Salads and Barbecue. Published by Safeway Stores in 1989. (Opus Productions Inc.)

Tastes Great

Okay, time to choose my second cookbook. I close my eyes and reach out my left hand and my right hand, and lay each on a book. My eyes still closed, I explore each book: one is big and one is small. Since my last book was big, I choose the small one. I open my eyes.

Yuck, just a “supermarket” book. Published by Safeway Stores. This ought to be pretty boring. I open it and start reading. Hey, this recipe looks good . . . and this one too! In a few minutes I find almost ten recipes I am interested in. I am pleasantly surprised! I read the preface and find that the cookbook celebrates Safeway’s 65 anniversary. “Summer is a time for friends and family, warm weather, and most of all – great food.” And everything I need is available at Safeway. Sounds good.

In fact, the recipes do list ingredients that I keep in my pantry. I don’t have to go to the store to search for anything but perhaps the main ingredient, like the meat or chicken. A plus.

The barbecue section is geared to charcoal-type barbecues, but the authors tell me that “the cooking times and directions are for any type of barbecue, including today’s popular and widely used gas barbecues.” That’s friendly.

Will I use this cookbook again? Definitely. Besides several grilling recipes, I want to try a few of the salads: Chinese Chicken Salad, Summer Pea and Bacon Salad, and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette. I like that the recipe for Caesar Salad is just like the one in my Joy of Cooking, right down to letting a clove of garlic stand in olive oil for several hours, then using that garlic-olive oil to fry white bread for croutons. Good, basic down-to-earth cooking.

Recipe: Colorado Chuck Steak on the Grill
4 stars

A thick chuck steak is great barbecue family fare. Try this boneless chuck steak slow-cooked on the grill with a lid. Accompany with old-fashioned scalloped potatoes, fresh broccoli, and a loaf of Best-Ever Garlic Bread. [Cookbook authors’ note.]

1 4- to 5-lb. boneless chuck roast, cut 2″ thick
Spicy Red Wine Marinade (recipe follows)

Prepare the marinade. Place chuck steak in a shallow dish and cover with the marinade, turning to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours, turning once. Bring steak and marinade to room temperature while preparing coals to medium-hot, 45 minutes.

Place grill 6″ above coals. Oil grill. Place meat on grill, reserving all marinade. Place lid on barbecue, with the draft vents open. Cook steak, basting frequently with the marinade and turning with tongs, until done, about 30 minutes total cooking time. Make a tiny cut to check for medium-rare. Remove cooked steak from the grill, and place on a carving board. Allow meat to stand 10 minutes, then slice across the grain into thin slices. Heat any remaining marinade in a small pan on the grill, and spoon over servings, if desires.

Spicy Red Wine Marinade

1/3 cup salad oil
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and minced
1 large clove garlic, peeled and pressed
1 cup tomato-based chili sauce (hamburger-type, bottled)
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. horseradish (prepared, not creamed)
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke flavoring
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. each thyme and oregano leaves
1 Tbsp. cracked black peppercorns

Heat the salad oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion, and saute 1 minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients, bring mixture to a simmer, and cook over low heat uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature.

Comments on Recipe

I invited family over for this meal, since “A thick chuck steak is great barbecue family fare.” Personally, I might have given the recipe 3 stars, but my guests said “4 stars”. Probably there is a “politeness” bias in their 4 stars, but I’ll let it stand.

Cooking instructions are pretty brief: put the meat on a medium-hot charcoal grill and cook 30 minutes, turning and basting. I will pull in my years of experience with my particular gas grill and include them here, since it worked.

My grill has three burners. I preheated the grill by turning the front two burners to the highest setting until the thermometer in the grill’s lid registered 400˚F. Then, I turned the burners down to 75% heat, scrubbed the grill, and lay the meat on the grill over the front burners (direct heat). I left the meat over direct heat for 10 minutes, turning once and basting. Then I moved it to indirect heat (the back burner that I never turned on), keeping the temperature of the gas grill at 375˚, as much as possible.

I kept turning and basting every 5-10 minutes. After 20 minutes cooking time, I began testing for doneness. Instead of making a tiny cut to check this, I  used my instant-read thermometer. According to the chart that I use, the meat should be 125-135˚ for medium rare.

My total cooking time was 35 minutes. I meant to pull the meat off the grill at 135˚ internal temperature, but missed that point and pulled it at 140˚. Then I let it rest over half an hour. It was cooked perfectly, pink but not raw. The meat was very tasty. My only complaint was that the meat was a little chewy, even when cut into thin slices.

The marinade is unusual in that it was simmered before the meat was placed in it. The simmering made it thick and boosted the flavor. I was apprehensive grilling a chuck roast, because I usually braise them – long, slow, moist cooking to render them tender. I was surprised it turned out as well as it did. It’s a cheap cut of meat, and it’s always nice to have easy and inexpensive company main dish recipes in your repertoire.

And what to do with the leftovers? Barbecue beef sandwiches!

Beef doneness temperatures


I use the chart on page 70 of my Weber’s Real Grilling (2005) cookbook:

rare 120-125˚ F (USDA recommends not cooking meat this rare)
medium-rare 125-135˚ F (USDA recommends 145˚ F)
medium 135-145˚ (USDA recommends 160˚ F)
medium-well 145-155˚ F
well-done 155˚ F + (USDA recommends 170˚ F)

The lower values are “chef standards”. The USDA does not agree, so use these lower values at your own risk. The chef standards listed above agree with several of my other grilling cookbooks.

Sea scallops


“Sea” scallops are the big-sized scallops, as opposed to “bay” scallops. They are usually pretty expensive.

Sea scallops can be purchased “wet” or “dry”, and dry is preferred because they don’t splatter (and shrink) while cooking, and also because they don’t have chemical additives. They are not labeled wet or dry on the package, although if you read the ingredients you might figure it out. But if you buy them at a seafood counter, the counter-person usually won’t be able to tell you much about the wet or dry thing. If you pay a lot, you probably are getting dry scallops, but you can’t be sure.

In 2012 I came upon a Cooks Illustrated discussion of how to tell whether you have purchased wet or dry scallops. Take one scallop and put it on a paper towel in the microwave. Microwave on high for 15 seconds. If the paper towel has a lot of water on it, they are wet; if not, they are dry. (You can go ahead and use the zapped scallop in a recipe.)

If you have wet scallops, all is not lost. According to Cooks Illustrated: “soak them in a solution of 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes.”

250 Cookbooks: Cooking Light Cookbook 1992

Cookbook #1: Cooking Light Cookbook 1992. Published in 1992 by Oxmoor House.

Cooking Light 1992This 1992 cookbook gathers several hundred recipes from the magazine Cooking Light. (The magazine is still in publication in 2012.) The recipes include appetizers, breakfasts, breads, main dishes, and desserts. All are slanted towards a low-calorie, low-salt diet.

I am determined to report on one recipe from each of my cookbooks, and I am determined to follow each recipe as exactly as possible. Even if I don’t like the cookbook. Even if I would rather substitute ingredients or amounts. Even if the recipe turns out to be a disaster. This is probably unlike any other cooking blog you will see. Just wanted to state that before I get going.

Okay, Cooking Light Cookbook 1992. I could not find a single recipe in the book that I really wanted to make and for which I had all of the exact ingredients, and I have a brimming pantry. Listen to this partial list in one of its recipes: “3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, 1 teaspoon white wine Worcestershire sauce, 3 tablespoons vodka.” I have a black thumb, so any “fresh sage” would have to be harvested wild from the weeds around my house (or purchased for this one recipe from a store). “White wine Worcestershire sauce”, who the heck keeps that on hand? If I could find any buried on a back shelf, I’m sure it would be way past its expiration date. And vodka? 3 tablespoons? I don’t keep vodka in the house because it would call to me. Or if I bought a bottle and used 3 tablespoons, the rest would probably go into the cook and then who knows how the dinner would manifest.

Here are more examples of recipe ingredients in this cookbook:

  • red currant jelly
  • Montrachet goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • low-sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • low-sodium soy sauce
  • low-sodium chicken broth
  • reduced calorie mayonnaise
  • skim milk
  • no salt added tomato sauce

The red currant jelly is not used in many other recipes, meaning one would have to purchase it specially for that recipe and then figure out what to do with the rest. Why specify Montrachet goat cheese? What do you do with the rest of the can of the concentrated orange juice? Why bother with low-sodium Worcestershire sauce when it is usually only used by the teaspoon in a recipe? And as to the low-sodium and low-fat products, yes, they might make a difference. But it is tiring seeing “low-fat-low-salt” listed in every recipe. Why not just state once in the introduction: “Always choose low-salt ingredients when possible” and leave it at that?

Why did I buy this cookbook? Probably to get ideas for low-calorie meals. It’s an ongoing battle for me, to eat good food but not gain weight. I probably incorporated many ideas from cookbooks like this one into my own cooking and shopping practices. Yes I keep low sodium soy sauce in my pantry, yes I use low-sodium chicken broth (homemade). But the  book talks ad nauseam about how we can all benefit from adopting a plan of good nutrition and exercise to bring about a healthier lifestyle. Yes, we hear this a lot. Some cookbooks deal with it better than others. This one is a bit irritating.

Would I use or read this cookbook again? Maybe. I might check it for an idea for a main or side dish or how to lighten up a dessert recipe, but not much else, and I would not follow a recipe exactly. The cookbook is dated, but not dated enough to be “interesting”. It may go into the recycling bin. (Hey, it’s selling for $1.99 on Ebay!)

One plus for this cookbook. A couple decades ago, I must have perused this book a lot, because I tucked a lot of light-style clipped recipes into it. One of those is “Stir Fry Shrimp Salad”. That one is a keeper, with orzo, shrimp, broccoli, and mushrooms in a cool summer salad. Ask me for the recipe, it’s yours.

I decided to try Sweet-and-Hot Scallops because I had some scallops in the freezer and I thought the mix of pineapple and vegetables sounded interesting. And hot bean paste, what’s that? An unusual ingredient for a 1992 American cookbook, for sure. I had some trouble finding it in a store (details) but it was a fun search.

A second plus for the cookbook. We liked the following recipe!

Recipe: Sweet-and-Hot Scallops
4 stars

Vegetable cooking spray
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1/2 cup diagonally sliced carrot
1/2 cup sliced onion
1 (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
6 ounces fresh snow pea pods, trimmed
1 pound sea scallops
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth, undiluted
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon hot bean paste [see note]
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
3 cups cooked long-grain rice (cooked without fat or salt)

Coat a wok or large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add oil. Place over medium-high heat (375˚) until hot. Add carrot, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add onion, and stir-fry one minute.

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Add pineapple, snow peas, and water chestnuts to wok; stir-fry 1 minute. Add scallops and chopped green onions; stir-fry 3 minutes. Combine broth and next 4 ingredients; add to scallop mixture. Cook until mixture is thickened and thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Serve over cooked rice. Yield: 6 servings (272 calories per serving).

Hot bean paste note: If you cannot find this, use any other very hot sauce you have, or chop up a teaspoon or less of fresh jalapeno, or a little tobasco. There is nothing “magic” about the bean paste other than the heat it brings to the dish. I often have chili paste (sambal oelek – the link tells you how to make your own) on hand, as it keeps forever in the refrigerator – it would work in this dish.

Comments on recipe

We liked this dish. It was just a little bit different from my usual stir-fries, with the pineapple and hot bean paste. Next time, I’d use double the amount of hot bean paste. I made a half-recipe for the two of us, and it was still a light meal. But tasty!

I never cook just carrots first, I always start cooking a stir-fry with onions. But, I followed the recipe, and was rewarded with something fun. When I added the onions to the cooking carrots, they turned a lovely shade of orange from the beta-carotene in the carrots:

carrots and onionsI don’t know why the printed recipe states to drain the pineapple and reserve the juice. It isn’t used in the recipe, and no explanation for saving the juice was given.

Here is the final presentation:


Asian condiments


Banana sauce is a Phillipine condiment made from sugar, banana, salt, and spices. It’s a lot like ketchup but has a nice little kick. According to Wikipedia, Filipinos use it on about everything. They also state “banana ketchup was made when there was a shortage of tomato ketchup during World War II, due to lack of tomatoes and a comparatively high production of bananas.” The banana sauce I bought tastes like a zingy ketchup.

banana sauceBean sauce is made from soy beans, sugar, salt, wheat flour, and sesame seed oil. According to the Cook’s Thesaurus, it is also known as bean sauce, bean paste, or brown bean paste.

bean sauceHoisin sauce is a bean sauce that is both sweet and garlicky. I can find hoisin sauce in just about any large market in Colorado. Like American ketchup, each brand tastes a little different. I have a feeling that the versions I buy are quite Americanized. But pick some up sometime, and try it in my Moo Shoo Turkey, or add it to barbeque sauce, use it on steaks, add to a stir fry. (See the Cook’s Thesaurus too.)

hoisin sauceHot bean paste, an Asian ingredient, can be hard to find. I looked for it at Safeway and Whole Foods but could not find it. I saw hot chile paste and black bean garlic paste. Finally I went to the local Asian market and found a large can of hot bean sauce:

hot bean sauceI bought it and brought it home (it cost $2.79). But I worried that it was not the correct ingredient. Luckily, The Cook’s Thesaurus has put up a great page explaining the different Asian condiments. Accessed 2012, this quote:

“chile bean paste = chili bean paste = chili bean sauce = chilli bean sauce = bean paste with chili = hot bean paste  Notes:  This reddish-brown sauce is made from fermented soybeans and hot chilies.  It’s very hot.”

From that great equivalents list, I feel confident that I found the right ingredient.

Red curry paste is listed as “red curry paste = nam prik kaeng daeng” on the same Cook’s Thesaurus web page. I found it recently (2012) at either Safeway or Whole Foods in a small jar.

red curry paste

Years ago I found it in bulk at an Asian market in Denver. That was right after I took the “Thai One On” cooking class. In class, we made this paste, but that recipe has 16 ingredients, including possibly hard-to-find lemongrass, galangal, coriander root, kaffir lime zest, and shrimp paste. I’m happy with the little jar above!

Sweet and Sour Sauce is a condiment that all Americans who have ever visited a Chinese restaurant are familiar with. The flavors of this sauce vary a lot depending on the brand you purchase. Or you can make it yourself using one of many recipes available on the internet (for instance, this one on the AboutFood.com site.)

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Plum Sauce is also known as Chinese duck sauce, Chinese plum sauce, or duck sauce. According to the label, it is made from salted plums, sugar, vinegar, and peppers. You can make it at home using the Recipe Source’s recipe – that recipe uses both plums and apricots.

Plum Sauce

250 Cookbooks

The story is, I am retired. It took a couple years after the incident of retirement, but I finally found the time to organize all of my cookbooks. I counted them: I have 250 cookbooks! (Never, ever get me a cookbook as a gift. Please. Well, maybe one more . . . )

I not only counted my cookbooks, I entered the titles, publication dates, authors, and more into a database. The oldest, from my grandmother, was published in 1905. I have my mother’s cookbooks, from small pamphlets to large cookbooks, with her notes written on many of the recipes. I have the books I got before we had kids, when I was looking for “natural” foods. And then the ones I accumulated through the eighties, nineties, and oughts. The newest is dated 2009. That’s over a hundred years of cookbook recipes.

My plan is to cook one recipe from each cookbook and share the results in this blog. A big project! Join me in my journey through this shelf of books.