November 17, 2017

Dear friends,

My cookbook collection is growing again after an abrupt halt when I retired from the Beacon Journal. I had access at the newspaper to almost every new cookbook printed in the United States. They arrived on my desk in droves, unbidden. I could look up an Uzbekistan dish, no problem, or decide which of five Peruvian cookbooks I wanted to keep.

Ah, well. After an 11-year dry spell, I’m just glad to have a way to purchase a few of last season’s cookbooks for $2 to $3. Sometimes the books are older than last season, but that’s OK; they are new to me.

There are probably lots of off-price book e-tailers, but BookBub is the one that snagged me. While it does not specialize in cookbooks, at least two or three are among the offerings in any given week. New subscribers check categories of books they are interested in, and receive daily emails with five or six book synopses. The prices are good for a limited time, and only through BookBub. Most of the books are sold at regular prices at outlets such as Amazon.

So far I have bought Carnivore by Michael Symon, Pastries from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton, The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman. The latter two are the only ones that have tempted me to cook from them, but for $9 total, I can handle a few misses.

I didn’t think I would like cooking from an electronic book, but now I enjoy propping my iPad on the kitchen counter and following along. When the food is finished, my iPad is right there to photograph it.

My latest electronic cookbook session involved a Chinese crab and corn soup from Bittman’s book. I chose it because it sounded so quick to prepare. It was, and Tony loved it. I liked it too, and probably would like it even more with homemade chicken stock and creamed corn that starts with fresh corn on the cob, which Bittman suggests as options. But then, the soup would never have made it to my table.

This soup is delicate and lovely. The clean, grassy bite of cilantro juxtaposed against the creamy broth is what makes the soup, in my opinion. Is it one of the best recipes in the world? No, but it’s good and it’s quick, and worth the $2 paid for the book.

Cream-style corn and crabmeat soup

CREAM-STYLE CORN AND CRABMEAT SOUP

  • 2 tbsp. corn, grapeseed, or other neutral oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 lb. shredded crabmeat, diced peeled shrimp, or diced boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp. nam pla or soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 can (15 oz.) creamed corn
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or scallion
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil; then add the crabmeat. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes, until nearly done.

Stir in the nam pla, wine, and corn. While stirring, pour in the eggs in a slow stream so they cook in thin strands. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

From The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman.

TIDBITS

Confession: I rarely buy unsalted butter. I know salted butter is not trendy, but I like the flavor. Now I can come out of the closet.

David Lebovitz, who lives in Paris, writes in My Paris Kitchen: “If you buy regular salted butter, it’s likely that the salt has been dissolved so that it’s not obvious, but there is a discernible flavor difference you’ll probably start to appreciate if you use it often. Salted butter just tastes more, well, buttery to me.’’

Yes, salt originally was added to butter to help preserve it before the availability of reliable refrigeration, but it was added for flavor, too. The two types may be used interchangeably in recipes without compensating for the small amount of salt added or lost, Lebovitz says.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked at home last week:
Chinese corn and crab soup, French dip; bratwurst with sweet and sour cabbage; Japanese venison curry.

What I ate away from home last week:
Taco Bell tacos; butternut squash soup and grilled chicken salad with white French dressing at The Eye Opener in the Wallhaven area of Akron; eggs, bacon, grits and a biscuit at Cracker Barrel; and a Greek smorgasbord (pastitsio balls, spit-roasted lamb, marinated, grilled chicken, Greek cookies, rice pudding, etc., etc.) as a judge at a Men Who Cook fund-raiser at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Akron.

THE MAILBAG

From Rachel A.:
I love your “ode to friends” issue (last week) so much. I’m an Akron girl who moved away and moved back, but I left my two dearest girlfriends a hundred miles away in Powell, Ohio, and this holiday season is when I miss them most.

Recipes and stories are some of the best glue to keep us together. Thanks for the toast to the family we choose! Love (to Kate and Deena).

Dear Rachel: I hope your Kate and Deena continue to enrich your life as Elizabeth does mine. Thanks for the note.

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