Everyday Gourmet 1/29/09

Cooking the books

Jan. 29, 2009

By Kim Dannies

So many wonderful cookbooks, so little time! Here are a few of my favorite books from this past year:

“Spain: A Culinary Road Trip” by Mario Batali (with Gwyneth Paltrow) makes for a charming cookbook/travel guide highlighting the pleasures of sunny Spain. Earthy but elegant food, fascinating sidebar interviews and tips for travelers make for pleasure on the page and the palate; a companion PBS special series on Thursday evenings at 10 brings it all to us in living color.

“How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman would make a worthy wedding gift for a couple new to the kitchen. I’m thinking of downsizing my general cookbook collection a bit and using this as a single reference.

Always a soft touch for “anything Ina,” I love “The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” by Ina Garten. The cookbook is filled with well written recipes and paired with excellent food styling and photographs. While her food is not typically kind to the waistline, it is always comforting, gorgeous and easy to prepare. The joy Ina Garten brings to her cooking is simply contagious.

The staff of Food & Wine magazine produced a book called “The Best of the Best,” where first they chose the 25 best cookbooks from 2008, and then they flushed out the best recipes from the winning cookbooks. Sounds like “Darwinian dining” to me; maybe this can be the new foodie catch phrase for 2009.

I never knew that pancakes made without eggs or butter could be so fluffy and so delicious; these healthy vegan pancakes will add a bit of sunshine to many a dark winter morning. The recipe is from “Veganomicon” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. It is a terrific primer for vegan cooks, or those interested in new learning new techniques; the recipe makes 8 to 10 pancakes.

Lemon blueberry corn pancakes

1.    In a work bowl, combine 3/4 cup of white whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2.    In a 2-cup measure combine 1 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1/3 cup water, 1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract, 2 teaspoons lemon zest and 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup.

3.    Preheat a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat.

4.    Add wet ingredients to dry bowl and mix until just combined; do not over-mix as pancakes will become tough, a few lumps are fine.

5.    Spray pan with cooking spray. Lower heat to medium. Pour 1/4-cup portions into pan to create pancakes. Sprinkle in some fresh blueberries (frozen blueberries work fine, too, simply thaw on a paper towel to eliminate excess moisture.) Cook one side about 3 minutes and flip when browned; cook until barely firm, another minute or so. Repeat as needed. Serve with warm maple syrup.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.