|Shiitake dan dan noodles, care of Becky Selengut's "Shroom" - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
The two cookbooks I can recommend for both yourself and as a nifty gift idea are Becky Selengut's Shroom: Mind-bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms, and Renee Erickson's A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus: Menus and Stories. I'm a sucker for local chef/authors, and these two are some of Seattle's Top Chefs That Don't Even Need a TV Show, But I'd Watch 'Em if They Had One. These books are both beautifully put together and very friendly reads; they incorporate personal touches and the recipes are organized in a way that just makes sense when you're cooking. Erickson's recipes are arranged by season, as well as special occasions for favorite recipes; the sections are punctuated with quick recipes for things like her famous Boat Street Pickled Shallots, and big presentation entrees are showcased with beautiful photographs -- the Designer Nerd in me especially likes that it's a cloth-bound hardcover book, with uncoated pages, so the photos are as warm and inviting as the stories and anecdotes that accompany the dishes. Selengut's Shroom proves that you can make a truly engaging book focused around a single ingredient. Part cookbook, part resource guide, I was already using it as a reference book after picking up some unusual cultivated mushrooms from the farmers markets. The chapters are divided by mushroom type; along with recipes, the fungi is broken down into flavor profile, what ingredients it works well with, and if it's advisable to use it fresh or dried. There's tips about foraging, too, but make sure you have a trained mycologist with you when you're digging around the forest. Safety first, lest ye totally trip balls or worse, drop dead. Selengut's recipes are in order of difficulty, from easiest to more complex, and it's an omnivorous cookbook -- while there are vegetarian recipes, there are also dishes that incorporate seafood and meat.
|Cook the book - how does Shroom fare with a recipe test drive...? - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
|Weeknight special - shiitake dan dan noodles, easy-peasy! - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Sous vide salmon with a modified kale gratin - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
The Mister wanted to show off his Sous Vide Monstertruck Machine to Wasabi Mom, and immersion-cooked a ton of salmon, which we ate for almost every meal. It was the beginning of fall when she visited, so there was a cornucopia of great stuff in season. I made a creamy corn and salmon chowder, salmon and scrambled eggs, and for dinner, I used Erickson's kale gratin recipe to go with the simply seasoned salmon filets. The original recipe just needed kale, cream and a nutty, dry-aged cheese -- delicious on its own, yet super easy to customize. I had extra corn, so I layered kale with the kernels and made it according to the recipe, and it became a wonderful, creamy-gooey, kale and sweet corn side dish, with the top layer of kale crisping to perfection, as promised.
|Jam tart transformed into I'm Sick of Stone Fruit Tart - and oh hey, granola - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Flexible recipes that let you modify based on what you have? YES PLEASE - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
I gotta say, put BOTH these books on your personal wish list and your holiday gift-buying list. Give to friends who love to cook, and more importantly, friends who want to cook, but feel a little intimidated by complicated recipes. I judge the usefulness of cookbooks by the grubby fingerprints I leave, waterstains, and dog-eared pages -- I anticipate lovingly Fight-Clubbing these books for many future meals.
Quick Note: I think you'll love this post SO MUCH, that you won't mind it's here for an additional week. I'll be traveling on a food-related mission for a few days, but promise to share my findings when I return -- you can hopefully get a sneak peek through my Instagram and Twitter feed (Wifi Gods, shine upon me favorably).