I’m facing some serious temptation today. I wanted to stay home all day, not because I feel ill, but because I got my hands on another great cookbook. I didn’t want to call in sick, I wanted to call in cooking.
The Culinary Institute of America: The New Book of Soups (Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2009) is a real page-turner, at least for those of us who read cookbooks like some people read the latest fiction. Gorgeous photography, illustrated step-by-step techniques and simply scrumptious-sounding recipes from one of the world’s premiere culinary colleges—who wouldn’t want to immerse oneself in this?
If I were actually as enterprising as my busy brain tells me I am, I would take on a kind of Julie & Julia challenge and make one of these recipes every day for however long it took me to get through it. The book overflows with variety, and literally every recipe sounds do-able and delicious. How about the velvety Cream of Broccoli soup and the Fennel and Potato Chowder that look like health in a bowl? Or maybe the Tortellini in Brodo, with those sexy little pastas floating in that flavorful pool of broth? Don’t know how to make your own tortellini? The recipe includes directions and a helpful photo that will have you chanting like the Little Engine that Could, I think I can, I think I can …
Some of the soups get more exotic, but I don’t know that they’re much more difficult. Minguichi, a cheese and chile soup, sounds like heaven to me after many years’ residence in New Mexico. And while it does involve peeling a couple of roasted poblano chiles, it doesn’t require many more steps than a basic cream of mushroom soup.
In the front of the book is a chapter on basics, detailing how to create a stock, what thickeners are and how to use them, how to “finish” a soup (other than licking the bowl, which one mustn’t do when anyone is watching, despite the temptation) and also a good little section on the importance of the right pots and tools. In the back are recipes for tasty accompaniments like Cheddar Rusks (rusks are pieces of bread toasted crisp and brown), homemade croutons and bread sticks, buttermilk biscuits and some deliciously unusual crackers (e.g. Cheddar Cheese and Walnut Icebox Crackers).
I know I have work to do today, but it won’t be easy. I have deadlines to meet, articles to edit and all the while I’m thinking, “Crab and Crimini Mushroom Chowder … Cold Cantaloupe Cream Soup … Palmiers with Prosciutto … Hmm … palmiers. I wonder what that is…