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Read up on some of 2013's most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.
Part memoir, part homage, and part manual, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks brought a sense of lofty purpose, true food wisdom, and Northern California sensibility into my cramped city kitchen. As a lifelong cheese lover, I’m slightly ashamed to have found these recipes as revolutionary as I did. The idea of building the bold, singular flavor of an artisanal cheese into a dish with so many other ingredients is counterintuitive to my cheese plate-loving mind. But by the same token, I was fascinated by the longer narratives in this cookbook. If you’ve ever dreamed of striking out on your own and surrounding yourself with nature and fresh food, you’ll find a hero myth in Sue Conley and Peggy Smith’s story. And if you love cheese, you’ll find plenty of recipes to enjoy in this gorgeous cookbook.
Every recipe in Cowgirl Creamery Cooks calls for fine ingredients, from fresh milk to "fresh, beautiful greens... that you’ve grown yourself or found in a farmers market." Certain recipes also call for more advanced technique. I decided quickly to look at these recipes as ideals, and I tweaked them liberally to make them work with my limited resources. The recipes I tried survived even my best attempts to debase them. I substituted old, dried herbs for freshly minced ones, one hour of simmering for two. It’s a testament to the food's elegant simplicity that the end results were still special. I’ve already committed the basic steps to Sidekick Tomato Soup to memory, as it comes together quickly and tastes indulgent while boasting basically the same ingredients list as V8.
Similarly, Toasted Flatbread Sandwiches, Three Ways are simple perfection. Sue and Peggy have done the legwork to find unique and delicious flavor combinations that I guarantee you haven’t tried yet, but should. These are decidedly less virtuous than my new favorite soup, but after you've grated all the cheese you’ll need to make them, you’ll have earned it.
The women behind this beautiful book have so much to teach their readers, and to spend any amount of time with Cowgirl Creamery Cooks is to learn something new. Whether you’re inspired to try making your own fresh cheese, to put together the ultimate cheese course, or to master béchamel in order to do justice to their Three-Cheese Lasagna with Mushrooms and Spinach, Sue and Peggy have dedicated a section of their book to helping you. I, for one, plan to cook my way through it cover to cover, however long that may take. In the name of cheese, I think you should, too.