Last summer a friend of mine told me about a new recipe website a friend of his had started called cookstr.com. It seemed like an interesting idea–content that comes entirely from cookbooks written by trusted chefs and cookbook authors. But between my enormous collection of printed cookbooks, all the magazines and food blogs I read and several robust recipe websites, I don't really have a shortage of ways to find good recipes.
So to be honest, I wasn't really all that excited by this venture. There is something to be said for having one spot where you can simultaneously find recipes from the likes of Mark Bittman, Alice Waters, and Marcella Hazan (to name only a few.) But, (at least so far) a lot of these chefs only have a sampling of recipes on the site (the minimum required is 20 per chef). This results in Cookstr being more of a promotional site for marketing cookbooks (which is fine, the publishing industry needs all the help it can get right now!) than a really robust database of recipes.
I tend to plan my meals either based on one random ingredient that I happen to have in surplus (from my garden or the market), or some passing mood that comes from the weather or season, or just because of what happens to be in my fridge at the moment. So when I'm searching for a recipe what I really want is a wide search with lots of volume of results. Part of the process I like is sorting through and separating the bad recipes from the good ones.
A few days ago, I was trying to think of some new things to do with sweet potatoes and I thought (despite my reservations) I'd give Cookstr a try. I entered "sweet potato" as my search term and got 40 results. That was already a bit disheartening since the same search on Epicurious, for example, results in 356 results. I pressed on. None of the results on Cookstr.com really sounded that exciting but I did find one recipe for a Cheesy Sweet and White Potato Soup that I could make without a trip out to the store. I should have been wary about any recipe that pairs cheddar cheese and sweet potato (I'm sorry, but I mean really, what the hell?) but I made it anyway. What a mistake.
I was tempted to photograph it for the blog because it did look really pretty—the orange creamsicle color with the contrasting green peas sprinkled on top. But I just did not want to eat this soup. Minus one for Cookstr, but I figured at least part of the blame was mine for choosing a recipe that sounded so off in the first place. So today I decided to give the site another try.
After all my prosecco drinking over the holidays I still had one half-finished bottle in the fridge that I knew I would use for cooking. So back to Cookstr to enter "prosecco." Six results. (To be fair, Epicurious only had seven results.) I was happy to see one of the recipes was for Champagne Risotto which I could make with the ingredients I had on hand. Of course, this is a really simple dish that requires a recipe about as much as oatmeal or scrambled eggs does. But still, it might not have come to mind for me to make without the inspiration from Cookstr.
Unless you use bad ingredients It's pretty hard to go wrong with this dish. Since I had homemade chicken stock and imported parmigiano-reggiano, it was pretty tasty. The real question is whether Cookstr.com will become part of my recipe search destinations or not. I think I'll give it a few more tests over the next few months and see how it fairs.