In an effort to cook more out of the cookbooks I own, I decided that for 2021, I would cook out of cookbooks I own, but have not used much (if at all). Generally, I would make an effort to regularly cook dishes from these cookbooks, snap some pics and try to learn a few new things. For the first cookbook, being indecisive, I decided to let the internet make the selection for me. I asked my friends on Facebook to vote for three options: Chez Panisse, Moosewood Cooks at Home, and Together. Moosewood Cooks at Home won by a hair.
Moosewood is the lauded vegetarian restaurant collective in Ithaca New York. Their most famous cookbook is simply titled Moosewood. I have cooked out of it before and loved the recipes so much that I bought their other two cookbooks, one focusing on world cuisine and the other easy home cooking recipes. I was looking forward to trying it out.
Flipping through the recipes, they looked a tad on the simplistic side but, in my experience, it is often the most humble dish that truly satisfies. I had some silken tofu in the fridge that needed using, so my first recipe was a Tofu Basil dressing. One of the suggested uses for it was as a dressing for new potatoes. I used red potatoes, diced them and boiled them un-peeled, and added the dressing when they were still a little warm. I think I didn’t cook the potatoes enough and I should have peeled them. The end result was potatoes covered in a thick, white, viscous substance reminiscent of…
So, 0 for 1. Soldiering on. The next two recipes I tried were cuban black beans and mango salsa. The beans wanted for flavor and were more sweet than savory as there was fresh squeezed OJ. I added some Tabasco to them which greatly improved the flavor. The mango salsa was also good and I served Jasmine rice, seasoned with lime juice and parsley and cooked with a little more liquid than usual so that the rice was slightly sticky and could be molded as you sometimes see in Caribbean restaurants.
Overall, I was pretty unimpressed with Moosewood Cooks At Home so the best thing that came out of Month 1 was that I gave that cookbook to Goodwill (and now have room for another cookbook!).
February’s cookbook was the January runner up, Chez Panisse. The first recipe I made was scallops with prosciutto and Mayer lemon relish. First I made the relish, which was just finely diced meyer lemons, shallot, parsley, chive, lemon juice and oil. It seems odd to eat something that is primarily diced up raw lemons but meyers are so sweet, that it was not sour but piquant and refreshing. I let the relish hang out while I made the scallops. Scallops are notoriously easy to overcook and whenever I make them, I think of the season of Top Chef where several contestants failed when cooking scallops, earning the show, briefly, the name Top Scallop. The trick with scallops is to cook them in a hot pan, briefly on both sides so they caramelize on the outside but remain creamy on the inside. It’s easy, if you don’t have a very hot pan, to leave them on too long, waiting for that maillard reaction to take place and ending up with rubbery scallops. The cookbook suggested heating the pan up, putting the scallops in and cooking in a 425 degree oven for 5 mins. I did this but flipped the scallops right at the end so both sides were browned.
I served the scallops with prosciutto slices and the relish. The saltiness of the prosciutto complemented the creaminess of the scallops and the relish really set off all the flavors. Delish!
The second dish I made out of Chez Panisse was a Rustic Pizza with anchovies. I have since made this pizza twice. When we got our gas stove put in, we started making pizzas pretty regularly. Dough from Trader Joe’s made this an easy weeknight endeavor. We take turns making a traditional combo pizza with sausage, mushrooms, olives, and peppers for Andrew and my kind of pizza which usually includes, kalamata olives, anchovies or pepperoncinis – sometimes all three!
After February, this resolution went the way of most resolutions and fizzled out. However, I consider it a win because it inspired me to cook more out of my cookbooks in general. I rediscovered my Alison Roman Dining In cookbook as well as Marcella Hazan and am seriously eyeing some of my “cooking project” cookbooks and planning a whole weekend of culinary exploration.
Post-script: If you too are wanting to use your cookbooks more often, I highly recommend the website Eat Your Books. For free, you can “upload” five cookbooks. By upload, I mean add the titles from their extensive database. When you have done this, you can search by ingredient. It’s like a digital index for your paper cookbooks. They don’t show the recipes of course but often, it says which page the recipes falls on. The website does not have great UX but it works for what it is. After uploading five, you need to pay to be able to upload as many as you want. At $30/year though, that it is totally worth it for me.