Book Review: Keepers

Book Review: Keepers

Have you come across Keepers yet?: Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-And-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen. It came out last year but…I just now finally got around to putting holds on NPR’s Best-of-2013 book lists. That’s life.

What I lack in timeliness I can make up for with enthusiasm! Keepers is my new favorite cookbook to recommend. In it, 2 homecooks share recipes that work for them and their families. They’ve tried hundreds (thousands?) of recipes, and these are the “keepers” – get it? Not only does Keepers have 125+ recipes, it also has a wonderful preface section covering tips for planning out the week, grocery shopping with kids, organizing the kitchen, and more called “How to Get From Monday to Friday with Your Sanity – and Kitchen – Intact.” Ha!

The authors, Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion, are mom foodie co-worker friends (that’s a thing, right?) from when they were editors at Saveur magazine together. The book has such a practical vibe – for example there are no specialty, exotic, out of the way, or overly expensive ingredients. International recipes, yes. But not the ones that require a trip to any place other than your regular grocery store.

Better still – that 125+ isn’t fluffed out with breakfast or dessert recipes either! It’s honest to goodness wall to wall recipes you can use tonight, tomorrow night, and so on (OK some of the 125 are for dressings and sauces, but still…you get my point).

I’ve tried and made 7 of the recipes so far. The pics below are of my attempts – I don’t want to malign the publisher and professional photographer by having anyone think these photos were in the book – lol. Perhaps these will make up for my photo-less previous post!

Sichuan-Style Pork with Tofu (page 87) – Mapo Tofu + my taste buds = best buds. This is an excellent rendition of the dish. I used snap peas and added julienned carrots, and garnished with peanuts.

Lentil and Chorizo Soup (as if my lentil-obsession needed further fuel…page 140) – this was SO. GOOD. Maybe because it was a rainy night, but still and all just really good. I used fresh chorizo-spiced ground chicken from the butcher, not the traditional dry salami-like chorizo links. After the mirepoix had cooked for about 10 minutes, I pushed it to the side and browned the meat. My husband likes neither soup nor lentils, yet he went back for seconds – nuff sed.

Raw Beet Salad (OK, if you say so…page 181) – finally a reason to use my julienne slicer, and finally a vegetable that would cooperate with the darn thing. This recipe is such a unique and refreshing take on the ubiquitous beet-and-goat-cheese-salad trope. Choose a mild and not-additionally-flavored goat cheese. I added spiced salad nuts for a bit of contrast and crunch.

Warm Lentils Vinaigrette (again, with the lentils…page 193) – ummm…there is a reason there were no pictures of this in the book. Looks awful, tastes great. Kale and parm were my idea/additions. This recipe would be a fabulous and simple way to use lentils you’d cooked in the rice cooker. In fact, this recipe pushed me to make lentils on the stovetop for the first time – and probably my last! Having now tried the “right” way, I’m even more committed to the rice cooker hack. I would serve these lentils alongside some sausage links and call it a day. Or maybe a soft boiled egg instead…oh. yum.

Because great minds think alike…Carrot-Ginger Dressing (page 220) – I am heartened to find that theirs doesn’t pour either! I’m still perfecting my recipe along these lines, and pour-ability is proving to be the stumper.

Swiss Chard Pesto (alright alright…page 225)

Roasted Orange Chipotle Shrimp (page 20) – SO spicy! SO tasty! I blended the chipotles with their seeds sooo…that one’s on me. Super good, but slightly painful. Since I only made enough shrimp for 2 people we have a nice bit of sauce leftover – this would be (will be!) excellent on grilled chicken and to-die-for on a nice piece of salmon. I kinda dialed it to 11 by adding the zest of an enormous orange as well as the juice.

Haven’t tried these recipes yet, but sooooo looking forward to doing so!:

Deviled Panko-Crusted Chicken Thighs (page 45) – making this for dinner tonight!

Maple Barbecue Sauce (summer is coming! page 50)

Smoky Turkey Chili (I am such a sucker for a chili recipe…page 64)

Kale Carbonara (oh yeah, I’m all over this…page 126)

Find Keepers at your local library by using WorldCat or buy it from Powell’s. And share with us your favorite recipe or family fave – one of their keepers, or one of your own!

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