Hitting the Cookbooks

Looking for cookbooks that are unique and not a celebrity driven machine??  I may be of help.

I love cookbooks and recipe cards (handwritten).  I should qualify that I really love old cookbooks.  I have a small but odd collection that spans from my grandmother’s Methodist Church in Cherokee Village to a 1930’s cookbook.  I have a couple of “newer” books about pasta and pastry that were at a library sale but even those are at least 10 years old.

So, the fact that I am enthralled with 2 very recent cookbooks is pretty amazing. One was sent to us as a gift. Blossom is a vegetarian restaurant in New York City.  We were encouraged to make reservations and eat there while visiting, but alas, no reservations. So our dear friend who has eaten there many a time sent us the cookbook. So beautiful and filled with very basic but great recipes. A whole section of sauces and no grain bowls, so that was refreshing. We are making the transition to a more vegetarian lifestyle, but hindered first by my cooking or lack thereof and frankly, Northwest Arkansas is not plentiful with fresh fruits and veggies (or variety). I have mastered tomatoes in the garden, but peppers and eggplant have not been as successful. But I digress, I loved the simplicity of the cookbook and how straightforward it is with all the recipes.  Write Up:  Ask a Chef: Shawain Jay of Cafe Blossom

Now, at the other end of the spectrum is Zahav.  I heard of this cookbook by accident on NPR. They were interviewing the chef MICHAEL SOLOMONOV.  My in-laws are steeped in Jewish and Israeli cooking, so it caught my attention. This too is a beautiful book, but it is rich not only in the photography, but the story behind the creation of recipes and restaurant.  It did win the James Beard award, so it isn’t just me.

Zahav is a journey. From the tragic story of Solomonov’s brother to his own addiction and creation and survival of the restaurant. Along with the stories are these rich recipes.  I am still consuming the book and look forward to our next trip to Philadelphia and the slim hope that we will be able to eat at the restaurant.

I love the contrast of these two books which embody what I love about cookbooks. First, new food ideas and revelations.  And, the narrative. The soul if you will of the food. It captures an element of time, history or a person, and it goes beyond just the dish. I may not ever be able to cook one damn thing in the Zahav, but I love the story and the history, so I will try.   Blossom, I may have more success because it is more like a short story, in one sitting type of thing, but it is grounded in something unique as well.

I am enjoying the journey through each of the cookbooks. I hope you will too.



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