Summer’s plentiful farmers’ markets always inspire me to pull out my cookbooks and prepare some new recipes using the freshest, most succulent fruits and vegetables. During the holiday weekend, I made tamale pie and banana-flax muffins, both from the Moosewood cookbooks.
While I was leafing through them for inspiration, I found my tattered copy of Joy of Cooking on the shelf. I’d bought more than 20 years ago, when I was a fresh college graduate and eager to cook more than eggs and brownies. Yet despite its worn cover, I have to admit that I rarely used it.
One look at the index of recipes provides a big clue as to why: I’ve never had a craving for lentil or lima bean sausage casserole, pickled beet salad, rennet pudding or caramel cream divinity (though anything with caramel can’t be bad).
Our family is predominately vegetarian and loves Mexican, Indian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese.Those cuisines don’t play a big role in Joy, which emphasizes mid-century recipes that have faded from vogue. Aspic, anyone?
The Joyful mother-daughter team of Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker did a bang-up job of explaining nearly every cooking and baking basic, from how to truss a turkey to how to poach an egg. But now all that information is readily available on line. You can even find videos to walk you through the process.
So after leafing through my copy one last time — and turning to page 373, which includes a recipe for “rice dressing for cornish hen or pigeon” — I put my copy in the “donate” pile in my garage. I’m sure someone out there will be delighted to find a recipe for steak and kidney pie or apples stuffed with sauerkraut.
My copies of various vegetarian cookbooks are well thumbed and splattered with sauces and mixes. Finding favorite recipes in them has been a challenge, but I’m confident I’ve found a great way to organize recipes without removing them from the cookbooks. More on that in a minute.
Here’s what didn’t work:
— Bookmarks, which became crumpled, fell out and looked untidy
— A Post-It note on the front of the cookbook listing recipes and page numbers; this was unwieldy, as I still had to turn to the recipes
— Highlighting favorites in the table of contents; I couldn’t easily remember which cookbook had the recipe I was seeking
Here’s what does work: Adhesive file tabs, each one labeled in permanent ink with a tried-and-true recipe and attached to the top of the recipe’s page in the cookbook. Finding recipes is easy, and the sturdy plastic tabs wipe clean and are easy to find. You can see how I’ve used them below, in the Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites Cookbook. Their squash soup is wonderful, by the way.