Thanks to all who offered criticisms last night. They were all to the point and valuable. Here's a second pass.
I walked in the front door and confronted a huge bowl of paella. At least, I thought it was paella. The perfectly shaped peas, bell peppers that seemed to glow, glistening mushrooms, and rice coated with a creamy golden sauce -- as well as few things I couldn't immediately identify -- had me salivating in moments and whispered "paella" in my mind. Paella or not, I know the dish was Spanish because emblazoned across the book's cover was Spanish. In smaller type below the title I read, "150 mouth-watering step-by-step recipes."
I bought it, of course. The book was filled with simple, genuinely "mouth-watering," recipes as well as gorgeous pictures. I opened the book and read about Banderillas, a tapa composed of olives, anchovies, and cornichons and featuring a photo that seemed to spill from the page. Another recipe offered Flash-Fried Squid -- a significant weakness of mine. Delving deeper there was an exquisite photograph of an avocado, orange, and almond salad. The Pan-Fried Sole with Lemon and Capers I already knew and loved (tilapia is a good substitute in the US). And what right-thinking Southerner could resist a recipe for Empanada that included pork and sausage in a cornmeal-based pastry shell? I was hooked. The bargain price of $2.99 was irrelevant. I would have paid ten times that without a further thought.
I seldom buy cookbooks anymore (as opposed to books about cooking and eating -- which I still buy). When I need ideas I hit the Internet. It's fast, offers a huge range of recipes, and it's easy to crib an idea here, a technique there, and an ingredient over yonder and quickly combine them into a recipe that meets my needs.
But this book… I took it home and drooled over it for a week before deciding where to start -- what to cook first. And now that I've begun, I've picked the next three recipes to try. And marked three more for later -- including one I plan for my birthday at the end of September. This, my friends, is a cookbook.
Last night I made Cochifrito and Patatas Bravas. Mmmm… Good food. In fact, seriously good food.
(recipes will follow)