Send me an Amazon gift card, and what do I buy?

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This should come as no surprise to anyone…cookbooks!

This should surprise no one

This should surprise no one

Last month I won top prize in Zujava’s Magnum Opus Contest for my article about visiting Milan, Italy. When my $100 Amazon Gift Card arrived via email, I went on a cookbook frenzy to finally get a few new (and older) titles for my library. I can’t wait to explore the ones that are new to me, and also revisit some old favorites as well.

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen is one of those old favorites. My grandmother learned to cook New Orleans and creole recipes thanks to this cookbook, and I still remember some of those dishes fondly. My mother now has my grandmother’s copy, and I’ve been looking for one of my own for some time. I can’t wait to make his amazing Shrimp Etouffee again.

Primi Piatti: Italian First Courses That Make a Meal is an amazing little Italian cookbook which my mom found a copy of one day in a used bookstore. I’ve loved everything we’ve tried from it together so far; the recipes really take me back to Italy and there’s a lot of recipes that remind me of or come directly from the Venetian cuisine that I love.

I bought Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday because of how much I’m enjoying the cookbook of his that first I bought a few months ago, Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine. Ming Tsai is another “celebrity chef” whose cooking (and personality) I enjoy, and Simply Ming: Easy Techniques for East-Meets-West Meals looks amazing so far; I love the book’s approach of presenting a single spice mix, sauce or marinade and showing the many easy ways it can be used for different meals.

Two books are on cuisines I really haven’t explored very much yet. Although I have a few Caribbean cookbooks, I haven’t been fully pleased with any of them to date. I’m hoping that Eat Caribbean will present a bit more variety of Caribbean food, more of the dishes I’ve enjoyed in years past on different islands. And I’ve never, ever tried making North African food before, so North African Cooking should be a definite adventure.

Lastly, I bought two books to hopefully help improve my pork “prowess”, especially as I have a freezer starting to build up with a backlog of organ meats and “odd bits” from our pigs. To that end, Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal looked like the perfect book to finally give me some ideas on how to properly and best try cooking pigs’ feet, ears, tongue, liver, kidneys, and the other offal meats I’ve asked our butcher to save for me but haven’t had time to experiment with. The book is an absolute delight to read through so far, and many of the recipes look wonderful. Now to just convince my partner David to try them with me! The Whole Hog Cookbook: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All That Good Stuff looks to be a little less adventurous, but does present a lot of solid-looking, basic pork dishes plus a few interesting twists like how to bake with bacon and Southern pork classics.

All in all, these books should give me plenty of fun recipes to experiment with this summer. Thanks again to Zujava for running the contest and for picking me for the reward – you can see I’ve put it to good use and perhaps these will inspire some new recipes from me as well that I can write up for future “Leaves”.

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