4 New Things We Learned from the America the Great Cookbook


What happens when chefs and food luminaries answer the question “What do you cook for the people you love?” In the brand-new America the Great Cookbook, 100 of the country’s finest chefs and food heroes came together to find out. The cookbook, exclusively found at Williams Sonoma this month, includes recipes from culinary greats including Mario Batali, David Chang, Marcus Samuelsson and more.


After thumbing through the cookbook’s recipes and their spellbinding photographs, we not only came up for air with dozens of dinner ideas, but also took away a number of cooking tips and innovations. Below are four ideas we gleaned from the book that we can’t wait to replicate in our own homes.


If the book sounds interesting to you, it’s not too late to join us tonight at 6 p.m. in stores across the country for our September Cookbook Club, featuring some of our other favorites from the book—Mario Batali’s Orecchiette with Rapini Pesto and Pecorino Romano will be on the menu, as well Ruth Reichl’s Tart Lemon Tart! A $50 ticket per person includes a 1 1/2 to 2-hour demonstration of techniques, a tasting of the book’s recipes, prepared while you watch, a copy of America the Great Cookbook  and a $10 donation to No Kid HungryClasses are available in all stores, but space is limited and reservations are required. Get in touch with your local store for more details.

For a nutrient-rich substitute to spinach, try blanching stinging nettles.

For something different, try making your favorite saag paneer recipe with stinging nettles instead of spinach.


Stinging nettles, which are considered an invasive weed in North America, are actually loaded with nutrients. Food writer, forager and teacher Langdon Cook uses them as a substitute for wilted spinach in just about anything—lasagna, ravioli, or the Indian specialty saag paneer, for instance—as long as they’re blanched first, a process that neutralizes their sting.

Blend cilantro and tahini together to make a killer dressing.

Hugo Matheson, founder of The Kitchen and The Kitchen Community in Boulder, CO, makes a grain bowl with roasted brassicas like cauliflower and broccolini, steamed quinoa and a cilantro tahini dressing to tie it all together. The sauce, made from lemon juice, oil, garlic, fresh cilantro and ground spices like cumin and coriander, uses tahini for body and creaminess.

Use capers to make a “powder” that boosts flavor.

Michael Voltaggio’s recipe for loup de mer, or European sea bass, is plated with a cauliflower puree and caper powder. To make the caper powder, he drains the capers of their brine and pats them dry with towels, then dehydrates them at 200ºF overnight. Once they’re dry, he blitzes them into a fine powder using a food processor. (We’re willing to bet that the powder would be great on roasted vegetables and lox and cream cheese bagels, too.)


Try this substitute for culantro.


Culantro—also known as spiny cilantro, long-leafed coriander, saw-toothed mint, broadleaf cilantro or its Caribbean name recao, is a fresh herb that’s used in everything from sofrito to Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Food writer and radio producer Von Diaz, who describes it as “the love child of parsley and cilantro,” uses it in her mofongo recipe, but admits it can be difficult to find. When it’s hard to track down, she uses a trick that makes perfect sense: She substitutes equal parts of the herbs cilantro and parsley.


2 comments about “4 New Things We Learned from the America the Great Cookbook

  1. Tom McDonald

    Are you kidding? Those are the four things that stand out in book? How many home cooks can get stinging nettles, have the time to make dried capers, and have tahini readily available at home? Aren’t we taking ourselves a bit too serious? I love my family and also love to cook…what’s wrong with a beautiful bolognese or marinara sauce with easy to find ingredients over some pasta. Or a pot roast with roasted vegetables?
    Getting a little too fancy here.

  2. Seriously?

    We have tahini available at home almost always. It’s a standard staple – we like to make hummous and it’s useful for quick salad dressings. There’s nothing wrong with a beautiful bolognese or marinara sauce or pot roast but those aren’t “new” things. They’re old stand bys… The article is “4 New Things We Learned…” Not “Look at these great standard recipes we’ve already featured more than once”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *