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February 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Your Suggestions Needed

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Voting for February is a mere ten days away, and I'm in need of some suggestions. This is the last month I'm planning to organize this (see other thread), and although hounds have suggested many wonderful cookbooksin the past, I'd like to field some new suggestions for a small, elegant cookbook.

Our January 2007 choice, after all, is a great reading cookbook with recipes that are often time-consuming and complex. Zuni offers a lot of cooking knowledge and covers a lot of ground. It's suitable for the long month after the holidays, when we have more time to cook.

February is a short, dark month. Is there a small cookbook that you turn to, knowing that although the recipes are few, they are all gems? Perhaps a single subject cookbook? We are looking for brilliance within a small realm. Something folks could pick up and cook from quickly, without spending a lot of time trying to deliberate among alternatives.

As always, classics that are easily available in libraries are welcome suggestions. Please post your suggestions here-- I look forward to the discussion and to exploring your choices!

Thanks for participating.

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  1. How to Cook Without a Book
    by Pam Anderson (not of Baywatch)

    There are basic dishes with variations on a theme.

    1. Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio (Gramercy Tavern) -

      http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/di...

      I love this book - it has lots of variations on a theme and many of the recipes are well suited for winter (at least for those of us in cold climates).

      3 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I do like this cookbook - I've been itching to make that gorgeous duck terrine for quite some time.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Good idea! I haven't cooked from it yet, but just flipped through it - the recipes look great.

          1. re: MMRuth

            The Colicchio books are not available in my library, which has a vast cookbook collection, so I fear this may not be widely available.

          2. Julia's Kitchen Wisdom or Nina Simonds Asian Noodles. 2 small but precious cookbooks in my kitchen.

            1 Reply
            1. re: shaebones

              Julia's Kitchen Wisdom was my first thought as well. A great cookbook and very maneageable. I find myself turning to it first before "Mastering" or "The Way to Cook" even though all 3 are on my shelf because of its simplicity and ease of use.

            2. Parisian Home Cooking by the late Michael Roberts. An excellent book. Also I just got two new chocolate books and with Valentine's day in mind I'd like to suggest the new Essence of Chocolate by Sharffenberger and Steinberg or Unwrapped Green and Blacks Chcolate cokbook. Both have a variety of recipes both savoury and sweet. The recipes in the G&B have been collected by many different sources. Both books are great reads.

              1. how about "the silver palate cookbook" ?

                1 Reply
                1. re: ceeceee

                  That's a good one too. I've only cooked from the Silver Palate Good Times book, but all the recipes have been great. Another resource I use for something simple and consistently tasty are the Barefoot Contessa books.

                2. Fields of Greens by Annie Sommerville
                  Greens by Deborah Madison
                  Essential of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

                  Fields of Greens has been my small go-to cookbook for years. It has lots of delicious stews, pastas and warm winter meals that are hearty. I recently picked up Greens and it is very similar to Fields.

                  Essentials, a staple in so many homes but perhaps under used as it is in my own home? I'd love to focus on it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: huruta

                    Essentials was the September cookbook. Check out the link below for some of the reports:

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/32571...

                    1. re: Rubee

                      Ah, thanks. As you can tell, I'm new to chowhound.

                  2. In a totally self-serving fashion, my daughter gave my Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty: Authentic sichuan recipes. Its a wonderful cook book.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: GrumpyDad

                      Oh I have that and have not done enough with it. Hopefully I will have a new and functioning cooktop by Feb. and can get my woks out again.

                      1. re: GrumpyDad

                        This would be perfect! Because of Chinese New Year and because I've been wanting this book for AGES!! :)

                        --Dommy!

                      2. Macaroni and Cheese by Marlena Spieler

                        1. with Valentine's Day in mind, and single focus, I suggest
                          Room For Dessert by David Lebovitz.
                          Everything I've made from it has been fab, he's informative, creative, simple (but not too simple) and accessable. This is the book with some fruit, some chocolate, some cake, some preserves, etc. His others have even more narrow ingredient focus.
                          And the ginger cake in it is a classic, widely available online.

                          my other thought is Asian, although I think that might be better in the spingtime
                          one that lots of people on this board seem to have already is
                          Essentials of Asian Cuisine :
                          Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes
                          by Corinne Trang

                          the Asian books I personally would most like to actually dig into more is
                          Vatch's Southeast Asian Cookbook
                          by Vatcharin Bhumichitr
                          and it's on closeout at Jessica's Biscuit for $13
                          and
                          Washoku : Recipes from the Japanese Kitchen
                          by Elizabeth Andoh
                          which some of us have and have not dug into yet, although it comes highly recommended

                          Someone above suggested the Greens book
                          the soups in that are very very good, so could be a good winter choice
                          although people complain about it having too many ingredients
                          I don't mind that, and think it's a great book that I'd like to dig deeper into

                          1. "New Food Fast" by Donna Hay

                            1. I wouldn't mind cooking from something a little healthier. These two from above sound like they would be lighter cooking (or is that my own misconception on vegetarian cooking?).

                              Fields of Greens by Annie Sommerville
                              Greens by Deborah Madison

                              Or some other vegetarian cookbook?

                              Or, an asian cookbook that isn't twenty thousand steps for each recipe. Right now, I am feeling, well, a little heavy...

                              1. Of the books that I have but haven't had a chance to cook from:

                                Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid ("simple meals to eat with rice")
                                Harumi's Japanese Cooking by Harumi Kurihara -awarded best cookbook of the year last year by Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. It's very accessible, homestyle Japanese cooking, simple ingredients.
                                I'm also thinking soups/vegs./tofu or one-pot meals...

                                1. One of my favorite cookbooks is the California the Beautiful Cookbook - recipes by John Phillip Carroll and text by Virginia Rainey. The pictures are wonderful and the chapters are divided by areas of California. Excellent recipes.

                                  1. Of the two "Greens" cookbooks, the original "Greens" is much better than "Fields of Greens" (I think that Madison was more the "center" of the Greens restaurant). I have both; Greens recipes *can* be rather labor and ingredient intensive. If you want simpler, then Madison's "Savory Way" is a better choice than FoG, IMHO. I have that one too :) And these cookbooks are pretty healthy.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: DGresh

                                      While I really like Deborah Madison, and would love to try Greens, my impression is that they're pretty labor intensive recipes, and I'm not sure it's a short, sweet book of all solid recipes. I'm not convinced Greens or FoG are right (for what redwoodbay first described as her interest). Just my thoughts (sorry I don't have an alternative in mind now). Maybe her vegetarian suppers book or her soup book? They're both brief, the recipes aren't overly involved, and so far I've been pleased with the results.

                                      1. re: Smokey

                                        Although I'm not leaning one way or another about the suggestion, the Green's cookbooks are anything but labor-intensive. Of course there are veggie stocks for soups, but there are many uncomplicated recipes. Greens, Fields of Greens and Savory Way are ALL cookbooks with many interesting and simple recipes as well as many that are interesting and more complicated.

                                        I also like the idea of Fuchsia Dunlop. I got her book out of the library and the two things I cooked were superb, especially a lamb and cumin dish.

                                    2. I like the idea of an Asian cookbook -- either Fuchsia Dunlop, as noted above, or Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.
                                      Both seem much more accessible (simpler) than Washoku.

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: NYchowcook

                                        I agree, I like the idea of an Asian cookbook too.

                                        1. re: NYchowcook

                                          I have Into the Vietnamese Kitchen out of my library now and am giving the purchase a great deal of thought. It is a lovely book.

                                          1. re: Candy

                                            Vietnamese would be a great, interesting choice.

                                          2. re: NYchowcook

                                            I vote for Asian as well. The Lunar New Year falls in Feb. this year (I think the 18th), so it would be nice to have a cookbook that included some traditional new year foods. Hooray--it's the year of the PIG (me!).

                                            I have Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and would love to explore that book together as a group. There is a recipe for the traditional pork filled rice cakes that are made during Tet. I've made the "cua farci" (deviled crab) which was so delicious and savory. I should say that I know Andrea and have enjoyed the pate, beef stew, banana cake, and lemongrass ice cream that she has made for me from the book. The ice cream had a wonderful, clean flavor and the texture was so silky from the bit of cornstarch added. I think she'd be thrilled to know that hounds were cooking from the book, and I could ask if she'd like to participate on the threads if hounds and the mods are ok w/ this. Just a thought...

                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                              Into the Vietnamese Kitchen looks like a wonderful cookbook and CL has great taste in cookbooks (due to CL's post on Zuni Cafe Cookbook inspired me to go to the restaurant on a vacation and to buy the cookbook). My concern, however, is that this cookbook was just released on September, 2006 and may be difficult for library users to borrow. My extensive library system (35 towns with numerous branches per town) only has 4 copies circulating, and 5 more copies in processing or on order.

                                              The idea of having an Asian cookbook for February to celebrate the Lunar New Year is an excellent one.

                                              1. re: beetlebug

                                                Right, this book is pretty new so it may difficult to get. OTOH, Dorie's book came out around the same time and many hounds had no problem w/ that.

                                                1. re: Carb Lover

                                                  I had a problem - my library (Boston Public Library system) JUST NOW got in a bunch of copies (in addition to the one they had before) and my reserved-in-November copy is finally on its way to me. Yippee.

                                                  I'm still trying to dip my foot into the cookbook-of-the-month project, actually - I also got the Mexican book back in November but never cooked from it because a lot of the recipes that appealed most to me involved fresh veggies that I couldn't easily lay hand on in November in Boston. (Or they were available but poor quality and shipped from thousands of miles away.) So I'm still hoping for a chance to play along. I did get the Zuni cookbook from the library w/o problem, and am looking forward to sitting down for a comfortable browse through it now that the holidays are past.

                                                2. re: beetlebug

                                                  love the lunar new year tie-in!

                                                  Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham
                                                  is my favorite Vietnamese book - very accessible
                                                  and so far everything has been a success that I've made from it
                                                  plus it's a couple years old, so copies are out there, and available used

                                                  AND some of the recipes are available online

                                                  the Hanoi Shrimp Cakes are deeevine (and you can make them veg-friendly as sweet potato fritters)

                                                  1. re: pitu

                                                    Oh yes! I have that one. A good suggestion. I've made 3-4 recipes from that - all very good.

                                                3. re: Carb Lover

                                                  Sounds great! Are there recipes that are light on the anise flavoring?

                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                    Hehe, no worries on anise overload! In fact, her "bo kho" or beef stew recipe has anise included but the flavor wasn't overpowering. I do recall that her pho bo recipe has more aromatics than I typically use, but I'm very curious to follow her recipe step by step to compare results. She also prefers beef bones to oxtails since the latter are much more expensive, so I'd like to try it her way and compare to my version which uses oxtails. Oh, pho in February sounds good!!

                                                    For those who aren't familiar w/ her book, here's a link to her website w/ more info and some recipes:
                                                    http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/

                                                    1. re: Carb Lover

                                                      Thanks for that link! I'd love to do that book. If not February, maye some other month.

                                                4. re: NYchowcook

                                                  I vote for Fuchsia Dunlop here - Id like the incentive to cook more out of her book (recipes tried thus far have been great) and I dont need another Vietnamese book

                                                5. altho I wouldn't refer to them as elegant, I have 2 cookbooks in my library that I go to when I want quick cooking without sacrificing taste. Jacque Pepin's "Shortcut Cook" and "Dinner in Minutes" by Linda Gassenheimer.

                                                  1. I'm wondering whether the overall preference is for
                                                    1. Asia (for Lunar New Year)
                                                    2. Dessert (for Vday)
                                                    3. Veg (for our oversated selves)

                                                    I personally have interests in all three of those . . .

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: pitu

                                                      I'm def. not interested in a dessert book since we just did one. I would love to choose a vegetarian book at some point, but I'd rather do that outside of winter, when there's more variety. So Asian is really my pick.

                                                      If we don't go w/ Into the Vietnamese Kitchen since it's too new or narrowly-focused, then I wouldn't mind Trang's Asian book or Dunlop's Sichuan one. While Hot Sour Salty Sweet is a pretty book, I returned it to my library since I didn't have much interest cooking from it.

                                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                                        Hi CarbLover - I've heard lots of good things about Dunlop's book. Should I pick it up either way? I only own one Sichuan book (an oldie but a goodie from the 70s Mrs. Chiang's), and really need an updated one. Or is there another Sichuan book you'd recommend to add to my collection. ;)

                                                        1. re: Rubee

                                                          I'm not the right person to be asking since I've only checked Dunlop's book from the library a while back but haven't cooked anything from it. It looked very interesting though.

                                                          1. re: Carb Lover

                                                            Now I'm wondering about Irene Kuo v Fushia Dunlop
                                                            (I don't have either)
                                                            anybody experienced with both?

                                                            Carblover and Rubee, we three appear into Mai Pham
                                                            I'd love to do it, now or later, based on lots of success thus far

                                                            redwood, how on earth do you sort this out??

                                                    2. Pitu, we just did a dessert book (December), but I'd be open for an Asian cookbook. Although it might have to be something with simple recipes as Redwood mentioned she is looking for a cookbook that is "something folks could pick up and cook from quickly", and I'm not sure if any of those mentioned fulfill that (if not, I'd love to do one of those suggested another month though).

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Rubee

                                                        Rubee, I'm with you. Having just done a dessert book, I'm not in the mood for that. Asian sounds great to me. I just ask that we pick a book where there is a reasonable chance of getting it out of the library (e.g. not too new nor too old!).

                                                      2. I really like the idea of an Asian pick for Feb.
                                                        Hopefully something that is not "too new" and avail at the Library.

                                                        1. I'd like Asian too. I'm not too fussy about which cuisine. Trang's Essentials of Asian Cooking would be nice since it explores so many cuisines. Duguid and Alford's Hot Sour Salty Sweet would also be excellent. There are many cuisines and cultures explored there

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Candy

                                                            that last is a good idea - recipes are simple.

                                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                                              I'm game to add to my Duguid and Alford collection with Hot Sour Salty Sweet, and I like the idea of exploring different Asian cuisines, rather than focusing on just one.

                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                Me too. I already have it, and it's such a beautiful book too.

                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                  I don't have that book but I agree with the idea of something with different Asian cuisines, that way I think people can pick something that they already have the basic ingredients for, or are willing to go out and stock up. I love Vietnamese but it's so cheap and good to eat out around here that I just don't see myself getting into cooking it. Thai on the other hand appeals.

                                                            2. Alright, in Asian, how about:
                                                              The Complete Asian Cookbook, Charmaine Solomon, containing more than 800 (simple) recipes from sixteen countries (Indonesia, India&Pakistan, China, Thailand, Viet Nam etc.). It's a comprehensive book, with tasty and easy-to-follow recipes.

                                                              1. i vote for Vietnamese too.

                                                                1. I'd be interested in Vietnamese (if I can get the book), or the Silver Palate, or the Moosewood Cookbook.

                                                                  1. I will throw an oddball into the mix for our consideration: White Dog Cafe Cookbook. It meets Redwood's criterion of all gems and brilliance within a small realm. I love it, and have been cooking regularly from it for several years. It's available in my area libraries.

                                                                    Unlike most restaurant cookbooks, the recipes are tailored to home cooks, do-able, reasonable and big in flavor. It's my go-to book. Everything is great. It's home-style American ramped up in flavor. Roasted salmon on oyster mushrooms over lentils w/ cabbage sauteed w/ pancetta. Sauteed chicken in marsala sage sauce. That sorta thing.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                      I haven't tried to find the White Dog Cafe cookbook in libraries, but I did spend a long time last year waiting for it from Amazon. It took months. It may have been a brief shortage or something but it did take a while. It is great.

                                                                      1. re: wally

                                                                        what do you like about White Dog cafe cookbook?
                                                                        I'm eager to hear!

                                                                    2. If the mood for February is Asian, there are a couple of Chinese cookbooks I would recommend. The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo is very user-friendly, not complicated and her recipes work. My first copy fell apart and I just got myself a new one. Her recipe for jiao zi is the best I know. I'm always asked to bring this to Chinese New Year celebrations with my friends from Taiwan and the mainland which is high praise. I've also made many of the red-cooked dishes in it and they're as good as anything I've eaten in good Chinese restaurants. Actually the red-cooked duck is better than anything I've had in a restaurant. The other standard dish for Chinese New Year is long-life noodles which I make the way my mother did, but Kuo gives good tips on stir-frying. There are lots and lots of other dishes which guide the reader through the basics of Chinese cooking.

                                                                      The other book I have which is falling apart is a little book on Dim Sum by Rhoda Yee. I have no idea if it's even in print, I found it in a store around 20 years ago. I make har gau, bao, chive dumplings, scallion pancakes, steamed sponge cake, red bean paste buns, black bean spare ribs and walnut cookies from it regularly. The recipes all work and the results are comparable with professionally made dim sum. Nothing is very complicated, unlike the Wei Chuan and Eileen Lo books I also have. This little book gives the biggest bang for my buck.

                                                                      I have both the Dunlop and Mrs. Chiang Sichuan cookbooks and while both have good points, I don't feel that Sichuan is very representative of Chinese cooking. JMO.

                                                                      I have a couple of Vietnamese cookbooks including the ones by Bach Ngo and Corinne Trang but I'm a complete neophyte and am glad to be guided by more expert cooks.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                        I got Corinne Trang's Viet book at the same time I got Mai Pham's -- and ended up giving the Trang one away to a friend that was interested in the food but not likely to turn on her stove...it just didn't seem that good to me.
                                                                        On the other hand, Corinne Trang's "Essentials" with many different countries represented seems much better. That one I have and have cooked minimally out of . . .

                                                                        Anybody familiar with several of the Asian survey books?
                                                                        Say, Madhur Jaffrey v. Duguid and Alford v. Corinne Trang "Essentials"?

                                                                        1. re: pitu

                                                                          Which of Jaffrey's books are you referring to? I have at least 6, mostly focussing on Indian cooking which she does very well. I have one which is more generally Asian which I don't like much.

                                                                          I have two of Duguid and Alford's books and have yet to make anything from either. I'm not a fan of the survey books, they feel like those compilations of the best arias, or Shakespeare's biggest hit sonnets - i.e. superficial at best, shallow at worst.

                                                                          My current favorite Asian cookbook is Kasma Loha-Unchit's It Rains Fishes but it's out of print. She takes the reader through the various aspects of Thai cooking by introducing the ingredients, describing the use of those ingredients in the cuisine and giving a few recipes. It's a excellent way to work through Thai cooking. I think Irene Kuo is comparable which is why I suggested her book.

                                                                          1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                            I have Jaffrey's Step-by-Step survey that includes India and southeast Asia. I've not cooked out of it much - started with a nice cauliflower dish and then got distracted elsewhere. I was hoping to discover which of her non-Indian books people really liked!

                                                                            As for Duguid and Alford, I've been on the fence about buying those book for.ever.

                                                                            1. re: pitu

                                                                              Oops, Step by Step is the one I have which I don't like much. I've made the gado-gado, a chicken and a cauliflower dish out of it. None was very exciting. The only book of hers which I really like which isn't specifically Indian is her World Vegetarian book. And even there I like her Indian recipes best. Her Quick and Easy Indian book and Invitation to Indian Cooking are both excellent for someone learning about Indian foods.

                                                                          2. re: pitu

                                                                            I like Pham's book better than Trang's for Viet cuisine as well. Trang's general Asian book interests me though. I'm up for exploring Kuo's book since it sounds like cheryl h has tested it well for us!

                                                                            1. re: pitu

                                                                              Did you cook out of the Trang book? I have it AND Bach Ngo AND Hot Sour Sweet Salty am not inclined to buy another Vietnamese book at this time.
                                                                              By the way, I dont really think of Duguid's book as a survey book - its an idiosyncratic journey collection - I dont think they are trying to cover all the SE Asian dishes, just present samples they experienced on their travels of the Mekong Valley cuisines. I found it very interesting, and actually like the things Ive made so far out of that particular book and the recipes are simple.

                                                                              I could go with the Kuo book since I have it gathering dust!

                                                                              I think Jaffrey's books are very strong on India less strong when she moves off her home territory. Even so, her first vegetarian book is a stellar collection of INDIAN recipes.

                                                                            2. re: cheryl_h

                                                                              I have that dim sum book by Rhoda Yee as well, and it is a great little book! I bought it about 20 yrs ago too. Fun & practical.

                                                                            3. The Kuo book is an interesting choice. I haven't cooked from it in years, but I used to cook from it a lot. Wouldn't mind revisiting.

                                                                              1. Cradle of Flavor by James Oseland would be a great choice for Asian. It deals with Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean cooking and is written so that even someone completely unfamiliar with those cuisines could succeed. Lots of cultural/travelogue info in the book, so it makes for an interesting read, too.

                                                                                http://www.amazon.com/Cradle-Flavor-I...

                                                                                1. Hot Sour Sweet Salty is a great book. beautifully written and the recipies are straightforward and very good.

                                                                                  1. I use Irene Kuo's The Key to Chinese Cooking all the time. Like Cheryl H, I used mine so much that it finally fell apart and my SO got me a new one. I find that I tend to return to the same recipes over and over again, so I'd love to focus on it as Cookbook of the Month to expand my repertoire and get feedback from other hounds.