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.
I love a cookbook with personality. Seasoned in the South from Crook’s Corner chef Bill Smith oozes the same character and charm as the well known landmark at the corner of West Franklin Street and Merritt Mill Road, very near the Chapel Hill-Carrboro line.
Locals know that Crook’s Corner menu is driven by the season. As Chef Bill Smith writes, “The weather, the farmer, and the fisherman dictate it as much as I do.” Like the restaurant menu, the recipes in the cookbook are grouped by seasons, beginning with Fall when tomatoes stay green on the vine, persimmon foraging reaches its peak and oysters make varied and frequent appearances on the restaurant menu. Soon Winter rolls around, followed by Spring (which never can come soon enough in my book) and the eagerly anticipated Honeysuckle Sorbet makes its way into the recipe rotation. I’ve not tried to make that famous sorbet at home. In reading the process of flower selection and careful preparation I decided this was one recipe that was best left to the professionals.
Each chapter of recipes includes main dishes, sides and a dessert or two. The recipe directions are fairly concise, to the point, but the highly entertaining recipe head notes are not to be overlooked for Smith’s witticisms. Many of the recipe serving sizes and yields are just as abundant as the colorful stories in the cookbook. If you decide to try the Really Good Banana Pudding recipe, make sure you have a dozen banana-pudding-loving friends and/or family members to help eat the finished product. Then again, some recipes can be pared down easily enough. For example, I’ve made the Green Peach Salad (a perfect use for those baseball-hard peaches that won’t turn) with just a single peach, a teaspoon of sugar, sprinkle of salt & pepper to taste and a drizzle of a good olive oil (like Coratina from The Olive Wagon in North Raleigh’s Lafayette Village). There are a few Crook’s Corner recipes in the book, save one. The very popular shrimp and grits dish created by the restaurant’s originator, Bill Neal, can be found in another cookbook Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking (perhaps another cookbook you need for your home collection?). Or you could just stop in the restaurant when in Chapel Hill and order up a big bowl. Either or.
Here’s a little advance notice for my fellow cookbook-aholics. Start saving up those cookbook pennies now (and make room on the bookshelf) for a new book from Chef Smith coming in Spring 2015 when Crabs & Oysters is expected to be released by UNC Press. And make sure you’re tuned into each and every episode of A Chef’s Life when the new season starts later this year. You never know what local chef may appear on your TV screen. 😉