Take Home Chef: Bookseller Edition


with Library Shop Cookbook Critic Scott

Loyal readers of the Library Shop’s blog are probably doing a double take right about now.  Cookbook Corner?  The Library Shop has a cookbook critic?  Why wasn’t I informed?  Well friends, though I’ve been with the shop since inception (September 2013), I take my job as resident cookbook critic seriously.  I’m not just going to pick something every quarter to fill space in a newsletter.  I’m not going to sell you a cookbook that looks good at first browse but ends up on your shelf as nothing more than a book of pretty food pictures.  I’m going to test it, cook with it, and, if I walk away from it after a few weeks and a few recipes I’m not going to even mention it to you.  It has to be a book that lasts.  That’s how much I value your time, and that’s why I’m excited to announce, after four years, my first Cookbook Corner pick:  Tartine All Day ($40). 


Tartine All Day was released early this year and has been in my kitchen’s heavy rotation since.  Written by pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt, co-founder of the legendary bakery Tartine in San Francisco (Chad Robertson’s excellent Tartine Bread is also available at the shop as well) the book branches out from breads and pastries providing some amazing dishes for every meal of the day, with a nice selection of creative vegetarian creations, but enough meat thrown around to occupy the carnivores.   The book is also 100% gluten free (as Ms. Prueitt, despite running a baking empire, is gluten intolerant) with about a quarter of the book devoted to gluten free baked goods, if gluten free is your jam.  (It isn’t mine, but I found it worthwhile to buy three different kinds of obscure flours to make sure I followed the recipes as instructed (there’s nothing worse than a cookbook critic who alters recipes then negatively reviews the frankenfood that didn’t turn out as written) and the taste, texture and crumb (cookbook critic terms) didn’t suffer from any of the deficiencies a lot of gluten free baking does.  Many of the dishes appear exotic and complicated at first glance, but nothing I made took me longer than an hour from start to finish and other than the gluten free flours I had most of the ingredients on hand, and none of the techniques are intimidating, so I was able to cook some things on the spur of the moment.  Lack of spontaneity is often what turns a potentially great cookbook into an aspirational-someday-I’ll-be-this-person-who-cooks-these-dishes untouched book on my shelf.  In my six months with the book I’ve made the Goat Cheese-Garlic Spread (4 ingredients, 5 minutes max, tasted amazing), the Gravlax (beat the Barefoot Contessa’s), the Zucchini Herb-Fritters, the Golden Beets and Greens with Hazelnuts and Honey-Vinegar Dressing (who knew beet greens could taste decent?), the Brandade (which has a few clever shortcuts to avoid spending three days and having to find salt cod), the Savory Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms and Bacon (a big hit here at the Library) and the show stopper for me, the humble Ricotta Dumplings (I took the optional extra step of making my own ricotta cheese out of milk and vinegar, but it was totally worth the effort and only took half an hour) simmered in an amazingly simple tomato sauce after pan frying to crisp them up.  Tartine All Day is truly as cookbook for every day all day (see what I did there?) and that’s why it’s Cookbook Corner’s Cookbook of the Quarter!