Another cookbook I’ve fallen in love with recently that I keep meaning to tell you all about is the second edition of The Food Substitutions Bible by David Joachim. I never met the first edition, but I’ve been consulting this new one about once a week ever since I got it. Sometimes I just read it, which is how I found out about the squirrel. (Well, I also learned more than I wanted to know about cooking squirrel watching Winter’s Bone a couple weeks ago. That movie, incidentally, was terrifying, and I think it’s my new pick for the best picture of 2010.) Basically, how the book works is that you can look up an ingredient and Joachim tells you what you can use as a substitute for it, both for reasons of practicality (you don’t have it) and for health (you want to use something with, say, less cholesterol or less salt). Reading the book is fascinating. Almost every page has an ingredient that I have never heard of, but that’s okay, because Jochim even tells you what the thing is. Opening to a random page, for example, I find “escolar,” which, it turns out, is a fish. If you don’t have any, you can substitute with butterfish (I’ve also never heard of butterfish), black cod, or halibut.
Another thing I love about this book is that it has a lot of charts in the back comparing different types in a category–oils, coffees, rices, vingears. That kind of thing. It also has the most helpful measurement equivalent tables I’ve ever seen. I used them just this morning to figure out if I needed to get a quart or a half gallon of milk for the macaroni and cheese I intend to make at some point in the next few days. (I needed a half gallon.)
Joachim’s entries and charts are informative for practical, I-am-making-this-dish-now-and-can’t-get-to-the-store situations, but they’re also useful for generating ideas, for figuring out what to do with things you have in your pantry that you maybe aren’t using. Like all books I enjoy, every time I sit and read it, I want to cook.
Although just now, I have a cold and want to go to bed. CURSE YOU, GERMS!