I am also quite fond of Ellie's cookbook, So Easy, not to mention all of the Giada, Ina, Maida, Marcella, Craig, Pierre and Ken cookbooks. These are the ones I return to time after time. They are old friends and I'm on a first name basis with them. Even the Big Kitty refers to them in that fashion.
We have been members of a locavore delight, Good Food Good People, for a few years now. Jane and Spike subscribed to it and we decided to give it a try. We were hooked after the first year of weekly sacks of vegetables. There were new things in there, and I didn't always know what to do with what I got. If the recipes they included didn't click for me, I was up a creek. But recently, there has been a wealth of new cookbooks dealing with vegetables. I spent a lovely free hour sipping coffee and reading Deborah Madison's latest. Needless to say, I want that book! (I have a book group order to make and a coupon to use... Hah.) Madison has been on the vegetarian scene for ages, beginning with The Greens Cookbook. Her cooking has evolved, along with the more adventuresome farmers and their products.
The whole vegetarian scene has been shifting away from the mushroom laden, bean busting and patchouli-reeking food of that funny little health food store I used to frequent on Howard Street in Chicago. Whole grains and unusual vegetables are becoming mainstream, as are backyard vegetable gardens (and the accompanying skunks, groundhogs and possums that wallow in their bounty). My yard, going straight up a hill, is not condusive to vegetable gardening, not that I haven't given it the desultory try from time to time. I have shade at all the wrong times. And, in spite of studying BGF's superior tomato growing methods, I've no solution for deer that bite the tops off my tomato plants, nor the members of the large-size rodent genus who ransack the fruits.
And so, I content myself with the weekly box of earthly pleasures. This week we had a bag of crunchy spinach and rather than making the ubiquitous spinach salad (not that it wasn't a tempting idea), I made a pasta dish with it. I had an ulterior motive. I still had a butternut squash in the basement and I wanted to use it up. The squash was peeled, seeded and cubed and then roasted. Orchiette pasta was cooked, the spinach washed, hazelnuts toasted and skinned and crushed, sage minced, butter browned, romano cheese grated. All this got mixed together and it was pretty darn good. - I think another time I might add garlic to that browned butter. I got this recipe from The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.
Last summer I read The Unprejudiced Palate by the late Angelo Pellegrini. In it he described his upbringing in Italy, his family's relocation to the Pacific Northwest, and his garden and theories on cooking. There was a man who hauled in loads and loads of manure to improve his soil, who harvested his vegetables and fruits, and who taught at the university and fed whoever showed up with delicious, simply prepared foods. The book reminded me of something Ruth Reichl mentioned in one of her books. She read about food. She thought about food. She prepared food. And she credited books like Pellegrini's for shaping her passion for food.
With the publication of the latest generation of vegetable cookbooks, Ellie Krieger's question becomes more relevant to me. I will never allow a winter to pass without having made at least one batch of beef stew from McCall's. I will always make Julia Child's onion soup recipe, not to mention beef bourguignonne. Marcella Hazan's roast beef in red wine will continue to be a go to recipe when I have people here for supper. But, I have to admit to having left Molly for Ken Haedrich, who introduced me to whole grain baking with his cabbage potato pie in the cheddar cornmeal crust. The early Moosewood books were too mushroomy, too cloyingly honeyed, and the ingredients no longer appeal to us. I made the breakfast cookies in another of Molly's books and realized that they were too oily. They would have been so much better made with butter.
And that is how it goes. Our tastes evolve, and along with that is the way we prepare what we eat. It's time to really read those old cookbooks and decide on their future - on my shelves or off to the AAUW used book sale. The new books offer so many interesting ways of using the ingredients that are now available through our CSA that it doesn't make sense to stay stuck in the 70s or 80s in terms of vegetables and non-meat dishes.
Gotta say - this is a problem I like having. New recipes, new ideas and a lot of good eating!