Yes, we know we are supposed to be at the farmers market cooing over those Blenheim apricots meant to be slowly savored and imagining the simple tomato-basil salads that will satisfy us after just a few bites with their intense summer flavors. But even this time of year, some nights all we really want is a generous bowl (maybe two) of good old fashioned macaroni and cheese (fine, a little fresh parsley to freshen it up wouldn't stink). Enter Saveur magazine's recently released The New Comfort Food cookbook.
The "new" aspect here is the diversity of recipes, a melting pot of American pot stickers and split pea soup, as well as the fresh focus -- or at least compared to their 1950s predecessors (Not to fear, that patty melt recipe still calls for American cheese should you so desire, but cheddar and Swiss are offered up, too).
That macaroni with ham recipe gets a few tablespoons of fresh parsley, the creamy corn chowder is made with peak-of-season summer corn, and the grilled lamb chops are served with minty salsa verde rather than your grandmom's mint jam. We like to think of it not as "new" comfort food, but more going back to the way the American plate looked before the processed cheese, canned chowder, frozen corn and microwave invasion.
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As the subtitle Home Cooking From Around The World subtitle, this book is not limited to an American plate, though the recipes for Italian-style stuffed artichokes, Argentinean spicy beef empanadas and classic Middle Eastern chickpea hummus could all be in an L.A.-centric cookbook (the huevos rancheros and chile rellenos recipes here are from L.A.'s La Abeja café).
As with past Saveur books, many of the recipes and photos have been pulled from the magazine. Which is to say if you are organized enough to have a dedicated file of old magazine recipes, or you can keep track of those countless online recipes in super-human ways (these recipes are also on the Saveur website), you probably don't need this book.
But for some of us, flipping through the pages is a reminder of how often we see a magazine recipe we really want to try, but rarely actually do. And so we look at this cookbook as a second chance for those peppers stuffed with feta from the Greece issue or the fried onion burger recipe from an article on Sid's Diner in Oklahoma to actually make it on our plate.
"Cooking burgers is like laying brick, your best comes with years of experience," writer George Motz recalls Marty Hall of Sid's telling him. Not all that much different, it seems after flipping through this book, than collecting magazine recipes.