Monday, December 1, 2008

Cookbook Challenge

How many cookbooks do you own?

How many of them do you really use? How many have you cooked more than one recipe from? More than five? Double digits?

Full disclosure: I am a recipe junkie.* I have at least 50 cookbooks sitting in my apartment here in Canberra, and easily that number again back in Boston. And that’s not counting back issues of cooking magazines and clippings from newspapers. Not to mention printouts and downloads and bookmarks of dozens and dozens of internet sites and recipes.

And I keep looking for more. I’m reading at least five food blogs on an ongoing basis, taking cookbooks out of the library, and visiting new release cookbooks in the bookstore to debate about putting them on my Christmas list.

And yet, when it comes time to cook dinner, what are the chances I’m going to make something I’ve never made before? Am I using this treasure trove of culinary knowledge that’s at my fingertips?

Not enough. And that’s why I came up with the Cookbook Challenge for myself. I thought other people might be interested too. Here’s how it works:

1. Count up the number of cookbooks you have. (Include magazines, clipping binders, electronic folders—whatever you’ve got that you want to explore further.)
2. When you’ve got a total, pick a number between one and, say, 50. (Better yet, if you can, have someone else do it for you, to ensure that it’s really random.)
3. Count through your cookbooks until you get to that number, and pull out the randomly selected cookbook, magazine, folder, etc. (You could also pull names out of a hat, but this is quicker.)
4. Commit to cooking at least one new recipe from that resource in the next month. Five, if you want to really challenge yourself.
5. Tell about what you discovered—send me an email, post about it yourself, comment here (I'll report back on what I found). Did you discover a new favorite? Or is this cookbook just a pretty face with nothing in it you can see yourself cooking?

That’s all you have to do, between now and December 31. I know this is a pretty busy month for most people, but you’ve still got to eat, right? And you never know, you just might find a new holiday favorite!

*I think it could be a family problem….Miss B talked me into buying the cookbook in the picture, and then I caught Jasper the Shark reading it….


Stephen said... Best Blogger Tips

OK, so I dove in and took your challenge today. The cookbook that I selected is The All-New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook. I decided to further randomize my cooking experience by asking Lele (my better half) to select a recipe from the cookbook for dinner tonight. He selected the Chipotle Marinated Pork Chops with Chimichurri Sauce (p. 346). I picked the Ecudorian Potato & Cheese Patties (page 528) to go with it. As you know, Lele refuses to eat anything with a beak so he reminded me that I would need to substitute the chicken broth for something else. I obediently used vegetable broth. I've shared the recipes on my blog

We both really enjoyed the meal and are happy we have some leftovers. I think that we were expecting the pork to have more of a chipotle taste but it really is overpowered by the chimichurri sauce (which is really great). The chimichurri sauce calls for raw shredded carrots and onions, but I ended up cooking them in olive oil for a few minutes before adding them to the sauce. I think I would stick to that method when I make this again.

With the potato patties the important thing to stress is the oil really needs to be very hot to get a crispy exterior. I really enjoyed the chimichurri sauce over the pork. It's very flavorful and jazzes up what would be just a boring pork chop. I think that next time I would probably use more than just one chipotle pepper and might let the pork chops marinate a bit longer than the 2 hours. All and all, I'm happy I have this cookbook. Not all of the recipes are as light as you might think, but they are certainly healthier than some other choices and are never boring. So, thank you Roving Lemon, you've helped me discover a new favorite! I will be picking some more recipes from this cookbook during the rest of the month and will share them here.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Stephen - So glad you're enjoying it, and that recipe sounds great! I'm always looking for ideas on jazzing up pork chops myself. Now I've got to get busy and put up my first recipe review....

PS I love that Lele is so adamant about the "no-beak" rule that you can't even use chicken broth! Is there more to the story?

Cheryl A said... Best Blogger Tips

Good challenge! I'm just reading this two days before we leave on vacation, so tonight's challenge is to make dinner out of what's in the fridge - leftover roast beef, heavy cream, some veggies, and applesauce. That's going to be some weird dinner!

But if I were to count my cookbooks it is also in the 50+ range. I did just give away 10 years of cooking mags too. I constantly flip through the cookbooks. When I get bored with the usual repetroire I pull them all out again. Maybe I should do it more often...

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh yes, the "clean-out-the-fridge-random-leftovers" dinner--I'm very familiar with that! Yours sounds like a good candidate for Mystery Casserole, followed by Applesauce Crumble with Whipped Cream for dessert. Enjoy your vacation!

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