Of course, flipping through my cookbook collection is a good way to get inspired. And truthfully, I use some a lot more than others. My go-to book for just about everything besides canning is my Better Homes & Gardens cook book. You've probably seen it, maybe you even have it! (Full disclosure- I actually have 3, all from different decades!) It was a wedding gift and the book I turned to as I really learned to cook. It may surprise a lot of people that well into my 20's I considered making Hamburger Helper with store-bought ground beef to be "cooking". Before I met Dan. I'd never provided any of my own food, unless you count picking blackberries in the woods. I ate a very average American diet- cheap, easy, processed food that required minimal preparation or cooking time. It can be a lot of work to prepare a real meal from scratch, and I think that can be intimidating. It's probably one of the biggest hurdles to eating better. I really like the BH&G cookbook because the recipes are good without being overly complex, and there are lots of step by step tutorials, photos and basic info about cooking times and temperatures for just about anything. I also like that it has tabs for each section, with the recipes for the section listed at the front, plus a good index in the back to find all the recipes that use a given ingredient. It's a binder-style so it lays flat while you're using it. The collection of recipes covers the basics and also has a lot of flavorful dishes inspired by a variety of cuisines.
One winner of a recipe in there is the Parmesan Potato Wedges, a neat take on french fries. I find them to be like gourmet comfort food. This time of year, the potatoes are starting to get soft and sprout- it's basically use them or lose them! And this recipe always turns out well, but this time it was exceptional. I'm really glad I wrote down what I did to make it amazing. I'll share my secret with you-lots of herbs! The original recipe called for a small amount of Italian seasoning, but I pumped it up and used my own herbs. I have a nice lineup of herbs I grew and dried myself that live in mason jars and other interesting glass containers. I dry the whole leaves and store them that way, crushing them just before using. The flavor preserves so much better that way- the more you crush or grind up herbs, the quicker they lose flavor. Doing it this way packs a punch that is hard to recreate with store bought herbs. I also dug up a few herbs to bring indoors as houseplants last fall- it's a real treat to have fresh sage & parsley right now! And it seems fitting to share a potato recipe with you on St. Patrick's Day, so here it is, enjoy!
Herb & Parmesan Potatoes
4 medium or large potatoes, cut into wedges (quarter them lengthwise, then cut each quarter in half)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place potato wedges in a large bowl. Combine all other ingredients in a small bowl and mix together. Pour over the potatoes, tossing to coat them well. Place the wedges on the parchment paper in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes, or until soft. Flip the wedges over and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes to allow the other side to brown. Enjoy by themselves or with your favorite dipping sauce!
Yes, you can make this without parchment paper- either on a nonstick sheet (I avoid nonstick because of all the nasty chemicals it contains) or by lining the tray with foil for easy cleanup. But I'm a huge fan of parchment paper- it keeps food from sticking, helps things brown up nicely, and is even reusable!
I'd love to hear how it goes if you try this out, or any tweaks you make to make it your own!