Last weekend, pondering meal plans for the week ahead, it dawned on me how little I use cookbooks anymore. Oh, I still use recipes (for some things) but that moment just made me realize how my "go-tos" have changed over the years.
Growing up, there was an old Royal typewriter at my parents' house that held my fascination. Most likely to keep me out of her way, Mom suggested that I could help her by taking her handwritten recipe cards (on 3 x 5 index cards) and type new cards for her. Off I went, hunting and pecking away. Some of them were things that I liked so I typed them twice and kept one. Thus began my first recipe collection.
Once I was out on my own in life, and exploring my own food tastes as an adult, I took a subscription to a food magazine. I read it cover to cover every month and I kept all of them. For like, 15 years. Through two moves. This collection was a little more difficult to reference, obviously. Was that flan recipe in the spring of 1999, or 2000? I spent many rainy afternoons thumbing through those magazines, coming up with themed menus to try out on friends. In fact, at least one of those resulted in a guy named Norm being at my dinner table. That turned out pretty well, but the magazine collection didn't make it through a third move when we moved in together.
Around the same time that the magazine collection started, I started buying cookbooks. Often I'd pick them up in other cities as a memento--local, regional stuff mostly. Then came the celebrity chefs on television and I had to have some of their cookbooks. At one point I had well over 100 cookbooks, though that has been pared down over the years, many of them gone the way of the local American Association of University Women (AAUW) chapter for their annual book sale. I still receive cookbooks gratefully as a welcome gift and I do use a few of them, but I can't tell you the last time I bought one.
These days, my "go to" is the New York Times cooking app. It used to be free and I was pretty miffed when they implemented a subscription fee for it, but ultimately I decided that I had saved enough recipes in it and referred to it often enough that it was well worth it. (It's not much more or maybe not even as much as the price of a cookbook for a year's subscription.)
We find loads of inspiration for daily meals with this app, as well as more complex efforts that we dig into together if we have a Saturday to cook together. Last weekend was all me in the kitchen, and what I decided on was this recipe for Chickpea Vegetable Soup with Parmesan, Rosemary and Lemon. Super easy, very satisfying. A suggestion: Buy the dried beans and soak them like the recipe says. I confess that I have a pantry shelf full of canned beans, and yes, they are really convenient. But the flavor you will get from using beans that you soak and drain overnight is totally worth it.
Do you use a cooking app? If so, which one and why do you like it? If you try this soup, I'd like to hear about your results!
CHICKPEA VEGETABLE SOUP WITH PARMESAN, ROSEMARY AND LEMON
- 1 whole clove
- 1/2 large onion, sliced root to stem, so it stays intact, peeled
- 1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water and drained
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt, more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 small Parmesan rind, plus 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 cup canned, diced tomatoes with their juice
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- zest of 1 lemon
Insert the clove into the onion. Put the onion in a large pot with the drained chickpeas, rosemary sprig, garlic, bay leaf, olive oil, salt and cheese rind. Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about an hour or until chickpeas are tender.
Add the tomatoes, celery and carrots. Cover loosely and simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 25-30 minutes). While soup simmers, mix the chopped rosemary with the grated cheese and the lemon zest. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and the clove.
Season the soup to taste and ladle into bowls, sprinkling with the herb/cheese/lemon mixture.