Cookbook Catch-Up

One of my 2015 reading goals was to make more use of my cookbooks. Each month I’ve been picking one cookbook from my collection and trying at least 2 new recipes from it. It’s been a few months since I shared my progress, but I’ve enjoyed going through my collection and haven’t missed a month yet. So far, none of the recipes have made into our regular rotation of meals, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m trying new things every month.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

The stories included with the recipes are very chatty and engaging, so it’s easy to see what Deb Perelman is such a successful blogger. I found the format a little harder to navigate because of how ingredients and steps were split across multiple pages, but that was a fairly small issue that didn’t keep me from enjoying the book. My husband wouldn’t be upset at all if her lemon bars and raspberry ricotta scones became frequent treats. My personal favorite was the Fingerlings Vinaigrette, a potato salad that includes mustard vinaigrette and pickled celery. I’m really intrigued by the buttered popcorn cookies, but I haven’t tried those yet.

Gourmet Today
Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl (Editor)

The size of this cookbook makes it a little unwieldy, but the range of recipes is worth the hefty size. Ruth Reichl states that the purpose of the cookbook is to reflect the changing tastes of America at a time when salsa began outselling ketchup, so there’s a mix of new and old. The Korean marinated beef was a big hit and also a super quick meal with scallion soba noodles from the same cookbook. The beef and broccoli was not a hit and was just okay, but I think a little less sauce and a little more spice would have made that a better pick for our tastes. My favorite was the blackberry upside-down cake because it was fairly simple but looked and tasted amazing, which made it a nice treat to share with guests.

The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen

If I see America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, or Cook’s Country on a cookbook, then I need it. I love the layouts and the recipe development sections. This particular cookbook has product recommendations, kitchen tips, and other helpful information without the longer trial-and-error reports. We tried and enjoyed the Chinese chicken salad and Mediterranean tuna salad, and my husband was crazy about the lemon mousse even though he’s usually not a fan of Greek yogurt. The New York cheesecake sounded interesting, but I’ll have to get over my aversion to cottage cheese before I attempt that one.

The New Best Recipe
The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated

This is another massive cookbook, and it’s from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, so there’s a lot of wonderful discussion about the different things that were tried on the way to perfecting each recipe. It’s too much preamble for some people, but I love reading through it. Maybe I’m showing my inner nerd? I made the gingerbread cookies twice for celebrations at my husband’s office. The second time was at the request of people who loved them the first time he took them, and I’m sure I’ll make those again as the holiday season starts. The coconut chocolate chip cookies are also good though not quite on the “These are amazing!” level of the gingerbread cookies. The Spaghetti Puttanesca is probably the meal most likely to become a staple for us because it’s got the perfect amount of olives and capers in the sauce, and it’s quick and easy. The sandwich bread recipe didn’t turn out great, but I don’t have the best luck baking my own bread.

One Big Table
One Big Table by Molly O’Neill

This cookbook is a joy to read with all the little tidbits of food history in it. It’s a true celebration of home cooks in all different kinds of homes across America, and even if I never used a recipe from it, it would be worth having for the stories. I love how the recipe title often include the cook’s name, and it reminds me of the church cookbooks that I loved as a kid. As a bonus, the recipes we tried were also tasty. Norma Naranjo’s tamales are not a quick meal, but the thick chile sauce paired with zucchini is even better than I imagined. That was my first time having any kind of squash in a tamale, but it will not be the last time. I still have a few of these in my freezer. The macaroni and cheese recipe from Helen Griffin Williams is a fairly basic baked macaroni and cheese, but the construction of it involves cubed cheese and a custard-like sauce. If you’re someone like me who considers cheese a major food group, then you have to give this one a try.

Some themes become very clear as I go through my cookbook collection. I tend to purchase big cookbooks, and while I enjoy pretty food photography, I’m more interested in things like personal food-related stories and/or informational sections about food science and general kitchen tips.