Until Food Network decided to make nearly every show a competition, until they chose to embarrass people on camera the way other networks do, I liked to tune in. In fact, I still watch Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and I love Alton Brown’s shows. We like to eat at our house, and we really cook. Not much that is prepackaged shows up on our table. We gather recipes and cookbooks as others might collect stamps.
So I thought I might share with you two cookbooks that I have enjoyed using in the past couple of months. The first is The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook. America’s Test Kitchen [ATK] is a show on PBS starring Christopher Kimball, the most unlikely of TV hosts. He reminds me of Mr. Rogers in a chef’s apron–he’s calm, he’s knowledgeable, and he is confident that you have great abilities that just need to be affirmed. ATK tries recipes and tweaks them to make them work extremely well in your home kitchen. This book captures every recipe of the first eleven seasons of ATK–675 of them. The paper is high-quality and therefore the book weighs a ton–that’s my only quibble with this wonderful volume. One of my favorite parts of ATK is the equipment reviews. This book has a section near the back that compiles those. I have bought many of their recommended items and they have never led me astray–and I love the fact that some of their recommended buys are vastly less expensive than others touted because of their “big name.” In short, this is a cookbook that you can live with for many years. It will help you stock your kitchen and hone your skills. Oh, and by the way–we have DVDs of many of the ATK shows at the library, too.
The other volume that has captured my imagination and which has been a workhorse for me since Christmas is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
 Friends had introduced me to an article by the same authors in Mother Earth News a couple of years ago. The article outlines a way to make bread dough that does not use a starter, that does not have you proof the yeast, and does not use a machine for mixing or baking. It uses high-moisture dough that can be cut into pieces the size of a grapefruit and baked as a free-form loaf. My go-to recipe involves four ingredients–King Arthur unbleached flour, kosher salt, yeast, and water. I mix a batch every Sunday afternoon and then bake every day until we run out–usually Friday or Saturday. Rinse and repeat, as they say. The book takes the basics and expands those fundamentals into other interesting recipes. Since this book was released, they have added others to the series–Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. Yes, we’ve got those, too.
In fact, the library has many cookbooks besides these two. I encourage you to come and browse, but please be aware–we only check cookbooks out to people who eat.