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Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, January 2011; written by Kelly Johnson.

I love puttering in the kitchen, and once the bustle of the holidays has subsided I’m ready to try something new. Happily the library is cooperating with my wishes and a whole slew of cookbooks have been hitting the new books shelves.

Nigella Lawson’s newest book Nigella Kitchen: Recipes From The Heart of the Home is a bit overwhelming and scattered in it’s organization, however it is worth the time to sort through. She has lovely dishes and includes such features as “Making Leftovers Right” and an “Express Index” listing recipes that take 30 minutes or less from start to table. And if you are worried about calorie count you can certainly use the book itself as an exercise tool – I’m sure a few lifts of this tome over your head will burn up some calories! You do want to check the “Note for the Reader” at the beginning for the details on things including egg size, chocolate type and other information. While I can find organic eggs and extra large eggs, extra large organic eggs are tougher to manage. Of course, I am happy just reading through the text enjoying her breezy style of writing and looking at the amazing photos.

The Barefoot Contessa aka Ina Garten also has a new title out, How Easy is That: Fabulous Recipes and Easy Tips. This is a much more linear cookbook, with tips and tricks in most of the margins that aren’t occupied with glossy pictures of delicious looking food. I really like that many of these recipes only require a handful of ingredients, and I can even get most everything in town too.

The Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food that makes Everyone Feel Like Family is by an author new to me, Christy Jordan. She starts her chapters by sharing a bit of her family history and a bit of history is given for each recipe as well. The chapters are a bit mixed, for example her Summer Days and Family Reunions chapter includes everything from Broccoli Salad to Perfect Iced Tea to Alabama White BBQ Sauce. However, the book does include most of what I think of as Southern fare making it an excellent addition to our collection.

Another new – to – me author is Pam Anderson, her book Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers is set up very different from the others, but it’s a neat idea. With her one dish dinner she also shares recipes for an appetizer, salad and dessert – she even includes beverage suggestions! She also often has noted “Instant Alternative” recipes for quicker versions of the side dishes making the meal even easier. This really is a great book for get togethers, putting a whole evening worth of food in one place for easy selection and creation.

My new favorite cookbook of all is Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Dorie has written many books, including Baking from My Home to Yours which the library owns. She also collaborated with Julia Child and wrote the text for Baking with Julia, the library has both the DVD set of this PBS program and the book. I am usually a bit intimidated by French cookbooks, or annoyed at their insane ingredient lists, however a peek at the front flap which starts “Julia Child paid Dorie Greenspan the ultimate compliment when she said “You write recipes just the way I do.” made me give this book a chance – and I am so glad I did! While “tartine norvegienne” sounds a bit off-putting the note right under stating that “Whenever you see Norvegienne, meaning Norwegian, in France, you can be sure smoked salmon is in the picture” puts it into perspective. And sure enough this recipe is for a fairly basic starter of smoked salmon on toast, quick, easy and delicious. Nigella Lawson’s recommendation for reading a recipe through holds here too – for clarification if nothing else! As an Arizona girl when I see “Basque Potato Tortilla” I think thin corn or flour flat bread – NOT an egg dish similar to a frittata. But it sounds really delicious! This book may not be on the shelf for a bit, I am going to be copying and trying several more recipes in the next week or two, but you can put it on hold or keep checking the shelves, it will get there soon.

And finally, I must share that there is a new Julia Child book on the shelves; As Always, Julia the Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto Food, Friendship and the Making of a Masterpiece edited by Joan Reardon is a fascinating peek into the lives of both women and the process of getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking published. Avis Devoto was the wife of journalist Bernard Devoto whom Julia wrote from Paris after his article disparaging American knives was published, she wanted to tout the superior quality cutlery in France. Avis, who also was his secretary, wrote Julia back and so started the friendship that lasted the rest of their lives. The two write of cookery, cutlery, politics and more in these lovely letters between friends and Avis, with her knowledge of the American publishing industry is more than a bit helpful in getting Julia’s first work to print.

Cookbooks and the story of a cookbook make for great rainy day reading – and lovely dinners too. And don’t forget the Yarn Bee is Saturday at 3:00 p.m. so visit the library and get new crafting ideas as well. Bon Appetit!

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