Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes
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Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes

by Cat Cora, Ann Kruegar Spivack

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On the wildly popular show Iron Chef America, Cat Cora uses her instincts to transform random ingredients into exciting creations on a moment’s notice. In this book, she turns her eye to some of our most popular dishes to make them faster, fresher, and lighter. These are the swift meals that Cat relies on when she comes home from work to cook for her


On the wildly popular show Iron Chef America, Cat Cora uses her instincts to transform random ingredients into exciting creations on a moment’s notice. In this book, she turns her eye to some of our most popular dishes to make them faster, fresher, and lighter. These are the swift meals that Cat relies on when she comes home from work to cook for her own family: Greek-Style Nachos, Grilled Chili-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos, Crispy Baked Fish Stix with Mustard Dipping Sauce, Quick Chicken Curry with Peas, and Sour-Cherry-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes.
In dishes like Baked “Fried” Calamari with Marinara Dipping Sauce and Tex-Mex Tuna Casserole, Cat puts a new spin on old favorites. She updates others, tossing chipotle-spiced croutons into a Caesar salad, or replacing the usual beef in stroganoff with chicken and adding fresh tarragon. Each recipe illustrates Cat’s motto: just because a dish is a classic doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cora, known best as the sweet and savvy female Iron Chef (Food Network), has jumped on the "fresh and fast" bandwagon with an impressive collection of popular favorites, tweaked and stylized for the modern, health-conscious cook. Easily identifiable recipes like Chili and Minestrone are infused with Cora's signature zesty flair (think grated ginger, pesto and sweet paprika), and she certainly proves she's got a lot to offer. Avoiding the pitfalls of the quick and easy genre, Cora serves up original combinations like Curried Orange Lentil Soup, Grilled Avocado Cobb Salad, and Lemongrass Coq Au Vin. Disappointingly, she ambles from one region to another with little coherence, following Italian Bucatini Amatriciana with Chicken Curry, which leaves the reader wondering where they're headed. A bit more direction would help readers navigate the Twists of her Classics. However, readers will easily identify with Cora's laid back, family-style approach to cooking, and find effective and valuable tips throughout. Over 70 full-color photos add style and remind the reader that casual trumps extravagant in Cora's kitchen. Her book will appeal to the home cook who wants to break from the monotony of the weeknight meal. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
In her third cookbook, Cora (Cooking from the Hip) reimagines classics with nods to her Greek and Southern heritage, making them perfect for quick week-night dinners and special occasions. Grilled cheese sandwiches become croutons floating on tomato soup, and nachos get an addition of pita chips, feta, and sliced olives. Heavier recipes are selectively lightened with light sour cream, buttermilk, or nonfat yogurt. Cora, who has four sons, caters primarily to home cooks looking to add variety and spice to old favorites. VERDICT Expect demand; this will appeal to Food Network fans and time-pressed cooks of all skill levels. Readers interested in speedy, delicious recipes might also enjoy Sara Foster's Casual Cooking or Tyler Florence's Tyler's Ultimate. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/10.]—Lisa Campbell, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Tuscaloosa

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt


fresh takes on favorite dishes
By cat cora ann krueger spivack

houghton mifflin harcourt

Copyright © 2010 Cat Cora
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-547-12603-6

Chapter One

appetizers and drinks

Entertaining should be your time to unwind and relax. If the thought of preparing a complicated meal stresses you out, simplify. Keep it casual, and invite friends over for just a drink and a bite. On a spectacular sunny day, ring up your friends for a spur-of-the-moment game of horseshoes, and serve royal gin and tonics outside with smoked salmon and wasabi tea sandwiches. These open-faced sandwiches might look demure, but they pack a flavor wallop and couldn't be easier to make.

Or invite a crowd to watch the big game, and set out a buffet of classic bar foods with a twist: jalapeño poppers, Greek-style nachos, pepper-filled quesadillas, individual-sized seven-layer dips, and my take on chips and dip-warm onion dip with homemade sesame pita chips. Cold beers, great company, and you're good to go.

greek-style nachos....2

warm onion dip....4

sesame pita chips....5

baked jalapeño poppers....6

stuffed mushrooms....8

crustless quiche....10

mini seven-layer dips....11

smoked salmon and wasabi tea sandwiches....12

baked "fried" calamari with marinara dipping sauce....14

grilled pepper (rajas) quesadillas....18

pom kir royal....21

farmers' market bloody mary....24

twist it: fast bloody mary with turkey jerky swizzle stick....26

royal gin and tonic....27

greek-style nachos


My grandmother came to the U.S. from the Greek island of Skópelos when she was pregnant with my father. Every time I go to Greece, I learn more about Greece and my family as well as about food, but it goes both ways: my Greek cousins also want me to make American dishes, which is how this hybrid came about during a recent visit. Ever since we've returned from that trip, nachos at my house are always Greek-style. Thanks to olives, garlic, herbs, and roasted red peppers, these nachos have more flavor than the standard, restaurant-style kind.

roasted red pepper salsa

1/2 cup strips jarred roasted red pepper or 1 large red bell pepper, roasted (see page 18) 1 teaspoon minced garlic Kosher salt 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

for the salsa: Chop the peppers and mix in a small bowl with the garlic, a pinch of salt, and the oregano. Stir in the olive oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes to meld the flavors. (The salsa can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.)


2 6-ounce bags pita chips or Sesame Pita Chips (page 5) 2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese 8 ounces (1 cup) mild feta cheese, crumbled 1/2 cup thinly sliced pepperoncini 1/2 cup pitted and sliced green Greek olives (such as Mt. Athos) 1/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives 1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes 1/2 cup nonfat Greek-style plain yogurt (such as Fage)

for the nachos: Preheat the oven to 350?F. Remove the salsa from the fridge.

Spread the pita chips in a single layer on a baking sheet or a large heatproof platter. Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over the chips. Scatter the pepperoncini over the cheese. Bake the chips just until the cheese is melted, 7 to 10 minutes. Scatter the olives and cherry tomatoes over the chips. Spoon some of the salsa on the nachos and dab on small dollops of yogurt. Serve the nachos right away with the remaining salsa on the side for dipping.


smooth salsa: Chop the garlic and oregano coarsely and add them, with the roasted pepper and a pinch of salt, to a food processor. Pulse until pureed. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil and puree until completely smooth. Scrape the puree into a small bowl and mix in the yogurt until blended. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Drizzle over the prepared nachos in a lattice pattern.

cat's note: If your food processor is larger than 1 quart, you may need to double the salsa ingredients; serve any leftover salsa with eggs or grilled meat the next day.

warm onion dip


This warm, creamy dip has a sweet caramelized onion and chive flavor that puts store-bought kinds to shame. Most of these ingredients are already in your fridge or pantry, and the dip takes about the same amount of time to make as you'd spend driving to the grocery store to buy the ready-made version.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 cup finely chopped onion (Vidalia, Walla Walla, Maui, or yellow) 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup sour cream 1/2 cup finely grated sharp white cheddar 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (more if desired) 1 /2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives Tortilla chips, Sesame Pita Chips (page 5), or crackers

Preheat the oven to 350?F.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it is hot but not yet shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it just begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, cheddar, Tabasco, and salt. Add the onion and stir until evenly distributed. Spread the dip in a shallow 5-by-7-inch baking dish and bake until bubbling and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Stir in the chives. Serve warm with the chips or crackers.

sesame pita chips


Homemade pita chips win hands down over store-bought. For another great way to use leftover pita, see Pita Bread Salad (page 37).

6 whole pita bread rounds 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 teaspoons sesame seeds 1-2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350?F and position racks in upper and lower third.

Cut the pita bread into half rounds and slice each half into 2 single-layer halves. Slice each half into 4 wedges.

Place the wedges in a large bowl and drizzle the olive oil over them. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. With two large spoons or your fingers, gently toss until each pita triangle has a light coating of oil and seeds.

Spread the pita in a single layer on two baking sheets. Bake for about 4 minutes. Switch the baking sheets from top to bottom and vice versa, rotating each pan 180 degrees. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the chips are golden brown and crispy. Sprinkle sea salt over the chips while they're still warm. Let cool completely and serve. (The pita chips are best when served fresh, but they can be stored in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag for 1 to 2 days.)

baked jalapeño poppers


Spicy peppers with a smooth cheese filling and a warm, crunchy coating are irresistible, but I draw the line at deep-frying. My version is light and crispy, and you taste the pepper instead of oil. Reduced-fat cream cheese brings the peppers' flavor forward.

I know some people turn up their noses at garlic powder, but this is the flavor I want here.

12-18 fresh jalapeño peppers (depending on size) 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) light or regular cream cheese, softened 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese, preferably Greek 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 2 large eggs 2 tablespoons buttermilk (shake before measuring) 1 cup panko crumbs or plain dried bread crumbs 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350?F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

Cut each jalapeño in half lengthwise, cut off the stem, and scrape out the seeds. Set aside the peppers and rinse your fingers.

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese, feta, oregano, and garlic powder.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and buttermilk together. Pour the panko crumbs into a wide, shallow dish or onto a plate. In another shallow dish, combine the flour, salt, and pepper.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center of each jalapeño half. Dredge the jalapeño in the seasoned flour, dip it into the egg mixture, and dredge in the crumbs, pressing lightly so the crumbs coat the pepper all around. If the coating doesn't stick, repeat until you have a nice thick coating. Gently set the coated peppers, cheese side up, on the baking sheet. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven, let the poppers cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and serve warm.


Excerpted from CAT CORA'S CLASSICS WITH A TWIST by cat cora ann krueger spivack Copyright © 2010 by Cat Cora. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

CAT CORA made television history when she became the first female Iron Chef on the Food Network in 2005. In 2006 she received the Teacher of the Year Award from Bon Appétit and was named executive chef of the magazine. She is the president and founder of Chefs for Humanity, which raises funds for emergency and
hunger-related causes. The mother of four boys, she is the author of Cooking
from the Hip
, and she recently launched the restaurants CCQ at Macy’s in Costa
Mesa, California, and Kouzzina at Walt Disney World.

Ann Krueger Spivack co-wrote Cooking from the Hip and is a co-writer of The Essence of Chocolate and Elizabeth Faulkner's Demolition Desserts.

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