DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


May 11 2017

Cooking with Diana Gabaldon!

by Jencey G

gabaldonI have been a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s books for a long time.  I have read most of the Outlander series.  I also really enjoy the Outlander series on television which are available on DVD from the library.   Diana has a couple of Outlandish companions that give extra details on the Outlander series and allow readers delve  deeper into the series.

Another book that has recently come out is the Outlander Kitchen cookbook.  This book takes readers into the food and drink aspect of the Outlander series.   Dishes such as: Claire’s Nettle Kissed Buns; Brianna’s Bridies; Banoffee Pie; Bannocks; Battlefield Blackberry Jam;  Garlic and Sage Sausage; and many more.  The food follows the storyline of Outlander.  So many of these dishes are native to England, Scotland, and the USA.

I have enjoyed cooking since I was a girl.  I also love to bake.  So I thought it would be a fun experience to check out some of the recipes included in this book.  I flipped through the book and picked several that I thought I might be able to make.

So my first recipe attempt was Mrs. Bugs Buttermilk Drop Biscuits.  It was the first time I made biscuits from scratch that actually tasted like biscuits.  I think this recipe was better than anything I have in my current collection of recipes.

Spaghetti and Meatballs was the next recipe. The cookbook goes into a description about the characters and their process for preparation.  The author’s of the cookbook include which book the dish came from and some dialogue describing the scene. I followed the recipe, but I did not enjoy this recipe.

I have a few more recipes I would like to try.  I am also looking forward to reading the further adventures of Jamie, Claire, Brianna and Roger’s family.  I always look forward to the next season of Outlander!

Try a few recipes from your favorite characters in the Outlander Kitchen cookbook! Diana’s books are available in all formats with DCPL.

These items can be found in the catalog:

Outlander                                                                                                                   Outlander TV

Dragon Fly In Amber


Drums of Autumn

The Fiery Cross

A Breath of Snow and Ash

An Echo In The Bone

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood

The Outlandish Companion

The Outlandish Companion Volume 2

The Outlander series DVDs



Mar 6 2015

Racing the Clock

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog know that cooking is one of my hobbies. I love nothing better than spending hours in the kitchen, chopping, sauteing, stirring and braising, all in the service of what I hope will be a memorable meal. Realistically though, on a day-to-day basis, I don’t have hours to spend cooking–unless I wanted to sit down to dinner at ten or eleven every night, which I don’t. That’s one reason why I’m excited about Mark Bittman’s latest compendium How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food.

I’ve long been an admirer of Bittman’s work for the “Opinions” column of The New York Times as well as his food writing for the paper’s “Dining” section. Bittman’s opinion pieces can inspire, shall we say, lively debate among readers. He’s a passionate advocate for a more plant-based diet and for cooking at home, as well as stricter government regulation of food production. His outspoken stand on these and other related issues has earned him labels ranging from elitist to hero to public menace. He tends to provoke commentary that often boils down to “Mark Bittman can’t tell me what to do!” In any case, his cookbooks are admired by a larger group than perhaps appreciates his politics and none more so than his “Everything” titles–which include the original How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Good and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food.

Since Bittman is focusing on speed in How to Cook Everything Fast, you won’t find every recipe under the sun. Still, at 1,056 pages, it’s a surprisingly comprehensive work. No, you won’t find cassoulet or beef stew here … except wait…there are recipes for cassoulet and beef stew! True, these are streamlined versions of the cook-all-day classics, but they appear to be creditable renditions nonetheless. I’ve already pegged Beer Glazed Black Beans with Chicken and Chorizo and Pasta with Kale and Ricotta as two recipes I plan to try this week. You could cook exclusively from this book for a very long time and never repeat yourself.

Are you someone who appreciates a delicious dinner but needs to get it ready fast? If so, DCPL has resources to help. Along with Bittman’s book (very highly recommended) check out the following:

Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dishes in 30 Minutes or Less from the Food Network’s healthy cooking guru Ellie gourmetKrieger.

Gourmet Weekday: All-Time Favorite Recipes by the editors of gone, but not forgotten, Gourmet magazine.

Kitchen Simple: Essential Recipes for Everyday Cooking by celebrated cookbook author and master of technique James Peterson.

kitchenEveryday Food: Great Good Fast from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living.

Real Simple Meals Made Easy by Renee Schettler, from the editors of Real Simple magazine.

Everyday Easy by British food television superstar Lorraine Pascale.

What’s your favorite way to get dinner on the table fast?




Feb 6 2015

Superlatively Delicious

by Dea Anne M

I have to admit to a not-so-secret fondness for “best of” lists. I know perfectly well as I am reading them that this is just one person’s (or group’s) opinion about the qualities of whatever is being judged. I know this, and yet time and again I find myself engaging in the entertaining (and really kind of silly) activity of “taking umbrage.” How could “Downton Abbey” make her list and NOT “Game of Thrones”? (Of course, I am a fan of both). No way is Dickens a better writer than Jane Bowles! (Although, actually, he probably is–just don’t get in a time machine and try telling that to my early-twenties self). What makes him think that the Doors were more influential than the Velvet Underground? Who told him he knew anything about music?!! Just WHO does he think he is???!!!

Thus, many delicious hours can be spent while less exciting activities like laundry and regular meals go by the wayside. These days, I try to resist the lure of the list–particularly around this time of year when they seem to pop up everywhere. Though I couldn’t help myself when I saw that Food & Wine magazine had posted a list of the “Best Cookbooks of All Time.” When I clicked on the link, I have to admit to feeling a touch of disappointment. Don’t get me wrong. The cookbooks praised here are no doubt worthy of somebody’s “best of” accolade–just not mine. As regular readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan of cookbooks and I have some pretty particular ideas about what makes a good one. More to my taste (so to speak) is The Nine Best Cookbooks of All Time, a list compiled via poll of the editors and readers of the excellent community cooking blog Food 52. Each of these books are the type of essential kitchen reference that you want if you are faced, either due to necessity or sheer desire, with roasting a chicken or making spinach calzone. All but one of these titles is owned by DCPL which makes it possible to take any one of these excellent cookbooks home for a “test drive.” I suspect, though, that sooner or later you may want at least one of these (or more) in your permanent collection. I own several of these books, and have cooked from the ones that I don’t, so I think I can safely recommend this list wholeheartedly.

The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. I own one of the older editions of this book and I refer to it all the time for ideas and basic techniques. I even appreciate the “folksy” anecdotes. All in all, the recipes have stood the test of time and the conversational tone of Joy remains vegetableimmensely pleasing.

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. Madison is a long time champion of elegant vegetarian cooking. In this beautiful volume she celebrates vegetables themselves in all their luscious glory. Vegetables are grouped by family, which helps with substitutions, and the gorgeous pictures are sure to inspire. You may well begin making vegetables the star of your dinner plate!

The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso. Beloved by caterers everywhere, this war horse still has relevance today almost 35 years after it was first published. True, dishes like Ratatouille and Chicken Marbella don’t seem as exotic to us now, but these recipes are no less delicious with the passing of time. The recipe for the Pate Maison alone is worth the cost of the book in my opinion. Alas, DCPL doesn’t own Silver Palate but gently used copies are readily available.

The Fanny Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham. This is an excellent basic American cookbook and one that I use often. There’s nothing fancy here–and that’s kind essentialof the point.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser. This book is enormous fun if you, like me, enjoy reading cookbooks. Hesser spent several years cooking her way through every recipe ever published in the New York Times food pages (since the 1850s!) and has compiled the best of them here. Each chapter lists the recipes chronologically. It’s fun to see the evolution of American taste. Hesser’s sharp and witty writing makes the book even more fun. I have made the Salad a la Romaine, the Stuck Pot Rice, and the Pickled Shrimp over and over again–and the sheer deliciousness of the South African casserole, Bobotie, is enough to inspire in me fits of culinary daydreaming. Highly recommended.

How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman. Truth in advertising! Unless you’re trying to track down a festival dish enjoyed by the residents of a remote village in Papua, New Guinea, or you want the definitive recipe for Crappit Heid (the oats-stuffed cod heads once consumed by Gaelic fishermen), then you’re bound to find what you need here. From arepas to zucchini pancakes (Asian style!), Bittman covers it all. The vegetarian volume is quite simply the most comprehensive vegetarian simplecookbook that I have ever seen and the recipes are great.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. Reading Alice Waters wax lyrical about the pure, angelic beauty of a green salad will provoke either nods of agreement or uncontrollable gnashing of teeth. Still, the deep commitment to the fundamentals of cooking and the freshest ingredients cannot be denied. The recipes are not “easy” per se, but they are all well balanced and capture the essence of Kitchen Pleasure. A modern classic.

The Way to Cook by Julia Child. It’s Julia Child and what else, really, do you smittenneed to know?

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Perelman has a very winning writing style which is part of what has made her Smitten Kitchen blog so wildly successful. She is also an extremely creative cook with an unerring palate. The big surprise here is that although this isn’t a vegetarian cookbook, the selection of vegetarian recipes is absolutely delicious looking and vegetable-centric with nary an over-cheesed casserole in sight. Reading this book sort of makes me feel like I’m talking to a really good friend.

What cookbooks would you consider the best? Do you have a collection? What do you think of “best of” lists?


Jun 4 2014

Summer Salads

by Glenda

StrawberryAvocadoSpinachSalad500Now that summer is on the way this is a great opportunity to start eating more salads. There are a variety of salads that most of us eat on a regular basis, but this month take a chance and try some new salads. Most people love the classic Caesar salad or Cobb salad and I don’t know anyone who will turn down a fruit salad, but there are salads most people never try. So let us look at some of those salads. How about trying a Cantaloupe Carpaccio salad? To make this, slice cantaloupe extra thin, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and top with pepper and ricotta cheese. This is an easy recipe and it’s very refreshing. Do you love fish in a salad? Well, try the Smoked Trout salad. To make this salad, whisk one part cider vinegar with three parts olive oil, minced shallots, horseradish, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Toss with flaked smoked trout, julienne apple and beets, and arugula. If you don’t want to try either of these salads, then come by your local library and pick up a few salad books–such as Salads: 150 Classic and Innovative Recipes for Every Course and Every Meal by Leonard Schwartz with Sheila Linderman, Salad Suppers: Fresh Inspirations for Satisfying One-Dish Meals by Andrea Chesman, or Cooking Light: Big Book of Salads. When we think of salads we may think of only eating healthy, but salads can be fun as well, so make a fun salad.


May 2 2014

How to cook a book

by Dea Anne M

Cookbook publishing, in this country at least, used to have a fairly rigid path. You might be an “expert” such as Fannie Farmer, a domestic scientist whose Boston Cooking School Cookbook came out in 1896. As immensely  popular as Farmer’s book became, she paid for it to be published.  You might be a corporate entity such as General Mills, whose creation–Betty Crocker–became a cultural icon and birthed a seemingly endless series of cookbooks such as Betty Crocker’s Country Cooking and Betty Crocker the Big Book of Cakes. You might be an established chef such as Jacques Pepin, whose first book, La Technique, is still used as a textbook today and who has published numerous books since including Fast Food My Way and Essential Pepin: More than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food.  Naturally, there have always been talented amateurs like Irma Rombauer whose Joy of Cooking has been continuously in print since 1936. Generally speaking though,  getting a cookbook published could be very difficult for anyone without the right credentials or connections–or enough financial wherewithal to pay for an initial printing (as Rombauer did).

Well, the advent of the personal blog has changed the publishing landscape and the popularity of cooking blogs cannot be denied. Part of the appeal, I think, lies in the fact that these bloggers are not usually professionals (i.e., chefs) and though many may have experience in the food industry, for the most part they have no specialized training. What the most popular food bloggers share, and convey through their writing, is enthusiasm and a unique vision. A good photographer doesn’t hurt either. Blogging about food and cooking isn’t a guaranteed path to print publication. One has to be able to write well, of course, and most bloggers who get book deals have a lengthy and firmly established presence online as well as a following of devoted fans.

Would you like to check out the print offerings of some of these bloggers? DCPL has plenty to choose from. Here are some that are fairly recent and certainly notable.

First up is Stuffed: The Ultimate Comfort Food Cookbook: Taking Your Favorite Foods and Stuffing Them to Make New, Different and Delicious Meals by Dan Whalen. On first flipping through the book, you may very well say to yourself, “Wow, this guy really likes Mac and Cheese!” You’ll find Lobster Stuffed Mac and Cheese Balls, Mac and Cheese Stuffed Chile Relleno, Mac and Cheese Ravioli and what has to be the ultimate…uh…”stuffed food”…Mac and Cheese Stuffed Burgers. This is the somewhat startling item featured on the book’s cover. (Whalen did his own photography, and he is good). It doesn’t look like my sort of dish but I know a couple of ten-year-old boys who would consider it completely awesome. Whalen is the author of the popular blog The Food In My Beard. Whalen’s writing style is humorous and upbeat, his recipes creative, and his enthusiasm for cooking is infectious. Stuffed is a fun book and well worth your time. You might pass on stuffing a hamburger with mac and cheese, but you will certainly be inspired to get into the kitchen.

Ever wonder how to spend quality time in the kitchen when your days are filled with caring for your family? Check out The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food into Family Life by Kelsey Banfield. Banfield, a passionate cook, found her usual naptimecooking patterns completely thrown after the birth of her daughter.  Once the baby started napping in the afternoon though, Banfield discovered how to cook all or parts of meals during that quiet time and began sharing her techniques and tips on her blog The Naptime Chef. As most regular cooks know,  it isn’t the actual cooking time but the time spent prepping a dish that can be an issue. Banfield provides really practical make-ahead tips with each recipe as well as a “naptime stopwatch,” which tells you how much time you’ll spend prepping the dish and how much time cooking. Preparation time for most of the recipes is 20 minutes or less, so you really can prepare meals during your child’s naptime, or soccer practice, or after bedtime. I am not a parent myself, and the book assumes a certain level of basic skill, but it seems to me The Naptime Chef could well be a valuable resource for any busy parent.

In 2005, Anna Ginsberg committed to baking a different cookie every day for acookie year and to writing about it on her blog Cookie Madness. Nine years later, the site is still going strong and includes recipes for pies, cakes, and other baked goods. The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life is the in-print result of Ginsberg’s baking adventures. It’s one of the most fun cookie books I’ve seen. Each day’s recipe is themed to a “holiday.” Are you an Elvis fan? Pay tribute by baking a batch of Peanut Browned Butter Banana Bacon Cookies on The King’s birthday (January 8th). Is celebrating Barbie’s birthday (March 9th) a must at your house? If so, don’t miss the Pretty Pink Melt-Aways. One feature that I especially like about this book is that a color photograph accompanies each recipe. I’ve recently dropped wheat and wheat products from my diet, but Ginsberg provides gluten-free as well as vegan options.  The Daily Cookie is a must try for anyone who like to bake (or eat!) the sweet things in life.

Merril Stubbs and Amanda Hesser’s elegant website Food52 is the inspiration behind The Food52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks. A distinctive feature of the site is that many of the enormous number of 52recipes come from the site’s followers. These home cooks hail from everywhere and together have created what is literally an online community cookbook. The best of these recipes have been collected in The Food52 Cookbook. This is a gorgeous book with its clean layout and color photographs of each recipe.  The recipes are organized by season and include such delicious sounding fare as Lemon Basil Sherbet (summer), Cider Braised Pork with Calvados, Mustard and Thyme (fall), Lentil and Sausage Soup for a Cold Night (winter) and Absurdly Addictive Asparagus (spring).  Make no mistake, this is not a cookbook for kitchen novices or anyone on the hunt for “quick and easy” recipes but for experienced and passionate cooks this one is a definite must.

Finally, we come to Deb Perelman who creates the wildly popular blog Smitten smittenKitchen. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook features the inventive recipes, witty writing and lovely photography that have won Perelman’s blog so many devoted fans. She provides do-ahead tips, fun anecdotes and a fair number of delicious sounding vegetarian recipes such as the tempting looking Mushroom Bourguignon. Perelman is obviously a devoted baker and the number of bread, scone, cookie and cake recipes might make the carb wary take pause. Regardless,  I would urge any devoted cook to take a look at The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It will be well worth your time.

Do you follow food blogs? What are some of your favorites?


Jan 10 2014

Chez Panisse and its legacy

by Dea Anne M

Over forty years ago, a culinary event occurred which would have an influence far beyond anything that anyone could have predicted at the time. In 1971, Alice Waters, along with a group of friends and investors, opened Chez Panisse, the Berkeley, CA restaurant which has become a model everywhere for restaurant menus featuring seasonal, locally based cuisine. In fact, one could argue, as have many, that Chez Panisse changed forever what we think of in this country as “fine dining.”

Years spent studying in France during college sharpened Waters’  ideas of what American cuisine could be and her involvement in the Free Speech Movement of the 1960’s shaped her as a lifelong activist. Waters’  strong vision, combined with persistence and a genius for collaboration, brought Chez Panisse into being. She conceived the restaurant as a place that would be like having dinner at someone’s house. The emphasis would be on the quality of the food and the warmth of the atmosphere. Up until that time, most fine restaurants tended to be chilly temples of cuisine where chefs ruled supreme and the idea of using organic, locally sourced ingredients was uncommon to say the least. Chez Panisse (named for Waters’ favorite character from a trilogy of films by the French director Marcel Pagnol) changed all of that. Also new to many dinners was the idea of a strictly limited menu. From the beginning, the restaurant (there is a separate cafe upstairs) has served one meal a night at a fixed price. On opening night, the menu was Pate en Croute, Duck with Olives, and a plum tart priced at $3.95. The meal on offer January 11th of this year will include (among other things) Dungeness crab, grass-fed beef, and a chocolate tart and will cost $100. Times do change.

In recent years, Alice Waters has extended her focus to include such projects as The Edible Schoolyard which gets children involved in growing, harvesting and preparing their own food and which has affiliates throughout the country.  This program has spawned an important off-shoot in the School Lunch Initiative which seeks to make a healthy, sustainable and fresh meal part of every school child’s day.

40 yearsIf you’d like to learn more about what Alice Waters is up to now, check out this article from the Epicurious website.

If you want to learn more about the evolution of Chez Panisse, DCPL can offer 40 years of Chez Panisse: the power of gathering by Alice Waters and friends. The book features lavish photographs and eloquent text as well as gorgeous reproductions of the beautiful menus designed for the restaurant by Waters’ long-time friend Patty Curtan.

Do you think you’d like to cook at home like they do at Chez Panisse? If so, check out these titles from DCPL.

Also from Alice Waters:


Finally,  if you’d like to learn more about the culinary “revolution” that occurred in this country throughout the 1960’s and 70’s (and beyond), don’t miss David Kamp’s funny, dishy, and very well researched book The United States of Arugula: how we became a nation of gourmets. This one comes highly recommended (by me…but then I’m the one writing this post!).


Nov 29 2013

The feast…and its aftermath

by Dea Anne M

By the time you read this post, Thanksgiving will have come and gone but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year.  Whether you host a big gathering for which you do all the cooking or you enjoy a potluck with friends, DCPL has resources to help you prepare the best holiday meal ever.

Let’s say you want to do a traditional Thanksgiving but it’s the first time you’ve siftonprepared it. Or maybe you’ve been asked to bring a dish and haven’t a clue as to how to make it. An excellent resource is Thanksgiving: how to cook it well by Sam Sifton. This is a calm, authoritative guide to everything Thanksgiving and could be the only Thanksgiving cookbook that you will ever need. Also well worth considering is How To Cook a Turkey: and all the other trimmings from the editors of  Fine Cooking magazine. A fine guide for beginners as well as experienced cooks, this book provides detailed instructions for all the well known holiday dishes.

Of course, not everyone wants to serve and eat a turkey. Maybe you are vegan bittmanor vegetarian or you just want to take the focus off of meat. For a really impressive compendium of vegetarian cooking, check out Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: simple meatless recipes for great food. This book has recipes for every vegetarian and vegan dish that you can imagine as well as excellent suggested menus. You’re sure to find plenty here to prepare the most festive of holiday feasts. And keep in mind The Heart of the Plate: vegetarian recipes for a new generation by Mollie Katzen. Katzen is the author of the well-regarded cookbooks The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still Life With Menu and this most recent volume is just as charming and visually appealing as the two older books with less of an emphasis on dairy products and eggs.

Of course, Thanksgiving usually means leftovers…lots and lots of bubblyleftovers…and for many of us that’s the best part of the holiday. When I was growing up my family would usually just make up plates of whatever each person liked best and reheat but you might want to transform your leftovers into something that doesn’t so much resemble the holiday meal. Many think that casseroles are the right and classic home for leftovers. If you agree, check out the pleasures contained within the pages of Bake Until Bubbly: the ultimate casserole cookbook by Clifford A. Wright and James Villas’ Crazy for Casseroles: 275 all-American hot-dish classics.

sandwichesMaybe you believe that soup is the proper vehicle for your leftover turkey (including homemade turkey stock!). Soup fans should check out The Best Recipe: soups and stews from the editors at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and Sunday Soup: a year’s worth of mouth-watering, easy to make recipes by Betty Rosbottom. Maybe you’re a member of the club that considers turkey sandwiches the absolute ultimate. If so, let me suggest Susan Russo’s The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: recipes, history, and trivia for everything between sliced bread or Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings: the best sandwiches in America by Margaux Sky.

What will I do with leftover turkey this year? Nothing! This week, I’m heading to my mom’s house and she has already announced that the menu is to be everybody’s favorite…lasagna.

How do you like your Thanksgiving leftovers?


Nov 1 2013

Marcella says…

by Dea Anne M

On September 29th, one of the great culinary lights passed away. Marcella Hazan was 89 years old, and since the late 1970’s has been considered by many (very many) to be the absolute authority on authentic Italian cooking.  While some people found her difficult, Hazan did not suffer fools gladly and was notably impatient. Her precision and genius level palate made her a revered figure in the culinary world.

Marcella Hazan (nee Polini) was born in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and trained as a scientist, graduating with a doctorate in biology and natural sciences. Up until her marriage in 1955 to Victor Hazan, she had never done any cooking. She did, however, grow up in a family of talented and enthusiastic cooks and her taste memories served her well once she and her husband moved to New York City shortly after their marriage. Hazan found that she could easily reproduce the dishes that she had grown up with in Italy. Eventually, she began giving cooking lessons in her apartment and in 1969 she opened The School of Classic Italian Cooking. Soon, she came to the attention of Craig Claiborne, then the food editor of the New York Times, who did a story about her. A book contract soon followed and in 1973 The Classic Italian Cook Book appeared. More Classic Italian Cooking came out in 1978. Combined into one book, the two volumes became Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking which came out in 1992 and remains the authoritative resource for Italian cuisine. Hazan retired in 1998 and moved with Victor to Longboat Key, Florida but even then another cookbook was to follow (from which I have gratefully borrowed this post’s title). Marcella Says…Italian cooking wisdom from the legendary teacher’s master classes is the book that Hazan
decided to write when she could no longer find the type of authentic ingredients that came so easily to her in New York City.

marcellaIn a time when cooking shows are all the rage and people like Lidia, Mario, and Giada enjoy celebrity status, it might be difficult to comprehend the enormous impact that Hazan’s Essentials… had on the American culinary scene. Polenta, risotto, braised squid, and sauteed swiss chard were a revelation to palates long accustomed to the type of Italian-American cooking associated with spaghetti and meatballs and pizza. Along with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Hazan’s books revolutionized the way in which Americans ate and cooked. Though some of Hazan’s recipes are complicated, many more are incredibly simple. Take her recipe for Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. It consists of a 28 ounce can of tomatoes, an onion peeled and cut in half, butter, and salt. That’s all…no garlic, no crushed red pepper, no grated carrot or zucchini. You gently simmer for 45 minutes, put the sauce on cooked pasta, eat it, and (as someone who has made this sauce many times) become very, very happy. Hazan’s classic recipe for pork loin braised in milk is another favorite of mine for dinner parties. It looks and tastes complex but is actually as easy as can be (and absolutely delicious!).

cucinaAlso available at DCPL are Marcella’s Italian Kitchen  and Marcella Cucina, which won both a James Beard Award and a Julia Child Award in 1997.

For a moving tribute to Marcella Hazan and her influence, check out this piece written by David Sipress for the New Yorker.

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Oct 4 2013

Life changes…in the kitchen

by Dea Anne M

The economy may be slowly improving (according to some sources) but I think most of us would agree that any particular economic situation could alter in a sudden and dramatic fashion. We hope it won’t but sometimes it does and when it does we have to find inner resources and develop strategies to meet new challenges. One place to do that is in our kitchens. Broad agreement seems to exist that cooking at home saves money over eating out (although even that seemingly reasonable tenet comes under dispute now and then).

Maybe our financial situation remains stable but our life changes in some other way. Maybe we fall in love and relocate. Maybe we become parents. Or maybe we want to develop a more focused and resourceful  lifestyle. Even here, some of the most significant changes come about through shifting our perspective towards food and cooking. Here are a few memoirs that I’ve read over the past year that center around life changes and how those have effected the author’s perspective on the kitchen.  All are available at DCPL and all are, I think, well worth your time.

feastThe author of Poor Man’s Feast: a love story of comfort, desire, and the art of simple cooking is Elissa Altman, who also creates the popular blog by the same name. Altman was living a busy life in Manhattan, a life filled with work and complicated dinner parties, when she fell in love with a woman who lived in rural Connecticut. Altman moved to be with her new love (now her spouse) and, over time, found herself embracing Susan’s devotion to simple living and her practical (yet passionate) approach to food and cooking. My favorite andecdote is when Altman suggests making lobster bisque at a time when both women are between jobs. Susan gently insists on split-pea soup instead and the results prove that often simple is best and sustenance has a meaning beyond mere fuel.

nearbyThe title of Robin Mather’s The Feast Nearby: how I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week) may seem like an exagerration but you soon find that this is not so. Within the space of a week, Mather lost her job and learned that her husband wanted a divorce. She moved to rural Michigan to re-group and start over and, lacking unlimited funds, determined to eat locally produced food and limit her food budget to $40 a week. Not everyone can, or wants to, grow vegetables and keep chickens – much less roast their own coffee beans – but Mather’s experience helped her forge connections in her community and develop a life both rich and deep. This is a moving, and quite upbeat, book that has lessons for all of us.

breadWhen Jennifer Reese, who writes the very funny food blog The Tipsy Baker, lost her corporate job she decided to experiment with trying to make food at home which she had previously purchased ready-made. The result is Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: what you should and shouldn’t cook from scratch — over 120 recipes for the best homemade foods (which I’ve mentioned before on DCPLive). Reese found out that homemade is often best…but not always. Some things are worth making yourself (hummus, marshmallows, peanut butter). Others aren’t worth the time and trouble ( butter, ketchup). Some foods Reese recommends either buying or making (yogurt, mayonnaise) depending on one’s available time and energy level. Wildly humorous, yet practical ( the recipes really work), I couldn’t recommend this book more highly.

eatingTwenty-something Brooklynite, Cathy Erway, experienced an epiphany of sorts while dining out with friends. A no-better-than mediocre burger and a ho-hum beer made her realize just how much time (and money) she was spending eating out in the city where “no one cooks.” Erway decided to experiment by making all her food at home (for two years!) and blogging about it. Not Eating Out in New York is still going strong five years later and inspired Erway’s interesting memoir The Art of Eating In: how I learned to stop spending and love the stove. Erway experiments with urban foraging, freeganism, and competition cooking. Along the way, she faces challenges such as “If you can’t go out to dinner,  what do you do on a date?” Erway also forges a deeper connection with her friends and family and she does indeed save money.  This is a fun read that poses provocative questions about what it means to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

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Jul 10 2013

Rediscovered treasures

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog know that I am an avid reader of what I might term “culinary literature,” and I suspect that I am not alone with this fondness. Given the huge success of such books as Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, julieKitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, it appears as though many people are interested in reading well-written books that touch on the ways that food intersects with life. Indeed, it seems that every week there’s a new culinary memoir or collection of essays on gastronomy that appears on the publishing horizon and that trend shows no current signs of stopping.

But what about the older treasures?   There is much pleasure in discovering, or rediscovering, the wonderful food writing of the past. This was brought home lambto me recently after reading (I might even say devouring) The Supper of the Lamb: a culinary reflection by Robert Farrar Capon. Ostensibly a cookbook, this literary gem is also about what it means to be human and fully in the world. Capon, an Episcopal priest combines theological and culinary insights in a quirky yet completely readable fashion. Yes, there are recipes here (and they look like good ones) but what truly captivates is Capon’s obvious joy in creation and his love of simple pleasures. First  published in 1969 and reprinted as part of the excellent Modern Library Food series, the book is as strange, moving, funny, and gorgeous today as it must have seemed when it first appeared. Highly recommended.

Samuel Chamberlain and his family lived an idyllic existence in France prior to WWII. When war appeared inevitable, Chamberlain’s company called him home to the small town of Marblehead, MA. Accompanying the family, was Clementine, the magically resourceful cook who had come to work for them. First published in 1943 under the nom de plume Phineas Beck, Clementine In the Kitchen is a charming and funny portrait  of the Chamberlain’s culinary adventures in France and the U.S. courtesy of the indomitable and always interesting Clementine.

I have long been an fervent admirer of the writing of M. F. K. Fisher and A Stew or a Story:  an assortment of short works contains some of her best stewpieces. I particularly enjoyed “Love In a Dish” and “Little Meals With Great Implications,” but all the essays in the collection display Fisher’s trademark wit and beautiful use of the language. Also, included are some of Fisher’s short fiction and travel articles. All in all, the book provides a fine introduction to one of the best writers America has ever produced.

Elizabeth David was an elegant and marvelous writer and though DCPL does not own her fine collection of magazine writing, An Omelet and a Glass of Wine, you will find her Elizabeth David Classics: Mediterranean Food, French country cooking, Summer cooking which collects in one volume three of her best known cookbooks: A Book of Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking, and Summer Cooking. Though this is a book of recipes, there is a wealth of David’s wonderful writing contained within, particularly in the prefaces to the chapters. David’s brief treatise on garlic in the French country cooking section alone is worth checking out this wonderful book. You probably won’t actually cook much from Elizabeth David Classics (David was notoriously inexact both in measurements and instruction) but it makes for marvelous reading.

A bit dated, the Compleat I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken still makes for entertaining reading. Ruth Eleanor “Peg” Bracken published the first I Hate to Cook Book in 1960 and it was an instant sensation. Heavy reliance on cans, packaged products, and short cuts goes against today’s  general belief that good cooking must always use the freshest, highest quality ingredients and preferably be a bit (or very) labor intensive. You’ll find no handmade pasta here and you certainly won’t learn how to remove the bones from a chicken without breaking the skin, but if you’re a beginning cook you’ll actually find some usable recipes. Everyone else can enjoy the witty writing, Bracken’s sly sense of the absurd and vintage illustrations by Hilary Knight. Knight is famous for illustrating Kay Thompson’s Eloise.

What are some of your rediscovered treasures?