person looking at magazine
Photo: Dan Gold

About collectors, online hunters and why I do not eat coriander, but "Toast Hawaii"

Be honest: who uses all the cookbooks one has? Every day? See, what I mean?

We buy them, preferably the large format, scroll enthusiastically back and forth and, oh,THOSE PHOTOS! We choose a dish or two, try - and keep at least that one, great meal in our repertoire forever. What about all the other recipes for which the cookbook's author has tested, cooked and worked until her or his eyes dropped out...

Let's face it: we, who buy cookbooks, are not cookbook readers and home cooks of all the recipes our new cookbook delivers. We are - cookbook collectors. And, by the way, traitors who are as well on the hunt for recipes and ideas online (GOT YA!).

The only cookbook I really read from the first page to the back of it is "Jerusalem - The Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Because it is not just a cookbook, but rather the portrait of the metropolis in which the two authors and chefs grew up. Their recipes, as the city, are influenced by all the cuisines of the world - Central, Northern, Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East. I have always been fascinated and inspired by the spices and flavours of the Middle East. Extending my kitchen's horizon to me always means to increase the range of spices and try new tastes. It is like speaking with another language than your mother tongue - the more vocabulary (food and spices) and grammar (cooking technices) you know, the richer your little home kitchen gets or the humble blog, you dare to try bilingual.

As soon as I go through a new cookbook, I want to start cooking right away. But with "Jerusalem" on my lap and a cup of coffee on my kitchen table, I wanted to immediately embark on a six-week holiday in Jerusalem to breathe in the scents of the city and try everything in the markets and at every street food stand.

Apart from everything, in which fresh coriander (cilantro) is processed. Unfortunately, I belong to those who have this one single receptor on that one special, single gene that makes us unable to eat it. To us, it tastes like soap. I do use coriander seeds, though, and powder which has a different aroma than the fresh herbs.

Yotam Ottolenghi has recently introduced his coriander recipes in his column at The Guardian.

The sweet potato mash with salsa is great if I leave out the coriander. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the inspiration: I would not have come up with the idea to combine my bright orange puree with green salsa for a change. I have tried it with parsley and lemon thyme instead. Works for me.

I got my first two cookbooks as a young teenager in the seventies. When I browsed through them some twenty-five years later, I was - shocked. Turtle and shark fin soup recipes. Thick slices of smoked pork loin with canned pineapple slices and garishly colored cocktail cherries. Salads, of which the main ingredient was basically store bought mayonnaise. Lobster in every which way - main thing: thrown alive into the boiling water. Zeitgeist.

Those books ended in the waste-paper. Yet, there is actually one recipe from each of them that is still part of my routine. One for a quiche and one for a leek soup. Modified, expanded, reduced again, modified again and again and again over many years.

Also typical for those years with its off-wall label: the infamous Toast Hawaii. Neither originating from Hawaii, nor exotic. But herewith I out myself as a fan and I think it is a good meal. A snack in between, a quick lunch or dinner, if pared with a little salad: One or two slices of toast (toasted), a little butter (or not), lean ham, slices of pineapple, cheese on top, briefly heated in the oven until the cheese melts. Canned pineapple is okay (fresh is better), but - please! - no cocktail cherry. If you have a sandwich maker, you will probably make it more often than in the oven, as a "closed" version. I am a sucker for both.

As if it was not enough to be proud of the piles of cookbooks that provide endless inspiration - what about all those stylish cooking and food magazines - and, oh, THOSE PHOTOS ...! So, let's keep buying these magazines, no matter, how many times we already had been disappointed by them. Or... rather not? Lately, I have significantly reduced my cooking magazine consumption. I just do not have enough space to pick up everything. Compromise: I save one or two recepies before I dispose the magazines to the waste-paper. These are exactly the recipes that I always come back to and will have me come up with my own ideas, after all. Just like that quiche and the leek soup from the seventies.

And let's face it: we are not able to keep up with these photos, anyway. I am no food stylist, I still want to eat all that after taking pictures!