Quite often, we send our young people out into the world with a lovingly assembled collection of favorite family recipes. These homespun cookbooks are treasures, meant to help sons and daughters along their way -- and to alleviate parental worries in some small measure.
But what happens when our young cooks want to branch out and try recipes that didn't appear on the family dinner table? Where do they turn when they want to roast a chicken or make a meal to impress a girlfriend or boyfriend?
OK, 20-somethings go online to peruse YouTube's massive collection of cooking how-tos and the recipe treasure troves on Epicurious and the rest. But it's always good to equip them with a basic cookbook or two, as well.
Even with the Internet, it's good to equip novice chefs with a basic cookbook or two, like the classic "Joy of Cooking" cookbook. (AP Photo/Scribner, FILE)
When a grandmother wondered which cookbook would make a suitable birthday gift for her 21-year-old granddaughter, many of you responded with advice. Among your suggestions: "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook" -- Kelly Ross of San Jose says this is one of her "go-to" cookbooks. "There are color photos, great tips and the pages are removable, so you don't have a huge cookbook taking up precious counter space while cooking," Ross says. "I'm 22 years old and have learned a lot from all of the America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated publications." "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" -- Several readers recommend this venerable cookbook, which dates back to 1896. Look for the 1996 edition by Marion Cunningham, they advise. "It is a thorough guide to everything from cooking equipment to methods to ingredients," E. Miller says. Stacy Frawley also relies on this cookbook. "I learned to cook from this as a child and still use it weekly," she says. "The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes and Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life" -- This Tom Hudgens cookbook makes a good reference with kitchen basics and household tips, says Jackie Mattison of San Jose: "I loved Betty Crocker, but today's young folks are looking for something else." "Now Eat This" -- Marion StamParnell says this Rocco DiSpirito cookbook is her daughter's favorite. "It has great photos and clear explanations. Most of the recipes she has cooked from it have been very tasty," StamParnell says. "I have encouraged her to write notes in the margins for any changes she has made or would like to make next time." "Joy of Cooking" -- This classic received several recommendations. "This book has something for everybody," Jean Gillette says. Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker share authorship on the most recent edition. "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" -- "After discovering it on my son's shelf when he was on a very restricted diet, I spent hours with it," Mary Lou Breithaupt says of this Deborah Madison cookbook. "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen" -- Readers Ellie Trautman and Mary S. recommend this cookbook, written by Kevin and Nancy Mills. Cooking Light magazine -- "I recommend skipping the cookbook and instead buying her granddaughter a one-year subscription to Cooking Light," says Barbara Baksa of Fremont. "I've been a subscriber to Cooking Light for years, and I love the magazine. Every issue includes a wide variety of recipes, ranging in difficulty from super-easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to intermediate. Occasionally, there are some advanced recipes. Every issue has features on quick recipes and budget recipes. Also, most issues have features on specific cooking techniques. For example, a recent issue featured an article on cooking in a wok." And Baksa thinks one feature will appeal to a young cook. "For the technologically savvy 21-year-old, they have an app that allows you to scan a recipe with your iPhone, and it is saved to your online recipe file."
Finally, if you want to try a number of cookbooks, check out your public library, Miller advises: "The public libraries are wonderful resources for cookbooks. We'll typically check one out, try a few recipes, and then make the decision to buy or not."
Many Plates readers were happy to serve up the carmelitas recipe Mary Ann Stoermer requested. Stoermer enjoyed the vintage bar cookie recently at an Oakland bakery. While Plates readers have acquired the recipe here and there over the years, it is apparently Minnesotan Erlyce Larson's entry in the 1967 Pillsbury Bake-Off. A crumbly base including flour, oats, brown sugar and butter is baked a bit before you top it with chocolate chips, nuts, caramel topping and more of the crumb mixture. "These bars are always a hit; my sister-in-law Eileen Golden Dye gave me this recipe 20-plus years ago," says Noreen Golden of San Jose. Mary Shapiro's neighbor gave her the recipe when Shapiro was a newlywed in San Francisco back in 1970. Marie Fake of Danville says her niece Amy wowed the family with carmelitas at a reunion.
As is true with most handed-down recipes, I noticed some variations in the many carmelitas submissions. I was particularly bemused to note a wide variance in baking times; I suspect we all adjust recipes to fit our own oven's temperature quirks, then pass the recipes along with those adjustments. I used the baking times from the carmelitas recipe on the Pillsbury website, but you, too, might need to adjust for your oven, of course. Becky Hawkins offers this helpful hint: "I usually 'nuke' the jar of caramel a minute or so, so it is more pourable and easier to distribute," she says. "No doubt, these are dee-lish!" Another Plates reader recommends using a nonstick or easy-release aluminum foil to line your baking dish. "These puppies really stick!" the reader says.
Request line A friend of a friend brought home more than the usual Hawaiian shirt and jar of macadamia nuts from a recent visit to the islands. She has a craving for all things macadamia and would love recipes, particularly for macadamia nut cookies.
Contact Kim Boatman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find recent Home Plates recipes online at www.mercurynews.com/home-plates.