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Cookbooks to be thankful for, part one. November 10, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. ‘Tis the season to be thankful, and one of the things I’m thankful for is my cookbook collection. Now that cold weather has arrived, I thought I’d share some warming favorites with you. I’m planning a three-part series, with today’s installment devoted to cookbooks featuring hearty and hot foods like chili, root vegetables, roasted dishes, and beans. Part two will showcase books on baking (breads, desserts, and the like). And part three will feature books that emphasize the sacred aspects of cooking, bringing gratitude to the kitchen and table.

Before I get started with today’s list, I’d like to note that many of these books are no longer in print. If a title interests you, I’d suggest that you do as I do and check Amazon and its used bookstore colleagues online. I also haunt local bricks-and-mortar used bookstores, library discard piles and sales, and (of course) the sales tables at Barnes & Noble and any other bookstore I happen upon. And of course, your library might actually have a copy you can check out for free! Flea markets and antiques stores often have cookbooks as well; there’s even one stand in our local farmers’ market that has a stash of them. You just never know what you’ll find!

Okay, on to the list:

The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier (Storey Books, 1984). Every conceivable apple dish, from Open-Face Apple Sandwiches to Sausage and Apple Stuffing to Apple-Cinnamon Souffle. Plus, of course, all the classics and lots of beverages, salads, soups, desserts… yum. 

Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider by Annie Proulx & Lew Nichols (Storey Publishing, 2003, 3rd edition). Enough with the ampersands, people! Yikes. But as long as we’re talking about apples, we might as well add cider to the mix. This book certainly tells you how to do it all, from planting your own apples to making & (I mean, and) using your own cider press. And if you’re wondering if this could be the same Annie Proulx whose novels and movies you’re familiar with, yes, it is.

The Cranberry Connection by Beatrice Ross Buszek (The Stephen Greene Press, 1978, 2nd edition). While we’re on the subject of fruit, if you can find a copy of this book, it’s a treasure. Only turkey and dressing are more associated with Thanksgiving than cranberries. The author bought an old cottage across the road from a cranberry bog in Nova Scotia and researched and developed recipes to make the most of the bounty. My used copy included a recipe card from the original owner that listed all her favorites and the pages where she could find them. Some she especially loved include Granville Grog (non-alcoholic) and Hot Cranberry Swizzle, Cranberries in Snow (cranberry-studded meringue frosting on cupcakes), Twangy Tarts, Loyalist Cookies, Polka Dot Muffins, and (of course) Bluenose Special. But recipes range from Celery Seed Dressing (yes, cranberries are involved) and Cranberry Catsup to Cape Cod Cakes and Cranberry Bread Pudding. A must-find!

The Maxwell House Coffee Cookbook (Pocket Books, 1964). Brrr! That mention of snow made me cold. Nothing like hot cinnamon coffee to chase away the chill! The author of this amazing little paperback doesn’t even get credited, but it’s a hugely fun read. From things to eat with coffee (like homemade doughnuts or sloppy joes) to recipes that include coffee, such as Mocha Meatballs and Beef Stroganoff (er, well, maybe) and Shrimp Tempura with Coffee Sweet-Sour Sauce or, say, Coffee-Lemon Salad Dressing (no way), there are hundreds of fascinating recipes to explore. Mercifully, more standard fare like Mocha Brownies, Mocha Bavarian Cream, and Mocha Devil’s Food Cake are also represented, along with the history of coffee (including that newfangled instant coffee stuff), how to throw a coffee party, and coffee break favorites from around the world. It’s definitely a trip. But buyer beware: Some of these recipes are even stranger than they sound, including an extraordinarily horrific recipe for dietetic trifle. Read before you cook! There may be a reason the author’s anonymous… 

The Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich (Garden Way Publishing, 1989). Whew, back on solid ground with a book of yummy recipes showcasing everybody’s favorite autumn sweetener, maple syrup. You’ll find the classics— Maple Baked Beans, Indian Pudding, Apple Pie, Steamed Boston Brown Bread, Candied Popcorn and Nuts, and Maple Walnut Ice Cream, as well as pancakes, waffles, and granola galore. There are recipes for fruit butters, World Class Maple-Basil Mustard, Spicy Sweet & Sour Salad Dressing, and Tangy North Country Basting Sauce. And for everything from Orange-Spiced Chicken Wings to Opal’s Ham Loaf with Maple Glaze to Tawny Maple Cheesecake and Minnesota Kate’s Cosmic Carrot Cake. Oh, did I mention the Deep Dish Caramel Apple Pie?

Indian Pudding should remind us that Thanksgiving isn’t just about the Pilgrims, but also about the generous Native Americans who shared their food and crop-growing techniques so said Pilgrims could survive. You might want to include an authentic Native American dish on your Thanksgiving table this year. Two of my favorite Native American cookbooks are Southwest Indian Cooking by Marcia Keegan (Clear Light Publishing, 1987), with fantastic photos and Navajo and Pueblo lore, art, and recipes, including Pinon Cookies, Blue Corn Meal Cakes, Indian Fry Bread, Navajo Stew with Corn Dumplings, and Zuni Succotash, and Enduring Harvests: Native American Foods and Festivals for Every Season by E. Barrie Kavasch (Globe Pequot, 1995). November’s recipes include Chicken in Green Mole, Pawnee Ground Roast Pound Meat with Pecans and accompanying side dish Oklahoma Corn and Squash Pawnee, Pueblo Blue Cornmeal Mush, Juniper-Sage Corn Sticks, Grilled Venison Steaks with Wild Mushrooms, and Spicy Pumpkin Raisin Bread with Pumpkin Maple Butter or Pumpkin Seed Butter.

I also am the proud owner of American Indian Corn: 150 Ways to Prepare and Cook It by Charles J. Murphy (Putnam, 1917), from the days when apparently even Americans didn’t call it just “corn” (the generic European term for grain, such as wheat or the famous John Barleycorn). Though the recipes are riveting—who wouldn’t want to try a Corn-Meal Crumpet?—they were written for the woodstove, so if you’re lucky you’ll find a direction such as “bake in a quick oven” but no time, or “bake fifteen minutes” with no clue as to at what temperature.

Let’s linger in the Southwest long enough to talk about another warming winter favorite, chili. Chili! Mouth-Watering Meatless Recipes by Robert Oser (Book Publishing Company, 1999) presents chili cookoff winners that will prove once and for all that it’s not about the meat. From Easy 5-Minute Chili to the dreaded Nuclear Meltdown Chili, you’ll find a wonderful variety, including Coyote Chili, Hearty Trucker’s Chili, Mango Chili, Georgia Sweet Potato Chili, Texas White Chili, Pesto Chili, Cactus Chili, Tex-Mex Chili Mac, and many others, including chili recipes from around the world.

Looking for something a little more upscale? Then turn to Chile Aphrodisia by Amy Reilly and Annette Tomei (Rio Nuevo, 2006). A literal feast for the senses, this gorgeous little book will entice you with recipes for Chile-Lime Baked Fries, Chile-Citrus Olives, Chilled Grilled Shrimp on Fennel-Apple Slaw, Brie Apple Quesadillas, Chile Corn Chowder, Green Chile Eggs Benny, Chile Mac’n’Cheese, Cuban-Style Roast Pork, Thai Firecracker Rice, Grape Salsa, Piquant Pepper Pesto, Chipotle Hummus, Chile Cocoa, Pineapple-Jalapeno Infused Vodka, Chile-Spiced Grilled Fruit, Orange Chipotle Truffles, Mexican Chocolate Torte, and—just in case things were starting to get predictable—Red Hot Strawberry Shortcake.

All this talk about chili brings me to another cold-weather staple, beans. One beautiful bean cookbook worth investigating is The Bean Harvest Cookbook by Ashley Miller (The Taunton Press, 1997), with lovely photos and mouthwatering recipes by this former Moosewood chef for everything from Lemony Lentils and Beans and Greens with Herbed Polenta to New World Cassoulet, Toor Dal Soup with Vegetables, and Hoppin’ John. At the other end of the spectrum is Rita Bingham’s Country Beans (Natural Meals in Minutes, 1998), which focuses on 30-minute meals from food storage and has nary a photo from the first page to the last. Straightforward recipes include Marinated Bean Salad, One and One-Half Bean Salad, Many Bean Soup, Black Bean and Tomato Soup, Beanchiladas, and “Instant” Refried Bean Mix. The emphasis in this one is on low-fat, no-cholesterol, high-fiber, heart-healthy foods. If you’re trying to eat healthier meals, it’s worth seeking out.

Let’s move along to the rich, robust winter vegetables, beets and potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash, carrots and onions, kale and winter radishes. I have three favorite cookbooks that celebrate these earthy winter staples. The first is The Vegetarian Hearth: Recipes and Reflections for the Cold Season by Darra Goldstein (Harper Collins 1996). This book is much broader in scale than the others, focusing on everything from beverages to breads, but always with an emphasis on dishes for the cold season. It’s an elegant book, whether you’re making its recipes for Onion Jam, Glaceed Kumquats, Sauteed Mushrooms and Chestnuts, Gingerbread with Hot Orange Sauce, or Sugarplums, or are simply revelling in reading the adventures of the great writer (and vegetarian) Count Leo Tolstoy in a chapter on Tolstoy’s Table, including the recipe for Countess Tolstoy’s Hot Apple Compote. It’s a literate work by a professor of Russian at Williams College, but don’t let the references to T.S. Eliot, Tolstoy and the like throw you off, should you be of a more culinary rather than literary bent. It really is one of the best cookbooks I own.

Coming back down to earth (so to speak), you’re bound to enjoy the luscious recipes in The Roasted Vegetable by Andrea Chesman (Harvard Common Press, 2002) and Roots: The Underground Cookbook by Barbara Grunes and Anne Elise Hunt (Chicago Review Press, 1993). From Andrea’s fabulous Pesto Eggplant Rollatini, Creamy Penne and Roasted Vegetables, Fall Vegetable Tart, Winter Vegetable Strudel on a Bed of Greens, and White Pizza with Roasted Winter Vegetables to Grunes and Hunt’s Potato Dumplings in the German Style, Vesuvio-Style Roast Potatoes, Elephant Garlic Game Chips, Vichy-Style Carrots, and Root Risotto, these are dishes that will make anyone say “Let it snow!”

Okay, we’re almost done. (Can you see why I split this into three posts?!) But I can’t leave out that other iconic fall vegetable, pumpkins, now can I? Believe it or not, there are quite a few pumpkin cookbooks out there. The one I have is the Pumpkin Lovers Cook Book (Golden West Publishers, 1992). Like The Maxwell House Coffee Cookbook mentioned earlier, this one is anonymous, but fortunately, the recipes all look good. There are plenty of variations on pumpkin bread, pumpkin roll (yum!!!), pumpkin pie, pumpkin biscuits, muffins, cakes, bars, and the like. You’ll find directions for roasting pumpkin seeds, making pumpkin puree, and even drying pumpkin at home. And there are recipes for savory pumpkin dishes like Chicken Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Bisque, Meat Loaf in a Pumpkin, Mexican Stuffed Pumpkin, Pumpkin Vegetable Scallop, Pumpkin Souffle, and Pumpkin Spaghetti. There’s even a list of pumpkin festivals and other family-friendly fall activities.

Whew! Are you hungry yet? Do you have favorite fall cookbooks I’m not aware of? If so, please write in and let me know. Not that there’s any more room on the groaning bookshelves. (In fact, I think I hear our friend Ben screaming in agony at the very thought of another cookbook entering the house. Good thing he hasn’t seen the Twelve Days of Christmas Cookbook I picked up at a flea market on Saturday… )

              ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

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Comments»

1. nancybond - November 10, 2008

I adore cookbooks! I could spend an entire afternoon just pouring over them, oo’ing and ah’ing over the recipes. :) These all sound very good and I look forward to the next instalment!

Thanks, Nancy! There’s so much more to a good cookbook than just recipes, isn’t there? I love losing myself in the adventure. There’s certainly more TK!


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