cookbooks

Loving Lately 📕

OMGoodness!!! What am I loving lately? It’s a no-brainer… Crumb A Baking Book by Ruby Tandoh.

We all know that I am a cookbook fanatic. I can walk through any department store, past the shoe department, through the make-up and perfume, past woman’s clothing and accessories, and leave empty handed. I can visit any home goods store and ogle the decor, romanticize about placing the holiday decorations and get really tempted by the serving ware. Yet, I have reasoning enough to remind myself that I am out of storage space (ugh, that dreaded voice of reason). So, I can resist. But alas, when I see a discounted cookbook misplaced on any given random shelf… well obviously it’s a sign.

I’m not like a cutting edge, latest and greatest, New York Times best seller cookbook buyer. (Can you imagine the pressure?) Perspective: I’m just cooking for my family.

But I have so much to know!

For example, it was from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child where I learned that you don’t just want the butter to melt to sauté, you want it to separate and froth before adding the diced onions, celery and carrots (or what have you). I had known for years that the esteemed classic French cooking techniques were actually founded on the capability of “peasants” to extract the most flavor from any food to which they might be privy (i.e. onion soup and quiche- a.k.a egg pie). Those are a couple of my favorite foods, btw. But it wasn’t until after making a few recipes out of the book, Tyler’s Ultimate by Tyler Florence, that it actually dawned on me -“light bulb,” how really good these simple ingredients taste by following a few steps.

So, I’m a few pages into Crumb and there are like 3 paragraphs dedicated to “Brown Butter”… and I’ve made brown butter before (sometimes accidentally)… and she clues me in to the idea that heating the butter this far reduces its water content by 20% of its original weight, so you should reintroduce a splash of milk… and maybe I’ve read this before, but if so I obviously didn’t remember (clearly I wasn’t ready). Then Ruby, if I may call her that, goes on to explain with her following recipe of “Honey Madeleines” (those traditional shell shaped French cookies with a honey spin), that it is indeed the brown butter that compliments the honey… and to chill the pan to give the characteristic crispy edges… and I am like, “Eureka! I have needed this book all of my life!”

Don’t even get me started on the “Caraway Carrot Cake With Poppy Seeds” which I am chomping at the bit to make. Because by page 48 she has already earned my trust and I am confident that this must be an amazing flavor combination… I ❤️ Crumb! Oh, I should mention fantastic photographs of food… which I also love.

This is me.

And here’s a little shout out to my husband who supports my quirky.

 

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately: Cookbooks

Reading cookbooks is my favorite leisurely pass-time. I love that people share their recipes, old and new. It’s like this universal connection. People all through time and around the world can relate to feeding their family and the satisfaction it brings when they really enjoy it. I’m a long time fan of The Pioneer Woman, before she had a show on Food Network. I just appreciate her no frills approach to good food. She cooks family style with ingredients that seem to fit my family’s palate. Her new book, Dinnertime continues her trademark step-by-step photographs, homestyle meals and endearing family stories; just what I want out of one of her cookbooks. I also am enjoying her tips on meal planning, stocking the pantry and ideas for prepping ahead. And I can’t wait to make her Orange Chicken Cashew Chicken French Dip Sandwiches…

 

Return to Sunday Dinner is not a newly released cookbook, but it is relatively new to me. I found it really inspiring. Russell Cronkhite was a long time chef for various White House Administrations. I love his simple elevation of American classics. From the north, south, east and west, he highlights traditional dishes across the U.S. and credits the countries of origin and inspiration from which they came. While the recipes are valuable and interesting, what I loved even more was his admiration of a Sunday family gathering. It’s a celebration of gratitude for working a hard week and cherishing loved ones. I am honestly moved to get my wedding china dishes out of the hutch and set the table, at least once a week, because what am I waiting for? It’s not something pretentious or highfaluting, it’s about using your best (whatever that is), giving thanks and making memories. I love that! (And I think I know my next giveaway!)

Cookery Books

My family and I spent last week in the great Up North. We have a cabin on the Tahquamenon River, where it is tranquil, rustic, and a sincere connection to times past. There is nothing like cooking over a campfire (and maybe a stroll around Mackinac Island in a horse drawn carriage) to make me think of how our ancestors cooked much the same way not so long ago. To commemorate my trip I purchased a newer print of an old cookbook, Early American Cookery or Ye Gentlewoman’s Housewifery, by Margaret Huntington Hooker. I was very curious to see what kinds of recipes were made over 100 years ago. The author even referred to previous ‘cookery’ books as early as 1736. Obviously some things have changed, but we’re both using fire and cast iron!

I was actually amazed that they had so much access to a variety of spices and herbs. For whatever reason of my limited knowledge, I am impressed to learn they cooked with Marjoram, ‘Tumeric’, ‘Gynger’, Summer Savory (I don’t even know what that is), Parsley, Thyme, Laurel, Sweet Basil, Mint, Cloves, Cinnamon, ‘Garlek,’ Mace, and so on to name a few. I guess I imagined things being bland. The author refers many foods I can relate to soups, anchovies and ‘tomata sauce.’ And although the language is before my time and measurements aren’t always given, many of the techniques still apply. For example “a piece of butter rolled in flour…” They were making a roux!

Of course some things were totally un-relatable to me. I can’t imagine giving an eel a salt rub to remove the slime. And although I know people still cook eel today, I actually have a hard time imagining that it was ever common practice. I understand using all parts of the animal and making the most of what you have. That stated, it is completely foreign to me to put a “neck of mutton about 6 pounds…” into any of my recipes. I mean, they just say it so nonchalantly. Was that the norm neck size? Just about 6 pounds? Do they just assume it has been de-haired? In another mutton recipe they instruct to put the “head, heart and lights and 1 pound pork into 5 quarts of water…” Lights? What are the lights? If I had to guess, I’d say the eyes; which leads me to believe that again they assume I know what to do with the head, i.e. de-furring, removing parts, etc. After an hour of boiling you add the liver, and a while later one finishes it off with some doughy dumplings before serving. And I’m wondering if the head is still in there? Does it dissipate? Because I think my kids would freak out. I, myself, can barely stand the thought of bouillabaisse. I mean, I’ve made leg if lamb, but this is on another level. So I think to myself, we are so far removed.

At the same time I am starting to read a suggestion from one of my blog readers and friend, A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield. Now here is a current and up to date cookbook. In this book she acknowledges celebrities like Jay Z, okay; modern. And as I am reading the forward of the book the writer that assists Chef April Bloomfield mentions a cumin-spiked tomato sauce and filleting anchovies; and again I am struck by the similarities. Then, I kid you not, they write “…a peek into the oven to check on a roasting lamb’s head.” Maybe it’s just me?

Cookbook Crazy

I have a serious problem, a legitimate weakness for collecting cookbooks. I read them like people read mystery novels or classic literature. I thoroughly enjoy them. I love the pictures and the recipes and the shared techniques and the background stories. I like imagining on what occasion I can make the prospective recipes and with what company I would enjoy them. I have even gone as far as cataloging many recipes in a computer database to be able to quickly retrieve recipes by ingredient. For example, let’s say I got a great deal on some sweet, juicy, organic blackberries. Well, then I would go through my database and pull up my file on fruit. I would then proceed to blackberries, and sift through every pie, cobbler, muffin and scone, etc recipe until I found one that sounded interesting. I would then see which of my books it was from, what page I can find it on, if it has a picture, if I made it before and, if so, what I thought of it. I realize this is totally nerdy of me.

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Do they have cookbook reading clubs? We should start one. I just read Three Sisters Bake. It almost brought me to tears (not kidding, I should get out more). I can completely relate to the desire of starting a café with a sister. I’m not sure about the black pudding, but I’m not Scottish either. I’d try it though. Their rustic baking pictures are just my style, and I can’t wait to make their soups.

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Currently I am reading Simply Delish by Jessica Merchant. Her food sounds fun and flavorful. I need to get some whole wheat pastry flour. And she makes toast with toppings look like a whole new cuisine. Her excitement is contagious; I should drink a kale smoothie and go to the gym.

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My at present favorites are: Pioneer Woman, I am waiting with anticipation for her new book to come out this fall; Barefoot Contessa, and Better Homes and Gardens. All of them are easy for a home cook like me to follow, and I am almost always happy with the results I get from them. Pioneer Woman cooks with a practicality that I can relate to. She almost always cooks with ingredients I have on hand. Her food, I find, in general is simple and scrumptious just like she claims it is. And she takes pictures every step of the way, which is perfect for me, because I know what it’s supposed to look like as I go along! I’m a fan. Barefoot Contessa is great for me. She measures everything. When I make her roasted chicken or leg of lamb, I feel fancy and triumphant. Just follow the instructions! I refer to her recipes and entertaining tips often. She has this simple sophistication. Maybe I’m persuaded by the pictures of her Hampton’s home and garden? And lastly, whenever, I am unhappy with a particular dish and variations there of, I go back to Better Homes and Gardens. It’s like going back to the basics of tried and true. For example, meatloaf, all the sudden it’s too spicy, or oozing cheese, or wrapped in soggy bacon. Wha? Let’s remember why I do or do not like this dish in the first place. Oh yeah, that’s more like how mom made it! Classic red and white checkered, perfect for novices like me, cookbook.

I have a few stashed under my coffee table, a couple on some side tables, probably at any given time one on my nightstand and a whole bookcase full of fun, colorful, black and white, fancy, low country, healthy, not-so-healthy, local, exotic, soul, old and new cookbooks. Ahhh, life is good.