A few of my favorite things...

Cookbook Gift List and Podcast Recommendations

For years, I didn't own many cookbooks. I had a few as reference, and a few garage sale finds that collected dust. But I would find myself heading to the internet to find a recipe to make use of a particular ingredient, or to cook for a special occasion. My fear of commitment kept me from finding allegiance with one particular author or genre. But lately, with so much reading about cooking and food, I started to earnestly seek out cookbooks and reference books about cooking. I love sitting down with a new one and flipping through and tagging pages with new recipe ideas. Most all of the books I tried out from the library first.

Borrowing a cookbook from the library made deciding to buy one infinitely easier. You might already know of my aversion to buying things, let alone having to actually shop for something. So paging through those library books of cooking ideas was like Christmas each time!

Since it is the gift giving season, I thought I'd share my thoughts on a few. Some of these books might go by the wayside over time, but here are my favorites today:

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River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

The author is British, so he introduces me to words (Tartiflette toastie?) and ways of eating that are a bit different than our standard American fare, but are entirely accessible too. These books are simply written, the recipes are short and uncomplicated and it includes beautiful photographs. This one in particular caught me in his introduction. He writes:

"I see the main challenge of my work as helping people move... in the direction of more engagement with real fresh food, away from dependence on the industrial food machine. I believe it's a worthwhile enterprise for one simple reason: I'm convinced that a greater engagement with the source of their food makes people happier. 

...by writing about the kind of food I eat at home, every day. I describe how bread, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables are dealt with in our house, how we juggle breakfast for three hungry schoolkids, and how we sort out weekday lunches for two working parents. I reveal why so many of the meals we eat... are made from leftovers."

I've tried chicken with Couscous, honey, and cinnamon, Purple slaw, Beet and walnut hummus, Rabbit stew with tomato, Stuffed butternut squash (I wrote about it here) and as I write this, I've gotten lost in its pages again, with my sticky note pad disappearing within its pages. Last night, Micah and I are talked about cooking our way through this book this year, and also...

River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

I think I've made even more out of this book than the previous one. Cauliflower and chickpea curry, North African squash and chickpea stew, Stuffed cabbage leaves, Asian-inspired coleslaw (which was amazing). His Magic bread dough has become a bimonthly staple for making flat breads, which we freeze and eat way too many of. And my much-shared photo of frittata with summer veg and goat cheese. Just last week, I made the Pumpkin and raisin tea loaf for some friends, which made use of a bit of my pie pumpkins from Harlequin Produce, but where I accidentally grated off my thumb knuckle.. ouch!

Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

This book has been responsible for many shared desserts we have made for friends. With a freezer full of locally picked fruit, we practically need to make vanilla ice cream (a required accompaniment for baked fruit desserts) weekly to keep up with our dessert consumption. And you get to learn and share fun names of recipes called buckles and pandowdies and slumps and grunts.

The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking by Samantha Seneviratne

If you are a dessert fanatic (and if you are, welcome to the club), you might try this book that makes use of a different featured spice in each chapter. 


And sure, my reference books are still The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook and Baking Illustrated but I find myself looking for more accessible recipes for daily cooking.

And although I was sure I'd dig right in, my new-to-me copy of The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen somehow just has too many ingredients I don't have on hand to get much use. Still under review is Hugh Acheson's The Chef and the Slow Cooker.

Another book I would recommend, if only to browse for a time from the library is Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat. This has great illustrations and is part reference, part glossary, part cookbook and really interesting. I'm digesting the chapter and how it releases flavor in meat right now. 

And what's on my Christmas list this year? The new How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. I've got the ten year old version home from the library right now and know it will be my go-to reference book for next summer's bounty from Harlequin.

Food Podcasts

And while I'm sharing favorites, I'll tell you that many of my food ideas come from listening to podcasts. Since you may be headed out on the road this holiday season (or maybe just need a break from family by inserting the earbuds), here is a list to download from:

Gastropod "looks at food through the lends of science and history" These women do a great job of producing fun and educational podcasts.

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The Splendid Table is going through some changes as their long-time host Lynne Rossetto Kasper begins her retirement from the show and Francis Lam takes the reins. 

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is a new one for me and is where I got to learn from and listen to Yotam Ottolenghi talk about his new book "Sweet"... that one's on my book list too!

New podcasts for me: The Sporkful, The Food Chain, Sustainable Dish Podcast. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think, and please share your food podcast addictions with me!

 Thanks to Micah's awesome design and building skills, we now have an accessible space to house the cookbooks

Thanks to Micah's awesome design and building skills, we now have an accessible space to house the cookbooks

GeneralJennifer Knoetgen