This is the point when you realize that you have been ignoring your blog, because the pretty pictures in your cookbooks have been addictive.
It’s been one of those summers.
I don’t know if it’s just because I got a bunch of new cookbooks recently, or because we didn’t have access to our BBQ – probably a bit of both – but I just haven’t been coming up with my own recipes this summer!
I would like to share some of the highlights with you, because I know we’re all looking for great recipes and sometimes wonder whether cookbooks are still worth the cost (and space) when you can get so many free recipes online. They are still worth it, and I’m going to start with a tool I just found that helps you to maximize the use of your cookbooks.
This site is such a life saver! I know that some people come to the site thinking that it gives you access to all of the recipes in the cookbooks – and no, it doesn’t do that (if that kind of service existed it would cost MUCH MORE than this!). What it does is allow you to list the cookbooks you have on your “bookshelf”, and then search them all. If you have a pile of tomatoes and need to know some ways to use them, just search your bookshelf for “tomatoes”. You get a list of recipes from your books. How handy is that!? (Keep in mind that not all cookbooks on the site are fully indexed, meaning the list of recipes and main ingredients have not been collected, and therefore cannot be searched. I had this problem with some of my older and more obscure books.)
Let’s talk cookbooks
The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia
A modern twist on Persian cooking, combining traditional flavour combinations and ingredients with non-traditional ingredients and techniques. I borrowed this from the Library as an e-book, and tried to make as many recipes from it as I could while I had it. Overall, I made about 6 recipes and all were easy to follow, interesting, and a hit with J. One of my favourite takeaways was a technique for using saffron in recipes by grinding it with a mortar and pestle and then steeping it in some boiling water for a bit. I feel like I’m finally figuring out saffron… (Has anyone else found saffron to be a big question mark? It has taken me years to grasp it.)
Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
I got this and Plenty around the same time, and have been making recipes out of both books this summer. Jerusalem is a collection of recipes and stories about the food and culture of its namesake city, combining recipes from both of the writers’ families with others that they have come across. They have a real talent for making recipes that are easy to follow, something I can appreciate as I do a bit of technical writing in my day job. One of the first dishes I made was “Burnt eggplant with garlic, lemon & pomegranate seeds”, and I found the story that accompanied it to be amusing and telling… I guess you can’t call it “Babaghanoush” without tahini, so they had to give it a more generic name. That said, there are instructions for making it into babaghanoush, and man, it is the BEST babaghanoush I have ever had.
Turkey by Leanne Kitchen
This book was calling to me, after I got back from my trip to Turkey. I bought a little Turkish cookbook while on my trip, but it’s mostly text. This book is a love story to Turkey and its food, with lots of beautiful photos. I have only made a few recipes from this book so far, but I’m instantly brought back to my trip, eating my way through Turkey.
Let’s shop cookbooks
Where does everyone like to get cookbooks? There are a few key places that I keep going back to. I know there are lots of bookstores out there, but these are my three favourites.
the Best Browse: Good Egg, Toronto
This little shop in Kensington Market is my favourite place to find a good cookbook. It’s full of fantastic books, as well as some kitchen tools and cookware, and some oddities. I love it here.
the Best Deals: BookOutlet.ca, St. Catharines/online
This store used to be bookcloseouts.ca, but they recently merged their online and physical identities and chose a brand new name. This is where I have gotten the best deals on cookbooks. Since it is a closeout site, they may not have the exact book you are looking for, but you can put some on your wish list and be contacted if they come in. I love buying the scratch & dent copies, as they are deeply discounted and only have a bit of damage to the cover. This is also my achilles heel, because I’m having a hard time NOT buying books from here.
the Low-Risk Option: The Library!!
Don’t have space for more books? Not sure you’re going to really get your use out of a book? What if the book is pretty, but the writing sucks? The library is your best friend. After buying a few too many new cookbooks this year, I focused my attention on my local public library. They have so many great cookbooks in physical and e-book formats, that it’s hard to say no! If you get an e-book, you don’t even need to go to the Library – it’s all done online! I made great use of this resource this summer, and plan to continue into the Fall and Winter.