Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book Review: A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices

Book Review: A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices

Like it goes with the rest of my life, I’m one of the last to hop on the bandwagon for Vegan Month of Food. But I guess what matters is that I made the blogroll deadline and am now fully committed to kicking out vegan food blogs left and right this month. So, dear friends, if I don’t answer your emails or phone calls, it’s because I’m up to my eyeballs in produce, spices, and baking. This also serves as an invitation for Seattle friends to just stop by and have a meal, or just pick up to-go containers of food.

But before the baking and cooking commences, I wanted to share with you a gem of a book I picked up the other day at Market Spice Tea in the Pike Place Market. This is not a vegan cookbook. Hell, it’s not even really a cookbook. It’s a total resource of amazing ideas and flavour for us “home cooks” who never, and will never, go to cooking school.

Wondering what other herbs complement basil? Just flip to page 22. Or how about the folklore of chervil? Take a gander at page 37. Never even heard of chervil? Well, that’s ok; you’d just learn that its flavour is a “mild licorice with a peppery aftertaste.” And apparently it goes well with leeks. Ever wonder what spices are in “mulling spices”? That’s answered as well.

But that’s not even the half of it. This book is like a little bible of flavour. The first section of the book contains “Flavourings and how they are used,” which includes the spice name, a description of taste, when it should be added, complimenting spices, and history and origin. As well as a guide to herbs, it also includes the same for wine and beer, beans, and nuts.

The second section contains “Foods and flavorings that go with them.” Now, there is flesh listed in here, but it doesn’t take a great leap to translate the guide to vegan options. Wondering what you could put in your scrambled tofu to spruce it up a bit? Check out the eggs section. Have a bag of Gardien steak strips? Turn to the “beef” page and see what spices would go well to make a faux beef stew. See where I’m going with this? Anyways, there’s a ton of other ingredients in this section, the majority of them vegetables, running from apples to zucchini,
and there's even some recipes.

Other fun resources include a guide to the four tastes, measurement equivalents, a pasta variety chart, a mini guide to mushrooms, and a spice substitution list. Out of turmeric and to lazy to run to the store? Try using ginger instead. No, it’s not a cookbook, but it’s an amazing base from which to build your own recipes. Plus, the pages smell like the original cinnamon-orange tea.* Whether you’re a foodie or a food whore, you’d do well to have A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices, by Linda Murdock, in your collection.

* Only true if you buy it from a tea shop where the smell of orange-cinnamon has permeated every object.

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