Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

December 11, 2010

The Inspirations of my Favorite Cookbooks

The New York Time’s recent list of newly published noteworthy cookbooks, made me recall the cookbooks that influenced me in the past, the ones I continue to enjoy, and those that are new discoveries.

The first book I read about food was M.F.K Fischer’s The Art of Eating. Fischer’s writing style bewitched me; her down-to-earth observations enchanted me; her love for food and wine and people kindled a like-wise desire. Recently married with a young child, staying at home no longer seemed boring. I started to cook.

My muse, of course, was Julia Child. Her television show became as important as going to the movies or to the opera. Her “Chicken Broiled with Mustard, Herbs, and Bread Crumbs” was my first triumph. It launched me on an upward spiral gastronomic adventure that endured for years. I could produce a salmon soufflé at the drop of a hat and thought nothing of preparing "Breast of Chicken in Chaud-froid". Gourmet Magazine became my Bible.

After a trip to Morocco, Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco taught me how to make tagines and preserved lemon. Cooking lessons with Giuliano Bugialli let to The Fine Art of Italian Cooking

Among the 600 odd cookbooks I have in my library, the ones I cherish now include Patricia Wells’
Simply French in which she presents the cuisine of Joël Robuchon. I particularly appreciate her trucs
such as:
                   “Unsalted water will come to a boil father than salted water,
                     so when cooking pasta in boiling water, it is most practical
                     to salt just before adding the ingredient. Make his a habit
                     and you’ll avoid the common problem of trying to remember
                     whether or not you salted in the beginning.”

Jane Grigson’s straightforward Fish Cookery continues to be an important source. Ed Giobbi’s Italian Family Cooking remains a favorite especially for his vegetable recipes. Louis Szathmáry’s The Chef’s
Secret Cook Book, gives valuable tips.

Teresa Barrenechea’s The Basque Table offers such a wealth of good recipes, it will take some time to incorporate them into my repertoire. The success I had with “Lightly Puffed Pan-fried Hake” and “Home-Style Roasted Potatoes” alone endear the book to me. Madhur Jaffrey’s At Home with Madhur Jaffrey helped me to overcome my fear of Indian spices. “Spicy Shrimp Stir-Fry”, the first recipe I followed,
proved successful. I’m moving on.

Since I usually prepare small quantities, I don’t bother with the oven and bake or broil in the toaster oven.
I don’t follow recipes slavishly, and seldom measure. I welcome recipes that stimulate me to prepare dishes
I didn’t know before. They add zest to our dinners.


Marie Simmons said...

I heard Macella Hazan being interviewed on NPR this morning which reminded me that I wanted to comment on your cookbook blog. I was fascinated by your favorites. for me, although I watched Julia on television (she taught me to laugh at my mistakes and to cook green beans in a big pot of boiling salted water, like pasta!) and was inspired by her zest for all things culinary, the book I cooked my way through was Marcella's Classic Italian Cooking. Although I was raised in an Italian family with a coterie of matriarchal cooks I realized that the food I ate as a kid was Italian American (mostly from Southern Italy) and that Italy was a country with a wide variety of culinary traditions. With the help of Marcella's first book and the classic, Italian Regional Cooking by Adi Boni, I was able to dig more deeply into the cuisines of Italy. Earlier I was a great fan of the Elizabeth David books (I have falling apart paperbacks of Summer Cooking, Mediterranean Food and French Country Cooking plus an early anthology of all three with a forward written by James Beard). I still lke to thumb through her books looking for inspiration. Also Jane Grigson, whom I adore for her wit and wisdom. And of course early books by James Beard and Craig Claibornes NY Times Cook book (I made his Moussaka a la Greque for many large parties.) Finally my baking bible early on was The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck. I baked my way though that book and still have my dog earred batter splattered copy to remind me. I love cookbooks and do collect some recently published, but this looking back reminds me of the saying "New friends are silver, but old friends are gold". Thank you for the opportunity to reminiscence.

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