Welcome to this year's Piglet Community Picks! Until the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks kicks off in March, we'll be posting weekly reviews of the best new books you cooked from in 2018—written by you. To see other reviews, head here. And to catch up on the books that made it into the main tournament, look no further.
Dorie Greenspan’s classic cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, taught me how to make company-worthy cakes, and her pastry dough recipe is still my go-to. So I was eager to explore her new book, Everyday Dorie. Because it’s Dorie, of course, the book is great. But it's now earned a treasured spot in my kitchen, and here’s why.
Filled with sumptuous photos, this book highlights the casual food that Dorie makes every day for her family and friends. While this concept is a familiar theme in cookbooks these days, in Dorie’s hands it feels fresh and inspiring. She relies on her fridge and pantry to prepare what she calls “elbows-on-the-table" meals that nurture conversation and encourage guests to linger. The flavors are global: In addition to French recipes (which one expects from Dorie, who spends part of the year in Paris), there are many Middle Eastern-and Asian-influenced recipes as well. Dorie’s chatty, down-to-earth personality shines through on every page. Her warm, inviting headnotes are full of helpful details to guide people along. And best of all, most recipes come together quickly and are doable for novice and experienced cooks alike.
I cooked up a bunch of recipes from this book because so many of them called out to me. The majority of the dishes are riffs—or “surprises,” as Dorie calls them—on classic comfort food. Cod en Papillote is a traditional French dish, but Dorie’s version features Portuguese flavors, including smoked paprika, white beans, and a zesty balsamic vinaigrette. It was delicious.
While clearing the fridge after the holidays, I made the Lettuce Soup with romaine and curly endive. Dorie encourages improvisation with the “Choices” and “Playing Around” tidbits throughout the book, guiding you to use ingredients you have on hand. So I felt free to substitute the scallop garnish that she recommends with leftover cod from the papillote dish. This soup was one of my family’s favorite dishes from the book—it's light and elegant, made with lettuce, alliums, herbs, and broth, with just a pat of butter to add creaminess. And no one could detect what the main ingredient was. “Broccoli?” my daughter guessed. “Spinach?” asked my husband. I will make this recipe again and again this summer when my CSA season begins and we have an overabundance of lettuce.
The Sheet-Pan Supper: Balsamic Chicken with Baby Potatoes and Mushrooms was also very tasty. Generous amounts of fresh herbs mingle with a simple balsamic vinaigrette, which cooks down and gives the chicken a crispy dark sheen, and also adds sweet notes to the entire dish. Because I only had a few mushrooms in the fridge, I added a bell pepper to the mix. This is truly an put-it-in-a-pan-and-walk-away kind of dinner. Every morsel was eaten and we even mopped up the pan drippings with slices of crusty bread.
My favorite recipe by far was the Pasta with Cabbage, Winter Squash and Walnuts, which features an amazing agrodolce pan sauce made with apple cider vinegar and honey. I added more honey and vinegar to amp up the flavors, and plan to add more cabbage to the dish next time. But this bright-tasting pasta, ready in thirty minutes, was the perfect complement to heartier, starchier winter produce.
In her introduction, Dorie says, “I have only one rule: There must be dessert! Please follow it.” A stickler for rules, I heeded her call.
I baked the Brown-Sugar Spice Cake for my daughter’s soccer team, and thankfully managed to snag a piece for myself before it all disappeared. Dorie has you brush warm honey over the cardamom-and coriander-spiced cake, which highlighted the sweetness of the thinly sliced apples I arranged on top. This is a fabulous, spur-of-the-moment, enjoy-it-anytime cake—no stand mixer or softening of butter required. In fact, I made another one the next day for my family to enjoy.
I also couldn’t resist making the adorable Chocolate-Covered Chai-Tea Bars. Perfumed with orange and honey notes, and slathered with the optional but highly recommended chocolate glaze, they were a perfect afternoon pick-me-up, best enjoyed with a cup of tea.
I still have many stickies on recipes in this book that I can’t wait to try: My Newest Gougères (Dorie’s versions contains Dijon mustard and walnuts); the intriguing-sounding Lemon Goop, a "culinary magic" condiment in which lemons are given the confit treatment to make a sweet and complex jam, and the showstopping Triple-Layer Parsnip and Cranberry Cake, which features a homemade cranberry jam filling and is topped with swirls of cream cheese frosting.
All the recipes that I made were excellent and approachable, and I will make them again and again. Everyday Dorie brought a new spin to my cooking and made me feel excited to be in the kitchen. The recipes here make everyday cooking relaxing and pleasurable, not to mention surprising and fun. This is the kind of comfort food that I want to cook and eat now—and all the time.
"I have been cooking daily, with Everyday Dorie at my side! I picked this book because Dorie has always been a reliable recipe source for me, and I am interested in meals that don’t always require elaborate cooking or a multi-hour time investment. Dorie being Dorie, I couldn’t help but start with the dessert section. I made the Flognarde (the blueberry variation) and loved it! It's like a lovely Parisian Dutch baby. The Roasted Squash Hummus was a very interesting variation on a theme I know well, and the Lightning-Fast Tahini Pork was a totally new and delicious way to cook pork tenderloin. Up next, tomorrow, is the Tomato Tart with Mustard and Ricotta and the Chocolate Pudding. Can’t wait!" —Catherine Cozzarelli
"In today’s world, where #mealprep is tagged in over nine million pictures on Instagram, Greenspan offers ways to work ahead. In the Soups & Salads chapter, an unassuming recipe for Chickpea-Tahini Salad stuck with me after I flipped through the book for the first time. A deconstructed hummus of sorts, but with an added intricacy from the smoked paprika and hint of cayenne, my mind ran wild with ideas of how to transform this simple recipe into various applications throughout the week. The longer it sat, the more the flavors developed, and I soon found myself eating it directly out of the container with the fridge door wide open." —Mallory
"I have this book, as well as all her others. I love this book, as well as all her others. Her writing is relatable and the recipes are very easy to follow. Everything I've made has come out fantastic. I find that she thinks of every question one might ask when she writes her recipes, so no matter what I choose to make or bake, it comes out very well. I always look forward to her new cookbooks, and this one was no different." —Paula Lefkowitz