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"Be the Change" has always been the store's motto, and that's just what it has done. What started as a place to meet and eat is now so much more, as the grocery has become the heart of a now-bustling country town. "The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook" shares 120 of the store's best recipes, giving home cooks everywhere a taste of the food that brought a community together, sparking friendships, reviving traditions, and revitalizing an American Main Street.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-03-17
- Reviewer: Staff
Water Valley, Miss., is a small, rural village saved from obscurity by being just 25 minutes from the campus town of Oxford, and by being fortunate enough to be the home of chef Grimes and self-made business woman van Beuren. B.T.C., which stands for “Be the Change,” is their little grocery cum diner that could, a local favorite that caught national attention when van Beuren was profiled in a 2012 New York Times article that also highlighted Grimes’s pear zucchini soup. This effort to share the B.T.C. experience is a gentle mix of traditional Southern fare, creative variations thereon, and profiles of the only mildly colorful local residents like Mickey Howley, who drops by for cauliflower soup, and Billy Ray Brown, their milkman. Van Beuren’s unadorned prose keeps the character studies pure, with a refreshingly minimal amount of folksiness, while Grimes’s 120 recipes alternate between classic and surprising. Her shrimp salad is chock full of Hellmann’s, but her tuna salad calls for two types of raisins. Having cooked in several fine restaurants over her 20-year career, Grimes also has no problem combining interesting flavors and textures, as with her honey pecan catfish and her oyster casserole with pimentos, dry vermouth, and nutmeg, topped with crushed Ritz crackers. (Mar.)
Mangia la verdura!
Italians love their veggies and have learned over centuries to use their creative kitchen magic to transform readily available produce into a super selection of antipasti, crostini, panini, soups and sides, veggie-rich risottos, sauces and stews, and dolce for a sweet finale. The Italian Vegetable Cookbook is award-winning cookbook author and food expert Michele Scicolone’s tantalizing tribute to this mostly meatless (you’ll find a few anchovies, some pancetta, bacon or guanciale used to amp up the flavor, but you can easily omit them) aspect of la cucina Italiana. Scicolone has collected more than 200 recipes, from a very simple, one-pot supper entrée like Orecchiette with Potatoes and Arugula to a more elaborate Easter Swiss Chard and Ricotta Pie with a tender olive-oil crust. None of these dishes are very complicated, and all invite you to vary ingredients, using the fruits and vegetables that look best at the moment, as any good Italian cook would do. Scicolone is a warm, friendly kitchen companion, sharing the stories behind the recipes in her chatty header notes.
A SOUTHERN REVIVAL
Alexe van Beuren loves Water Valley, a small town not too far from Oxford, Mississippi, that had seen better days before she restored a landmark building on Main Street, saving it from demolition in 2010. She turned it into the B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery, a general store, and became part of the Southern town’s revival. When Dixie Grimes, a pro chef with an impressive background, came on the scene, she made the B.T.C. kitchen sing, and that song got national attention. Van Beuren tells the story charmingly in The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook, and Grimes adds 120 recipes from her superb Southern repertoire—from Skillet Biscuits with gravies galore (even chocolate gravy for the kids) for breakfast to four-star lunches that feature Shrimp and Sweet Corn Chowder, Sriracha Coleslaw, Sweet Potato and Green Chile Casserole, Honey Pecan Fish or Fried Apple Pies. Creative comfort at its best.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
A few years ago, the food world wonks proclaimed that Spain was the new France. Luckily, Spain remained Spain in all its rich regional splendor, its culinary soul intact. Now, Jeff Koehler—a longtime Barcelona resident and aficionado of Spanish food and the diverse, beautiful, bountiful landscapes reflected in that food—offers a beautiful, bountiful celebration in recipes and photographs in Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucía. If you read the wonderfully informed recipe intros and the delightful asides on iconic ingredients—like saffron, pimentón, olive oil and anchovies—and on traditions and special holidays, you’ll find yourself in the hands of an expert guide. And, when you start cooking from the 200 recipes featured, you’ll begin to understand the strong Spanish connection to the land in the many unfussy dishes that originated as country fare. But, most of all, you’ll be turning out authentic, flavor-loaded wonders like Monkfish Steaks with Saffron or Chicken with Shallots and Orange and Cinnamon Sauce, as satisfying in Sioux City as they are in Salamanca.