December 22nd, 2005  |  Published in old and busted

The recent uptick in domesticity lately has meant the addition of some cookbooks.

I’m tapping three for recipes right now:

The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook is my general purpose “how do I make that?” cookbook. It edges out “The Joy of Cooking” on several fronts:

  1. It’s ringbound, so it’s easier to put it on the counter and consult it without losing my place.

  2. It takes more time to explain why it’s telling you to do the things you’re doing, and that means that you can learn to improvise more quickly.

  3. It’s less densely formatted, so it’s more accessible in general.

  4. It’s illustrated, so if you aren’t sure what something means, there might well be a picture explaining.

  5. The book’s TOC thoughtfully indicates which recipes can be completed in a short amount of time.

One other benefit of ringbinding: It’s easier to print recipes from the ‘net or wherever and add them in the appropriate section. I lost a few pie and soup recipes in our last move because I had them folded up in the Joy of Cooking and they fell out somewhere in the move.

Because so much care has gone into selecting the recipes it offers, I save things from this one for when I can take the time to be sort of deliberate about a meal.

I’ve also been using “Quick Vegetarian Pleasures,” which offers 175 recipes. We had Michael and Sue over for chilaquiles from this one last night, and everyone was pretty happy with the dish. I’m looking forward to trying some of the bbq recipes. I’ve been turning to this book when I don’t have any time between getting done with work for the day and picking up Ben, because most of the recipes go together in less than ten minutes and cook in less than 30.

For days when cooking in the afternoon is going to be an issue (mandatory post-daycare-pickup store run, post-dinner engagements, busy day), I’ve been turning to “125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes,” which offers some pretty good dishes.

It has a slightly more exacting approach than some of the other slow cooker books I’ve seen, which tend to emphasize the “e-z” part of the process at the expense of quality. So when the author recommends slowing down and cracking peppercorns instead of using plain old ground pepper, or using crushed whole leaves of a given spice, I pay attention.

One other good tip to come out of that book: covering the top of the stoneware with a couple of folded tea-towels underneath the lid to keep condensation from getting back down into the food during cooking. Recipes done using that trick have really benefitted from the improved texture and discrete flavors. The lentil shepherd’s pie, especially.

The food processor I bought has been working like a champ. I’ve made a few batches of pizza dough with it, done all the usual chopping and dicing, grated cheese, crushed Mexican chocolate, and made homemade peanut butter for my spicy peanut butter soup recipe.

Seven cups has turned out to be a decent capacity so far, but I got a look at Sue’s 14 cup model a few days ago and felt like … like I don’t know what … Orville Wright beholding an F-15A Strike Eagle.

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