Three inspiring—and locally-sourced—cookbooks to carry you through to spring, and then some. By Colin Marsh
Canal House Cooks Every Day (Andrews McMeel Publishing; $45) is a must for anyone striving to cook with the seasons. Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer have compiled a genius month-by-month compendium of recipes, conceived in their canalside kitchen studio in Lambertville, New Jersey. It opens in April, when the first asparagus pokes its head through the thick, waterlogged soil and peas begin showing their sweet pods.
The book is based on Hamilton and Hirsheimer’s daily blog in which they describe—almost tauntingly so—what they made for lunch. Accordingly, each recipe is tagged with the date it was made and photographed, and even the weather conditions. Moving through May’s strawberry and rhubarb crop, the abundance of zucchini in June and tomatoes in August, I fell in love with the simplicity of their vision. The ingredients are limited, the directions, encouraging and the cooking, uncomplicated. The pastas, braised brisket, short ribs and pancakes managed to light my faith even in these dark months.
Equal parts recipes of some of the most coveted desserts served in Philadelphia and narrative of the touching family history behind the famed Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, The brown betty cookbook (Wiley; $23) reads almost like a decadent novel. Linda Hinton Brown grew up in a house where her mother, Betty, baked pies, cakes and biscuits, all before church on Sundays. Linda’s daughter and the cookbook’s co-author, Norrinda Brown Hayat, experimented with Betty’s recipes and devoured cookbooks and gourmet magazines as a child. Mother and daughter opened Brown Betty in 2002.
Eccentrically-named desserts, like “To Miss Mary,” a sweet potato cheesecake, and “Company’s Comin’,” a coconut cake, hint at their fun-loving personalities. Given the opportunity to elaborate, they’re affirmed.
By day, Hope Cohen is the host of the Comcast Network series, “Fast, Fresh and Simple with Hope Cohen.” By night, she’s the single mother of two teenagers. Fast Fresh + Simple (Strawberryblonde Press, $30), which will go on sale April 2, is Cohen’s answer to the dilemma faced by seemingly every working mom: how to walk the line between turning dinner into a part-time job and a bland wasteland.
Here, the Bryn Mawr resident culls 100 recipes from her own experience in professional kitchens and in front of her home stove. Ideas for everything from soups and salads to meat and fish are supplemented with useful advice and heartening anecdotes. With a few of the dishes under your belt, you’ll learn, as Cohen herself did, that they play just as well with weekend entertaining. (Who wants to be stuck in a kitchen all night at his or her own dinner party, after all?) Thus, the chapter on cocktails.
A State Store Field Guide
While we’re localizing, let’s not forget wine.
A well-written article about a great wine should leave you reaching for a corkscrew. That’s usually the effect on me, at least. The fantasy too often ends there, however, because I live in Pennsylvania and, thus, have limited, if any, access to the bottles stirring my thirst.
There’s a silver lining in that common frustration, we realized. In “we,” I’m referring to myself (pictured, above; host of the blog, www.mainlinedine.com) and Jeff Alexander (below; columnist, “Philadelphia Wine Examiner,” and host of the blog, www.mainlinevine.com). We just launched a Web site called Pennsylvania Wine Company (http://pavineco.com) that focuses discussions about the nectar of the gods on a Pennsylvanian’s perspective. Basically, if it can be bought within the cozy confines of our commonwealth, it’s fair game.
We’re reviewing current “chairman’s selections,” discovering local wine-driven excursions and reframing the industry’s leading headlines and trends to make them directly applicable to us, the state store customer. As such, we also bitch about what we’re missing out on. It’s part of being a wine-drinking Pennsylvanian, after all. —Mike Madaio
Category: Home Cooking