Sunday, May 1, 2011

Other People's Cookbooks

Some guests peruse the contents of your medicine cabinet, others your shoe collection. Let me in your house, and I'll be checking out your cookbooks. At some homes, I have favorites; the cookbook I inevitably pick up at my sister-in-law Mary's house is Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food. My sister Sharon has a large collection and such a cool variety of cookbooks , I have trouble deciding which one to pull first. I don't need hundreds to choose from though -- even the most modest assortment will include at least a few that catch my eye.

We are renting a house in Tiburon, California this week from a family who is off sailing around the world. Like our house in the mountains, the backside of the house is nothing but windows taking in an incredible view.

Upon our arrival, B found the accordian, the telescope and the lemon tree in the backyard. I found the shelf of cookbooks and pulled out a stack that grabbed my attention.

Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman and Joan Schwartz (1992) is way more cookbook than memoir. Randelman grew up as part of the country's elite before fleeing the Cuban Revolution at age 10. Her book includes family photos and vignettes about her family and the lifestyle lead by upper-class Cubans along with lots of enticing recipes. I am going to cook a fairly simple meal out of it this week: Grilled Fish with Vinaigrette, Yellow Rice, and Avocado and Mango Salad. I want to find time to read more of her stories too.

When I pulled the San Francisco Symphony Presents A Taste of San Francisco (1987) off the shelf, I assumed it would a Junior League-style fund-raising cookbook with most of the recipes contributed by members. Then I saw sub-title--The Bay Area's Best Chefs Offer More than 300 of Their Tempting, Easy to Follow Recipes Especially for You to Prepare at Home. Interestingly, despite having spent a fair amount of time lately reading about San Francisco's best restaurants and chefs, I didn't recognize the names of many of those included in the book almost 20 years on. I picked out a couple to use in another simple meal this week. This one is Italian-inspired: Grilled Chicken with Sage and Rosemary, Pasta with Hot Chili-Fresh Tomato Sauce, and Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar. There are a number of other recipes calling my name. How about Seafood Enchiladas with Salsa Verde? Smoked Duck Breast Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette? Green Salad with Mango Vinaigrette? Yum.

The Patricia Wells cookbook pulled off the shelf, Les Promenades d'une Gourmande, turned out to be in French. Somehow, I managed to look at the book for about five minutes before realizing that. When asked if I speak French, I generally reply that I can read a menu. Those skills may be put to the test this week...

There are a couple of tomes on the shelf. I picked up The Silver Spoon, an encyclopedia of recipes that I am not familiar with. The book has really excellent reviews on Amazon though. I am hoping to find some West-coast ingredients that I don't often cook with, then use this cookbook to help me figure out what to make. It will make good reading in the meantime.

And now for the one I want to steal -- American Charcuterie: Recipes From Pig-by-the-Tail by Victoria Wise (1987). There are so many things I want to make from this book, but alas, did not pack my meat grinder and casings. A used copy has just been purchased from Amazon (Happy Mother's day to Me!). First up will be Spicy Garlic Sausage and Chinese Style Cured Pork Ribs. I am loving charcuterie!


Renee said...

A friend of mine in New Orleans owns The Silver Spoon cookbook. She served a great eggplant appetizer. I have been pondering purchasing that one. Your post reminds me to investigate more. Enjoy your trip!

Stacey said...

Don't buy the Silver Spoon, you can have mine. I have never used it. I'll send it to you

fishyfacedesigns said...

What an amazing view... I think you should tell them your never leaving!
Have a wonderful trip!

Deborah said...

What a gorgeous view!! I'm the same - I always go for the cookbooks!

Lynn said...

The random ingredient I bought at the Farmer's Market that I hoped to use a recipe from The Silver Spoon to cook was fava beans. And there was no recipe for fava beans!