Meal-time Inspiration

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Posted by Mike of Mike's Table

If you're the one cooking the meals for your family, finding inspiration for what to cook can be a job in itself (and you haven't even started cooking yet). We all have some regulars we all fall back on, but in all likelihood, we've all gotten stuck trying to figure out what on earth to cook tonight/tomorrow/whenever. And if you're like me, living in an area where a decent restaurant is nearly impossible to find, you've got all the more pressure, er, "incentive" to figure something out.

My first impulse is to try to pick out whatever fruit/vegetables/herbs/protein are currently in season (and ideally, locally grown) and see if any ideas emerge from that (e.g. citrus season, blue crab season, etc). Aside from being a big money-saver, this is one of the easiest ways to get the most flavor from your food, so let nature do the work for you.

My next impulse is to go to my fellow food bloggers. There's a lot of very creative people out there with focuses on certain regional foods, styles of cooking, or even all things cake. I also like to go window shopping--we eat with the eyes, too, right? Until you find the sites you want to read regularly, it can be a bit daunting given how many great food blogs there are out there, but finding something that catches your eye is never difficult.

Another favorite place for me to go, my seemingly never-stops-growing collection of cookbooks. Since finding a great cookbook can be a rare thing (I have found plenty of not so good ones, unfortunately), I thought I'd share a few of my favorites:

  • Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume One by Julia Child. You may have shied away from French cooking before, but there's a lot of surprisingly simple fundamentals that are the foundation of a lot of the food we eat today. Julia is one of the best teachers, with a charming voice that even comes through in this tome of a book, guiding you through the simplest and most complex of dishes and techniques. Not necessarily a quicky what's-for-dinner cookbook, but an indispensable one.

  • Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. If you do any amount of baking, this book is spectacular. Breakfast, dessert, or whatever, the recipes are very approachable, the tone friendly, the photos beautiful, and most importantly, the end result tastes fantastic.

  • Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. If you're looking to get started with Indian cooking (and I seem to keep finding this to be true when I talk to people about cooking), this is a great place to get your footing. The recipes are adapted to be mindful of ingredients that easily accessible in western supermarkets and are easily approached even if you've never made a masala.

  • The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. If you've ever had an inkling to make your own ice cream, sorbet, or just about any frozen dessert, this is your go-to guide. Whether it be the classics or some off-the-beaten-path kind of flavors, this is a fun book if you like to keep your freezer stocked (as I do).

Lastly, whenever something pops in my head that I'd like to make, I jot it down on a list at home so that I don't forget it. Maybe it's from reading a web site, a great meal at a restaurant, or whatever. It's a good way to keep me from forgetting things and prevent my creative well from running dry.

Where do you find your inspiration for meal time? Magazines? Web sites? Books? Mystical incantations? I'd love to hear--dinner is approaching.

This post was written by Mike

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First, I have to admit that I have all of these cookbooks on my book shelf! All wonderful for inspiration. I'd also add a few basics, like the Fine Cooking Annuals (volumes 1 and 2), and Nina Simonds' Asian Noodles.

Anonymous said...
January 27, 2009 at 7:08:00 PM GMT+1  

To be honest I get a lot of inspiration form the blogs I read! I love my cookbooks and look through them - then go to the interent and check something similar on the blogs. Almost always I am creating my own mix of the the initial recipe!

BTW you are one of my inspiration sources too!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
January 28, 2009 at 10:46:00 AM GMT+1  

Thanks for the suggestions. I also could not find good cookbooks. With the cookbooks I have here, I have not found anything really special. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...
January 29, 2009 at 2:35:00 AM GMT+1  

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