Chef and outdoorsman Randy King, who recently published “Chef in the Wild” ($21.95, Caxton Press), had no idea when he began his culinary journey back in high school that it would lead him to writing a cookbook.
King started out at the bottom of the restaurant food chain as a teenager when he scored a job in Nampa to earn some extra cash.
“I was a dishwasher at Sizzler,” King recalls.
“By the time I graduated from high school, I was running the line (at the now closed, but very popular Plum Tree).”
Never miss a local story.
King didn’t know at the time that being a chef, or a cookbook author, for that matter, would be in the cards for him later in life, yet he had a fascination with food and hunting from an early age.
“Both my mom and dad are great cooks. I was in the kitchen all the time when I was a kid, cleaning and cooking wild game,” he says.
He grew up in a hunting, fishing and gathering household in Canyon County. He remembers going on outdoor excursions with his dad, brother and uncles throughout his youth.
“Hunting and fishing has always been a part of who I am,” King says.
“It’s ingrained in me.”
His youth was filled with many memorable trips, which included bow hunting for big game, angling for feisty trout and bird hunting in the vast expanse of southwestern Idaho.
King’s path would eventually lead him to become a certified executive chef. Some folks might remember him from his days at Milford’s Fish House, Richard’s (in Hyde Park) and Crane Creek Country Club.
King, now a corporate chef for the J.R. Simplot Company, eventually started freelance writing for various outdoor magazines and other publications, which gave him the opportunity to combine two of his favorite subjects: hunting and cooking.
King’s cookbook hit the shelves in June, and it features narratives and recipes culled from his column in Northwest Sportsman, a Seattle-based hunting and fishing magazine.
“I have written for that magazine for several years, and over time, you just get a collection of recipes and stories,” he explains.
“It came naturally to me to write a cookbook on this topic, but it didn’t happen overnight.”
Embarking on such an endeavor usually involves a culmination of years of recipes, anecdotes and experiences.
In other words, writing a cookbook is not an undertaking that people go into half-heartedly.
“It’s definitely a lot of work to put everything together,” King says.
He’s not joking. Every recipe needs to be meticulously tested and the chapters must be arranged in a logical order. And let’s not forget all those photos, which in King’s case are a hodgepodge of black-and-white photos from his past and food shots taken specifically for the book.
But before all that takes place, authors need to find a publisher for their projects.
“I actually shopped my book around for about three years looking for the right publisher,” King says.
“Caxton Press (based in Caldwell) turned out to be a great fit for what I wanted to do. They really believed in the book.”
“Chef in the Wild” is broken into three main parts: Air, Land and Water. In addition to the recipes, which range from a simple roasted chukar to pepper-encrusted venison steak (recipe below), King also shows people how to break down wild game and offers many insightful cooking tips.
Heartfelt comfort food
Stephanie Telesco and Jeff Nee, a married couple who owned the Brick Oven Bistro until they opted to close the much-beloved restaurant in 2013, know a thing or two about compiling recipes for a cookbook and all the hard work it takes.
Their book, aptly titled “Two Million Meals Later: House Recipes from Boise’s Brick Oven Bistro” ($16.98, self-published), was spawned from an outpouring from former customers who were worried they would never taste the eatery’s inventive comfort food again.
“We never intended to write a cookbook, but after we closed the restaurant, people came up to us and asked, ‘How are we going to get this food again?’” Telesco explains.
Some may ask whether Brick Oven Bistro, known as Brick Oven Beanery in its early days, actually served 2 million meals during its 28 years of existence.
“Jeff and I sat down and figured it out one day. We kept track of all the sales,” Telesco says.
The cookbook features around 125 recipes from the popular restaurant, which had to be adapted from larger serving sizes to a cookbook-friendly format.
“I spent about eight months working on the recipes, to get the serving sizes reduced down for the book,” Telesco says.
“Every night, Jeff would come home from work and have lots of stuff to taste. He helped to fine-tune all the recipes.”
Telesco and Nee wrote all the recipes for the restaurant, which came from a lifetime of experiences.
Telesco, who now supplements her newish astrological consulting business with substitute teaching, was born in the Philippines and has traveled the world from a young age. Nee, who now has a career in financial services, hails from the East Coast and brings that influence to the table.
They also have drawn inspiration from a mountain of cookbooks.
“We have at least 300 cookbooks on our shelves. We’ve always loved food and looking through the cookbooks for new ideas,” Telesco says.
“Two Million Meals Later,” which Telesco and Nee self-published in 2013 using the Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, is so popular that it’s now in its second printing.
Remember the wild rice meatloaf (see recipe below)? Well, that’s in the book. How about the sausage gumbo? That’s in there too, along with most of the house classics that people have adored over the years. The book is available at Rediscovered Books and A’Tavola in Downtown Boise and online at amazon.com.
Flavorful and healthier
Boise-based cookbook author Sara Wells started her culinary journey when she was earning her bachelor’s degree in horticulture at Brigham Young University.
“I used to cater in the Provo area when I was in college. I’ve always loved cooking,” Wells says.
Her latest book, “400 Calories or Less with Our Best Bites” ($21.99, Shadow Mountain Publishing), which she co-authored with her close friend Kate Jones, hit the shelves earlier this year.
During college, Wells went on a two-year church mission to Brazil, where she discovered her love for Latin flavors.
“That’s my favorite part about traveling, learning about the food and culture and how it ties together. Brazil has such a vibrant culture,” she says.
Wells, who grew up in the Seattle area, later returned to Brazil with her parents and has also traveled to different parts of Mexico, picking up more cooking tips along the way.
After college, Wells and Jones reconnected and started a food blog in 2008 called Our Best Bites, which features recipes and the stories behind them.
“The blog was a hobby for both of us, a fun thing, but it kind of took off from there,” Wells says.
“It wasn’t long before our readers were asking for a cookbook.”
Even though Wells and Jones, who are both married with children, live in different states (Jones now lives in Louisiana), the longtime friends have collaborated over the years via the Internet and copious hours on the phone for the blog.
They eventually wrote their first cookbook, “Best Bites: Mormon Moms in the Kitchen,” in 2011, followed by another national bestselling book, “Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites,” in 2012.
After much thought, before publishing their first book, Wells and Jones went with Shadow Mountain Publishing based in Salt Lake City.
“We shopped around a bit before publishing our first book. A small publishing house with a niche market worked best for us,” Wells says.
Their latest book ventures into the realm of healthy cooking, giving people insight and ideas into making low-calorie meals.
“I lost 50 pounds two years ago, and during that time I learned that many great recipes don’t need to be packed with calories,” she states.
The 148-page book boasts stunningly beautiful color photos taken by Wells, who also is an accomplished photographer.
In terms of recipes, expect to find everything from chipotle chicken corn chowder to portobello mushroom burgers to mini cheesecakes with assorted fruit toppings (see recipe below).
“People have a stigma about healthy food, that it doesn’t taste good. The recipes in this book are full of flavor,” Wells says.
Some other Idaho cookbook classics:
Here’s a look at a few cookbooks published by Idaho authors over the years. Some of the books are still in print, while others have been out of print for a while, yet used copies still pop up at thrift stores and online from time to time.
“Cristina’s of Sun Valley” (2005, Gibbs Smith), “Cristina’s Tuscan Table” (2007, Gibbs Smith) and “Cristina’s of Sun Valley Con Gusto!” (2013): Cristina Ceccatelli Cook, owner of Cristina’s Restaurant in Ketchum, is one of the busiest cookbook authors in the Gem State. She draws inspiration from her childhood in Italy.
“Vintage Restaurant: Handcrafted Cuisine from a Sun Valley Favorite” (2006, Gibbs Smith): Ketchum chef Jeff Keys, owner of Vintage Restaurant, penned this cookbook nearly a decade ago, but the contemporary recipes from his popular restaurant are timeless.
“Basque Cooking and Lore” (1992, Caxton Press): Author Darcy Williamson offers lots of classic Basque recipes, anecdotes and history about the Basque culture in Idaho.
“Savor Idaho Cookbook” (2006, Wilderness Adventure Press): In this book, authors Chuck and Blanche Johnson have brought together a collection of recipes from some of Idaho’s best restaurants and the stories behind them.
“Best of the Best from Idaho Cookbook” (2003, Quail Ridge Press): Editor Gwen McKee spent lots of time compiling recipes from Idaho’s best cookbooks for this spiral-bound cookbook.
“In The Wild Chef: Recipes from Base Camp to Summit” (2012, Smoke Alarm Media): Not to be confused with Randy King’s “Chef in the Wild,” this book shows people how to cook tasty grub around the campfire. Author Stephen Weston, an accomplished camp cook, has designed inventive recipes that are perfect for camping and backpacking.
“The Idaho Table: A Taste of the Intermountain West (2003, self-published): Chef Jonathan Mortimer, former owner of Mortimer’s who now lives in Arizona, wrote this cookbook while running his popular Boise restaurant. The recipes focus on Northwest ingredients prepared in a contemporary manner.
“Great Meals Dutch Oven Style” (2004, Caxton Press): Dutch-oven cooking is considered to be an art form in Idaho, and cookbook author Dale Smith helps people get the most out of their cast-iron cookware in this well-rounded cookbook.
“Tea & Savories: Delightful Teatime Treats” (2015, Hoffman Media): Tami Shoemaker, whose popular Miss Tami’s Cottage and Tea Room (misstamis.com) in Meridian is now only open by appointment, by reservation for private tea parties or during open-house events, didn’t write this cookbook, yet one of her recipes was chosen by the editors of Tea Time Magazine for the book.
James Patrick Kelly, restaurant critic at the Idaho Statesman, is the author of the travel guidebooks “Moon Idaho” and “Spotlight Boise.” He also teaches journalism at Boise State University.
Almond Crusted Steelhead with Chilean Barbacoa Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes
From the “Chef in the Wild” cookbook.
1⁄2 pound mixed fingerling potatoes, quartered
1 small carrot, shredded
1⁄2 cup edamame or frozen peas
1 tablespoon butter
10 mint leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat oven to 325°F. Melt half the butter in a medium sauté pan. When the butter is foaming, add the potatoes and toss to coat. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until fork-tender. Add the carrots, peas, butter and mint leaves. Toss and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid and reserve; the residual heat will finish the peas and carrots.
Chilean Barbacoa Sauce
This sauce is from Kelly Chatterton, a steelheader and chef from Boise. Kelly likes this sauce for big ocean run brown trout from Chile.
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1⁄2 cup port, sherry or Madeira
1⁄2 cup sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil and remove from heat. Reserve.
1/2 cup almonds, sliced and crushed
2 six-ounce steelhead fillets
1 tablespoon canola oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Wet the fish slightly under the tap. Massage the almonds onto the inside surface of the fish (not the skin side). Place skin side down. Heat oil in a medium saute pan. Place fish almond side down into the pan, cook for two to three minutes or until the almonds are toasted.
Flip and move pan to the oven. Cook for about five minutes or until the fish is done.
Place half the potatoes and one of the fillets on a plate. Garnish with two tablespoons of sauce.
Pepper Crusted Venison Steaks
A French classic – peppercorn steak, updated with Northwestern flair. The sweetness of the apples and the apple juice are what make this dish. From the “Chef in the Wild” cookbook.
6-8 four-ounce venison steaks, sirloin
3 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 Fuji or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1⁄4 inch wedges
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup apple juice (brandy or bourbon works great here, too)
1⁄2 cup milk
1 sprig rosemary
Preheat oven to “warm” and place a plate inside.
Pour the cracked peppercorns onto a small plate. Firmly press each of the steaks into the pepper, just one side. Lightly season both sides with salt.
Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan on medium until it is on the verge of smoking. Place the steaks in the pan peppercorn-side down and brown for 2-3 minutes.
Flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove promptly from heat if blood starts to show on the top of the pepper-crusted section, this will mean that they are about medium. Place steaks on the plate in the oven to keep warm.
Add the apples and flour to the seasoned pan. The juice from the apples should absorb the flour and not clump. When the apples start to brown, add the apple juice, about 1 minute. Use a wooden spoon and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. The flour should thicken the apple juice mix quickly. Add the milk; let simmer until it reduces and thickens.
Remove steaks from the oven. Pour off any blood from the platter. Slice the meat and serve with the apple sauce, roasted potatoes and sautéed kale. Garnish with rosemary.
Chicken & Black Bean Chili
From the “Two Million Meals Later” cookbook
Author’s note from Stephanie Telesco: Unlike many of the recipes that we developed over the years, this recipe is one that we served on opening day and every day thereafter. It is an iconic Bistro classic. Can you use canned beans? Of course, you can. Will it taste the same? We’ll leave that to you. We always started our recipes with dried beans, even though the canned ones would have been perhaps easier. As is often said in the southern climes of the world: “El angelito es en las detalles.” The angel is in the details! “Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.” Harry James
The day before, combine and store overnight in the refrigerator:
2 cups black beans, dry
1 gallon water
3 tablespoons salt
The next day for the beans:
3 quarts cold water
½ cup olive oil
2 ¾ cups yellow onion, diced
2 ¾ cups green pepper, diced
1 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/3 cup chili powder
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon cumin
½ cup masa harina flour
1 48-ounce can V-8 juice
¼ cup chicken base
1 cup hot water
¼ cup honey
⅛ teaspoon Tabasco
1 ½ teaspoon cocoa
1 tablespoons green peppercorns, chopped
1 ½ teaspoon basil
1 ½ teaspoon oregano
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¾ cups red bell pepper, canned, chopped
1 ¼ cups green chili peppers, diced
1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes
1 pound chicken, cooked and diced
The following day, drain the soaked black beans and rinse them very well. Place the beans in a sauce pot; add the cold water and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender. Drain and set aside for use later.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pot and when hot, add the vegetables and the chili powder, cinnamon, coriander and cumin and sauté over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent and tender.
Add the masa harina Flour and sauté for two minutes, stirring continually.
Add the V-8 juice and increase the heat to high. Stir it completely, and then allow it to simmer until the mixture thickens.
Add all the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.
Add the cooked, drained beans and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
As with many stews, this one is often best if made a day ahead of time, cooled overnight and reheated the next day.
Black Bean and Mango Quesadillas
From the “400 Calories or Less” cookbook.
This quick and easy meatless meal is simple to prep and full of flavor. With a nice serving of both protein and fiber, it will fill you up for a quick weeknight meal or provide a hearty appetizer for your next party.
Makes 6 (1 quesadilla) servings.
3/4 cup diced mango (about 1 small/medium)
3 tablespoons diced red onion
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely minced jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
fresh cracked black pepper
2 tablespoon water
6 small (6-8 inch) flour tortillas
3 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese (3/4 cup)
Set out a large griddle pan or skillet, or preheat oven to 400 degrees (see cooking method options in recipe).
To prepare mango salsa, combine mango, red onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice in a bowl. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt and a few cracks of pepper. Gently stir to combine and place in fridge to chill.
Place beans, cumin, coriander, onion, garlic, water, 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and a few cracks of black pepper in a microwave-safe bowl and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and prick plastic with a fork to vent. Microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes (microwaves vary) until beans are hot. Use a fork to lightly mash beans, leaving some beans still intact.
Divide beans between 6 tortillas (2-3 tablespoons each) and spread to cover half of each tortilla. Top with pepper jack cheese (about 2 tablespoons each) and fold each tortilla in half to close. Spray both sides of tortillas lightly with non-stick spray.
Stovetop cooking: Heat a griddle or large skillet to medium-high heat. Place quesadillas on warm pan, in batches if necessary, and cook on both sides until toasted and golden and cheese is melted.
Oven cooking (great for large batches): Place quesadillas in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are toasted golden brown and slightly crisp.
Let cooked quesadillas rest for 3-4 minutes after cooking and then carefully open, add mango salsa (about 3 tablespoons to each), and close again.
Nutrition: Calories: 236 Fat: 7.3 Carbs: 33 Fiber: 6 Sugars: 4 Protein: 10
1 tablespoon low-fat sour cream: 20 calories
2, ¼-inch slices avocado (1 ounce): 50 calories
Sara Wells’ author notes: Black beans and mango will forever be one of my favorite flavor combinations. I love this mix of hot, cheesy quesadillas with cold, fresh salsa. The sweet and savory combination is one of my family’s favorites. It’s also one of my go-to snacks for parties. Assemble the quesadillas ahead of time and store in fridge. When ready to cook, bake lots at once on cookie sheets in the oven.
Alternatives: If you’re making this for kiddos or mouths who aren’t fond of mild heat, leave out the jalapeno and substitute regular jack cheese, or Colby jack for the pepper jack.
From the “400 Calories or Less” cookbook.
These perfectly portioned cheesecakes are rich and dreamy, but individual sizes keep calories in check. They even boast 5 grams of protein per serving. Try them with the topping suggestions or invent your own.
Yields 12 (1 cheesecake) servings.
3 whole graham crackers
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 dash cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
8 ounces reduced-calorie cream cheese (not non-fat)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg white
1 cup 2 percent cottage cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with foil cupcake liners.
To make the crust: Break graham crackers into food processor and process until crumbs (about a scant ½ cup crumbs). Add brown sugar and cinnamon and pulse to combine. With processor running, drizzle in butter and process until combined. Divide crust into muffin cups and gently press down with fingers. Bake for 5 minutes and then remove pan from oven.
To make the cheesecake: Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg and egg white and blend until smooth. Place cottage cheese in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add cottage cheese mixture to cream cheese mixture and add vanilla and flour and beat just until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
Divide mixture evenly between muffin cups (about 1/4 cup in each); cups will be full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until centers are puffed and edges are set. Remove from oven and cool completely to room temperature. Centers will sink down when cooled. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6-8 hours, or overnight. Serve with desired toppings.
Nutrition (for cheesecake alone, no toppings): Calories: 122 Fat: 7 Carbs: 11 Fiber: 0 Sugars: 8 Protein: 5
Berries and cream: Top each cheesecake with 1 tablespoon whipped cream from a can and 1 tablespoon fresh mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, chopped strawberries). Garnish with fresh mint.
Addition, per cheesecake: Calories: 15 Fat: 1 Carbs: 3 Sugars: 2 Protein:0
Apple-cinnamon: In a small nonstick sauté pan on medium heat, combine 1 ½ cup diced peeled apple, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until apples are crisp-tender, adding up to 1 tablespoon water toward the end of cooking if apples begin to stick to pan. Let cool. Divide among cheesecakes; top each with 1 tablespoon whipped cream from a can, drizzle with ¼ teaspoon 100 percent maple syrup and top with a toasted pecan half. Garnish with ground cinnamon if desired.
Addition, per cheesecake: Calories: 39 Fat: 2 Carbs: 5 Sugars: 4 Protein:0
Tropical coconut caramel: Toss 1 cup diced mango with ½ teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice and ½ teaspoon finely grated lime zest. Divide among cheesecakes and top each with 1 teaspoon toasted coconut and ¼ teaspoon jarred caramel sauce. For extra coconut flavor, add 1 ½ teaspoons coconut extract to cheesecake batter before baking.
Addition, per cheesecake: Calories: 25 Fat: 1 Carbs: 5 Sugars: 4 Protein:0
Sara Wells’ author notes: Mini cheesecakes are one of my go-to dishes for entertaining. They’re perfectly portioned and made ahead of time so it’s one less thing to worry about when serving guests.
Wild Rice Meatloaf
From the “Two Million Meals Later” cookbook
Author’s note from Stephanie Telesco: The truth is that a slice of meatloaf was my favorite breakfast on early mornings at the restaurant. And it worked for lunch and dinner as well. When you make this, you will want to use 80/20 beef, otherwise the final product is too dry. In testing this recipe, we tried two of the wild rice blends available in the markets in town. None of them compared to the wild rice that we ordered from Chieftain Wild Rice Company in Spooner, Wis.
2 ½ pounds ground beef, 80/20
¾ pound ground pork
3 large eggs
3 ½ tablespoons whipping cream
2 teaspoons horseradish
2 teaspoons A-1 sauce
4 teaspoons Maggi
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic
2 ½ tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper, coarse grind
Pinch nutmeg, ground
½ teaspoon thyme
1 cup wild rice, cooked
1 ⅓ cups bread crumbs
⅓ cup soda water
Crumb the beef and the pork into a mixer bowl, to make it easier for them to mix together.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the meat in the mixer bowl.
Add all of the remaining ingredients to the mixer bowl.
Beat until all the ingredients are just mixed together. Do not overbeat.
Fill the loaf pan with the meatloaf, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
It is best to let the meatloaf rest covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight before baking. When ready to bake, let the meatloaf sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Bake at 300 degrees until the interior temperature reaches 140 degrees.
Let the meatloaf sit outside of the oven, covered loosely for 5 minutes before cutting.