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When we asked readers to review a cookbook chosen as a 2017 Piglet Community Picks, one of the questions we asked them was: If this book were a vegetable, which would it be and why?
We were mostly amusing ourselves, but the answers are also a telling gauge of a book, we've found. Exhibit A: Two people said that Julia Turshen's Small Victories would be a carrot.
There are carrots swimming in that chicken noodle soup on the book's cover, sure—and the carrot was also Julia's vegetable of choice for her fill-in-the-blank lentil soup. But Small Victories would be a carrot "because it's versatile," Gauri Joshi thought—and because "it's practical, delicious, and does way more than you think it does," our pal Caroline Lange said.
Annie chose a leek, "because once you start cooking with it, you reach for it all the time and can't imagine not having it on hand."
See? Don't you already have a good sense of this cookbook? Here's what else our community loved about and learned from Small Victories:
A review, in one sentence
"This book not only provides you with excellent recipes, but it also delivers innovative and impactful techniques to expand your kitchen skills and prowess." —Annie
"My grandma's kitchen with a classic twist." —Gauri Joshi
"This is the perfect cookbook for food-driven folk who want to make good food and be able to eat before 10 PM on a weeknight." —Nia Bowling
Who's this book for?
Folks agreed that non-cooks will take to this book, but it also has tricks that knowledgable cooks might not have thought of—and are now really happy to know.
Annie considers herself "an advanced and prolific cook, yet was surprised by how many of the tips and techniques were game-changing for me." She was so happy to learn to add a drop of water and cover eggs while frying them. It "was a brilliant tip. It creates perfectly cooked over-easy eggs."
If you like Canal House, anything Barefoot Contessa, or The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, this book is for you. All are beautiful, geared towards the home cook, and exhaustively tested, with clear directions, best practices, and shortcuts.
Annie said it also "brings to mind other technique-driven books such as All About Braising or The Bread Baker's Apprentice, with the difference being that it covers a much broader category of cooking."
Readers couldn't really think of anyone who couldn't benefit from this book. Well, only pass on it if "you are a grump," says Caroline.
the standout recipes
Caroline mentioned the curried lentils with coconut: "They're deceptively simple, include some of smart tricks, and they're very, very cozy." (Pssst: Here's the recipe.)
Annie said the kimchi avocado toast is "a game changer": "It beats the original and so many other variations hands down."
Cathryn Davidson chose the Turkey Ricotta Meatballs: "I've made them so many times that I have the recipe memorized. They've been a hit with the pickiest eaters in our house and have disappeared from a potluck table within minutes."
Nia found it hard to choose one, but keeps going back to the Caesar salad dressing: "Having homemade Caesar salad dressing on hand is a game.changer. The bottled stuff is crap and this is both GOOD and EASY. While I know Caesar salad dressing isn't exactly new/exciting/rocket science, it is never something I attempt on a weeknight: egg yolks? whisking? No thanks. The simple and logical introduction of mayo is awesome and the results are as good as any restaurant Caesar."
2017's roster of Piglet Community Picks were chosen by an open call to our community; the reviews you see here are from some of the folks who voted these books into the tournament. To see other Piglet Community Picks reviews, head here.
Small Victories is available wherever books are sold.