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Let's talk Lee Bailey. No, not the attorney but the cookbook author.
I first discovered Lee Bailey in the 1980s, when he wrote for Food and Wine magazine, among other publications. I always liked his recipes and his sense of style. As other people have noted, "Well before Martha Stewart, Mr. Bailey produced attractive books about how to entertain that drew much of their appeal from making glamorous cooking and presentation seem accessible to the uninitiated" (New York Times).
Unlike Stewart, however, Bailey often gives advice like this:
Puff pastry may be bought ready made in most food specialty shops so there is no recipe for it included here. And, frankly, unless you are a dedicated cook, I don't think it is worth making from scratch. (p. 102, California Wine Country Cooking)I appreciate a man who recognizes that some things are just fine to buy.
I own three of his books (the ones shown here) and am sorry I didn't pick up more when they were readily available. I did however save many of his magazine and newspaper articles, so I have a decent collection of his recipes. (By the way, I couldn't find good cover images; thus the fuzziness.)
Bailey's books are known for their beautiful photography, not only of the food but of the table settings, rooms, people, and natural surroundings. I love that his cookbooks are arranged by complete menus. Depending on the book and recipes, he also writes about wine choices, the inspiration behind the meal, the right occasion to serve the meal, and so on.
I also like his writing style. Here Bailey is introducing his duck soup meal:
Of course the first thing I thought of when duck soup crossed my mind was the Marx Brothers movie of the same name. You'll probably be relieved to know that this is as far as the comparison goes. Duck soup in no joke. (p. 100, Soup Meals)I can't lay my hands on Country Weekends, which is probably my favorite of the three (it's buried somewhere in the bookshelves!), so I can't quote from it, but Bailey's style is fairly consistent.
If you wander around used book stores, flea markets, or yard sales, keep your eye out for Bailey's cookbooks. No matter which one you find, I'm sure it will be great.
One of the soup meals I've made many, many times over the years is the Sausage and White Bean Soup Dinner. Here's the menu:
- Piperade pie ("a tomatoey-eggy Basque dish"; a tart)
- Sausage and white bean soup
- Cottage cheese biscuits
- Fresh figs marinated in lemon
Cottage Cheese Biscuits
Makes approximately 18 biscuits
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, chilled
- 1½ cups small-curd cottage cheese
Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender or two knives until it is the size of small peas. Stir in the cottage cheese all at once.
Drop by generous tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.