Last week, the Sunday paper ran a review of all the stand out new cookbooks coming out this summer. I was positively drooling over each review, and trying to narrow it down to only three purchases was utterly impossible. Of course, I came home and took one look at my cookbook shelf and reluctantly threw away my list. I have way, way too many cookbooks - many which sit for months without my so much as glancing at them. In these days of food blogging, I end up getting about half the recipes I make online, leaving all but my three or four favorite cookbooks practically gathering dust.
This had to change. I absolutely love cooking from my cookbooks - making notes in them, re-reading them to discover new recipes, pulling sticky pages apart and oogling over the beautiful photos. I wanted to get back into cooking from my cookbooks, and enjoying it. So, I've set a new goal for the summer. One by one, I'm going to focus on a cookbook, making at least three recipes from it. I think this will help me get a better sense of the recipes that I have sitting right in my kitchen, and maybe it will even help me clean out my shelves (hey, three duds will just have mean the recycle bin for some of these). Then, eventually, I'll allow myself to add a few new ones to the stock.
I started with the wonderful cookbook Hollyhocks & Radishes, by Bonnie Stewart Mickelson. My grandmother gave it to me for my birthday this year, as it has been a favorite of hers and my moms for years. Mickelson had a summer home on the Michigan shore, cooking with many local fruits and vegetables for her large family, so the recipes are all fresh and seasonal, with that wonderful family feel to them. Without the flashy pictures of cookbooks these days, it could easily be passed over at the bookstore, but it really shouldn't.
The first recipe I made was the Rhubarb cake. I made it twice, and ended up adapting it a fair amount, first to put it in a loaf rather than a bundt pan, and then adding some whole wheat flour to make it a little bit more rustic. The flavors are wonderful, and I've found it to be a perfect spring coffee cake. Don't be put off by the rhubarb - it creates a lovely sweetness that balances the cinnamon well.
Adapted from Bonnie Stewart Mickelson, Hollyhocks & Radishes
1 cup finely chopped rhubarb (about 2 large stalks)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, separated
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2. Combine rhubarb with 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. Sift together flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
4. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then oil, lemon juice and vanilla.
5. Fold 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in half the milk, then half of the remaining dry ingredients, followed by the remainder of the milk and finally the remainder of the dry ingredients.
6. Put about a third of the batter into the loaf pan. Spread half the rhubarb on top. Repeat and finish with remaining third of batter.
7. Bake for one hour, or until cake is set in the middle.