I enjoy trying out new cookbooks, but what I really love is when a cookbook inspires me. Inspiration could mean a lot of different things though — for me, it’s when a recipe becomes part of my repertoire. That sounds too fussy. I mean, I totally dig the recipe and start making it all the time from memory. And each time I make it, the recipe changes a little bit. I tried a recipe from Rocco Gets Real not too long ago, and it was one of those recipes. I’d been thinking about it a lot and I wanted to improvise. Here’s how it went: I sauteed some garlic and crushed red pepper in olive oil, added a can of crushed tomatoes, a bunch of leftover mixed olives, and a tablespoon of capers. I mixed in some tomato paste, cooked it down somewhat, and jazzed up the sauce with a little balsamic vinegar. Then I simply tossed that sauce with some cooked rigatoni and a small container of (softened) ricotta cheese. I suppose I could have baked it up with mozzarella on top, but it was perfect as is.
The verdict? Very good. By the way, if you are looking for cookbooks that inspire, you might want to look at Cooking Know-How. The whole concept of the book is inspiration — learn a cool cooking method and start improvising. Yeah, it’s got hundreds of real recipes to try, but the book is really about getting creative in the kitchen. Plus, authors Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough are pretty cool guys.