Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Back, with Revived Purpose!

Hello, Internet. Are you still there? Do you care any more? Even a little?

I've been thinking a lot lately about restarting my little cookbook project. I have a few reasons for this.

1) I thought that I'd just move ahead, blasting through one cookbook after another, even though I wasn't blogging about it. That has not proven to be the case. Now that I've moved to Italy, I flip through my cookbooks, and feel instant anxiety. Salmon? I've never seen it in the store. Mussels? But I'd have to debeard them! Kale? I've looked for it all winter. Haven't found it yet.  Cilantro can be found sometimes, but it's often a wild goose chase. Lamb? Nope. I've got my fingers crossed that it's seasonal, and that I can load up my freezer with it in the Spring, but at the moment, any recipe involving my favorite meat is out.

Point is, when I go food shopping with a grocery list, I rarely come home with all the ingredients needed to complete any one dish. Thus, I select basic, boring recipes from all over my library without developing a real understanding of any one book.

2) Forcing a focus on one book will, out of necessity, force me out into the great wide world to find the key ingredients. Some may be a lost cause--lamb, for example. If I want horse, I can find that, though. I may not find the exact ingredient, but hopefully I'll be able to pinpoint a decent substitute. It's more comfortable to simply roast a chicken every week, but where's the adventure in that?

3) I keep buying more books, but because I'm not focusing on any one of them, I'm not weeding out the bad to make more space. From the scattering of recipes I've tried from here and there, I definitely have some questionable books. (I'm looking at you, Weeknights with Giada. When did salty become her favorite flavor??)

4) I often can not remember much about a recipe a year later. I can't tell you how many times I've scrolled back through my posts here, and had the photo instantly jog my memory. For this reason alone, I want to start again, even if no one is reading.

That said, I am going to institute some changes (and will therefore need to come up with a new tagline for my blog). I'm not going to demand a month of myself. I can give a book more time or less time, depending upon my mood. Matt thinks it's stupid that I rarely cook the same recipe twice, so I want to make a concerted effort to cook dishes that were successes in the past in conjunction with new ones (I obviously won't post about those, though.) Removing the time limit of a month will remove the pressure to only cook new recipes. Secondly, I'm not going to post as often as I used to. Certainly not with each recipe getting its own post. Maybe once a week. We'll see.

So, if you're remotely interested in following along, I'm going to start with Nigella Kitchen.

I've developed a complicated relationship with this book. I love to look through it. I've actually cooked from it quite a bit over the past few months. The thing is, the recipes are not at all reliable. Some are great, and are things that I've cooked multiple times (African Drumsticks, Egg and Bacon Salad, Tarragon Chicken, Small Pasta with Salami). Others flat-out don't work. I've burned a lot of food by following the temp and time instructions in this book. Basically, anything that needs to go in the oven. Other recipes are bland. One (Crustless Pizza) was vile. Is it me? Is it the book? I want to try more recipes and see if I can figure out if there are enough great recipes to justify so many misses.