In one week’s time, we’ll be moving into a much bigger place. Hallelujah! And right now, I’m looking at our two empty book shelves. They are normally filled with cookbooks. Over 200 of them! I love cookbooks. Not so much for the recipes, but for the ideas and inspiration. Of course when it comes to the sweet side of life, I stick mostly to recipes. As I’ve gotten better, I’ve learned how to tweak the recipes for baked goods, but you can’t just go changing things willy-nilly. Specific ratios are really important in baked goods. For the most part it’s best not to tweak unless you understand the science behind it all…
But for the savory side, I just love to pour through cookbooks, imagining what I’d have for dinner every night if I had the time (and money) to cook whatever I wanted for dinner every night.
I had a realization the other day about the difference between cooking at home and cooking in the restaurant. Although home cooking can be simple and easy, in a way, it takes more advanced planning. For example, at the restaurant, we always have chicken stock on hand. And yogurt. And celery. And a baguette, canned tomato, green peppercorns, herbs, fennel, oranges, 2-dozen different shapes of pasta…the list goes on. The thing is, we can keep all of that stocked because of the volume of business the restaurant does. We can keep tons of perishable items on hand at all times. At home, especially cooking for just the two of us, we could never keep such a variety on hand at all times. We’d never move through it fast enough! So I think you have to be creative when cooking at home. Plan to make chicken stock a day ahead, and be sure to use it up before it goes bad. Keep creating things until the little bits of leftovers are gone. Use up that half-can of tomato paste, rather than just letting it go to waste. It is essentially the same thing we do at the restaurant, just on a much smaller scale.
My favorite way to use up leftovers is to make clean-out-the-fridge-soup. It’s a good way to use up little odds and ends leftover from dinners past. The best soups we’ve had at home will never be made again because they were comprised of little odds and ends that we’ll likely never have again in that specific combination. A little o’ this, a little o’ that… Soup requires very little advanced planning and is always filling and satisfying.
Anyway, I started rambling because I was staring at these two empty bookshelves. I already miss my cookbooks and they’ve only been packed for a few days! Last week at work, a couple of the guys were talking about their favorite cookbooks and I thought that might be a fun thing to mention here. Now, as I said before, I don’t often use my cookbooks for their specific recipes, but for the ideas. A jumping-off point, if you will…
So here are a few of my favorites.
Lulu’s Provencal Table by Richard Olney
At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells
Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters
Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver
My Mexican Kitchen by Diana Kennedy
Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere
All About Braising by Molly Stevens
The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld
…and that’s just to name a few!