Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rebuilding My Cookbook Shelf

One of the great losses in the fire was my cookbooks. Nowhere near as bad as things that could never be replaced, such as my writing, my babyhood teddybear, photos and many other personal things, but saddening nonetheless.

I read cookbooks the way most folks read novels. I had about 10 to 20 boxes of them. And well...they cooked alright!

I can't remember the vast majority of them or their titles, but here are a few of the ones I miss the most.

Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition - 2006The Joy of Cooking

A classic on how to cook just about anything, I've used this one for everything from the Country Captain Chicken recipe that was my mom's go-to dish any time she was invited to a potluck, to how to dress a pheasant. Yes, I really had to learn that - some poor bird jumped in front of my car once, and died in my lap (I was going to try to heal it). Sad but delicious. The other big loss on this one is that I'd used it to stash family recipes in.

Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan BakersLocal Breads

Written by the owner of Bread Alone, a bakery near where used to live in upstate NY, I was only beginning to explore this book. I recall making the Riccota Bread - soft, crumbly and delicious and one of the French breads. We were in the process of building a wood-fired oven so that I could make more use of these recipes, when we lost everything. Most of the recipes were also based on sourdough starters, and that posed a challenge for me at a time, since I didn't havhere a working refrigerator (and still don't). If you love homemade artisanal bread, I highly recommend this one.

The New Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen's Classic Cooking)The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest (Mollie Katzen's Classic Cooking)
When I was first learning to cook, my ex challenged me to buy a "useful" book, a cookbook, instead of the novels I usually read. These two were part of the first four cookbooks to grace my shelf. While some of the recipes were a bit overly vegetarian for me, and some just didn't seem to work at all (the Enchanted Broccoli Forest is just broccoli in a bed of brown rice and swiss cheese from what I recall) these books instilled a sense of playfulness and experimentation. I especially appreciated the section (I can't remember which of the two it was in) that listed herbs and spices particular to different cuisines, so you could create a stir-fry with the flavors you wanted.

The New Basics CookbookThe New Basics Cookbook

Written by the folks who wrote the Silver Palate Cookbook, this was one of my favorites. I especially remember the Red and Black Bean Dips and a luscious recipe for date and green olive-stuffed chicken livers. I'd never been much of a chicken-liver lover UNTIL I got this cookbook. Their recipe for cobbler crust (I think their original was a berry cobbler, but I experimented with the fillings depending on what was fresh) was absolutely die-for. Light and flakey and oh so satisfying--and this from someone who isn't even much of a desert person. And there was a pineapple salsa that was truly amazing.

Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary EditionI'll share my memory of the stuffed chicken liver recipe:

Green olives, pitted
Dates, pitted
Chicken livers, cleaned
Bacon strips, cut in half width-wise

Stuff a green olive into a date. Wrap the chicken liver around the date. Wrap a slice of bacon around the chicken liver. Skewer the bacon closed with a toothpick. Put on a sheet tray and keep making more till you run out of ingredients. Bake at 425 degrees until the bacon is crisp.
Remove the toothpicks. Serve as hors-de-ouvres, and don't expect them to last long. Sweet, savory, salty deliciousness!

Chinese CookeryChinese Cookery

I hesitate to even mention this one, as it's now out of print, and I don't want you to go out and get the last copy before I have an opportunity to replace mine. This was one of the four original cookbooks that I learned from. One of the things I loved about this book were the gorgeous and instructional illustrations. Other than the family recipes I'd learned at home, I was a raw newbie at cooking. In no time, this cookbook had me doing everything from steamed rolls to dumplings, shao-mai and even de-boning an entire duck.
Some of my favorite recipes from this book were snow peas with shitakes, cold chicken and noodles with hot tahini sauce, pork with green onions and an amazing sweet and sour spicy cabbage.

More lost cookbooks to come soon.

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