Friday, December 30, 2011

Recipe Tester: Cookbook Discoveries of the Year

While I love reading, my favorite books to buy and browse are definitely cookbooks.  We get a lot of cookbooks at the library that are fascinating to look at, but I'd never actually make anything inside because I lack the skills and ingredients to make most of the dishes (NOMA, Momofuku  Milk Bar come to mind this year).  However, my favorite cookbooks are ones that are accessible for every day cooking.  Below are the best cookbooks I discovered this year (whether or not they were actually published in 2011):

Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen. 
Call No.: 641.5884 SLO
Find it in the catalog!
I've had a slow cooker for about three years, but never got around to using it until last spring.  Now I use it every time I plan on having a late night dinner.  It's a super convenient way to cook for days that you know are going to be on the long side.  I especially love to make anything Indian or Moroccan this way, because very rarely to do I have two hours to let a tagine or curry simmer properly.  It's also ideal for preparing meats that need to be cooked slowly, like short ribs or pork shoulder.  Stand out recipes include Korean braised short ribs (p.103), red lentil stew (p. 76), chicken curry in a hurry (p. 52), and the chickpea tagine (p.74). 

Flour by Joanne Chang
Call No.: 641.815 CHA 
Find it in the catalog!
Flour is a fun, quirky baking book, with new twists on traditional recipes.  I really like her upscale versions of the fig newton (137-9) and Oreo (p.134-6), though both are a lot of work to make. The pie section is full of deliciousness of both the savory (smoked salmon, herbed cream cheese and red onion pie on p.241 is to die for good) and sweet (bittersweet chocolate truffle pie, p. 236) varieties.  Other yummy recipes include the rosemary shortbread (p.146), pumpkin muffins with pepitas (p. 56-7), and the chunky Lola cookies (p. 110-1)- a spin on kitchen sink cookies.

In the Small Kitchen by Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapin.
Call No.: 641.5 EIS (on the You and Your Family--Wall Display)
Find it in the catalog! 
Read my earlier blog post about this book.

Tyler's Ultimate by Tyler Florence
Call No.: 641.5 FLO
Find it in the catalog!
Snob confession: My feelings towards anything on the Food Network are just a little gentler than Anthony Bourdain's.  However, I was lured in by a bacon and pea macaroni and cheese recipe (which is awesome, BTW).  Once I checked out the book, I discovered that there were tons of recipes that I wanted to try.  Favorites include the pear cobbler with cranberry streusel (p. 238), baked rigatoni with eggplant and pork sausage (p.162) and the chicken paillard with fresh fig salad and blue cheese (p.138- this dish is so pretty, it's a good summer dish to impress guests).

Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric.
Call No.: 641.874 KOS
Find it in the catalog!
An excellent cocktail book, see my earlier review.

Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes by Jamie Oliver.
Call No.: 641.555 OLI (You and Your Family--Wall Display)
Find it in the catalog!
Oliver's book from two years ago, Jamie's Food Revolution, is one of my favorite cookbooks ever, so I psyched to see that he a new book coming out this year.  The format for the book is a little unusual.  Each recipe is for an entire meal essentially (main dish, side dishes and dessert), so it's a little confusing to follow if you are just making one dish on the page.  However, with a little bit of work, you'll figure it out.  This is a great source for fast meal ideas, especially for families.  Favorite recipes include Pregnant Jool's Pasta (p.30) and oozy mushroom risotto (p.64, seriously the cheesiest and most delicious risotto I've tried).  I really like Oliver's multicultural mix of recipes, including lots of Italian, Indian, Greek Asian dishes and some British ones too.

Micheal's Genuine Food by Michael Schwartz
Call No.:641.5973 SCH
Find it in the catalog!
This book made a lot of best of the year lists last December, which is why I checked it out.  It's easy to see why, the has excellent photography, an emphasis on seasonal cooking and making things from scratch, and an interesting mix of recipes.  Michael's Genuine Food is worth checking out for the Kimchi quesadilla (p.23) alone, which is a wonderfully cheesy, spicy, and unusual fusion concoction.  His Greek farro salad (p. 79) makes for an excellent lunch or side dish.  The fried gnudi with shaved Parmesan and lemon creme (p. 36-7) didn't turn out at all the first time I made them, but the second time they were so good that I'd definitely say it was worth the hassle.  The garlic herbed breadsticks (p. 35) were also a delicious side, even though I used store-bought pizza dough.  I haven't had the chance to try them yet, but the Bulletproof Manhattan (p. 222) and the tomato harissa (p. 243) definitely sound delicious.

Good Mood Food by Donal Skehan
Call No.: 641.563 SKE
Find it in the catalog!
This book has a lot of really yummy, super healthy soup recipes which are great for the winter months.  I'm especially found of the carrot ginger soup (p.249) and the boot camp soup (p. 59, though I use spinach instead of iceberg lettuce and add a pinch of cumin).  The Thai green chicken curry (p. 187) makes for quick and delicious mid-week meal, as is the Bulgar wheat, chicken rocket and parsley salad (p.189).  Best of all is the hummus recipe (p.133), which has become a staple of mine.  Sometimes, I skip the cayenne pepper and add other things to the hummus like kalamata olives or roasted red peppers. 

Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. 
Call No.: 641.5636 SWA (You and Your Family--Wall Display)
Find it in the catalog!
This book is gorgeous to look at and has lots of quick, easy meals that are full of interesting flavors.  All of the recipes are vegetarian and super healthy, but taste so good that you don't even notice.  Stand out recipes from this book include the ravioli salad with black olives and pepitas (p.75)- an easy to make dish for lunches, the wild rice casserole (p. 155) which is loaded with delicious mushrooms and Gruyere cheese, and the white bean spread (p. 110) which makes an easy appetizer for parties. I am also a big fan of the harissa ravioli (p.131), cauliflower soup with cheese and Dijon mustard (p.152) and the broccoli orzo salad (p. 95).