cookbook-ing

Do you have a library card? I realize this may seem like an odd question in today’s day and age, but lately, it’s one I ask often.

I was an obsessive reader when I was younger. I almost always had a book with me, and my mother was convinced that my poor eyesight was due to all the time I spent buried in novels, especially after I was supposed to be sleeping. I devoured books, the library being a regular stop on the way home from school. As an adult, I cannot pass a used bookstore without stopping, and usually leave with my bag a bit heavier.

I went to the NYPL a few years ago and signed up for a library card. At first, I mostly utilized the vast e-book collection; it was convenient and quick, and meant I just needed my phone in order to have company on the subway. This year, I’ve circled back to picking up physical books – the wait time is often shorter for a hard copy than the e-copy with anything popular. Although it has led to some good-natured mocking from my friends and co-workers due to the size of some paperbacks (in particular, a fantasy trilogy with more than 1,000 pages), it’s helped remind me how much I appreciate having a tangible book to curl up with. Reading in bed with your phone in your hand just doesn’t provide the same comfort.

In between inhaling fiction, fantasy, and food writing, I’ve also been requesting cookbooks from the library. While you can get cookbooks in e-book form, it is a completely different experience. The text is all there, but the pictures usually aren’t. And considering how much fits on a phone or tablet screen, one page is often broken up into several pieces – especially inconvenient when recipes refer back to each other. Lately, most Saturdays include a walk to the library to pick up a cookbook and a subsequent mark-up with Post-Its for the recipes, tips, and tricks I want to try. I have been working to broaden my scope of cooking this year, and this is a fun way to do it. There’s also something lovely about sitting down with a smoothie or a glass of wine in the summer weather when I get home from work and perusing a new cookbook for ideas on what to make on the weekend.

Before the summer ends, I suggest you do two things:

  1. Get yourself a library card. If you like to read or listen to audiobooks, I promise it will come in handy. I know more local branches, such as the consortium in my hometown, also have music and DVDs to borrow.
  2. Make a delicious smoothie to beat the heat. I’ve provided an outline below of the one I’ve been making almost every night when I get home.

Pro tip: drink your smoothie while reading or listening to something from the library.

Summer Smoothie
Makes enough for 1 8-oz glass.

I grew up thinking of smoothies as a breakfast item, but with the intense heat and humidity of the city, it makes a refreshing after-work pre-dinner treat. My friend S gave me the idea when I was supposed to come by for tea, but couldn’t stomach anything hot on a 90 degree day. She blended a few fruits from the freezer together instead, and it was just perfect.

Ingredients
5-7 strawberries, rinsed and greens removed
7-10 chunks of frozen mango or 2 clementines, peeled
5-6 mint leaves
A splash of cold water

Recipe
Blend together at high speed until everything is smooth. Pour into a tall glass, garnish with mint if desired, and enjoy (outside with a good book, if possible)!

Tips and Variations:

  • Do you have a bag of seedless oranges in the fridge that isn’t quite fresh anymore? This is a bad habit of mine, as I would buy oranges with grand plans to make smoothies for breakfast and then never be up in time to peel them. Pick a time when your hands will be empty (watching TV, listening to a podcast) and line a baking tray with saran wrap. Peel the oranges, break into pieces, and arrange them on the sheet. When it’s full, put it into the freezer for a half hour. Voila – frozen orange pieces for the next time you need them. Just empty the tray into a freezer bag and continue until all your oranges are frozen.
  • Feeling like an afternoon cocktail? Add a little coconut rum to the concoction.
  • Substitute other berries or herbs – I’ve used basil with the strawberries and oranges, and plan to mix leftover raspberries with the frozen mango next time.

 

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