The Cookbook Project: Ginette Mathiot's I Know How To Cook

I don't know about you but I have a real cookbook problem. I have more than I will ever use. I keep acquiring them. I read many cover to cover, often never cook anything from them (hence The Cookbook Project) and they take up space on my shelves. I have maybe half a dozen I use regularly and the rest I look at then think I should pass them on but somehow I just can't make myself. I Know How To Cook  by Ginette Mathiot (trans. Clothilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini ) is one of those cookbooks I've tried to give away several times but just couldn't. If you haven't heard of it, this book is often called The Joy of Cooking for the French. It's not necessarily the most elaborate cookbook you might find, but it is full of recipes and clear instructions that make it accessible for less-experienced cooks. First published in 1932, it was intended to be a resource for young home makers, to help them feed their families easily and well. Since I am not experienc

The Cookbook Project: Saag Paneer

So here we are at the first recipe installment of The Cookbook Project . Yippee! Last week I told you about Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking book and my history with Indian food. This week we're making saag paneer, a lovely spinach and cheese dish. For copyright purposes I'm not typing out the recipe verbatim. You can find the book in your local library if this inspires you to cook. Saag paeer can be made with a wide variety of greens, but for most American palates, spinach is easiest. I started by chopping up ginger, garlic and green chili in a food processor. My food processor wasn't quite able to make it a paste; you can easily buy a ginger-garlic paste in an Indian grocery store. Now I understand why it's available for sale. I thought of macerating it in the mortar and pestle but didn't bother. I don't think it had a significant effect on the final product beyond the occasional burst of ginger in the mouth. From there I fr

A love note for Valentine's Day: On cooking dinner for beloved guests

On cooking dinner for beloved guests Planning A love poem meal, how to assemble, what to cook? How to tell them they are loved without spending the whole evening choppingcookingstirringwashing when really the greatest gift I can give them is time and company, good ears to hear them? The meal is the subtext, the paper on which the love letter is written, but the quality of the paper, its scent tells so much about intent. It must be good paper. Good food nourishes more than just the body. But I don’t want to be my grandmother, worry so much about the meal I forget the evening, so what can be planned ahead oh god I need to wash and clean and ready the house before hand, make sure the knives are sharp, how on earth do I have time to do all this? I hate it when the knives are too dull and I saw at the tomatoes until they burst, bloody seeds on the cutting board. Maybe lamb. Roasted lamb, garlicrosemary , easy, just rub it down beforehand and stick it in the oven, done and voila! Di

The Cookbook Project: Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking

Last week I told you about the launch of The Cookbook Project, an attempt to use the resources in front of me to help rediscover my love of cooking four years after Kevin's death. This week I'd like to talk about one cuisine that is many and an old friend of a cookbook, then next week we will venture into a recipe together. It may sound a little slow, but I'm hoping each post will evoke memories and curiosity beyond the mechanics of cooking. This blog is about stories as well as food,  after all. I don't remember when I first had Indian food. I know by the time I had graduated college it was a big part of my gustatory life. My friends and I frequented a restaurant called Ghandi in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts (long since closed). We went so often that the proprietors worried when we skipped a week. Each time when we walked in, an aroma spicy complexity would surround us and we took pride in consuming the fieriest food they would provide. Eventually I no

The Cookbook Project: Chapter two

Boy, it's been awhile since I posted here. It's taken me almost four years from Kevin's death to relish cooking again. This renewed enjoyment is in no small part because I've moved in with Charley, my chapter two (a common term in the widowed community for the love who comes after the love who died), and cooking for him is reminding me of how much I enjoy it. At first I cooked the things I know how to make. Simple stuff mostly, like roasted chicken, stew, or soup. In the last few months, however, I've started wanting to expand my repertoire. I don't have the cooking skills I used to; my sense of seasoning isn't the same since Kevin got sick, so I rely on recipes more. Mostly I go online and find something that looks interesting, but online recipes aren't always tried and tested plus it becomes a rabbit hole and by the time I find a recipe I find intriguing the desire to cook may have passed. Knowing this, I began to think about how I could cook with

Old favorites for new loves: lasagna

I recently wrote about how I am slowly developing a different relationship with cooking since Kevin died. Part of the challenge for me (and for many widowed people) has been giving myself permission to enjoy food and cooking since my spouse's death. I associate complex cooking with Kevin, so learning to relish it again is a whole new ballgame. This past weekend I decided to make lasagna. This was never a big favorite of Kevin's, but my new sweetheart, C, loves it. I wanted to make it as a love letter for him yet the idea of cooking something complex and with passion felt a bit daunting. It felt like more than I could easily manage, that I'd get lost in the details and memories. It felt like I was cheating on Kevin.  I know that's not true, that loving C doesn't mean I love Kevin any less. C understands this and accepts Kevin as part of the package; if he's involved with me then Kevin is part of our relationship. I often feel as though C has a better han