Friday, May 23, 2014

Announcing: The "Herbs and Herbivores" Cookbook Project

Those of you who have been following this blog will not have failed to noticed that it has been, well, mostly dead for the past 18 months or so.  Between a toddler, an international move, a new job, and the other stuff that make up life, for a while there I wasn't cooking very much at all. If I made something more exciting than scrambled eggs for dinner, it felt like a special occasion. Venturing beyond the four or five regular dishes that I know how to make by heart took a great deal of effort.

But I opened this blog because once upon a time, I actually found cooking exciting. I wanted to try new things, explore new flavors, and expand my culinary knowledge. So in that spirit, and in order to challenge myself to rediscover the joys of cooking and baking, I have decided to embark on...

The "Herbs and Herbivores" Cookbook Project

A lot of people these days are getting rid of cookbooks, because "you can find any recipe you want online." In many ways, this is true. I love the vast array of cooking sites and blogs, and I do often use online recipes. But the problem with online recipes is that they are mostly good if you know what you want to cook. If you're looking for a recipe for beer battered onion rings, or a 3-bean casserole, or gluten free ravioli, then Google is your best friend. But it can't replicate the magic of a good cookbook. A good cookbook doesn't just tell you how to make something. It seduces you into trying new things. Even if you never cook a single recipe from a book, reading through it will open up your culinary imagination and encourage you to consider new foods and new flavor combinations. And that's something that an internet search doesn't do nearly as well.

As you have no doubt gathered by now, I'm a fan of cookbooks. In fact, one of the first things people notice about my kitchen is that I have books. Lots of them. As of this morning, there were 119. (Yeah, I know. Time to buy one more book to round up the number. Or another 81, as my husband suggested). I have vegetarian cookbooks, gluten free cookbooks and general cookbooks. I have books dedicated to Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Israeli and Persian cuisines. I have a perhaps disproportionate number of books dedicated to baking (of those an even more disproportionate number dedicated to chocolate). I have books dedicated to specific products, such as squash or tomatoes, and books with as broad a mandate as you can imagine. The one thing most of my books have in common is that they are gorgeous. I like my cookbooks to be glossy, shiny, and full of pictures. I know there are some fabulous books out there with no pictures whatsoever, and I own a small number of them, but like I said - a cookbook should seduce the reader into trying new things, and beautiful book just does that better.

Over the past couple of years, my books have been largely abandoned. But in an effort to rekindle my cooking, I'm going to start this simple, low-key project. Over the next few months, I am going to go over every cookbook I have, and I am going to cook at least one NEW (and vegetarian, of course) recipe from each book. That is, I'm going to make at least one recipe I have never made before. I will then post the recipe on this blog, with a short review of the book from whence it came.

And I will start in just a minute, with a simple and delicious Cinnamon, Sour Cream and Hazelnut Cake.

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