Cookbooks (Photo credit: Pinkpollyanna)
I found a cookbook in my garage the other day, hidden under the old boots and spiderwebbed garden tools. It was a birthday gift from 1999. I am not sure what kind of cooking I was doing in that decade, but one thing appears spot on, I had high aspirations-given the title of the cookbook. I was not a new cook, but the techniques in this cookbook would put me at a higher culinary level. The recipes which had all kinds of textures, flavors and the kind of food pictures that look like building blocks-but instead of blocks it’s a tower of food.
I remember seeing it back then and thinking how I could put together dishes like that –Smoked Bluefish Pasta Salad, Marinated Scallops, Cuban Pork Salad, Lump Crab Cakes with Green Mango Salsa, Lemon Mousse Napoleons, Baked Goat Cheese and Black-eyed Pea Salad. Hungry yet. Top Chefs of the Triangle is a set of creative and sensational menus that highlight the best of the best in the Triangle. In the middle of the night I peaked into it again and read it hoping to find inspiration. Those mile high recipes were mine for the taking. But, alas, I read it not to conquer it, but rather to embrace the beauty of the craft. Sweet, sweet dreams ensued.
Fast forward 14 years and I am still in search of the best. My latest venture is working on a Southern Plantation Cooking Tour Menu. I will be teaching a cooking class and hoping that the recipes I chose reflect and respect the era. The menu includes inspired recipes from Southern Plantations of old in Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina. Here’s what’s cooking and all the recipes come from several Plantation Cookbooks: Chopped Salad and Pepper Mayonnaise, Carrots and Beans-a vegetable dish, Dirty Rice, Cornbread Stuffed Pork Chops, and Aunt E’s Carrot Cake with Pineapple and Cream Cheese Frosting. Can you see the difference in the titles of these recipes versus the ones from 1999?
Now take a look what I have cooked this past week-Comes from Bon Appetit Magazine: Parmesan Bread Pudding with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta ( I sub’d in Chard and Ham instead-it’s what I had in fridge); Steak and Soba Stir Fry-subbing again and using Pork; Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup; Brown Rice Beans and Ginger Chile Salsa; Lastly- Buttermilk-Brined Chicken with Cress and Bread Salad-instead of Cress I used Chard. Artisanal and seasonal flavors teasing the palate.
After all these years, I am still crazy for a period piece menu. It’s like a gift every week- to see what I can uncover between the pages of decade old cookbooks, a magazine of the month or even researching what plantation slaves had cooking in the hot kitchen.
Next undertaking, I will open wide the 900 page cookbook Gran Cocina Latina- Latin American Cooking. In between, I will be working on a children’s menu/cooking class- some great satisfying textures for kids. This might prove to be the best menu craft yet-Mac and Cheese. Brownies, Rice Krispie Treats, and English Muffin Pizzas!!! Now go cook.