Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cookbook Raves

I enjoy cooking and wanted to share some of my favorite books with you.

THE book that taught me how to cook:
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

For the first 7-8 years after I got married, I never cooked. If I attempted to cook, the results were disastrous and highly frustrating. One day I decided I wanted to make true spaghetti sauce from scratch, not from a can. I bought Marcella’s book (yes, we are on a first name basis) and tried one of her recipes which turned out to be a fabulous success. I have never looked back. She deftly weaves in culinary technique into her recipes. The other thing that I highly prized is that she would tell you what not to do or what to avoid and the reason why. I finally learned how to use real frying and sauté pans. Marcella introduced me to roasted red peppers, delicious roast beef, and the joy of zucchini. She also taught me how to pan fry a New York Strip. I now prefer to eat steak at home because my preparation is better than most restaurants (I can also imbibe a less expensive, but better wine with my meal). Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Roast Beef Braised with Onions

Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil

Sautéed Green beans with Parmesan Cheese

Sautéed Zucchini Rounds with Oregano

A cookbook I used to read before I learned how to cook and then actually used:
The Heritage of Southern Cooking by Camille Glen

I loved to read this book Camille Glen’s stories of a long-ago Southern past sprinkled about the old-timey recipes were tasty morsels that I sopped up with glee. The vintage photographs of this bygone era just add to the books charm. Some of the recipes that I enjoy making…

Windfall Apple Pie

Sour Cream Corn Muffins

Roast Quail with Country Ham

A German cookbook:
The New German Cookbook by Jean Anderson and Hedy Wurz

I have no idea what possessed me to buy this book years ago, but I’m happy that I did. Some of the recipes that I have bookmarked:

Braised Red Cabbage with Onions and Apples in Red Wine Sauce

Medallions of Pork with Mushrooms and Cognac-Cream Sauce

Shredded Carrots with Lime and Rosemary

The Ultimate French cookbook:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

I had been cooking for a few years before I purchased this book. How the recipes were organized was very different from most books. Everything seemed way too complicated. I finally made some time to really delve into the book and discovered how easy it was to make whipped cream. Growing up all we ever had was Cool Whip. Occasionally, I would have a taste of Redi-Whip at someone else’s house. I was flabbergasted at how easy it was to make…and how much better it tasted. A few items that made me and my husband shout “C’est magnifique!”:

Steamed Shrimp

Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup)

Coq au Vin

Boeuf Bourguignon

For the ultimate in smart-ass cookbooks:
Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain

When describing how to prep a chicken he admonishes “Don’t rip the freaking skin!” One section is called “blood & guts” (not for the squeamish). In the middle of the directions for Coq au Vin he says “Have a drink. You’re almost there…” Yes, my kind of guy. If you like his style, check out Kitchen Confidential. If knowing what really goes on in a restaurant kitchen will forever change your dining habits, avoid at all costs.

My favorite wine book:
The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson

I own the 1st edition which was published in 1997. The 4th edition came out in 2005. This is more of a wine reference than a what-to-buy-now guide. And that’s why it has stood the test of time. I particularly like the extensive French section which details each region and has blurbs on almost every AOC in the country along with varietal percentages and top producers. Since French wines can be so hard to decipher, this is a great book to have. We have also referenced Spanish and Italian wines. The North American section is not as robust, at least in the 1st edition.

And finally, I just finished the novel The Food of Love by Anthony Capella. A story set in Rome intertwining food and romance. He even prefaces his sections with quotes from Marcella Hazan. Delicious!


"the friend" said...

That red cabbage recipe from the German book--is that what you've made for us before? It is fantastic!

pjpink said...

Hi "the friend!"

Why yes, this is the famous red cabbage recipe. Thanks for asking!