Cooking

The Good Neighbor Cookbook by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg

The Good Neighbor Cookbook

There are definitely times when friends and neighbors need a little comfort food. It might be a joyful event--new baby, new house--or it might be in sorrowful times such as a long illness, death, or divorce. Chef Sara Quessenberry and writer Suzanne Schlosberg’s The Good Neighbor Cookbook is an excellent source for the family cook who needs some fresh ideas for food to share.

Recipes range from savory (Smoky Corn Chowder) to sweet (Roasted Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies). They are designed to satisfy, to travel well, and to not require a lot of fussing in the kitchen. Although these recipes work great for times of crisis, these same qualities make them great for book club gatherings, church potlucks, or business breakfasts.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabriell

I’m going to Brooklyn to visit my daughter, and as with every excursion to the “Big Apple,” I make a list of must-see places. Usually I include a tea house, a photo gallery, and a farmer’s market. (If you’re a locavore, NYC’s markets are BEYOND compare!). But this time I’m making a reservation at Prune--Gabrielle Hamilton’s acclaimed West Village restaurant. Coincidentally, Hamilton is also the author of Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Her book, like her food (or so I’ve heard), is exceptional!

Hamilton’s childhood in rural Pennsylvania was unconventional and idyllic. Her father was a stage designer, frequently involved with Broadway productions; her mother, French and a former dancer, spent her days aproned in front of a six-burner stove. The clan lived in a crumbling, 19th-century silk mill. They regularly hosted legendary parties—complete with spring lamb roasting on a spit and an endless variety of creative themes.

Why Not Start Canning?

Canning book

With the arrival of summer, there is an abundance of produce all around us.  Some of us may be garden-savvy and are already receiving the fruits of our labor from our backyards.  All around us the farms and the Farmer's Markets are bursting with great, fresh produce that is locally grown.  Why not buy some extra and try canning and preserving some of this goodness?  Not only will you be helping out the local farmers, but you will also get the satisfaction of something that you have preserved, and you know exactly what you put into it.

Like any new venture, you do want to read about it and have the proper equipment.  The good news is that the equipment is relatively cheap and is abundantly available at local retailers or stores online.  Plus your library carries many books on this topic. 

Look + Cook by Rachael Ray

Look + Cook

I love Rachael Ray’s easy-to-use recipes, many of which are meant to make in 30 minutes and boast an abundance of flavor. However, many of Ray’s earlier cookbooks, while offering amazing recipes, were somewhat lackluster, with just a slim insert of glossy photos illustrating the dishes.

The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour by Kim O’Donnel

The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to love this cookbook! Whether you want to eat more healthily by reducing the amount of meat you eat or just are looking for tasty ways to get your recommended five-a-day of fruit and vegetables, this cookbook really satisfies. The inspiration for The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour began when Kim O’Donnel, a self-confessed carnivore, decided to try following the recommendation to eat meatless meals once a week. She discovered that vegetable-based meals do not have to be a sacrifice, but can be exciting and tasty, so much so that you won’t miss the meat.

The recipes are written for the beginner to advanced-beginner cook “with an adventurous spirit.” The book is arranged seasonally, with 52 menus plus a Wild Card section with basic recipes that can be mixed and matched or paired with one of the menus for a more substantial meal. Directions are clear, and the tone throughout is encouraging. O’Donnel makes liberal use of spices and seasonings to liven up flavors, but the recipes are easily adjusted to suit individual tastes. If you don’t like hot food, reduce the amount of curry powder you use.

Perfect One-Dish Dinners by Pam Anderson

Perfect One-Dish Dinners by Pam Anderson

I love making one-dish dinners for my family like chicken n’ dumplings, lasagna, or chili. These dishes may take longer to prepare or cook, but in the end they are delicious and well-loved by kids and adults alike. Pam Anderson’s new book, Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers, combines making homey comfort food with socializing. What a great idea! Anderson scripts the whole meal for you, providing simple, yet delicious, menus to accompany the main dishes. 

The main recipe categories are stews, casseroles, roasting pan, and summer salad/grilled platters. For each main dish mentioned, there is also a suggested appetizer, salad, and dessert. There are even “instant alternatives” for the occasions when you don’t have the time or right ingredients to make the suggested recipe. Each section is rounded off with a helpful wine and beer suggestion.

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.