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I’ve been cooking pretty seriously for well over twenty years. I dabbled in cooking while I still lived in my parents’ house; my desire and interest in cooking really began once I had my driver’s license and would spend vast quantities of time at Barnes & Noble. For sure, I spent plenty of time doing things that were less savory – I was what people call “wild.” But I was also a nerd that devoured books and learned languages in between … “being wild.” When my friends and I went to Barnes & Noble, I would divide my time between fiction, magazines, and cookbooks. I was a vegetarian then, which was a really difficult thing to be in the 90s, in rural Pennsylvania. So part of my interest was necessity. But I think I was also drawn to these books because they represented the places I wanted to go (literally and figuratively) and the kind of life I wanted to have. As I moved way from my hometown, I cooked for my then-boyfriend in a filthy, poorly-equipped kitchen in his apartment in Philadelphia; it was his apartment and his mess. He would have to spend over an hour cleaning the kitchen and the mess that had accumulated before I arrived. (It was bad… oh, it was so bad – think standing water and fruit flies in the sink.) I eventually moved in (and the filth stopped accumulating) and we graduated to his mother’s house because she had moved in with her own boyfriend. There, I had a full set of pots and pans. I learned how to make chicken stock from scratch and, I was told, I made the best damned matzoh ball soup a goy could make. (He and his family were Jewish. He liked that I added more carrots to the soup than his mother did.) When I moved to Prague, I made do with kitchens that were far smaller and less equipped than in Philly… but eventually I moved on again to a proper kitchen with all my own equipment in Los Angeles. Now, in my house in Seattle, I have the biggest kitchen I’ve ever been near and with every appliance I could ever dream of.
I cook a lot.
I still have an obsession with cookbooks; I don’t *need* them, but I enjoy the inspiration. I enjoy the process and the steps of following someone else’s code. I have many recipes memorized, and many elements that I’ve pulled from recipes for every day use – a new technique, a salad dressing, a new take on pickled vegetables that I keep in the fridge at all times.
Though as much as I love cookbooks, I actually don’t own that many. I borrow them from the library and give them a test run. If I *really* love a cookbook, I immediately get my own copy. It’s the difference between “making dinner” and becoming so absorbed in the act of cooking that I lose track of time; by the time I’ve looked up, I’ve made not one, not two, but three different things… and I only stopped there because it was too late to keep going. Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady fell into that category after I made six things things over the course of two afternoons, and my family raved about each one.
Thus far, I’ve made
- Hummus with White Miso
- Pickled Jalapeños with Garlic and Orange Zest
- Soused Tomatoes
- Lemon Bucatini with Roasted Kale
- Huevos a la Plaza de Mercado
- Refreshing Salad with Charred Green Onion Dressing
The hummus is fantastic. I started making my own hummus years ago, when I realized that I could, and my son was on a hummus kick. I settled on a formula that works and hadn’t deviated since. This hummus with white miso piqued my interest, and it’s now my official go-to hummus. The addition of almond meal gives it a little heft, while the hummus remains silky, and the miso gives it a depth of flavor that I didn’t know was possible in hummus.
The soused tomatoes and the pickled jalapeños are excellent condiments to have on hand for a quick breakfast. I had to run out for a loaf of crusty French bread to sop up the tomato oil, which will also be a great addition to my salad dressings. The Huevos had a few steps to get through, but was easy to put together and the sauce was bright and flavorful. (Next time, I’ll double the sauce to have on hand for later in the week.)
Lemon bucatini with roasted kale chips was a HUGE hit, and it had my son asking me to please start making kale chips for him again. I have a “thing” for lemon, it seems. I drink hot water with lemon all day, every day; my strong booze of choice is limoncello (which I also make at home); I have a bathroom full of lemon-scented body washes and Dirty Lemon perfume; and I have a botanical lemon iPhone case. But that’s nothing to do with food, so let’s get back to the lemon bucatini! You could almost call this lemon carbonara, for it’s much like a carbonara pasta dish, without the bacon. The lemon game is strong, but not overwhelmingly so. (Can you call a pasta dish “refreshing”? I think you can.) The best part – well, besides the flavor – is the color. It’s the beautiful, creamy, pale yellow of the vintage Italian palette.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Think creamy yellow Vespas, or the Smeg toaster, or… my Italian Bianchi bike! (For the record, I would love a Smeg toaster in my kitchen, but I am opposed to spending hundreds of dollars on a thing that toasts bread.)
What I really love about this book is that there are several elements that you can pull out and make on their own, without the rest of the recipe on the page: the tomatoes and the jalapeños, for example, and the charred green onion salad dressing. We’re going to throw this dressing onto every salad that I make for the next week, it’s that good. (And the recipe also makes a lot!)
I saw a reviewer on Amazon that complained about this book not using items you already have on hand. I’m not sure that most cookbooks do – doesn’t one alway need to buy groceries? But that also depends on what you usually keep on hand. I found the ingredients to be common, in the sense that they’re easy to find, and none are overly fussy, expensive, or unusual.