You know what we haven’t done in a while? An in-depth book review! So when Abrams Publishing asked me if I would like to sample Home Made by Yvette Van Boven last week I hopped all over the chance.
For the sake of my blog’s integrity and my own conscience I don’t always jump at the freebies. If I don’t think I can use something, I turn it down. Even if that means we don’t get the fancy coffee maker just to make an occasional single cup of hot chocolate with (no matter how much this may have upset Handsome). As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, it seems rather dishonest of me to post a falsified review of a product just so I could later re-gift it to someone. Same with a cookbook all about goats earlier this year. Sure, it looked amazing, the recipes seemed interesting and the whole concept seemed great – but other than cheese, I wasn’t sure I had a real source for goat products. How can I review a cook book all about goat with just cheese? Not fair. So, I passed.
But how could I pass up a book all about the rustic basics of making your own ice cream, canning your own preserves, or creating a smoker in your oven? These are things we can all learn without any fancy supplies or spiffy markets nearby.
When I first get a new cookbook, I flip through the entire thing, scanning for pictures and words that immediately pop out at me. Next, I read the biography about the chef. I want to know who they are, what their spin is, and why this cook book is unique on shelves packed with thousands others. Finally, I do an more thorough read of the book, looking at each and every recipe from the front to the back.
What I wasn’t expecting when I opened the package, was an encyclopedia sized compilation of do it yourself recipes. For those of you to young to know the joy of an encyclopedia or how big they were, I apologize as my reference goes over your head. Fortunately for me, we were in the middle of a horrid downpour that made it perfect for discovering a new book. So, let me tell you a little more about my discovery in my breakdown of what’s important to me in a cookbook.
Technical Level: This book is designed to appeal to all levels of home cooks, taking every dish back to the basics and working up. At the beginning of each section, there is a page or two on the basics you will need (like creating your own broths), the recipes that follow build outward from the pages before utilizing what you just learned. If you already know how to create a great fish base broth, you can just skip ahead and make the chowder, or if not, you could start from the ground and work your way up to a beautiful bisque. That being said, I feel that giant books are almost daunting to a new chef. Where does one start with 320 pages in a hard bound book? It can feel a little overwhelming. With patience and a basic understand of ones own skill level in the kitchen, this book features recipes achievable by anyone.
Graphic Design: The words that come to mind when I flip through this book are quaint, rustic and poppy. The authors quarky personality seems to pop in the font choice for the titles of the recipe and occasional ‘hand-written’ font for some select recipes. The pages are neither packed with too many words or too empty that it’s just a waste of space, with a good flow throughout the pages. The images almost feel faded and worn, giving you the feeling they were taking in your grandmother’s garden long ago.
Recipe Quality: The recipes are great. Simple and easy to follow making beautiful dishes seem easy and uncomplicated. Most are broken down into steps in which the beginning of the chapter the basics are explained with the recipes later using the steps and recipe you have already worked through.
Personality: Although I own cookbooks on regional cuisine from other parts of the world, this is the first book that transported me to another place somewhere between tea parties in Ireland and a catering business in Amsterdam. The author seems to genuinely believe in herself, her partners and her view on cooking. From preparing healthy filling lunches to desserts that will be enjoyed and vanish in moments her outlook doesn’t seem tainted by commercialism that we often overlook of our own celebrity chefs, and is purely showcasing her desire to cook real food. There is even a section for dog treats, a character we see multiple times in the photographs throughout the pages.
Why I’d Buy: This book isn’t one that I would have ran to the book store immediately to flip through or purchase. Without the opportunity to review it, I’m not sure I would have known about it until months after it’s release, however, I am glad I got the chance to flip through. The recipes make me want to roll up my sleeves and get in the kitchen on these dark dreary days. The recipes are the kind of food that will warm your belly and give you what you need instead of the showstopper that we often come to expect from these thick heavy books. I think it will be one of those quiet books that someday eventually winds up in everyone’s collection dogeared and splattered with age and wear. I would buy this book, not for the first time cook, but for someone who has expressed an interest or passion for cooking and a desire to learn.
This book also comes with two wonderful ribbon bookmarks that will work as wonderful cat toys when you are clearly neglecting your pets. You were warned.
Summer Minestrone from your Own Garden
From Home Made
- 3 – 4 tbs olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 16-26 ounces vegetables fom your vegetable garden, from the greengrocer, or even frozen, (just don’t tell!); garden peas, fava beans, broccoli florets, and cubed zucchini, and bell pepper
- 2x 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, heated
- 8 oz small past; mini penne, ditalini, conchigliette, rotelline
- 1 14oz cannellini beans or white beans, or fresh from the garden
- salt and pepper
- a piece of Parmesan cheese to grate over the top, if desired
Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion until light brown. Add the garlic. Then add all the vegetables that require some cooking, such as broccoli, bell pepper, and zucchini. Fry briefly and add the tomatoes.
Allow to cook for approx. 5 minutes and cover with the heated broth and pasta. Simmer the soup for 10-12 minutes, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Add the smaller vegetables. Coarsely mash that cannellini beans, leaving some of them pureed and some while. Add to the soup. Briefly heat the soup and allow to slightly thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the minestrone in large bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve with country bread and tasty olive oil for dipping.