This cookbook gives us tons of outside-the-box ways to use ingredients, like blanching leek tops for pesto.
Photography by Caitlin Bensel
| Credit: Photography by Caitlin Bensel

Even as a trained cook, I often find myself looking at an ingredient thinking, What can I do with this? A recipe provides one answer, but The Nimble Cook, by chef, recipe developer, and cooking teacher Ronna Welsh, holds ingredients up to a kaleidoscope. In Welsh's hands, a leek isn't just chopped for soup. The tops are blanched for a pesto, a side dish, or a flavored cream cheese, and the stalks get braised for pastas, meatballs, salads, and dumplings. Each ingredient-based section of the book (leaves, aromatics, heads and bulbs, fish and shellfish, etc.) gives readers basic recipes, like an onion jam, plus things to do with those building blocks, like the Fast French Onion Soup. Welsh focuses on using everything up, helping you make the most of your grocery haul. Her treatment of ingredients helped changed the way I cook and saved me money. So be nimble, be quick, and get a copy!