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April 2012 Cookbook of the Month: Melissa Clark Month

Welcome to the April 2012 Cookbook of the Month! This month we will be cooking from two books by Melissa Clark:
Cook This Now, and
In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

If you haven't ever participated in the Cookbook of the Month discussion, we hope you'll give us a try in April. We have a lot of fun, and we learn from each other's experiences. The basics of COTM, and the archive of past books, can be found here:
http://www.chow.com/cookbook_of_the_m...

If you are curious about the selection process, and the accompanying discussion, the nominating thread is here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/838164

The voting thread is here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/839051

Also, there is quite a bit of information, and links to recipes, to be found in the announcement thread here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/839535

I've divided each book into four sections for reporting on recipes, so we have eight reporting threads this month. I've kept the divisions in the same sequential order as they are in the books. Cook This Now is divided into the four seasons, but I think there are enough versatile recipes, and enough people living in different climates, that we will be cooking from all four seasons.
In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite is also divided into four sections. The sizes of the book sections vary, as I've tried to keep the subjects somewhat similar where possible.

Here are the links to the reporting threads:

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite:

Chapters 1 and 2: Waffling Toward Dinner; The Farmers' Market and Me, pages 5 - 76.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841844

Chapters 3, 4, and 5: Learning to Like Fish; It Tastes Like Chicken; I Never was a Vegetarian, pages 77 - 212.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841843

Chapters 6, 7, and 8: Things with Cheese; My Mother's Sandwich Theory of Life; Better Fried, pages 213 - 296.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841842

Chapters 9, 10, 11, and 12: Holiday Food; My Sweet Tooth and Me; There's Always Room for Pie; Lessons in Imbibing, pages 297 - 430.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841841
(Page-wise, this is a larger section of the book, but it's largely holiday and dessert recipes, so the chapters seemed to belong together.)

Cook This Now:

Winter: January; February; March, pages 7 - 94.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841840

Spring: April; May; June, pages 95 - 192.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841839

Summer: July; August; September, pages 193 - 286.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841838

Autumn: October; November, December, pages 288 - 386.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841835

In addition to using the above threads to report on specific recipes, please feel free to use this thread for general impressions, menu ideas, ingredient sources, and links to online recipes.

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. FYI, there is another Melissa Clark thread for Cook This Now started by beetlebug, with some helpful reviews here:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/837857

    And, thanks to Gio, we have link to a list of recipes on Melissa Clark's blog here:
    http://www.melissaclark.net/blog/reci...

    4 Replies
    1. re: L.Nightshade

      FYI, Cook This Now is available on Kindle for $3.99!!! I was vacillating about adding it to my collection but the for the price, I couldn't pass it by. It is downloading now so now I'll have both books for this month. The one I am really interested in hearing about is CHEF, INTERRUPTED. Do any of you have it? Maybe we can add an adjunct thread about it? Thoughts?

      1. re: dkennedy

        Thanks for this Kindle download information. I downloaded it - quality at first glance looks quite good.

        Hmm - in thinking about a Kindle vs. hardcover/paperback, I suppose one adds a kindle download purchase to "Eat Your Books" ???

        1. re: Rella

          Definitely add to EYB, Rella. An e-book is still a book:)

          1. re: herby

            Wellllll, sorta :-))

            Thanks, I did.

    2. Thanks so much for this precise breakdown of the chapters, LN. It's perfect for logical sequential reporting. I've already made a couple of recipes and need to report on those, while for today I've planned a few dishes for Palm Sunday dinner...Happy Cooking everyone.

      1. I believe the text and recipes in In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite are all or mostly drawn from Clark's A Good Appetite column in the NY Times, so the recipes may be found there. Below is a link to the index for that column. If you're not a subscriber and hit the (now) 10-free-articles-per-month limit, try googling the recipe name, as I believe you can access articles via search engines without being prompted to pay.

        http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/feat...

        1. LN thank-you for such a thoughtful organization of this dual COTM. I think your guidance around posting reviews of the same dish together will be really helpful to new posters as I know I didn't figure this out when I first started posting here.

          I had a fun day in the kitchen today. In addition to an amazing-smelling pork dish from the Mozza cookbook that we will be enjoying in about 20 mins, I made 3 dishes from CTN. All the CTN dishes are for weeknight meals so I'll report on those in the days ahead. I made the White Bean Stew (mine is more like soup), Coconut Rice & Peas to go with some grilled Caribbean Chicken and the Quinoa Pilaf with Swiss Chard and Apricots to which I'll cook and add the chard tomorrow night. I'm especially keen to taste the rice which smelled amazing as it simmered on the stove. Can't wait to cook along with everyone this month. I've flagged most of the recipes in both of the books!!! So many tasty sounding dishes!

          9 Replies
          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            Many chowhounds cook an extraordinary amount of recipes/food.

            I've often wondered how many chowhounders do cook for more than 4 at the table.

            The Coconut Rice and Peas sounds so good. I'll have to look it up. My last recipe callng for coconut milk, I tried using a newly purchased dried unsweetened coconut, constituting it into coconut milk. It turned out well. I will not be using canned coconut milk, but I love recipes using it, so am really trying to adapt.

            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              BC,

              Which pork recipe are you making out of Mozza? I have really enjoyed the recipes I have tried out of that book. Would love to hear about your experience. But for this month, I am going to try to stay true to Melissa!

              1. re: dkennedy

                Hi dk. Sorry I missed your note. It was the Pork Chops with olives and Sambuca-braised fennel and oh, what a dish it was. Those vegetables were ridiculously good. The dish took us totally by surprise in terms of how much we loved it. This is the second dish I've tried from the book and both have been wonderful. I posted more about it in the WFD thread.

                Here's the link: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8422...

                 
                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                  I've had great success with my dishes out of Mozza, too. I'll have to try the Pork Chops.

                  1. re: dkennedy

                    Let us know what you think. If you have a moment would you mind sharing which dishes you've tried?

                  2. re: Breadcrumbs

                    What was the other dish you liked from Mozza?

                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                      It was a truly scrumptious Brasata al Barolo with polenta and horseradish gremolata LN. Here's a link to my CH comments:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8403...

                       
                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        Oh thanks BC. Don't know how I missed that, as I posted something right after you. Your description makes it sound so enticing! Those look like gnocchi. Was that your substitute because of Mr BC's disdain for polenta? I know we're a bit off topic here on the Melissa Clark thread, but I can't pass an opportunity for a recipe recommendation!

                        1. re: L.Nightshade

                          Sorry for the delay in reporting back re suggestions of recipes from the Mozza book. I left town right after posting and didn't have time to respond. BC, the Brasata al Barolo sounds fantastic so thank you for pointing it out. I think I will make it for the final night of Passover this Friday night.

                          For those of you who do not have any other Nancy Silverton cookbooks, the thing to know, and love, about her recipes is that if you follow her instructions, your dish will always come out perfectly. Having said that, her recipes also usually contain several extra steps that you may wish to skip. If you have the time, don't. The results are always worth the extra time.

                          My favorites (so far):

                          Wild boar ragu on page 185

                          Fiorentini with Guanciale, Tomato, and Spicy Pickled Peppers, page 203

                          Both recipes assume you have some of her other more basic recipes in your pantry. If you don't, each of these are rather time consuming dishes. For example, the Spicy Guanciale sauce is mixed with a basic tomato sauce and a spicy pickled pepper recipe that she refers to elsewhere in the book. You can get away with using store bought versions of the other two sub-recipes, such as a Passata and a jar of pickled peppers.

                          I absolutely love this cookbook. If you are a fan of the restaurant you will be happy to know that pretty much every one of your favorite dishes are included.

              2. NEWS FROM MELISSA CLARK:
                Melissa Clark has generously offered to answer our questions by email! She can be contacted at this address:
                melissa at melissaclark dot net
                At this time she is not planning to get involved with the threads, as she thinks there may be more honest discussion and critique if she is not present.
                If you contact her with questions, please share your results with us!

                1. I've cooked a couple of recipes out of "The Skinny", a book that MC co-wrote with Robin Aronson. Should I report on them here? It doesn't seem worth setting up an adjunct thread for just this one book with only 80 or so recipes.

                  The quick report is that I made her Celery, Blue Cheese, & Tabasco salad, which was great, and her Roasted Chicken Breast with Rosemary Apples, which was quite nice (not a knock-your-socks off dish, but a pleasant treatment). Both recipes were fast and easy. There are definitely some other recipes in this book that have caught my eye.

                  29 Replies
                  1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                    I made the Moroccan Carrot Salad from "The Skinny" tonight, which was fantastic! Shredded carrots with roasted cashews dressed with a spicy lemon vinaigrette. Who knew carrots and cashews went so well together?

                    Quick paraphrase: Combine 1 lb peeled & shredded carrots with 1/2 c chopped roasted cashews, and 1/4 c chopped cilantro. Whisk together 1 tbsp evoo, 1/12 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp harissa, and 1/4 tsp ground coriander. Toss with salad, season with salt, pepper, and more harissa to taste.

                    It looks like an impossibly small amount of vinaigrette, but it works just fine. I only used half the amount of cashews but they still had plenty of impact. I subbed mint & lovage for cilantro (as I usually do), and was generous with the harissa. I made half a recipe to serve as a salad with dinner, but we only ate about 2/3rds of it. I look forward to seeing how the leftovers taste.

                    1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                      Just in case anyone is interested, here's a paraphrase of the Celery with Blue Cheese and Tabasco salad. I loved it! It's definitely going to be a permanent part of my repertoire, which I don't say lightly.

                      Thinly slice 3 stalks of celery. Whisk together 1/3 c plain yogurt, 1 tsp evoo, salt & pepper. Combine with celery and 1 oz crumbled blue cheese. Sprinkle with tabasco sauce to taste.

                      I whisked the blue cheese and tabasco into the yogurt mixture before combining with the celery. My yogurt was a little thick, so I might thin the dressing just a bit next time. I can hardly wait to make it again.

                      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                        Karen, this book is really intriguing to me. I think the carrot recipe is in one of this month's books... but I'm really glad to have the essence of this celery salad. I'm going to make it tonight just from your report. I'll report back.

                        1. re: Gio

                          Hope you like it too! It's really just a yogurt-based blue cheese dressing on celery plus tabasco, but we loved it.

                          The book itself doesn't really say anything new about weight loss, and the NY fashion sensibility can be a bit too cute sometimes. Yet there's an underlying, down-to-earth reality about it too. How does someone who eats for a living and really loves food and new flavors not gain weight? The answer is essentially fruits, vegetables, portion control, exercise, and maintaining a balance. Like I said, nothing earth-shattering, and yet it's persuasively presented. Plus the recipes are great.

                          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                            "CELERY, BLUE CHEESE AND TABASCO SALAD -- Slice some celery ribs and chop the tender leaves. Toss with plenty of blue cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper, and many dashes of Tabasco. "

                            This is a quote from a long list of mini recipes Melissa Clark wrote for her blog on 06/28/2006. It sounded very much like the paraphrased recipe Karen Schaffer wrote in her report of the celery salad so I thought I'd post it here. The only thing missing is yogurt. You'll find the complete entry here...
                            http://www.melissaclark.net/blog/2006...

                            I made the celery salad last night to serve with roasted chicken with Moroccan spices. I used the inner stalks with leaves from a fresh bunch of celery, some almost-ready-to-give-up-ghost blue cheese "and many dashes of Tabasco." I followed Karen's method to put the recipe together. We loved the salad - really more like a dressing - and will put it into rotation. Thanks, Karen, for reporting on this recipe...

                              1. re: Gio

                                POTATO, PARSLEY AND CAPER SALAD
                                http://www.melissaclark.net/blog/2006...

                                Another quick salad from Melissa Clark's blog which may or not also be printed in The Skinny. Yukon golds, that I quartered, were used, EVOO, cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and cilantro instead of parsley. Finely chopped scallions were included.

                                I steamed the potatoes and when cooked they were tossed with olive oil, vinegar, 2 t capers, 1 minced fat garlic clove, and S & P. Just before serving I chopped 1/2 bunch of cilantro and mixed it into the salad. While it wasn't exactly totally green as the recipe in the link states the salad was delicious. Everything a good potato salad should be. Served with sauteed sugar snap peas a la Jacques Pepin and Clark's leftover roasted pork with a barbeque sauce from Virginia Willis's Bon Appetit Y'All... A complete COTM fusion meal.

                        2. re: Karen_Schaffer

                          Tonight I made the sherried grapes portion of the "Roasted Chicken Thighs with Sherried Grapes and Watercress" in "The Skinny". They were amazing! I've never roasted grapes before, but I certainly will again.

                          Mix 1 lb of seedless red grapes with 3 tbsp sherry vinegar, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp butter or olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast on a baking sheet at 450 for 20 min., tossing occasionally. I couldn't figure out how to toss the grapes with a lump of butter (she doesn't say to melt it), so instead I dotted the butter over the grapes after putting them in a pan.

                          The flavor was amazing -- almost like cherries, actually. We joked that I could make a mock cherry pie with them if I wanted. The sherry aspect of the vinegar mostly disappears, though, so it would be a fairer description to call these roasted grapes rather than sherried grapes. But the touch of butter totally came through and was fantastic.

                          Someday I may make the recipe as written, because I'm sure having the chicken juices mixing with the grapes would be even better. But they were excellent by themselves.

                          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                            "The flavor was amazing -- almost like cherries, actually. We joked that I could make a mock cherry pie with them if I wanted. The sherry aspect of the vinegar mostly disappears, though, so it would be a fairer description to call these roasted grapes rather than sherried grapes. But the touch of butter totally came through and was fantastic."

                            The first thing that came to mind was that I can see incorporating these grapes into:

                            Tuscan Grape Harvest Sweet Bread
                            Schiacciata all’Uva
                            Carol Field “Celebrating Italy” p. 183-184

                            1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                              This is so interesting (about the grapes). I'd never have thought it would be like that. Should I buy this book? You seem to be enjoying the things you've made so far.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                Well, it's mainly a book about their philosophy of eating, how they eat well, even indulgently, but maintain reasonable weights. The recipe section is modest, about 80 recipes at the back of the book, though they are MC's interesting takes on various things. So is it worth buying? Well, I found a new copy on-line for $4.99 (+3.99 shipping), so I did buy it. But if you're mostly interested in the recipes, you might not feel it's worth even that.

                                How's that for a wishy-washy answer?!

                                1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                  It was actually a really helpful answer - thank you.

                              2. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                Check out the December 2011 COTM The 150 Best American Recipes by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens... on page 169 there's a recipe for Roasted Sausages and Grapes, (From Cucina Simpatica/Killeen & Germon). Another really delicious pairing of sweet & savory. Having now read your report of chicken thighs and grapes I'll have to try to concoct a similar recipe. (or maybe buy the book) Thanks Karen.

                                Here's my grape & sausage report...
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8206...

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Oh right! I've made that, and was sorely disappointed (although I made it much before that was our COTM). Maybe I need to just try the grapes solo.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Another roasted grape fan. I have Cucina Simpatica, it is a wonderful book. I believe there is also a nice roasted grape recipe in Mario's Grill Book.

                                    Edited to add: Just did an EYB search for roasted grape recipes in my personal library. Lots and lots of roasted grape recipes paired with things link duck, cheese, etc.

                                    1. re: dkennedy

                                      I like the idea of pairing them with duck.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        I have made a recipe from a Rozanne Gold book a few times for chicken breast and roasted grapes, where red and green grapes are slow-roasted at 275F for 1 1/2 hrs, more grapes are pureed and strained, chicken is sauteed in butter, then the puree is added and reduced, and a sauce is made w/more butter. I always thought it would be really good with duck.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          Thanks, Caitlin, that is great info. I have that book, so I could just do some duck breasts with the recipe for the grapes.

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            Just FYI for those reading, the Rozanne Gold book I referred to is Healthy 1-2-3. It falls outside her three-ingredient rule, but I thought this recipe would benefit for a splash of vinegar - some acid to balance the sweet.

                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              Ach, just assumed you meant Radically Simple.

                                              I love the sound of the duck with pomegranate molasses in Moro.

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                Well, I'd be happy to share the recipe, it's v. simple and would be super simple to do with duck breasts.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    Well, there's a reason you assumed it was in Radically Simple - it is! I had not noticed it there, but TxInMntl's post sent me to the bookshelf, and it is indeed almost identical to the recipe in Healthy 1-2-3, except for the roasting temp/time, and an extra 1/2 T butter and the chive garnish in RS.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  There's a very similar sounding recipe in Radically Simple as well (but the grapes are roasted at 375 for 1 hour). I've made it once when we were in a bind for dinner and it was okay. A splash of vinegar and duck would likely take it from okay to great.

                                  2. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                    Karen, I believe the recipe is in the following link to 2 recipes from The Skinny.... Second recipe down. Please confirm when you have a chance. TIA

                                    http://normantranscript.com/food/x518...

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Yes, that's it. Good searching, Gio! The only difference is that the poster doubled the recipe to make it 4 servings and gave specific amounts for the salt and pepper.

                                      HOWEVER -- I think the original recipe is enough to serve 4 people, even though it says it's for 2. She calls for 1 1/2 lbs of chicken thighs and a pound of grapes, which seems like a crazy amount for 2 people to split. I have to wonder if it's a typo. Maybe I should email her and ask. A different recipe calls for 6-7 oz of chicken breast per person, which is much more reasonable than 12 oz per person, imho.

                                      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                        The amounts of the main ingredients seemed too much to at first read so I automatically decreased them by half. Even at that a pound of grapes are too much for us and I'll use less when the time comes. I'll copy your notes and use the amounts you wrote. Many thanks Karen.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          Just to be clear, what I wrote originally is how the recipe is presented in the book. What I really made for us was 1/2 lb of grapes, with everything else comparatively reduced, and about 5 oz of chicken each. That made plenty of grapes, though we liked them so well we gobbled them all up. Although making a full pound and having leftovers wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

                                    2. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                      Roasted Chicken Thighs with Sherried Grapes and Watercress from The Skinny

                                      Finally, I got to make this recipe... It was Sunday dinner along with Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans with Garlic, page 324 The New Spanish Table, but more about that later. As for the chicken and grapes: It was delicious.

                                      Here's what I did for 2 people:
                                      1.03 lbs. of boneless/skinless chicken thighs instead of 1 1/2 lbs, 3/4 lbs green seedless grapes, 2 T EVOO, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 t each S & P, 1 cup + 2 T Jerez sherry vinegar, 2 T melted unsalted butter, 1 t sugar, 1 bunch watercress. Preheat oven to 450F. The directions call for rubbing garlic over the thighs, but I chopped the cloves finely and mixed it with the oil and half each S & P then tossed the thighs with that mixture. The chicken then gets placed on half of a baking sheet. The grapes are tossed in another bowl with vinegar, melted butter, the rest of the S & P then spread on the other half of the pan. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring the grapes once or twice. Prep the watercress and dress with 1 T EVOO. Plate the cress, chicken on top, grapes and pan juices spooned over.

                                      A very tasty combination of flavors: peppery sweet with tender juicy chicken. We both liked the dish very much. There's not a drop left.. Thanks Karen. BTW: I bought the book.

                                  3. Hi Everyone,

                                    Just reporting back to share some info I rec'd from Melissa Clark.

                                    I have flagged more recipes than there are meals that I can make this month so I thought I'd accept Ms Clark's offer to field questions and I sent off an email to ask what some of her personal favourite, "must make" dishes were.

                                    In addition to being kind enough to share this info, she also passed along info about some typos in the books. WIth her permission, I'm pasting this info below.

                                    From Melissa Clark:

                                    "So some notes about my favorites and also a couple of notes about mistakes in the recipes. First the bad news.

                                    There are mistakes in at least 2 recipes that I know of (there might be others that haven't surfaced yet). The cumin veal meatballs in Cook This Now have the wrong amount of salt and are therefore bland. They need 1 teaspoon, not a 1/2 teaspoon (so sorry I HATE when that happens).

                                    And then, even worse, there is no sugar in the halvah toffee (recipe is in both Cook This Now as a bonus recipe and in In The Kitchen). It needs 1/3 cup light brown sugar mixed into the shortbread mixture.

                                    Okay now that I've gotten those out of the way, the good stuff.

                                    Some personal favorites in In The Kitchen:
                                    Red Lentil Soup with Lemon (the only recipe of mine I more or less follow when I make it again)
                                    Lemon Tart for my Mother (a great lemon tart and I've made hundreds)
                                    Sonia's Phyllo Feta Torte (perfect for Easter, alas telling you too late!)
                                    Creme Brulee French Toast (also in Cook This Now in the bonus section)
                                    Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli
                                    Shrimp for a Small Kitchen w/ Feta
                                    Rhubarb Coffee Cake

                                    From Cook This Now:
                                    The Mallobars are a project but they are really good!
                                    Coconut braised short ribs - tasty but rich so I make these the day before and take the fat off.
                                    Calamari w/ Israeli Couscous - we make a version of this dish almost every month, it's so easy and so good!
                                    The asparagus and ramps! the lemon makes this dish.
                                    The roast chicken with the lemons and chickpeas is great! Love this recipe.
                                    Braised Pork Shoulder with Tomatoes and Olives, easy for a braise and really tasty, a perfect weekend dish.
                                    Cumin Roasted Cauliflower with the yogurt and pomegranate seeds, a stunner, definitely try and use the pomegranate if possible, it adds so much
                                    Fresh Corn Polenta with Roasted Rataouille
                                    Celery Salad - so fresh tasting and easy
                                    Peanut Butter Sandies, yum, great kid cookies.
                                    And once berries come, summer pudding!

                                    Hope this helps and feel free to email me specific questions! "

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      Thanks for sharing this Breadcrumbs! I'll make note of the errata in my books.
                                      What a great question to ask of Ms. Clark. I'm happy to see the Coconut Braised Short Ribs on the list, as I've just ordered short ribs from the local ranch for this recipe. A wonderful list to have as April is flying by.

                                      1. re: L.Nightshade

                                        Those short ribs and braised pork were two of my favorite dishes from CTN. I'm trying to think of when to repeat them before the freakishly warm weather hits.

                                      2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        Wow, that is great, thanks so much Breadcrumbs! I have made the changes in my CTN to reflect the typos. And I'm really happy to hear that the calamari w/ Israeli Couscous is one of her favorites. Assuming I can find calamari on Thursday, that is what I plan on making (otherwise I'm making it with shrimp).

                                        I expected to like but not love this book. And my initial reaction was the same. But I'm having amazing success with it. I'm now considering buying ITK (once tax money has all been paid!).

                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          This is great, thanks for sharing! The calamari, roast chicken and roasted cauliflower have been on my to make list, but I'll have to try these sooner than later.

                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                            Thanks for posting this Bredcrumbs! My copy of In the Kitchen is due back at the library now, but so many of the recipes are available online that I am hopeful I'll still be able to make some of these. The Red Lentil Soup is particularly calling out to me.

                                            I wasn't enthralled by these books from the get go, but I'm finding them fun to read and cook from and the flavors have been great. Even my clam disaster tasted really good.

                                            I also have started to really enjoy reading the intros to recipes and hearing how a recipe evolved at a given time in her life and how she thinks about combining flavors and the looseness it allows in the kitchen. She reminds me a bit of Nigella Lawson with the very personal writing style.

                                            1. re: greeneggsnham

                                              I am with you Greeneggsnham, not enthralled but enjoy the reading aspect of these books.

                                          2. I know we are all immersed in Melissa Clark's books, so keep cooking away, but it's also time to start thinking about next month. The May nomination thread is up! Please drop by here:
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/843409

                                            1. Having had the last 3+ weeks off from cooking anything at all, it was with great anticipation that I picked up my Melissa Clark books today. I eagerly cracked them open, and was not disappointed. Nearly every recipe beckoned to me, and my hand tired of furiously scribbling down the titles that I wished to try. Where has she been all my life? These books are fascinating, the recipes sound so tempting and are so well described that I've been salivating for the past few hours as I've pored over the pages. It looks like it will make for excellent bedtime reading as well; one of my must-haves in a great cookbook.
                                              Many thanks to those of you who brought these books into my line of vision. Another excellent chowhound find! I am very much looking forward to getting into the kitchen with these, and I'll be sure to bring a voracious appetite.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Allegra_K

                                                Allegra I'm so glad you love these books. I feel the same way. I love MC's engaging style of writing and though I rec'd ITKWAGA for Christmas in 2010, its never left the prime real estate on the small shelf in my kitchen. It's a great read on a lazy weekend morning and over a year later, I'm still smitten.

                                              2. So enablers, I need your help. I'm really enjoying CTN. Pretty much everything I've made has been a hit (can't think of a miss right now, but don't want to jinx it). However, there are lots of meat recipes in the book that I'm not going to be making. My questions: if you have both books, which do you prefer? And is INKwGA also a very meaty book?
                                                My kitchen cookbook shelves thank you in advance! : )

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  In my cooking experience I've had no trouble, or guilt, about substituting one meat for another in any recipe. That is to say, generally it's possible to sub chicken, say, for pork. Or even tofu for the meat. I can hear the gasps as I type...

                                                  As for the books we're cooking from this month, I seem to be using ITKWAGA more than CTN, and I don't know why. Just more appealing I guess. Although it's probably best to follow recipes by a well-credentialed cook/chef to the letter, my focus really is to try to get a tasty meal on the table using recipes as a guide and framework which I alter (or not) to suit our particular likes and dislikes.

                                                  Off hand I'd say that both books have more or less the same amount of meat recipes. There are many vegetable and seafood recipes in both as well. I know you avoid meat centric meals, LLM, and we try to have more vegetable focused meals too. I believe it's a healthier way of eating.

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    Thanks so much Gio. I, too, often go ahead and sub sometimes, either tofu (usually in Asian dishes) or chicken. But sometimes (and the Braised Pork shoulder with tomato, cinnamon, and olives from CTN is an example) it seems as if it might not work. I once tried subbing chicken in a braised pork Batali recipe, and it was a disaster. Some work, some don't.

                                                    Sounds like this is one vote for a slightly more creaky bookshelf!

                                                2. I still haven't received the (cheap!) copy of ITKWAGA that I ordered from an Amazon seller. Grrrr.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                    May be old news to you , but both of her books are available on Kindle for 3 dollars in the US.

                                                    1. re: angelsmom

                                                      Thanks. Only problem with kindle books is that when you find a recipe 'page number in the index,' kindle does not use pages, they only use 'location.'
                                                      And location and page are not the same.

                                                      Therefore a recipe is not searchable by page number, as far as I can figure out.

                                                      1. re: Rella

                                                        Even at that, I downloaded it. Her other book I downloaded, it was $3.99, I believe, so this is a bargain.

                                                        But she is soo out there with her recipes, it probably is just as easy getting her recipes online.

                                                        What a generous person she must be!

                                                      2. re: angelsmom

                                                        A gazillion Melissa Clark's recipes are posted on her website...
                                                        http://www.melissaclark.net/blog/reci...

                                                    2. I just wanted to pop by say how much I am enjoying this month. There is so much variety in these recipes. And so many things that are manageable, even on a weeknight with a tight schedule.
                                                      Tonight we had three COTM dishes for dinner. Mr Nightshade, who can be a critical diner, tasted everything and proclaimed that "this Melissa Clark person really knows what she's doing." And I agreed.

                                                      14 Replies
                                                      1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                        I've been amazed by how much I'm enjoying cooking from Cook This Now (and the links to things in the other book). I totally agree with you LN - most of these dishes are easily manageable with very little time and effort, and taste great. There is a wide variety of flavors, and I really enjoy the "what else" feature. This is the kind of book I'd be happy to give to a new cook who wanted to try a lot of different things and be sure they'd work.

                                                        1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                          Totally agree. I previously had a fairly low opinion of Ms. Clark based on a series of recipes in her NYT column that just didn't work for me. I had written her off and stopped trying her recipes. I have been shocked by the extent to which I've enjoyed cooking from Cook This Now. I found all the recipes on-line, as the library hold list for both books was long, but at this point I intend to buy the book. My favorite thing about these recipes is how fast and easy they are to execute (which is important to me on weekends as well as weekdays, since I spend my weekends chasing my toddler and have no time for leisurely cooking), and how much flavor they have for just a tiny bit of extra work. The effort-reward ratio of these recipes is very high. I think it also helps that Ms. Clark lives in Brooklyn, where I live, and is cooking seasonally from the farmer's market, as I do. The raw materials that she is using at various times of the year are the same as those available to me, so these recipes translate very well to my daily life. I appreciate her eclectic palate as well.

                                                          1. re: Westminstress

                                                            I have also been more and more pleased with these books as the month has gone on... Fast are easy are prerequisites for me as well-- I figured since MC has a toddler too, she probably skews that way herself.

                                                            So Glad COTM introduced me to these books!

                                                          2. re: L.Nightshade

                                                            Agree with everyone. I love cooking seasonally, from a philosophical, taste-wise, and pocketbook stance. (Especially since I'm often cooking from my own garden.) There's something about her ingredient choices and assumptions of pantry selections that resonate with me (except for cilantro, but hey, I'm used to subbing for that). I'm finding it easy to cook from these books, yet I'm also finding new & interesting ideas. Quick, easy, & tasty is always welcome.

                                                            I also appreciate her judicious use of oils and other high fat/high calorie ingredients. She doesn't forgo them nor even use barely minimal amounts, but instead uses them to good but not excessive effect.

                                                            I especially like the "What else?" sections in CTN. Many interesting ideas and tidbits.

                                                            My only real complaint is some of the indexing is odd in "In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite". I tried to look up a shrimp recipe. No shrimp in the index. WTF? I knew there were shrimp recipes. Turns out they put everything under "Fish & seafood" in the index. If I buy a copy of the book, you can bet I'll be writing in some notes in the index. Happily, the indexing in CTN is better. And EYB is great too, of course.

                                                            1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                              I agree about the indexing - had the same problem last night when looking for the roasted shrimp with broccoli recipe.

                                                              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                                Very much agree about the indexing! I've found things on EYB that don't seem to be in the index. They actually are, but not under the expected entry. Mildly frustrating.

                                                                1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                                  I love the organization of Cook This Now. I love the idea of cooking seasonally, and it's nice to have a cookbook that is faithful to it, and doesn't throw bell peppers into spring dishes. It's obvious it works, since the winter and spring threads seem to have been much much busier than autumn.

                                                                2. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                  I've also greatly enjoyed this month. I think all of our dinners during the week last week were from CTN and every evening was a success. I'm more than a little tempted to pick up ITKWAGA based on how wonderful the bonus recipes were, everyone's reports, and how much I enjoy the writing the accompanies her recipes. I'm fairly sure I'm going to be buying another copy CTN as a gift before too long as well. I had a few misses, but none of them were awful, just not as wonderful as I had hoped and those were greatly outweighed by the low-effort, but delicious successes.

                                                                  1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                    Yep, me too. I finally decided I need a copy of ITKWGA.

                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                      I am having the opposite response. I keep reading everyone's posts and even though they are all positive I can't seem to motivate to make any of these dishes. A poor participation month for me to be sure.

                                                                      1. re: dkennedy

                                                                        Next month might be different for you, but I appreciate your forthright and thought post.
                                                                        as:
                                                                        I'm having a problem about May's Spain COTM. I've been wanting to cook from it since I bought the book. Last night I looked through it in earnest and found that I cared naught for one recipe. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's receipt of the "New Spanish Table" book in hopes I will get motivated. I've been to Spain (once) and remember loving the food everywhere I ate/dined.

                                                                        It's not that I'm a lazy cook - tonight: fresh spinach, egg souffle, risotto, lettuce salad w/homemade dressing.All time-consuming dishes.

                                                                        P.S. Well, I think I will make the garlic mayonnaise from May's COTM, but I've been meaning to do that anyway from any book/recipe.

                                                                        1. re: dkennedy

                                                                          We all have those months, I think; at least I know that I do. For me, this has been almost a revelation. I read the Dining section of the Times every week, and had never been a fan before. But having used CTN I have to say that I'm very impressed. Not everything has been out of the ballpark great, but most things we have tried have been very good, and most fairly easy to make. The book has definitely grown on me.

                                                                          I hope you end up loving Spain month. Aren't you off to France soon?

                                                                    2. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                      I too have enjoyed this month. My COTM participation over the winter months had been limited due to heavy demands at work. That said, I've had a soft spot for Ms Clark since I first rec'd her book for Christmas in 2010. I found her writing style to be very engaging and she drew me in, enticing me to cook along with her. As others have mentioned, the fact that many dishes were weeknight-friendly added to the appeal and I also think the sheer variety of dishes in these books also suited our eating style. There were what I'd consider American-style dishes, others infused w ethnic flavours, a nice variety of meats, fish and poultry and even dishes that would allow for meat-free dinners. Breakfast, lunches and dinners all came from these pages this month and though I've made a fairly good dent in the recipes I originally flagged, there are many, many more I still want to try. I also feel as though we had more cooks in our COTM kitchen this month so the threads have typically been steadily growing throughout the month which is always nice. Even mr bc got in on the action and made his very first COTM dish...the eggs & asparagus dish we had for breakfast yesterday!

                                                                      After missing lunch today it seems quite fitting that on this last night for this COTM, I find myself "In the kitchen with a good appetite" anxiously awaiting my Coconut Fish Stew!!

                                                                      Finally, LN thanks once again for all you did to make this such a success!!

                                                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                        I am off to France at the end of May so I should be able to participate for the first three weeks. I just finished pantry shopping for the dishes I have selected from the MORO book. I will start with the rose flavored quail and the broad bean and chorizo salad. Hopefully those two recipes will go over well and keep me on the cooking path.

                                                                    3. Well, Cook This Now is currently "in transit," per the library website, meaning that my turn has finally come and it's on its way to me, now that it's May of course. A while ago, when it was clear that I wouldn't get it during April, I considered canceling my library hold. But there are so many enthusiastic reports, and I had such good food from ITKWAGA, that I canceled that thought instead. I'm already planning to photocopy a bunch from ITKWAGA before returning it, so I'll just add CTN recipes to the list after checking it out and reviewing the threads.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                        I think you'll be happy you have it. There are so many things that are quick and tasty; I've been quite impressed. I'm sure I won't be cooking Spanish every night in May, so I'll probably fall back on CTN from time to time, while the threads are still fresh.

                                                                        1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                          For some reason, I just can't get excited about Spanish month, so I'm sure I'll continue cooking from MC for a while to come. Many recipes I haven't gotten to yet.