When I moved into my new home this last fall, one of the trickiest things I had to place was my cookbook collection. For years, I have collected beautiful or useful cookbooks, ones that my mom and grandma used, and ones that were hot off the press and exciting! Today, I have to house my cookbooks on their own bookshelf, and as you'll see, there's a little room for growth, but only because I've stopped myself from buying any more...for the moment!
I've always loved to cook, but wouldn't dream of putting on airs and saying I'm a great cook. I can cook though. Having grown up in a farming community, where we raised most of what went on the table, I will say that I can cook just about any meat and potato combination out there. When my best friend (who admittedly can't cook) is hankering for a "down home" meal, she buys all the fixings for a roast, whether beef, chicken, or pork, and I can pretty much cook those in my sleep.
Over the last five to ten years, as I've lived in other places around the country, and met friends from around the globe, my tastes changed. Today, I like to try my hand at spicy dishes, such as with curries and stir frying. In general, I've learned to really love looking at cookbooks and thinking about what I might make. To tickle these fancies with cooking, I have also subscribed to (way too many) food magazines, which I like to test out recipes from on the weekend.
During my Spring Break, I made Elie Krieger's "Roasted Tomato & Black Bean Soup" in one pot, while I simmered down a huge pot of "Green Soup" in another. Both were an attempt to put up some healthy options for work nights when I'm starving and don't want to cook, and so far they've been pretty decent choices (although the green soup can create intestinal effects that might make you choose not to eat is as a lunch option at work).
One cookbook I recently, finally, received from the library, was Giada de Laurentiis' new cookbook Giada at Home. She has beautiful recipes, with lots of twists on recipes you already kind of know. I'm intrigued by her "Lemon Chicken Soup with Spaghetti" which basically includes a bit of lemon juice in with the stock, and broken spaghetti noodles. She also uses a lot of vegetable purees, which I love. Giada is an Italian cook who loves to include fruits and vegetables to her meals, and many of the recipes she includes, feel very user friendly.
I also own one of her previous cookbooks, Everyday Italian, which is where I got one of my family's favorite pasta recipes...that I tweaked a little. The idea was to take a little sliced yellow squash and zucchini, saute in a little olive oil with fresh garlic, and toss with bowtie pasta. It's so yummy, you wouldn't believe it. Well, I branched out from there and included red pepper slices and red pepper flakes in the saute, and sometimes a handful of fresh mushrooms, switching the pasta shape to a nice penne. Your bowl of simple pasta can turn into this amazing veggie dish, accented with beautiful pasta.
Let me take that recipe a step farther though. Last year I discovered that our local grocery store carried a wonderful roasted vegetable medley in their deli section. One night, after a particularly challenging day at work, I brought that medley home, boiled up some ziti, drained it, and threw in those wonderful roasted vegetables, sprinkled it with a bit of fresh Parmesan, and voila! It's now one of my favorite dishes. It's not necessarily Giada's exact recipe, but I've transformed it over time, and can't get enough!
While not really a review of another cookbook, I couldn't help sharing some of the inspiration and joy I've gotten out of cookbooks. They are glorious to flip through, and I think I always have two or three checked out at a time from my local library. In a time when we're all trying to save our waist lines and checkbooks, what could be better than a little inspiration from a few great cookbooks, thanks to the local library?!?
Do you also like to collect cookbooks? Please tell me I'm not the only one that flips through cookbooks for fun! What are some of your favorites?