Topic: Cookbooks

Cookbooks: Cheese to Cookies

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Who doesn’t love a good cookbook? You like to read about food, I assume you like to cook, too. Great cookbooks cross my desk all the time. Here are a few recent ones that have caught my eye and palate.

Do you hanker for a hunk, piece, slice, or chunk of cheese or some other dairy product? Then why not try and make your own? I knew it would be fun, but never imagined how good my own handmade ricotta and mozzarella could taste. Oh, and when your guests ask about it and you say you made it … well, you become the subject of awe — a nice bonus. The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley (Storey Books)

They’re a bit impish and eccentric — Marilyn and Sheila Brass, that is — two sisters who are also great cooks, offering a smart and thoughtful selection of recipes from their own vast collection. In Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters (Black Dog and Leventhal), their second book, they share more than 100 recipes they’ve gathered from family (“Aunt Ida’s Mystery Stuffed Mushrooms”), friends (“Alice McGinty’s London Broil”), and neighbors, as well as from community cookbooks (“North Carolina Ice Box Pickles”) and other manuscripts (“Vermont Corn Chowder” from a box of recipes found on Martha’s Vineyard).

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll be fascinated. Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World by Andrew Rimas and Evan D.G. Fraser offers a riveting and passionate account of beef and its role in world history. There are a few recipes and the book is centrally about eating habits, but it’s their panoramic perspective of the story of the cow that fills you.

Chef Frank McClelland and his crackerjack team of cooks at L’Espalier have been wowing Bostonians for decades with elegant French techniques and New England ingredients. For some, the prices in his elegant dining room prevented them from experiencing his magic until he conjured up “Wine Mondays,” a four-course, prix-fixe menu with accompanying wines. It became an instant hit and a more casual night for him and the kitchen. In Wine Mondays by Frank McClelland and Christie Matheson (Harvard Common Press), we get the keys to creating our own food and wine pairings.

Technically speaking, the authors live in New York, not New England, and I try to keep things focused on what’s happening here on my home turf. BUT Olives & Oranges (Houghton Mifflin) authors Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox are friends of mine who used to live in New England and whom I met while they both lived in New England. So my own little rules just got stretched. AND this is a terrific book. Both Sara and Mindy are startlingly good cooks, but in the less-is-more, no-ego way. They know ingredients and history and culture, and they express their ardor in ways that will enhance your own abilities in the kitchen. Sara’s mother, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, is a New Englander and a cookbook author as well. One of her first books, The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook (Bantam Dell), has been updated and re-released. Nancy is among the pantheon of respected researchers of the Mediterranean diet and has helped separate the confusing (but packed with good health news) nutrition information from the delicious (and varied) culinary traditions that include Spanish, Italian, French, Greek, Lebanese, North African, Cypriot, and more.

Every year I say I’m going to make cookies and chocolate truffles for holiday gifts and I never do. This year I really, really, really will. And to help me make good on this promise is Lisa Zwirn with her book Christmas Cookies (William Morrow). Lisa chapters out her recipes with tips on tools and ingredients, then jumps into drop, rolled, sliced and baked, hand-shaped, filled, bar, and no-bake cookie recipes. I’m thinkin’ sugar cookies cut out into iconic holiday shapes, coconut macaroons, pecan sandies, chocolate crinkles, and fig half-moons — and a glass of cold milk, if you please.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks? Let me know … “Comment” here on this blog.


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