Food & Drink

Cookbook reviewer opens her cookbook shelf

For the past three years, in addition to writing food articles, I have been reviewing new cookbooks that are seeking space in our kitchen cookbook shelves.

Over this time, I’ve “met” many wonderful books, and have added some of them to my own collection. The four prime and equally important elements I value in a cookbook are: Well-organized, bring some new knowledge to the reader, written by a knowledgeable party, and offers tasty interesting recipes.

While it is great to try new recipes, I think it is also good not to forget old favorites! In addition to much worn three by five cards where my mother’s handwriting recalls meals from childhood days, and pages in a recipe binder (where I have been collection recipes since leaving home) there are also six recipe books that I find myself reaching for repeatedly..

Here are my choices

Italian regional Cooking by Ada Boni

This is the most authentic region-by-region guide to Italian food I have ever seen. My aunt gave it to me when I returned from Italy in 1971. Every region of Italy is represented with recipes I have tested in the kitchen and against family recipes of people of those regions. When I taste a recipe made from this book I feel like I am traveling to Italy—with a fork instead of a plane. This book is out of print but you can obtain it used, from online sources.

Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham

The version I started with was one in 1960s. My home economics teacher introduced me to this book. She preferred it to The Joy of Cooking. For some reason the Fannie Farmer resonated with me as well. For years, it was my source of many “American” foods, especially nut breads and desserts. Still in print.

Soufflé Spectaculars by Irena Chalmers

This tiny book makes the art of soufflé making simple enough for even a novice cook. My husband gave this to me on our first married Christmas and I have been using it ever since. Soufflés are a regular part of our family Christmas celebration.

Also out of print, this slim volume is a treasure to be snapped up if you find it onlineSpies, Black Ties & Mango Pies, Stories and Recipes from CIA families all over the World. This is not a Culinary Institute of America book. No, it’s the Central Intelligence Agency staff cookbook. Former CIA wife (possibly also agent) Julia Child complied the book and wrote the introduction. She also comments throughout. It’s my go-to for recipes from unusual places, but converted for American use. It’s out of print. I got mine at a used book sale in library in Fairfax, Va., home of the spy agency. Try online for a used copy. The one with the Julia Child introduction is the Fiftieth anniversary edition.

Family Cookbook compiled by Jennie Leotta

My daughter, Jennie took the best of the recipes out of my card file and binder and the best of those from my husband’s sisters, my aunts, his aunts and her own creations (she is a great cook) and put them together in a family cookbook.

She filled it with poems, pictures and recipes. The recipes are annotated with a few sentences about how they came into our family or who likes them best. Her book as a color book jacket and is hardbound. I often use it instead of going to my card file because I like being reminded that these recipes meant enough to her to do all the hard work of typing and gathering and pairing with photos, paragraphs about how we used the recipes and even a poem of mine about apple picking. Jennie used blurb.com.

Horn Family Cookbook by Diane Horn

My cousin, Diane Horn did a similar work for her recipes when her daughter got married., The recipes in her book contain things from her mother’s family as well as the Cuda side (our shared relatives) and from her husband’s family. Lots of yummy eating. She also included a poem I wrote about her mother’s vegetable soup. Her recipes are printed in a binder that is ready to receive more as new favorites arise. Diane used Taste Book.

I do not endorse either of these companies although I can only tell you that in each case, although the product was expensive, both “customers” (my daughter and my cousin) were satisfied with the results. Each of them gifted me a copy.

So, please do share the name of your favorite cookbook and why it is one of your favorites.

Here is a recipe from Jennie’s Family Cookbook

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

2 cups marinara sauce

2 small-medium eggplants

Salt

Olive oil

4 eggs

½ cup fresh Flat Italian parsley

½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese

Method

Slice the eggplant thinly and salt. Allow the slices to stand for at least four hours. Then rinse and press each slice. Either fry the slices in olive oil or brush with oil and bake for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees.

Beat the eggs with parsley and cheese.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put some sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Lay down a layer of eggplant. Pour on some of the egg mix, some sauce, repeat until all ingredients are used up. Pour some sauce on top.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour.

Submit your favorite

We would like to share the books, that you, our readers value most. Would you submit one or two of your favorites, the title, author, and why you like that book to the editor’s email or on the Sun News Facebook page? Send your “faves” it in the body of an email to features@thesunnews.com by Feb. 13 and we will share those in an article with the other Sun News readers.

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