Friday, January 11, 2008

Cookbooks I Recommend: For that Borders gift card burning in your wallet

Did some wonderful relative or friend give you a $50 gift card to Borders over the holidays? My sister gave me one recently and I found myself staring at the gigantic Food & Cooking section at my local store. I'm just a tad over 5 feet tall with crappy vision so there were books there out of my range of height and sight! So, if you have only 10 minutes to spare with a spouse or kids pulling at you, I thought I would tell you which books I've tried and loved. First, I have to make a recommendation for a book with more prose than recipes, but it's so worth it.

I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's non fiction narrative about her family's adventure eating only local food and the food they grew. It's called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." It's fabulous. I literally laughed out loud at her stories of motivating her turkeys to breed and the plentiful zucchini which was grown by her & her neighbors ( everyone tried to lighten their own load leaving bags of it on each other's doorsteps in the middle of the night.) I will admit that some of her passionate views bordered on preachy, but it was such a delight to read that I immediately jumped on the idea of joining a CSA (community supported agriculture). My hubby and I are now proud shareholders of a local farm and in May will be receiving our weekly bounty. Kingsolver's book provides many recipes for their harvest that you will definitely use. Also, it introduced me to canning, which I will definitely need to do since it's just the two of us in our household.

Now on to the cookbooks. I just bought this great resource guide that I lovingly refer to as my "20 lb brick." It's called, "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference." After reading this, you will never go to Whole Foods again and tilt your head to the side with eyebrows crinkled thinking, "What the heck is that??!" If you read my recipe about chicken pot pie, you would see that I never heard of celeriac (celery root), I'm now proud to say I've held one in my hand. What's cool about this book is that it describes each vegetable, it's history (who harvested it and how it was used), and what region of the world it's grown. Then the author actually tries several ways to cook it and offers her recommendation on the tastiest techniques. Then, she adds comments from chefs around the world and their favorite recipes. For one entry, she even wrote, "Eat on a dare and then never try it again!" See if you can guess what she's talking about.

Have you traded your white rice for brown rice, whole grain cous-cous and even quinoa and are now ready to see what else is out there? Then take a peek inside Lorna Sass' book "Whole Grains: Every Day, Every Way." Like Scheider, she tries out basically every grain that exists and offers her tried and true ways of making it. I've definitely learned to soak almost all of my grains. I've made the mistake of skipping that step and spending some quality time in the bathroom because of it.
I have to say that I love the brand, Bob's Red Mill. So between these two resources I've ventured into the land of bulgur, wheatberries and millet. With all the fiber that these grains pack, I will tell you that I feel very full and satisfied - especially when I have them for breakfast. Eating these grains have actually helped me to stop snacking during the day, too.

I just ordered a textbook from The Culinary Institute of America called, "The Techniques of Healthy Cooking." I'm only half way through it, but I'm very impressed with their section on nutrition. The authors offer a very clear and concise ten page chapter on the basics of vitamins, minerals, calories, carbs, fats (good and bad) and so on. Most importantly the book is a guide on how to include these foods with as much flavor as possible. Since this is a textbook for professional chefs there is a great chapter on building a recipe and analyzing the nutritional benefits of it. This is a goal of mine, so I ate it up (yes, I'm punny.)

I will admit, I have a little addiction to buying cookbooks. I have about 30 on this subject now. Presently, I'm taking cookbooks to bed to read before shutting off the light. What's a girl to do when Harry Potter is over? I will include more reviews later, plus a list of websites that I frequent for recipe ideas.


KristiB said...

Great blog!

I also read a lot of books about food and the food industry. Have you read Michael Pollans books?

jill said...

Barbara Kingsolver's book looks great. Have you read her other fiction works?

wow, the blog looks fantastic. I am sooo impressed. you are not only a great cook, but a sassy writer. Ms. Oreo (sp?) would be proud!