So it's quite rare to see a book in a bookstore, immediately buy it, and have it be as good or better than I had anticipated. However, that's the story behind the newly published The Essential New York Times Cookbook edited by Amanda Hesser.
Amanda is now almost a household name, even if you're not a NY Times reader, as she appeared in the movie Julie and Julia, owing to her role of publicizing Julie's blog. Hesser has been one of the elite corp of NY Times food writers from the past couple decades. She strongly upholds their collective credentials with this impressive volume of recipes, history and amusing personal anecdotes.
The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century is a fairly unusual cookbook, as it draw on recipes from as long ago as the 1850's, when the Times first began writing about food and cooking. In some cases these ancient references serves as cultural history lessons, but in almost all cases the original recipes are quite useful and appealing renditions of classic or forgotten dishes.
The recipes are drawn from columns as they appeared in the paper, or from the many cookbooks assembled by NY Times food writers.
Several of the most important recipe sources I used to develop my own cooking skills tie to the New York Times publications and writers. So some of these recipes are already in my repertoire (or on my cookbook shelf). The New New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey (very hard to get now on amazon or ebay - good luck) was the first "serious" cookbook I used. The 60 Minute Gourmet columns were published every Wednesday and I used them extensively. Each week I would make whatever two or three courses Pierre Franey happened to concoct. This ritual ended up being a key component of my courtship with Margie. Let's get back to the new book, shall we?
The original publication date and source of the recipes are included. It's really exciting to read a recipe, find it appealing and then learn that it was first published in 1892 or 1907.
In many cases there are comments from original recipe authors or other relevant anecdotes.
So, it's quite uncommon for me to find a new cookbook and embrace it so quickly and strongly. I already recommend this book highly, as the recipes go far beyond the simple phrase "time tested", and the background stories surrounding them are a delight to read.
I've already made two new dishes from the book - and each was an unqualified success. Actually, I've many more recipes from the book since I first drafted this list. A testament to the book's value, for sure.
- Winter-Slaw with Lemon and Orange Dressing
- Italian Beef Stew with Rosemary
- Buttermilk Herb Dressing
- Sam Sifton's Pizza dough
- Apple Galette
I also started a quick list of recipes that caught my attention. I was obviously in the salad section, and got distracted before I got too far, but here are some I liked and look forward to making:
- Puree of Celery Root
- Fried Radishes
- Warm Eggplant Salad with Sesame and Shallot
- Airplane Salad (what ever that is)
- Fennel and Apple Salad with Juniper Berries
- Moroccan Carrot Salad