15 February 2020

Weekend Cooking: Cook Something by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

Review of Cook Something by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa HamiltonAre you familiar with Canal House? It's a cooking, publishing, and design company founded by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, two women who celebrate everyday, home cooking using fresh ingredients.

I've been a fan of theirs for many years, and I love their philosophy, which is all about the pleasures of cooking, especially for ourselves and those we love. Their newest cookbook, Cook Something: Recipes to Rely on (Voracious, 2019), is all about encouraging cooks of all abilities to master a few techniques and then expand on them, giving us the tools and confidence to make home-cooked meals every day.

I love the layout of the book and, of course, the beautiful photography (one of the things Hirsheimer and Hamilton are known for). For example, take the soup chapter. It starts out with several recipes for homemade stocks and broths. What follows is combination of traditional recipes--with measured ingredients and full instructions (minestrone is one of these)--and what I'm calling "ideas"--with suggested flavor pairings (beans in broth is an example).

An idea I tried is Udon Noodle Soup:

We simmered 2 pieces of beef shank in some homemade chicken stock (pages 84-87), along with 1 peeled parsnip, 1 peeled carrot, 1 peeled shallot, some parsley stems, and 3 star anise. The resulting broth was lip-smackingly sticky and rich with flavor. To the strained hot broth, we added some sliced peeled carrots and a tangle of udon, the Japanese wheat noodles. Slurp!
Review of Cook Something by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa HamiltonI, however, sliced the parsnip and carrot, later shredded the beef and returned it to the pot, used 5-spice powder instead of the anise, and served it with soba noodles. Hey, a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. Regardless, it was delicious and super-easy to make.

Other categories of recipes in Cook Something are eggs, snacks and nibbles, salads, pastas, fish, chicken, braises, ground meats, grilling, vegetables, and desserts. Among the recipes I've tried are cheese toasts, sardine and lemon melba toasts, chicken tomato broth with raviolini, lentils with roasted beets, and the very delicious ragu bolognese.

If you're looking for new ideas for weeknight and family cooking, this is a great book for you. If you're an experienced cook who needs a push to get out of a rut, Cook Something will offer just the nudge you're looking for. If you wish you were more skilled in the kitchen, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton will be your new best friends.

I feel confident recommending this cookbook as a buy. If you're vegetarian or vegan, however, you'll want to look before purchasing. You'll find plenty of great ideas, but many of the recipes include meat and fish.

For more on Hirsheimer and Hamilton, see this article in Food & Wine about their new restaurant. To see some more of their photography, visit their site Life at Canal House. For my review of their Spaghetti: Pronto! cookbook, click on through.

Thanks to Voracious Books for the review copy of Cook Something. The scan and recipe come from the cookbook and are used here in the context of a review. All rights remain with the original copyright holders.
Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

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rhapsodyinbooks 2/15/20, 6:21 AM  

I think it is so true that one just needs encouragement to try new things in cooking, and recipes that seem hard and complicated suddenly get way easier, if one overcomes that initial intimidation. That happens to me all the time (also with new stuff on the computer, but that's another story!)

Mae Travels 2/15/20, 6:49 AM  

Great idea to get our of a rut, and this looks like one good way to do it. I’ve been working out of my rut by trying new Asian recipes instead of more traditional French-Italian-American recipes. I think I would like your variation better than the original recipe as you described it.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Tina 2/15/20, 7:57 AM  

I only learned of Canal House through your posts and happy I am that you write about these books. I need a challenge now and then. Yummy soba noodles, great idea. I haven’t had those in years.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 2/15/20, 7:57 AM  

This sounds like an excellent way to learn to cook. I like it when basics are explained and then variations are proposed. Cooking can be much more of a creative experience that way. My mom always rigidly followed a recipe when she cooked, so I was under the impression that one couldn't really be a cook until you learned all the many rules.

bermudaonion 2/15/20, 8:19 AM  

Oh yes, Canal House has great cookbooks with fabulous photos. This sounds like a cookbook that belongs in every kitchen.

gluten Free A_Z Blog 2/15/20, 8:54 AM  

I often have to substitute when following a recipe and I am always happy when it still comes out good. Sounds like a good cookbook

Jackie McGuinness 2/15/20, 10:03 AM  

I would probably also keep the beef in that recipe.
Interesting simmering it in chicken broth.

Claudia 2/15/20, 10:38 AM  

I've been trying a few more of the recipes from The Art of Escapism Cooking, and believe me, that will get you out of a cooking rut. This book sounds like another, from the library first.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 2/15/20, 10:47 AM  

I think we need to be inspired to continue cooking creatively and that is the primary reason for cookbook sales in new books and of course used books. I could never have too many....I have noticed Canal House books before, I will have to take another look!

Nancy Andres at Colors 4 Health 2/15/20, 12:17 PM  

I'd adapt this recipe to be fully whole food plant-based and use vegetable broth and leave out the meat. I use bok choy in almost everything so I might add that. Love the flavor of pasnips and can't get enough. Thanks for sponsoring this blog party. Appreciate it!

Shaheen 2/16/20, 11:37 AM  

I am not familiar with them, so thank you for sharing.

Laurie C 2/16/20, 4:20 PM  

I appreciate the warning about vegetarians! It does seem as though a lot of cookbooks are very meat- and stock-oriented and it's good to know that ahead of time. With all the worries about meat quality and the expense of buying organic or free-range, I find it less stressful to just cook without meat as much as possible!

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