Tag Archives: book reviews

Cookbook Parade #2 Books I Read & Use

One bias I didn’t talk about last time was time, I really dislike recipes that keep me in a kitchen chopping, stirring, etc. for more than half an hour at a stretch. I don’t mind multiple half hour cooking bouts in a single day, but if I end up standing and prepping something for more than about 30 minutes, I lose patience. My onions get rough-cut rather than diced. I dump all the flour in at once (and get lumps), etc. I’m an impatient cook. If I can start something, leave it alone for a while and come back to it? That’s great! But if I have to babysit it more than 30 minutes? I won’t do it carefully. Obviously, I was never cut out to be a professional cook!

I realized a few years ago that nearly all my cookbooks were how to do more with less (time, money, or ingredients). The books I keep usually fit within my time bias. Many books I’ve kept I use only for reference, or I use them for ideas or techniques.

All of these books are in my permanent collection, that is, they’re “keepers” unless something drastically changes!

Bond, Jill – Mega Cooking (2000 Cumberland House, 445pp).

A quantity cookbook that’s adaptable, she gives recipes 1x, 2x, and 10x. Has the most reasoned discussion of cooking techniques I’ve found in a home cookbook. Her focus is on doing things with the least amount of effort and freezing a month or more’s worth of finished foods, or ingredients.

Like me, she has a thing about sauteed onions. She eliminated them entirely. I don’t like starting most dishes with sauteed onions either, seems like a lot of repetition. I make mine up in a crock pot, a pint or so at a time (3C chopped onion, 1 stick sweet butter, cook on low til golden brown. Store in Ball jar in fridge.) She includes comments of other cooks on her recipes, and talks about buying foods wholesale, etc. Great discussion about freezing foods, what works/doesn’t and why. Probably the most adaptable from home to commercial type cookbook I have.

A technique book, with recipes I’ll try. Downgraded because I’ll have to adapt both the recipes and the techniques. ***

Wolf, Ray (Ed.) – Eating Better for Less: A Guide to Managing Your Personal Food Supply ( 1977-8, Rodale Press, 467pp).

This book is more a discussion of food, food sources, storage, ingredients, etc. than a cook book. There are discussions of health/nutrition/diet, growing/raising your own foods, and using your foods more efficiently. The last two chapters (Turning Your Kitchen into a Food Processing Center/Using Your Food Supply More Efficiently) are where you’ll find all the recipes. Also includes a discussion about whether you should make or buy something and talks about the effort required, like Bake the Bread, Buy the Butter, but this book is much earlier. Has ethnic recipes, I love their Sopa Seca recipe (pg 406).

I learned a lot from this book, and have used/modified recipes in it for years. I still look at it, though I mostly use it only as a cook book these days.

A great discussion about our food supply, although dated, with easy to use recipes. Downgraded because there’s not very many recipes. ****

Sass, Lorna – Whole Grains: Every Day, Every Way (2006, Clarkson Potter, 323pp). This book introduced me to a new realm of grains I had no idea existed! It’s the reason I bought the Madagascar Pink Rice and the Forbidden Black Rice.

Sass is a professional cook book author and discusses what she did in her testing, and has recommended basic cooking techniques for the grains she covers.

Many of her other recipes intimidate me. They look complicated, and somehow they “feel” like recipes I’ll try and won’t work. I intend to try some of the simpler ones, but things like Brown Rice Salad with Flank Steak with Asian Flavors (pg 150) with 19 ingredients and over 1 page of description I will probably never make. Others, like Millet with Buttermilk & Chives (pg 226) with 6 ingredients I probably will.

Great reference with recipes for not-so common foods. Downgraded because of the complicated recipes. ****

Readers Digest – Quick, Thrifty Cooking (Reader’s Digest, 1985, 256 pp).

Probably my favorite cookbook. Recipes aren’t complicated or time consuming, make good tasting foods that don’t cost a fortune. I like this book so much I buy copies and give them away. [I recommend the curried celery soup (pg 29), something I make midwinter. Warms you twice, once with the hot soup, once with the pungency of the curry powder. (Of course, if you don’t like spicy food, it won’t appeal.)]

Almost always the first cookbook I grab when I’m looking for a recipe or idea. *****