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The Web won't leave cooks in a bind for recipes, reviews

By JANET K. KEELER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


Life Online
A weeklong look at everyday life with the Internet. Stories
Every couple of days, Ellen Folkman cruises the Internet, looking for something good to cook.

She clicks on Epicurious.com, moves on to Foodtv.com and then checks out the latest offerings on Marthastewart.com.

Folkman, who with her husband, Carl, runs a wine and spirits brokerage, knows what thousands of other at-home cooks with Internet access know: The Web is cooking. At the click of a mouse, there are thousands of recipes ready to be printed out and tried.

Log on to a search engine such as Yahoo! or Hotbot and search the word "recipe," and you'll get so many hits you won't know where to start. Don't put yourself through such torture; there is a handful of Web sites to depend on.

"I have been using them a couple of years," Folkman says of the sites. "I love to cook and am always looking for something new."

What does the Web offer that a traditional hold-in-your-hands cookbook doesn't? It doesn't require bookshelves, for starters, but the real benefit is the search capabilities. The most developed sites allow users to search by ingredients, courses, ethnicity, holidays, dietary considerations and other categories.

The sheer volume of recipes has most cookbook collections beat. Epicurious.com, probably the most respected recipe site on the Web, boasts more than 11,000. Ucook.com claims 65,000.

Many general recipe Web sites also include food glossaries and kitchen tips plus cookbook reviews, nutrition information and articles on wine. Some sites let users leave comments about recipes, a helpful feature for cooks who come after.

"This is the first risotto dish I've ever made," wrote Folkman last year after trying the Champagne scallop risotto recipe from Epicurious.com. "My husband and I don't care for scallops so I substituted Florida lobster tail. Magnifico!"

Hers is one of 12 reviews about the dish. Folkman says she leaves comments a lot.

"I like to let people know what I changed or if something didn't work out," she says.

Savoring the possibilities
Peruse wine cellars and wine lore at your leisure, even if the law discourages delivery of the real thing to your home in Florida.
Folkman keeps the recipes she likes in a three-ring binder, organized by categories such as appetizers and main dish. One Web site, Allrecipes.com, lets users convert its recipes to a 3- by 5-inch format so they can be glued to a filing card and put in a recipe box.

One caveat on Web recipes is that the sites don't always say where recipes come from, so their quality is difficult to determine. If you are an experienced cook, it probably won't be a problem. New cooks should stick to recipes that are attributed to a reputable source such as a cooking magazine or risk a kitchen disaster.

Here is a taste of the biggest, best and silliest recipe sites on the Web.

The top-of-the-line recipe Web site is http://www.epicurious.com. In May, the site's cookbook reviewer Irene Sax won a James Beard Foundation Award for her work, giving the site even more credibility and legitimacy. The recipes are mostly from Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines and range from easy to more complicated.

Epicurious.com offers cooking lessons (learn how to make fresh mozzarella), an online equipment store, weekly field reports (a Greek salad recipe from Florida) plus chat rooms.

You can also find out what other people are looking for in Search Spy, a feature that shows the last 10 terms typed into the recipe file search box. One morning this week, the Search Spy revealed that peaches, shepherd bread, smoker boxes, new potatoes, pudding, flat bread, smoked fish, Creole, goat and portobello mushrooms were on people's minds.

Add http://www.allrecipes.com to your bookmarks. Launched in 1997 with 200 cookies as Cookierecipe.com, AllRecipes.com has grown into an umbrella site for other dot-com recipe archives, including those devoted to pasta, barbecue recipes, vegetarian dishes and Thanksgiving favorites.

AllRecipes.com is a well-organized collection of about 8,500 recipes contributed by ordinary folks rather than chefs and professionals. There is Carolyn and her Alaskan snow pie, Lysa with her breakfast tortilla (a vegetarian offering) and Karena's Nigerian peanut soup.

One of the coolest things about AllRecipes.com is that, when you select a recipe, it makes a shopping list for you, plus there is a recipe exchange feature where users can put out a call for a specific recipe.

If you're looking for menu planning, check out http://www.ucook.com. Want a nice Sunday supper plan? How about orange Cornish game hens, twice-baked potatoes, green beans and strawberry-rhubarb pie? A taste of the Southwest? Try Taos enchiladas, Spanish rice, corn with diced red peppers and Southwestern corn bread.

Ucook.com boasts more than 65,000 recipes, nearly all culled from published cookbooks. The site includes reviews of these cookbooks. One click and a credit card number buys them.

Ucook.com also features a daily online food magazine with articles by chefs and journalists on nutrition, food safety, specialty cooking, tips and techniques, and cookbook reviews.

Ever wonder how Outback gets that onion to bloom so perfectly or how Seinfeld's Soup Nazi terrorized an entire TV cast with his fabulous crab bisque? Find the recipes at http://www/topsecretrecipes.com.

This is the online version of Todd Wilbur's best-selling cookbooks of the same name. The site doesn't offer the authentic recipes but rather Wilbur's facsimiles, which he has developed from his own experimentation.

You can search recipes according to word, phrase and ingredient, and you can get complete menu plans by category, such as weight loss, vegetarian or gourmet, on http://mealsforyou.com. Once you select a recipe or menu, you get not only the directions but also preparation times, nutritional information and even wine pairings. By clicking on "Shopping List," you'll get a list of all the meal's ingredients.

If you like TV Food Network, you'll like its Web site, http://www.foodtv.com. The site is a written companion for the cable channel's shows. After you watch Curtis Aikens prepare papaya banana muffins on Pick of the Day, you can get the recipe from the Web site.

There is also an archive and a schedule of upcoming shows and events hosted by the network.

Martha Stewart offers a Web site companion to her magazine and TV show, http://www/marthastewart.com. The recipes are reprinted, and there is a chat room to talk about cooking and all things Martha.

There is even a Q&A session where users can spend an hour talking with editors of Martha Stewart Living, special guest hosts and very occasionally The Martha. The next one is at 1 p.m. today, and the subject is working with caterers.

Reluctant cooks will find a friend at http://www.reluctantgourmet.com. The skimpy From A to Z glossary section defines cooking terms and ingredients such as "al dente" and "bouquet garni" but goes only to "Worcestershire sauce." More are promised soon.

The Cooking Primer explains basic techniques such as roasting and braising.

Many of the site's recipes have stories with them about their origin, and some have a photo. It is a very homey place to look for recipes.

Messygourmet.com is not for serious cooks but is seriously fun. Click on to http://www.messygourmet.com and learn how to get the stains from what you've cooked out of your clothes. Stains are, after all, "a natural byproduct of FUN cooking."

The ingredient amounts aren't precise. Flu season soup calls for a big chicken, a big onion and a big head of garlic, and the directions are entertaining if not exacting: "Sprinkle some more seasonings over all: poultry seasoning and rosemary, or I like to do the Simon and Garfunkel thing: fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme if I have them. Just be sure to use rosemary in some shape or form."

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Information from the Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and Times wire services was used in this story.

Strawberry Lemonade

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 8 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • 8 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Seltzer water

Puree the strawberries and 2 teaspoons of the sugar in a blender. Spoon 6 tablespoons of the resulting strawberry puree, 8 tablespoons of sugar and 8 tablespoons of lemon juice into a cocktail shaker. Shake to blend. Divide equally between 2 glasses and add ice. Top off with seltzer water. Add more sugar if desired. Serves 2.

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Source: http://www.marthastewart.com

Clicks

Here are recipe Web sites worth checking out:

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