Gathering Inspiration From Favorite Cookbooks
I own cookbooks. How many? Not as many as some of my foodie friends! I read recipes like a good novel, bookmarking and making notes on the pages of dishes I’d like to make. One day.
Reading cookbook recipes and the stories behind them inspires me. Perhaps it’s the photo, or description of a technique, or an ingredient I’m not familiar with…doesn’t matter, it makes good reading. I may read through the recipe se real times before making a dish, just to make sure I understand what I’m doing.
The backstories of the authors and the people who taught them how to cook or even inspire them is always of interest to me.
Here are a few books I’m glad to own (many were thankfully gifts).
Salt Fat Acid Heat
I bought this book for one of my NEO Foodies Cookbook Club dinners. Had previously watched the author on television and loved her stories and presentations on food. I chose the chicken pot pie to make as entree dish for our dinner and was thoroughly surprised as to how good it was. Dinner guests oohed and aahed over it as homey and comforting.
Chicken Pot Pie
A true comfort dish that I have made repeatedly, both as a casserole or in individual dishes. The prep of browning the chicken coupled with wine, cremini mushrooms and cream make this dish a winner, in my opinion.
The Chef’s Garden
Don't mistake this compendium of everything vegetables as a cookbook. It’s a substantial reference guide. I was fortunate to visit The Chefs Garden last summer with a group of foodie friends and it was quite the experience. Marveled at the science of how they grow vegetables and ship them across the globe to some of the worlds best chefs and restaurants. Gifted a copy of the book to my sister so we can learn and cook from it together.
Salt-Crusted Petite Potatoes
The simplicity of just two ingredients, potatoes and salt creates a most tasty snack or side dish. The potatoes grown at The Chef’s Garden are like no other I’ve tasted.
The Last Course
I stumbled upon a podcast with the authors Claudia Fleming and Melissa Clark, authors of this book. It was fascinating, especially when they spoke about their journeys and food experiences.
Pistachio Nut Brittle
This brittle is addictive. Use fresh nuts (I shell them myself) for best results. Perfect to gift as the nuts are the star.
This isn’t a cookbook inasmuch as a solid reference book on fermenting food using koji. Authors Jeremy Umansky and Rich Shih have teamed up to produce a book that’s perfect for inquisitive cooks.
Umansky’s Larder Delicatessen in Cleveland’s Hingetown is filled with bottles and jars (from floor to ceiling) of various fermented foods. It provides a perfect backdrop to a very busy kitchen that produces mouthwatering deli foods like pastrami, pickles, cookies, pastries, babka and special dishes. I love visiting Larder because Jeremys enthusiasm for food, customers and staff is contagious.
Author Deb Perelman isn’t a chef but she loves to cook. She started blogging and then started writing cookbooks. This first book is all about home cooking using simple ingredients.
Inspired by her “recipe” for an iceberg stack with blue cheese and radishes, I created a grilled romaine wedge which my family adored. Used the dressing recipe from the book and added cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado.
Use this dressing on wedges of iceberg or another crisp lettuce or omit the buttermilk and serve it as a dip with crudites.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups of dressing
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces crumbled firm blue cheese (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
Blend buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Add blue cheese and pulse until cheese is incorporated but dressing is still slightly chunky. Transfer to a bowl and stir in chives. Store in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
Here are a few more of my favorite cookbooks: (in no particular order)
The Charmed Kitchen
The World Eats Here
Cook Like a Local
The Carolina Rice Kitchen
Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie
Pig, King of the Southern Table
Would love to know if you have a favorite to share.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and collaborative lifestyle brand. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at select Northeast Ohio businesses including:
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The Corner The Corner at The Van Aken District
NEW! Farmers Feast at BottleHouse Brewery & Meadery
Pat's October 29 appearance on New Day Cleveland
Learn Pats story:
Launching a Granola Business at Age 61
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