Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Four Cookbooks - Thanks Mom!!

My mom's weakness is buying opals, and my weakness is buying cookbooks. I spend considerably less money on my obsession than she does on hers, but I also have considerably more cookbooks than she does opals, so I'm not sure who has the bigger problem! She gave me money for my birthday back in December, as she does every year, and these four (used) cookbooks are what I eventually bought with it. I so appreciate the thrill of having money earmarked solely 'for your pleasure only.' Thanks, Mom!

KOTO -A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl is just that. It reads like both a cookbook and a travel adventure. KOTO is a culinary training center in Vietnam for street youth with royalties from this book going to help support KOTO. The photos of the food and Vietnam are inspiring, and this Stir-fried Venison with Peanuts and Lemongrass recipe I made awhile ago was delicious.

In Jam Today, Tod Davies highly praises The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman, so I figured given her praises and a title such as this, it was pretty much a sure bet. Though it has no photos, this is a great cookbook. I personally don't mind, but there are some people who don't get the point of a cookbook without photos. I think that more often than not, food photos don't really convey what the food looks like on our plates, how we feel about preparing and serving it to those we love, and of course, how it actually tastes. There is a wide range of countries and cuisines represented in this cookbook -I really love and appreciate this diversity- and he includes lots of directions and side information. I used his recipes (there are two) to refer to when I made Meatball Beef Pho last month, and there are at least a dozen other recipes in this cookbook I want to make.

The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater is simply lovely. Really. This is my first Nigel Slater book, and it is a diary for one year -with recipes- of what he cooked at home in his kitchen. This may sound boring to some, but in this book he has distilled the essence of why I read cookbooks: to know about the foods others eat, the spirit and flavor of those foods, and how these other home cooks think and feel about those foods as they prepare them in their homes. I used an adaptation of his Five Spice Quail recipe when roasting a small chicken awhile back. It was simple to do, but it gave truly amazing results. I don't so much use this book as a 'follow the recipe' type cookbook -it has LOTS of recipes, but with weight measurements- but I simply love to read it for its distinct charm and seasonality, and because I personally relate to so many of his kitchen writings, like the 'Inspiration for a lamb chop' that he wrote on March 7: "I have no idea what I had in mind when I bought the two lamb chops that are now sitting on the kitchen worktop. Actually they are leg steaks and there's enough for two. Whatever it was, the flash of inspiration must have got lost on the way home." He then goes on to describe making a simple marinade, cooking the chops, and then creating a simple but stunning salad with them and what was in his fridge at the time.

Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson is a another book I checked out from the library. I had already flagged over ten recipes in this book to copy, when I spotted Grandma Freeman's jam cake with brown sugar rum glaze described as a southern secret baking recipe from several generations back with the original recipe that was typed on tissue paper. I immediately pulled my flags and ordered the book. It is full of recipes, similar to these favorites of mine (click here) and (click here), like rhubarb buckle with ginger crumb, upside-down sweet cherry cake, and marionberry pie -all Pacific Northwest flavor-focused country fruit desserts.

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