Restaurant meals from home

My cookbook collection includes a number of restaurant cookbooks.  Some of them can be rather daunting (Thomas Keller’s French Laundry) but many have produced consistent winners with accessible ingredients and manageable recipes.  One of my favorites is Mustards Grill.  It provided the inspiration for our New Year’s Eve dinner – Mongolian pork chops with a Chinese style mustard sauce and mashed potatoes.  The marinade was excellent and the good news is that there is leftover which will be used for another meal.

Keith picked tonight’s meal from Galatoire’s Cookbook.  We ate at Galatoire’s when we were in New Orleans.  It is a marvelous old-fashioned restaurant and tonight we are having Crab Sardou – sautéed crab on top of creamed spinach with artichoke hearts and Hollandaise sauce.  Just the way to finish the holiday excess and start back to lighter meals.

Wishing you and yours a Happy and Healthy New Year and I look forward to sharing our meals with you in 2017.



Cookbook challenge

A friend included me in a needlepoint challenge on Facebook – you post a picture of a needlepoint piece each day for seven days.  It’s been fun looking back at some old finishes and great to see what some other friends have posted.  I started thinking about another challenge, involving cookbooks.  Probably because needlepoint stores (like my friend’s shop Needles and Threads of Ruxton) call to me to buy canvases and threads just like bookstores call me to buy cookbooks.  And just like my needlepoint stash could possibly be just a little bit more than I need, I have an excess of cookbooks too.

When I find a recipe that I like, I put a marker in the book (I also make notes if I tweak the recipe.)  As you look at 4 of my 8 Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, you can see that she is a constant source of inspiration to me:


I have other cookbooks that don’t have anything marked.  So my plan is to choose one book a week that has no tagged recipes.  I’m going to look through the book and try to choose at least one recipe to make.  If I can’t find one recipe that I think is worth making, I’m going to donate that book to a book sale.  Since many of the books were acquired from used book sales, it seems fitting.  If I give away some that I’m not using, that will make room on my bookshelf for more!  🙂

I’ll let you know the results of my Cookbook challenge.  If your bookshelves are overflowing, consider joining me.  But I’m not ready to get rid of any of my needlepoint stash!



On cookbooks

I have an insatiable appetite for cookbooks.  I started counting my cookbooks one day and got up to 200 and stopped.  I have general cookbooks that I use for research, cookbooks from restaurants, cookbooks by particular cooks, cookbooks by ethnic specialty, cookbooks by food category, the list goes on.  Part of the reason I like to have so many is that it gives me lots of ways to find inspiration.  One of the best ways to feed my habit is used book sales.  I have found some wonderful cookbooks at used book sales and at very reasonable prices.

Yesterday we visited the Smith College Book Sale.  They always have a great selection and you never know what you’ll find.  I sent Samantha to check out the kid’s table (I insisted that we buy a few of the old, original Nancy Drew books!) while I checked out cookbooks and needlepoint books.  I found a few interesting things in each area.  I picked up a Japanese cookbook and one on grilling but my two favorite finds this year are books that look really interesting and unusual.

The first attracted me because the cover is so beautiful.  It is called The Artist’s Table and it was published in 1995.  The subtitle is A Cookbook by Master Chefs Inspired by Paintings in the National Gallery of Art.  Those Master Chefs include Julia Child, Joel Robuchon, Paula Wolfert, Alice Waters and others.  The paintings are reproduced in the book and include paintings by Manet, Matisse, van Gogh, Monet, Gaugin and more.  The recipes are arranged into menus and include an Onion Tart by Julia Child, a Grand Shellfish Platter with Saffron Mayonnaise by Jeremiah Tower and Warm Chocolate Tarts by Patrick Clark.  I will probably never make the Roasted Saddle of Rabbit or the Wild Boar but I feel like if you get a few good recipes from a cookbook, it is worth it and I’ll enjoy looking at the gorgeous pictures over and over again.

The other fun additions is Dining by Rail, The History and Recipes of America’s Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine.  The first section of the book is all about railroads, dining cars, etc.  It is followed by recipes from specific railroads.  If you have traveled by train in recent years and looked at the slim offerings in the Amtrak “Dining Car”, it is amazing to consider the gourmet fare that used to be offered to train travelers.  I look forward to spending some time with this book as well.

Of course, shopping makes one hungry.  For last night’s dinner I turned to another recent acquisition.  This one came from one of my birthday shopping outings with my nieces.  For their birthdays we visit a local independent bookstore, The Ivy Bookshop. It is a delightful store and although it isn’t big, it is exceptionally well stocked with quality books in every department.  My nieces get to select a book they want and then I supplement their selection with a book I think they might enjoy.  It is a fun way to spend time together and hopefully encourage a lifelong love of reading.  While they make their selections, I roam around trying to resist temptation from multiple fronts.  I caved when I saw 660 Curries.  My husband and I love Thai food and Indian food and the book made its way into the pile for purchase.  Keith suggested that I make something from it for dinner and I decided on Chicken Tikka Masala – one of my favorite Indian dishes.  This one is not for the faint of heart.  It involved making garlic paste, ginger paste, grinding a mix of toasted spices to make Garam Masala and a special trip to Wegman’s for ghee.  Happily the efforts were rewarded by a delicious complex combination of flavors that were not overwhelmingly spicy but nicely balanced.  My mom joined us and we decided to make the balsamic strawberries again.  She loved them too and the evening was only slightly marred by the fact that when Samantha climbed on the counter to get the sprinkles down for her ice cream, she knocked a glass jar of anchovies out of the cabinet and it broke.  Nothing like the combination of broken glass, fish oil and the smell of anchovies to put the cap on an evening!

A friend sent me email last night about a new cookbook she is enjoying, A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson.  She raved about it and the online reviews that I saw echoed her enthusiasm.  My middle niece has a birthday coming up so temptation awaits on my next birthday shopping outing!  I’ll keep you posted!