People who collect cookbooks seem to enjoy counting their spoils. Since I’ve been collecting cookbooks for more than 20 years now, the other day I thought I’d count them (it must have been a very quiet day). I counted the books in the kitchen, strewn around on tables and floors, and in the dining and living rooms. I got up to 320. I didn’t venture down into the basement, where I know I have at least that many, and probably more, nor did I figure in the stack that lives next to my bed. After all that counting, I decided it would be much more useful if I’d spent my five minutes of free time cataloging my cookbooks.
This is what J would say, and for once I agree: Counting is so boring.
Admittedly, I don’t use every single one of my cookbooks. Sometimes they sit on the shelves for years before I notice them. And, every once in a while I actually have to let some go to good causes, to make room for new ones.
Out of the 600-plus cookbooks I own, I’d estimate I use or look at the same two dozen or so over and over again. One of them is Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. I have all of her other books, but this is her best, in my opinion. It doesn’t have any photographs or illustrations at all – none of those money shots of Nigella licking chocolate off a spoon – just lots of personal writing and recipes.
My copy is paperback, and pages are falling out even after I’ve taped and glued them back in. The book falls open to one of my very favorite recipes, Lemon Linguine on page 230.
I’ve made many versions of this recipe, but my current version, with crème fraiche and lots of fresh vegetables, seems so Spring-y.
Serves 4 1 cup each trimmed asparagus, green beans and broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound dried pasta shells (conchiglie)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (try using a premium brand like Plugra for this – it’s worth it)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw in a good handful of salt. Add the vegetables and cook 3 minutes; scoop them out with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Drain.
Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, find your biggest serving bowl. In the bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, crème fraiche, lemon zest and juice, cheese, salt and pepper. Just before draining the pasta, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add to the egg yolk mixture, whisking.
Drain pasta; add to the bowl with the vegetables and butter, tossing gently to coat with sauce.