Daily Archives: 21 May 2015
The internet hosts a wealth of high quality recipes and other content about food, for free. And yet, a steady stream of cookbooks are published, season after season, year after year. Cookbooks are sometimes entirely new content, but some repeat, in hard-copy form, content already available on the web. This raises the question of: When is it worthwhile to add a cookbook to your bookshelf?
As an avid home and collector of cookbooks, I’ve thought about this question often. I’ve noticed that many recent cookbooks are filled with enticing photographs to accompany the recipes and text. This food porn elevates the books to “coffee table book” status and serve as food’s answer to “armchair travel”, allowing the reader to salivate and satisfy a hunger without ever entering the kitchen.
When in browsing mode, to me it feels more relaxing, leisurely, and even practical when turning the pages of a book in my lap and inserting scraps of papers to mark dishes I’d like to make than clicking and bookmarking web pages for the same purpose.
Books also benefit from structure and the application of less instantaneous editing. Books launched from or derived from websites or blogs improve the original by taking a big step back to reflect and distill the content down to its essence and organizing the information into a cohesive whole.
Food 52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore is a shining example of all the reasons that a book is worth adding to your collection.
I’m a huge fan of Food 52. I even occasionally follow Kristen Miglore’s Genius Recipes column on the Food 52 website. With the sheer volume of new posts on just this one website, I find I can’t keep up with it all. The book is not just a collection of the columns in bound form. About half of the recipes in the book were featured in the on-line column, but the other half are newly identified genius recipes. Yet genius recipes are not original recipes, developed by the author, amplifying the question of why this book when the content is already available from other sources.
Taken as a whole, this book is not simply a compendium of great recipes as identified by the author. Miglore’s criteria for a genius recipe start with a great recipe, but each one offers a new twist, sometimes a combination of ingredient combinations but more often an unexpected technique. For each recipe, Miglore offers an extensive head explaining why she considers this recipe to be “genius”. In addition, each recipe is accompanied by at least one gorgeous photo by James Ransom, in the spare, elegant style you’ve become accustomed to if you visit the Food 52 site.
Many of the recipes she has identified as genius are ones I’ve previously discovered on my own and wholehearted agree with. Marcella Hazan’s Tomato sauce with butter & onion has been a favorite in my house for more than a decade. And I make Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread almost every week.
Others are new revelations. I made three recipes that were new to me though there are so many other recipes in the book that I can’t wait to try.
Daniel Patterson’s Poached Scrambled Eggs quickly boil eggs for 40-seconds in salted water with no added fat. This one was fast and magical to watch. I think I under-salted the water as they were a little bland. Patricia Wells’ Green lentil salad was simplicity itself and made a wonderful accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken and eaten on its own for lunch. My favorite so fair is Roberto Santibañez’ Classic Guacamole where you pound the onions to a paste with cilantro and jalapeño and fold this into diced avocado for the purest taste. I’ve made the guacamole several times in recent weeks.
This book is a winner, and I heartily recommend it!
A Plateful of Happiness Rating: 5 plates (out of 5)
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.