I love books in general, including cookbooks, many of which make good reading, even if I never get around to actually cooking from them. It pains me to divest myself of books. But some of the cookbooks I’ve collected over the decades have overstayed their welcome, taking up valuable real estate in the kitchen.
Here’s what I got rid of:
How to Cook Without a Book –Ironic, don’t you think?
Rachael Ray 365:No Repeats – lots of similarities, though. Think Garlic Shrimp, followed by Garlic Shrimp with Orzo. This book oversold itself a bit.
The Great Big Cookie Cookbook – See my post entitled “The Dark Side of Cookies.” The two grandsons who always wanted to bake cookies have lost interest in helping. Now they just want me to bake the cookies so they can eat them. I’ll stick with the 4 or 5 recipes from my mom’s collection.
1000 Classic Recipes From Around the World – Beef and Broccoli is the only one that made it into my rotation. I used to feel guilty about the other 999. Now that the book is gone, so is the guilt.
I’m on the fence with Julia Child – The Way to Cook– Aspirational, and purchased after seeing “Julie and Julia.” It seems sacrilegious to get rid of Julia, the icon of cooking. Will she haunt my kitchen if I don’t keep her cookbook? I do admire her, though, especially her famous quote, “You can never have too much butter,” which I have thoroughly taken to heart.
Among others, my 43-year-old Betty Crocker, the go to for basics like gravy and butter cream frosting. Also a source of humor. The back section contains hints on making mealtime interesting for your family. Here I read that I should have a cheerful centerpiece at the breakfast table, ideally a new one every morning.
Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, Barefoot Contessa Family Style and a couple of thick grilling cookbooks. Honestly, we don’t grill that much, but we want to. And fifty cents apiece at a garage sale is a pretty good deal.
Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader. This one is for reading, dreaming, and getting lost in excerpts from the Mitford books. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked anything from this book, but someday I really and truly am going to make Esther’s Orange Marmalade Cake. There’s a lot of butter in Mitford. Julia would approve.
I’m keeping a pile of five or six church and community cookbooks, bursting with recipes for fried chicken and every German dough dish imaginable, including a multitude of cheese button recipes. Typical is a “salad” of jello, marshmallows, cream cheese, real whipped cream and mayo. Main dishes include Rice and Hamburger Hotdish (with cream of mushroom soup in a supporting role; also note that “hotdish” is the Midwestern word for “casserole”), Chicken Ole (cream of mushroom AND cream of chicken soup), and Cowboy Dinner. This one involves kidney beans, which I’m pretty sure cowboys didn’t eat, and if they did I feel sorry for them.
The dessert sections in these church and community cookbooks are the largest categories, with names like Goop Cake, Apple Turnovers and Bible Cake. This is the stuff of the magnificent church potlucks of my childhood. Though I don’t cook like this, I can’t part with the memories of the dear people who unwittingly killed their families with jello and cream of mushroom soup. It would be like throwing out a Bible. I can’t do it. So these bastions of nutritional suicide will remain in the museum section of my cookbook collection.
On to the loose recipes in file folders. The grease-stained, juice-splattered ones have become sacred and shall be kept forever. I threw out a lot from each category, but kept all the dessert recipes. I don’t know why. I look at them often and longingly, and conclude that unless I’m cooking for a crowd (which hasn’t been possible in almost a year), I’d be a fool to make a caramel cheesecake or a triple chocolate-pecan pie. It would be self-destructive for a person who’s able to justify eating pie for breakfast.
Before I go, here’s one of the sacred recipes from the file folder. I promise you it’s delicious, even the Brussels sprouts component. I sometimes serve it with a kale salad, but that might be pushing it.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS GRILLED CHEESE
2 tbs olive oil, plus more for brushing (you could use butter instead, very soft or melted)
¾ lb. Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
8 slices whole grain bread
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbs. prepared mustard
8-10 oz shredded fontina cheese
In a large skillet, heat 1 tbs oil over medium. Add sprouts and shallot, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.
Brush one side of each slice of bread with oil. Sprinkle with the parmesan, pressing gently to adhere cheese to bread. Turn the slices over and spread with mustard.
Layer 4 slices with half the fontina, the sprouts/shallot mixture, and the remaining fontina. Top with remaining slices of bread, parmesan side up.
Heat remaining 1 tbs oil over medium and cook the sandwiches until toasted, 3-4 minutes each side. Or you can go the route of the fake panini press with a preheated George Foreman grill coated with cooking spray.