Monday, January 21, 2013

Cooking Resolutions


How are you doing with your new year's resolutions? Every year I tell myself I'll cook more whole grains, eat less meat and more vegetables and fruit and try more new recipes. I know plenty of people just want to cook more, which is a worthy goal and others want to learn to cook. The nine principles listed in the book of The New Way to Cook Light just sound like common sense, and could each be considered resolutions, they are:

Embrace the new variety
Cook more often
Eat more whole foods
Favor the healthy fats
Eat less meat, more plants
Cook seasonally and when possible, locally
Lean new cooking techniques
Buy the best ingredients you can afford
Cook and eat mindfully and responsibly

Obviously The New Way to Cook Light covers all these principles. It's a big book with with 400 recipes. Recipes run the gamut from hearty lasagna, to artichoke and goat cheese strata and tortilla meatball soup. There are recipes like French Frisee Salad with Bacon and Poached Egg you might be surprised to find. The photos are particularly appealing. There are some concessions made, like tiny portions of oven fried French fries, but the recipes are well tested and appealing.

Here are some other books that will also help you with those principles:

Cook more often
Learn new cooking techniques

If you feel confident in your cooking skills, cooking more frequently is easy. A good resource for beginners is Aida's Mollenkamp's Key to the Kitchen. There are 305 recipes, that incorporate 40 essential techniques  with 300 photographs to show you how. The recipes like Real-Deal Pancetta and Pork Ragu, Tomato-Orange Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons and Crepes with Mustard Greens and Lemongrass Beef Stir Fry are fresh and appealing, but it's the techniques that will really help the most, things like how to measure properly, how to cut up a chicken and a visual guide to the different knife cuts so you can see the different between minced and finely chopped for example. I particularly like the "riffs" which are suggestions and for how you can customize each recipe to your own liking.

Cook seasonally and when possible, locally
Buy the best ingredients you can afford
I highly recommend The Kitchen Diaries, A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater It’s not actually new, it was written in 2006, but it’s just been published in the US. It’s a really unique format, a journal that covers not quite every day of the year with diary like entries and recipes. Everything is seasonal and it’s just an inspiring book. There's also great advice on choosing ingredients. You'll find both healthy recipes and some very indulgent ones too. If one day doesn’t appeal, you can just skip to another day. You get Nigel Slater’s personal tips and insights. One day it’s spiced roast potatoes with yogurt and mint, and the next it’s lamb shanks with mustard and mashed potatoes. There are desserts too and they are all pretty simple--cobbler, tarts, sorbets and cakes. 

The recipes are written in a loose manner, so I think this book is best for more confident home cooks. 

Eat more whole foods

Seriously, this is my resolution every year! The increased availability of whole grains and whole grain pasta is helping, but so are cookbooks like Grain Mains 101 Surprising and Satisfying whole grain recipes for every meal of the day. I have several whole grain cookbooks, but this one is different. It really does have surprising recipes! There are plenty of whole grain salads but also soups, stews, and casserole dishes to warm you up. Many of these dishes are wildly unique like Avgolemono Soup with Corn Grits Dumplings or Millet and Spinach Casserole or Teff Gnocchi in Cheddar Sauce. 

You will end up buying new ingredients like millet, amaranth, teff, wild rice, wheat berries, barley and more.

Eat more whole foods
Favor the healthy fats
Eat less meat, more plants
Lean new cooking techniques

My final book recommendation is Hero Food. While there is some meat in this book it plays a very small role. The book really focused more on vegetables and whole grains. There are chapters on ingredients that chef Seamus Mullen loves like olive oil, parsley, corn, berries and anchovies! This is a really cool book and it was inspired by a chef’s journey toward wellness after receiving a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. It’s organized in a really interesting way, with each season being paired with a region such as Winter in Barcelona and Summer on the Farm. The techniques are very creative like how to preserve tuna or how to pickle shallots. I have bookmarked recipes for Snap Pea Salad with radishes and ricotta and Caramelized Cauliflower with Anchovies.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for the review copies of books I received from publishers