Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Review: The Kitchn Cookbook by Sarah Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand

Based on a very popular blogsite, The Kitchn (and the accompanying Apartment Therapy), this just-out cookbook is really an interesting piece of art in the food world. The first half of the book consists mainly of how-tos, whys, and what-fors. All encompassing with a plethora of knowledge, these sections of the cookbook really will leave a beginning homecook breathless and ready to get started!

As I read the first part, as the book was offered to me as part of Blogging for Books, I have to admit, I picked it up, then put it down. I picked it up again, then put it down again. And I really love to cook. On the one side, there are some incredibly gorgeous photographs of different kinds of kitchens, features of the owners of those beautiful kitchens, and a whole array of layouts of what to put in any kind of kitchen, how to organize it, why you should have it and what to do with it. I think I had a hard time getting into it because it was a little more than someone like me would need, as an experienced homecook. My kitchen is well-stocked – maybe a little too much for my tiny 7x7 kitchen; I have quite a bit of cooking experience under my apron belt; and I know what grains require what amount of water, by heart. However, I would say this vast array of tidbits and knowledge would come in handy for someone just starting their own kitchen or really wanting to get into the culinary experience deeper. I found this part a little pedestrian for anyone with any kitchen experience. At this point, I almost thought the title would have been better suited as, The Kitchn's Cook’s Book, as I had yet to have seen a recipe and I was more than 100 pages in.

Not having been familiar with the blogsite prior to this, I wasn’t really sure what The Kitchn was all about. It’s an amazing website. I spent quite a bit of time reading, perusing, and enjoying page after page of foodie wisdom. There are articles about new trends – like the oldie, but goodie shrub coming back onto the scene – and recipes galore, tips on shopping and space-saving, and features on different cooks around the world. The first half of the cookbook fits this perfectly. Now, I understand why they created it that way. It’s a skillful homage to their beautiful website and some of the fantastic knowledge they spread every day.

After flipping through the many pages of information, I finally got to the meat of the matter – my favorite section…the hands-on application. RECIPES!

Yeah. That’s really why I get cookbooks. I love the pictures, the temptation, the creativity of creating something new. I love the idea of just making something!

And here is where this book sold me.

Not knowing what to expect since I wasn’t very familiar with the website except as of recent, the recipe section was just as vast as the information section. Cocktails, spreads, soups, meats, foods beloved around the world. Fascinating selections of different concoctions ready to be made, pretty much in any kitchen with very little effort.

I’m not really sure what to make of the way the book is laid out. It is organized and categorized, mind you. And I can see the method to the really-not-so-much madness. But it surprised me a little to flip through the large main dish section finding pastas, pizzas, meatballs, steaks, then pho and pad thai interspersed. Sort of like a trip around the world in one section without a specific order.

I suppose none of that really matters if the recipes stand on their own, regardless of how a book is organized. That’s really about personal preference and editorial handiwork, anyway. But as a reviewer, I do like to offer my thoughts about my experience with each book. What I like, what strikes me, what makes me drool and run to the kitchen with a must-have, must-cook look in my eye.

(I must say, the Green Papaya Pad Thai just about did this to me. The beautiful picture, the mouth-watering recipe, and the ease of the written instructions…hang on…I’ll be right back.)

Smack-smack. *Finger-lick*

Okay, ready to write again.

Let me explain partially why the Pad Thai caught my eye, beyond the obvious of it’s Pad Thai. I’m a sucker for Pad Thai, but oftentimes, the sugary-sweet sauce is too much for some or it’s bland or lacking in anything, but noodles and bean sprouts. I’ve tried my share and yours at most of the Seattle restaurants. And sometimes, it’s just easier to let the professionals cook delicate and intricate Asian cuisine. Sometimes, that is true, sometimes, it’s not. With this particular recipe, the simplicity outranks any fear of making the notorious hard-to-find multi-ingredient recipes. The sauce is a simple three-ingredient make; the rest of the ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen or at the neighborhood market; and they offer substitution suggestions if you can’t find what they call for; and above it all, it’s incredibly healthy – there are no true noodles in it. They call for green papaya noodles made from shredding a green papaya (which can be found at pretty much any Asian market), but in substitution, you could use standard rice noodles, rice itself (which is technically no longer Pad Thai, but would still be tasty), or something like zucchini noodles, if you want to keep it low-carb or Paleo. All of that sounds great to me!

And the majority of the recipes seem to follow this formula: simplicity meets gourmet. Nothing is strikingly complex, albeit, the recipes sound complex. Intriguing enough for a foodie, but simple enough for a beginner cook. Brilliant.

I have now seen The Kitchn light. They are bringing the beauty of amazing food to pretty much any homecook or chef – no fear, no cowering, just brilliant delivery. Makes you feel like glamorous Williams-Sonoma, but in truth, you are functional and radiant Sur-la-Table. Ingenious.

Speaking of Sur-la-Table, another thing I love about this book belongs back to the information section – that hefty first-half. The geniuses who created The Kitchn and its cookbook want people to feel comfortable, confident, and inspired in their own home kitchen, so they often suggest where to find ingredients (or suitable subs) and equipment, including places like IKEA. I love that they keep it in perspective. IKEA may not be in every corner of the world, but the authors are trying to make each item they suggest for a home kitchen easy to find and affordable, helping people understand that cooking at home isn’t always a pricey choice.

This book is for the every cook. Beautifully written, easy to follow recipes, fun ideas with great sounding names to impress your friends (if that’s what you are into and why not? The dinner party sounds great when the food has a fun name), and delectable diversions through the cascades of information and knowledge that you can fall into for a lifetime in either the book or on their site. A definitely interesting read!

Happy creating!

*I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 

No comments:

Post a Comment