Category Archives: Cookbooks

A Food App from Alain Ducasse

English: An image of an iPad 2.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just came across a new foodie app:  My Culinary Encyclopedia : recipes and techniques by Alain Ducasse.  

I don’t know about you, but these days I hardly ever use a cookbook for actual cooking.  I do still love to read them for inspiration, and I do still collect them (at a decreasing rate…it has to be spectacular for me to buy it now) but for the most part, if I’m not making up my own recipe, I’m googling or checking Pinterest.  So an app that I can access via my iPad would work for me.

But at almost $35, it’s hard for me to justify this app, as amazing as it might be. However for a newbie cook, this might really work well.  It has numerous videos that show good technique as well as how to plate, with 250 recipes.  You can add your own comments or  email yourself an ingredients list.  There’s nutritional information, plus insights into food origins, storage and more.

Of course if you’re looking to learn how to cook, you can just as easily peruse YouTube videos, or enroll in one of the online cooking schools that have been cropping up.  But then…this is Alain Ducasse one of only two chefs to hold 21 Michelin stars throughout his career!

Shockingly Sweet Tomatoes

two slices of toasted white bread

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve always had a fascination with foods made from white bread.  Growing up, we rarely had white bread in the house, the folks instead preferring a hearty rye bread or pumpernickel.  I can recall things being dismissed as being “so white bread”…meaning boring or ordinary.  And yet, as I passed the Wonder Bread factory on the subway, the smell made my mouth water.

I found this recipe in Real American Food by Jane and Michael Stern (Alfred Knopf, 1986), and the simplicity and yes…the absurdity of it tickled me.  I’m not sure when I first made it, but it’s become a family favorite and a holiday staple ever since. I consider it a warm compote, and  I generally make a double batch.

Yield: Serves 6-8

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, including juice (I use the San Marzano and crushed works as well as whole)

8 slices white bread

1 stick unsalted butter (8 TBS)

1 cup sugar

Toast the white bread on dark setting.

Place tomatoes in a large saucepan.

Tear toast into about 4 pieces per slice; add to tomatoes.

Add butter and sugar.

Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm.

Marcella Hazan’s simple tomato sauce

I’ve been meaning to give Marcella Hazan’s simple tomato sauce for eons now (how long is an eon actually?)  I know I should use fresh tomatoes, especially since I live in New Jersey, but I just have Trader Joe’s brown tomatoes here, and I’m planning on using those in a Caprese salad.  Not to mention I have several cans of San Marzano tomatoes sitting here, just waiting to be used.

Here it is, from Marcella Hazan’s  Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (my second favorite cookbook, my first being The Silver Spoon by Phaidon Press.)


2 cups canned imported Italian tomatoes, cup up (include juice) I use San Marzano; or if you’re feeling the need to not cut corners, 2 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned **

5 TBS butter

1 medium onion, peeled and halved

Salt (to taste)

Now cook:

  1. Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato.
  2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese for the table.

Serve over your favorite pasta.

**  (You can either blanch them by plunging into boiling water for 45 seconds…cool before skinning—or you can put them in the freezer until hard, thaw and then skin.)

A Passion for Cooking

My first memories of cooking are of me, standing on a chair in the kitchen, stirring food in a pan with a wooden spoon.  Mom didn’t enjoy cooking much, but she was a great baker.  Her chocolate walnut torte was the stuff dreams are made of, and memories of her potato kugel can still make my mouth water.  Dad, a butcher, liked to make all things meat…but that was the extent of his cooking.  I think I learned to cook out of desperation — but I soon learned to love it — cutting recipes out of magazines, begging them from friends’ parents and relatives, and taking cookbooks out of the library.

I guess my love of cooking was no secret, because one early birthday (probably around my 8th birthday) I received my first, very own cookbook…Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls.  It was at that moment that my passion for collecting cookbooks began, and it continues to grow…as does my collection which at this point numbers over 1000 (that’s not a typo!)

For me, cookbooks aren’t about get a recipe for cooking a specific dish.  They are inspiration, a view behind the veil of a culture or a decade.  Nowadays, I’m often found re-reading an old favorite, checking new ones out of the library (then buying those that “speak to me”) and of course, scouring the internet food blogs for interesting new cookbooks, recipes or food trends.

While I won’t deny there are times I don’t feel like cooking (shhh), most often if I need to relax, or do something creative, or wind down at the end of a busy day, whipping up a new dish or putting up a pot of soup to bubble on the stove, is all I need (with perhaps a glass of wine and some great music playing.)