A Cooking Compendium: 6 Recipes, 12 Cookbook Recommendations, and 4 Thoughts About Food in General

This isn't a cooking blog but the occasional recipe makes its way here. As my Facebook friends will tell you, I love to cook and I love to feed people. My Facebook posts seem to rotate between bike rides and cooking (What can I say? Biking makes me hungry!) with a side of public policy and reminders to vote. Hey, that sounds like this blog.

To inspire your own foodie updates, here's a round-up of recipes I've posted here, along with notes on a few of my favorite cookbooks and other posts on food in general.

Recipes

As for cookbooks, I have a full bookcase in my kitchen. I like to read cookbooks and taste the recipes in my head--many a calorie-free meal is enjoyed this way.

I most often use recipes as a starting point for inspiration and then improvise based on ingredients on hand unless it's one of those recipes where chemistry and proportions seem to really matter. I appreciate cookbook writers who think the way I do and throw in parenthetical remarks like "using rosemary instead of basil takes this in a whole new direction."

A few of my favorites:

  • Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. She's on Twitter now! Follow @madhursworld. The Spanish Egg and Potato Cake is a new family favorite and reading the book is like a trip around the world's great kitchens.
  • The New Laurel's Kitchen. Mostly for bread but I'll be trying her ketchup recipe soon.
  • 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery. Try the Herbed Sesame Polenta with Roasted Vegetables, Brown Rice with Quinoa, and Quinoa-Mushroom Nut Loaf.
  • The Brilliant Bean. Family favorites: Lemony Garbanzo Bean Cake, Chocolate Midnight Bean Torte.
  • Everyday Italian. Sweet Husband's favorite. He's adapted several recipes for my vegetarian palate including the Farfalle with "Turkey Susage" (Peppered Tofurkey lunchmeat works just fine), Peas and Mushrooms; the Wild Mushroom Risotto with Peas is incredible because he uses the full amount of butter specified whereas I'd cut it back so I just pretend not to know when I eat his; the Marinara Sauce is peppery and wonderful; and the Cantaloupe, Strawberries and Grapes with White Wine and Mint makes a wonderful light summer dessert.
  • The Art of Low-Calorie Cooking. "Art" is right: Beautiful food photography of gourmet food prepared with no sacrifice of flavor; source of the Crackling Cornbread recipe linked above. Try the Giambotta--a delicious kettle full of veggies--and the Winter Squash and Gruyere Gratin--rich and creamy goodness.
  • Almost Vegetarian. I turn to this one occasionally.
  • Great Good Food. Nicely organized by season; I use the pie crust recipe from this one.
  • The Athlete's Palate Cookbook. The latest bookcase addition; so far I've only made the Asparagus Omelet Tart in a Dill Polenta Crust--needs a little more zing in the polenta crust but it was delicious.
  • Jane Brody's Good Food Book. An old standby; my copy falls open to the Oatmeal Muffins on page 601 (we'll just pretend the recipe name doesn't include those nasty raisins--I leave them out). A bookcase full of cookbooks accumulated over the years demonstrates how nutrition trends come and go--I didn't realize until I looked this up on Amazon to link that the subtitle refers to "the high-carbohydrate way." Pre-Atkins, obviously, and perfect for a household with a metabolic burner like my bike-racing Sweet Husband since he needs lots of carbs.
  • Another standby--the one my mother raised six kids with--Joy of Cooking. I have an edition I got in 1986 that lists 1975 as the last copyright date; I've heard less than flattering remarks about more recent editions. This is still the go-to for basic recipes like Fresh Cherry Pie.
  • Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies. I had to pick this one up because the main Joy of Cooking doesn't include some of the standards my family counts on like the Candy Cane Cookies with crushed peppermint.

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