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. 


Related Posts:

, , ,

468 Responses to Cookbooks: Cornerstone Cooking

  1. 251
    Ryan Gillespie says:

    Pasta would probably be my cornerstone ingredient.

  2. 252
    Tanya says:

    Roast chicken is a definite cornerstone for my family. I’d love to learn what Nick suggests we do with it!

  3. 253
    Autumn says:

    Onions. Caramelized onions can take almost any dish from ho-hum to superb, in my opinion.

  4. 254
    Karen Lee says:

    My cornerstone ingredient has got to be beans. Usually, cranberry but sometimes a mix. Cooked with onion, celery, carrot, Rotel tomatoes and a dry rub blend. The first day, the beans are a side dish to a luxury food, like tri tip steak with more dry rub blend on it. The next night, they’re on their own as the main dish to make up for the previous night’s indulgence. Later in the week, they appear again with corn tortillas, cheese and creme fraiche. If there’s any leftovers at that point, they go to work with me for lunch.

  5. 255
    Rhea says:

    Dried beans, for sure!

  6. 256
    Lindsay says:

    Sweet onions. They’re flavorful and versatile without overpowering….soups, salads, sauces, casseroles, pasta or just grilled. Yum.

  7. 257
    Mestebla says:

    Pot roast is one of my favorite cornerstone ingredient. I love to make one on sunday, then used the beef in tacos, on pizza, in burrito bowls, etc.

  8. 258
    Michele says:

    My cornerstone food is home-grown roasted chicken. We use it from everything to soup, stir fry, wraps, pizza, etc.

  9. 259
    Cynthia says:

    Dried Beans all my cornerstone!

  10. 260
    kristin says:

    chicken. could be roasted, grilled, slow-cooked, pan-fried, but I always make extra to use in lunches, salads, etc.

  11. 261
    Kim says:

    My cornerstone item would have to be chicken, followed closely by tomatoes and pasta. There are a gazillion things you can do with chicken. I think I’ve done ten. Maybe twenty. … still working on it.

  12. 262
    Luisa says:

    Ground beef is my cornerstone.

  13. 263
    Cindy B. says:

    I think carrots would be my favorite “cornerstone” ingredient. Carrot in salads, soups, breads, cookies, carrots glazed, roasted, saute, or just eaten raw and my most beloved; cakes!!

  14. 264
    Elysse says:

    Quinoa! Whenever I make it I just make a huge batch, and use it as a base for veggies, meat, soup, or salad. Any leftovers get chucked in the fridge and turned into something else (even porridge for breakfast).

  15. 265
    Michelle Hahn says:

    For me it’s shrimp & pasta….for everyone else in my house it’s ground beef & pasta!

  16. 266
    Mimi says:

    I regularly sauté onions and garlic before I have any idea what I’m making for dinner.

  17. 267
    Sarah says:

    Kale. juice it and reduce it into pasta sauce, steam it and top with a few fried eggs, chop and toss into a salad or a soup…I am secretly sad that I just had to cut down the bolted and aphid-infested huge kale stems I’ve been picking meals off of for the last year!

  18. 268
    NMPatricia says:

    I probably don’t have a cornerstone recipe unless it would be chicken. I am fascinated with this idea and how it really could help dinner time.

  19. 269
    Miya says:

    Probably sausage. We open up a six-pack of some tasty chicken sausage and throw them in pasta, soups, eggs, etc to get some protein without much effort.

  20. 270
    Cheryl says:

    Beans, I think are my favorite cornerstone ingredient. I always keep a supply of black beans, white beans of some kind, and garbanzos. They go in salads, soups, become dips and spreads and side dishes, tortilla fillings. They can supplement a protein or be the protein in a dish. They’re also tasty and full of fiber!

  21. 271
    Carolyn S says:

    I know it’s boring, but chicken tends to be my cornerstone ingredient. Cook up a bunch of chicken breasts at the beginning of the week, and those become the base for most of the weeks lunches.

  22. 272
    Mike says:

    Pork is probably one of my most versatile cornerstone ingredients, even moreso than chicken. Figuring out other recipes for sausage would be nice since people know it’s either jambalaya or gumbo when I pull out the andouille , so something else would be fun to throw ’em off a little.

  23. 273
    Joanna says:

    I have to say onions and garlic, can not have to much of them, and mushrooms. Put it on pasta, rice, toast, salad, side to eggs for breakfast. I keep frozen mixture of fried trinity in freezer all the time for easy dinners.

  24. 274
    Sam says:

    Beans, for soups, chili, stews, Mexican food, hummus and casseroles. I always cook up a lot and freeze in jars. Also skinless, boneless, unsalted canned salmon for salads, sandwiches, chowders, salmon patties, baked salmon-loaf, and pasta or rice casseroles. I also keep a good supply of low-fat cheeses in the fridge. If you have cheese, you can scrape together a meal in a pinch, with just a few other ingredients.

  25. 275
    Emily says:

    What a great-looking book!! For me, definitely lentils! I cook with them all the time as a healthy “fill-you-up” ingredient… But even though I know they’re so versatile, I always end up doing the same old boring thing with them. Would love to have a copy of this and see all Nick’s variations!

  26. 276
    Deb L says:

    My fav would have to be the roast chicken- can’t wait to see what he suggests!

  27. 277
    Angie says:

    What a great idea for “planned overs” as my mother called them. One of our favorite cornerstones is good ol’ pot roast. I could really use some good ideas for that wonderful beef after Sunday dinner is over!

  28. 278
    sara says:

    Roast chicken would be our cornerstone ingredient. We then use the meat for another meal (or two) and make stock out of the bones. It goes a long way.

  29. 279
    Stacey marien says:

    Roast chicken is my favorite. I’m always struggling to use the leftovers for something else other than chicken noodle soup

  30. 280
    Rosie says:

    Risotto! Does that count as an ingredient, or more a technique? It’s my favorite way to make random veg left in the fridge into a delicious meal.

  31. 281
    Ben says:

    Chicken is a definite staple for me. Would love to learn some new tricks to keep it interesting! Looks like a great book.

  32. 282
    Jennifer says:

    Chicken is always my go to leftover ingredient. Cooked and frozen is almost always in my freezer.

  33. 283
    Debbie says:

    This looks fascinating. I would love to add this to my shelf! I think probably chicken, though I am trying to use more beans. But it seems whenever I am in a pinch, chicken is what comes out of the pantry or the freezer.

  34. 284
    Jules says:

    We eat a lot of elk in our house, and I sure do get tired of having it the same old ways each time, even though it’s really good.

  35. 285
    Sarah says:

    Bread, of course! We make the Mark Bittman bread pretty often, but would love to have some new ideas as to what to do with it.
    Thanks for the chance.

  36. 286
    kala says:

    I think my favorite would have to be black beans! Thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  37. 287
    dianne says:

    it is a toss up between beans and roast chicken for me.

  38. 288
    mary w says:

    Myclassic cornerstone ingredient is pasta! Change out sause, veggies, meat, etc and its a whole different meal.

  39. 289
    shannon p. says:

    my favorite cornerstone ingredient is round steak…so so many possibilities!

  40. 290
    Robert Wolf says:

    Eggs and garlic FTW!

  41. 291
    Katie says:

    The holy trinity-garlic, onions, and celery. I start with that as my base and it can turn into stirfry, pasta, soup, pilaf…anything!

  42. 292
    Michelle M says:

    Chicken is huge for me. I can do *a lot* with some chicken.

  43. 293
    Erin says:

    Definitely roast chicken.

  44. 294
    Linda says:

    Eggs are a cornerstone ingredient for me. With five young hens in my backyard coop, I have a lot of eggs at this time of year. While I give away a lot of eggs I also try to use them in meals for me and my boyfriend as often as possible.

  45. 295
    AlysonRR says:

    I think my favorite cornerstone would be potatoes. Not sure if the book addresses that ingredient specifically, but we have potatoes 2-3 times a week!

  46. 296
    Christa H says:

    chicken for sure

  47. 297
    amy says:

    Moose, actually, is our cornerstone ingredient.

  48. 298
    Cori Dwyer says:

    Roasted chicken is a great cornerstone ingredient.

  49. 299
    Heidi Sue says:

    I’m so lucky that my mother was a leftovers wizard; she started teaching me that early. So spot-on with the idea: cook more once and get mileage out of re-makes. Love it! Our cornerstone ingredient is home made stock. Turns plain into super every time.

  50. 300
    STH says:

    Beans would be my cornerstone ingredient.