As we move into the chillier times of the year, sometimes its nice to cook something quick, hot, tasty, and comforting, preferably with a lot of cheese or hot broth. Something that is filling and doesn't take too long to prepare, and of course, is delicious. Here are a few of my favorite cookbooks I go to for winter comfort food.
This is truly a comprehensive and handy compendium of Indian curry knowledge, including everything you need to know to craft delicious and diverse curries from across the many regions of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. A curry, defined as any dish simmered in a spiced sauce, is probably one of my favorite meals to get me through any day, cold or hot. Offering six hundred and sixty different recipes organized by type, including many vegetarian recipes, recipes for making your own spice blends, and even your own paneer, it is easy to get overwhelmed. In addition to more complex, in depth dishes, there are plenty, particularly in the diary and legume sections, that can be prepped in under an hour and they are all ample. Offering spicy, savory, sweet, and tangy dishes, there is something for every taste as well. My favorites are the many variations of lentil dishes. Some include some more difficult to find ingredients, but if you don't have time to run down to your closest Indian grocery store, good examples for substitutions are also provided.
Hot Dish Heaven
Here in Minnesota, we have a special name for what everyone else calls casseroles, "hot dish," a staple that, during the 20th century, became a staple of many Midwest homes. Generally consisting of some sort of starch, meat, and diary, with maybe a vegetable or two and plenty of salt to make it "spicy," an entire family could survive on one dish for days. Along with a little history of the form, the authors scour old church, school, institutional collections of recipes from the Midwest, exploring some hearty vintage meals. Unlike some other vintage cookbooks, the recipes here are actually edible, if not always pretty. There are, if you can believe it, even a few vegetarian examples in among all of the hamburger and ground pork covered in tater tots.
My favorite recipes here are the British style cauliflower cheese, the classic tuna and noodles, and the delicious tian of zucchini, rice, and cheese.
The cookbook spin off from the Homeroom restaurant in Oakland, California, nothing says comfort food to me like Macaroni and Cheese. Offering up fast, easy, and innovative mac and cheese recipes, from the classics like jalapeno popper mac to the decadent (and expensive) Dungeness crab mac, there is something for every taste. My favorites are the fresh ginger infused Sriracha Mac and the deliciously goat cheesy Mac the Goat. Weather over baked with a crunchy bread topping or just fresh out of the pot, nothing helps a winter day like a bowl of hot cheese and noodles. The most important thing is the rules of making the mac and cheese sauce provided in the book, which can be stored easily to make a few more dishes. In addition to the macaroni and cheese, the authors provide some side dish and dessert recipes to go with them. The mac and cheese is the real attraction here, though.
Nothing says fall and coming cool weather more than when local pumpkins, the large orange squashes, begin to appear in grocery stores. Pumpkin pie was my favorite pie growing up, mostly, I think, due to the ginger, nutmeg, and other spices in the mix, but I started to appreciate the sweet, earthy flavor of the pumpkin itself, and other squashes, later. This looked to be a good cornucopia of recipes all utilizing pumpkins, from entrees to the obligatory desserts.
Sadly, in the end, though, I can't recommend this one. In spite of trying a few recipes, including an interesting Southern pecan pumpkin pie, nothing really inspired me here. Too many of the recipes use simple canned pumpkin, instead of fresh baked pumpkin. While baked, pureed pumpkin is discussed a bit in the introduction, there doesn't seem to be much advice on how to make it. A few of the recipes don't even use pumpkin, but are just pumpkin shaped! A have other cookbooks that have much more interesting pumpkin recipes.
This is a monstrous collection of soup recipes, one for every freaking day of the year. Taking advantage of the mood, weather, and seasonal ingredients available each month, the recipes are super varied and good for any taste- vegetarian, meat, seafood, they are all there, and from many cultures and cooking traditions as well. What could be better than a hot bowl of soothing soup on a cold winters day? Maybe a thick, hearty bowl of stew? In either case, this book has you covered.
Better on Toast
This was a fun new cookbook I recently checked out that deals with sprucing up that quintessential comfort food; toast! Some cool ways to make toast without a toaster are included, and a variety of ways to make some delicious use of your toasted bread. I particularly like Grandpa Toast, a quick and spiffy way to make some great sardines on toast, and the French Onion Toast was awesome as well, along with the avocado toast and the spicy red lentil toast. Weather for breakfast, dessert, oer d'oeuvres, or just a midnight snack, there are plenty of fast and easy recipes provided to go through a few loafs.