Tuesday, March 05, 2013

What We Are Reading Now...

Most Wednesday evenings, I can be found sitting at the Reference Desk of our Central Branch, reviewing the catalog records of the latest batch of new books. Invariably, each cart of new books holds at least a few items to fuel one of my grandest passions: cooking.  At any given time, my list of checked-out books contains two to five cookbooks, and often several more.  I drool over the photography, read the recipes with an almost unseemly zeal, and dot the pages with sticky-notes, compiling a "To Make" list that, should I ever find the time to follow through, would feed an army of gourmands for decades.  The following list represents some of my most recent obsessions.

French Feasts: 299 traditional recipes for family meals & gatherings, by St├ęphane Reynaud.

If I weren't already a confirmed Francophile, this book of Gallic delights certainly would have transformed me.  It combines gorgeously realistic food photography, with marvelously straightforward recipes -- most are less than a quarter-page long -- and, of course, a suggested wine pairing. In a twist I've not seen before, the recipes list the ingredients first, with the measurements provided afterward, allowing you to determine instantly whether or not the dish relies on pantry staples or requires a shopping expedition.  Anecdotes from French butchers, home cooks, restaurateurs, etc., initiate each chapter.  The recipe titles are listed in both French and English, and French phrases are sprinkled liberally throughout the hefty tome.  C'est magnifique!

This is the newest book by London restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi, whose last book, Plenty, has become one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks.  Jerusalem, like Plenty, incorporates many of Ottolenghi's favorite childhood memories and recipes, while also providing some intriguing insight into how the assorted religious and cultural traditions, which coexist so tenuously in the political sphere, merge peacefully in the kitchens of its namesake ancient city.  Both cookbooks rely heavily on ingredients which are not common to Midwestern Americans, and which might be tricky to find, but these are challenges I welcome.

Cook this now: 120 easy and delectable dishes you can't wait to make, by Melissa Clark. 

If you've been pondering experimenting with the seasonal and local cooking trends, but have a busy life and/or a family of picky eaters, this is the cookbook for you!  At least half a dozen of Melissa's uncomplicated recipes have quickly made their way into my standard rotation, and one of those -- featuring barley and grated carrots -- has become my go-to winter comfort food.  That recipe happens to be almost ridiculously healthy and simple, so much so that I frequently have to remind my inner hedonist that she's not actually getting away with anything.

Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: recipes you can trust, by Ina Garten.

I have yet to encounter a cooking aficionado who isn't utterly charmed by Ina Garten. Her cooking shows offer a peek into her very privileged and enviable lifestyle, but without invoking the backlash that Martha Stewart does.  Ina seems like someone who would sincerely welcome you into her home, simultaneously making you feel like an honored guest and an old friend -- even helping with the dishes afterward would be fun! Furthermore, the unabashed mutual adoration between Ina and her husband of forty-some years, Jeffrey, is my favorite love story; no novel author or screenwriter can even come close.  As with all of her previous Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, Foolproof provides you with engaging, simple, and accessible recipes and plans to help you tap into Ina Garten's beautiful life.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've just noticed that my cart holds a new book by Nigella Lawson which requires my immediate attention...



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