Usually when I see “charming” and “self-published” in the same sentence, I run quickly in the opposite direction. But Canal House Cooking, a charming new self-published cookbook by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, has me running to the kitchen instead. Idiosyncratic in the nicest possible way, this is simply the food that these two women, who share a studio near their respective homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, like to cook in the summer. And the recipes—with inviting titles like Potato Salad Buttered and Lemoned; Tomatoes All Dressed Up for Summer; Soft Zucchini with Harissa, Olives, and Feta; and Two Steaks Feed Four—are exactly the kind of food we all want to cook when the sun is blazing and the garden is full of produce.
Actually, the fact that the book is so appealing shouldn’t be a surprise, given the backgrounds of the authors. Hamilton was the food editor of Saveur magazine, as well as, at various times, an executive chef, food stylist, and recipe developer. Hirsheimer was food and design editor for Metropolitan Home and a founding editor of Saveur, where she was the de facto staff photographer and eventually executive editor. And now for the full disclosure: Hirsheimer was also the photographer for Lettuce in Your Kitchen, a cookbook I did some years ago with my friend Chris Schlesinger. (I’m proud to say it was the first cookbook she photographed.) And that’s not unrelated, because the very reasons that Chris and I asked Christopher to take on that project are the same reasons why Canal House is such a totally satisfying book: She has great food sense, an unerring eye for making food look spectacular but not fussy, and a completely relaxed attitude. Not to mention that she is a great home cook. Hamilton seems to share these attributes, and this book—the first of three that they plan to publish seasonally each year—makes you feel like you’ve just pulled up a chair at a table set in their backyard. It’s a very pleasant and welcoming place to be.
To purchase the book, visit the Canal House website.