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. 301
    NW Homesteader says:

    Pasta is totally my cornerstone, wheat pasta!

  2. 302
    Laura says:

    Hey, I’m in – sounds like a great cookbook. Which cornerstone to choose is hard – pasta is so flexible, but onions get used in practically everything.

  3. 303
    Linda says:

    My canned San Marzano tomatoes from last summer, of course!!!

  4. 304
    Leslie says:

    Carrots are my cornerstone! I sneak them into almost everything. Thank you for such a great giveaway!

  5. 305
    Jennie says:

    We have a flock of hens so eggs are my cornerstone. I love the way this cookbook is arranged and the photos look lovely!
    Thank you!

  6. 306
    Kate says:

    Great idea for a cookbook! My big go-to ingredient is garbanzo beans. I use them frequently in stews, hummus and salads, and roasted for snacks.

  7. 307
    Daisy says:

    My favorite cornerstone ingredient depends on the season. In winter, it’s chicken. In summer, spinach or tomatoes.

  8. 308
    Christine says:

    cornerstone – probably homemade bread!

  9. 309
    Tonya Davis says:

    My favorite cornerstone ingredients are either rice or chicken. Roasted chicken gets repurposed into tons of ways here as does rice – soup, Mexican casserole, breakfast rice, etc.


  10. 310
    Summer says:

    I think one of my favorite “cornerstone” ingredients is turkey. It’s amazing how many other meals you can make with it – enchiladas, turkey pot pie, etc.

  11. 311
    karen says:

    The cornerstone item I make the most is chicken. My favorite meal from it is chicken soup with the left over bones. Turkey is also a family favorite.

  12. 312
    Lynn says:

    My most common cornerstone ingredient is probably turkey, but my favorite is anything that’s ripe in the vegetable garden!

  13. 313
    Keith says:

    The cornerstone I am most prone to is tomatoes. And these giveaways are awesome.

  14. 314
    Jessica S says:

    homemade bread!

  15. 315
    annmadeinbrooklyn says:

    what a great idea for a cookbook! picking one cornerstone ingredient is tough…roast chicken is definitely one. pasta is another. although i will say i’ve been putting chard in EVERYTHING this spring.

  16. 316
    sarah says:

    I think eggs are my cornerstone these days – with backyard chickens, they’re nearly always on hand, they’re quick and easy, the kids all like them, and they’re super good for you. I’d love to explore the other cornerstones in the book, too!

  17. 317
    Kate says:

    This is tough! My cornerstone ingredient would most likely be greens – like kale and chard.

  18. 318
    Kyrie says:

    Chicken broth!

  19. 319
    Patti says:

    Hmmm, a whole chicken, a roast and mashed potatoes.

  20. 320
    Kay says:

    They may not be cornerstones exactly, but I always keep extra chopped onion and parsley in the freezer. They make my life so much easier!

  21. 321
    Jen says:

    This sounds like a great book! My favorite cornerstone ingredient is probably eggs. They are my fallback when I don’t plan ahead enough for anything else. I can always make some scrambled eggs with some veggies, a frittata if I have lots of bits of lots of stuff, or even just a fried egg and toast if I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  22. 322
    Lisa Rossnagel says:

    My favorite ingredient is chicken. You can do so much with one roasted chicken.

  23. 323
    vikki says:

    roasted chicken. made one tonight for enchiladas, put what was left in the freezer for pot pie. this book looks great, and i love “the homemade pantry”–bought it right after your post!

  24. 324
    Maria says:

    yogurt or parmesan. It’s amazing how much goodness a great parmesan will add to everything you put it on, and yogurt is a meal, a side dish, a sauce base, and an essential to making curry creamy. Plus, it can be substituted for buttermilk. Since the conversion usually doesn’t work the other way (buttermilk parfait? no thanks) I consider yogurt a staple. This book seems like a lot of fun; I work like this in my kitchen already, but inspiration fails and the larder runs low, at which point ideas like eggs in purgatory sound brilliant.

  25. 325
    Sandra says:

    I’m intrigued by the roasted chicken as well as the Eggs in Purgatory casserole.

  26. 326
    Hannah M. says:

    greens, definitely-I can start with spinach or chard or kale or collards and happily build a meal from there.

  27. 327
    Becky says:

    Cool idea!!! I think a roast chicken is great and can always be used for so many things. My cornerstone is a beef roast. Doesn’t matter if it is a pot roast or one roasted in the oven with potatoes and carrots…it is my go to meal.

  28. 328
    Tanya says:

    Lentils are my cornerstone food. They are inexpensive and delicious. Greek lentil stew, dal and cold lentil salads are staples around here.

  29. 329
    Maura says:

    My cornerstone is, oddly, the sweet potato. I can put them in almost anything.
    I make a mean sweet potato oatmeal and a very nice set of sweet potato pancakes.
    Want dinner? No problem. Sweet potatoes on the side, as a sweet dish or for dessert.
    I should start planting them, really… *runs off to plan raised bed*

  30. 330
    Laura says:

    There are so many options. The usual chicken, veggies, pasta. I always have eggs on hand, and with those you can make so many things. I make salmon for dinner, and the next day add it to spinach and kale salads with vinagrettes made with soy, fresh blood oranges, honey, etc. You can even combine with the eggs and veggies for a great fritatta.

  31. 331
    TrishB says:

    Tortillas! Seems like almost everything’s good in a tortilla.

  32. 332
    Jeannie says:

    Chicken or eggs. You can do so much with both! Nice looking book; will definitely take a closer look at this one way or the other. 🙂

  33. 333
    themarketgirl says:

    This is a tough one! I would have to say that the Olive Oil Dough made from “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” that I regularly keep in my fridge has become a cornerstone. It is great for pizza on the grill, flatbread, crust for a variety of goodies, calzones, or just a bit of fresh bread to go with dinner. Yum!

  34. 334
    Michelle says:

    Chicken and beans are two of my favorite “cornerstone” ingredients.

  35. 335
    Maia says:


  36. 336
    Kelly L. says:

    Can’t go wrong with roast chicken as your cornerstone! This book looks great!

  37. 337
    Celeste Hartery says:

    I have a few cornerstones. I can come up with almost anything if I have onions, celery, carrots & a whole chicken. Theyre almost like my foodie security blanket. I always have them in my fridge or freezer, they’re uncomplicated & everyone loves them.

  38. 338
    wintersundays says:

    Pasta!!!! Hands down my cornerstone

  39. 339
    Holly says:

    A stash of chicken breasts in the freezer is a cornerstone for lots of meals in my home.

  40. 340
    kristyreal says:

    Since we are allergic to corn, it’s important that we cook every morsel we eat from scratch using almost all local ingredients. I buy whole heritage pastured chickens from a local farmer, so roast chicken is a staple at my house. It’s hard to decide if the roast chicken or homemade quick bread dough that we make would be my top pick for cornerstone. I love that what I’ve been doing all this time has a name: Cornerstone Cooking. 8^)

  41. 341
    Lainey says:

    Lentils! All different colors. You can even make pie with lentils.

  42. 342
    Deby says:

    Chicken! From roasted to fried to salads to homemade stock, so many uses from one little bird.


  43. 343
    Howard Burns says:

    My absolute favorite cornerstone ingredient is eggplant. I use it all the time!

  44. 344
    Corrie says:

    Quinoa is my new favorite “cornerstone”! I buy it in bulk, so I have a container on my counter at all times, and am exploring different ways to prepare it and incorporate it into different types of dishes.

  45. 345
    Cary says:

    I don’t know, black beans might be my cornerstone. This book looks amazing, I still haven’t mastered a roast chicken (I’m a little embarrassed), so I’m excited about that chapter!

  46. 346
    Harvitron says:

    I like to make a big pot of rice, and make it into individual meals throughout the week (as a side dish; fried rice; sprinkled on salad; and even a quick keer-like pudding!)

  47. 347
    Jessica says:

    Brown rice, probably. It’s so easy to pop on the rice cooker when I get home from work, then fix something to serve on top. Looks like a very helpful book! Thank you!

  48. 348
    Susanjam Anderson says:

    The cornerstone at our house is a brown rice/wold rice blend. Eat it as it is as a side dish, stir fry it, make coconut rice, make rice & egg patties (endless variations), etc.

  49. 349
  50. 350
    Candace Halter says:

    Roast chicken is mine. I am keeping my fingers crossed to win this book. I have been drooling over it since Nick blogged about it, unfortunately, I made a personal commitment to buy no new cookbooks in 2012 =(. However, how great would it be to win one!!!!