Cookbook Review: The Basque Book

Thursday, May 12, 2016

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I love Spanish food and couldn’t be more excited to cook from The Basque Book by Alexandra Raij.  It’s been many years since I’ve taken Spanish and have forgotten about the Basque region and its food.  Chef Raij prefaced that this cookbook is her and her husband’s interpretation of Basque cuisine adapted for home cooking and the modern kitchen.

The book starts off with the Basque Basics where she teaches you how to make different types of mayo, seafood and meat stocks, sauces, and paste.  Pintxos is the next chapter, and one of my favorites from the book given my love for tapas. I really enjoyed the explanation for different types of pintxos--banderillas, montaditos y bocadillos, hojalderes, cocina en miniatura, and raciones.  My favorite dishes from this chapter are the open-faced fried quail egg and chorizo sandwich and gratin of deviled crab.  Those recipes were easy to make and weren’t time consuming.  I used pre-picked lump crab meat from a jar instead of fresh blue crabmeat but didn’t feel like it took away from the dish.  The poached leeks with chopped eggs were good but not something I would have craving for.  Eder’s avocado salad, though simple in nature, was quite good because of the harmony of flavors created by the balsamic vinegar, Spanish paprika, and olive oil.  I can eat this every day! Another dish that took me by surprise is the soft scrambled eggs with garlic chives and shrimp.  Garlic chive is very common in Vietnamese cooking and is usually sauteed with shrimp but never in a scrambled egg.  I will definitely be making this again for lunch.  The Basque-style French toast with pineapple was a breakfast hit and will be on regular breakfast rotation.   

I’m looking forward to trying the scallops in its shells with jamon iberico fat, Basque fisherman’s stew, Chinatown-style periwinkles, squid in its ink, poached monkfish with garlic soup, seared croissant with honey butter and orange marmalade, and red wine poached cherries with creme fraiche flan.     

Some of my favorite parts of this cookbook are the suggested dinner menus, basic recipes, and how easy and straightforward the recipes are.  I was pleasantly surprised at the number of recipes with Asian influences in this book.  If you’re looking for a cookbook on classical Basque cuisine, you might want to browse through it before making a commitment.  I also own Basque Spanish Recipe from San Sebastian and Beyond and like both of these books for very different reasons.  The Basque Book is perfect for someone who loves Basque food but is adventurous enough to try these recipes with a modern take.        

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

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