At the start of this nearly 1,000-page tome, you are instructed not to use this book for the following three things:
For academic research. For dieting. Or for a doorstop.
You have to to love a cookbook that announces itself with such honesty and presence. And “The Essential New York Times Cookbook” (W.W. Norton & Co., 2021), of which I received a review copy, certainly does.
It was written by former Times’ food writer and food editor, Amanda Hesser, who went on to co-found Food52.
It’s actually an updated version of the original book that came out in 2010.
Hesser took on the challenge to once again wade through the Times’ immense 150-year-old archives. This time around, she also called upon the expertise of cooks of color to add more global recipes, including ones from Nigeria, Tibet, Thailand, and China.
In the process, she ended up jettisoning 65 former recipes in the book and adding instead 120 new ones that are more culturally diverse. She includes the date each recipe appeared, too, providing a fascinating look at how our tastes and techniques have changed or stayed the same.
As the title implies, the book’s 250 recipes are fast and easy, with brief ingredients list. Pepin is not above using frozen pizza dough, canned beans or ready-made sponge cake in some of them, either.
As he states in the introduction, “This book is intended to make your life easier.”
It will, too, with recipes such as “Cream of Pumpkin Soup” that uses canned pumpkin, light cream and curry powder; “Cheese Tart,” made with a frozen pie shell filled with a mixture of eggs, ricotta and Gouda; “Mustard-Broiled Shrimp” that’s coated with honey mustard, dark soy sauce and Sriracha; and “Orange Bavarian Cream” what mimics fancy custard cream but is instead made with instant pudding mix, half-and-half, and melted vanilla ice cream.
It’s all about the sauce — in this case a syrupy one full of cranberries, balsamic vinegar and honey.
Like so many folks especially in this part of the country, I appreciate being able to eat seasonally — to hone in on what’s best at each time of year to enjoy its peak flavor and revel in its often brief local appearance.
But there’s one item I keep in my freezer nearly year-round, even when its season is long gone.
Cranberries. Frozen ones to be exact.
I know, I know, they’re so fall and winter, you’re thinking. Why in the world would I want to partake of them in spring or summer?
Because their vivid color makes anything special. Because their sweet-sour fruitiness wakes up whatever they’re paired with. And because, how can I resist something that reminds me of the most festive, family-and-friend-filled convivial time of year?