Sometimes I get a cookbook that just sings right from the first page. I shouldn’t have been surprised that Carla Lalli Music’s book had that je ne sais quoi quality - she is, after all, the food director at Bon Appetit.
But her new book, Where Cooking Begins, is a true delight. It starts with methodology rather than recipe and seems to aim to get people to be more spontaneous with their cooking. It is a book that will help people need recipes less. If you want to be a more confident cook you’ll love having Carla along to guide you and if you already are confident then Carla will help you get new ideas and brush up on some classic techniques.
It was a delight to have Carla come to the Potluck kitchen and showcase a recipe that seems to embody the book - super simple and bright but with just enough twist to feel brilliant.
This time of year I start to get antsy for spring. February is over and it should be warm.- except it never actually is.
But the good news is that we can enjoy all the incredibly warming recipes of winter for a little longer. Luckily, we have just the recipe, from a book I am particularly excited about: Katie Parla’s Food of the Italian South. If you aren’t familiar with Katie’s work then you just aren’t reading enough about Italy. The Rome-based journalist has written some of the best food and travel guides for the region. Her first book, Tasting Rome, is an engrossing love letter to the food of one of the world’s greatest food cities. And now her upcoming book explores the cuisine of Italy’s Southern regions.
I am so excited for this book (since my love of Italy is basically unsurpassed) and loved having Katie in the kitchen to showcase one of the book’s recipes. She shared her Polpette Casce e Ovo - essentially bread ‘meatballs’. They are doughy delights and perfect for staying inside and eating to your heart’s content.
Any time spent with Carla Hall is just pure delight, due to her being among the most genuine and charming people around. But it is extra fun getting to cook from her newest book - Carla Hall’s Soul Food - because it is such a beautiful personal exploration. The book takes a unique perspective on her own background and includes a lot of vignettes via a road trip.
But of course the recipes are what really draw us all in and I couldn’t wait to get her unique take on shrimp. Her Cracked Shrimp recipe is a twist on the cracked conch she saw when she worked in the Caribbean and it has completely shifted my view on cooking shrimp. Watch the video below to see her technique and get the recipe to try it yourself!
When I met Dorie Greenspan many years ago I was so delighted to learn that the voice I relate to so much on the page of her cookbooks is the exact person you get if you are lucky enough to have her standing in front of you. For so many of us she is our helpful and enthusiastic guide, coaxing us along to make recipes that bring out our best selves without feeling a lot of stress.
For her newest book, Everyday Dorie, she really brings us into her home and I wanted to tackle a recipe from it with her that really spoke to her demeanor. This salad we made together doesn’t have an artfully done photograph in the book nor was it one of the ones she suggested. But I love it because it reminded me of the quintessential way all of Dorie’s books make me feel - like I can do anything with whatever I have on hand and it will still turn out fabulously.
So watch me gush over one of my favorite people (sorry, I just have to every time I see her) and then get inspiration for a salad that will have you reaching into your pantry in no time.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair. You’re not supposed to be able to sell 14 million albums AND be a great cook. But alas, that’s what you get with Martina McBride. The country music superstar just happens to also be an accomplished cookbook author and her second book, Martina’s Kitchen Mix, was recently released.
Martina came by the kitchen to share a little bit about her book as well as one of her recipes. She was so sweet we might even forgive her for being good at everything.
I grew up with a grandmother who was all about pie, and she was particularly adept at the perfect pie crust. It was always a lattice and she made it look so effortless.
But of course as I got older and tried doing it on my own I started to feel that there was a lot of effort behind the effortless. I needed someone to take the fear out of my lattice. And Vallery Lomas was just the best possible person.
You might recognize Valerie as the winner of the Great American Baking Show. She has an awesome blog Foodie in New York that is a party-lovers’ dream. Vallery came over to show me her lattice crust secrets and she had so much advice. From the best way to cut the pie crust to the tricks to hide any imperfections I feel like I am ready to take on any pie now.
When I first moved to New York, my mother-in-law made sure to pass along a lot of her local ingredient knowledge. With seafood there was one constant: Citarella. She would travel over 20 blocks to get her fish at Citarella because to her there was nothing better.
So when Joe Guerrera- Citarella’s founder and original fishmonger - came out with a book, I knew it was going to be great. The title is succinct perfection: Joe Knows Fish. I had to have Joe over and he decided to share one of his easiest recipes, Spaghetti Vongole. It starts with good pasta and very fresh cockles or littleneck clams. But it’s one of those recipes that takes only a few ingredients and makes something magical.
I’m a little bit cookbook obsessed, to the point where I like to read them in bed like a good novel. And like a great narrative book, a cookbook can sometimes suck you in and make you want to revisit it over and over. Bottom of the Pot by Naz Deravian is one of those undeniable books. It recounts her Persian childhood and years of cooking her native cuisine in North America. And the recipes reflect that duality - traditional but all with swap-outs that make it accessible for finding ingredients here. If you have never tried Persian cuisine then you haven’t tried one of the best on the planet, but Naz’s book makes it feel like it is second nature. It is by far one of my favorite books of the year
Now that I’m done gushing, let’s talk about this recipe. Naz came over and we made one of her most vibrant dishes. Her yogurt beet dip, known as Borani-yeh Laboo, is worth it just for the color alone. But the simplicity of the recipe defies the depth of flavor that the beets and tarragon give to this appetizer. Make it yourself and then pick up the book. I promise it will become a favorite.