How To Cook Everything

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by SmithorJones on December 10, 2010

in Cooking, JonesGirl, Latest

Do you have a favorite cookbook? Want one? How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman. The guy’s a genius. Really.

For years I had two cookbooks that were the go-to books in my kitchen. I had NUMEROUS cookbooks – but there were two that had surfaced as the ones I reached for first and it would take something pretty special to convince me there was a better way to make/bake something than what I could find in those two books. I’m a pretty no-nonsense cook – probably the reason I’m a Rachael Ray fan. Cooking has never been a “hobby” for me, so I’m not in the Julie & Julia category of pushing the limits of my culinary abilities. (Did you see that movie? Except for the whole husband eating like a hog at the trough thing, I loved that movie.) That said, I do like making good food – and for the last seven years I’ve had this cookbook (the prior version) at my disposal. It was Smitty’s “dowry” I think. 😉 I don’t think we got it as a wedding gift, but I do believe Smitty had it in his kitchen before we met.

Our copy is now becoming worn and kind of curled up at the corners. There are post-it notes sticking out of it to mark the pages I tend to go back to the most. The book is the size of a phone book that Superman used to demonstrate his superpowers tearing in half – so unless you remember page numbers like Rainman could, I’ve found that, for me at least, it’s best to stick bookmarks in it here and there.

He even has a better recipe for pumpkin pie than the one I’ve used forever.

I had some leftover pumpkin that I needed to make something with this week, so I dragged out “the book” and started looking for ideas. We made a banana bread once using his recipe and it was the best one we’d ever tasted. So, we’ve gotten to the place where we figure if he can do “that” – I bet he can make “this” a good way too…and that’s how it has become the go-to cookbook at Chez SmithorJones. Sometimes I’ll compare it with another book I have, but this one is usually the way I go.

The thing is – even in the back of this cookbook he gives you his list of favorite cookbooks – and some of them sound pretty tempting to source/buy too. But, we’re living in a tiny little house, and it’s nice to have my inventory of cookbooks down to just a handful because there just isn’t space to store the extras. Besides – there’s always online if I can’t find what I’m looking for in this book. And – how cool is this? – this book is now available as an E-book for download on the Kindle now too. No more dog-eared pages and post-it notes – just a slightly spattered Kindle I’m thinkin’…

This pumpkin bread, Smitty has been saying is better than anything he’s gotten even at Starbucks. Well…I think that could be debatable, but it’s pretty good. I’d classify it as “hearty” – not a delicate little bit of fluff – so if you’re looking for fine pastry this won’t work. However, if you like muffins and/or a nice piece of a batter type bread with your coffee of a winter’s morning – this one’s very nice. Want the recipe? I’m thinking an excerpt from the book would be okay, right?

This recipe fits into a bread pan – the regular loaf size. It’s a variation of his Apple Bread recipe, so I’ll give them both to you (because the pumpkin bread is also for zucchini – so you’ll have three recipes in one to use).

Apple [or Pumpkin] Bread

Time: About 1-1/4 hrs.

Carrots, apples, zucchini, pumpkin. . . you can add almost any grated fruit or vegetable to a basic quick-bread batter and gain moisture, flavor, fat-free nutrients and – usually – sweetness. I like this kind of bread with some whole wheat flour and cornmeal, but you can use all white flour if you like.

2 cups (about 9 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar, plus more to taste
1 egg
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1-1/4 cups milk
1 cup peeled and grated apple (drain if it is very watery)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients. Beat the egg with the butter and milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it, along with the apple. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating, and stopping as soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth.
  3. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out dry. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Zucchini or Pumpkin Bread: Thoroughly drain 1 cup shredded zucchini or pureed cooked or canned pumpkin. Add to the dry ingredients :

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • A pinch of ground cloves
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

and increase the sugar to 1 cup. Use 2 eggs. Add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans if you like.

I also threw in a palmful of raisins and a palmful of dried cranberries.

So, there you have it –

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