My birthday gift this year from my Montréal bffs (I don't actually say things like "bff" in real life... but oh, typing is so different, isn't it?) was a seat in a cooking class/demo at Appetite for Books. If you live in the Paris of North America like I do, I whole-heartedly recommend this experience. Each class is based out of a different cookbook, and the one I attended was for the latest River Cottage offering, River Cottage Everyday. Well, as I am an unashamed RC fan-girl (see below) this was a truly lovely gift. We, the "students" (aka walking stomachs) sat around the kitchen work-table and drank wine while our host made recipe after mouth-watering recipe before our very eyes. We had beet soup with spiced yogurt, white bean salad with warm leeks on greens in a mustard vinegrette, a main course of slow-cooked shin of beef in an apple-soy-ginger sauce on mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and withered greens, and for dessert... apple-almond cake, hot out of the oven, with whipped cream. Here is the chef's version of the evening.
And while we are on the topic of food/cookbooks, I thought I might share a few of my favs from my kitchen. Cookbooks are so popular these days (thanks to The Food Network probably! Not that I would know because I don't HAVE a TV.) and they are making some very pretty ones. At the library new cookbooks go out before we even get a chance to set them down on the shelf. Even if the recipe is for... I don't know, grilled cheese... it doesn't matter. The books are gorgeous, glossy and salivatory. While I actually do make some of the recipes hidden in mine (I do! I really do!) I am certainly guilty of spending more time drooling over pictures than slaving over the stove. I can hardly be blamed though, as I have some real beauties.
1. River Cottage Everyday & The River Cottage Year ~ I really shouldn't be as big a fan of these as I am. Really, I love the shows. I do also love the books, but he does like his meat, doesn't he? As a quasi-not-really-but-mostly-vegetarian, there are lots of recipes I'll likely not use. However, Hugh's ideologies about farming practices, especially as they related to animals raised for meat, are ones I fully share so I can't really get uppity about this. And anyway, on the rare occasions that I do decide to cook up something meaty, I have some lovely recipes to use. And there are tons of veggie-friendly offerings. And the desserts, well, those aren't too shabby either.
2. A Fling in the Kitchen. Remember when kids used to do these to raise money for different activities? Maybe they still do? I know that I used to collect pop bottles for my Jeannettes troupe (is that the only reference I can find? really?) and sell chocolates for the school band. But this was for a friend's Scottish Dance troupe. And I still use it! I really do! Not only are some of the recipes long-time favourites, but there are lots of useful conversion charts and the like in it.
3. Rebar Modern Food Cookbook. This comes from a restaurant of the same name, in Victoria BC. I've never been but the next time I visit fair Vancouver Island I will be sure to check them out. Everything I've tried from this book is great (although some ingredients are a bit granola-health-food-store-y which makes them harder to source, but usually worth the effort for the new flavours). The most successful by far (if we go by number of times cooked) is their Chocolate Mousse Blackout cake (p.209). Holy mother of pearl. It's sort of like a vegan cheesecake, but it's actually better than cheesecake. Seriously. Even non-vegans love it, I promise.
4. Apples for Jam. This was an unintentional birthday gift from a couple of weeks ago. I say unintentional because they had picked out one I already had and so I got to pick this pretty one out myself. How could I resist those red mary-janes? It is a beautiful book (full of Tessa Kiros' recollections too) and the honey cake (p. 279) became my birthday cake.