The Joy of Cookbooks

SOUTH SHORE HOME, LIFE & STYLE – Opening a cookbook of family recipes is a bit like reaching into a time capsule filled with memories. We found two recently published culinary collections that are perfect examples of this. Each cookbook offers a window into the lives of the authors, and a taste, both literally and figuratively, for their favorite dishes. Penned by friends and neighbors on the South Shore, they prove that food has the power to bring people together—without anyone having to leave the comfort of their home. 

The Creative Table: Inspired Recipes that Nourish, Gather and Unite

Scituate’s Michelle McGrath has always had a “life as art” approach to her career and creative endeavors. While she is best known for her work as a public relations professional, vocal musician and devoted arts advocate, the founder of McGrath PR is also a highly skilled home chef who has spent 40 years perfecting recipes to use when entertaining her family and friends.

The Creative Table cookbook cover, image by McGrath PR

Last summer, while quarantining in her home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, McGrath decided to fill her idle hours by following her culinary passion and publishing a cookbook featuring a selection of her favorite recipes. “The Creative Table: Inspired Recipes that Nourish, Gather and Unite” features 60+ recipes, including unique appetizers, nourishing mains and decadent desserts. 

For McGrath, who has raised three children, cooking has always been a way to cultivate and preserve relationships. The book explores the sentiment that food conjures among friends and family. Personal anecdotes and memories connected with specific dishes are peppered throughout. For example, there are dishes influenced by McGrath’s Polish heritage, seasonal appetizers created while she was working for the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, and yummy baked goods that make perfect gifts for neighbors and family around the holidays.

Each featured dish is beautifully depicted in full-color photos with clear step-by-step instructions. The recipes highlight the use of simple, fresh ingredients as well as pantry staple substitutions and adaptable serving sizes, making it possible to deliver delicious recipes for everyone you love. “The Creative Table” is a culinary chronicle of nostalgic noshes and comforting new favorites that can easily be made at home. McGrath hopes that her cookbook inspires readers to head into the kitchen and cook up some memories together. Cookbooks can be purchased on Amazon and by visiting McGrath’s website, mcgrathpr.com.

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

Ingredients 

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup butter, softened 

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 large eggs

2¾ cups all-purpose unbleached flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Cooking spray

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle blade, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, combine sugar and butter, beating until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the eggs and vanilla, beat on low speed until smooth, scraping the bowl, as needed, with a spatula.  

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a whisk. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture in small batches, mixing on low speed between additions. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips with a wooden spoon, until evenly combined.  Cover the bowl of dough loosely with a lid, and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a baking sheet with cooking spray. Divide the chilled dough into two balls. On a floured surface, form the dough into two 14-inch logs.  Carefully set the logs side by side on the prepared baking sheet, at least 5 inches apart. Bake on the oven’s center rack for 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through cooking time.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.

With a large flat spatula, carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board. Cut the biscotti into ¾-inch thick diagonal slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet, cut side down (a second baking sheet may be needed), and bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Biscotti stays fresh for up to 10 days when stored in a tightly sealed container, or freeze for up to 1 month.

CRAVE: Family Favorite Recipes

In February of last year, Shirley Straface and Carolyn Loiselle, co-presidents of the Friends of the Duxbury Free Library, were tasked with finding an innovative way of fundraising during a pandemic. Knowing that people were spending more time at home, they came up with the idea of creating a cookbook. The result is “Crave: Family Favorite Recipes,” a high-end, beautifully illustrated publication that benefits the Duxbury Free Library.

The Friends of the Duxbury Free Library put a call out to the community for unique and original family recipes and a team of dedicated volunteer editors spent weeks sorting through hundreds of submissions. Many recipes were hand-written and passed down for generations. The team carefully narrowed down their favorites (there were numerous chocolate chip cookie contenders), curating a collection of dishes that families could enjoy every day. The book includes perfected versions of familiar favorites as well as flavorful dishes inspired by a range of cultural backgrounds. 

While the cookbook project was in the works, the name “Crave” was determined to be the perfect title. “We crave normalcy, our friends, and social gatherings,” says Straface. “We crave good food to gather around, for joy and comfort. We crave for our community anchor.”

The book measures 8.5 by 12.5 inches in size and includes over 150 recipes organized by category, from fresh and savory to spicy, hearty, sweet and decadent. Individual recipe contributors were personally recognized and each recipe was edited for accuracy and tested before being professionally plated by local stylists and photographed by Chris Ruggio of Duxbury. The result is a beautiful culinary achievement. To purchase a copy, contact the Friends of the Duxbury Free Library, duxburyfol.org.

Chicken Tikka Masala From Kate Moriarty

Ingredients 

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

6 bamboo skewers, 6 inches in length

Marinade

Kate Moriarty’s Chicken Tikka Masala, courtesy image

1 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1-2 teaspoons ground red pepper

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 piece ginger, 1 inch in length, peeled

and minced

Sauce

1 tablespoon butter, unsalted

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground paprika

1 teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon salt

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 cup heavy cream

1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

¼ cup cilantro, chopped 

Naan bread

Basmati rice

Directions

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Soak skewers in water for a minimum of 1 hour. Thread chicken onto skewers and place in a baking dish. Mix all marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl, pour over chicken and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Discard marinade. Grill or broil chicken, turning skewers occasionally to cook through, or until a digital thermometer measures 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest piece of the chicken, approximately 8 minutes. Set chicken aside.

For sauce, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-heat, add the garlic and jalapeño and cook for 1 minute. Stir in coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala, salt and tomato sauce, and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in cream to thicken sauce, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove chicken from skewers and add to sauce, then add chickpeas and simmer sauce for 5 more minutes. Serve with basmati rice and naan bread, and garnish with cilantro.

By Maria Allen

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