“I saw a recipe for stuffed artichokes…”
“Oh I know where that recipe is,” I said and was out of my chair in an instant.
“She has this gift,” Beth said to her visiting sister smiling. “Name a recipe in this house and she can turn to the page.”
“I can?” I inquired completely oblivious from the cookbook shelf. I pulled the first cookbook off the shelf that I thought the artichoke recipe might be in. “Yep here it is.”
“See, I told you.”
I really was unaware of this gift I had. Years of pulling out cookbooks every Sunday afternoon and plodding my way through a menu have turned my brain into an encyclopedia of sorts. An encyclopedia I love to use. A passion of witnessing what nourishment words can turn into almost instantaneously.
This past Christmas I offered to cook at my in-laws. My mother-in-law didn’t mind doing the cooking, but I also wondered if she wanted a hand. She wanted us to have a break upon visiting her and didn’t want me to have to work, which was really sweet, but I desperately wanted to. For me it isn’t A-typical “work.” I finally found the words to explain it: “This is my creativeness getting to come out. I spend so much time in my head, I need to do something with my hands.” And this why so many of you have been at our table. We love sharing what we have.
If you know Nate and I well, you know our life revolves around food. We don’t do this to alienate or lift ourselves onto a different pedestal; we really just love food that much. Some people love a sports team with dire passion; others perhaps a TV show, hiking or crafting… I love food.
I love the process from the seed to the soil, to the blossoms to the cutting board and finally, the stove. It is a rhythm I am dedicating my life to (more on that next week). But others come alongside me because I don’t pretend to know more than I do about this thing called cooking.
I started with a series of cookbooks called Food Made Fast from William-Sonoma. It showed me which ingredients to buy and how to whip something up quickly. It shifted us from pasta every other night to homemade pizza and from chicken and rice with different sauces to grilled fish and roasted marinated (to die for) veggies.
My mother loved to cook too. But I never helped. The kitchen was her sanctuary – an artist by trade, she always turned dinner into a feast, but a feast with less verbal teaching and more personal discipline behind it. That discipline taught me a lot just by watching and continues to educate me now with last minute phone calls about how to make a reduction sauce or inquiries about random spices. It’s in my bones to do this work from gardening and preserving from my grandmothers to cooking from my mother.
Now my husband is part of it as we debrief our days chopping beans and steaming those artichokes. This past week our menu included a roasted beet tart from Molly Wizenberg, mint gorgonzola walnut pesto pasta from Sunset magazine, and an artichoke zucchini sauté from one of our favorite cookbooks (Local Flavors below). Every week includes things we could have never thought up on our own, but we can make on our own and that is why we invite so many of you over because we love to do it.
So who wants to come over for dinner?
Here are some ideas to help you with your dinners:
1. Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook – if you didn’t hear about the Beekman Boys here, well then buy this cookbook. Their turkey is one of my favorite holiday recipes ever. Not to mention they have other amazing-ness like roasted cauliflower and apple soup.
2. Spices of Life – this was given to me as a gift years ago by my sister-in-law and it is a wonderful collection of rare flavors and practical healthy advice.
3. Farm to Fork – I couldn’t say I was the biggest fan of Emeril, but this cookbook made a convert of me. He has some of our favorite straight-out-of-the-garden recipes like zucchini bread and roasted tomato tarts.
4. Local Flavors – this book is not for the faint of heart. It is a meaty cookbook mainly about what to do with vegetables. It is a beautiful account of how to cook with ingredients from your local farmer’s market.
5. Back to Basics – we are huge Ina Garten fans in this household. She is a marvelous cook and when in doubt of what to make for any occasion, her cookbooks find their way onto the menu. Her beef stew was one of the first recipe I posted here and I also posted her potato leek soup. You cannot go wrong with this book.
Happy cooking and more importantly, happy eating!