Hello. My name is Kim and I am a cookbook-aholic. I’ve flagged more cookbook recipes than would be humanly possible to make in a single lifetime. Yet my obsession with acquiring new and old cookbooks persists unabated. This month I share my compulsive tendencies via the “21 Days” series, featuring some of my favorite cookbooks from local authors and publishers. Please feel free to join me in finding new cookbooks to feed our passion at any of my favorite Triangle indie book sellers: The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books, Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh or McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro’s Fearrington Village.
“Buttermilk” was one of the first of the small format, single subject cookbooks in the UNC Press Savor the South series to come out in 2012 (and the author, Debbie Moose, has another book in the series coming out next month). If you are under the impression that buttermilk is just for biscuits and pancakes, this cookbook will enlighten you on the ingredient’s versatility.
The book educated me about what buttermilk is, how it’s made (quite differently in the present day, industrialized era), as well as multiple uses for the ingredient in breakfast baked goods, soups, savory dishes, dressings and even ice cream. Before I read this cookbook, I only had buttermilk on hand when I planned to bake a batch of biscuits or make pancakes and I’d rarely use the entire carton before it expired. Then I tried the Mango Spice Lassi recipe (page 74), a simple, yet exotic smoothie-style drink made with buttermilk, a few frozen mango cubes, a drizzle of honey and spices of cardamom and mace. I was hooked at first sip and now stay stocked with buttermilk (and frozen mango cubes) to make a quick breakfast or mid-afternoon snack.
There are more riffs on the traditional uses for buttermilk found in the chapter “In the Morning”, including Sweet Potato Pancakes, an Irish Buttermilk Bread and Buttermilk Doughnut Holes. But this tangy beverage isn’t just for breakfast. “Time for Dinner” features many main dishes and sides where buttermilk plays a critical supporting role. Moose includes a recipe from Charleston, South Carolina restaurant, Blossom, for a fried calamari that marinates in buttermilk overnight. The Tex Mex Corn Pudding, Jazzed Up Cornbread and Potato Salad with Buttermilk Chive Dressing are sides I’ll go back to in this chapter repeatedly.
Though I haven’t yet made any of the desserts found in the “Sweet Endings” section, I do have one on my short list. Downtown Raleigh’s 18 Seaboard restaurant shared their recipe for Buttermilk Pie with Riesling-Marinated Peaches (on my short list in part because peaches won’t be in season for much longer). Typically dessert is reserved for the meal’s end. Regardless of the course, I’ve come to learn that buttermilk is a very adaptable ingredient with virtually endless uses, thanks to this little cookbook.