Wanting to beef up my culinary arsenal, I checked out a few Food Network books from the library today. Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either. Page after page of recipes like Seared Scallops with Bacon, Tarragon, and Lemon, Panini with Bresaola, Endive, and Provolone, and Pork Rib Roast with Cranberry-Apricot Stuffing.
As a rule of thumb, if you can't describe it in less than five words, it's going to taste like something you get at one of those mediocre, blandly hip bistros you wander into when you and your sweetie can't agree where you want to go out, and then you wind up spending too much money on wine and wishing you'd stayed home and gotten corn dogs instead. The more different the recipe names sound, the more they taste alike.
Really, everything I know about cooking I learned from about five really good cookbooks.
New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill
Why It's Aces: High-brow and low-brow cooking co-exist in perfect harmony; pre-recipe notes that contain both interesting stories and helpful tips; charming photos
Stand-out Recipes: Katherine Hepburn's Brownies; Lee's Cold Sesame Noodles; Angela Palladino's Meatballs
Cooking with the Junior League of Mobile, AL, you can have your lunch and drink it, too. Not only do southern women know how to cook, they know how to have fun doing it. Simple, elegant recipes that you can throw together in about two seconds.
Stand-out Recipes: Mixed Berry French Toast; Jambalaya; Banana Cake
The Ethnic Vegetarian by Angela Shelf Medearis
Why It's Aces: Ahem, can you say low-fat, flavorful soul food? Also includes great African, Cajun, and Caribbean recipes.
Stand-out Recipes: Hoppin' John; Muffaletta
My other favorites that you can't actually buy anymore include Outer Banks Recipes from the Blue Point Bar and Grill, otherwise known as the cookbook that single-handedly introduced recreational bread-baking to the Potts/McCoy household. Rosemary Foccacia to die for, not to mention a fine New Brunswick stew. And then there's the Madison Public Library staff cookbook. Leave it to a bunch of hippie librarians to put together a cookbook that makes Moosewood look like McDonald's.
But who am I kidding? Without the red and white checked Betty Crocker cookbook in my mom's kitchen, I never would have baked my first snickerdoodle.
What are the cookbooks you're lost without?