As mentioned on Tuesday, I’ve been in a bit of a culinary rut lately. I just have not been feeling it in the kitchen. I decided to head to Appetite for Books, Montreal’s English language cookbook store, to pick something up and hopefully get inspired. I’ve ordered a few cookbooks off the internet after reading reviews, and have often been disappointed at what arrived. Once perused, the books then sit, lingering and getting dusty on my shelf while I felt guilty at the waste. I firmly believe cookbooks are subject to a fair amount of personal taste, and should be bought in person. Go to a cookbook store, ask for recommendations, browse, and choose something you love.
I walked in to Appetite for Books and asked for something Italian, not hard, but inspiring. I was handed a bunch of cookbooks but walked away with The Art of Pasta. It was expensive ($52) but I thought it was better to spend money on something I’d use than another dust collector. And, I love it. There are tons of inspiring pasta recipes going from the basics (pesto, ragus) up to making your own pasta. The book is also gorgeous, and the tone is very informative. I have to say, I find some of the recipes themselves a bit odd. I get the feeling that the Italians are into more subtle flavours. For example, one recipe asked to add two leaves of basil, and then remove. To me, that is definitely not enough flavour. But, I am confident enough to improvise (a recent hit used 10 slices of bacon instead of the requested 3). So I take a recipe, use the ingredients and the suggested pasta, but then vary the quantities myself. It works.
I also ordered My Sweet Mexico and picked it up this past week. I love flans, custards, hot chocolate, milky sweets and all that goodness and I just knew this would be up my alley. I experienced a few Mexican goodies while living briefly in Mexico ages ago, but looking at all on offer I clearly missed out on most of it even though I got to travel a big chunk of the country. The cookbook does have a few easy recipes, but most of them are a labour of love. As well, there seems to be quite a few errors which is frustrating. I made the convent cookies, which turned out but did not seem right. I should have trusted my instinct as the butter requirement was off. I also made the conchas blancas (white shells) and my dough didn’t rise. I happen to make the same recipe as the cookbook reviewers at Chow where they confirmed the butter error, and that their dough didn’t rise either. But I’m not giving up on it (and I am determined to make conchas blancas) and I still am eager to cook from it.
My last inspiration is this recipe for banana bread from Kitchen Heals Soul. I’ve made it twice now it’s so good, and I am just waiting for my bananas to ripen to make another batch. I’d only give one caveat – the last time I made it I skipped the step for straining the banana juice from the bananas and boiling it down. Yeah… don’t do that. The mixture was way to liquid and the centre of the muffins stayed moist even after extensive cooking. Do it right, and cook it down. You won’t regret it!
What do you do to get inspired in the kitchen?