Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Book Obsession of Mine...Cookbooks

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?


  1. I love cookbooks! For Christmas this year I got "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child. I haven't really used it yet though.

    But, my favorite cookbook is "Cooking School" by Martha Stewart. It doesn't have a lot of recipes, but it has a lot of neat techniques and pictures.

  2. I'm afraid we are different as for enthusiasm for cooking or cookbooks. As an Italian, I'm rather atypical. I don't like cooking, I just have to do it twice a day. Then, my house is so full of books all over - even in the kitchen - that I have to try to stop/reduce my love for collecting books.
    But my interest in cooking stops at ... asking sons and husbands what they would like for dinner and cooking that. They love very simple dishes, hate vegetables and full-of- different- ingredients sauces. I usually eat a lot of salads and vegetables, they love pasta (with a simple tomato sauce , for instance) and meat as a second course. They love potatoes too, cooked in several different ways.
    So, you see, I needn't buying cookbooks for that. Though I collect my grandmother's, mother's, mother-in-law's and friends' recipies in a notebook. Especially for cakes. Tehy can be very useful!

  3. I LOVE cookbooks! I only own a few and have taken to making my own in a 3-ring binder from recipes I have printed off the internet or from family/friends. My mom & grandma have a lot of cookbooks-and I will sit and read through them quite often. I must say-I am slightly jealous of your cookbook shelf in the kitchen! Hope you are doing well! One of these days I will make it out to your neck of the woods. :)

  4. I love cookbooks, although with the internet, I don't see a lot of need to buy them. I do covet my mom's and grandma's old cookbooks, though. :) And I would love to get my own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which so far I can only afford to borrow from the library.

    My mom got Giada's Italian cookbook several years ago, and I have to admit I never clicked with the recipes. But I do like to watch her on Food Network, and her recipes on there are very good and easy. Have you tried Rachel Ray's food magazine? I love it! I credit her with teaching me how to cook.

  5. I love cooking! I always try out cookbooks via the library. :) And I love finding vegan blogs too! hehe

  6. You're certainly not the only one who flips through cookbooks for fun. I don't currently have a favourite though. I'm always looking for good cookbooks with vegetarian recipes and I'm extra difficult, because I usually don't eat cheese and eggs as well. I'm still waiting to find a magic cookbook that'll be perfect for me. I do like dreaming up making all the delicious recipes I come across when flipping through cookbooks, however, I don't often find the time to try them.

  7. I love cookbooks as well as loving to cook! I'm addicted to my Weight Watchers cookbooks and I have a couple by Rachael Ray I really like - Nigella too. Then there's the cooking magazines my mom and I share. We both love to flip through them and talk about the recipes.

  8. Yay! I'm so glad that other folks enjoy cookbooks too! I sometimes feel weird checking them out just to read through know, like a book!

    Emily & Heidenkind -- I know about the French cookbooks. I've wanted those too!

    Maria--I agree about collecting those family recipes. You know, I didn't know that it was typical of Italians to not cook? That so goes against everything I'd ever heard?!? You taught me a little something, and learned my assumptions might be wrong! :)

    Jessica--Hi girl! I love those family recipes too. In fact, I collected my grandma's into a bound book and gave them out as gifts about five years ago. It's such a treasure!

    Eva & Irisonbooks--I'm glad I'm not the only one that loves to check out vegetarian cooking. I try really hard to find recipes with more of a plant base to them, but can be hard sometimes! That's why it's always great to get recipes from great cookbooks. Iris, that's got to be really tricky without eggs and cheese! Also, Eva, I know you have restrictions as well, so my bet is that you both are really aware of what you fix. You both should share a few of you standards! :)

    Darlene--I think I have an old Weight Watchers cookbook, and I LOVE Nigella. I only have her Domestic Goddess cookbook, but love the way her food turns out.

  9. I wish that I collected cookbooks if simply for the reason that when I manage to check out a cookbook from the library, we usually have a nice few meals. We only own like two cookbooks.

  10. My boyfriend tells me that I belong in a kitchen. I am happy to agree as long as he provides me with cookbooks! I absolutely adore them and they look beautiful when you display them.