I've been thinking for awhile about doing a series of posts about my favorite cooking things , including what cookbook I'd take to a desert island (the island having a full complement of grocery stores and working kitchens, of course). It wouldn't be Joy of Cooking -- when my copy fell apart years ago I didn't bother to replace it, and it wouldn't be How to Cook a Wolf. Though that book was interesting I find the cult of MFK Fisher unbearable.
No, of my 50 or so cookbooks (I haven't counted, and I just gave away a bunch in the interest of decluttering), my current go-to guide is Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.
It's wide-ranging, covering solid basics as well as including intriguing new ideas, and usually when I go looking for a recipe to help me execute an idea, it's in there. (It could be that my ideas float up based on previous browsing sessions, but still.) And the techniques are sound and work in a home kitchen, unlike with some "Restaurant" cookbooks. You can tell that they've been thoroughly tested, whereas last weekend when I tried out a focaccia recipe from my new Mario Batali cookbook, Molto Italiano, the proportions of flour to liquid were off. I dig Mario, but damn, talk about cult of personality. The way the dude's face stares at you from the cover is a bit creepy, and the still life of his orange clogs on the back cover is a bit much as well. It's an intriguing cookbook nonetheless--has lots of recipes I'd like to try sometime, like when a diet is the farthest thing from my mind. There's a recipe for battered and fried celery in there--as well as Roman cheese-stuffed fried rice balls.
All of Moosewood's cookbooks are rather more down to earth, and the recent ones have shed some of the extreme earthy-crunchiness of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. (I don't have that one, but I do have a couple of others, as well as Mollie Katzen's Still Life With Menu. About 13 years ago that was a favorite but I don't pull it out so much anymore.)
But thanks to Moosewood we know we like a nice tofu scramble, and we also know how to make it. And a simple celery with blue cheese salad has become something of a staple (it's not deep fried, but it's not low-cal, either).
And Moosewood came through again yesterday: I was in the grocery store buying supplies for this weekend's houseguests, the 17-year-old niece and a friend. I was buying breakfast cereal and goggling at the price of granola (seven bucks for one bag--oy, but kind of stupid of me to stop at the local carriage-trade grocery store for cereal, huh?). And I realized that I probably had all the ingredients and could make some, provided I could find a recipe. Sure enough, the recipe was in Moosewood New Classics, and I have all the stuff. So sometime this afternoon or tomorrow, I will be making breakfast cereal from scratch. I've never done this before, because I have much the same attitude toward this as I do toward spinning: Sure you can, but why? I'll let you know if it turns out to be the most delicious granola ever, but I really suspect the next batch will be Trader Joe's "Just the Clusters" maple pecan.
Next installment in this series: My desert island kitchen gadget.