smell and learn.

stolen from here.

There's an eGullet thread about trying to cook your way through a single cookbook front to back.

Part of what I like about cooking in general is that it's a very immediate way to be spontaneously creative which other people can enjoy very tangibly. A further part of the allure is that it seems like there are very few rules about what's possible...you're only limited by imagination, skill, time, and cost. OK, and the human palate. OK, so that's a lot of limitations actually.

My point: the idea of cooking solely, monogamously from a single cookbook goes against the perceived freewheelingness of improvisational cooking and surely threatens to suck the joy out of the creative process faster than you can say "introductory paragraph closing witticism/hook", right?

Sorta, but after thinking about it a wee bit, I decided that I might like to try it as a way of escaping from my recently acquired bad habit of looking for new things to cook on the ol' Web. Now yes, I do realize that the internet is designed for this kind of research, but there comes a point where one's "research time" begins supplanting one's "actual life", and this is probably not what the internet was designed for. And if it was, well...that's just plain mean.

So I've decided to do this one-book thing, and the one I'm doing is last year's book from José Andrés, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America. I cooked through a lot of it (for me, anyway) last summer, inspired by this eGullet thread, and I found it to be (as Early Cuyler would say) outstandiner n' hell. Mostly very healthy, simple recipes, but I learned much from the sheriff's formless ramblings (as Early Cuyler would say), and turned out some bangin' summer grub as a result.

I'd like to just start at the beginning and go, but the chapters are organized along the lines of "Cheese and Eggs", "Potatoes", "Mushrooms", et cetera, and I don't think that either I or my dining companions can sit through 8 egg dishes in a row. So, I'll be jumping around. Today's entry will be either Escarola con sanguina, queso de cabra, almendras y vinagreta de ajo tostado (endive with oranges, goat cheese, almonds, and toasted garlic vinaigrette), or Pisto Manchego (zucchini with peppers, eggplant, and tomato). Or both.


Last year back when Head and Body were still living in Amstrodam, we had a series of dinners together with Andy and other assorted special guests very loosely based on an extremely fictional cooking show called Smell and Learn. For example, there was a risotto episode, a pot roast episode, etc. I cooked the Spanish episode, mostly out of the Tapas book above. Here's what I put together:


Arbequina olives.
bread with Garcia olive oil and membrillo.
chorizo al sidra.
tortilla route 11 with brava sauce.
marinated sheep's cheese ("We say 'you can taste the farmer in this cheese'" is what the Spanish girl who sold it to me said)

Asturian-style salmon with apples, Cabrales, and chives.
mushrooms in escabeche with serrano ham.
Catalan-style spinach with apples and pine nuts.
garlic shrimp with aioli and romesco.


90% of this was great, the rest was at least good. Another shrimp letdown, not enough garlic. But everything else on this list has become A-list material, and hopefully the whole-book approach will add to this list. It's very careful cooking, because the recipes are so simple...your goal is to extract maximum flavor from each element blah blah blah without letting your maximal tendencies complicate things, a good lesson to smell and learn.

UPDATE: Soon after this post was completed, I realized that there is no fucking way my attention span will support this endeavor. It was nice while it lasted though, wasn't it.

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