Two veterans of the glossy food magazine Saveur started Canal House Cooking in 2006, taking a detour from monthly deadlines and corporate publishing.
Christopher Hirsheimer, a founding editor of Saveur and award-winning photographer, and Melissa Hamilton, formerly Saveur’s food editor, brought more than editorial skills to the partnership. These women can really cook.
Their style evokes country cooking, changing with seasons and using what’s available and what needs to be used up. But it’s delivered with finesse, and its conversational tone draws readers into their kitchen for a drink and a chat.
“Canal House Cooks Every Day” is organized by season and month, starting with April. Recipes offer home chefs ways to capitalize on the first wispy green breaths of spring, like stinging nettle soup, roasted spring onions, and shaved asparagus and arugula salad with bruschetta.
“We cook seasonally because that’s what makes sense,” the authors write. “We want stews and braises and rich thick soups in February when it’s snowing and blowing. In midsummer, we buy boxes of tomatoes to dress as minimally as we do in the heat. And at the height of the season, we preserve all that we can, to save a taste of summer.”
In June, “Canal House” suggests open-faced zucchini omelets, poached wild salmon with fresh English peas and morel mushrooms, rice salad and deviled eggs topped with a bit of Tunisian harissa spice sauce, asparagus tips, bacon shards, cornichon slices and other add-ons that rescue the eggs from the grips of cliché.
August brings a celebration of fresh tomatoes in all their guises, simply dressed, in sandwiches, raw tomato sauce with hot spaghetti, or warmed in good-quality, herb-infused olive oil. January brings cleansing ginger-chicken soup, borlotti beans with sauteed baby kale, chopped celery salad and chocolate-covered boozy prunes.
The recipes are clear and straightforward, even in the few more complicated dishes. The book’s photography is lush and vibrant. Some cookbooks were born to live on a coffee table. “Canal House Cooks Every Day” has the potential to be a year-round companion on your counter.