The Washington Post on Best Cookbooks (Gifts) of 2008

An interesting and REAL list (for the most part) of cookbooks for serious and not-so-serious home cooks.

Some of the 18 titles anointed and blessed  by The Post include:

platter-of-figsA Platter of Figs, by David Tanis (So popular right now that it can’t be had from any of the big online — or local — stores.)

summer-on-a-plateSummer on a Plate, by Anna Pump and Gen LeRoy (The Hamptons, yeah, Loaves & Fishes shop food)

outstanding-in-the-fieldOutstanding in the Field: A Farm to Table Cookbook, by Jim Devevan (Like we’re all gonna grow garlic, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.)

one-pot-frenchOne Pot French: More Than 100 Easy, Authentic Recipes, by Jean-Pierre Challet (My kinda book for increasingly hectic days  —  fast, furious, fun, française. The crockpot scene kicked up a whole ladder’s worth of notches .)

milk-by-mendelsonMilk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, by Anne Mendelson (Click on the title to read my review of this quasi history/cookbook.)

A recipe is in order, from David Tanis’s A Platter of Figs:

Ben Chun
Photo credit: Ben Chun

Zuppa di Fagioli with Rosemary Oil

Serves 8 – 10

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 bay leaves
4 cups (2 pounds) dried white beans, preferably new-crop, picked over and rinsed
2 pounds smoked ham hocks
12 cups water
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground fine in a mortar or spice mill
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Rosemary Oil (recipe follows)

Warm the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook gently until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for a minute more.

Add the white beans and smoked ham hocks. Cover with the water and bring to a boil. Skim off any surface foam and turn the heat to low. Simmer gently for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground fennel, red pepper flakes, and a good spoonful of salt. Continue cooking for 1 hour more, or until the beans are quite tender and the smoked pork has begun to fall apart.

Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature, the refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.

To serve, reheat the soup over a medium flame, stirring frequently. Thin with water if it has thickened too much overnight. Check the seasoning and adjust.

Drizzle a teaspoon of Rosemary Oil on top of each bowl of soup.

Rosemary Oil
To make the Rosemary Oil, warm 1/2 cup of olive oil in a small saucepan. Chop about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary and stir it into the oil. Turn off the heat.