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Cookbook of the Months Nominations for May-June 2010

We've decided to try doing a book for two months this time, to see if that helps breathe more vigor into COTM.

So please nominate books for us to cook from during May and June. Perhaps something that will let us play with lovely spring produce?

For reference, here are the books that have been done in the past: http://www.chow.com/cookbook_of_the_m...

Please nominate books through WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28. (I know that is just about May, but I think we should have ample time for discussion and nominations to develop before choosing and beginning [almost] two months of cooking.)

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  1. Since CHs have expressed interest in it in other discussions, I already own it, and it has plenty of recipes to appeal to everyone:

    GOURMET TODAY: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0618...

    1. In depth by cuisine:
      WASHOKU:: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen (Hardcover), Elizabeth Andoh
      http://www.amazon.com/Washoku-Recipes...

      I have made about 5 dishes from this book, and each one has thrilled me. This is a book that I would love to cook together. When delving into a new cuisine I always find the reports from other about both ingredients and prep to be extremely helpful.

      Everyday:
      GOURMET TODAY: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0618...

      I own the green version, and have many recipes marked that sounded really interesting, but the book hasn't quite made it to the top of the pile. But it could!

      48 Replies
      1. re: smtucker

        OK...That's all the incentive I needed. I was hoping to cook from either a Japanese or Korean cookbook and have been looking at WASHOKU for some time. It's $21.00 at Jessica's:
        http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-7303-wash...

        My second book is:
        GOURMET TODAY. I have the green book too.

        1. re: Gio

          Oh nice, I'd loved to delve into Japanese too. I think I'm going to order WASHOKU anyway to add to the library. Thanks for the Jessica's tip!

          1. re: Gio

            this is the problem I have . I have 3 or 4 Japanese cookbooks, include Shizuo Tuji's definitive tome Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art. I am not inclined to buy yet another when I havent explored the books I have - thats why I always advocate for adding more than one book to these cuisine related projects, which are my favorites.

            1. re: jen kalb

              jen, I picked up a used copy of Tuji's tome a couple of months ago. I don't want to spread the group too thin, but I would love to do a Japanese month (or Japanese two months?), although, I confess I don't understand exactly how that fits into the new framework.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: jen kalb

                I have the the exact same problem. If we do a Japanese month (or two months) maybe we could have Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art in addition to Washoku.

                1. re: Westminstress

                  Jen, DQ, WM: perhaps we should hold back the Japanese book for May/June and wait till we can do an all Japanese COTM....?? Is that what you're thinking?
                  I do like the idea of a 2 month spread, and will continue to support the nomination of Gourmet Today. Perhaps that book alone is good for 2 months. Lord knows 1000+ recipes can certainly withstand the length of time and tonight as I looked over the different cuisines represented there's enough variety to satisfy most folks...I think.

                  1. re: Gio

                    Gio, I guess I'm confused, but why don't you think we can do an all-Japanese COTM in May-June if people want (perhaps using the combo Westminstress suggests)?

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      Hi Caitlin... Oh no, I didn't mean to imply that we should/could not do an all Japanese COTM for the next 2 months. I was just wondering what the others were thinking. I guess I did put too much emphasis on GT, though, but I'm all for Japanese cooking.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        I'm confused too - are we supposed to be picking two books to do over two months, or just one?

                  2. re: jen kalb

                    I would actually be willing to buy a second Japanese cookbook if that is the group consensus. But it is interesting to note that my local library network has 15 available copies of Washoku, and not one of A Simple Art.

                    Since one of the stated preferences in the "future of COTM" is to select books that are available at libraries so more people can participate, could others check their systems as well? This could be an interesting data point to understand before voting begins.

                    1. re: smtucker

                      My library:

                      Washoku, yes
                      Gourmet Today yes
                      Vegetable Love yes
                      New Portuguese Table yes

                      Japanese Cooking a simple art, no

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: smtucker

                        My library system:

                        Washoku - 2 copies
                        Gourmet Today - 10 copies
                        Vegetable Love - 9 copies
                        New Portugese Table - 8 copies
                        Japanese Cooking a simple art - 3 copies

                        1. re: Gio

                          The Rhode Island Library system has:

                          Japanese Cooking: A simple Art: 8 out of 9 copies available
                          Washoku: 3 of 6 copies available (I'm one of the three "not available")
                          Gourmet Today: 7 of 17 copies available
                          Vegetable Love: 14 copies - can't tell how many are available...
                          New Portugese Table: only 5 of 16 copies are available. (RI has a large Portugese population.)

                        2. re: smtucker

                          Gourmet Today: 4 available, 7 out
                          Vegetable Love: 8 available, 2 out
                          The New Portuguese Table: 6 available, 4 out

                          1. re: smtucker

                            On the basis that none of these books is available in any London library, and that I already have GOURMET TODAY, and have made two great recipes from there already, that's my nomination. Thanks.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              Which two recipes did you try? I have to know about the great ones, I tell you!

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                The Napa Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (p163) - killer good, and much lighter than an ordinary slaw. I especially liked the radishes in it.

                                Roasted asparagus with feta (p84). Simple and delicious.

                          2. re: smtucker

                            I actually think Washoku sounds interesting but I don't want to buy it and I'm not sure I would be able to get it from the library. There don't seem to be too many copies of either Washoku or Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art in either the Brooklyn or Manhattan library systems. All the more reason to include both books in a Japanese COTM -- more people would have an opportunity to find one book or the other, which might increase participation.

                            That said, while I think a Japanese month (or two) sounds interesting, I don't mind deferring it either. I don't have strong feelings either way.

                      2. re: smtucker

                        Washoku looks fantastic -- thanks for the idea. I've also been looking for an excuse to buy Gourmet Today, but I'd rather do an in-depth book coming off of Bittman. So I probably just need to buy both, right?!

                        1. re: smtucker

                          Washoku looks very interesting - how difficult is it to get hold of the ingredients though? That has been a real obstacle for me to cooking from Kennedy.

                          (Also, why am I so weak willed when it comes to cookbooks - I'm supposed to be on a self-imposed ban after going mad in the last few months with purchases.)

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            I have to admit, that I am extremely lucky. I have four Japanese markets close by. When shopping for unknown ingredients, I go in the afternoon when the bi-lingual kids are working. They don't know the ingredients, but they can translate.

                            Of course, if we chose a Japanese book, we could create a picture gallery of pantry ingredients to make it easier for others to sort through the kanji.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              I imagine it would be easier for you to find Japanese ingredients in London than Mexican.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Are you in London? Look what I found with my best friend google:

                                http://www.japancentre.com/

                                [edited to add: and if you aren't in London, they ship for 4.95 pounds]

                                1. re: smtucker

                                  I am in London, and obviously there are a number of Japanese stores in central London, but I read a review on Amazon complaining about the lack of availability of a lot of the ingredients. Obviously if it's a question of stocking up on ingredients which keep, a la Dunlop, that's fine. But if regular visits to a Japanese store are necessary that's a different matter.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    My experience has been that most of the "unusual" ingredients are pantry items. Dried kelp, bonita flakes, dried anchovies and dried mushrooms are stored on a shelf. I keep the miso in the fridge and it seems to have a good shelf life. To be honest, this is one of the best things about this cuisine. Well, that and the resulting flavors.

                                    I buy the fresh pork, tuna, and vegetables at the regular store.

                                    Hope this helps a bit as you sort out your preferences.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      You can cook a number of Japanese dishes with soy sauce, mirin, sake and dashi (made fresh from katsuo bushi or instant dashi), and seaweed. From these ingredients, you add protein (fish, seafood, chicken, pork, eggs, etc) and or starch (noodles). Of course there are many other ingredients (dried shiitake, sesame seeds, tofu, etc), but this will give you a good start.

                                      1. re: BigSal

                                        Thanks for the replies, folks. This is the review that got me thinking - you have to bear in mind that I will probably have to buy this book unsee and it won't be in many bookstores here, or in the library.

                                        "Even in oriental supermarkets these ingredients, in many of the recipes, would be hard to find: iroko, kombu, wakame, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, burdock root, atsu kezuri, katsuo-bushi, adzuki beans, mitsuba, tuft daikon tops, mugi miso, gennmai miso, Sendai miso, Hatcho miso, hanpen, zakkoku mai, chikuwa, salmon flakes, shiso, sansho, bainiku, kamaboko, shichimi togarashi, shirasu-boshi, chirimen-jako, persimmon, yuzu peel, and many more such."

                                        Is this a fair assessment, smtucker?

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          I haven't been to the market in London, lately, and I don't know who wrote that review, but I would say that statement isn't entirely an accurate assessment.

                                          Just off the top of my head, for instance, I know these ingredients, which account for about 1/3 of that "hard to find list" are readily available in my local grocery store--I don't even have to go to the Asian Market for them: kombu, wakame, shiitake mushrooms (I mean, what the heck? isn't this very common, at least dried?), enoki mushrooms, burdock root (seasonal), adzuki beans, miso paste (not sure which kind it is though), bainiku, persimmon (seasonal).

                                          Off the top of my head, I know that I've seen these in my local Asian market (I recognize the packaging): katsuo-bushi, hanpen.

                                          Sansho--is this the same as Sichuan pepper? That I have in my cupboard!

                                          We do not have a large Japanese community where I live, which is in a mid-sized metro area (about 2.8MM people). We do have a fairly large Hmong population, but they are historically mountain-folk and don't really have a tradition of cooking Japanese cuisine, so, I think that's a non-factor in terms of availability of these particular grocery items.

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            I agree that some of those ingredients are common, but I don't think I've ever seen burdock root in my local oriental shop, never mind the supermarket. I don't even know what a lot of the ingredients mentioned are - eg atsu kezuri, mitsuba, tuft daikon tops, hanpen etc.

                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              Yeah, that I can't help you with. :( I was just trying to answer whether that was an accurate statement --even though I'm not smtucker, sorry, maybe I should have let her answer--that all of those ingredients are hard to find "even in oriental markets."

                                              In fact, just the statement that the person says shitaki mushrooms are hard to find makes me question the person's entire comment.

                                              I'm saying, no, in my experience, it isn't an accurate statement because at least a third of the ingredients listed aren't hard to find even in the "international" section of a mainstream market in a mid-sized Metro area. (I'm not talking L.A. or San Francisco or New York here.)

                                              But, as far as your fear that you don't know what they are 1) Washoku has en extensive pantry section (with photos), similar to Dunlop, wherein she describes the ingredients and, where possible, recommends substitutes, 2) I find google images to be a big help. Many times, it will bring up photos of the packaging (whereas the book has photos of the ingredients themselves.)

                                              Are you able to use the "Search Inside" feature on the U.K. Version of google books? On the U.S. version of Amazon, I am able to read at least several pages of the pantry section. Or, better yet, a huge portion of the book is viewable on Google books. I don't know if this link will work: http://books.google.com/books?id=vGGS...

                                              Burdock all the time is seasonal, so, maybe you just haven't noticed it in season? It grows here, so, maybe that's why I see it.

                                              Here's what wikipedia says: "In some parts of North West England the flower of the plant is referred to as a "Sticky Bob"." It said "England", so, I couldn't help posting it for you. HA!

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                Well, dandelion and burdock is a popular drink in the north of England, so I guess they must have it there! I've never heard of a "Sticky Bob" though!

                                              2. re: greedygirl

                                                A lot of these, if you look up the name online you will see what it is and that it has an english name or description for example a couple are different versions of bonito flakes. You can also do a lot of japanese cooking without some of the specialty items.

                                                I dont think the person who made the assessment either did any research or was very familiar with shopping in asian markets. first of all, most major metro centers will have at least one store where the local Japanese folks shop. Second, most chinese markets carry at least a couple of shelves of Japanese ingredients and some of the vegetables, like mushrooms (shiitake are the main chinese mushroom as well) and burdock root - you need to look both on the shelves and in the refrig food areas which is where stuff like miso and surimi will be- staples like miso, the seaweeds, sansho and shichimi togarash, adzuki beans, dried bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi and atsu keduri) and surimi can usually be found without much trouble. Korean run or taiwanese run stores have even more of the ingredients since there is more coltural overlap. Health food stores and even asian run fish markets have some of these items.

                                                There can be an issue with labelling - items will not have the english transliteration of the Japanese names - the name may only be in Japanese. Here in the US there is usually a labelling requirement so you can look at the ingredients list.I dont know about you but I really love shopping in stores with unfamiliar food and trying to figure out what the stuff is. A little research and study into the ingredients online or even in the book will give you lots of ahh - thats it - moments when you see them in real life.

                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  That in a nutshell, Ms Kalb, is the joy of shopping for foodstuffs from other cultures. I got the nicest squeeziest bottle of wasabi in a Korean market that way (don't read Korean, unfortunately). Love it too.

                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                    If I don't check myself, I can easily spend a couple of hours in an ethnic market. I'm always so mesmerized by all of the unfamiliar products, wondering what they're for and so on.

                                                    Looks like the wind is blowing Gourmet Today, at least nominations-wise. I really hope my schedule eases up so I can cook along. May is doubtful, but we've got May and June now!

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      what happened with the idea of doing two books/two projects at one time over a longer period? A cuisine and something more general? I also cant see doing two "portmanteau" books in a row, I mean my 25 year old daughter was cooking with Bittman now she has switched over to the Gourmet book as her main recipe source. I guess I could borrow the book from her but no way will I be buying a book like that.

                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                        Because it uses up too much shelf space? I've resisted it for that reason too. It does have terrific recipes in it however.

                                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                                          It seems the consensus was for a single book (or two related books) over two months

                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7032...

                                                          So, basically, as I understand it, the same as we were doing before, but for two months instead of for one. The front runners for this month seem to be Gourmet Today or Washoku (maybe with, maybe without Japanese Cooking A Simple Art)--it's hard to say when we've still got almost three full days of nominations left, as well as the voting. Anything can happen!

                                                          ~TDQ

                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            whatever, Im just being grumpy. But my vote is for JAPANESE - two books WASHOKU and TSUJI. Two books give me a chance to be leisurely and try to get Washoku out of the library and compare with Tsuji.

                                                            the reason I liked the idea of two projects going on at the same time was that sometimes things get some energy behind them, get nominated a couple of months but then somehow fall out of consideration. If there is a way of capturing the energy for the Board, I think it would be a good thing. Also, if one project runs out of gas over a two month stretch (its happened over one month before, I think) energy could switch to the other project.

                                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                                              I think some books run out of steam because they turn out being not so good to cook from.

                                                          2. re: jen kalb

                                                            Good point about two portmanteau books in a row. Nonetheless, because of personal circumstances, I'd be much more likely to participate if we did GOURMET TODAY so I'm going to nominate that and suggest we do THE NEW GOURMET COOKBOOK (the big yellow book) at the same time. It would be interesting to compare the two, I have both, and have been very happy with recipes from each--although I've not yet cooked much from the newer book.

                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                              Even though I'm not officially nominating or voting (because I just don't know if my schedule will really ease up: it should and I sincerely hope it does) I'd go for that, the new Green One and the old Yellow One! I have them both, too and have always wanted to explore them more. (Since I haven't explored them at all.)

                                                              You know, I think the key to consistent COTM success is to choose book(s) for which there is genuine widespread enthusiasm. If people are sincerely enthusiastic about the books chosen, I think there will be lots of participation no matter what. The good thing about the Gourmet book, at least the Green one, is that it does seem to be a book people can get their hands on.

                                                              ~TDQ

                                                            2. re: jen kalb

                                                              I think this is a perfect example of why and how 2 books for 2 months would be a great idea for COTM. You have Washoku for those who want to explore a specific cuisine in depth and Gourmet for those who aren't interested in Japanese cuisine or can't/don't want to get Washoku, or for those days when even the devotees of Washoku (or their families) want something other than Japanese for dinner.

                                                              Going with both seems like a win-win to me. Choosing just Washoku will leave a lot of folks out of COTM for 2 months (either because they can't get the book or they're not interested). Choosing Gourmet is broader, but not of as much interest to some, precisely because it's broad (c.f. portmanteau book comments). Choosing both will keep more people engaged in COTM.

                                                              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                                you said it better than me - my only quibble was wanting to have a second Japanese alternative for those who already might have a Japanese book - likewise the Gourmet people who want the older book included as well.

                                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                                  I agree in theory about the two books over the two months. However, I think if we did the green Gourmet book AND the japanese books, participation would decrease. In the past, when the books have been too broad (Julia Child and Penelope Casas comes to mind), people are spread all over the place, the thread counts go down, and participation dwindles. There seems to be less cooking together and comparing recipes and it just becomes sheer recipe reportage by a few intrepid hounds.

                                                                  In my memory, a focused approach to cooking usually brings out greater results (such as the two Dunlop books, the two Vietnamese books, Zuni, Lucques, etc).

                                                                  Just my two cents.

                                        2. re: smtucker

                                          Washoku sounds great, I've been wanting to cook Japanese again and a nice Japanese market just opened nearby. I've paged through the Leite book and that's tempting too--but not as much as Japanese.

                                          1. re: smtucker

                                            Here's a blog I found where a group of people cook their way through Washoku. Haven't had time to look at it properly yet, but it looks interesting.

                                            http://www.lafujimama.com/washoku-war...

                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              That's a different model...choosing a few recipes per month for everyone in the group to try... It's amazing people don't get bored and peter off. (Maybe they do.) It would be hard on the library checker-outer folks.

                                              And, look at me procrastinating on chowhound when I have a million other things to do. I suppose I should go do them. I can't WAIT until my busy time passes and I can do COTM again. Japanese or Gourmet, I would love either one.

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                Hey GG, that was a truly inspiring link! Beautiful pictures too. Wasn't too excited about Japanese month(s), but now I am....

                                                And although I think I could also get into the Gourmet books, the veggies used, at least in the "challenges" seem very appropriate for May/June.

                                            2. Oh, I really hope my schedule frees up in late May/early June as I hope/expect it to, as I'm loving the nominations already!

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. Other ideas sound great, but I'll add Barbara Kafka, Vegetable Love:

                                                http://www.amazon.com/Vegetable-Love-...

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                  I own that book, B-B, but confess, I've never REALLY cooked from it. I've used it as a reference a lot. How does it compare to, say, Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

                                                  Any particular recipes you recommend?

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    I can't give you much satisfaction, Dairy Queen. I also own this book (a gift from about 6 months ago) but I also have not cooked from it. I suggested it simply from my high estimation of Kafka's reputation and also her "Roasting" book, which I've used more extensively. It came to mind also from the suggestion initially about targeting vegetables.

                                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                                      I own that one and VCFE. Both huge books. I often wonder if I should ditch one.

                                                      ~TDQ

                                                2. I'm happy to cook from any of these, but here's another one to add to the list...THE NEW PORTUGUESE TABLE by David Leite. Just got IACP first book award. http://www.amazon.com/New-Portuguese-...