Monday, February 9, 2009

Needing a Little Relaxation....

It's been a stressful day - the economy has affected us at work, and I'm bidding farewell to a few longtime friends. So now, settled into my chair with a nice glass of Bordeaux, some cheese, a hunk of bread and some olives, I'm reading cookbooks.  I read cookbooks like some people read novels.  I love the notes and anecdotes that surround recipes, ooh and ahh over the beautiful photos and sometimes dog ear and make notes in the columns.  I'm reading through "The Food You Crave" and "Spain - A Food Travelogue".  I'm also reading a memoir of Julia Child's  - "My Life in France" (along with A Traitor to His Class about FDR).   So I've decided to start a Meme - see if anyone still reads this blog */;-)* - Name your top 10 cookbooks. I'll offer up mine:

1. The Barefoot Contessa Goes to Paris - simple, hearty French influenced meals showcasing straightforward ingredients.  Roast chicken, beef tenderloin are stand-by's in my kitchen.

2. Tyler Florence's Ultimate - Everything in this book is just great - not a bad recipe in sight. Roast chicken, paella, chicken wings, steak - just eat the book, it's that good.

3. The Open House Cookbook -Sarah Lee Chase -  Classic cookbook, I think it was one of the first foodie cookbooks (1984) worth finding just for the Rainwater Chili, Provencal Lamb Chops and the June Havoc chicken legs.

4. Bistro Cooking - Patricia Wells - I actually bought this at a book store in Epcot (I'm secure enough to admit it), and loved loved loved it.  Fish recipes, potato recipes and tart recipes to die for.  This book (and Open House) turned me from a fumbler to a foodie in the kitchen.

5. The Way to Cook - Julia Child - Many of the recipes are straightforward and many are not.  Read it for the technique and do NOT be intimidated.  Yes, Julia knew more than anyone.

6. Julia and Jacques: Cooking At Home - Jacques' burger recipes are killer, as are the recipes for Veal Blanquette, Beef Borguignone and pate.  I received the book when I first started to really cook and I have to admit that I had to put it away for a couple of years until I became more confident in the kitchen and now it's one of my go to books.  The step by step is great.

7. The Art of Simple Food - Alice Waters - I'm including this even though it's one of my newer books.  It's just such a wonderful read and her dedication to fresh products is what has made me become a farmer's market devotee.

8. Field of Greens - Anne Somerville - It's a vegetarian cookbook that will appeal to carnivores.  The side dishes are simply gorgeous and the main dishes won't have you missing a chop or filet.  My favorite recipe is Fettuccine with Swiss Chard, Walnuts, Currants and Brown Butter - it is a perfect fall dish.  Risotto is another wonderful dish.

9. Nick Stellino's Mediterranean Flavors - Before there was Food Network, there was  PBS and Nick Stellino was a popular cook.  This book is very straightforward and produces great, flavorful dishes. Devonshire was addicted to the Eggplant Caviar for a while and my sister loves the Tunisian Chicken Tagine with Olives. 

10. The New Moosewood Cookbook - Molly Katzen - The original Moosewood is dog eared and stained. I love it with the nostalgia that you feel for an old lover, but the new and improved version is quickly becoming the one that I go to, because I like the lightening of the recipes that don't sacrifice flavor, the hearty dishes and the addition of fish dishes that are just flat out good.  ZuCanoes are a family favorite.

That being said, I do look online for many recipes and I keep my Gourmet, Bon Appetite and other cooking magazines around for far too long, but when I'm planning a meal, nothing beats looking through a stack of cookbooks to plan a menu.  What are your favorite books?  I'm tagging  Deb from Devonshire Design, Cindy from Figs Lavender and Cheese and Cathy from Noble Pig to offer up their favorites!


NJDecorator said...

Thanks I'll work on it this week.

Carl Zetie said...

I think you'll like Elizabeth David. All of her books are great, but French Provincial Cooking is seminal.

For those who don't know her, she is a kind of English Julia Child but without the whole "working for the secret service as a spy" thing. She more or less single-handedly reintroduced cooking to the British after World War 2, when 5 years of war and a decade of post-war rationing meant that a whole generation had grown up not knowing how to prepare simple meals from fresh ingredients. She started by re-importing french country/farmhouse recipes that anybody could cook and for which ingredients were readily available, and then worked her way south...

Henry Harteveldt said...

I am a big fa of Ina Garten. I like her simple, thoughtful and yet creative approach to recipes and cooking. I also like how she weaves engaging stories into her books, and includes helpful suggestions on hosting a party, what equipment is worthwhile to have, etc.

I'm also a fan of local cookbooks, such as those produced by community groups like the local Junior League chapter, synagogue, church, etc. I find these help preserve the extensive variety and character of local/regional American cooking. As they become older, they also become ersatz printed time capsules of our lifestyles and culture.