Friday, August 21, 2009

f-r-i-d-a-y niiiiiight

I finished Gran Torino - it's sort of, sort of. Clint Eastwood can certainly draft a story and put it to film with excellent results. Unfortunately, even though I enjoyed it, it's wholly lifted from Million Dollar Baby. Of course, if you do something that well then you might as well keep pulling that lever.

I have The Current (and Mark Wheat) up on a Friday night which reminds me so much of when the station first turned the key and started the engine back in 2005. I was living in Nevada and pulled it up online shortly after a trip to Minneapolis to see the Slobberbone farewell tour at the 400 Bar. I vividly remember listening to Wheat for the first time and deciding that I'd found my perfect radio station. I remember that first night was the eve of the weekend that Let It Be records was closing in the Cities - I'd only been there once but it seemed the closing of a circle since Wheat passed along some memories of spending his early Minneapolis days at the shop. Sorry if that's more of an unrelated backstory than you asked for; it happens.

I have the cookbooks on the end table and we can begin: to your seats, hands on laps, pencils at the ready.

So I'm cheating a bit here. These three were published and purchased in England before Oliver crossed the pond. He was pretty big right off the bat in the UK and his first three series, which these books follow, were very enjoyable and useful. It always helped me to watch the cooking going on before giving it a whirl and his stuff back then was simple to master. I've done just about everything from all the books over the last decade or so (they hold my well-installed blinding pasta recipe) and can honestly say you'd be hard-pressed to have three better books to work from. Oliver's probably has a half-dozen other books but I haven't much watched him or bought any of his other books aside from this Making You a Better Cook reference thingy.

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home - the Moosewood Collective

My volume of this basic book has a busted spine, pages yanked out (though stored somewhere), and the remaining pages are pretty beat up. I think I bought this along about the time I was buying Oliver's first book(s) and it quickly became my most basic favorite. I still use the black bean soup and corn scones on a nearly monthly basis. The beauty of this book is that all the recipes are easy and you won't find yourself hunting the store for anything too off-beat. (There are loads of 'Moosewood' books, some that I have and use often, but this one is by far the easiest and most functional.)

Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen - Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

A newer volume from about 2003 or so. I found Lidia purely by accident some Sunday morning while I channel-surfing in Nevada. She's on PBS and does the best Italian stuff - I think she's better and more straight forward than someone like Mario Batali (her son, ironically enough, is one of Batali's partners). My basic risotto recipe, eggplant parmigiana, gnocchi, and menestra are all pulled wholesale from this volume. She's had a number of additional series' on PBS and even though I've watched a bunch of them I don't need to get much beyond this book. I think everyone should have one go-to Italian cookbook since just about every person in the World - including the guests coming to your house or the girls you're trying to impress - likes Italian food.

I'll admit that until just now I didn't even know this little volume had a single author. I apologize to Ms. Clements - I just thought this book must have been passed down on slabs of marble. I happen to think, as a mediocre baker, that this is pure gold. Never a foot set wrong on any recipe and we've done a load. (This was the companion to X's 'pie and manners' mission last summer.) We originally discovered it across the hall on N. Park Dr. as it supported Corey's baking habit and I'm sure he told us (or me) to stop asking questions and just buy the book. Since everyone likes baked eats I'll guarantee this cookbook. Guaranteed.

Veganomicon - Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

After I'd been cooking for awhile I came to realize that I can almost immediately (maybe after looking at four or five recipes) recognize a cookbook that suits my styles. This one is the most recent purchase on the shelf and it's been a 100% success. Since we don't do meat, and fish/seafood are slowly disappearing from the menu, this book is worth it's weight. It's so good that you don't have to worry about "Oh, will they eat a vegan recipe" when they come over. No need to even tell anyone - and why would you since your veg/vegan arsenal can be so strong these days? - because they'll never know. Not only are the recipes brilliant but the narrations is hilarity.

We probably have three dozen various books on the kitchen shelf and they all have things I like to cook; very few make the cut even in the store. But, if pressed to leave the house with only five(-ish) books and start over again these would be the easiest choices.

Don't say I never gave you anything.

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