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Cookbook review: Cooking with Love by Carla Hall

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

ready for global comfort food

Cooking with Love by Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko is a gathering of Carla's all-time favorite recipes from around the globe. Influenced by her grandmother's cooking and Southern traditions, she says that this book is a "repertoire of global comfort food."
 Cookbook review: Cooking with Love by Carla Hall

From the heart

Carla Hall says that she was "smothered with a giant food hug" each Sunday at her Granny's Sunday supper. What could be more comforting?

To fill the pages of Cooking with Love: Comfort Food That Hugs You, Carla's first cookbook, she drew from family inspiration — recipes that came down from her family based in the American South — her global travels and experience cooking, catering and a few other professions, too. No matter what your cooking experience, Carla notes that it's the heart you put into the food you're making that matters.

Mouthwatering recipes, lovely photos and tips dubbed "Catering like Carla" aren't the only treats you'll find throughout the book. Scattered within the pages, you'll find many of Carla's family mealtime memories as well as her own cooking experiences and tips. Reading these tidbits makes you feel like you're in the middle of a story, brought into each event as if you were one of the characters.

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Tried-and-true dishes for today

The recipes featured include something for everyone, and you'll have plenty to choose from when you're ready to make a meal that's filling and flavorful. From appetizers to desserts, Carla has you covered. You'll find appetizers like Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Apple Stacks, and Curried Beef Dumplings. Salads range from Roasted Carrot Salad with a spicy cumin vinaigrette dressing to Hoppin' John Salad made with black-eyed peas, collard greens and long-grain white rice. Side dishes, vegetarian recipes, main dishes, and sweet dessert delights round things out.

Lighten things up

Carla's recipes are prepared with moderation in mind. While she makes many of the classic comfort foods a little lighter, she says that her dishes "end up being naturally nutritious." What's not to love about that?

Keeping in line with her philosophy of putting your heart into cooking, Carla leaves readers with a tip: "If you're not in a good mood and don't feel like cooking, the only thing you should make is a restaurant reservation."

Try a recipe from Cooking with Love:

Granny's slow-cooked Sunday smothered pork chops

Serves 4

Smothered pork chops are a time-honored tradition in the South. A lot of versions call for cooking the chops and making the sauce with lard or butter or both, but my Granny always did this dish with oil. Decades before everyone became more aware of health and nutrition, Granny was at the forefront. She spent her days as a hospital dietitian, but her life's work was as a loving wife, mother and grandmother. When my grandfather began to suffer from heart problems, she immediately took her family's classic Southern recipes and made them more nutritious. And those are the recipes she passed down to me. You really don't miss the extra fat here because there's still plenty of delicious porkyness in bone-in chops — a must-have cut for juicy, flavorful meat. And this onion gravy tastes plenty rich and is all the more satisfying without extra saturated fat.

Granny's slow-cooked Sunday smothered pork chopsIngredients:

  • 4 bone-in pork loin chops (each 1-inch-thick)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup canola or other neutral oil
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice

Directions:

  1. Rinse the pork chops and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the chops, then dredge in flour to lightly coat. Reserve the remaining flour.
  2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add two of the pork chops and cook, turning once, until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chops.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the fat in the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and add the reserved flour. Cook, stirring, until it begins to brown, about 8 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the stock, water, Worcestershire, vinegar, mustard, molasses and allspice. Add to the pan and stir until well incorporated. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Return the pork chops and their accumulated juices to the pan.
  5. Cover and simmer until the chops are very tender, about 45 minutes, turning the chops halfway through cooking.
  6. Serve hot.

Text copyright © 2012 by Carla Hall from COOKING WITH LOVE by Carla Hall published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Photographs copyright © 2012 by Greg Powers Photography from COOKING WITH LOVE by Carla Hall published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

About the authors

Chef Carla Hall is co-host of the ABC talk show The Chew. She attended L'Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, was a caterer and is owner and executive chef of Alchemy by Carla Hall, an artisanal cookie company based in Washington, D.C., where she lives with her husband, Matthew Lyons, and stepson, Noah. Her sweet and savory cookies can be found in specialty markets, select Whole Foods and at alchemybycarlahall.com

Genevieve Ko is a food writer whose cookbooks include, most recently, Home Cooking with Jean-Georges. She also has been a food editor at Good Housekeeping, Gourmet and Martha Stewart Living.

More cookbook reviews

Week in a Day
Beating the Lunch Box Blues
The Southern Slow Cooker

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