Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Favourite Cookbooks - Part II

Let’s Cook Japanese Food! – Amy Kaneko

I lived in Japan for five years and when I moved there I knew almost nothing about Japanese food beyond sushi and tempura. Getting familiar with the amazing variety of home-style cooking the Japanese eat on a daily basis (believe it or not they don’t often make sushi or tempura at home) was an adventure in itself (something I’ll save for another blog post). But thankfully I did learn to navigate a Japanese grocery store. The problem upon my return to Canada was finding a cookbook that featured everyday Japanese cuisine. There are tons of cookbooks available on the formal (and very time consuming) food of Japan but until I found this cookbook I had never encountered one that showed how to make the kinds of things Japanese mothers serve their families. Amy Kaneko (an American married to a Japanese man) has produced all my favourite recipes from Japan and then some. She also is aware of the fact that Japanese ingredients are sometimes not the easiest to come by at your local supermarket so she shares alternative ingredients that you can use that will still produce authentic-tasting meals.

Japanese Hot Pots – Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat

Continuing the theme of Japanese cookbooks that specialize in true family-style meals is this great find. Hot pots (or nabe) were a revelation to me when I moved to Japan as I was completely unfamiliar with their popularity, easiness to make, and amazing versatility. Like most Japanese food, hot pots are very healthy and this is the only book I have seen that compiles the endless variations that include everything from seafood, poultry, meat, or vegetarian. Besides the great taste of these recipes, the thing I love best about this type of meal is that it can be cooked on the table-top allowing every member of the family to participate.

The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving – Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard

I planted a very small vegetable garden this past summer in an effort to get Big-D to eat more veggies (it didn’t work). The whole process of growing my own food, however, became a real interest of mine. And while we just don’t have the space for a larger garden, our family started to make a big effort to eat seasonally. So while we’d be having a summer supper on the patio enjoying fresh peaches from the Farmers’ Market or zucchini from my own garden, I wondered how I could enjoy the same great summer produce in, let’s say, January. That’s when I thought about canning and preserving for the first time. I remember my mom making strawberry jam in the heat of summer but that was about it for my exposure to preserving and, on the surface, it seemed really daunting and time consuming. But thanks to this book, I learned how easy it is to preserve your own food. The recipes are specifically designed to make small batches which are perfect for us as we just don’t have the room to store all the jars.

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