Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Summer Reading List

I love cookbooks and there is nothing wrong with that. The cookbook shelves in the kitchen have long since been filled. Now cookbooks reside on almost every flat surface stacked high. Those that aren't in the regular rotation are sent upstairs to a temporarily permanent exile. While the recipes are the payoff, the stories, techniques, and flavor pairings are where a cookbook's value can be judged. If you are looking for a new cookbook to shake things up, the following books should be on your queue.

Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric. In short, I like making a cocktail after work. Making a cocktail requires a certain amount of ritual and a gathering of ingredients and tools. The transition from disparate elements of gin, ice, Campari, and vermouth into a stunning drink mirrors the transition from work to play. What I like most about Speakeasy is that it assumes the reader has a desire to make a drink beyond a vodka tonic, but it doesn't put you immediately into the AP Cocktail class. The authors walk you through their cocktails, whether classics or their own inventions, with a bit of story of the cocktail's development. Tasting notes are included, but ignore those. A cocktail is meant to be enjoyed, not commented on like a bottle of wine. Trust me on this: try the Sangria recipe.

The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. Food52 is an online community of the highest order on the internet. A place where people who like to cook come together to discuss how to do so. The book compiles the best recipes submitted to the site with easy to follow directions and suggestions for substitutions. Each recipe is based on a weekly theme i.e. Your Best Sweet Potato Recipe or Your Best Chicken with Mustard. My wife is a big fan of the book, especially when I make her lemony cream cheese pancakes with blueberries in less time than it takes to boil water.

Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan. Beneath the bravado, the cursing, the familiar refrain of pork, pork, pork, and the accolades, the ethos behind Momofuku is what is so interesting. That ethos is based on bringing to the forefront the simmering culture of Asian immigrants. Sure there are sanitized Chinese and mayo soaked sushi in every city of note, but Chang takes you into the heart of the Asian cook through the eyes of an American. Soft boiled eggs, bacon, noodles or rice, and salty and spicy condiments are the pathway to delicious dishes. While some of the recipes are rather involved (the Bo Ssam alone requires a week of work), the results are worth it.

Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by Jose Andres and Richard Wolffe. Spanish food is as diverse as Italian or French with culinary touchstones spanning the noble pig to briny seafood. Yet too often the cuisine of Spain is distilled down to the least common denominator in overpriced tapas restaurants. If you want a glimpse at real Spanish food, this book is for you. Approachable techniques and ingredients are divided into chapters, such as Rice or Tomatoes. Then you are given a handful of recipes, but more importantly ideas for how to bring the flavor of Spain into your kitchen.

Spend this weekend cooking, it is about to become too hot to do so. With the advent of Creole tomatoes in the market, you would do well to make a big batch of Andres' Gazpacho this weekend, wash it down with Sangria from Speakeasy. Then try your hand at making a batch of ginger scallion sauce to pour over a big bowl of white rice with a fried egg. You can pick the recipe to make out of Food52 on your own.

No comments: