Leave it to Lucy of Nourish Me for morphing the ubiquitous 7 Random Facts About Me meme into a flavorful post that I, and perhaps you, can really sink teeth into. Since I’m not at a loss for cookbooks, it gives me the greatest pleasure and relief (I’ve been lured back into the original meme loop twice in the last week) to pull out whichever volumes crookedly clutter the bursting seams of my bookcase:
1. Street Food from Around the World – James Mayson/Absolute Press
Trekking the spice routes East to West, Mayson generously lets us tag along through Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India & Nepal, Egypt, Morocco and Mexico. Loosely splayed pages, clearly parsed recipes, and informed, yet casual introductions to each region, make me want to renounce the boiled hot dog vendors stationed at every other New York City corner. The Red Sea Prawns, tails on and thickly coated with lime, cilantro, garlic and sea salt, are a succulent and tangy finger food.
2. The Everything Indian Cookbook – Monica Bhide/Adams Media
The ideal hand-holding companion for cooks like me who can’t get enough Indian cuisine yet are still slipping and sliding along the hairpin learning curves of tempered spices and ponderous varieties of pulses. The Gulabi Nimbu Pani (Rose Lemonade), is the most ethereal and refreshing of beverages, and a snap to pull together.
3. French Cooking in Ten Minutes – Edouard de Pomiane/North Point Press
French by birth, Polish by blood, and a medical doctor by training, Pomiane was among the first to tinker with molecular gastronomics without taking himself too seriously. His writing is pragmatic, picaresque and perfect for demystifying the basic elements of French cuisine. Though he is gone some forty years, his presence can still be felt at our tables, where dishes of Alsatian Dumplings, Eggs Sur le Plat, and Sorrel Soup conjure convivial conversations and a leisured style of dining long dismantled and much mourned.
4. James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking /Wings Books
The granddaddy of modern American cookery, Beard sets forth clear lessons in all the fundamental food preparation methods. Every recipe is a bonafide winner, whether a simple roasted chicken or Orange Bavarian Cream. No matter what level cook you are, these entries will not fail you. If you don't know how to do it, he will teach you - and how!
5. The Herb Companion Cooks – The Herb Companion/Interweave Press
With recipes spanning the first five years of Herb Companion Magazine, this unsentimental compilation is comprehensive in its inventive uses of the tried and true like rosemary (Bourbon Almonds) to the little known lovage (Loving Mary Cocktail).
6. Pennsylvania Dutch Recipe Book /Culinary Arts Press
This slim classic volume of authentic, stick-to-your-ribs German-American farm fare was a family favorite, especially for the desserts like Shoo-Fly Pie and Anise Drops. It wasn’t until I was on my own that the nostalgia kicked in, but the book had long since disappeared. Wherever was I going to find another one? Why, Ebay, of course.
7. Little Foods of the Mediterranean – Clifford A. Wright/Harvard Common Press
If I had to choose one type of food to commit to for the rest of my life, it would be have to be those delightful mini-meals known as antipasti, tapas, amuse bouche and meze. Wright revels in 500 tiny taste sensations, each more enticing than the next. It’s so impossible to choose that it’s best to just close your eyes and divine your finger to a recipe on a page. What will it be? Burgundian Cheese Puffs, Fried Escarole Calzone or Stuffed Grape Leaves? The decision is made even more difficult by the sidebar snippets of provenance, anecdotes and charming cooking tips.
Thanks to Nora and Pel for tagging me. I'm passing the non-obligatory torch to those I know are big on books:
Lydia of The Perfect Pantry - creator of Bookworm in the Pantry, a weekly post of reader recommendations for non-cookbook food writing. My book lists were featured in May and June. Yours can be, too.
Shaun of Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow - credited with introducing me to the marvelous authoress, Diana Henry.
Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups - Second Helping - A woman with forty-four cookbooks on bread baking alone (!), must have a whole heck of a lot more where they came from.
Stuffed Grape Leaves with Lemon Egg Sauce (known in Greece as Dolmades with Avgolemono) - My own recipe, suggested by Little Foods of the Mediterranean
1 jar grape leaves packed in brine (pre-soaking will greatly reduce sodium level)
2 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled
½ cup chopped dried apricots plumped in boiling water
½ cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
1 handful pine nuts
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon and
½ lemon, cut into thin wedges
4 cups water or light vegetable stock (additional as needed)
Very carefully remove rolled grape leaves from jar and transfer to a large bowl/pot of cold water with the lemon wedges. Gently unroll the leaves under the water and allow them to soak out the excess brine for at least 15 minutes. Floating helps the leaves to separate. In meantime, combine all other ingredients except the olive oil in a large bowl; set aside.
Separate the grape leaves while they are still in the water. Expect some to be damaged; use these to line the bottom of a large skillet. Remove the intact leaves to a working surface, blotting well with paper towels. Starting with the largest leaves, nick off any thick lower stems, then roll each leaf into a bundle around approximately 1 tablespoon of rice filling. (Since the rice is already cooked and will not expand, you should roll tightly.) When you come to the smaller leaves, use less filling proportionally. Arrange the bundles seamed side down in the lined skillet until you run out of intact leaves or filling, fitting the bundles tightly or stacking them if you have to. Drizzle bundles with olive oil then add the water or stock to the skillet so that the liquid level is nearly covering the bundles. Add more liquid if you have to. Cover skillet and simmer on very low heat for approximately 1 hour or until a fork easily pierces the leaves. Check periodically and adjust liquid level as needed; do not allow bundles to dry out. Remove bundles to a platter to cool and cover them with the wet, damaged liner leaves.
Meantime, prepare the avgolemono sauce.
Avgolemono Sauce - (generic recipe)
1 cup hot stock (leftover from skillet w/ additional as needed)
2 large eggs
Juice of 2 lemons, strained
2 teaspoons dried dill
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the dill, salt and pepper until light and frothy. Beat in the lemon juice, then slowly add hot stock in 1/8 cup increments, beating well after each addition; transfer to sauce pan. Continuously stir sauce with whisk over very low heat until sauce thickens and begins to steam. To prevent curdling, do not allow the sauce to boil. Remove from heat. (If there is any curdling, pour sauce through a strainer and add more dill.) Remove and discard the leaf cover from the bundles; pour sauce evenly over the bundles.
Makes approximately 30. Amount varies based on size of leaves and how many are damaged. If you have any leftover filling, top with feta cheese and place under broiler until bubbling.
This post is being submitted to The Chocolate Lady at In Mol Araan, hosting this week’s edition of Weekend Herb Blogging for Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen, the creator of this food blog event.