I love using Google to cook, particularly in summer. Not just because you can search the recipe for Alache Soup (above) but also because you can buy whatever looks freshest without fear of failure. After I greedily shop one of New York City's many Green Market farmer's markets, I google my bounty online with the word "recipe" added. It's a little like playing a menu slot machine. You pull the virtual lever and see if you get a winner. This is what I call cooking "forwards." Forwards cooking is ingredient focused.
But Google hasn't killed off cookbooks for me. I'm not the only one. The destination cookbook store, Kitchen Arts & Letters on Lexington Avenue, continues to thrive after 35 years in business (read a recent New York Times' profile here.) With books you cook "backwards." You pick your menu first, shop second and cook third.
Every summer I pull out favorite cookbooks like Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer (Hyperion, 2003), and Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties! (Clarkson Potter, 2001). Cooking step-by-step with these old friends puts me in a more meditative frame of mind. Juicy, ripe dishes like Ina's oven-roasted fruit or Nigella's watermelon, feta and black olive salad bring back pungent memories of summers past.
Despite a thriving website, Garten has a new book out this fall: Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks (Clarkson Potter, October 23, 2018). No doubt I'll splurge. Her ethos of the very relaxed hostess keeps performance anxiety in check.
Cooking forwards requires creativity, backwards requires intention, but cooking "sideways" (again, my term) is the ultimate in relaxation. All you need is a grill, olive oil, a spatula and a flip arm. Sideways cooking is pretty foolproof. And definitely the summeriest of all.