Write Your, um, Our Own Cookbook


Blame it on Facebook. A few weeks ago, I posted this picture to this on my profile page. I was noodling around with the new iPhone app Instagr.am, to which I’m becoming pathologically addicted, and wanted to see if all this brouhaha over one-button photo publishing really worked. (Yes, it does, and, yes, David Lebovitz, Ree Drummond, and Deb Perelman, I’m still in the Dark Ages when it comes to mobile technology.)

These particularly sublime lovelies are gougeres–small cheese puffs, my version filled with prosciutto and herbs. They’re scheduled to appear in the glossy, full-color pages of my next book–a Leite’s Culinaria cookbook–of which I’m only in the proposal-writing stage. ‘Tis true, I’m one of those writers who takes a millennium to put together a book. All I can say is bless the hearts of those writers who can knock out one terrific tome after another.

Now, what I didn’t expect from my expérience sociale was the reaction of readers. Within seconds of posting, I started getting everything from requests for the recipe (can’t give it out just yet, folks) to some serious wrist slapping for not having started the proposal sooner.

And that got me thinking. While I have my idea of what I humbly believe to be a star-studded, headliner-only cross section of recipes, you might have a very different perspective. So I’d like to hear from you: What dishes do you want to have killer, to-die-for versions of–all placed in your hot little hands as soon as the book is published? Slam-dunk shrimp and grits? Never-fail Parmesan-crusted chicken breasts? Or brownies that will once and for all shut up your cantankerous braggart of a mother-in-law? Tell me. This is your chance to write your own cookbook by proxy. Who knows, your suggestions might just be one of more than 150 recipes to grace the pages of our very first (and we hope the first of many) LC cookbook.

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  1. I think I would seriously consider selling my soul for a foolproof buttermilk biscuit recipe. Every time I try they come out like beautiful golden hockey pucks. If anyone can help me, it’s you! :)

    1. I am so sensing a Southern theme to these requests, are you? I have to admit I’m not a big biscuit maker, but we have several Southern cooks who are testers for the book and on whom I can lean. Karen? Beth? To the rescue.

      1. I am sure that my sidekick and I could provide some Southern flavor to the cookbook.

        1. Never Fear FL. Your Southern Belles are here. We dream in Southernese and talk with our hands full of okra, grits, biscuits, and SOUTHERN fried chicken!!

  2. I’m sure all the recipes will be yummy, and would like suggested ingredient substitutions and shopping tips

  3. I cannot buy that you’re more clueless about mobile technology than I am when I hadn’t even heard of Flipboard before you told me!

    Your pumpkin layer cake is fantastic–light and pumpkin-y, where most are heavy and more spice than pumpkin flavor. I am the only person on the internet who hasn’t made your white gazpacho yet, but I think you’ll need a riff on it in every cookbook going forward. And I know, I know, you want to hear about new recipes, not ones you’ve already written, but you must find a home for the chocolate chip cookies you made the NYT so famous for in your book as well.

    Now, can you please tell me what to put in my cookbook? And soon, it’s due, like, any day now. :)

    1. Well, Miss Smitten Kitchen, as I live and breathe! I am always, always a block behind you when it comes to technology. You’re cutting edge.

      Regarding the pumpkin cake, that was a good one. And, strangely enough, that was the first version. (Unlike my orange olive-oil cake, which took 13 tries to get right.) You must try the white gazpacho, it’s wonderful (if I do say so myself!). And the cookies will be in the book…but in a different form…

      As far as your book–anything you do will be great. How can it not be? Best of luck with it, and make sure we get a copy.

  4. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I’d love a chapter on substitutes for things like dairy. And/Or tell me for which recipes I CAN’T use substitutes. Obviously, some are straight-forward, but many are not.

    Similarly, please don’t assume we have access or funds to exotic/exclusive/hard-to-find “dairy-free” alternatives. And make sure to list ingredients and allergens in each recipe (eg, this recipe contains x, which has milk ingredients, etc.) as well as nutritional info such as low GI, high fiber, etc. (This could be done by simply stating at the very beginning how much sugar is “high” sugar and then label your recipes as low/mid/high sugar, and the same with fiber). And I so love recipes that make measurements logical. Not just 50g or 1/2 cup but “a bunch” or “small can” so that we can eyeball it and adapt when needed.

    Also, please don’t stuff your cookbook with pork/bacon/lard recipes! So many are books full of recipes that many (Muslims, Jews, etc) can’t use, and it makes a lot of books more or less useless!

    Thanks so much! I love that you’re asking for feedback!

      1. Oh, and one more?

        Please don’t assume we have fancy appliances like stand mixers or even super high end blenders. Unless that’s your audience, of course!

  5. I would love a recipe for chicken fried steak. Either it is perfect or soooo horribly wrong. It wouldn’t hurt if it was gluten free either. :-)

  6. 20 years ago I had an amazing recipe for a lemon spice oatmeal cookie… it was awesome, had lemon zest and a light icing. Since then I’ve moved 927 times and it has vanished… so I’m hoping that maybe MAYBE there’s something in your secret recipe box. Whatcha got?

    Other than that, I’d love to see recipes using farro. We love it, but the only way I know how to prepare it is a cold salad with tomato, onion, cucumbers, balsamic and olive oil. As good as that is, I need some variety in my life.

    Oooh! And how about authentic ceviche?

    Now I’m hungry…

    1. Diana D, that salad you mention sounds lovely. Until the book comes out, thought I’d toss out just a couple things that may help in the meantime. I’m noshing on cold farro with white rice, to lighten it a little in taste and texture, and microgreens right now. I like it cold as you suggest, but it’s also nice just barely warm or at room temperature tossed with grilled or broiled or cast-iron seared green beans, scallions, yellow squash, baby turnips, corn off the cob, or whatever other summery vegetables you have that require a little heating. I just toss it all together and drizzle the jumble with olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. I also sometimes heat cooked farro up in the morning and fancy it up as I would oatmeal, whether with milk or honey or nuts or fruit or spice or what have you.

      1. Renee,

        Thanks much! I always have leftover veggies to toss in, but I never thought about eating it like oatmeal. I think I’d prefer the texture of the farro over oats anyway! Awesome!

        And David, I’ve decided that I’m far too excited about this “book to be”. Sign this cracker UP. :)


  7. With all of these suggestions, you’re set to have a cookbook bigger than Hesser’s.

    It’s hard to establish a vein that will be different enough to stand out among all the great cookbooks published lately. I’m not sure what I want to see, recipe wise. But I’ll take that gougere recipe under the table and I won’t tell a SOUL. Because I can’t wait.

    I want one of your essays accompanying every recipe. That’s what drove me through Wizenberg’s book–and made me want to eat every mouthwatering word she wrote. I’m sure I would love a book like that from you.

    Too much to ask?

    1. Mariko, thanks for the input. I plan on having essays in the book–it’s what I do, it’s how I started. So you can certainly expect to see them! (And just wait til you try the gougeres!)

  8. don’t know if you’re still checking this, but desperate, pie-in-the-sky desire is to know how to make serious, honest-to-goodness kunafa nablusiyya. with the semolina, not the phyllo dough.

    also, does anybody make homemade cottage cheese?

  9. Hi David – one more request if I may (btw, fantastic idea!): I get my meat directly from the farmer, taking 1/4 cow at a time. That means that I end up with loads and loads of ground meat, and while I can do a burger every once in a while it’s not my most favorite food. I’ve done meatballs, become an expert in meatloaves, so any innovative ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!

    1. All kinds of lassis and similar drinks – doogh, salt lassi, whatever they are called around the world! That would be wonderful, and jive very well with homemade yogurt – or did I read about that somewhere else?

  10. A lovely simple quinoa recipe (I love to cook the grain then sauté it with more veggies and flavors) and some experiments with teff, millet, and amaranth, as the gluten-free bubble is starting to make so many new flours available!  

    And a GREAT thick, full-of-ideas substitution section!  (You might guess I have allergies.. :) ) But nothing has made me start being MORE interested in cooking than finding out I can eat very little “as-is”.  When you have eggs and rice and butter only… how many ways do YOU know how to cook it to keep it interesting?  I am a huge fan of your “we love to have one recipe “feed” another” attitude!

    I would love to see a small section on different cuisines as well…. eating gluten-free is fairly easy when you cook japanese foods; Italian foods can have GORGEOUS vegetarian options; Israeli foods–especially recipes that are changed to be Kosher for Passover–create a haven for yeast-free and dairy-free foods; and South America has some AMAZING corn recipes. Each part of the world focuses on different ingredients–I love how much that opens up options!  Once I started searching by location for recipes, I was able to find so many more recipes than just trying to type in “corn free.”  I never thought… “Well, where in the world is there no corn grown–cause I bet they have recipes!”

    And with the green movement so prevalent, and the economy the way it is, I’m seeing more and more homemade foods created in our own kitchens–making your own yogurt, capturing your own yeast starter, grinding your own flour- recipes right to the root and homeland- even down to a great recipe for a veggie rinse to get bugs and pesticides off.  Some “do-it-yourself” techniques would be FANTASTIC and economical.

    1. Nikki,  I’m so not into quinoa it’s not even funny. But then I said to myself, “Self, think of it as a grain, like rice, not anything crunchy granola-ish.” Then I started getting some ideas. But this is more Renee’s area, so she’ll have to give me a guiding hand.

      And I’m into the concept of DIY, so I hope to have lots of things to make for yourself–but not to the point of grinding your own flour or making non-pesticidal veggie rinses. That’s more lifestyle. Gotta stay focused on cooking!

  11. Excellent concept, David. Just be careful what you wish for. From what I’ve read, you’re got some talented friends/fans. Writing a book in this manner still leaves time for television appearances, I hope. =)

  12. A cutout cookie recipe somewhere between a sugar cookie and Scottish shortbread.
    No lemon thank you. Even if you would rather not put it in your cookbook and know of such a recipe PLEASE direct me.

    Let me also say that I am glad that you always give credit to your source of recipes as I am discovering many bloggers (one in particular) do not. Shame shame.

    1. Prwolf, I’ll search away and do my best to create one. I do have a vert special shortbread with unusual ingredients that is always a hit. But I can’t give you the recipe just yet.

      And I think I’ve never gotten a more meaningful compliment. Giving credit is very important to us–as attribution is everything. Plus, it’s the kind thing to do, and Momma Leite raised me right. If you ever see something not properly credited please, please let me know.

  13. Some great artichoke recipes, please! I never use artichoke as much as I want to because I feel like I haven’t mastered it yet.

    1. Oh, that looks lovely, thanks, I’ll try that this week – even though I was thinking more about a nice crumbly crispy buttery crust rather than a yeast dough… I know I know this one is much healthier…

  14. I like recipes that include suggestions for their leftovers.  Also recipes that use up herbs so you don’t end up throwing them out.

    1. kkehrig, you read my mind. We love to have one recipe “feed” another, so it all gets used up. And as far as herbs, that’s more of a challenge. We’ll see what we can do.

  15. Pie crust. A tried-and-true, never fail pie crust. It’s one thing I’ve never been able to master.

  16. Absolutely love the idea and looking forward to the book. Meanwhile I would love to see the typical staple recipes but with a twist, much as the gougères you mentioned above. Recipes easy enough to prepare for weeknights yet bringing them to the 21st century. Now I have to second the potato salad as I like the idea but have yet to try one that I would love to reproduce.

    1. Janet, they’re on the docket. Have you every tried Rancho Gordo’s beans? Great. And we have several shrimp and grits recipes as well as apple pie recipes on the site–but, hey, you can never have too many. So they will be in the book.

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