50 Best Cookbooks of All Time

A16 cookbookA few years ago The Guardian published a listing of the 50 best cookbooks of all time, many of which were James Beard award winners, so of course I was intrigued. It’s a bit embarrassing, I admit .. but my bedtime reading is usually in a cookbook or the latest Food & Wine magazine. I’ve acquired several of the cookbooks on the list, and one of my favorites is A16 Food + Wine.

gnocchiWe traveled to San Francisco with our BFFs a few days before Christmas, and were fortunate enough to be able to book a table at the A16 restaurant. Having enjoyed several recipes from the cookbook, I was super excited to dine there. Our dinner and dining experience was fabulous! All 4 of us ordered different dishes and rather than sharing a bottle of wine, we asked our server for her pairing recommendations. pizzaShe was extremely knowledgeable, and knew exactly which wines to select (and she didn’t just choose the expensive ones!). Check out these photos of my gnocchi and Curt’s pizza. YUM! What I love about their dishes is the simplicity and use of fresh ingredients.

When we returned home from Christmas travels, I was anxious to crack open my cookbook again and made this pasta dish for New Year’s Day.

BucatiniBucatini with Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Garlic, Chiles and Bottarga
Pair with Cagnulari (Sardinia) Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as a first course

Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
1/4 teaspoon dried chile flakes
2 cups oven-dried tomatoes (recipe to follow), each tomato cut into thirds
12 ounces bucatini
1-ounce piece bottarga for grating (sadly my go-to Italian market, Claros, was out of bottarga so I settled for grating parmigiano reggiano cheese on top)

bucatini recipeBring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and chile flakes and sweat, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, or until the garlic has softened. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have plumped up. Taste saucefor seasoning and add salt if needed, keeping in mind that the tomatoes are seasoned and the bottarga is salty, so you need to proceed cautiously.

pastaAdd the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about 1 minute less than specified on the package. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the large pot over medium heat. Add the sauce to the pasta along with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and toss well, adding some of the reserved pasta water if needed to loose the sauce. If the sauce is too loose, turn the heat up to medium-high and cook down the sauce with the pasta. It should be loose enough to barely pool at the bottom of the pot, but not too watery. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

Serve the pasta in a warmed large bowl, family style. Grate the bottarga over the top to finish and serve immediately.

dried tomatoesOven-Dried Tomatoes
Makes 2 cups

1 1/2 pounds kosher salt
15 San Marzano tomatoes (if you can’t find San Marzanos, use ripe Roma tomatoes in their place)
About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Spread the sale on a 13-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet, creating a layer 1/2 inch thick. Core the tomatoes and halve them lengthwise. Arrange the halves, skin side down, in rows on the salt layer. Bake for 6 hours, or until the tomatoes are completely dried and look like sun-dried tomatoes. (If you have a convection oven, turn the fan on; the tomatoes should be dry in about 3 hours.)

Remove the tomatoes from the sale (the salt can be reused for another batch) and pack them into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in olive oil, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.