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12-jul-04

Recipes and Foodie Talk

in 2003, I learned that I actually like to cook. I haven't tried anything especially fancy, but I've managed to build up a repertoire of favorites that are pretty easy to put together and taste much better than our previous diet of frozen (or delivered) pizza or spaghetti with sauce from a jar. I certainly don't produce elaborate home-cooked meals every night, mind you, but I've become much more comfortable in the kitchen and more willing to try new recipes.

Because I'm in a "mixed marriage" -- Bill is a vegetarian; I'm not -- most of these recipes will be meatless. I'll start with the one recipe I get the most requests for and develop the list from there:

Judith's Focaccia (from Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham)
Cuban Bread (from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads)
Thai Spicy Eggplant (adapted from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Veggie Meals)
Chickpea Curry (adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook)

Books, Cook and Otherwise

These are food-related books I've found particularly entertaining and/or useful. Feel free to toss me any recommendations you have in the forum.

Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl. I'm pretty sure this book is the reason I started cooking in earnest. This is Reichl's delightful memoir of growing up in the kitchen, starting with hilarious accounts of her mother's so-bad-it-was-literally-dangerous cooking. (She wrote a sequel of sorts last year, but I found that one considerably less appealing.) Towards the end of the book there' s a glowing portrayal of Reichl's good friend Marion Cunningham, which I suspect inspired me to go out and buy ...

Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham. I love this book dearly. Cunningham has a refreshingly down-to-earth, non-food-snobby approach to her writing that makes this a pleasure to read. As you probably guessed, this is a basic cookbook in which Cunningham writes about equipment, preparation techniques, measurements, and other issues that a newbie cook needs to know. The recipes aren't terribly fancy and can tend towards the bland, but they're easy to follow, really reliable, and emboldened me to start trying my hand at more complicated stuff.

Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin. Colwin, who died in 1992, was an accomplished fiction writer, and these nonfiction essays on cooking are wonderful. The essays about kitchen disasters (her own) and really repulsive dinners (the vile stuff she was subjected to in other people's homes) are worth the price of the books.

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. I've had this one for a long time, and it's a great standby to have around if you've got vegetarians in the family. This is the book I always turn to if I need a quick recipe for a salad dressing or a dip, or if I'm trying to think of something new to do with the staple ingredients in the pantry. (One clunker to avoid: The coffee ricotta mousse. Bleah.)