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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, October 10, 1999

Library Offers a Smorgasbord of Recipes to Sample

I have recently moved from Central Library to Oaklyn Branch Library which is noted for it's large array of cookbooks and since I am part of that fast disappearing species who likes to cook I thought this would be the perfect occasion to feature newer cookbooks and perhaps inspire you to visit your public library and find out what else is on the shelf. Most people aren't aware of the great selection of cookery titles the library purchases. Why buy a book for one or two recipes when you can check out the book and make your own recipe cards? I have a three-ring binder with recipes copied from many sources and every time I find a new cookbook I add more to my collection. Also, don't forget your library carries many great cooking magazines, one of which I will tell you about today.

How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman (MacMillan, 1998).

A book that reminds me of The Joy of Cooking or Fannie Farmer, but with a more exotic array of recipes. With culinary basics every novice cook will find helpful, this hefty volume offers the experienced cook some new ideas as well. I was interested to learn that really excellent scrambled eggs take half an hour to cook using a recipe from the late master James Beard.

The Perfect Recipe by Pam Anderson (Houghton Mifflin, 1998).

Subtitled "making our favorite dishes the absolute best they can be" you will find good information for cooks of every level of expertise including a recipe for an infallible lemon meringue pie. By rolling graham cracker crumbs into the crust the clever chef avoids the soggy bottom which often plagues this otherwise delicious dessert.

Ethnic Chicago Cookbook edited by Carol Mighton Haddix (Contemporary, 1998).

A visit to Chicago brings difficult choices for me, I'm always looking for a new cuisine to sample and the city has too many choices for a weekend visitor. In these Ethnic-inspired recipes from the pages of the Chicago Tribune you will find a wide variety of tastes from Ethiopian vegetable stew to Irish whiskey pie. Truly a multi-cultural experience.

LaBelle Cuisine : Recipes to Sing About by Patti LaBelle with Laura B. Randolph (Broadway, 1999).

Celebrity cookbooks seem to be a dime a dozen but this soulful adddition is full of real home cooking. Standard favorites such as potato salad and chicken soup are featured, as well as exotic dishes like curred rice and beans and black-eyed peas with smoked turkey wings. Fans will enjoy the candid photographs of friends and family and fellow entertainers enjoying Patti's fixings. If you are counting fat grams beware, many recipes call for olive oil which is a better choice than Crisco but overall this is a treasure trove of fried and sugar coated fare.

Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless (Scribner, 1996).

I've noticed in my recent travels around the South and Midwest more and more non-chain Mexican restaurants in small towns like Carmi, Illinois or Ft. Payne, Alabama. Owned by folks who have moved here from Mexico and Central America, these places give us a chance to go beyond Tex-Mex tacos and burritos to experience a wider range of tastes and dishes. That is exactly what this book of recipes has to offer. A wide range of Mexican dishes that you may have never encountered in a restaurant are presented in a tempting style with inspiring color photos. The dessert section includes a recipe for chocolate Kahlua flan which looks particularly appealing. The author is an acclaimed chef and owner of two great restaurants in Chicago, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.

Taste of Home.

This isn't a book, it's a magazine which is filled with recipes submitted by " a thousand country cooks" as the cover claims. At first I dismissed this colorful little magazine as too countrified and full of high fat fare but on closer inspection I found each issue I paged through contained at least one but usually three or four surprising and intriguing recipes. Tangy Cranberry Sauce featured in the December/January '99 issue is made from diced tomatoes and a can of whole cranberry sauce. My husband loved it but was stumped when asked him if he could identify the main ingredients. Several branch libraries have back issues of this magazine.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.