If you happen to wander into the West Branch on select Thursday evenings, you may notice some delectable smells that are not coming from our books (waxing eloquently on the smell of books is an entirely different post). These smells have likely been transported from the kitchens of the talented cooks who take part in our monthly Cookbook Club.
Each month the Cookbook Club explores a different cookbook. Members make a dish and bring it to share at the meetings. We end up with so many recipes that just a taste of each is enough. Then we discuss our thoughts on the book in general and each recipe specifically. And of course, we enjoy all that great food.
For two months recently, the Cookbook Club explored The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook by Barbara Fairchild. This 700+ page treasure had far too many delectable options to try in just one month. Over the course of two months, we tried a couple of nice soups to start any meal with; the French lentil soup was a particular favorite, but the creamy bean soup with fresh herbs and spinach also got a seal of approval. For main courses, we sampled meatballs with parsley and Parmesan, Indian curried shrimp and orange and ginger chicken. All of these were declared successes, although there was a consensus that the shrimp needed more curry. Lest you think we neglected the sweeter side of things, we also enjoyed the results of the recipes for pumpkin-raisin bars and coconut rice pudding. Overall, the Cookbook Club declares Fast Easy and Fresh to be worthy of even the most experienced cook’s time.
For May, club members turned their attention to How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman. Another heavy volume, Bittman’s book comes in at an impressive 1,000+ pages. In addition to recipes, he includes tips for speeding up the cooking process in general and a handy list of ingredient substitutions. After each recipe, he also offers suggestions for variations and side dishes that would go well with each dish. Although there was a general consensus that Everything Fast isn’t quite the rich resource that Fast Easy and Fresh is, cookbook club members still thoroughly enjoyed sampling Bittman’s takes on eggplant Parmesan, carrot salad with raisins and apricot-cinnamon couscous. The couscous was the generally agreed upon favorite of the evening. All cooks were in agreement that Bittman’s recipes are indeed a score for those who may be short on time, but not willing to skimp on taste.
For June, our cookbookers will turn their appetites to The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from my Frontier by Ree Drummond. Created by a city-loving, blog-writing woman who never expected to end up as a rancher’s wife, Drummond’s image-rich cookbook promises to be chalk full of yummy comfort food.
The West Branch Cookbook Club will continue to meet throughout the summer. If you’d like to join us on the last Thursday evening of the month, we’d be happy to have you. In the meantime, between meetings or if you can’t make it, pop by to check out some of the West’s newest additions to our cookbook collection.
Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli. While my 90 year old Italian Nonnie would say that Vegan Italian is an oxymoron, those who have tried Chloe’s take on antipasti, zuppa, pasta and dolci may respectfully disagree.
Desserts with nutritional value? Sign me up! Jennifer Katzinger’s Honey and Oats offers healthier twists on breads, cakes, pies, cookies and more by substituting natural sweeteners for sugar and whole grains for white flour.
If you’ve read any of Michael Pollan’s classics on how we should be eating, you’ll know his food rules: “eat [real] food, mostly plants, not too much.” But what does that look like in practice? In The Pollan Family Table, Corky and Lori Pollan share their favorite real food recipes. The resulting cookbook has fast become an award winner.
What are your go-to cookbooks? Share your favorites with us and we may just use them for a future Cookbook Club selection or feature them in a Cookbook Round-Up.