Friday Flashback - Southern Italian Family Cooking Carmela Hayes Sereno

Last month, I had the pleasure of reviewing and cooking from Carmela Sophia Sereno's cookbook, A Passion for Pasta which is truly a keeper - beautiful, inspiring and approachable. Check out my review and enter our promotion to win a copy along with some wonderful pasta making tools.

Today's Friday Flashback focuses on Carmela's her first title, Southern Italian Family Cooking: Simple, Healthy and Affordable Food from Italy's Cucina Povera. While it may appear to be a timid little paperback, it is filled with delicious family recipes including Fennel biscuits, Marrow parmigiana with Italian sausage sauce, and Auntie Anna's amaretto and dark chocolate cake. Rest assured all of the Southern Italian classics are covered as well. While Southern Italian doesn't have the visual beauty that A Passion for Pasta has, its content and Carmela's passion for food makes it just as valuable. 

Carmela is a friend and I've noticed in some of her photographs a gorgeous cookbook collection. I'm one of those people who will pause the television, rewind and pause again, if I see a cookbook collection or an interesting piece of kitchen equipment. So naturally, I asked Carmela if we could feature her collection here. Thank you, Carmela, for providing me a copy of Southern Italian and taking the time to share your library with us.

Which cookbook was your first?

The first cookbook that made me take notice was Nigella Lawsons 'How to Eat'.

How many cookbooks do you estimate you have in your collection?

I own approximately 800 cookbooks and my collection will continue to grow. Now, however, I am a little more selective as to what I choose to buy and add to my library. 

Which authors are your favorites? Which cookbook is a favorite?

My favourite authors are Anna del Conte, Valentina Harris, Tessa Kiros and Nigella Lawson, in truth I have a list of favourites but Anna is my number one. A favourite book is an impossible task. I love Anna del Conte's memoir Risotto with Nettles but I adore any book from my chosen authors.

Are there plans for another title from you?

Yes, book three is currently being penned and I am inspired to continue writing about my passion of Italian cookery and food but book three has a hint of seasonality through it.

Cookbook Stackup - Lee Clayton Roper

Lee Clayton Roper, a local Denver author, was the subject of my Friday Flashback yesterday where I featured her two cookbooks A Well-Seasoned Kitchen: Classic Recipes for Contemporary Living and Fresh Tastes From a Well-Seasoned Kitchen.

Lee is the Ina Garten of the Mile High City. She writes recipes that are wonderful for entertaining but not over the top or too complex. Elegant, fuss-free and gorgeous food is her trademark. Her website A Well-Seasoned Kitchen is reflective of the style and type of recipes her books share. 

Lee was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her personal cookbook collection along with providing some fun photographs. 

What was the first cookbook in your collection?

I started collecting cookbooks very young. I was around 7 years old when my mother gave me my first cookbook, "A Child's Christmas Cookbook" by Betty Chancellor and published by the Denver Art Museum (1964). I had forgotten all about this cookbook, until I was sorting through my mom's cookbook collection after she passed away, and I found it! Instantly, a ton of memories came rushing back - of my mom teaching me how to follow a recipe, how to measure ingredients, how to adjust ingredients to increase/decrease the number of servings, how to "cream" together butter and sugar, etc. In fact, there are notes on the Krisp Kringle cookie recipe in both my and my mom's handwriting, where we adjusted the measurements.

How many cookbooks do you own? 

Over 700. When we remodeled our kitchen and dining room, we put in tons of shelving, but I still have overflow in the basement. And, every year I weed out around a dozen and give them to the Denver Public Library. But more than that number are added in a year, so it continues to grow.

Which are your favorite authors and why?

My favorite cookbook authors share a similar palate to mine, with similar style in terms of recipes that are not overly complicated to prepare, reliable (e.g.., correctly organized and tested), flavorful, utilize predominantly fresh ingredients, with resulting dishes that are delicious and beautiful on the plate. Besides my own, I would say my regular go-to cookbooks are by these authors: Ina GartenGina HomolkaDiane Morgan and Diane Rossen Worthington

My favorite resource book is "Julia Child: The Way to Cook". Great tips and techniques.

Favorite book that you would never part with and/or is there a particular book that is sentimental to you?

The one mentioned above (A Child's Christmas Cookbook), because it was my first cookbook. Also, "Graland Gourmet" is a sentimental favorite because my mom was one of the editors. I don't really use it much, but I love to look through it.

Another fun book in my collection was given to me by my husband Robert - "Eat, Drink and be Merry in Maryland." In October 1941 it was given - and signed - to "the Duke and Duchess of Windsor" by the author Frederick Stieff and the (then) mayor of Baltimore. It was later auctioned off at Sothebys in 1997 and somehow found its way to a used bookstore in Denver!

Are there plans for another cookbook?

Who knows! I am currently focusing on promoting my existing books, especially the second one, Fresh Tastes. I continue developing new recipes and posting them on my website

Friday Flashback - Zahav and Michael Solomonov's Cookbook Collection

Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook brings the highly coveted dishes of the Philadephia hot spot Zahav into our kitchens. Zahav is Hebrew for gold.

Chef Mike was born in Israel but grew up mostly in Pittsburgh, where tahini was always on the table, a marker of his Israeli heritage. "Israelis love tehina like Americans love Doritos and wrestling - unconditionally, but a little irrationally," he states. Well, I think Doritos are rubbish and wrestling just no. I do, however, understand his point about the irrational love of traditional food and in that regard I have one word: vegemite.

Zahav is a restaurant cookbook that translates well for the home cook. Often restaurant recipes do not execute as they should but that is not the case here. While some of the recipes may require some tracking down of ingredients or performing an internet search for a suitable sub, the book is highly approachable. The Fried potatoes with harissa tehina, Crispy haloumi cheese with dates, walnuts and apples, and the Zahav lamb shoulder all are spectacular.

Zahav reminds us that food is about sharing, cooking together and traditions whether it be Israeli cuisine or a pot of chili with a side of Doritos for the big game (just not wrestling). In our world today, fraught with worry, time demands and exhaustion, it is important to pull up a chair and connect over a meal - now more so than ever.

Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love and Solomonov takes that slogan to heart with his charitable work. He is the real deal. The busy chef is currently promoting his new book Federal Donuts but took some time to answer a few questions about his personal cookbook collection. The events for Federal Donuts can be found on our Calendar. Thanks, Chef Mike for your time.

Q: How many cookbooks do you have?

I have about 75-100, but a lot of them are scattered throughout the restaurants.

Q: Which are your favorites? 

Q: Do you remember which cookbook was your first? Both given to you and purchased? 

The first cookbook that was given to me was by my aunt and it was Cafe Beaujolais by Margaret S. Fox. The first one I bought was The French Laundry Cookbook.

Q: Which authors do you enjoy most? Why? 

I love Joan Nathan because she is an incredibly talented, fundamental voice for Jewish cooking everywhere. Also, John Beshis a great author. He's got such a soul and his voice really comes through in his work.

Friday Flashback - The New Midwestern Table - Cookbook Stackup

I am a Midwestern girl in my heart. I grew up in a small steel town in Southern Illinois near St. Louis, Missouri.  Even though I long to return to New York, having lived there for fifteen years, the grounding stability of the Midwest is in my blood. The MIdwest has a reputation for meat, potatoes and bread - yet we are so much more than that and we have Amy Thielen to thank for bringing Midwestern cuisine to everyone's table.

As I mentioned in my promotion of Amy's memoir Give a Girl a Knife (a must read), I was thrilled to discover her back in 2013 and loved the focus on modern Midwestern cooking. Her book The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes is incredible - not a bad recipe in the collection and I've made at least half of them. Favorites include her Best-ever beer cheese soup, Classic beef pot roast with pistachio salt (that pistachio salt makes the world go round), and Rosemary-infused brown butter chicken breasts (some of my photos are uploaded at these links). Her famous Maple bread with soft cheese is something I turn to on Sunday mornings and a reason I am never without sourdough bread, maple syrup and butter (you don't need the cheese - it gilds the lily). I had to start a group to cook through her book way back when.

I reached out to Amy about featuring her here on our Cookbook Stackup posts and she was gracious enough to answer some questions in the thoughtful way she approaches everything in life. Thank you Amy and I am over the moon excited about another cookbook from you! 

Q: Can you tell me what cookbook was your very first?

As a kid I remember reading and rereading my mom's orange Betty Crocker cookbook. . But she didn't really own a lot of cookbooks. She had a recipe box full of index card-recipes and magazine clippings, and a collection of ring-bound community and church cookbooks. But it really wasn't until college, at Macalester in St. Paul, that I discovered the cookbook world. In addition to my English lit classes I was taking a lot of sustainable agriculture and women's studies and sociology, and somehow my research on farm women's diaries and early-American cookbooks led me to 1950s housewife cookbooks and then to contemporary American cookbooks. It was the beginning of my hippie-homesteader phase. Within a year of graduation, I'd move to a nonelectric cabin in the woods and garden and cook my brains out, but the cookbooks that gave me that inclination to do that were Alice Waters' Chez Panisse and Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. Blending the two together, I made so many whole-wheat pizzas topped with greens and roasted garlic. And so much roasted squash soup. Soon after that I found Marcella Hazan and Madeleine Kamman, who had a more European-edged authoritative writing style that really spoke to me. They wrote the way my mom and grandma talked; their witty bossiness earned my trust. I think it's fair to say that my obsession with Madeleine Kamman's The Making of a Cook began in 1997 and continues to this day. The woman was an absolute genius, and had a cooking knowlege that spanned from her French family roots to the world of haute cuisine. She knew everything, from classic French food like duck confit, to cream-based country French dressings, to the (then-new) California-style restaurant food. She had a restaurant in Boston, a cooking show on PBS, and wrote so many wonderful books. When French Women Cook is my favorite. It's a memoir, basically, stories of the French women who influenced her, with 200 recipes, and my copy is all flagged up. Someday I will make her walnut bread, a recipe from the Savoie that calls for a full cup of butter "lees," the brown bits you skim off when making clarified butter. She's totally my hero.

Q: How many are in your collection right now - and can you provide a photograph to share?

I have about 350 cookbooks at last count, although it's difficult to count them. They're spilling out of the shelves right now, lining the staircase to my office, and forming precarious mountains at my bedside. It's really getting out of control. I went through them this summer to cull out the ones I might be able to give away, and came up with a pile that numbers exactly eight. And they're still sitting there, because it's really hard for me to give up my cookbooks. When I die, I want to donate my collection to a library, but they'll have to take them knowing that the margins are written in and the back jackets are covered with sketches for menus and grocery lists and to-do lists. I have a bad habit of writing in my books, but I think it's just a testament to how much they are a part of me. I own them, but really, if you look at my house you'll see that they own me.

Q: Who are your favorite authors right now?

Just yesterday I received Cheers to the Publican in the mail, and I think it's a fabulous book-well-written and as full of amazing vegetable dishes as it is sausage. I adore pretty much anything Nigel Slater does. although Tender is one of my favorites. He ties his food to mood so beautifully, and cooks the way I do on a regular weekday night: with love, and common sense, and from the ingredients that lounge around my kitchen. And his sentences are like poems. In recent years I've also loved Alex Raij's The Basque Book; it's such a deep dive into a cuisine I don't know that well. And Nancy Hachisu's Japanese Farm Food. And Vivian Howard's Deep Run Roots. And the Matt Lee and Ted Lee's The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. And The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. I also recently reread Judy Rodger's The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which is a masterpiece. Full of wisdom and good sense and a million brilliant recipes for using up stale bread, which everyone needs.

Q: Are there plans for more books?

I'm working on a cookbook right now, and I'm really excited about it. I feel like I've been a hoarder with my recipes for the past six years, holding all my best recipes close to my chest like a good poker hand, and I'm so thrilled to be writing them down and eventually publishing them. I can't give any more detailed info about that, but will keep people updated on my social media channels, Facebook and Instagram mainly.

Gabriele Corcos' Cookbook Collection

Earlier this month, I shared a post on how our cookbook collections stack up sharing some friends' photos and other information. Today, Gabriele Corcos was the subject of my Friday Flashback featuring his books Extra Virgin and Super Tuscan written with his actress wife, Debi Mazar. 

Below is a photo of Gabriele's office/cookbook library which he is graciously sharing with us today. 


Gabriele kindly answered a few questions as well. 

Q: What was your very first cookbook?

Gabriele:  I started cooking using the "Talismano della Felicita'" by Ada Boni when I was 6 years old. Early Sunday morning in the kitchen was all for myself. I would bake a cake a week (I would also price it and serve it in bed to my parents who at that point had to pay for breakfast).  Boni's book used to be a staple wedding gift between the 70s and 90s and every family in Italy has it in their kitchen. My first recipe was an Almond Cake.

Q: How many cookbooks do you own?

Gabriele: Roughly 900!

Q: Lastly, which cookbooks are your favorites?

Gabriele:  Jerusalem, Zahav, The Lebanese Kitchen, Ceviche, Artusi, Tartine Bread, Far Afield (and another 20-30 titles).

Gabriele, thank you for sharing your collection with us today. Michael Solomonov as well as a few other of our favorites authors are working on pieces for Eat Your Books - look for those and our member features soon.


How do our Cookbook Collections Stack Up?

In the August/September issue of Garden & Gun Magazine, Rick Ellis and his magnificent collection of Southern cookbooks were featured in an article by Monte Burke. Bookcases which brought an envious tear to my eye housed 5,000 cookbooks. Jessica B. Harris, a prominent culinary historian and author, stated that to her knowledge, "there is no private collection of Southern cookbooks in the world that has the breadth and depth and importance of Rick's."

Many members of The Cookbook Junkies love to share "shelvies" - photos of their collections. I liken it to looking at houses online - you might not be moving but you still like to look. At the moment, I am in a cookbook library holding pattern. Most of my collection is packed ready for a move which I hope happens in the next two months because "nobody keeps Jenny's cookbooks in a bin." 

Today, I'm sharing a few of my friends and members cookbook collections so we can all be envious together. I will have other articles in the future sharing more libraries and if you would like to be included - send an email with a photograph of your collection and a line or two about your favorites to jenny at eatyourbooks dot com. I will also be reaching out to some of our favorite cookbook authors to interview them about their collections. 


The above collection is from my friend, Marc, who is a culinary school graduate, cookbook lover and extraordinary cook. Although, he doesn't cook for a living, he has taken cooking classes all over the world and I hate him with the white hot intensity of a hundred burning suns (okay, that is extreme - maybe fifty). Marc is a great guy and his husband, David, tolerates Marc's collection (not so quietly) because he never has to have casseroles for dinner. Marc and I have very similar tastes when it comes to cookbooks and so far we both have been spot on recommending titles to each other. 

When I reached out for a quote about his collection, Marc shared, "My favorite cookbooks are the regional cookbooks I've picked up during my travels; mostly in Italy and Asia. My favorite cookbook remains Locatelli's Made in Italy. Out of shelves full of Italian books, it's the one I use most." For Locatelli fans, the author has a new book out Made at Home.


Above is a portion of Jean's collection. Jean and I, too, have similar tastes when it comes to cookbooks. She is an avid lover of books from the UK (as am I) and she also is a cookware and dishware hoarder (again much like myself). Jean shared a bit about how her love of British titles began, "Well over a decade ago I joined a message board of Nigella fans. I am now in a Facebook group with many of those same members. My UK collection began with Nigella and grew exponentially based on their recommendations and enthusiasms. I am particularly fond of Mary Berry, Dan Lepard, Diana Henry, Nigel Slater, Ottolenghi, Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra and Felicity Cloake." 

Diana Henry has another title coming out in the Spring of 2018, How to Eat a Peach which will share her menus that she has been saving since the age of sixteen. Planning a menu is still her favourite part of cooking. The menus in this book reflect places Diana loves, and dishes that are real favourites. Jean, have you preordered?


This collection is from another friend, Mallory. While I think it is beautiful - it is not for me. I love the unperfect beauty of a random placement of book spines. Mallory is working on a cookbook podcast which I hope to have more information on soon.

Our friend, Kate McDermott, author of The Art of Pie, has the same system of color coding her books. She states that is how her mind works. Kate recently shared news on her blog about her second book, "I have embarked on the journey for a second book. I ask for your encouragement, prayers, good wishes, and positive thoughts. This book is about the life of a home cook, baker, and homemaker, both as a full-nester and an empty-nester. It will be about wearing an apron and the stories that are the strings that attach it. There will be simple recipes, easy to find ingredients, quick to make meals with not too many steps, and it will be seasoned with lots and lots of love. "


Darcie's (yes, our Darcie) collection is photographed to the right. Darcie has a soft spot for baking cookbooks and is a star cocktail maker. 

Darcie shares, "Most of my cookbooks fit here, but I have no room to grow without getting more shelves (oh, darn). My Cook's Illustrated 1993-2013 and Cook's Country 2005-2013 are in another location, plus a few are pulled out for current reading. Left shelves are baking/cocktails; top center are technique & science; the rest are pretty much alpha by author." 


To the left is a photo of one bookcase that I won't pack up until the very last moment. Currently, I have around 3,000 plus cookbooks and I am counting the moments to having my own cookbook library instead of having books scattered throughout the house. Recently, I underwent the great purge of 2017 and while loads of books went out more are coming in.

My favorites of late are technique driven titles, adventure cookbooks that help me to discover another country's cuisine and customs and restaurant cookbooks - because we just never seem to be able to get to any - restaurants that is. The Modernist Cuisine books are on my wish list and one day I will own them. 

Bravetart, Orange Appeal, and Baker's Royale are other books that I am excited about right now that I will be preparing promotions for soon. The Iraqi Table is a current obsession - absolutely gorgeous book.  

Sweet arrived this morning and I am crushing on it like a tween at a Taylor Swift concert (is that still a relevant analogy?) There are times when you await a highly anticipated cookbook and when you receive it you think - I spent six months waiting for this? Well, in Sweet's case - it was worth every second of waiting. I'm working on a promo for this masterpiece from the rock star chef.  

Last, but not certainly not least, Jane Kelly, the co-founder of Eat Your Books shares her photograph which encompasses about 30% of her collection. She states, "My favorites are mainly British (or at least UK based) authors that I have been cooking from for years and I own every book they have written - Ottolenghi, Nigella, Jamie, Nigel Slater, and Diana Henry. Other favorites are Melissa Clark and Dorie Greenspan."

I did a bit of research and found some links to some of our favorite author's collections that you might enjoy.

If you have any links of celebrity collections, please share them in the comments and I will update this post.

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!