March 19, 2013

It’s spring: Let’s celebrate the arrival of new cookbooks

Get a new perspective on pies, Southern comfort good and cookies

Today is the first day of spring.

Like returning flocks of songbirds or bursting buds of spring, publishers are releasing new cookbooks in the market. Allow me to share some of the latest titles to arrive at my desk.

“Pies: Sweet and Savory,” by Caroline Bretherton, DK Publishing

A wide ranging assortment of pie and tart recipes from around the world. An upfront menu planner not only serves as an index but lists cooking times. The “In Praise of Pie Dough” chapter gives precise step-by-step instructions for making the perfect dough (from classic plain to gluten-free, strudel dough to puff pastry, there are 11 varieties listed ... who knew there were so many?). There is a section of vegetarian pies and tarts. What’s not to love when the directions give you the option of making the dough from scratch or using store-bought dough? Beautifully illustrated and easy-to-follow recipes make this a keeper.

“Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides: 250 Dishes that Really Make the Plate,” by Fred Thompson, University of North Carolina Press

Thompson is the editor of Edible Piedmont and the author of 10 cookbooks, including “Barbecue Nation: 350 Tried-and-True Recipes from America’s Backyard.” “Southern Sides” is an eclectic mix of some of Thompson’s favorite recipes that are his own or originated from a friend or relative. Organized by ingredient type (root vegetables, grains, greens, etc), more than once he asks you to “laugh at” the ingredient list if you must but try the recipe anyway. Sample recipes include Oysters with Pancetta and Garlic Butter, Grilled Barbecue Sunchokes, Classic Pimiento Cheese, Cherry Salad with Southern Cola (listed below). Thompson also lists recipes for the five Southern barbecue sauces (Lexington (N.C)-Style “Dip,” Eastern North Carolina, South Carolina Mustard, East Tennessee and Slow-Cooked Memphis-Style).

“Southern Living’s Feel Good Food: Simple and satisfying recipes with a fresh twist,” Southern Living, Oxmoor House Publishing

Writer Valerie Fraser Luesse and Southern Living editors have compiled a collection of 200 recipes, some classics, some with modern twists, in this cookbook. As the title implies, recipes are organized by emotion or memory (Nostalgic, Gracious, Indulgent, Celebratory) and there are Fraser Luesse’s memories of growing up in the South (fishing with her father, planting tomatoes, etc.) scattered throughout the book. Many of the recipes start with the classic method and then list “twists” to try (how to turn a waffle recipe into pancakes or how to make a casserole recipe into individual ramekin servings, or even how adding a new ingredient can change the flavor). And there are menus listed for easy meal or picnic planning.

“Cookies for Grown-Ups,” Kelly Cooper, Red Rock Press

What’s wrong with having a glass of wine or cocktail with a baked treat rather than a glass of milk? Absolutely nothing. Cooper’s recipes pair sweet and savory goods with wines, coffees and mixed drink suggestions. The recipes themselves have ingredients such as Gruyere or orange liqueur in a sweet cookie or maple syrup or beef jerky in a savory selection. Some flourless, non-leavening recipes are perfect for Passover or those who are gluten-intolerant (see Eye Candy, below).

Cherry Salad with Southern Cola

Serves 6-8

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained, juice reserved

1 15-ounce can cherries, not pie filling, juice reserved, cherries cut in quarters

2 3-ounce boxes cherry Jell-O

16 ounces Pepsi or Coke

1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Lettuce leaves


Combine the pineapple and cherry juice and pour about 1 1/2 cups of the liquid into a large mixing bowl. Add the Jell-O and stir to dissolve. Pour in pineapple, cherries, cola and pecans. Transfer mixture to a 9-by-13 inch dish or a mold. Chill until firm. During the first 30 minutes, stir occasionally so that all the pineapple, cherries and nuts don’t sink to the bottom. Serve over lettuce leaves topped with a dollop of mayonnaise.

Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides

Eye Candy

2 dozen cookies

3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup grated high-quality white chocolate

1/3 cup roasted, unsalted pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, gently mix together all of the ingredients.

Scoop mixture by 1-tablespoon portions, pat together with hands and place one inch apart on a parchment lined or non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until just golden. Let sit for a few minutes and transfer to cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Pair with a Riesling or red dinner wine.

Cookies for Grown-Ups

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