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Cooking and Delicious Days

It's dark pretty much all the time here, which means I'm spending my free time at home browsing through cookbooks. I've always found that a good meal shared with friends makes winter days feel warmer and lighter. In that vein, and partly to fill my new bookshelves (I work for a book company, I can't have empty bookshelves!), I hauled a pile of cookbooks home with me the other day. One that gave me pause, however, is The Silver Spoon — Italy's Joy of Cooking, finally translated into English. Despite Georgie's recommendation, I was nervous because it's huge and, frankly, I was worried that the collection's comprehensive nature would make the recipes a bit dull and repetitive. But also, no reviews yet! I think cookbook reviewers are also feeling a bit of trepidation about testing over 2,000 recipes. Well, from Munich-based blog Delicious Days comes the book's first review, which is both comprehensive and positive, so now I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get dirty. (Note to self: Trust Georgie about books.) NPR also ran a piece on The Silver Spoon this week, and their website features a few of the book's recipes so you can test drive this tome before you buy.

I find myself turning to Nigella Lawson quite a bit lately. A friend who knows how much I love to bake gave me a copy of Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I never would have picked it up myself because, well, I'm just not the domestic goddess sort. But much to my chagrin the book quickly became one of my "go-to" cookbooks. Her onion pie makes a great, easy, winter supper, and her chocolate cherry cupcakes (which I translated into chocolate raspberry) are now famous among my friends. Orangetterecently extolled the virtues of Nigella as well, and it was her mention of Red Seasonal Salad that prompted me to expand my Nigella library. I recently added Feast and Nigella Bites to my library, and I have not been disappointed. Nigella's recipes are always interesting, flavorful, and satisfying. I particularly love that she gives me options — dishes that will taste fabulous even though I threw them together while also kicking the laundry under the bed, as well more labor intensive but well-worth-the-effort fare.

I seem to be looking abroad these days because I've also been flipping through several books by Donna Hay and David Lebovitz. I like Hay's work for much the same reason I like Lawson's — interesting, diverse recipes that speak to a variety of occasions. Lebovitz cut his teeth in Chez Panisse's pastry kitchen and has since gone on to write several innovative, dessert-based cookbooks. He now lives in Paris, where he offers chocolate tours and authors his own blog (which I read religiously). I like new variations on classics — tastes that surprise and delight — and Lebovitz more than satisfies. I can't wait to try his version of tiramisu.

One of my favorite standby cookbooks is especially appropriate for cold winter months — Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Her recipes are just simply delicious — beautiful combinations of spices and flavors, perfectly balanced, and always fresh and exciting. I love all of her tagines, her salads, and especially her several variations on b'stilla — a savory filo pie filled with various meat or seafood fillings and dusted with cinnamon, sugar, and almonds.

At the rate I'm reading cookbooks, I don't have nearly enough time to cook! Nonetheless, I'm sure I'll have more to report soon.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Silver Spoon Cookbook
    Sale Hardcover $24.98
  2. Joy of Cooking (1997)
    Used Hardcover $14.50
  3. How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking...
    Used Trade Paper $11.50
  4. Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
    Used Hardcover $10.50
  5. Nigella Bites
    Used Hardcover $7.95
  6. The New Book of Middle Eastern Food Used Hardcover $24.00

3 Responses to "Cooking and Delicious Days"

    georgie November 16th, 2005 at 11:23 pm

    Awww -- too kind, Emily! I will add that I agree: Nigella is a great resource, although i must admit that sometime I feel her recipes a tad too loose and that the improvisational elements will often be the deciding factor in some of her stand-by recipes. That said, her way with words makes her books almost as absorbing as a novel -- she is so much fun!

    Donna Hay's most recent book, The Instant Cook, is brilliant at mapping out alternatives/flourishes to a dish which are not only detailed but each alternative is photographed as well. Hay's books are easily the best illustrated cook books on the market. (And she is a fellow Aussie -- need I say more? )

    miriam sontz November 23rd, 2005 at 9:26 am

    Let's get some boys into this picture. Try Rick Bayless's new book, Mexican Everyday. Every recipe I have tried so far exceeds expectations. They are easy to follow and end up tasting like food you get at that small restaurant in Oaxaca that has no name and is cooked by the grandma. And you can't beat Cory Schreiber for writing about the recipe he is suggesting. I salivate reading the intro. It's a great diet plan -- low carb, low salt. Just read and visualize. Ah.........

    Emily (Post Author) November 23rd, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    You're so right - Schreiber's Wildwood cookbook is a perennial favorite on my bookshelf. His crab cakes are my favorite, hands down. Another guy not to miss: James Peterson. His Splendid Soups are, well, splendid. The book is comprehensive, providing recipes from around the world and often with many variations, and is keeping me warm this winter.

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