Not long ago, I published a post on Instagram about Tamar Adler’s first cookbook, an eternal favourite of mine, the peerless Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, writing “I regard it as sacred text! I can best describe it as the most beautifully written description of what cooking is all about, wrapped around recipes that feed a life, in so many senses.” If you don’t have this book, I urge you — for your own sake — to right this wrong. Despite the recipes that are laced through the narrative, that first book is just as much for readers who never venture into the kitchen. The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A—Z (in-between came the wonderful Something Old, Something New: Classic Recipes Revisited ) is very much the cook’s cookbook. It speaks to the very heart of those of us who live for leftovers, hate waste, and find inspiration in what I can only call free association with ingredients. As I am much given to saying: cooking, like life, is an improvisational art; and this book is a glorious testament to that.
Naturally, Adler cannot know exactly how your cupboards are stocked, and so it may be that some recipes call for further ingredients you don’t happen to have in the house, but her suggestions are always inspirational, and give expansive room for manoeuvre. And if by using the term ‘free association” I have made you feel that there is something uncontained in her approach, I must rectify that by assuring you that this encyclopaedia of possibilities is structured in such a way to bring order, calm, and maximum enjoyment to the enterprise.
The day I got my hands on this book, I happened to have a ludicrous superfluity of spring onions/ scallions desperate to be put to good use, and found it in the Sauces and Dips section, by, as you might expect, looking up Scallions in the index. (I should point out that as this is a US book, ingredients understandably go by their American names.) There were eight recipes to choose from and, without in any way disparaging the other seven, I went for Francis Lam’s Ginger-Scallion Sauce. The next day, needing to conjure up a relatively hands-free dinner, I poached a chicken that was, in my maternal grandmother’s phrase, going begging, threw some jasmine rice in my little rice cooker, and served both with the spring onion and ginger sauce. You might not have needed all those details, but I couldn’t stop myself from giving them to you!
This is the stage where, normally on CookbookCorner, I like to give my recipe highlights, but since there are over 1,500 recipes in the book, I’m not sure it’s feasible to produce a representative list for you. Besides, this valuable resource comes into its own once you know what actual ingredients you have to use up. But of course I’ve chosen a recipe from this essential kitchen companion to share with you today. Given that I had a nectarine masquerading as a billiard ball knocking around, I recently made the Unripe Fruit Salad (adding a couple of rogue ingredients, namely radishes and pomegranate seeds, off my own bat) and immediately I knew I’d be making it, in one guise or other, again and again. The recipes don’t have accompanying photographs or the book would have to come in several volumes (though the paintings by Caitlin Winner that are dotted throughout are absolutely ravishing!) and so I have taken the liberty of using the photograph I took to illustrate Adler’s recipe!