Between the full-time freelance gig, Passover leftovers from my mom, and the stomach virus, I may not have been doing a lot of cooking lately, but I have been stocking up on new cookbooks to inspire me. Here are a few of the more interesting ones:
Modern Classics by Donna Hay: This oversized paperback with flaps is one of the most stylish, lovely-to-look at cookbooks I’ve seen in some time. The recipes are simple (an Asian-looking spinach with sesame dressing, baked fish with cherry tomatoes) and the photography is freakin’ gorgeous.
Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis: And speaking of gorgeous… OK, in this case the chef is photographed as sensually, as lovingly, as embarrassingly over-the-top as the food itself. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are more snaps of Giada in this book than there are of the vittles. To be honest, if it weren’t for the fact that my husband did some work on her show (and brought home some recipes for me to try), I never would’ve wanted this one. But the recipes are refreshingly straightforward and honest—things like a roasted bell pepper salad, or mushroom pesto—and let’s face it: if I looked like Giada, my publisher would plaster my picture everywhere, too.
Paris Sweets : Great Desserts From the City’s Best Pastry Shops by Dorie Greenspan: This is a cookbook I’ve been coveting for some time, one that gets mentioned a lot on food blogs. It’s got a killer tart section (can’t wait to try the coffee one), and a recipe for chocolate bread pudding with ginger that practically made me weep.
Eat This Book: Cooking with Global Fresh Flavors by Tyler Florence: Like Giada, Tyler Florence is a Food Network star. I’ve never actually seen his show—I stopped watching the network long ago when they started creating too many shows around processed-foods shortcuts—but a friend who works at the publisher recommended it. This is the most ambitious book of the lot. It’s absolutely beautiful, and packed with intriguing recipes for things like roasted corn with parmesan and cayenne, African-spiced chicken with green olive sauce, and pistachio meringues with warm strawberries. Organization is a bit wonky, though: it’s in chapters entitled Eating, Devouring, Noshing, Consuming, Tasting, Savoring, and Licking the Plate Clean. Somebody’s thesaurus got a workout on that one.
La Cocina de Mama : The Great Home Cooking of Spain by Penelope Casas: This one makes me hungry just thumbing through it. Sherry-infused baked sliced potatoes. Fried eggplant with honey, mint, and sesame seeds. Lemon chicken with ginger and pine nuts. Rice pudding flan with rum. There are, of course, tapas, but the bulk of the book is given over to a collection of handed-down recipes from Spanish chefs and home cooks. Man, does it make me want to hop on a plane.
Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book: This one I swiped from my mom. Well, OK, she gave it to me, but it felt like I was stealing a piece of my childhood. Originally published in 1963, this cheerful red spiral-bound hardcover stared out at me from my mom’s cookbook shelf while I was growing up. When I was home recently I pulled it down and started thumbing through it, marveling at the simplicity of the directions—each page holds at least three complete recipes—from a time when it was assumed women knew how to cream together butter and sugar. My mom noticed me smiling at its old-fashioned charm, and offered it to me. I happily accepted. She and my dad are both diabetic, so she doesn’t exactly use it anymore. There’s a facsimile edition available, but I’m thrilled to have the actual one my mom baked from.
Modern Cake Decorating: A groovy find from a used book store, it’s got an inscription inside: “To Mother on Mother’s Day, May 9, 1965, with Love from Bernice.” The book itself is copyright 1954. While some of the creations are hilariously extravagant—especially the Doll Cakes, made with a naked plastic doll inserted in the center of a bundt cake, which becomes the skirt of her dress with icing for the bodice, hat, etc—the section on piping flowers and using a pastry bag is filled with valuable information.
Well, that’s my round-up. What have you acquired lately? I’m always on the lookout for something new to add to my collection…