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on our cookbook shelves

Pressure-cooked fresh tomatoes–even better than canned.

I’m finally finished with my cookbook project–after nine months and change, I’ve cooked or made at least one thing from every cookbook in our primary collection, all 105 of them. In retrospect it was a really valuable exercise, not only because it gave me a new appreciation for the recipes that I had at my disposal, but also in helping me develop some really helpful techniques. Had I not set out to do this I wouldn’t have tried Massimo Bottura’s method for making pasta completely by hand, or Alton Brown’s shrimp scampi, or Mimi Thorisson’s dry pan-roasted mushrooms. I’ve pushed myself in ways I wasn’t expecting, and because of that I feel like I’ve grown as a cook, and I feel better-equipped to improvise where necessary. Read More

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Shrimp scampi via Alton Brown.

Few dishes scream “I was big in the nineties!” like shrimp scampi, maybe because even writing words takes me back to a table at a Red Lobster with a plate of butterflied fried shrimp and shirmp scampi before me, with the latter drowning in too much butter and probably some crappy white wine. It was so ubiquitous (to the point of nauseatingly generic) that it served as symbol in the ’90s romantic comedy Only You* that a shared love of the dish was a superficial connection at best.

So color me surprised when a few weeks ago I was flipping through the remainder of my cookbooks that I had yet to use and I found myself flagging a recipe for shrimp scampi in Alton Brown’s first cookbook I’m Just Here for the Food. There was no butter involved here–just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil–and not even a mention of wine. Instead, the idea is that you broil the shrimp with the garlic and some seasoning (salt, pepper, and some Old Bay) for a couple of minutes, and then stir in some lemon juice, panko breadcrumbs, and parsley, and put it back in the broiler to let the shrimp cook through and the breadcrumbs attain a lovely golden color. Intrigued, I put it on the list of things to make for dinner this past week. Read More

Chicken teriyaki from Ivan Ramen

Despite taking that unexpected break from this project back in July and August, I’m actually really, really close to my goal now of making something from all of my cookbooks. Per the spreadsheet I’ve been using to track my progress I’m now 93% of the way there, and I only have seven books left to go before I’m finished. Most of this was due to me returning to this project with a vengeance in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve since flagged stuff to make in every single remaining book so I have a plan–I just have to figure out when I’m going to make everything.

One of the hopes I had for this exercise was to be able to introduce new recipes into our repertoire, because we had been leaning hard on old favorites a bit too frequently lately. My big hope was to find a few new ideas on what to do with our weekly boneless chicken thigh staples, because as I alluded to in my last post I had been resorting to throwing them on the Griddler and then tossing them with some sort of mango salsa or herby pesto. A fine idea to have, of course, but also kind of boring after doing it too frequently. Read More

Massimo Botturra’s meat tortellini from Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef, finished in sage and brown butter.

Can I take a moment and say how smitten I am with the newest episodes of Master of None? We’re slowly making our way through the season–just one new one a week–and as such I feel like we’re SO behind because the various pop culture blogs I follow have already moved on to a bunch of other shows, like The Handmaid’s Tale and GLOW. (Both are really good, and I’ll be writing about the former in this space relatively soon.) Such is the internet in the age of Peak TV, but I still prefer savoring each episode on its own especially since it’s not clear if we’ll see another season of the show, much less one anytime soon. And given the ambition Aziz Ansari and his team had with this season, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be incessantly asked when the next batch of episodes would be coming because so many people burned through the current set so quickly. Read More

Ham and egg tapa from The Book of Tapas

One of the objectives of this whole cook-through-my-cookbook-bookcase experiment was to reconnect with cookbooks I used to use all of the time but have since…well, not abandoned, per se, but haven’t referenced as much as I’d like to. The Book of Tapas is one where I have a handful of recipes that have entered our regular rotation—I’m particularly fond of the lemon-garlic chicken wings—but a few Fridays ago I decided to finally try a recipe I sort of half-assed back in New York and then never attempted to make again: the ham and quail’s egg tapa. Read More

White Gazpacho from Appetites: A Cookbook

White Gazpacho from Appetites: A Cookbook

I actually made this back in January when entertaining a friend who was staying with us for the night, and she was so excited when I told her about my resolution for the year that she asks me how I’m doing on it and that’s one of the reasons that finally compelled me to write all of this down and track in properly. I have many books to go still, but I’m as determined as ever to get through this.

Next up: white gazpacho from Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites: A Cookbook.

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Strascinati con pomodoro e basilico

I’ve decided that I’m going to master making pasta completely by hand. This thought first came about a few weeks ago when I was trying and (mostly) succeeding in making a Puglian dough out of water and semolina flour, but was cemented when we finally sat down to watch the season two premiere of Master of None. Earlier that evening I had been feeling rather vulnerable and grouchy but thought that a solid workout and some soothing yoga had calmed my nerves. Then Aziz Ansari has to go and make a big, soaring love letter to classic Italian cinema and show this sequence:

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