We're loving the cookbook Home Made by Amsterdam-based illustrator, food stylist and restaurateur Yvette van Boven, due out next week. But not for the reason the publisher is pitching. This isn't -- thankfully -- so much a "smart and cheeky mash-up of the DIY and foodie cultures" as it is simply a thoughtful, interesting and perhaps mostly, a beautifully-designed cookbook.
That van Boven and her cousin own Aan de Amstel, a small breakfast/lunch café in the Amsterdam city by the same name, is buried on the press release beneath a sea of "easy" and "from-scratch" cookery buzzwords. That subtitle, The Ultimate DIY Cookbook Featuring over 200 From-Scratch Recipes, included.
We can only presume the DIY angle is being pushed as the publisher assumed an American audience that knows nothing of Aan de Amstel (the book was previously published in Dutch) would hardly be interested in a cookbook featuring the recipes from the café: Date and lemon ricotta cake, polenta biscuits with goat cheese and Parma ham, and Squid Ink pasta with fresh tomato sauce. Of course we would.
Several of the fifteen or so chapters focus on those DIY projects - making your own liqueurs, condiments, smoked meats and terrines. But those chapters like "Lunch" and "Soups" that are more directly focused on recipes from Aan de Amstel are the best here. "Since we feel that Dutch people do not eat proper lunches, and often only just a cheese sandwich and an apple, we try to treat our guests to something different," explains van Boven in the dry-but-endearing tone that she calls on throughout the book. Things like frittatas with spinach, mint and pecorino cheese, tabouleh with pomegranate seeds, favas and green beans, and zucchini "flapjacks" with basil cream sauce. You get the idea.
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As for "Soups," we'd be inclined to make pretty much anything here. Be it the creamy sunchoke soup with fried parsnips and mushrooms, sweet potato-leek-chickpea stew with pan-friend cashews, or fresh green pea soup with a scoop of basil and avocado "cream" (the basil and avocado are pureed in a blender with garlic and then folded into crème fraîche).
The "Cheese" chapter is brief but includes a handy lesson on how to make the simple, homemade fresh cheeses that the author says she and her sister would hang from backyard trees as children. ("As children we did not have the patience to leave the cheese to age for very long, but you do, as I do too, now.") That "hangup" cheese, a simple concoction of yogurt, whipped cream, vanilla beans, lemon zest and powdered sugar, is really more of an uncooked whipped custard than what Americans think of as fresh cheese.
Home Made is not what most Americans would think of as a Dutch cuisine cookbook (and on that note, we would have loved to have seen a few more regionally-inspired recipes). Nor is it a trendy cookbook with a fleeting shelf life. And so perhaps that hangup cheese can be a lesson to publishers. We really do still have the patience to take a look at cookbooks simply because they are good. No DIY, trending tweets, or other surface sales pitches required.