It's a great time to be a cookbook collector. In the face of a dwindling print industry, publishers have only stepped up their game, producing more beautiful, innovative, and fun cookbooks with each passing year. 2014 has, in particular, been a year of immense variety. Here are the highlights of the year.
We may balk at the thought in America, but guinea pigs (cuy) are considered a delicacy in the Andean regions of Peru. Martin Morales's grandmother specialized in a particular preparation of the animal, braised in a sauce of fiery chilies and ground peanuts.
Hearty bean-based salads are one of my favorite dishes in the summertime. I grew up eating a corn and black bean version, but these days I'll throw just about any vegetable into a bowl with a can or two of beans and a tangy dressing and call it dinner.
Morales's new cookbook, Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen, is based on recipes from the restaurant as well as favorites from his childhood in Lima.
It's wild salmon season here in California, so I try to snag some great filets while they're available. I usually roast my fish with just a little salt and pepper, but there's nothing wrong with changing things up every once in awhile. Jennifer McGruther's salmon baked in cream from her new book, The Nourished Kitchen, was just the ticket.
The thought of homemade butter conjures images of large wooden butter churns and hours of arm-busting labor. But these days, butter is actually quite easy to make. If you have a stand mixer, you have have it ready to eat in only a few short minutes.
When I think of "traditional foods," the first thing that comes to mind is real, fermented pickles. That and dense, seedy sourdough bread. But as I've learned from reading blogger and food educator Jennifer McGruther's informative new cookbook, The Nourished Kitchen, eating a traditional foods diet is about so much more than wild fermentation.
Authentic smoked ribs are a challenge for those of us living in small apartments with little outdoor grill space. Blogger Lisa Fain shares this sentiment but refuses to give up barbecue ribs.
For some reason, homemade flour tortillas have always intimidated me. I've made corn tortillas many times, so I'm not sure where the reluctance came from. But once I saw Lisa Fain's recipe for buttermilk and bacon-fat filled flour tortillas in her new cookbook, The Homesick Texan's Family Table, I could resist no longer.
While I'd never eaten a Frito salad before this week, I am very familiar with bean-heavy taco salads. These I'd eat as a teenager, convinced that they were healthier than tacos themselves, even when decorated with several handfuls of tortilla chips. Lisa Fain's Frito salad in her new cookbook, The Homesick Texan's Family Table, is much better than those salads I ate as a kid.
I didn't grow up in Texas, but I did eat my fair share of Tex-Mex as a kid. Saucy burritos, sizzling fajitas, and giant bowls of cheese dip all hold fond places in my heart, even as I have grown to love a two-bite chorizo taco much. One of my favorite dishes to order at these restaurants was the enchilada platter, drenched in red sauce and smothered in melty Mexican blend cheese.
Texan food can mean many different things. The eastern part of the state shares dishes and techniques from Creole country and the Deep South. Border town cuisine takes much of their influence from Mexico. But the first thing I think of when I think of Texan food is beef. And gigantic meat smokers. And more beef.
Despite his dinnertime freedom, Mark Bittman doesn't launch into a carnivorous feast come six o'clock. Instead, he incorporates meat into meals that are equally heavy in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Take this soba noodle dish for example. While it doesn't shy away from meat (hello, pork shoulder), it does incorporate a generous amount of asparagus in addition to whole grain soba noodles.
Hearty and versatile eggplant has got to be one of the best vegetable substitutes for meat. Mark Bittman uses the nightshade as the base for meat-less meatballs in his new VB6 Cookbook. Once baked, the tender "meatballs" are surprisingly flavorful (as long as you don't skimp on the salt), making it easy to forget that you may normally be eating beef.
When it comes to vegan recipes, I usually stay far, far away from anything that uses quotation marks in its name. I'm happy to eat a plate of vegan food—rice, beans, and vegetables are some of my favorite things to eat. Once "meat" and "cheese" get involved, meals tend to get a little weird. So I approached Mark Bittman's "chorizo" tacos in his new VB6 Cookbook with some trepidation.
There was a time in my life when I relied almost exclusively on Mark Bittman. At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I had moved off campus and was cooking completely on my own for the first time in my life. I had found a copy of How to Cook Everything (the yellow first edition) at a used bookstore and began using it as a guide for just about every meal. I doubt I am the only one of my generation to do so.
Scratch-made chicken curry is a thing of beauty, with far greater complexity than anything that comes out of a jar. Add supple rice noodles and an array of toppings, and consider me satisfied for the next week.
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