Metro-East Living

Looking for more than a recipe? There’s an app for that.

A screen shot from the Big Oven app on an iPad.
A screen shot from the Big Oven app on an iPad.

The cookbooks on my shelves just aren’t getting the attention they once did.

I wonder if they know. I feel kind of bad for them.

What’s happened is that a whole new world of recipes and food ideas has invaded my kitchen via one three-letter word: app.

Hello, iPad app search; goodbye turning pages and looking through indexes. I’ll be 65 in March, and I’m thrilled with this new frontier of easy information.

I wanted a dinner recipe that included pasta, was low-fat and could be on the table in about 30 minutes. My Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app found dozens. I chose the Shrimp and Feta Cheese Pasta recipe. I liked it so much I tapped the heart icon and saved it to my main dish favorites. Next time I need it, it will be right there, waiting for me. If I need to, I can tap the icon that looks like a grocery list and, you guessed it, create one with those recipe ingredients already plugged in. Another icon lets me email it or put it on Facebook in case I want to share.

These are now the common, and expected, abilities of nearly all recipe apps. Even better, how-to videos are de rigueur. (The most annoying thing about most online sites and apps are the pop-up ads. Drive me crazy!)

Plus, the really good apps are easy to use and maneuver through. I have mine on my iPad because the screen is bigger and easier to read, but you can load them on nearly any kind of phone. I just prop up my tablet on the kitchen counter and go to work.

At the NYT Cooking app, I could spend a lot of time searching, just for fun, through the recipe archives of the grande dame of food sections, the New York Times. What cook wouldn’t be drawn to the idea that there are 15,000 recipes stored there from some of the best cooks in the world? One of the Editor’s Collections included 15 recipes under “Cooking with Nigella,” while another had 11 for “What Am I Going to Cook with This Stuff from the Farmer’s Market?”

I was salivating a bit over the simple Shortbread Jammers recipe I found. I tapped the recipe’s notes icon and remarks popped up, including one from a NYT editor who explained why an 8-by-8 pan was better to use with the dessert than a bigger one and that the recipe had been reconfigured to fit it.

The Food Network in the Kitchen app has a nice scroll bar across the top that lets you pick recipe categories that include slow cooker, how-to videos and top picks.

I could go on. There are so many traditional things we do when we cook to make things go right, from folding egg whites carefully to kneading bread dough with that special fold and turn technique. It’s a bit hard to imagine that something so innovative and new could win me over so quickly. But it has.

I came across a website called, and in it are his favorite food apps. I picked the five I’ve had the best luck with. All but one are free.

I’ve included a selection of recipes from the apps to try.

1. NYT Cooking (iOS: free) — The Grey Lady might not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to cooking recipes, but the New York Times Cooking app provides users with access to more than 17,000 recipes from the newspaper’s archive. Search filters let you find just the right recipe based on diet, cuisine type, preparation method, meal type, and more, and users can save and annotate recipes, leave reviews, and sync their personal recipe box with Evernote for easy access.

2. Food Network In The Kitchen (Android, iOS: free) — More than just a channel guide, the Food Network In The Kitchen app puts recipes from the network’s celebrity chefs right at your fingertips. Users can view thousands of recipes, photos and videos so you can cook with the pros, with new recipes added every month. Users can search by chef or ingredient, view seasonal collections, import recipes, create custom shopping lists and access useful extras like unit converters and cooking timers.

3. Epicurious (iOS: free) — If you’re looking for new recipes, check out the Epicurious app, which features more than 30,000 recipes sorted into convenient categories. Recipe search and categories make it an easy discovery tool, and a digital recipe box allows you to save your favorite recipes within the site and elsewhere on the Web. Extras include seasonal recipe collections, a seasonal ingredient finder, a hands-free cook mode and a smart timer that comes with Apple Watch support.

4. BigOven (Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone: free) — In addition to more than 250,000 recipes searchable by keyword, course, ingredient or collection, BigOven includes great recipe management features for free and paid users. A leftovers feature lets you enter up to 10 ingredients in your pantry, with the app suggesting numerous recipes for you, while a menu planning calendar and shopping list help you organize. Recipe Scan allows users to upload pictures of handwritten or typed recipes and have BigOven transcribe them for you (three pages for free users, or up to 25 for paid). A $2.49 per month membership to BigOven Pro removes ads and includes a handy Web clipper in addition to other tools.

5. Allrecipes Dinner Spinner (Android, iOS, Windows Phone: free) — Uses a neat spinning system for helping users find just the kind of recipe they need. A set of spinners allows users to look up the kind of course, main ingredient and preparation time they want to cook up, and Allrecipes then brings up a set of recipes that fit the parameters, with detailed instructions and videos. In addition to the dinner spinner, the app also functions as a recipe box, shopping list and more.

Shrimp and Feta Cheese Pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon white wine

1 pound linguine pasta

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 (6 ounce) package crumbled feta cheese

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook shrimp, garlic and white wine for 5 minutes, or until shrimp is pink. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

While pasta is cooking, cook tomatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, oregano and basil over medium heat in wine mixture until tender, 10 minutes.

Toss hot pasta with shrimp, tomato sauce and feta. Feta will melt slightly. Serve.

Shortbread Jammers

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup rice flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted)

1 cup thick fruit jam, preserves or marmalade

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. (Nonstick cooking spray works OK here, too.)

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar at medium speed for about 3 minutes.

Add the salt and vanilla and continue to beat until well-combined.

Add all the flour and continue to beat until the dough comes together.

Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface. Prick it with a fork in about 20 places. Bake 35 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Slide a dull knife along the edges. Cool 5 minutes.

Carefully turn the slab of shortbread out onto a clean surface. With a knife, trim 1 inch from one of the sides. Crumble the trimmings into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cut the rest of the shortbread into 16 squares and allow to cool.

Spread a thick layer of jam on each square, and then sprinkle with the crumbs. Layered between plastic wrap or wax paper in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for 3 to 4 days.

Yield: 16 squares.

Note: You can spread the jam on the shortbread and sprinkle the crumbs on in the pan before cutting it into squares; the final version may not be as neat as the other method.

Pistachio Parmesan Risotto

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice

1/2 cup white wine

8-12 cups chicken stock, warmed

1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Half and half, if desired

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium high heat and add shallot and rice; cook, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 minutes, then deglaze with white wine and stir until absorbed.

Continue by adding chicken stock, about half-cup at a time, stirring constantly to release the starch from the rice, until the rice is cooked through, about 20 minutes or so.

Stir in the pistachios and Parmesan, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you desire a creamier rice, add a little half and half as desired, then serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

1 pound thin bacon

16 Russet potatoes

6 tablespoons canola oil

4 sticks (1 pound) salted butter, plus more for buttering baking dish

2 cups sour cream

2 cups grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (or a mix of both), plus more for topping

2 cups whole milk

4 teaspoons seasoned salt

6 green onions, sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a saute pan until crispy; let cool and then crumble.

Scrub the potatoes, then place them on baking sheets. Rub the potatoes with the canola oil and bake until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the potatoes and lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Slice the butter into pats and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the bacon and sour cream. With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half lengthwise and scrape out the insides into the mixing bowl. Tear up 3 of the skins and throw them in. Smash the potatoes with a potato masher. Add the cheese, milk, seasoned salt, green onions and some salt and pepper and mix together well.

Butter a baking dish, and then spoon the mixture into the dish, top with more grated cheese and bake until warmed through, 25 to 30 minutes.

Yield: 16 servings. and Ree Drummond

Citrus Marinated Chicken Thighs

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

Set aside 1/4 cup sliced scallions. Pulse cilantro, garlic, citrus zests, citrus juices, soy sauce, oil, salt and remaining scallions in a food processor or blender until a coarse purée forms.

Set aside 1/4 cup marinade; place remaining marinade in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, seal bag, and turn to coat. Chill at least 20 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Remove chicken from marinade and place, skin side down, on a foil-lined broiler-proof baking sheet; discard marinade. Broil chicken until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn; continue to broil until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165 degrees, 12-15 minutes longer. Serve chicken with reserved marinade and scallions.

Yield: 4

Per serving: 250 calories, 12 grams fat, 1 gram fiber.

Do ahead: Chicken can be marinated 2 hours ahead. Keep chilled.