I am happy to have both Canal House Cooking and The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook on my shelf. I very much responded to the notebook-esque feeling of Canal House Cooking. The way it’s bound makes it feel approachable and doable, like you’re following a favorite girlfriend’s home-assembled book. I like the breeziness of the photos and the stories about the contributors’ food backgrounds. For example, I loved learning from the former Saveur editor about not putting fried food on a paper towel to keep the bottom crisp. The recipes worked really well and were straight-forward. I adored the anchovy breadcrumb stuffing in the baked tomatoes — I would use that on anything. Next time I think I will slow-roast the tomatoes first before stuffing them, that’s the only adjustment I’d make. I adored the Summer Tomato Pasta, the perfect August meal. Finishing cooking the pasta in the sauce did wonders for condensing the flavors. Desserts are not my forte, but the Plum Crostata was easy to make and truly delicious.
I admired the point of view of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. I like how one can feel the work ethic and commitment of the threesome that started the bakery/restaurant and have brought in amazing and quirky local artisans to round out their family. The Lime Tart, albeit delicious, was more complicated than I like and required a lot of cleanup. The Ginger Ice Cream was totally sublime and is now in my summer kitchen repertoire. It was especially good sandwiched between molasses cookies. The Sweet Potato and Yam Pie had all the flavor and comfort of home, but used a lot more cream, egg yolks and cheddar than I’m used to.
I am loathe to choose one book over the other, however my selection is Canal House Cooking. While I genuinely responded to and appreciated the sense of community and slow food ethos that I felt from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, I am more drawn to return back to Canal House Cooking.
Although most well known as an Academy Award-winning actress for Shakespeare in Love, Gwyneth Paltrow is also a serious home cook and the creator of GOOP.com, where she writes about recipes she loves, meals she’s enjoyed, and the food she makes for her children. A bona fide foodie, she co-starred in Spain… On the Road Again with Mario Batali and Mark Bittman, which aired on PBS in 2008 and profiled the culinary traditions and history of various regions in Spain. She'll appear next on the big screen in Iron Man 2.
I love that Hirsheimer and Hamilton have created what they call a "studio, workshop, dining room, office, kitchen, lair, lab and atelier" in a warehouse along a Pennsylvania canal. Who doesn't want the same? (Though I'd settle just for the Franklin wood stove pictured opposite page 1.)
What's amazing about the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook is how many of the recipes you're compelled to cook. Usually, I use post-its to mark off the items I plan on making. In this case, I'd be better off using those same stickies to note which things I don't want to make. In the first chapter alone (a March menu dedicated to breakfast), I was salivating at the prospect of potato frittata; breakfast pizza (there's bacon involved, need I say more?); nine-grain pancake; meyer lemon bars (first thing in the morning? really? OK. I'll take it); doughnuts; chocolate bundt cake and brown butter rhubarb bars. That leaves only two dishes I might not want to eat. And I'm not even a breakfast person.
Inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books, we got together with
our friend Charlotte Druckman and created the Tournament of Cookbooks.
Here on Food52, you can watch the action and weigh in on the results as
the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year vie for the coveted Piglet
trophy. The tournament features top food writers and chefs as judges.
Play will take place over the course of 3 weeks, with a decision
published each weekday.
The 2010 Judges