If one day I go on trial for food crimes, I think I’m getting 20 years added to my sentence for the following: during my 3 months on New York’s Upper East Side, I never once–not ONCE–visited the famous Kitchen Arts and Letters, one of the city’s (and the country’s) greatest cookbook stores. I still hang my head in shame.
Thankfully, when I went back to New York recently for a few book events, I remedied this most outrageous crime. And my visit there became a highlight of my trip.
I spent hours poring over this gigantic, eclectic collection of cookbooks and really didn’t want to leave. While browsing, I overheard the store’s manager describing a book to a customer: “…and he traveled the country and cooked with all these different chefs like Lidia Bastianich and Alice Waters.” I thought, “That sounds a lot like my book.” It was.
The manager, Matt, was a really helpful guide through everything KA&L has to offer. After what felt like hours of browsing, I settled on two books. Matt offered up a third suggestion and here’s what I brought home:
One book, Supper for a Song is a really gorgeous British cookbook (I love British cookbooks) by Daniel Day Lewis’s sister; the second came highly recommended from Matt, The Oysters of Locmariquer by Eleanor Clark which he thinks gets the short shrift when it comes to great food books (“It’s one of the best,” he assured me). But the book that I’ve fallen the most in love with, and the book I couldn’t wait to cook out of when I got back to my own kitchen, is Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book. It’s a total gem.
The best word to describe this book is “lovely.” It just makes you want to curl up on the couch and gently rifle through the pages. Every so often you stumble upon a passage like this:
The recipes all seem like the most wonderful things in the world to wake up to. I had trouble choosing which one to make first, but when Craig’s cousin Matt and his friend Kelly were coming over, I forced myself to make a decision.
Fresh nutmeg is high on my list of favorite spices. It’s so much better than the pre-ground stuff; it gives off the warmest, most comforting scent. So when I saw on page 68 Cunningham’s “Last Word in Nutmeg Muffins” I knew I had to make them.
The process couldn’t be simpler: grate 1 1/2 whole nutmegs into a bowl of flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a wet mixture of egg, heavy cream, milk and melted butter and stir that in just until you don’t see any flour.
Fill up a sprayed muffin tin, each cup 2/3rds of the way and bake in a 400 degree oven for just 20 minutes. Out they come, golden and fragrant:
Despite their simplicity, they’re absolute crowd-pleasers: light, fluffy, fragrant, decadent…especially warm from the oven. Look at my happy customers.
Give this recipe a chance this weekend and you too are likely to fall in love with Marion’s book. (If you’ve made her famous waffles, you already know what I’m talking about.) I’m so glad I finally made the trek to Kitchen Arts & Letters; my cookbook collection has been enriched immeasurably.
Recipe: Last Word in Nutmeg Muffins
Summary: Marion Cunningham’s simple and satisfying muffin recipe.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 whole nutmegs, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup milk
- 5 tablespoons butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease the muffin tins.
- Stir together with a fork (I used a whisk) the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt in a medium-size bowl, thoroughly combining the ingredients. Beat the egg well in a small bowl, then stir in the cream, milk, and butter and blend well. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and stir only until there are no streaks of flour. Don’t overmix.
- Spoon batter two-thirds full into each muffin cup. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the rounded tops are lightly golden. Remove muffins from the pan, and serve warm. Or cool on a rack and store or freeze for later use; warm before serving.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12