Cookbook Club

books

In September 2019, we started participating in The Kitchn’s Cookbook Club at its inauguration. Imagine a book club, but with cookbooks. It’s been really fun and inspiring. The cookbook club is based on social media, and it’s fun to see everyone else’s creations and learn from their trials & errors. All our blog posts from cookbook club selections are tagged with Cookbook Club, but here we’ll recap each month’s endeavor and the book itself. If you’re interested in participating, anyone can join! Join in the fun by either requesting to join the FB group “Kitchn’s Cookbook Club,” or use/follow the hashtag #kitchncookbookclub on Instagram. (Most of the discussion happens on FB though). So without further ado…

August 2021:

The Book – The Arabesque Table: Contemporary Recipes from the Arab World, by Reem Kassis

Recipes Tried – Another solo: Arabesque Stuffed Chicken with Potatoes

Favorite Recipe – Default again

Book Review – We didn’t get our hands on this one either. The recipe we tried was published on the internet, and we enjoyed, but sadly can’t comment on the whole book.

July 2021:

The Book – Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, by Joshua McFadden

Recipes Tried – Lettuce with Potatoes & Pancetta Vinaigrette, Lamb & Carrot Ragu, & Pasta alla Norma with Sausage . Came back to it for the Pumpkin Bolognese.

Favorite Recipe – Probably the Pasta alla Norma with Sausage. The Pancetta Vinaigrette was a close second. The flavors of the ragu were delicious, but the dish ate heavy/oily in our preparation.

Book Review – We found another winner with this book! It’s another one where we have multiple recipes earmarked for future endeavors. This book is set up seasonally, but into six seasons (as you might guess), in correspondence with their natural harvest seasons. We learned a lot about really eating seasonally and this book paired really well with our summer Farm Share. All of the dishes in here a vegetable-forward, but it is not a vegetarian book.

June 2021:

The Book – Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors, by Andrea Nguyen

Recipes Tried – A couple salads

Favorite Recipe – I don’t think we put enough effort into this book to pick a favorite.

Book Review – Not one of our favorites, not because it wasn’t a lovely book, but for some reason Vietnamese cuisine is one that is hard for us to cook at home. We always feel like we don’t achieve the same beautiful, fresh flavors that we can get from Vietnamese cooks and restaurants. In this book, she does make Vietnamese cuisine feel very approachable and easy for the home cook.

May 2021:

The Book – Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan kitchen, by Durkhanai Ayubi

Recipes Tried – Afghan Lamb & Root Veggie Aush and Afghan Chickpea Curry . Came back and tried the fasoolia/green bean curry as well.

Favorite Recipe – Love, love, LOVED the aush. The soup is layered and deeply flavored. Delicious!

Book Review – Loved this book. Wish we had time to cook more of it. We’ve saved another dozen or so recipes to try later, so hopefully we’ll add some more as time passes. The recipes introduce the reader to the flavors and techniques of Afghan cooking in a beautiful way. Many of us found that the portions are quite large.

April 2021:

The Book – East, by Meera Sodha

Recipes Tried – Caramelized Onion Ramen, Roasted Green Beans & Broccolini in Tahini Sauce, and Green Onion & Ginger Nooldes

Favorite Recipe – Definitely the Caramelized Onion Ramen. Sorry we didn’t share our recipe… our posting got a little lax this spring.

Book Review – This book shares recipes of the larger “east” of the world… ranging from the Middle East to Asia. Many of the recipes are the author’s tweaks on classics or are inspired by dishes she ate on her travels. We love the flavors of the east, so we enjoyed this selection.

March 2021:

The Book – The Silver Palate, by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso

Recipes Tried – White Bean & Sausage Soup with Peppers

Favorite Recipe – I guess there’s only one contender here!

Book Review – Meh. Not one of our favorites. We liked the layout and surely would have enjoyed some of the classic recipes in here had we tried more, but this just isn’t really our style of cooking or recipes that we could get very excited about. I would reach for this book if I had something specific in mind that I was looking for a tried & true recipe for… like, I may come back here for the chicken salad or banana bread.

February 2021:

The Book – The Flavor Equation, by Nik Sharma

Recipes Tried – We weren’t able to get a copy of this one from the library, so only had a few options that we published online to work with. We ended up making the Roasted Cauliflower and the Gingerbread Cake.

Favorite Recipe – Hard to decide. The gingerbread cake probably gets the vote, just because it was different than anything else we’ve ever made.

Book Review – A little hard for us to review since we really didn’t get our hands on it. The two recipes we tried we liked, so presumably that translates to the rest of the book!

January 2021:

The Book – Falastin: A Cookbook, by Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley

Recipes Tried – Kofta & Potatoes in Tahini Sauce, Chicken Musakhan, Saffron Butternut Squash Soup, Lemon Chickpea Salad (Balilah), Hasan’s Easy Eggs, and I think some more I’m forgetting

Favorite Recipe – Difficult decision, because we enjoyed so much of this book. Ally loved the kofta & potatoes and the chicken musakhan equally, but Selim’s love of the chicken musakhan as well tips the overall favor to that dish probably.

Book Review – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! We LOVED this cookbook! Everything we made was delicious, and we made quite a few recipes. These are the flavors of Palestine from Tamimi’s youth, some recipes classic and some with modern twists.

As in the late spring, we got a little bogged down in the re-surging pandemic and missed out on two delicious-looking cookbooks. We missed out on November’s selection, The Taste of Country Cooking, by Edna Lewis, and December’s The Mexican Home Kitchen, by Mely Martinez.

October 2020:

The Book – The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, by Sean Sherman

Recipes Tried – Crispy Duck Legs, braised turkey thighs with apples, a delicata squash salad, and a maple vinaigrette

Favorite Recipe – the duck legs, by far. Selim has adopted these as one of his personal signature dishes now. The amazing texture and flavors belie the complete simplicity of the recipe.

Book Review – Great book to educate about Native American food and ingredients. Most of the recipes have very few ingredients and are therefore quite approachable. Some ingredients are a bit difficult to come by, which excluded a few recipes that I wanted to try.

September 2020:

The Book – Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, by Joe Yonan

Recipes Tried – Caramelized Onions & Sweet Potato Enfrijoladas and Georgian Bean Stew (Lobio)

Favorite Recipe – We absolutely LOVED the enfrijoladas!

Book Review – Fun book with all vegetarian (and mostly vegan) recipes. He incorporates recipes from all over the world, which we love. It’s a great guide to incorporate some hearty, yet still healthy and meatless dishes into your life.

August 2020:

The Book – Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, by Grace Young

Recipes Tried – Stir-Fried Ginger Broccoli, Beef Chow Fun, and Classic Beef & Broccoli

Favorite Recipe – Definitely the Classic Beef & Broccoli, though we have several more recipes marked that we’re waiting to try!

Book Review – We absolutely loved this book! The pictures are gorgeous, the instructions are specific and precise (which you need if you’re a novice stir-fryer!), and the recipes are delicious. We enjoyed learning about traditional Chinese stir-frying and appreciated the variety of recipes in the book. This was a very popular selection in the online Cookbook Club group, only helped by the fact that the author joined the group and kindly offered feedback, tips, and suggestions!

Our participation in the Kitchn Cookbook Club waned for a few months, due to the stresses of living life and working in the hospital during a pandemic, combined with the closure of libraries and our local bookstore, also due to the pandemic! We missed May’s 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food, by Jamie Oliver, June’s Small Victories, by Julia Turshen, and July’s Vegetable Kingdom, by Bryant Terry. Maybe one day we’ll circle back to try a few recipes!

April 2020:

The Book – Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten

Recipes Tried – Berry Pavlova with Chocolate Drizzle

Favorite Recipe –Another default, but it’d be my favorite even if we’d made a million recipes from this book.

Book Review – Honestly, I’m not a huge Barefoot Contessa fan and wasn’t super excited about this month’s selection. That comes off terribly; I have nothing against her, but she’s just not one of my go-to recipe gals! The book is accessible and approachable for sure, which is obviously a plus. And I’m so glad we cooked it, because otherwise I never would have had the nerve to try the pavlova!

March 2020:

The Book – Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South, by Vivian Howard

Recipes Tried – Smoky Spiced PecansRoasted Beets in Herb Yogurt, and Sage Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Bacon-Roasted Rutabagas

Favorite Recipe –The pecans! They’re the perfect snack.

Book Review – You might recognize Vivian Howard from her PBS show A Chef’s Life. This beautiful book is the perfect complement to her show. It’s huge, full of lovely pictures, fun stories, and anecdotes. She organizes it in a way I’ve never seen before – by ingredient. The ingredients are clearly the important thing for her, and she centers the book and her recipes that way. I think that’s a beautiful way to approach cooking in general and a cookbook in particular, but unfortunately I was a little disappointed because a lot of the featured ingredients that I would love to cook with (corn, watermelon, figs, peaches, etc) were not in season when we cooked this book in March. I’ve saved a bunch of gorgeous recipes to try this summer though! My other critique was that many of the recipes, especially the main dishes, are actually multiple recipes in one. They’re delicious, but time-consuming! The beets we made and shared are actually one part of a full meal/recipe in the book.

February 2020:

The Book – Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, by Toni Tipton-Martin

Recipes Tried – Sour Beets and West African Groundnut Stew

Favorite Recipe – Ally really liked the Sour Beets, but Selim was kind of indifferent to both recipes.

Book Review – This is a beautiful book and a perfect selection for Black History Month. We loved the stories, details, and explanations of the legacy of African-American cooking throughout the book. Perhaps my favorite parts were the excerpts from old (sometimes 100+ years old) cookbooks. We didn’t end up making all of the recipes we wanted to and skipped some seemingly delicious ones because they were rather familiar. This in and of itself is probably commentary on the fact that many “Southern” recipes really originated with the South’s black cooks and chefs, though they were not awarded their due credit, which is exactly what the author is trying to teach us.

January 2020:

The Book – Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Recipes Tried – Eggplant & Mango Soba Noodles and Potatoes Vindaloo

Favorite Recipe – Both were great, but I think the noodles were the favorite. The dish had all of the elements… it’s sweet and earthy and a little spicy and vinegar-y.

Book Review – A great book if you’re looking to add some vegetables into your life! The whole book is vegetarian. And it is full of dishes that still feel substantial and filling, despite their vegetarian status. As with other Ottolenghi recipes, many of these are fairly complex or appear so because of the length of the ingredient list. I’ve yet to find a recipe of his that I didn’t like though.

December 2019:

The Book –The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer

Recipes Tried – Pumpkin Chip Bread

Favorite Recipe –Another default favorite since we only made one recipe… Holiday busy-ness got the best of us!

Book Review – Joy of Cooking is kind of in its own category of cookbooks. It’s a classic! It’s also very different from so many other cookbooks these days… it doesn’t have any pictures, the font is tiny, and the ingredients are listed chronologically within the text of the recipe. It has SO many recipes; there was no way we were reading the whole thing. I think it’s best used as a book when you have an ingredient and need inspiration of something to do with it! There isn’t anything fancy or super-exciting in there, but there are a ton of solid, classic recipes.

November 2019:

The Book –Sister Pie, by Lisa Ludwinski

Recipes Tried – Salted Maple Pie. Yea, that’s it. Whoops!

Favorite Recipe –By default since we only tried one… The salted maple pie was absolutely delicious though, so it’s definitely worthy of favorite status!

Book Review – This book is gorgeous and full of detailed pie-making instructions – definitely needed for reluctant bakers like us. The detail of step by step instruction for the dough especially is really helpful. Our dough turned out flaky and delicious, but it was not the favorite dough of a lot of other (more proficient bakers) in the group. We wanted to make quite a few other recipes out of here, especially the savory handpies, but that brings us to the main downside of this book… The recipes are quite time-consuming. Many of the pies are full-day, if not full-weekend efforts. We just couldn’t make the time to try any others.

October 2019:

The Book – Indian (-ish): Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family, by Priya Krishna

Recipes Tried – Indian-ish Chicken Breasts and Chaat Masala Smashed Potatoes

Favorite Recipe –Divided household on this one. Selim liked the chicken as a quick weeknight dinner option and Ally loved the smashed potatoes. They’re like Indian-flavored potato nachos!

Book Review –Think of this book as a peek into Priya’s mother’s Indian-American kitchen when she was growing up. Most of the recipe are based in Indian cuisine and flavored with Indian spices, but have tweaks and adjustments for life in the US. To be honest, Selim (who grew up eating a lot of authentic Indian food) was a little disappointed in that – he was hoping for more traditional Indian dishes. We didn’t end up making a whole lot out of here for that reason… just weren’t all that inspired.

September 2019:

The Book – Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat

Recipes Tried – Pasta with Clams & SausageChocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater CreamSausages & Roasted Veggies in Agrodolce, steamy sauteed garlicky green beans, a yogurt & saffron brined whole chicken, and a big salad.

Favorite Recipe – Toss up between the pasta and the sausage & veggies in agrodolce – we LOVED both!

Book Review – At first I wasn’t super excited about this book. It’s not entirely a cookbook in the traditional sense; instead it is more of an educational tome of cooking and food science, with some recipes. This turned me off a little bit at first, but the more time I spent with the book, the more I appreciated it. I learned a lot and was very pleased with the recipes we tried. The illustrations are also super fun! It also prompted us to watch her four part Netflix mini-series (also called Salt Fat Acid Heat), which was great too! Overall, my appreciation of the book grew over the month for sure!

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