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Grist, Grains, and Gastronomy: Two New Cookbooks to Help Cook through the Winter (and Beyond)
There's something novel in this day and age of myriad food bloggers and online recipe juggernauts about sitting down with and cooking from a good old fashioned cookbook. When this happens and If they're lucky, the reader is transported into another chef's kitchen and offered an intimate and curated food experience. I had just this sensation over the weekend when conducting research for this post. From suggested pantry ingredients to novel techniques to tested recipes, I felt inspired by the different kitchen worldviews I glimpsed in between the pages of the new releases Grist and À Table. The experience was almost akin to walking through the back of the wardrobe and falling into two refreshing and very different culinary Narnias. Since spending time with these two books, I've already served lovely dishes from both and plan to keep working my way through them this winter. I also have the sense of being slightly transformed by the new ideas I encountered, as if my own culinary journey has been slightly altered (for the better). May you also experience a similar feeling of gustatory pleasure and growth, no matter what cookbook you find to keep you company through the winter solstice and beyond. ~ Lisa Cadow
Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds and Legumes by Abra Berens (2021). This elegant guide will have you cooking creatively throughout the winter (and then right into spring and summer, too) with the jars of sustainable and long-lasting grains that line your pantry shelves. I think I heard my farro and polenta calling out to me immediately to get cooking as soon as I turned the first pages of the table of contents. On the menu tonight in our house is "Risotto with Leeks and Bacon," one of Beren's "variations on the theme" that she provides home chefs in each section of the book (side note: they are more often than not veggie-based). Reading Beren's recipes has me missing the copious amounts of eggplant and tomatoes that burst forth (sometimes too exuberantly) from the farmshare because I'm now armed with new ideas for how to make them shine brighter next summer. "Seared Eggplant and Cherry Tomatoes with Fried Lentils and Tahini Dressing", next August anyone? She also highlights exceptional farms in her book - it's dedicated to "everyone who turns the soil to put food in our mouths - and offers helpful ways to turn a pot of beans or a pan of grains into five different interesting meals to last the week (e.g. "How to Build A Myriad of Fresh Bean Salads" and "A Week's Worth of Lentils without Any Boredom"). Fun new go-to sauces, spice blends, and herb relishes are also part of her generous offering to readers. After spending time with this book, it comes as no surprise that Berens was a recent James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes. I'd write even more, but I need to head to my kitchen to make a batch of "Barley Thumbprint Cookies" (with raspberry jam, of course). ~ Lisa Cadow
À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way by Rebekah Peppler (2021). I'm impressed. As one who considers herself a Francophile, it's hard to convince me that I might need yet another French cookbook. Well, Ms. Peppler had me from the begining with her ideas for "apéro" (the custom of drinks and light hors d'oeuvres before a meal), house wines, and snacks such as roasted lemons and green olives as well as "Eggs Mayo with Persillade" (a parsley sauce I plan to make as often as possible from this point forward). I couldn't stop turning the pages of this cookbook, so entranced was I with her take on modern-day French cooking and entertaining from a decidedly young and hip perspective. As an American expat currently living in the 18th arrondissement, this food writer's got her finger on the pulse of Paris and includes wonderful recipes for dishes like "Parsnips with Fennel and Honeycomb" (whole gorgeous chunks of honeycomb!) and a "Sucrine Wedge" salad of lardons, radishes, and blue cheese that knocked our socks off - or perhaps I should say “chaussettes”?- when we enjoyed it with a hunk of warm crusty bread for dinner the other evening. I can't wait to make the “Carrot Tarte Tatin.” Four stars and a big Ooh La La. ~ Lisa Cadow
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