I guess it must have been a couple of years ago, I had a crazy thought to build a website to help me start actually using my cookbooks. The point of the site would be to let people create a simple catalog of the cookbooks that they own to help them search through the recipes in those books. Anyone using the site could enter the recipes from one of their cookbooks and then be able to search it from then on out. The scale of the web would mean with enough users, each person would really only need to spend time entering one or two of their own cookbooks, and before long, there would be a very good sized catalog. Or, if all of that failed, at least I'd have a site that I could enter my books and search them.
So, in fits and starts, I eventually built it. It's called GobbledyBook, and it's free for anyone to use. I've kept kind of quiet about it because, to date, just about the only person who has used it has been me and it's always a little nerve wracking to have other people start playing with your baby.
I've used it quite a bit already. In fact, I've entered over 4,500 recipes in more than 40 of my cookbooks. And even though that is only a small part of my cookbook library (yes, I am one of those freaks), it's already come in handy to help me find the right recipe and actually cook from my cookbooks! Woo Hoo!
The basic scenario is pretty simple. Say, I want to make some bread pudding. I know I have a lot of bread pudding recipes in my cookbooks, but which ones? I'm sure that Donna Hay has a recipe, but I own 6 of her books. With GobbledyBook, I can simply type bread pudding into the search box, and it shows me 26 recipes out of my cookbooks and what page the recipe is on (Donna Hay has a Marmalade Bread and Butter pudding in Modern Classic Vol. 2, page 146, by the way). You can also see a full list of ingredients for the recipe as well as comments. (To actually cook the recipe, you have to go to the cookbook... I'm not trying to steal from cookbooks, just make them easier to use).
Or, maybe I need to bring something gluten free to a pot luck? I can browse all gluten free recipes, and then narrow down the selection by what ingredients I have or the type of food I like to cook, like Italian. I can limit the search to just cookbooks I own, or any cookbook that has been indexed. Then, I just go grab the book off of the shelf (or order it from Powell's or Amazon!) and get cooking.
It's also been wonderful for helping me figure out what to do with the ingredients in my market basket each week. Once I get tired of my old standards, I just plug in a couple of ingredients and see what other dishes I can make. Like, for example, this Swiss Chard Frittata that I made for lunch today.
Actually, this is a combination of two recipes... a basic baked frittata and a swiss chard tart recipe from Sunday Suppers at Luques. I didn't quite have all the right ingredients for the tart, but I did have (most of) the makings for the pine nut relish that tops it. So, keeping with the basic seasonings of the tart, I skipped the crust, bumped up the egg and turned it into a lovely (and gluten free) lunch treat (recipe below!)
Anyway, back to Gobbleybook. As it turns out, I wasn't the only one with the problem of using their cookbooks, or the idea to solve it. Late last year, another site launched called Eat Your Books. With a slightly bigger staff (than my 1, so anything is bigger!) and interns helping out with the data entry, their catalog is significantly bigger already. Good for them! I'm sure if I hadn't spent the last couple of years building my own site, I would totally sign up.
There are some differences between GobbledyBook and Eat Your Books though. First and foremost, GobbledyBook will let you catalog your own books, so you don't have to wait for someone else to add your book. You can just do it yourself (and you'll most likely find a few great recipes to bookmark along the way... I know I have).
GobbledyBook is also free to use. There are no sign up fees or subscriptions fees, and it is my intention to keep it that way. You sign in with your Facebook account, and you are good to go.
GobbledyBook also lets you enter the data the way you want to and the way the recipe is written. If the recipe calls for spring onions, you enter spring onions. Behind the scenes, we'll match up ingredients that are the same (so if you search for scallion, you'll see recipes for green onions as well. Search for soup and you'll see recipes that are bisques). I've had numerous searches on Eat Your Books fail because I didn't use quite the right search term.
So, if you find yourself wanting to make your cookbook library a little easier to use, I hope you'll give GobbledyBook a try and enter a cookbook or two. To entice you a bit more, I'm giving away a $50 gift certificate to your choice of Powell's or Amazon to the first person to catalog 500 recipes!
PS: GobbledyBook is a labor of love. It's been a long time since I've done any "real" software development, so you may, at times, find a glitch or two. If you do, I hope that you let me knows so I can keep making the site better!
Baked Swiss Chard Frittata with Pine Nut Relish
Makes 2 individual sized frittatas
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
1 dried red chile
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1/3 cup raisins or currants
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh chervil or flat leaf parsley
red chile flakes
salt and pepper to taste
3 large chard leaves (or other braising greens)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/8 cup red onion, diced
4 extra large eggs
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup cream
First, make the relish. Lightly toast the pine nuts until they start smelling very nutty. I use a small skillet on the stovetop to do this, but you can also do it in the oven. When they show golden spots on them, remove from heat, and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet and add the rosemary and chile until they start to sizzle. Add the diced onion, raisins and a pinch of salt, and reduce heat to low. Slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened. Remove from the skillet, discard the chile and rosemary, and set aside.
Using the same skillet, add the balsamic vinegar and heat over medium low until the vinegar reduces to about 1 tablespoon and becomes syrupy. Add this to the onion mixture, and stir to combine. Then, mix in the pine nuts, chervil, a pinch of red chile flakes (if desired). Season to taste. Set aside for the flavors to meld.
To make the frittata, lightly grease two mini cocottes and preheat the oven to 350F.
Remove the thicker stems from the chard and tear the leaves into smallish pieces. Chop the stems into half moons (like you would celery). Heat a small skillet with olive oil and the thyme leaves. When hot, add the chopped chard stems and red onion. Reduce heat to low and cook until the onion softens. Add the chard leaves and cook until they become wilted. Divide between the cocottes.
Whisk the eggs, creme fraiche, cream and a grind or two of black pepper in a medium sized bowl until well combined. Pour this mixture over the chard in the cocottes, filling each about 3/4 full. Garnish with a bit of chive if desired.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture sets and puffs up. Then, switch to the broiler and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.
Serve immediately (they will quickly deflate), topped with the pine nut relish.