As you might imagine, we have our fair share of cookbooks. Sure, there are a few which are unique favorites like the Hay Day Country Market Cookbook and some we rely on for quick recipes like Food & Wine Quick From Scratch One-Dish Meals. And then there are those which we got because they are so beautiful but which we don’t imagine actually recreating dishes from, like anything by Thomas Keller.
Recently, my eyes caught sight of The Best of Taste, almost a folio-sized cookbook based off of pictures and recipes from Williams-Sonoma’s Taste culinary magazine. It was a cookbook I purchased a dozen years ago because of the gorgeous pictures. I never intended to cook anything from it—and hadn’t—and it essentially served as a nice coffee table book.
But a couple of weekends ago, I got curious about it and opened the book after letting it sit ignominiously for twelve years without once looking through it. Perhaps I was in a different mood, but suddenly the recipes looked so much more interesting and manageable—in fact, easy!—than they seemed before. Previously, I must have equated the beautiful pictures with impossible preparations (surely!) and didn’t even bother to look closely at the fact that the ingredient lists of most recipes were relatively short, and the numbered steps were strangely few. Many recipes only had 2-3 steps in the process. Why didn’t I think about cooking from this book before?
Since then, I’ve gotten busy and have tried to make up much lost time by looking to the cookbook when I want a little inspiration. Sunday before last, for our end-of-the-weekend home-cooked feast, I tried Braised Chicken with Shallots, Dates and Apricots. I was overcome with excitement because this recipe miraculously included all sorts of items I’d been meaning to go through. Yes, not only did we have frozen chicken thighs, but we also had Medjool dates and a bag of shallots. Ok, we did have to get dried apricots, but we would have needed them soon for homemade granola anyway. My one qualm about the dish (above) was that it ended up looking nothing like the picture in the book. And, if truth be told, I’m not sure it could look as dry as the dish in the book since these ingredients were supposed to stew in liquid for a substantial length of time. In any case, it was sweet and sticky and savory and rib-sticking on a chilly autumn evening.
Then, bolstered by my success with the chicken dish, on the following Wednesday evening—the only day of the workweek during which I have time to cook something remotely interesting and new—I tried their Spanish Garlic Soup. When Will and I were walking the Camino de Santiago this past summer, we had several bowls of the Garlic Soup, sometimes thickened with bread and other times having chunks of bread floating in it. The Taste soup (above) was very nostalgic, though perhaps a bit more refined in flavor than the ones we had in the countryside... As an added bonus, this time the finished product looked exactly like the picture in the cookbook.
Will then got jealous that I had a new favorite cookbook and started sneaking peeks into Taste. Taking his cue from my earlier use of recipes which required almost no ingredient not already in our kitchen, on Saturday he set out to find a simple recipe which made use of items we had. When I plumbed the depths of the freezer to bring out a bag of frozen almond meal flour, he decided on Hazelnut Cake from Verona. Very reminiscent of all those torta della nonnas—generically “grandmother’s cake,” it could run the gamut from a custard pie cake to chocolate torte—this one used hazelnut and rum to create a moist and dense cake. We had to do some improvising with the measurements since the original recipe used whole hazelnuts that you ground yourself, but the results seem to suggest that our 2-year-old hazelnut flour did its job fine.
Given that the above resulted from just one week of exploring Taste, I’m going to go through this cookbook and try more dishes!