The 12 Seasons Cookbook, by Alfred Portale with Andrew Friedman
425 pages; color photography, $45.00 US
Broadway Books, New York, 2000
Reviewed by Patricia Ribeiro for Good Cooking
November, 2000

The 12 Seasons Cookbook, by Alfred Portale with Andrew Friedman is an interesting fusion of different flavors and full of beautiful photos that make you taste the flavor of the food before you cook it.

All the chapters have a lot of information about what you cook, good tips and different variations for the same dish and, suggestions on the various wines and drinks to be served with the recipe. Throughout the book there is valuable information about fruits and vegetables as well as best seasons to buy and use them. It is an easy book to read and following the recipes will produce perfect results. It's a cookbook you have to have in your collection.

The Seared Squid, Shallot, and White Runner Bean Salad from page 394, is very delicious. The hot squid and beans mixed with fresh arugula make a good combination. Very easy and quick to make and the result is absolutely tasty.

There are no words to describe the Curried Duck Breasts with Basmati-Saffron Rice. The extravagant combination of sweet, savory, and Indian spices and herbs in the rice, Duck Breast and sauce make this dish very special and easy to appreciate. It takes some time to to prepare but the end result is delicious.

Also, the Pumpkin Creme Brulee is a very good variation for your dessert for Thanksgiving. The pumpkin puree mixes perfectly with the Creme Brulee; it is very easy to make and a wonderful presentation. Good Cooking has had Pumpkin Creme Bruleee before and can vouch for its wonderful flavor and creamyness. It's a real hit from this book!

While pumpkin pie deserves great respect as a Thanksgiving dessert, it’s fun to shake up tradition and impress your friends with this sophisticated variation. The burnt sugar top tastes especially delicious with the sweetly spiced pumpkin cream.
Thinking ahead: These custards can be made a day in advance.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Makes 8 servings

Brulee sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
10 tablespoons sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
9 large egg yolks
3/4 cup unseasoned canned pumpkin puree

For the Brulee sugar

Preheat the oven to 250 F.
Combine the sugars, mixing well to integrate evenly. Spread on a baking sheet and dry in the oven for about 1 hour. Transfer to a blender and process to a fine powder. Set aside, covered, and store in a cool dry place at room temperature for up to a week.
For the Custards

Preheat the oven to 350 F
In a saucepan, combine the milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon stick. Whisk in the egg yolks, mixing until smooth. Add the pumpkin pur e, whisking until well blended. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
Pour the custard into eight 4-ounce ramekins. Set the ramekins in a shallow roasting pan or baking pan and put in the oven. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the custards are set around the edges but still a little shaky in the center.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Remove ramekins from the water bath and let the custards cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat the broiler, or better yet, use a small propane torch designed for kitchen use. Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle each custard with brul e sugar. Broil for 30 to 60 seconds, until the sugar caramelizes, or hold the torch over the sugar to caramelize it. Serve immediately.

Variations: Acorn, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes make fine substitutes for the pumpkin pur e.