33 Things I Learned From This Season’s Cookbooks

I’m pleased to announce that, as of Monday, my annual cookbook round-up for the Times Book Review is live and ready for your reading pleasure. As you know, I always love this assignment, not only because I get to pore over beautiful books all spring, but because it really forces me to cook outside my comfort zone, to seek out new recipes, new techniques, new ingredients, and even new gear. (Hello pizza peel!) This year’s crop was particularly influential and I thought you might like to know a few of the lessons, quotes, and tricks that will most likely always stay with me. I included a few from each book, but there are lots more in the round-up, so I encourage you to head over to the Times for the full story. (P.S. Shake Shack not pictured.)

From Pizza Camp, by Joe Beddia

1. Do as the Neapolitans do and never use cooked tomato sauce on pizza — it will overwhelm the toppings. Crushed raw tomatoes (with a little fresh garlic and olive oil) adds a brightness I had no idea I was missing. I can’t see ever going back.

2. Allowing your dough to ferment for 24 hours is going to take your pizza game from good to great.

3. Pickled jalapeños: A great addition to Hawaiian Pizza.

From Salad for President, by Julia Sherman

4. Fried cooked quinoa makes a welcome addition to just about any salad. (Fry over medium-high heat in grapeseed oil, 5 to 7 minutes; spread on a paper towel to drain.)

5. Trick for through-and-through evenly browned golden roasted cauliflower: Marinate it in spices and olive oil at least four hours before cooking.

6. My go-to Kimchi-Miso dressing forevermore: 1/4 cup kimchi, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons white miso paste, 1/4 cup grapeseed oil.

From Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: A Mouthwatering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes, by Pamela Strobel

7. For crispiest Southern Fried Chicken, add baking powder to the dredge mix. (P.S. You can use your Dutch Oven as a deep fryer.)

8. From Strobel: “There’s a lot of trouble in this world, a lot of hunger, a lot of weeping. And the way I see it, every home-cooked meal is a lovin’ gesture and a kind of celebration in itself.”

From Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, by Samin Nosrat

9. Olive oil is produced seasonally. Look for a production date on the label when you purchase a bottle to ensure you are buying a current pressing. It will go rancid about twelve to fourteen months after it’s been pressed.

10. For maximum pie crust flakiness: Keep everything cold while making your dough.

11. Oil makes a moister cake than butter.

12. Nosrat: “The true value of acid is not its pucker, but balance. Acid grants the palate relief, and makes food more appealing by offering contrast.”

From Dinner: Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining, by Elizabeth Bard

13. In France, you will get disapproving looks if you walk down the street eating a sandwich. The French do not eat while walking, driving, or working. They respect food and food rituals.

14. The key to successful homemade mayonnaise is having everything at room temperature. (Combine 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt in a mixing bowl. Using an electric egg beater, beat the yolk mixture while adding a few drops of oil at a time — Until you’ve added 1/2 cup of oil — safflower, sunflower, peanut, or other mild vegetable oil. When the mixture begins to thicken and set, add a tiny but steady trickle of oil. The mayonnaise will not take more than a minute or two to puff up.) Pregnant women or anyone with an allergy to raw eggs are not advised to eat this.

15. Classic Yogurt Cake is the first cake most French children learn to bake. (Here’s one from DALS, FYI.)

16. Bard: “For centuries the French have ended their meals, helped their digestion, improved their circulation, and lessened their water retention with infusions — herbal teas made with actual plants and herbs. Drinking herbal tea is now one of my most ingrained French habits…In the evening, a mug of herbal tea and a square of dark chocolate tells m y body that the kitchen is closed.”

From Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark

17. It’s time we fought back against “the tyranny of a perfectly composed plate with three distinct elements in separate little piles. The chicken, the carrots, the rice. The meatloaf, the mashed potatoes, the peas.” More pleasing might be “a giant salad filled with oozing, creamy Burrata cheese, ripe juicy tomatoes, and peaches. Serve it with a baguette you picked up on the way home or squirreled away in your freezer, and maybe some salami and that’s all you need for a meal.”

18. Frying your own tortilla strips for Mexican Tortilla Soup is the difference between a kid tolerating a meal and begging for it.

19. Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby (think “gougere cheese puff meets Yorkshire pudding”) right out of the oven with a gin martini makes a showstopping dinner party starter.

20. Combining fresh sausage (squeezed out of its casing) with ground pork makes a showstopping burger. (She uses chorizo, but sweet or hot Italian work magic too.)

21. I’ve long known that toasted anchovy breadcrumbs elevate a simple pasta. But now I know to use panko in those toasted anchovy breadcrumbs.

From Tartine All Day, by Elisabeth Prueitt

22. Gluten-free eating doesn’t have to feel upending or intrusive.

23. Especially after you do one major shop of alternative flours, including masa harina, the cornmeal that has undergone “nixtamalization,” a process that makes corn softer and more nutritious, and that makes your cornbread as fluffy as air.

24. You could do worse than having a stash of gluten-free buckwheat crepe mix in the fridge: Blend 3/4 cup buckwheat flour, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt; keep up to five days and cook 3 tablespoons of batter into a hot buttered pan for 30 seconds a side. From Pruiett: “I hope that you will pair your crepes not only with ham and cheese or sautéed mushrooms and an egg, but also with sweet fillings, such as melted chocolate, sautéed apples, or pastry cream with raspberries and figs.” Um, sure. No problem.

25. Chickpea flour makes a surprisingly crispy crust for fried chicken.

From Scraps, Wilt, & Weeds: Turning Waste into Plenty, by Mads Refslund & Tama Matsuoka Wong

26. In the United States, 40 percent of food goes uneaten, amounting to about $162 billion a year. (Globally, that number goes up to $750 billion.)

27. Fermentation is the “flavorful space between fresh and rotten.” (Related, Refslund asks, instead of mushy fruit: retrain yourself to see succulent fermented glaze.)

28. A re-imagined cacio e pepe: Spiraizled cauliflower core tossed with pecorino, butter, crème fraîche and spices.

From Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories, by Randy Garutti, Mark Rosati, Dorothy Kalins, and Danny Meyer 

29. Use Martin’s potato rolls for your burgers; toast and butter them with a brush.

30. For the best burgers: Grind muscle meat, not economy cuts.

31. Invert a strainer over your frying burger to control fat splatter.

32. American cheese takes exactly 45 seconds to melt on a patty.

From On Vegetables, by Jeremy Fox

33. “Food from a happy kitchen tastes better than food from an unhappy one.”

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12 Comments

Anu

Shouldn’t it be “”pore over” beautiful books all spring”? Sorry, had to point it out.

Reply
Lara

Thank you for informing me that there is a Shake Shack Cookbook! The decision to buy it took about 2.3 seconds to make. it’s arriving on Friday!

Reply
Jodi

You won’t be disappointed! It’s half story, half recipes and totally wonderful!

Reply
Katharine Mead

INVERT A STRAINER FOR SPLATTER GUARD! My tiny kitchen and frugal buying habits are eternally grateful for this multitasking idea. Genius.

Reply
Vanessa

I really believed No 10 until I tried the French Tart Dough recipe on David Lebovitz site. I will never make a crust without brown butter again!

Reply
Larissa

The suggestion to use potato buns for hamburgers is really interesting and sounds delicious! I’m a Canadian who moved to the US earlier this year. One of the first things I noticed in the grocery store here is the amount of potato bread in the bread aisle! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in Canada. Is it really popular here?

Reply
littleblackdomicile blogger

Thank’s for condensing all this info for us! We have so many clients that love to cook, let us help plan the space and are now ready to cozy up with all their cookbooks and go wild!-Laurel Bledsoe

Reply