I like trying new recipes and have been recipe testing for Leite’s Culinaria for several years now. In the past, I haven’t written much about the work I’ve done for them, but I think people might benefit from my experiences. For anyone that doesn’t know about Leite’s Culinaria, it’s a James Beard award-winning website dedicated to testing recipes and publishing good food writing. A team of testers from around the world, with varying skill levels, cook several different recipes every month or so to provide feedback to the editors of the site. The hardest part is following the recipe exactly. Last week, I submitted my comments for March to the editors, but now I’m going to share some of the information with my readers.
One of the first recipes that I tested involved potatoes. The headnotes for the recipe told a great story about French women taking potatoes to the local baker to be communally cooked in his oven (in the days before people had ovens in their homes). While the resulting potatoes were really tasty – they took twice as long to bake as the recipe stated. For me that meant serving potatoes as a late dessert. Instead of taking 45 minutes to bake, they took about 1 hour and 35 minutes. The second recipe I tried didn’t fair much better. This recipe involved dried apricots (admittedly, not my favorite food in the world), cheese, almonds, and bacon–on a grill! Sadly, there wasn’t enough salt to carry the cheese and almonds inside the sweet/tart apricot and the bacon ended up flabby. I’m firmly in the “crispier is better” camp when it comes to bacon, so look for my own spin on this particular recipe soon.
The last two recipes were a hit – one involved salt, chocolate and butterscotch and the other involved eggplant, basil and goat cheese. Both recipes hit the spot and were easy to follow. The cupcakes were probably the easier of the two, but I did have to cook the frosting for about twice as long as the recipe said – it said to boil for about 8 minutes, but after it had cooled I ended up having to boil it again for another 5 minutes (so total cooking time, plus the time it took to come back to a boil, was about 20 minutes).
The other recipe, Eggplant Rollatini with Goat Cheese and Pesto, has a lot of components and a lot of steps. However, after making it, I found that it only took about 45 minutes, start to finish. It appears that the authors provided such detailed instructions because they wanted to make the recipe easy to recreate at home. My only complaint is that the garlic was a little too strong (both raw and cooked make an appearance). When I make this again I will reduce the raw garlic in the pesto to one clove and if it’s still too strong, take it out entirely. This recipe will be perfect for August and September when the farmers’ market has an abundance of eggplant and I have an abundance of basil. If you try the rollatini, leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
This post was edited on 4/15/2010 at the request of Leite’s Culinaria editors to remove some references to specific testing procedures.