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Sep 26, 2013 11:28 AM

How to feed and care for a new cookbook diet?

How many recipes should you like to make a cookbook worth it?

I just returned from a wonderful culinary trip to Morocco. Since I returned I've been on a total Moroccan cooking extravaganza so that I can practice the techniques I learned before I loose them in the sieve that is my head.

I have been enticed buy a few of the more popular authors out there offering this type of cuisine. Many of them, however, have some recipes that I will probably never attempt either because of the amount of or particular ingredients required or quantity of steps involved or even just the general appeal.

I had previously been on a self-imposed restriction from purchasing new cookbooks so I my question is..............

How many recipes (or what percentage of the book) have to look like you will actually try before you bite the bullet and purchase a hard copy of a cookbook?

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  1. Here's what I've done. I get a copy of desired cookbook sent to my closest library branch. I check it out for a few weeks, renew it if I wish, and then return it. If my mind keeps coming back to that book, then I buy a copy for my shelf. Other times, I have another book checked out and I'm trying a half dozen of the most attractive recipes in that book.

    3 Replies
    1. re: windin

      You're very lucky that your library system can still afford to buy cookbooks, or any nonfiction for that matter. Mine can't.

      1. re: c oliver

        Can your library do interloan? We have an interloan system throughout the entire county which makes almost any book available to borrow. We can also return books to any library in the county regardless of where we took it out.

        1. re: cookingnoob

          Oh yes. But the whole county library system is poor. We used to live in a county in Oregon where the libraries shut down entirely and only re-opened as a volunteer-run organization. They had 1-1/2 FTEs, meaning full time equivalents in HR terms. Pathetic.

    2. When the Julie & Julia movie came out, writer/director Nora Ephron (an accomplished home cook) and star Meryl Streep were guests on Charlie Rose. They both agreed that when the average home cook is enthusiastic about recipes from a given cookbook, that usually means they've made and liked three of its recipes.

      I'm really bad about following recipes strictly but if I'd made two or three things from a cookbook and didn't like any of them, I'd be unlikely to try more of them. The pool is further restricted, though, because if you are a reasonably experienced home cook, skimming through a cookbook, there will almost certainly be recipes you can reject on the basis of your personal palate or your kitchen equipment.

        1. I can't give you the exact answer you're looking for because I have almost no control over my cookbook purchasing.
          But if you buy only one book, I would urge you to make it Paula Wolfert's The Food of Morocco.
          I went there last September, and bought the book shortly after returning. There are some very involved recipes, and some easier ones requiring few hard to get ingredients. There are some tips on substitutions, nice little stories of how the author got the recipes, and beautiful photos. Worth every penny.
          Glad you had such a great trip!

          2 Replies
          1. re: alliegator

            It was my new Moroccan cookbook that encouraged me to pose this question. I looked at Wolfert's books but ultimately chose The New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou the chef/owner of one of my favorite Moroccan restaurants in SF - Aziza.

            Unfortunately, I think I should have chosen Wolfert's more traditional approach to the cuisine as his recipes are probably more fanciful and step or ingredient laddened than I would most likely have the energy for on the average night.

            As Aziza's restaurant focus has changed from the traditional to more Haute cuisine, I guess so have these recipes. Beautiful as his may be, I would more likely make my Basteeya (or Pastilla) in the traditional round form than this one in the form of a Napoleon pastry. The original is difficult enough to get right.

            I have a lot of yummy items in this book tabbed to try but I find if I glance at them and they look overly complicated, i will opt for something else. the web I roam for recipes after all.

            1. re: MSK

              Sorry for the late response, was away on my annual food fest again in Portugal :)
              I don't have the Mourad Lahlou book, but I like what I read about him and may have to add it to my collection. The web is a fantastic place to seek out recipes of all kinds, and the right b or p or whatever 'astilla is a thing of beauty.
              I'm really glad your trip was a success! I'm well traveled in certain corners of the world, but the food from Morocco and the people who make it really shook up my idea of certain ingredients and dishes.
              I hope you post about some of your successes in your own kitchen. Have fun and eat well :)