Inspirations in Ink: Food 52 Genius Recipes

Food 52 Genius Recipes

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.

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Posted on 21 May 2015, in Books, Inspiration in Ink and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I agree Betsy! I love the internet for research but it does not compare to holding a book in my hands! I enjoyed your review of Food 52 Genius Recipes and will look at the book the next time I’m in the bookstore. I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to it before reading your review!

  2. Betsy, What a great review. I love, love, love this book. Next week I am having a Genius birthday party for a friend. I q, ,qking everything from this cookbook you just reviewed. Romaine Hearts with Cesar Salad (p. 63); Brisket of Beef (p. 127); Gratin of Zucchini, Rice & Onions with Cheese (p. 193) and Dorie’s Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake (p. 221). Cross fingers I can pull this off:

  3. I rarely buy or keep cookbooks. I tend to photo copy the few recipes I make from a book and pass it on. This sounds like one I may genuinely be interested in… I love learning about new techinques. Sounds like a keeper.

  4. It’s hard for me to imagine not buying and using cookbooks!

  5. Just ordered this book a few days ago, Betsy! I love Food52 and Genius recipes. I print recipes all the time, but for me, there’s something special about holding a hard copy, and reading it cover to cover! Nice post, and great review!

    • I think you’ll really like this cookbook. I keep trying to find ways to use the recipes that appeal to me. So many to choose from. Let me know your favorites!

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