601 Cookbooks

Spring Greens

Question of the day: Which of your cookbooks is your absolute most favorite, page-worn and splattered from use?

People who collect cookbooks seem to enjoy counting their spoils. Since I’ve been collecting cookbooks for more than 20 years now, the other day I thought I’d count them (it must have been a very quiet day). I counted the books in the kitchen, strewn around on tables and floors, and in the dining and living rooms. I got up to 320. I didn’t venture down into the basement, where I know I have at least that many, and probably more, nor did I figure in the stack that lives next to my bed. After all that counting, I decided it would be much more useful if I’d spent my five minutes of free time cataloging my cookbooks.

This is what J would say, and for once I agree: Counting is so boring.

Admittedly, I don’t use every single one of my cookbooks. Sometimes they sit on the shelves for years before I notice them. And, every once in a while I actually have to let some go to good causes, to make room for new ones.

Out of the 600-plus cookbooks I own, I’d estimate I use or look at the same two dozen or so over and over again. One of them is Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. I have all of her other books, but this is her best, in my opinion. It doesn’t have any photographs or illustrations at all – none of those money shots of Nigella licking chocolate off a spoon – just lots of personal writing and recipes.

My copy is paperback, and pages are falling out even after I’ve taped and glued them back in. The book falls open to one of my very favorite recipes, Lemon Linguine on page 230.

I’ve made many versions of this recipe, but my current version, with crème fraiche and lots of fresh vegetables, seems so Spring-y.

Pasta Shells with Green Vegetables and Lemon Cream
Serves 4

1 cup each trimmed asparagus, green beans and broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound dried pasta shells (conchiglie)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (try using a premium brand like Plugra for this – it’s worth it)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw in a good handful of salt. Add the vegetables and cook 3 minutes; scoop them out with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Drain.

Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, find your biggest serving bowl. In the bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, crème fraiche, lemon zest and juice, cheese, salt and pepper. Just before draining the pasta, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add to the egg yolk mixture, whisking.

Drain pasta; add to the bowl with the vegetables and butter, tossing gently to coat with sauce.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food


William Conway said...

I don't have quite so many, not for lack of trying. If my wife catches me bringing home another cookbook I think she'll divorce me.

Oh, and maybe I'm only cooking at a second grade level because I hate cookbooks without pictures. In my dreamworld, every recipe would have some kind of inspiring picture next to it...

Kalyn said...

A while back bfb (before food blogging) I had a big yard sale and sold more than half of my cookbooks. Of course, I've gotten more. I haven't discovered Nigella Lawson, but I'm going to look for this book. Looks heavenly.

Liza said...

My favorite, dog eared cookbooks? Baking with Julia (for the challah, scones, brioche and pita); How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittmann (for just about everything),and Jack Bishop's The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook (for the pasta with leeks and tomatoes, and the pasta with ricotta salata and fava beans).

That's off the top of my head -- I have never counted our cookbooks, but there are 100's I am sure.


Alanna said...

Oh I can't wait to see all the cookbooks scroll through the sidebar, too. One can only allow so much cookbook temptation at one time. You provide plenty!!

Deborah Dowd said...

Your spring veggie pasta looks great! My cookbook that has lost its cover and has browned splatters throughout is Joy of Cooking- I think mainly because I used it when I was learning!

Just some girl said...

Mmmm...Fannie Farmer 12th edition for me! (And I have about 400, I think - the least essential are boxed up in the attic since the move. I can't wait till I can have them all out again!)

Karen said...

William, I know.
It is nice to look at great pictures, especially when you're taking advantage of some daydreaming time.

Kalyn, it's like shedding yourself of old clothes. Time to bring in some new stuff!

Liza, of course! Baking with Julia is in my top 20, too. Bittman hangs in the periphery for me, more for guidance than inspiration. I like his no-nonsense style. Jack Bishop is very good, especially for vegetarian collections.

Alanna, I have a special pile just for you...

Deborah, the Joy of Cooking is in my top tier (but I use the "old" new one, from 1997). The buttermilk pancake recipe is a cherished family breakfast at our house.

Just Some Girl - Fannie Farmer 12th edition? That's before Marion Cunningham revised it. Real old school! And it can be so hard to determine what is not "essential" when you move your cookbooks. I've been there...

Kristen said...

My favorite is from my ex's family... it is full of splatters, spills and great recipes!

Lisa said...

Man, that looks out of control. A must-try...

QoE said...

I don't have near that many cookbooks, but I do have a way to catalog them. Try http://www.librarything.com/
I have my library on my webpages.