Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Finding new treasures in old friends

Armed with paperclips, bright yellow post it notes, and an eagle eye, I sat down with three of my cookbooks recently to make some new discoveries. As I cook and learn and gain more confidence in the kitchen, I'm going back to old cookbooks that I thought I had exhausted and finding new gems. I'm really able to chart my own growth this way. Over the last few months, my spice rack has doubled in size and I now have the "international" shelf in my pantry. Last year at this time, I craved sugar in a big way. My nutritionist suggested cooking with new flavors and seeing if I could learn to love those, too. I've taken that advice to heart and it's turned out to be true for me. A little heat from curry. The tanginess from lime juice. The rustic, earthy tones of mushrooms. The richness of gruyere. I crave them all now, and so much more. So, I don't really need to shop for any new cookbooks for all ("Amen to that!" cheers my hubby as reads this..), because there's still so much these hold in store. Currently, on my bedside table lies the following:

The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook's Food to Live By

by Myra Goodman with Linda Holland and Pamela McKinstry

The first twenty pages tells the very compelling story about Myra and her husband starting out their lives by growing, harvesting and selling their organically grown raspberries in 1984. Over the next twenty years, they grew tremendously and now their bagged mixed greens can be found in supermarkets around the country. She writes, "When we first moved onto the property, we knew absolutely nothing about farming. The previous owner gave us a quick course in rasberry horticulture, teaching us how to add chemical fertilizers...but when the time came for us to follow the procedures, we couldn't bring ourselves to do it. We hated the way the chemicals smelled and instinctively we knew they weren't healthy for us, our future customers, or the environment." You can tell they have a passion for what they do. And you can taste it in their recipes. She devotes one whole chapter to raspberry recipes! My favorite section of her book deals with salads and homemade vinegrettes. I've completely given up on store bought salad dressings now that I've had salads dressed with fresh ingredients. It's just no contest.

The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld

I would definitely classify myself as a "flexitarian." I prefer meals made of vegetables, fruit, grains and beans. I always make them my main focus when cooking, but I really enjoy a nice piece of fish on a regular basis. This is a wonderful cookbook for the family with a wide range of eating habits. I have to admit when I first looked through the book, I hardly recognized any of the ingredients. I would suggest this book for the more adventurous and experienced cook. If you've been there and done that, this book will take you to new sights! Yesterday, I bought hazelnut oil in order to try this vinaigrette in her section on salads:

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup toasted hazelnut oil


Candied Hazelnuts (1 cup of nuts toasted at 350 F with 2 T maple syrup and 2 T of natural sugar -ouch my teeth hurt already!)

Pour vinegar into a small saucepan & bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer rapidly, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 min. Pour the reduced vinegar into a small bowl and stir in the mustard. Slowly drizzle the hazelnut oil into the bowl, whisking constantly until the oil and vinegar are emulsified.

I think this will be great over a bowl of mixed greens. Delish, no? One more comment about this book, there are no pictures. None at all. This is the one drawback.

A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop

This one may already be sitting on your cookbook shelf. It's mentioned often on the Cooking Light Community Boards. I love his philosphy of eating seasonally for so many reasons. Primarily because the food just tastes better. It's as simple as that. The chapters of this book are Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. His family belongs to a co-op and they pick their own produce directly from the farm from May-October! I would love that. When you have that kind of connection to your food, you just want to highlight it's natural flavors. His recipes do just that and are mostly very simple and can be prepared rather quickly. On almost every page, there's a sidebar which explains how best to prepare an ingredient, how to pick it out, or just a general cooking or storing tip. It makes you feel like you're sitting in the kitchen with him getting the inside scoop. One final thought - I love that the majority of the recipes call for ingredients that are already present in my pantry and fridge. I can open this book up in a pinch and make something fabulous with what I have on hand.

1 comment:

KristiB said...

So far I've had success with Myra Kornfelds cookbook. I even sprung for coconut oil which is actually solid. It's taken some getting used to but I always rub a little in my hands which softens them right up. What's not to love about a healthy cooking oil that's also a beauty treatment.