Cookbook Reviews

Just ’cause I’ve got a backlog of recipes to try in my binders and, you know, bookmarked, doesn’t mean I don’t… covet new books. But y’all, cookbooks are expensive. Don’t get me wrong, given the time put into researching/tweaking recipes, the photography, and printing as a hardcover, I totally get why cookbooks cost as much as they do. Most of them are even worth it.

And teaching myself to cook from recipes means, for me, trying lots of different recipes. Both different types/techniques/dishes and different variations on a dish (to try and find the best one, of course). Lots and lots of recipes. From lots of books and (now) the Internets as well. I learn a lot from trying out so many recipes, but buying those lots and lots of books? In order to get one or two recipes? Cookbooks are expensive yo’.

Enter my local library.

Well, um. See I live in DC. Which has a reciprocal lending policy with library systems in the surrounding counties. And Maryland libraries, you have a card in one county, you can have a card in all the other counties. In addition to the ILL system between all the county libraries. And if the county library systems don’t have something, you can put in an ILL request and they’ll go rather far afield to try and get your book. I suppose I could try and use the reciprocal lending agreement to tap into the Virginia system(s) too, but 1) I don’t have a good way to get to a Virginia library by public transit and 2) this is a little ridiculous already, don’t you think? So, I’ve got 3 physical cards in my wallet, one of which does double duty in two systems (and if I’d been more together when getting my card, I could have gotten one number in 4 different systems and had one card), and insanely good access.

So. Enter my (4) local library(ies).

Being me, I have a list of all the books I’ve heard of and decided I want to check out with notation on which library it’s available at, if any. I’m averaging 4 or 5 books from the library a month which only works because most of them are cookbooks (despite the fact that I read quickly – when I have time to read). See, I’m not actually reading cookbooks, more the introduction, forwards, chapter info, recipe titles and the ingredients list. Not the instructions though. I’m looking to see if there’s good info and if the recipes look like something I’ll want to eat, with the weight going to the recipes. If it passes that test, the cookbook goes on my Amazon list. For when I’ve got some cash burning a hole in my pocket (HA!).

I thought y’all might find seeing what I check out and/or what I’ll end up buying interesting. So, here we are, our first cookbook review session.

Japanese Soul Cooking

by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat

end result: will NOT be purchasing

Japanese Soul Cooking is a gorgeous book – the photography is excellent and the design/typography (yes, I consciously notice those things) makes the book both distinctive and builds the ‘feel’ of it.  Unfortunately for me, I just did not get the feeling that I could do these recipes at home. Not unless I completely converted over to recipes from this book for, like, a month – both to practice the techniques so they would not take forever and to build the bases of lots (ramen and udon in particular) to stick in the freezer. Nothing quite jumped off the page, running in circles stroking the hungry receptors of my brain shrieking ‘cook me!’, which is a shame because I would like to make some ramen, donburi, and udon at some point – they have been tasty and good, the examples I’ve had in restaurants. I just didn’t feel the confidence to start trying to tackle them from these recipes. And I’m just not interested in a Japanese take on curry as brought to them by the British Navy. That’s apparently a thing.

Taste of Honey: The Definitive Guide to Tasting and Cooking with 40 Varietals

by Marie Simmons

end result: WILL be purchasing

I am never going to be able to taste the difference between all the varietals Ms. Simmons describes, not without working olfactory nerves. But man, I have never wanted those more in my life. Adam and I were reading in bed and every 2 or 3 pages I just rolled over to show him a recipe title or pictures or just said the title out loud. It’s not just desserts, there’s recipes for breakfast and snacks, main dishes, salads and vegetables (and sweets). I’m not saying this is the healthiest cookbook out there, but honestly, substituting a bit less honey for any white or brown sugar? Not a terrible call health-wise. Also, something I wouldn’t mind doing – one less ingredient to keep in the house. And I like honey better than refined cane sugar any day, especially when I’ve got a sore throat – couple dollops in a mug of tea works great.  Things I WILL be making:

  • Honey Cornbread
  • Popover pancake with honey spiced apples
  • Crispy fish fillets in sweet and sour sauce
  • Vietnamese-style beef stew with anise, honey and fish sauce
  • Baby back ribs with honey and apple cider sauce
  • Roasted red onion wedges with honey and balsamic vinegar
  • Honey and cumin roasted sweet potato rounds
  • Chunky butternut squash and apple with honey
  • Honey and date-nut squares
  • Crinkly honey-roasted pears with vanilla

Trust me, limiting that list was difficult.

Two more to follow on Thursday.


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