Our Verdict – “Food52 Genius Recipes”

I thought this would be a great book. I wasn’t disappointed.

To be sure, it wasn’t perfect. But then again, no cookbook is. In the many years we’ve been doing this blog, we’ve never found a cookbook that was faultless in every respect. We’ve had several that we’ve deemed special enough for our high-rotation cookbook shelves, but there still hasn’t been one where we loved every recipe.

I’m not sure that such a cookbook exists, but we keep trying to find it, which is why this blog persists month after month.

Even though this cookbook wasn’t perfect, but it definitely would be one of my Desert Island Cookbooks– not that such a thing exists, but if it did, I would put it on my list. There were enough fantastic recipes that I would want to make over and over again when stranded on a desert island that I think it would be worth taking.

I’ve already made the salt-baked salmon again, and I see it in regular rotation for Fish Friday. The three-ingredient tomato sauce was a success, and I can see myself making that regularly. The hummus was delicious, and now that a friendly reader told me I can freeze the leftovers, I can see making it again soon. We all swooned over the chocolate cake, and it lasted in the house less than a day (which is definitely a sign).

Paging through the cookbook, I found great comfort in the fact that lots of the “Genius Recipes” originated from books we’ve featured here, like “Jerusalem” and “The Moro Cookbook”, but also cookbooks that I love unconditionally, like The Silver Palate and Julia Child.

No, I didn’t love everything. The roasted butternut squash salad was a disappointment, the meatballs didn’t stack up against our absolute favourite from Polpo, and the chocolate mousse wasn’t universally loved by my family. Kirstin had a smoky disaster from the roast chicken, and would’t be making that again either.

Despite this, there were more successes than failures, and I can see myself continuing to try out this cookbook after May is over. Overall, it was a delicious month.

“Food52: Genius Recipes”
Overall Grade (A- F): A (Maureen)
Best recipes: Maureen: Salt-baked salmon. Chocolate cake. Whole roasted cauliflower. Grilled cheese.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A.
Any disasters? No.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation?High-rotation bookshelf

Our Verdict – “Food52 Genius Recipes”

A Roundup of Dishes from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

With only two days left in May, I thought it might be useful to do a roundup of four dishes I’ve done out of “Food52 Genius Recipes.” I’m going to write about them in the order of preference.

Grilled Cheese [Sorry. No picture.]

We had this twice over the course of the month and both times the sandwiches were eaten before I could take a picture. I suppose that tells you everything you need to know. While I’m still not sure you need a proper recipe for a grilled cheese, the “Genius” aspect of this was to spread mayonnaise on the outside of the bread, rather than the traditional butter. By doing it this way, there’s less risk of burning the bread. I’m not sure how this method is a genius method over my usual way of making grilled cheese, which is to spread Lurpak spreadable butter on the outside of the bread. I might have to make grilled cheese again, with one sandwich using the Genius method and the other to use my own and see what works better. Either way, grilled cheese is ALWAYS a win for lunch.

Would I make it again? Obviously yes, though I’m still not sure about the method.

To try it yourself, click through this sentence to see the Genius Recipe on Food52 for Grilled Cheese.

Wild & White Rice Salad

IMG_6839This is simple personified. In fact, I made it even simpler by buying a basmati rice and wild rice mixture and using that. Score one for the home team. Aside from the rice, the other ingredients are red onion, celery and parsley, and the dressing is a mixture of oils with blasamic vinegar and dijon mustard. Like I said, simple personified. I made it one night to go with our barbeque meal. I quickly demolished the leftovers the next day for lunch, when they were even tastier. Some times simple really is better.

Unfortunately, this recipe isn’t posted on Food52 for some reason, so you can’t click through this sentence to see it yourself.

Basic Hummus [Sorry. No picture.]

This recipe is out of one of my favourite cookbooks, “Jerusalem”, which we reviewed on this site in May 2014. I already knew what I was getting into when I made it again. Forewarned is forearmed: This is a TOTAL faff to make. I’m still undecided as to whether the faff is worth it. I suppose it is, but only just. It takes a full 24 hours of planning and patience, given that you have to soak the chick peas overnight, and then there’s multiple steps to make it happen. While the hummus was delicious, it does take a fair amount of dedication. Also you should know that you end up with a vat of hummus. Okay, maybe  it’s not a vat, but it felt like it, given that the bowl I filled was about 10 times the size of the usual hummus container I buy at our local supermarket. After three days, we’re still trying to finish the hummus and we’re not even close yet.

Would I make it again? Maybe for a party, when I could be assured that we would eat through it all. Otherwise, maybe I’ll try it again but make only half of it. I’ve made it before and I’ll make it again, but every time I ask myself, “Do I really want to dedicate the time to getting this finished?” Some times the answer to that is yes. Some times, the answer is no.

To try it yourself, click through this sentence to see the Genius Recipe on Food52 for Hummus.

Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad with Tahini

IMG_6873This is yet another “Genius Recipe” from a book we’ve reviewed here, this time it’s from Moro. We reviewed Moro just this past January, though we didn’t try this recipe.

Usually I am a sucker for roasted butternut squash, so I approached this recipe with a fair amount of enthusiasm. Listen, I love roasted butternut squash so much that I made the Jerusalem version for our Christmas lunch, even though it didn’t really go with the rest of the dishes (though my vegan friend Anne and I HOOVERED it up and there were no leftovers.)

But this one just didn’t stack up, unfortunately. It just wasn’t as good as the Jerusalem recipe, which I know and love ardently. Given that the rest of the family is less enthused about the vegetable [read: They don’t really like it] this went over like a lead balloon.

You win some, you lose some.

To try it yourself, click through this sentence to see the Genius Recipe on Food52 for Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad with Tahini.

A Roundup of Dishes from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

“Meatballs” and “Tomato Sauce with Butter & Onion” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”


I’ve loved many of the recipes I’ve made from “Genius Recipes” this month, but I approached this one with a fair amount of trepidation.  I already have a Genius Recipe for tomato sauce and meatballs– from Polpo (first reviewed here), which everyone loves very much. Why mess with success?

I was right to be sceptical.

As this is a food blog, let’s review this particular dish by using a Praise Sandwich. For those among you who are unfamiliar with this term, it means you start with the compliments, put the criticism in the middle, and then finish with a compliment. Apparently using this method is supposed to make hearing criticism easier to stomach. Or something.

Everyone agreed that the tomato sauce was delicious. In fact, I made it again earlier this week when I needed some tomato sauce for chicken parm night. (It is Revision Week here, ahead of internal exams next week, so it’s been a week full of our favourites, and chicken parm is one of them.)

The tomato sauce differs from the Polpo version in that you only used canned tomatoes for this one– Polpo uses a mix of fresh and canned– and also it is a bit quicker to make– 45 minutes compared to 90 minutes for Polpo. But the key difference is the inclusion of a fair amount of butter, as well as an onion that you cook whole with the tomatoes, but then take out before using the sauce. I wasn’t sure about the butter, as that seemed an odd addition to a basic tomato sauce. But what the butter did in the end was add a dairy creaminess, not unlike what you’d have if you’d added cheese.

Half of the family liked this tomato sauce better than the Polpo version, the other half disagreed, preferring the Polpo tomato sauce. This was definitely a split decision.

Where we were all unanimous, however, was in our universal dislike of the meatballs. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t as gloriously delicious as the Polpo version we have come to know and love. I’ve made them countless times since I first tried them in March 2013, and they’ve been a winner. Every time. You’ve got to like those odds.

So in short, a mixed decision. I definitely would make the tomato sauce again (particularly when I don’t have enough time, or I’m in a holiday house, where access to a variety of ingredients is limited) but I won’t make these meatballs again.

But frankly, I’m being picky. In our family, you can never go wrong with spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.

If you’d like to try the recipes mentioned above for yourself:

The Polpo tomato sauce recipe can be found by clicking through here;

The Genius52 tomato sauce recipe can be found by clicking through here;

The Polpo meatball recipe can be found by clicking through here; and

The Genius52 meatball recipe can be found by clicking through here.

“Meatballs” and “Tomato Sauce with Butter & Onion” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

“Simplest Roast Chicken” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”


Kirstin: So this totally smoked out the house as you have to cook the chicken at an insane heat for a relatively short period of time.

Tom: The thigh meat isn’t really coming off the bone very easily.

Kirstin: That will be why. I’m usually totally up for new roast chicken recipes, but just not this one. I had to open the windows all over the house too as there was smoke everywhere.

Tom: I prefer your usual recipe.

Kirstin: Me too.

“Simplest Roast Chicken” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

“Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

IMG_6864Maureen: Chocolate cake!

Nicholas (Now 12! Happy Birthday!): Just like I asked for!

Maureen: Your wish is my command. Well, not really, but it’s a nice thing to say. It makes me feel like Aladdin. This is yet another recipe from a cookbook I already have. This is a Nigella Lawson recipe from her “How to be a Domestic Goddess” cookbook, which I’ve loved for years, though I can’t remember if I’ve ever made this particular cake.

[Quiet descends over the table as everyone is too busy enjoying their cake to talk.]

Nicholas: This is delicious.

Andrew (15): I read something recently that decoded various British sayings. “Not bad,” means OK. “Not too bad,” means good. “Not too bad at all,” means it’s AMAZING.

Maureen: Which one is it then?

Andrew: Not too bad at all.

Maureen: Agreed. It’s like a cross between a brownie and a cake, and it works. I don’t even care that it has completely collapsed in the middle. It’s supposed to, apparently. Some people have even taken to calling this, “Ugly Chocolate Cake.” I can see what they mean. Should I make this again?


Would you like to give this “Not too bad at all” chocolate cake a try? We recommend that you do. Click through this paragraph to find the original recipe on Food52. 

“Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

“Chicken Thighs with Lemon” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

IMG_6857Nicholas (11): Chicken again?

Maureen: I know. I can’t believe we’re having chicken again after a month of having nothing BUT chicken, but here we are.

Andrew (15): This smells great.

Maureen: You can’t go wrong with olive oil and lemon, if you ask me. What do you think?

Tim: This is good.

Maureen: I agree. It’s not setting the world on fire with its creativity, but it’s delicious. The thing I love most about it is it’s so simple and yet so yummy. All I had to do was fry them on a low heat for about 40 minutes, while I could get on with making the side dishes.

Nicholas: I like it.

Andrew: Me too.

Maureen: I also like how the lemon rind becomes a little bit crispy, so you end up biting into a small morsel of deliciousness. Yum. I will definitely be making this again.

Want to make this? You should, it’s delicious. This might even become my go-to chicken recipe for those busy weekdays when you want a good dinner, but don’t want to get elbow-deep into general faffiness. Click through this paragraph to see the recipe on Food52.

“Chicken Thighs with Lemon” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

“Chocolate Mousse” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

IMG_6840Maureen: For tonight’s dessert, we have a bit of food magic going on.

Andrew (15) What do you mean?

Maureen: Well, for this chocolate mousse, all you do is heat water, add chocolate, wait until it melts and then whip it into mousse.

Tim: How does that work?

Maureen: Because… science! II don’t understand it either, so let’s just leave it at science. Usually with a chocolate mousse, you whip egg whites and then fold in melted chocolate, so I was surprised when this worked. What do you think?

Andrew: It seems very rich to me.

Maureen: There may be some operator error in this, too. I may have over-whipped the mousse, but I wasn’t sure what consistency it should have. I also followed the suggestion and mixed the chocolate with equal parts water and orange juice. I think it’s nice.

Nicholas (11): I’m not so sure about the orange juice. I think it’s overwhelming mine.

Tim: I like the orange juice.

Maureen: I think this is good, but I’m not sure I did it correctly. It is very rich.

Andrew: I don’t really like it.

Nicholas: Neither do I.

Maureen: Maybe this chocolate mousse is for sophisticated palates only.

Tim: Maybe so. Then there would be more for us!

“Chocolate Mousse” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

“Mushroom Bourguignon” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

IMG_6845Maureen: Meat Free Monday!

Nicholas (11): What are we having?

Maureen: Mushroom Bourguignon!

Nicholas: There’s only one problem.

Maureen: What is it?

Nicholas: I don’t like mushrooms.

Maureen: Well, that IS a problem. What do you think, Tim?

Tim: It’s delicious.

Maureen: I agree. As you know, beef bourguignon is on my Do Not Want To Eat list. But I would eat this. This is actually from the “Smitten Kitchen” cookbook, which we reviewed on this blog in September 2013. It’s nice to know that we picked some cookbooks that are worthy of the moniker, “Genius Recipes.”

Tim: The flavours are really rich, too. I’ll bet it was easy to make.

Maureen: I wouldn’t say easy. Like many vegetarian recipes, the most laborious part of the process is chopping all of the vegetables. This is no different.

Tim: I love the polenta, too.

Maureen: Although the book had a recipe for easy polenta, I used the nice instant Italian polenta that we got at Waitrose. The “easy” polenta took an hour and a half. Life is too short. This instant Italian stuff is great.


Tim: I’m not so sure about the onions, though.

Maureen: I think that’s a problem with sourcing. Since this is an American cookbook, I know you can get frozen pearl onions there. But they don’t exist over here. So I got pickled pearl onions, which seem OK to me, but maybe not to you. Would you like me to make it again?

Tim: Yes, please.

Nicholas: Obviously not.

Maureen: Maybe I’ll make it again just for the adults next time. This was a winner.

Celebrating Meat Free Monday or just love mushrooms and you’d like to make this for yourself? Click through this paragraph to find the recipe on Food52.

“Mushroom Bourguignon” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

“Salt-Baked Herbed Salmon with Red Onion-Caper Vinaigrette” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

IMG_6797Andrew (15, said as he approaches the dinner table): This smells amazing.

Nicholas (11): I agree. This smells great.

Maureen: Yes. I think we’re on to a winner here for Fish Friday. We might want to taste it before we reach our conclusion, though.

Nicholas: What is it?

Maureen: It’s salmon that’s covered with herbs and is salt baked. I really wanted to try this because I’ve always wanted to bake something in salt, but have never got around to it.

Tim: Was it easy?

Maureen: Yes. The most complicated thing about it was I had to go to the natural food store and buy rock salt in bulk. Once you have that, it’s only a matter of chopping up the herbs to put on top, then roasting the fish for 40 minutes on top of the salt. All of the herbs and the fennel is what smells so good.

Nicholas: This is delicious.

Andrew: I would definitely want to eat this again.

Maureen: And I would definitely want to make it again. This is great. The only thing I’m not as sure about is the vinaigrette, since you boys don’t seem to be interested in it.

Tim: I like the vinaigrette.

Maureen: So do I. Maybe it’s for more mature tastes or something. Regardless, this is a win for Fish Friday.

If you would like to see the recipe, Google has the book in Google Books. Click through this link to see it for yourself.


“Salt-Baked Herbed Salmon with Red Onion-Caper Vinaigrette” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”