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


Mar 21 2014

Making silk purses

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog might assume, with as much as I write about food and food related literature, that I dine every evening on a lucullan scale. Well I don’t. In fact, I have moved far away from the meat/veggie/starch model of my childhood. These days, a weekday dinner is most likely to be a bowl of soup, a simple pasta dish, or something on toast. Then again, it might be my most favorite thing of all…leftovers.

I love leftovers, perhaps because they never featured strongly in the refrigerator landscapes of my childhood. My mother always seemed to make just enough food to serve each of us once although she occasionally planned for second helpings of those dishes that she knew we really liked. I suspect that my father might not have been a big fan of second act edibles. His mother, after all, set a table for which the term “groaning board” would have been an understatement—not to mention the fact that she would can or freeze just about anything that couldn’t run away from her.  Then there was my extremely picky brother who could spin dinner time drama from the simplest meals. Every dish that wasn’t dessert carried the potential of hidden threats (like diced onion) and dangerous spices (like pepper). Given the frequent scenes over, say, a casserole…or really anything “new”… I can understand my mother not wanting to risk a rerun by serving any dish a second time.

Not me. Nothing says meal time contentment like the knowledge that my refrigerator contains roasted chicken, cooked vegetables, a container of rice or mashed potatoes – not to mention eggs, chicken or vegetable stock, salad greens, and all sorts of condiments. Given these components, making dinner becomes primarily an assembly job and a very pleasant one at that. Or maybe I made a lasagna or a pot of beans over the weekend or even two months ago. Dinner is then a simple matter of pulling a container from the freezer and reheating.

You might be wondering how to attain that happy state of affairs in your own kitchen. Maybe you’re tired of relying on packaged food or store prepared dishes or take out. There’s nothing horrible about any of these options but they may not be as healthy for you as food that you make yourself and they certainly are going put a deeper dent in your budget over time. The older kitchen classics can guide you well in not only how to use leftovers but how to get them in the first place. I would recommend The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham, or my favorite, the 1975 edition of Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking. The leftover concept can be a bit more difficult to track down in recent cookbooks. In spite of the popularity of cooking shows and food based blogs, it seems that more and more people think of actual cooking as something that belongs only to the most “iron” of chefs or to the sort of deep thinker who has hours in her or his day to stroll through the local markets picking up the choicest ingredients which will be transformed into exquisite food…in an equally exquisite kitchen…in Paris if at all possible. Well, what if you don’t possess that sort of training or time? What if your food shopping mostly happens on the way home after work and you don’t want to sit down to eat dinner at 10:00 p.m.? If that’s your situation (as it is mine) then check out theses resources from DCPL.

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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?