In my last post, where I talk about all the ways we experimented with brining turkey, I mentioned the inspiration of the cookbook club. Friday I started cooking from the 10th book, a different one every month, and sharing it on social media with other “club” members. This version of an online community is managed by Food52, a popular web site for people obviously interested in food.
The club, a closed group on Facebook, has thousands of members. A small percentage of us cook and write about it. What is so interesting to me is seeing results, and comments, successes and failures, by cooks from around the world. Seasonal cooking as well as regional cooking are thrown for a loop when the Aussies and Kiwis from the bottom of the world, and the Asians, the Europeans, the Canadians, South Americans and those of us Stateside all try and cook from the same book with ingredients we can source.
We vote for the books, three months at a time, a few months in advance. This allows us to reserve library books, or to have a book readily available worldwide.
This month? Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore. I am lucky to have a great county library where I can reserve books, and then use online renewals to keep them for up to nine weeks if no one else requests them. I got the book in midNovember and started reading. I like this book quite a bit. Her column on line explores these great recipes in depth, and uses input to make them easy for anyone to tackle. Tweaks to them. Hints. Substitutions.
I needed to make cookies for a cookie party. I spent Friday doing one from this book and one from the latest Ottolenghi book, SWEET. Sweet is the book of the month for the baking version of our little online community. If you have never cooked from Ottolenghi’s books, you should get your hands on any of them and just have fun. I have all of them in eBook versions. The cookbook club in June let us loose on all of his previous books.
What did I bake?
From Genius Recipes I visited an old favorite. Molasses cookies from the Silver Palate. Mine spread too much. I think I didn’t let the dough chill enough. Still, they taste great and they look like lace cookies, which make them perfect tea cookies.
From Sweet, I made these absolutely amazing cranberry, oat, and almond cookies, covered in a white chocolate glaze. These disappeared immediately at our event Saturday. Not sugary at all. There is only a half cup of sugar in the entire batch, which made 48 cookies. The white chocolate is the right touch to make these really good. Perfect with a cup of tea. The online recipe for these cookies is on the Random House UK web page, The Happy Foodie.
I am working on my baking skills this month. In my CSA share, I am getting the flour and grain shares, which will be put to use often, as I work my way through the Genius Recipe book. Jim Lahey’s famous No Knead bread is on my short list, as is an interesting one grain ingredient cracker. More on whether I do these, and if they are successful, later this month.
As for why I am active in this community. I promised myself that I would continue to challenge myself in retirement. Trying new things. Different cuisines. Tackling that fear of baking. Within our little online group, we commiserate. We encourage. We share. Some of us aren’t as good at it as others. Doesn’t matter. We enjoy cooking and by seeing the results, we become determined to try a harder recipe, and expand our knowledge of techniques.
In February, the cooking club celebrates its first anniversary by opening the month to a free-for-all with all the books we used in the first year. I joined the second month, so I didn’t cook from Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott. I will be reserving that book and facing that challenge. To me, pie crust is hard to do. But what the heck! They may end up messy, but taste is what really counts.
My other favorites from this past 10 months? Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard. Made in India by Meera Sodha. All the Ottolenghi books. I had three of Ottolenghi’s already on eBooks, and have downloaded the others. CSA farm shares tempt me to dig into those books for good vegetable recipes. And, if it wasn’t for Deep Run Roots, I never would have grown okra in my garden.
Or made these.
The okra fries are so easy, and so good. Just olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Screaming hot oven or on the grill. Crunchy, salty, spicy. As for that awesome cauliflower cake from Ottolenghi, it will be repeated when we get cauliflower again from the CSA. It is absolutely the best show stopping addition to a pot luck party, and really not that hard to make.
What’s stopping you? Get cooking!
The club’s focus each month seems like a good way to avoid having plans to try a new type of cooking “one of these days” that lead to never. While packing for the move, I turned up a Pampered Chef baking stone that a decluttering friend gave me over 10 years ago. I haven’t used it yet! I found on the Epicurious site that I could make things other than pizza on it, including roasted vegetables. Also, I learned online that some people keep a baking stone in the oven, and that’s said to result in fewer degrees of temperature drop when the door is opened to check on something. And, on Chowhound I came across a discussion about contradictory advice from various sources on how to care for a baking stone. I wonder if you and/or other readers have had any experience with one.
It definitely takes me to new places. The month cooking Indian food, for example.
I had a pizza stone. It worked well in the old oven. The new oven was just a touch smaller inside, due to increased insulation and it touched the glass when I closed the door. I worried about glass breakage from that, since I had problems with the newer glass in my ovens, so I tossed it.
It did work very well for pizza, and warming breads, making crostini, keeping the oven hotter.
I haven’t used it yet! I found on the Epicurious site that I could make things other than pizza on it, including roasted vegetables. Also, I learned online that some people keep a baking stone in the oven, and that’s said to result in fewer degrees of temperature drop when the door is opened to check on something. And, on Chowhound I came across a discussion about contradictory advice from various sources on how to care for a baking stone.