Cookbooks: Cornerstone Cooking

Cornerstone Cooking: Cover

I have a confession to make. Even though I write about food for a living and spend the bulk of my days sitting no more than five feet from my kitchen, I still regularly struggle when dinnertime rolls around.

You see, I try to keep our evening meals relatively inexpensive, healthy and not too time consuming to make. What this ends up meaning for me is that I cook the same seven things over and over again. While Scott is perfectly willing to eat chili, turkey burgers, giant salads and chicken soup on repeat, I find that I need new meals on my plate.

Cornerstone Cooking: Intro

I’m constantly searching for genius to strike. I flip through Everyday Food each month when it arrives and I try to sit down in front of my shelves of cookbooks on a regular basis to see if something will resonate.

Recently, I fell hard for a new cookbook that I think will be motivating my meals for many months to come. Part of the reason I love it so is that it fits my mealtime criteria and cooking style (cheap and easy). Called Cornerstone Cooking and written by Nick Evans (he’s the blogger behind Macheesmo), it’s designed to help you build meals around one of eight central ingredients.

Cornerstone Cooking: Chicken

Each chapter starts with a recipe for the central (or cornerstone) ingredient and then offers a number of different ways to transform that item into a full meal. While I realize that this isn’t a crazy-new concept, it’s so helpful to have all these different recipes in one place and to be reminded that I can do more with a roast chicken than just make my standard soup (I’ve got Nick’s tortilla soup high on my to-make list).

Cornerstone Cooking: Marinara

One section that I think will particularly appeal to the preservers in the crowd is the one in which Nick details all the things you can do with Marinara Sauce. Many of us make up a dozen or more jars of homemade sauce each August and while serving it over pasta is always an acceptable course of action, it’s always nice to have alternatives.

Next brunch potluck I’m invited to, I’m making his Eggs in Purgatory Casserole. I’ve done a quick, skillet version of that dish for years, but I like the idea of lining the casserole dish with crusty bread so that it becomes akin to a savory, tomato-y, French toast. With a salad, I wouldn’t think twice about serving something for dinner, either.

Cornerstone Cooking: Bread

Last week, Nick took the time to answer a few of my questions about his new book and his plans for future canning projects.

I love the title of the book. How long have you been working with that phrase and this idea?

I came up with the idea for the book long before I had a name for it. I knew I wanted to write about repurposing leftovers and try to show people how it can sexy to take something old and turn it into something new. Chefs do it all the time, but most home cooks haven’t quite caught onto the idea.

Anyway, about the name, I was walking down the street one day listening to a podcast (I don’t even remember which one) and they described something as the “cornerstone” idea. It worked perfectly with the method of cooking I was trying to describe — using one large meal as the backbone for other smaller meals. I’ve always liked alliterative titles so Cornerstone Cooking just flowed from there.

What was your very first cornerstone recipe?

The first one that I wrote for the book was the Nick Nugget recipe. I knew I wanted roasted chicken to be the first chapter since it is easy and accessible to a lot of people. Plus there are tons of meals you can make with leftover chicken. I could’ve written a whole book on that!

The first cornerstone recipe that I ever made without knowing it was probably my Fridge Cleaner Chili. I kind of just toss all of the veggies I have in my fridge with some stock, spices, tomatoes, and beans and let it simmer for awhile. It’s always a hit.

I see that you did some canning in 2011. Any plans for more in 2012?

Oh yes! I was lucky that both of my canning attempts last year turned out to be successful even though I was a complete novice. You honestly inspired me to try it out. I was shocked by how easy it was to do.

I plan to do a lot more pickled veggies this year just because they are my favorite. I might try one or two experimental jams to give out as gifts also. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I made a jalapeno peach jam last year that was better than expected.

Here’s the other thing that makes this book so impressive. Nick did the whole darn thing himself. He wrote every word, did the all photography, prepared the design and indexed every recipe (he even indicated which recipes are his wife’s favorites, a touch that I love). Truly, every ounce of it is all his work.

In addition to giving me a copy to review, Nick has also given me two copies to give away to Food in Jars readers. Here’s what to do:

  1. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and share your favorite “cornerstone” ingredient.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Friday, May 4, 2012. Winner will be chosen at random (using and will be posted to the blog on Saturday, May 5, 2012.
  3. Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian readers.
  4. One entry/comment per person, please.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book, as well as two review units, at no cost to me. My opinions remain entirely my own. 


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468 Responses to Cookbooks: Cornerstone Cooking

  1. 451
    jenna! says:

    this book looks great! my favorite cornerstone ingredient would probably be quinoa.

  2. 452
    Jeff Tabels says:

    Beans. The last year or so I have been playing around with all different types of legumes. I made a New Year Queso Compuesto from Homesick Texan, I had left over beans and collard greens that I turned into a fantastic bean soup.

  3. 453
    Michelle Lenox says:

    Chicken…becomes chicken salad, and chicken tacos, and then goes to stock.

  4. 454

    I’ll go with marinara sauce, because I LOVE eggs cooked in it, love pasta, love tomato soup — and that is a great idea to make it out of basil-y, delicious tomato sauce!

  5. 455
    gail says:

    beans seem to be mine

  6. 456
    Misty says:

    homemade bread

    love the concept of this book looking forward to it

  7. 457
    DJ says:

    Tomatoes or chicken or cheese

  8. 458
    Jessica says:


  9. 459
    Nell says:

    leftover roasted or steamed veggies, as they can be used for all sorts of “leftover” meals!

  10. 460
    Susan says:

    This is my kind of book! Can’t go wrong w/ chicken, but another good one is left over pork steaks or pork chops. We get yummy and inexpensive pork steaks at our local market (1.99 a pound sometimes!). I freeze the leftovers–sometimes a half or a third of the original portion and when I have enough chunks, I repurpose them into tacos, enchiladas, BBQ sandwiches, or stew. Yum.

  11. 461
    ann marie says:

    right now my new found cornerstone ingredient is greens. beet greens or spinach or mixed anything, even if its in bags. i put them in everything. my hemoglobin/iron is very low and it makes me very tired, makes my asthma worse, and affects everything and i hate taking iron vitamins. but other than salad, greens were never a big thing we ate in my family. i have found i can throw them into scrambled eggs and egg salad, my favorite cheap fast dinner- pasta fagiola, every soup i make even beef stew, shoved into sandwiches, tossed with hot roasted veggies. sometimes they melt into nothingness, sometimes they are on the raw side. one of my favorite things to do with chard, broccoli rabe, or beet greens is sautee them in the oil from my garlic confit (thats a food in a jar!!!), add hot pepper flakes, sea salt, raisins, and at the end, toasted nuts. any leftovers can go into a grinder, grilled cheese, or on a frozen pizza. i love crab cakes or croquettes on a bed of those sauteed greens. or if you really want to get crazy, really ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, sauteed greens, and a scoop of lemon/basil ice cream with a drizzle of balsamic syrup.

  12. 462
    Wendy says:

    It’s gotta be the roasted chicken. I make this all the time and I wrack my brain trying to come up with new ways to use the leftover chicken. This book sounds amazing and the fact that the author did EVERYTHING himself is very inspiring!

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