I love cookbooks, I love trying out recipes and have developed the knack of being able to tell whether something will be good just by reading the recipe. I have an eclectic collection of cookbooks, many are my mother’s: McCall’s from 1963, the Silver Palate series from the 80’s, several from my brief stint as a member of a cookbook of the month club in the 90’s, sheets torn from magazines, and my more recent acquisitions from Deborah Madison and Madhur Jaffe. My most recent favorite is Plenty. This is a cookbook that has recipes from Jerusalem and it was the first one that I couldn’t really tell what things would taste like by reading, but once I tried a few of those recipes, I was hooked. It is good to know you can trust the author of a cookbook. Julia Child, Deborah Madison, Madhur Jaffe and Craig Clairborne are always dependable. Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson, not so much, in my experience.
Meal planning has never been my forte, I like to be a bit more spontaneous. I check what we have in the garden, frig and pantry and then look at a few cookbooks to see what they have in mind for those ingredients. We try to keep a pretty well-stocked pantry, (you have to when you are 20 miles to the nearest grocery!) And it’s nice to try new things in different combinations. Sometimes, it can be a bit of a scramble to find substitutes, just last night I wanted to make a tomato soup and found a nice recipe in Madhur Jaffey’s World Vegetarian for Madras Curry Tomato Soup. Perfect, except that I didn’t have the potatoes, cream or curry spice called for in the recipe (and I am avoiding dairy this month). No worries, I had some cabbage to replace the potatoes, all the spices that normally go in a curry blend and coconut milk in the cabinet to replace the cream. Let me tell you, it was pretty tasty and I think healthier than the original recipe, no offense Madhur!
I have started keep a log of the recipes I am using over the year in hopes of making a collection of favorite seasonal recipes to share with friends and family. Let’s see how long I can keep it up!
What are your favorite cookbooks?
In winter, I really enjoy cooking soups and stews and I always make extra so we can have them for several meals, just in case I DON’T feel like cooking one night. Winter is also the time to keep an eye on the bees. When the weather warms on some of these winter days so that the bees can get out of the hives and stretch their wings, I take the opportunity to fill their feeders and get a look see into the hive, just to make sure everyone is making it through the winter. I had an opportunity on Sunday to do just that and have good news to report. All but two of the hives look strong and appear to be weathering the winter quite well. Let me tell you, the cold spell we had earlier in December had me worried, but the girls stuck it out and used their snuggle power to keep going. PHEW!
Good thing they are thriving, I am going to be counting on their honey to sweeten our granola, jams and possibly a few other items I am playing with this winter. My granola is a riff on Deborah Madison’s recipe, I honed it until it was just what I was looking for in a granola, nutty, not too sweet and wheat-free. The stores of honey we kept for ourselves are dwindling, but I still have enough to keep up with granola orders! I am looking forward to the new crop of Spring honey.
Keep warm everybuggy!