Baking with George Greenstein

February 05, 2013
By Holly Jennings

Jewish Baker jacket

Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World
by George Greenstein
Ten Speed Press
328 pp. $29.99




It has been my experience that many excellent cooks and bakers are intimated by the thought of making bread at home. Yet bread baking can be made simple to understand for the both the novice and the experienced baker.

—George Greenstein


Truer words were never said. And they are exactly the sentiments of Sam Heffernan, the member of this club who suggested we do a baking book. She wanted not only to share her love of bread, but also to encourage (more…)

Crowd-Pleasing Portuguese Food

November 22, 2012
By Holly Jennings

Exciting Flavors from Europe’s Western Coast
by David Leite
Clarkson Potter
256 pp. $32.50





It’s difficult to please everyone equally in a cookbook club with every cookbook we choose. Each of us has favorite ingredients and flavor combinations, and even cooking techniques that we’re drawn to. But The New Portuguese Table came pretty darn close.

Several members appreciated the fact that the ingredients weren’t too difficult to gather, which hasn’t been true of all of the books we’ve done, and almost everyone enjoyed the meals they made from the book. Several members, myself included, who wrote to the author on his site (Leite’s Culinaria) with questions about this or that appreciated the author’s accessibility and responsiveness.

For myself, I loved the (more…)

The Delights of Gastro-Porn

September 06, 2012
By Holly Jennings

A Cook in the Orchard
by Nigel Slater
Ten Speed Press
591 pp. $40.00



For many, this summer’s read was the phenomenally popular Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, a soft-porn bondage thriller that has, I have it under good authority, led to an increase in sales of rope in hardware stores.

I got my kicks from reading Ripe by Nigel Slater, a deliciously written bit of (more…)

Fat Words

July 08, 2012
By Holly Jennings

. . . reading about one of nature’s best flavor enhancers

An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
By Jennifer McLagan
Ten Speed Press
240 pp. $32.50

When DCCC members picked Fat this spring, I decided to make The Food of Franceby Waverly Root my companion read. This beautiful book—its is spine embellished with golden fleur-de-lis—is organized by butter, fat, and oil.

I got as far as the second page, where I was stopped in my tracks by a sentence so concise and so contemporaneous, even though the book was published in 1958:

“. . . .food is a function of the soil, for which reason every country has the food naturally fit for it.”

Or, said another way by Dan Barber, (more…)

Get Cracking with Thai Food

April 16, 2012
By Holly Jennings

By David Thompson
Ten Speed Press
688 pp

David Thompson, author of  Thai Food, doesn’t cut any corners, and he doesn’t expect you to, either. The result? Some of the best Thai food you have had—better than what can be had at most restaurants—prepared right in your own kitchen.

There is a downside, however; the same rigorous recipes that create lively, nuanced food have the potential to leave a trail of disgruntled home cooks in their wake. One DCCC member so disliked the book that she returned it! Those of us who soldiered on all enjoyed the foods we prepared, finding them unlike, and more vibrant than, the more familar and probably overly Westernized version of Thai food we’ve had access to in the States.

There is no question that if you are new to Thai cooking, or even if you’ve done some Thai cooking at home using other cookbooks, you will be challenged when first cooking from this book, which is a truly amazingly, in-depth look at Thai food and Thai culture (the first recipe doesn’t appear until page 191!).

There are multiple reasons why Thai Food is not a walk in the park: ingredients can be difficult to find—particularly if you live in a small town or rural setting, or any place without an Asian population of some size—and there are very few suggested substitutions; for such a complex, text-heavy cookbook, the index could be much better, more complete, and provide more than one way to look up an ingredient or dish; in some cases, the instructions in the recipes proper could be clearer or more (more…)

Cooking Outside the Comfort Zone

January 27, 2012
By Holly Jennings

Authentic Classic Dishes from all over Africa Adapted for the Western Kitchen
By Rosamund Grant
Southwater Books
96 pp.

In melting-pot America with a choice of restaurants reflecting our global world, it can be difficult for adventurous and seasoned eaters to find entire cuisines, flavor profiles, or ingredients that are wholly new to them. Yet, beyond Ethiopian and Moroccan, most Americans, including DCCC members, surely have little idea of what comprises African cooking. So it is with nearly blank palates, that we approached the most recent DCCC pick.

The flavor, ingredients, and techniques of African cooking took us out of familiar territory, pushing (more…)

A Global Grilling Primer

October 06, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Sizzling Recipes from Around the World
By Jay Solomon
The Crossing Press
116 pp. $10.95

Cookbooks with an international recipe collection are not as popular as they once were. Today Americans are ever more educated about global tastes and seem ready to delve into books devoted to a single foreign cuisine, and to go the extra mile to get authentic ingredients.

Yet unlike when Global Grilling was published, nearly two decades ago, going that “extra mile” is likely to be just that—driving one additional mile to your local Asian or Hispanic market. Reflecting the difference between then and now, some recipes in the book give the choice between more or less authentic ingredients, such as fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce, making them incredibly flexible templates, (more…)

Soup, Bread & Salad: Good Eating Year-round On Offer From a Generous Author

July 26, 2011
By Holly Jennings

A Country Inn Cookbook
By Crescent Dragonwagon
Workman Publishing
406 pp. (out of print)

I don’t know Crescent Dragonwagon personally, but after reading her Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread cookbook from start to finish, and making several successful recipes from it, I feel as if I’ve gotten to know something of her—enough to bet that generosity is one of her best-loved traits. In our author-reader/cook-to-cook relationship, I feel doted on. All of my questions about technique have been anticipated, my curiosity about an ingredient or genesis of a recipe satisfied, my experience of the foods enriched by Crescent Dragonwagon’s high-quality prose and selection of quotes from poets, cooks, and artists, and, most importantly, the recipes deliver on her promises.

At the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club potluck, we (more…)

Delving into Mexican Cooking

May 26, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados
By Diana Kennedy
Clarkson Potter
496 pp. $30.00

Except for me, Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club members have put Mexican cooking behind them and have moved on to cooking soups, salads, and breads from our current cookbook. Everyone in the club loved The Art of Mexican Cooking, as you’ll read below in my review, but sentimental attachment is not the reason I haven’t yet let go. It’s the review—the task for each cookbook that I always save for last for reasons of objective synthesis (I need to wait until I hear what each member thought of the book), but also because review writing stirs a youthful condition I thought I’d long beaten into submission: procrastination. Perhaps that’s because when in school book reviews were one of many writing assignments that were generally dreaded, and because the activities of cooking, eating, and drinking Margaritas with club members are free of school days association. (If anyone has any book review writing tips to help me oust those “school assignment” feelings, please bring them on.)

In the meantime, while I work on casting out procrastination once and for all, here is my review of the third Dowdy Corners’ cookbook, starting with the food, the reason why we cook:

The Food

One of our members was initially lukewarm about the club’s choice of a Mexican cookbook; prior to cooking from The Art of Mexican Cooking, her only reference for Mexican cooking was Americanized food served in average Mexican restaurants, and she was not impressed. Now she is completely hooked.


The Simple Pleasures of Greek Cooking

February 23, 2011
By Holly Jennings

More than 300 Classic and Modern Dishes from the Mainland and Islands of Greece
By Diane Kochilas
St. Martin’s Press
354 pp. $21.95

After preparing some lesser-known Greek dishes from the DCCC pick The Food and Wine of Greece, like Faki (Hearty Lentil Soup), Soutzoukakia Smyrneika (Meatball Sausages, Smyrna Style) and Sfoungato (Baked Omelet), my boyfriend, half-joking, half-not, said, “Greek food doesn’t taste like Greek food.” And he’s right, if you base your understanding of what Greek food is on the handful of iconic dishes and associative ingredients that have become familiar to Americans: Greek salad, Greek omelet, gyro, souvlaki, spanakopitta, stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki (the creamy yogurt and cucumber dip), rice pudding, baklava, Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, olive oil, and oregano. (more…)