Cooking

Cutting Costs and Time--But Not Taste

Here’s a quick look at four cookbooks that offer very different takes on making the most of your food budget and your schedule. From true Brit to vegan to down home Southern, you’re likely to find that one of these books for cooks matches your palate and your wallet.

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain's first book, Kitchen Confidential, was a surprise when it hit national best seller lists; even the author was taken aback. He thought it would appeal to food-service workers in the New York city area, as it was a "look behind the curtain" of local restaurants. The secret to Bourdain's success in this and later books is his passion for food and his ability to write well why he finds food exciting. We get two Tonys in his books: bad Tony and good Tony. Good Tony is articulate and writes well about food or preparation of food. Bad Tony is foul-mouthed and angry. We get both Tonys in Medium Raw.

Big Buy Cooking from the Editors of Fine Cooking

As a Fine Cooking magazine subscriber and fan, whenever the Fine Cooking team releases a new book I rush to check it out. The title of this new volume, Big Buy Cooking: The Food Lover’s Guide to Buying in Bulk and Using it All Up, appealed to me as a mom of four children who often shops at bulk warehouses like Costco. I was a little surprised to see that the “bulk” ingredients included such items as kalamata olives, brie, and mangoes….all of which I would consider a pricier gourmet option, not a weekday dinnertime staple.

The introduction, however, explains that the purpose of this book is to give you options to fall back on when you come home with that large wheel of brie from Costco: “It’s cheap, ripe, and calling out to you. Go on, give in. Once home, cut yourself a wedge to enjoy with grapes and crackers…brie on crostini, warm and melting, with dates and walnuts. Brie, ham, and tart apples on a toasted baguette, with a hint of Dijon mustard and honey. Brie in the best-ever version of fondue.” So, once you know that this book is not going to save you money but is going to aid your food indulgences, you can feel free to dabble.

A New England Fish Tale: Seafood Recipes and Observations of a Way of Life from a Fisherman's Wife

Martha Watson Murphy’s A New England Fish Tale combines two of my favorite things: good recipes and folk culture. The best of these books are like visiting with new friends at their kitchen tables. Alongside Fish Tale’s recipes are photos and information both historic and modern that capture some of the atmospheric flavor of New England maritime life.

The author is a commercial fisherman’s wife who never expected to become part of that world, but she learned to respect it and make the most of it. As seen on Deadliest Catch and A Perfect Storm, it’s a hard and dangerous life for those who go out to the sea to catch a living. The loved ones left at home can usually expect a bounty of seafood when the boats come in so it’s very much the focus of fishermen’s family cuisine, much as it is here in our Chesapeake Bay region. While we certainly do have favorite seafood recipes in Virginia, getting more creative takes on them beyond our traditional steamed crabs, fried oysters, and crab cakes is always a welcome experience.
 
The recipes contained here are largely of Murphy’s devising. In addition to being a fisherman’s wife, she is also a professional chef who ran the award-winning Murphy’s Bed & Breakfast in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Although New England fishermen of Melville’s time surely never saw Clam and Potato Pizza or Mussel-Filled Focaccia on their dinner tables, those recipes look tasty as does more traditional fare such as Old-Fashioned Fish and Chips and Panfried Flounder with Lemon and Wine Sauce.

The Ultimate Slow Cooker Book

Slow cookers make everyday and special event cooking so much easier that they justify their place among your kitchen gadgets.  Plus, slow cookers come in a variety of sizes, from one quart to six quarts. Get the size that suits most of your needs or go ahead and get both.  Two slow cookers can produce a memorable meal for a party. For example, a smaller one is perfect for seafood dip or fondue while a larger one supplies barbeque beef for sandwiches or coq au vin.  Whichever model(s) you choose, it’s good to have the slow-cooker option for less stress and more flavorful food.

My Life in France by Julia Child

Chef, author, and T.V. personality Julia Child, communicates her joy and passion for life, people, and French food in My Life in France, written with Alex Prud’homme. Beginning with her and her husband’s move to Paris working for the United States Information Service, Julia Child relates their adventures as government employees living in post-WW II Europe. From Paris to Marseilles to Bonn to Washington D.C. to Norway, Child provides a rich, sensory experience for the reader.

How to Cook Like a Top Chef by Emily Miller

I'm a big fan of Bravo TV's Top Chef  (currently in its seventh season) so I was thrilled to get my hands on How to Cook Like a Top Chef by the creators of the show (foreword by Rick Bayless, text by Emily Miller, photos by Antonis Achilleos).

Top Chef contestants and judges from all six seasons, including Top Chef Masters,  take you through appetizers & sides, proteins, seafood, cooking with ethnic flavors, advanced culinary techniques, and desserts. Although the book is more or less organized around courses, it's slightly chaotic in structure (cooking tips and Q & A's with "cheftestants" and judges are  thrown in sort of haphazardly amongst the recipes), but I don't mind a bit. It has the feel of yearbook more than a typical cookbook, which makes it a fun overview of the past six seasons.

Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health

I’m a fan of the Moosewood Collective and own a lot of their cookbooks. Last year, I was given another entry to their line, Cooking for Health. I was pleased to see their fresh and easy philosophy of the 1970s had been updated for modern tastes. Never heard of Moosewood? Not everyone has, yet they were named one of 13 most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appétit magazine, and our own Sammy T’s seems to have drawn on them for vegetarian inspiration. 

Moosewood Restaurant began in 1973 in Ithaca, New York, back when vegetarianism was a new idea for most Americans. It was a popular place, and soon enough their dishes were gathered into a bestselling book. The listings in the first editions of the original Moosewood Cookbook drew a lot on established recipes that happened to be vegetarian and were adapted to be prepared easily with nothing fancier than a blender.

Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday

I love the rich, warm flavors of Mexican food, but trying to create anything more than a simple, kid-pleasing taco or Sundays at Moosewood’s tortilla casserole (a family favorite) has left me uncertain as to how to begin.

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

I've been following Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks blog for several years now, and although I doubt I'll ever become a vegetarian, I do turn to her blog often when looking for tasty, healthy recipes.

She started her blog by cooking recipes from her favorite cookbooks, and now she's written several of her own: Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to the Vegetarian Kitchen and most recently, Super Natural Cooking, a 2007 James Beard Foundation Book Awards Nominee in the "Healthy Focus" category.

Although many of her recipes use ingredients you might not normally have or be familiar with, most recipes are fairly easy and approachable. Her first chapter, "Build a Natural Food Pantry," helps to break the ice for those of us who might not be familiar with ingredients such as amaranth flour or agave nectar.