I – like, I’m sure, many people who like to cook – have approximately eleventy-million cookbooks in my collection, not to mention stuff neatly clipped (read: torn) from every cooking magazine on the planet, or at least the ones that I can afford the subscription too. And I often, often think to myself, “What on earth am I doing with all of these things? I’ll never use them all. Ooh, look, the new Mario Batali is out – better order it.”
And so the collection grows. To avoid them becoming a collection of paperweights with food stains, I instituted a policy of selecting one cookbook a week to cook out of, thereby forcing myself to wade thru them and actually put them to use. And I enforce this policy strictly, about twice a year. But that’s twice more than I would be if I didn’t have a policy, right?
So to expand on my already feebly enforced regimen, I’ll give a review each time I do a new one, even though some of them are ages old and I bought them on Amazon.com for a dollar. Someday, when I confound all expectations and write a book, I hope someone will buy it on Amazon.com for more than a dollar. Someone, say, other than my mom.
So! On to the cookbook of the week, which this week is “From Tapas to Meze” by Joanne Weir. I believe it is the second, revised, edition, and it’s one of the dollar-on-Amazon ones, so it’s not exactly hot off the press. It’s really good. My favorite type of eating is tapas style, where you order one of everything on the menu at a small plates restaurant, and you and all of your friends get to eat a bit off each other’s plates, which you would have done anyway. But at a tapas place it’s expected, so you don’t feel like a complete pig. Then you all gasp loudly when the bill comes. So I’m always pleased to be able to do tapas-y things at home, but with an eye on the dishes I usually only make one or two.
All of the dishes in “T to M” are very Mediterranean, so there is a lot of olive oil and lemon – nice and refreshing since it’s summer, but choose the dishes wisely or else everything you eat all week will taste the same. The recipes are also mostly simple, and lend themselves to substitutions- I’ve done her baked squash soup with sweet potatoes, and her grilled tuna with green olive relish with chicken and black olives, and anything with goat cheese in it with anything that isn’t goat cheese, because goat cheese is, sorry, disgusting.
On the downside, because the recipes are all of that Mediterranean style, there’s a little repetition. Weir has three variations on salad with oranges, black olives, and red onions. Does anyone need three variations of this? Does anyone need more than, hey, there’s some red onion and some oranges in the icebox, let’s go to town? No. But three there are. Also, she’s a bit fonder of salt cod than I am. I strongly suspect salt cod is one of those things Europeans only pretend to like, to make Americans feel inferior.
Rating, 1-5: 3, but only because of the orange salad thing. Otherwise a four.
There you have it, the first Cookbook of the Week. And actually for next week too, since I’m not quite done with it. But next week we will discuss the best cookbook of all time, which is Julia Child’s “The Way To Cook” which is terrific and should be titled, “Mastering the art of French Cooking Without Wasting Time on Jellied Poached Eggs and Aspic, and Other Gross Things Even French People Won’t Eat.”
Now I have to go check Amazon. Maybe Mario is on sale.