Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cookbooks, Part I

I have to say, I have a decent number of cookbooks. As with any set, there are some that have never been used, but there are a select few that have become trusted sources. I've mentioned this before in passing, but these are mine:

Treebeards Cookbook - While ostesibly a restaurant cookbook, Dan and Jamie broadened the scope of the book to include recipes that fit the Treebeards style, but weren't on their menu. It's a really good, solid performer. Sadly, though, their Red Beans and Rice recipe is nothing like that served in the restaurant. In fact, it turns out a mushy mess, making it the sole bad recipe I've found. Considering that it's their signature, you'd think they would have tested it better. I've given it to a few people over the years and they've had exactly the same result. But their recipes for things such as Butter Cake, Savory Green Beans, Baked Black Beans, Stuffed Pork Chops, etc more than compensate.

Eastside Cafe: Soup Yourself & Inside The Eastside Cafe - Both books focus on fresh ingredients and herbs, capturing the essence of this wonderful restaurant. They are modest in size, staying closer to the actual menu, with no filler. Soup Yourself was one of the first cookbooks I've owned. I actually recently rediscovered it, as I started having stock on-hand more often. The second, Inside The Eastside (now titled Eastside’s Inside Secrets: Recipes from the Eastside CafĂ© Menu), is a more general book, covering all of the menu parts. The Chicken Quesadilla recipe has been a staple for years. I recently tried their Marinara Sauce recipe and it's fantastic.

The Joy of Cooking (1975) and The All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking (1997) - I received the old one as a particularly inspired birthday present from my mother in 1987. I was just about to get out of college and away from the convenience of Rice University Food Service, so I definitely needed some guidence in cooking for myself. Then 9 years later, my brother and I both received a copies of the then new edition for Christmas - this was the first major re-write to the book ever (it's had at least one since then). I assumed she had forgotten the first gift and I didn't say anything, not wanting to spoil the occasion. Then, at home, I thought about pitching the old one. But only briefly - I quickly found that they are different enough to be considered unique and of high quality enough to be invaluable. If something is more a home-style American classic, I'll usually look in the old copy. If it involves a more modern flair, the new one. For example, my all-time favorite, old-school red enchilada sauce is in the old one. The only Tres Leches recipe in my entire collection, including several Mexican/Latin cookbooks? The new one.

Better Home & Gardens: The New Grilling Book - A few years back, I got myself a Weber Grill (the Genesis Silver B, for those playing at home - the Consumer Reports Best Buy that year). I've gotten several different grilling cookbooks since then, but this one is the prize of the collection. Winners have included the Lemon-Rosemary Lamb Kabobs (also really good with Chicken), Crab-Stuffed Tenderloin (the centerpiece of a fancy-pants Christmas dinner with my brother a few years ago) and Soy Glazed Flank Steak.

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