How do you write a cookbook? Cynthia Nimes has nine credits, each filled with her own recipes (and she has co-authored many more). Its latest – “Shellfish”, out of Seattle’s Sasquatch Books – offers 50 new developments that it has developed, including seven types of mollusks and crustaceans. A graduate of École de Cuisine La Varenne, he is also a former editor of Simple Seafood Magazine, a former food editor of Seattle Magazine and a longtime freelance food writer. But, still: where do all the recipes come from?
The process of writing a cookbook is of course different for different cookbook writers – Nims recommends the podcast “Everything Cookbooks” for a broader behind-the-scenes look. As you may be curious, some of Namas’ favorite books are Greece’s “Cole Benz”, Paula Wolfert’s “Foods of Morocco”, “James Bairds American Cookery”, “Latest” Cooking Happiness “and” Everything Brazing “. By Molly Stevens, who is also part of the “Everything Cookbooks” podcast. (Nimz provided more titles but had to stop somewhere!)
Next, find out Nims’ own words about his approach to cooking and writing books (they’re separate), in addition to what he calls “beautiful, spring-y” shrimp from “shellfish” and Synthesis of asparagus.
Cynthia Namas on her daily cooking routine – when she’s not working on the cookbook:
Ninety-seven percent of the time – rough estimate – when I’m cooking and it’s not a prescription test, I do it without a recipe. Sometimes this is something I cook often, and there will be minor variations. Other times, it’s something I haven’t cooked before and I make it based solely on elements of things I’ve cooked in the past or new ideas I’ve seen and want to play with. And I refer to many cookbooks in my collection if I feel any kind of anxiety or desire something I am less familiar with.
In addition to the random classification of the ingredients in a sample dish, how did it combine with its brain function:
My monthly box from Hama Hama (Oyster Company) showed up on Thursday, (and) it included a bag. I had cabbage in the fridge, great local bacon in the freezer. I roast cauliflower a lot and the new book has a recipe for roasted masala – why not combine the two? I put the sliced bacon in a large long pan to fry until lightly crispy. I took out the bacon and lost most of the fat, then put the chopped cabbage and garlic in the pan, and fried until light brown and mostly soft. Then I added the mussels and roasted them until they opened. It was fragrant and delicious – which I will do again.
Coming up with new combinations of ingredients using different techniques is something I often do. This is one of the things I love most about cooking – I’m grateful that I have a degree of comfort and skill in walking in the kitchen and just getting started. That’s why I’ll never be the best baker, because I can’t stop myself from getting bogged down in formulas and trying to do something different.
What happens when it comes to working on a given cookbook:
Off-the-cuff meals can be tempting to later become a draft recipe that I work on, but when I prepare recipes, I include all the ingredients and quantities, detailed instructions, cooking times, etc. I write the complete version with Maybe I’m guessing. Some or all of these elements, but this is what prescription testing is all about – to verify, adjust and update as needed.
There is definitely research – I always learn and grow through this process – that is a big part of the joy of synthesis work. I can see six or eight versions of Salsa Verde and the related discussions of the sauce, a random example, from my trusted source.
The books I’ve written have really grown out of a subject I’m honestly prepared for, and – oh my gosh, you know, want a reason to know more. I like the excuse of looking at old archives in the library, and calling people and asking questions, and looking at old magazine articles, and so on. I’m really glad I’m looking for the background and context that leads us to something we love so much.
The idea behind a sample recipe in “Shellfish”:
Lobster and artichoke stews are sprinkled on traditional oyster stews, often a little more than oysters, milk and / or cream, and butter. I chose to combine my favorite ingredient, artichokes, with lobster in this simple, light creamy soup. With just a handful of ingredients and relatively quick preparation, I’m hoping to expand the range of options with shellfish for quick, tasty, interesting recipes. Also, it’s a great showcase for domestic shellfish stocks, which I’m a big fan of storing in the freezer for occasions like this.
On the process of instruction testing:
Well, each version has to be tested at least once or twice, sometimes three, sometimes four or five – depending on the degree of adaptation, it needs to be modified. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. Oh listen – you know, it only takes months and months, and a lot of attention to detail. Yes, that’s right you can now become known as a Lord of the Rings.
Try this recipe with friends:
Getting someone else’s eye is beneficial – and the kitchen, and the ingredients – to confirm that it can be processed, and to get feedback on any ingredients that might be hard to find. Yes, or (they) did not believe. What it meant – this detail or whatever. I can’t do that with every prescription, but [it’s useful] With recipes that are a little more detailed.
What kind of things go wrong in the synthesis test process:
Oh listen, a lot of things can go wrong (laughs) – or maybe not in my mind. Take something like the sauce is more liquid than I intended, so this technique will have to work. Or, of course, the cooking times change. Or the amount of value you have, so that it actually serves the six people you think it is going to serve. “The logistics of the 9-by-13 pan isn’t really that big,” so either reduce the quantity or find a different pan. Certainly, flavor profiles – the balance of ingredients can be a bit off. So that everyone comes forward in the test. And sometimes the recipes don’t go very far, and other times it can be four or five tests and a big adjustment along the way.
On whether she eats mistakes:
Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either.
What she likes about writing a cookbook:
I really love this creative process – sit down and separate: how do I go from point A to point B and finish with a prescription? And just the freedom to create things, come up with some new ideas and play around. And not everything is going to work – there are definitely recipes that didn’t make it into the book.
I really go through all this – all the testing, all the rewriting, all the editing – in the hope that someone will read this book in their kitchen, get the ingredients and have a great experience – and only in it. Get happy
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Cynthia Nimes with Cool Curb and Asparagus Green Onion Ivy
For such a simple presentation, with a few star ingredients, this is an ideal time to spray on the curb mats of the lump, if that is the option. If it is made an hour or two before serving, the taste of Auli will be more ready, but it is best served on the same day. See note (below) for shortcut alternatives. – Cynthia Namas
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dajon mustard
3/4 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, white and light green portions (save dark green tops to serve)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped or pressed garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
24 asparagus spears, hard cut.
12 ounces of crab meat
1. For the avocado, stir together the egg yolks, lemon juice and mustard in a medium bowl. Start adding a few drops of oil at a time, stirring constantly until the yolks turn yellow and lightly thick, indicating that the emulsion has begun to form. Add the rest of the oil to a thin, steady stream, stirring constantly. Stir in the green onions, garlic and salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Open a suit pan or large deep frying pan half full with salt water, and boil the water over high heat. When the water is warming, prepare a large cup of ice water. Add the asparagus to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium, and boil until evenly shiny green, and at the end of one of the large knife spears, add a little resistance for 2 to 3 minutes. ۔ Use pliers to move the asparagus into the ice water, and let it sit until it cools completely. Transfer the chilled asparagus to a clean kitchen towel to drain the water.
3. Cut each asparagus spear to a length of 5 to 6 inches, saving the bottom cut. Return the spears to kitchen towels, wrap them in towels and refrigerate until ready to serve. Finely chop the cut heads, and place them in a medium bowl. Finely slice the tops of the preserved dark green onions, and set aside to use for garnish.
4. Lift the shrimp meat to remove any piece of shell or cartilage, and gently squeeze the meat to remove excess liquid. Add the shrimp to the bowl with the chopped asparagus, and add 1/4 cup aioli. Toss the shrimp pieces to mix evenly without breaking too much. There should be enough aioli to keep shrimp and asparagus together. Add a little more if needed. Taste for cooking, add more salt if needed. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to set.
5. To serve, arrange the cooled asparagus spears together on separate plates. Add a tablespoon of the shrimp mixture to the middle of each batch of asparagus, scatter some green onion tops. Serve the extra aubergine immediately, passing it separately. Serves 4-6.
Note: Stir in the green onion, garlic and salt in 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise to make a sharp oli. The taste will be better if it is made a few hours before, covered and kept in the fridge. It may not be homemade flavored, but it is a good alternative.
Excerpt from “Shellfish: 50 Seafood Recipes for Prawns, Shrimp, Mussels, Clams, Oysters, Scallops, and Lobster” with permission from Sasquatch Books. © 2022 by Cynthia Namas.