So this may sound odd, but I'm not a big cookbook person. Most of my food friends have walls - literally, walls - stuffed full of cookbooks and their floors are dotted with towers of information on such topics as gluten-free baking and how to cure a tagine. Rooms are bordered by imposing culinary skylines pushed against the walls in order to make a path to the kitchen.
To me it's like a head packed to the brim with too many thoughts. No way to give them all enough attention or sort them all properly. And like thoughts, some are lost never to be seen again until one day you seem to trip over it out of the blue (probably when moving). Others are gems that you treasure and invest your time into while others are inane and you wonder how on earth this awkward tome came to be.
I ask these friends if they use all of these cookbooks. These literally hundreds - and for one, thousands - of tomes. Do you use them all? Really?
The answer is usually yes. Often followed by the modifier, "Eventually..."
Dot. Dot. Dot.
They use them as reference in order to compare and contrast. They use them as textbooks to learn from. Art books to be inspired by and to draw from. A way to enhance one's own photography and point of view. Sometimes, because you want to find just the right waffle recipe and you won't know which one it is until you read through fifteen others.
These are all good enough reasons. However, maybe at times it can be just too much information. At the very least it's repetitious.
Now I'm not much of a hoarder. I purge. Often. Except my own words when I write. Those I hold on to with a grip so tight you would think I were holding onto life itself. (But aren't words life? I think so.) But I purge things. Stuff.
Ugh... I hate STUFF.
I don't like having so much crap in my house. I want it out and gone.
I'm particular on which cookbooks I adopt and bring into my home. I only have a little bit of space that's pretty much filled up, so soon I'll need to invest in a larger bookshelf or begin constructing my own little cities against the wall, too. I pick books that are good for reference. Rarely do I pick one up simply because it's pretty. Some of my favorite books have no pictures. After all, Irma Rombauer and Diana Kennedy certainly didn't need them.
I choose books for their usefulness. I want unique. I want helpful. Educational is key. Practicality is prized.
I almost always buy the cookbooks my friends write, because I know and trust their thoughts and opinions. I know that I will use their books. (I also feel it is good book karma.)
I want all of my books filled with stains from chicken blood or raspberries or whatnot. I want pages crusted with flour and stuck together from a stray gloop of honey. I want torn covers and annotations. I want to see my handwriting scribbled across the page with wine suggestions, alternatives, adaptations, and the occasional X through the page or a giant "YES!" scrawled across the top. Nothing is more endearing to me than a cookbook as shaggy and dog-eared as a border collie.
I admit, one or two cookbooks will never see a kitchen. They're educational. The lessons and history wedged into their pages are far more important than the meals they detail.
So yes, I'm a huge cookbook person. Just a rather picky one.
Today I felt like making peach cobbler. I know the method and the means, but I wanted some other opnions. I consulted Deborah Madison, flipped through Lindsey Shere, talked to Dorie Greenspan, chatted to my bud David Lebovitz, and had a socratic discussion with Regan Daley and Cindy Mushet.
Here's what we came up with. It might be the best. It might not. It's subjective, really. I think we all know that. It's a laid back peach cobbler recipe spiked with a lot of vanilla. Personally, I think vanilla makes everything better. It is, obviously, one of my favorite flavors.
Now, I'll close blogger and save this post. I'm going to my kitchen to eat cobbler with a mug of over-steeped black tea and sit down with my new cookbook and see what Molly Stevens has to teach me about roasting.
Will report back later.
Vanilla Garlic's Peach Cobbler
3-4 large peaches, pitted and sliced
1 cup vanilla sugar (or plain 'ol sugar)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon corn starch
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, diced
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350F. To make the filling combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and allow to macerate for about 15 minutes. Then pour into a buttered 9x9 baking dish.
2. For the dough, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the butter in and cut it together with a pastry blender or your fingers until it looks like coarse crumbs. Combine in a bowl the milk, egg, and extract and add the mixture to the dry ingredients and mix it once or twice until it just comes together. Drop spoonfuls of the dough over the peaches - be lazy about this. It makes the drops work better.
3. Bake at for 50-55 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve and enjoy.