8 years ago, I decided to cook a new recipe from every cookbook in my collection. I decided to do it again with the outbreak of covid to focus my energy on something positive (and to eat well.) I added a few of my wife’s books as well.
My favorites in no order are Pok Pok’s whole roasted young chicken, Gramercy Tavern’s ruby red shrimp, Donald Link’s Vietnamese roasted shrimp, Marcella Hazan’s classic tomato sauce served with Andrew Carmellini’s potato gnocchi, Jamie Bissonnette’s lemongrass sausage, Hugh Acheson’s salmon agrodelce, the tuna crudo from Scarpetta, the gnocchi from Lucques, Tom Colicchio’s chicken with morels and Indian-ish’s Saag Paneer but with Feta.
Here is a list of everything made, and if anyone wants recipes, just let me know.
1. Bon Appetit – Food Cleanse - cauliflower and tofu, oven-roasted with ginger scallion dish. The first thing made back in early March and need to make this again. I’m all for easy, healthy and clean vegetarian food for lunch, and love anything with ginger scallion sauce.
2. Charles Phan – Vietnamese Cooking at Home – Shrimp & Vegetable Fried Rice – I’ve made numerous things from this book, in the past but and truly love his grilled sweet potato as part of a vermicelli bun dinner. Fried rice has always been one of my perfect foods but had never made it before. Simple and easy to make, great dish with just the right amount of egg and salty flavors.
3. Gramercy Tavern - Ruby Red Shrimp with White Beans and Kale Salsa Verde- Few things are better than having a cocktail at the bar at Gramercy Tavern. This took several hours to make but ended up being a perfect covid project dish. The white beans were sensational, a perfect pairing for kale, with dynamite shrimp.
4. Cherry Bombe Cookbook -Rose Fizz – This cocktail from a Momofuku vet absolutely tastes like summer and goes. down. like. water.
5. Melissa Clark - Dinner – Bulgogi in Lettuce Wraps - Nice interpretation of a classic dish but have had better versions before. I rarely want red meat anymore, but my older son picked this for dinner and loved the dish. The beef was extremely flavorful, and they had a ton of fun wrapping the meal in lettuce. Dinner is probably my favorite cookbook.
6. Jerusalem - Roasted chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes and Lemon. I made this for Passover. The chicken was flavorful and tender, but the real stars were the sunchokes and shallots. I’d love to make this again for Passover next year.
7. Whole 30 - Southwest Style Eggs – My wife bought this book and never made anything from it, and… I had a craving for scrambled eggs with avocado and salsa. No cooking chops going on here, but not really an inspiring book either.
8. Ellie Krieger – So Easy – Crab cakes. Most crab cakes tend to be too bread-crumb laden for my taste but enjoyed this version as it was light and flavorful. I skipped the tartar sauce to save calories.
9. Tyler Florence - Sesame Chicken salad with Spinach - Solid dish. I baked the chicken instead of pan searing it for calories, which lost some of the crispiness, but we enjoyed. Nice flavor from the sesame sauce and even got my kids to eat spinach.
10. Speakeasy Cocktail book – Americano, Negroni and more. So the Americano. Why has this been missing from my life? It’s a perfect change up from the Negroni, one of the world’s perfect cocktails. Really dig this book.
11. 150 best American recipes - Southwest black beans burgers. When you have nothing in the house for lunch, but want something simple, easy and healthy, this is a perfect answer. I ate this in a pita, with some zhoug. I’ve made it multiple times for lunch.
12. Marcella Hazan - Classic tomato sauce with butter and onion – This has been described as one of the great pasta sauces for good reason. The purity and sweetness of the tomato shines here, so much that you want to drink it right out of the pot.
13. Andrew Carmellini – Potato Gnocchi- I adore this book. His gnocchi were easy and fun to make, although his wild mushroom orzo is better.
14. Giada - Everyday Italian - Chicken Parmesan – I made this for my 10-year-old who really likes chicken parm. He liked it a lot, but nothing special here.
15. Melissa Clark - Dinner In an Instant - White Beans with Garlicy Broccoli Rabe – Perfectly fine dish, but not enough garlic for my tastes. I love the Cuban pork from this book.
16. Ellie Krieger - Weeknight Wonders - Pork Cutlets with Asian Slaw and Crispy Breadcrumbs – I heavily cooked from Ellie about a decade ago. The pork had a nice soy flavor but the slaw was the real star. I added diced green apple and cashews for crunch and have made it several times now.
17. Ancient grains for Modern Meals- Speedy Chickpea Pesto with Couscous – Ok recipe for a quick lunch. Kind of a blah cookbook given how much I love whole grains.
18. Rick Bayless: Mexico One Plate at a Time: Shrimp in Simple Green Almond Sauce – Exactly the type of dish you’d expect at Topo. I loved the clean flavors from the almond sauce. The grilled salmon dish in this book is spectacular as well.
19. Rick Bayless: Everyday Mexican: Black Beans and then his Refried Beans – Not my favorite but the gauc recipe in this book is game, set and match in my humble opinion. There are endless great dishes in Everyday.
20. Zahav Cookbook – Homemade Hummus. I LOVED this, but my wife felt the tahini was a bit overpowering. One day post covid, I’ll finally get to Zahav.
21. Ellie Krieger - The Food You Crave - Soba Noodle Veggie Salad – Simple but flavorful and healthy soba salad for lunch. Will make again at some point.
22. Daniel Bruce - Simply New England. His simple buttermilk pancakes were dense and can’t hold a candle to Martha Stewart’s version. The chili from this book though has been my go to for years. I also made his Rhubarb oatmeal buckle. I’m not a big dessert maker, but really enjoyed this buckle. I love rhubarb and don’t use it enough.
23. Giada – Family Dinners – Basil Chicken – Quick clean flavorful weekend night dinner.
24. Inspiralized – Miso tahini carrot bowl with edamame – My wife became obsessed with the zoodle and I figured why not spiralize. Seems kind of silly but the dish hit all my lunch requirements, clean, healthy and simple with flavor. I’d make again (without spiralizing a carrot..)
25. Hugh Acheson - New Turn in The South - Salmon Agrodolce – I have been making Hugh’s Shrimp N Grits for years. This dish smoked it and completely caught me off guard. The salmon was nice, but the delicate treatment of the veggies – total acid bomb without being overpowering – complete stunner.
26. Primal Cuts: Cooking America’s Butchers – Savenor’s Turkey Meatloaf – I’ve made this and the Sav’s chicken pot pie in the past. It was a solid meatloaf, but nothing amazing considering how sensational of a butcher they are.
27. Scarpetta – Tuna and avocado crudo. Yellowtail Crudo with chili and ginger oils – The tuna was probably the prettiest dish made and loved the yellowtail as well. Gorgeous flavors and need to make this again.
28. Plenty - broccolini and sweet sesame salad / served over bulgur – Kind of blah. I really want to love this book like everyone else but have been underwhelmed.
29. Stephanie Izard - Girl in the kitchen – olive oil poached shrimp with shitake and soba noodles – It’s likely that I botched the cooking technique, as my shrimp came up with an extremely gross texture. Won’t make again but love her restaurant.
30. Serious BBQ – Chicken Satay – This was just ok. The chicken came out a bit dry and the sauce was a bit lacking. His grilled meatballs and Asian pork chops are wonderful.
31. Barbara Lynch - Stir - prune stuffed gnocchi – We did a zoom cooking class from her cooking school Stir. I know this is her signature dish, and perhaps I’d eat it at Number 9 Park, but foie just seems too heavy for my taste these days. I’m also pretty sure we messed up the execution a bit.
32. Simply Ming - Thai lime grilled chicken salad – I work down the street from his Asian gastropub and am obsessed with his crazy noodles. I could eat this salad weekly. I love acid-forward flavors and the lime x fish sauce absolutely drive this dish home. Nothing innovative, but just a great clean dish.
33. Jonathan Waxman – Simple Roast Chicken – I know this is supposedly in the pantheon of great roast chicken’s, but I still prefer Melissa Clark and Barefoot Contessa’s versions. The chicken came out incredibly crispy, but it was a lot of work for flavor return.
34. Dinner a love story - Barbecue Salmon – I love the concept of the blog, but never have been enamored with her recipes. This, however, came as a bit of a surprise. The dish was exceptionally simple but a perfect dinner rush hour meal. The salmon was moist and flavorful, and my kids absolutely loved it. I’ve made it multiple times this summer.
35. Bobby Flay - Mesa Grill - Tomatillo salad with grilled shrimp with smoked chili butter – Decent dish but a ton of effort and doubt I’d make again. The black beans with salmon and jalapeno crema have been a favorite for years.
36. Tom Colicchio – Chicken with ramps, morels, asparagus and sugar snap peas – Quite simply a perfect dish and will make every year during morel season.
37. Jody Adams – Tuscan Steak Sirloin with Parmesan and Lemon – I love Jody’s food and think she’s generally amazing. I thought the steak was great and loved the portobello but won’t make again. Just not feeling steak anymore.
38. M0mofuku – Hamachi cured horseradish-edamame puree and furikake – I served this and the below tuna ribbons together. I really enjoyed the flavors and technique here. The furikake paired with the puree was dynamite, yet I’ll forever go back to his ginger scallion noodles.
39. Jean Georges – Tuna ribbons with ginger – See above. Visual eye candy, but prefer the spiced tofu dish, which I’ve been making for years.
40. Morton’s Steak Bible - Classic Caesar Salad – I made this for my youngest Caesar salad loving son. Nice version and would make again for him.
41. Dean & Deluca – Tabbouleh stuffed pita & yogurt tahini grilled chicken – What I expected to bring back memories of street cart meals in the city turned out to fall flat. Their tabbouleh was nice though.
42. Arabesque – Classic tabbouleh – I preferred this version to Dean & Deluca. A bit more acid and prefer how she instructs you to cut the tomatoes.
43. Spice – Zaatar Flatbread – Incredibly easy dish from the Oleana cookbook, a groundbreaking restaurant in Cambridge. I could eat this with hummus basically every day.
44. Barefoot Contessa – Back to Basics – Someone gave this to us years ago and think it’s the most uninspiring cookbook we own. That said, I dug the White Arugula Pizza. I also made her mango banana daiquiri, which was ok, but thick and very sweet. The rest of the book? Meh.
45. Death & Co - Oaxacan Old Fashioned & The Straw Dog. The Old Fashioned is a great version of one of my all-time favorite drinks. The Straw Dog might be my new favorite cocktail. Love the perfect balance of dolan blanc, bourbon and the muddled peach slice.
46. Morimoto – Striped Bass Vongole & Daikon Fettuccine. The gochujang bouillabaisse from this book is still one of my favorite dishes ever. The Daikon Fettuccine was an elegant and tasty starter. I really liked the vongole, which used an extremely delicate broth to barely poach several different types of sushi grade fish served with manila clams.
47. Lucques – Gnocchi, ricotta with chantarelles, sweet corn and sage brown butter – Her dishes often have way too much butter for my tastes, and this one was right up there, but damn did this rock. The corn and chanterelle pairing was everything I like about summer. Total gem.
48. Magnolia – Grilled Mahi Mahi tacos with Carolina rice, black beans and salsa – I really enjoyed eating at Magnolia years ago and dug this dish. My youngest is obsessed with black beans and gave this multiple thumbs up.
49. Boston Jewish Community – From Our Kitchens – A friend gave us this book, and ended up making “Michelle’s No Fail Challah,” which allegedly has been passed around Boston for some time. My braiding still needs work but loved the challah. The cinnamon and raisins made the bread. Will make again.
50. Giada – Feel Good Food - Mango black bean chicken salad – nothing fancy and I left the cayenne out for the kids but what a nice simple summer dish.
51. Mario Batali – Molto Italiano – Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Rosemary, white beans and mint oil – I know he’s a pig, but I bought this book years ago. I’d skip the red onion next time, but overall the white beans with mint oil really zipped here.
52. Barefoot Contessa – Parties – Asian style grilled salmon, served with grilled asparagus. Extremely simple but very flavorful easy weeknight salmon dish. Will repeat.
53. Zuni Café – Farro and Tomato salad with basil & anchovies – I added chopped walnuts and chickpeas. The depth of flavor from the anchovies was wonderful. Great clean summer salad. I’ve made again several times.
54. Smitten Kitchen -Rush Hour Pizza – I love her blog but have found this book uninspiring Nice quick dough and want to try her longer version to compare.
55. Charles Phan- The Slanted Door - Spicy tuna tartare, California yellowtail with lime, basil, crispy shallots. Indian summer cocktail – I’d make all three again. Really nice tartare and dug the Asian style crudo.
56. Humphrey Slocombe - Baracky Road – My one and only foray into ice cream making came with thumbs down from my house. I liked it, but everyone said it was too sweet.
57. Donald Link - Real Cajun - Vietnamese Marinated Shrimp – I love the jambalaya and meatloaf recipe in this book and enjoyed eating at Cochon in New Orleans but haven’t touched Real Cajun in years. I made this one night for myself and was completely blown away by the depth of flavor in this dish. Absolutely one of the best recipes made during the challenge.
58. Girl & the Fig – Grilled Mahi with Fire roasted tomato vinaigrette – Mahi was fine, but the vinaigrette was stunning, especially mixed in with a farro salad the next day for lunch.
59. Jacques Pepin – Complete Techniques – Steamed artichokes – For whatever reason, I’ve botched artichokes. I’m now over my fear and cook this constantly. Simple and easy!
60. Barefoot Contessa – Grilled Lemon Chicken Salad – Simple but solid dinner for a 90-degree night.
61. Tess Mallos - North African Cooking – Tahini Salad. Not a ton in the book I wanted to make, but I love tahini. Served this as a side to pork souvlaki and grilled pita bread. Super simple and would make again.
62. Thomas Keller – Ad Hoc at Home – Brioche – Despite me not reading the recipe thoroughly and having my butter 100% at room temperature, the brioche came out amazingly well, and was even better turned into French toast. It will be a bit before I make again given the sheer amount of butter but love this recipe.
63. Marc Forgione – Red Beet Ravioli, Goat Cheese, Walnuts & Watercress – A client sent me this book and I enjoyed watching Marc on a cooking show years ago. The ravioli was stunning and light. This would make an incredible first course for a special occasion.
64. Charleston Cooks – Carolina rice with vegetable sauté – We took a cooking class here years ago and love the shrimp and grits. I served this as a side to some grilled grouper and loved the dish.
65. Cooks Illustrated – NY style thin crust pizza – I always make pizza on the grill and wanted to try on a pizza stone. Great results in terms of flavor, but not an NY style crust. Lacked the proper char on the bottom like I grew up with.
66. Soframitz – Summer Lamejun made on yufka dough – I love grabbing lamejun from the Armenian markets near me. I never would have made this, but really enjoyed the players.
67. Jamie Bissonnette – Charcuterie – Lemongrass sausage – This is exactly the point of the cookbook challenge, trying things that otherwise never would have been cooked. Stunning presentation and intense lemongrass flavors One of the best things I’ve grilled in years.
68. Pok Pok – Whole roasted young chicken – Hands down the winner of the challenge. I’m now making this every other week for my son. While the dish takes two days, I can’t get over how incredible this involved dish is. You MUST make the homemade chili sauce as well
69. Jacques Pepin – Essential Recipes - Baguette – Recipe was incredibly easy to follow and came out fantastic. I served this with the Balthazar mussels’ dish, making for as perfect of a dinner as you can get.
70. Frenchie – Fresh peach, smoked mozzarella and aged balsamic. Frenchie was our favorite restaurant in Paris the last time we went many years ago. I picked up the cookbook, but never really found dishes that were inspiring This was a perfect summer late afternoon starter to eat on a deck with a cocktail. Will make this again. The light smokiness pairs incredibly well with the sweetness of the balsamic and the peach. Great!
71. Priya Krishna - Indian(-ish): Saag Paneer, but with Feta. A close friend gave me this book a few years ago, and despite really enjoying Indian food, never had much desire to cook from it. I’ve read really great things about this dish and can confirm that it’s dynamite. I love the usage of feta and even converted my wife, who normally doesn’t like saag at all. Home run and absolutely will make again!!!
72. Grace Young – Stir Frying from Edge – Bbq Pork and Singapore noodles. Two of my favorite Chinese dishes ever, but admittedly, this version paled to the gold standard at Peach Farm in Boston.
73. Alon Shaya – Shaya – Zaatar Toad in the hole – I’m obsessed with zaatar and have always wanted to make toad in a hole. We went to his amazing pizza restaurant Domenica and loved it. I wish we went to Shaya. Lots of things to cook out of this book.
74. Eataly – Bronzini Al Sale – I’ve always wanted to cook bronzini in salt crust. Great dish! So flavorful. Think my kids were a bit skeeved out by the whole fish.
75. Melissa Clark – Dinner In French – Artichokes With Feta Dill Dressing – Now that I’ve gotten over my fear of artichokes thanks to Jacques, I’m eating one of my fav veggies more regularly. I loved Melissa Clark’s version wit the feta dill dressing. I could eat this for days. Bright, vibrant, delicious.
76. Balthazar – Moules a la Marinière – solid dish, but so many other wonderful dishes in Balthazar that I prefer.
77. Flour & Water – Ricotta and Tomato Tortellini en Brodo – I thought my wife might leave me halfway through making this dish, but despite being crazy and making homemade ricotta and tortellini, it was worth it. Stunning dish.
78. Nigel Slater – The Kitchen Diaries – Zucchini cakes with Dill and Feta – Despite my wife’s skepticism, we both really enjoyed this as a clean, light and very flavorful lunch dish. Extremely easy and perfect for the sweltering August summer when you just don’t want to do anything at all in the kitchen!
79. Allison Roman – Dining In – Frozen Blackberries and Labne with Honey – My wife made the supposedly greatest cookie recipe and wasn’t impressed. I made this as well and really enjoyed it but wasn’t floored. My son really dug too. Great usage of labne, probably could have made half.
80. New Orleans Cocktails – Classic Daiquiri – not a fan, but the mai tai in this book is quite possibly the perfect version.
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