When I was a kid, I always wished I could be locked up in a library. No place had more magic.
I once even thought about becoming a librarian, but that lost its shine when I realized it didn't mean I could make a career out of sitting and reading books - especially cookbooks - all day.
Although my mother was a great cook, I didn't spend much time in the kitchen with her.
So once I was out on my own, I had some learning to do. Naturally I headed to the stacks at my public library, where I found a wealth of tantalizing and informative recipes in shelf after shelf of cookbooks.
Checking out an armful of volumes at a time, I'd try some recipes and copy down the best and easiest ones for my burgeoning recipe box. I became quite a cookbook junkie.
Today they overflow from a large bookcase off the dining room onto kitchen counters, nestle on night stands and lurk in my closets.
Many have been gifts and others rescued from thrift store bins for $1 or so. Some have provided stimulus for a fine meal, others have given me so much joy just to turn the pages and taste the various dishes in my head as I read. Less fattening that way, too.
But the library is a fanatics treasure trove, so now I find myself combing the public library shelves for books my mother had or for ones I never knew existed, something by a favorite chef or to escape to a foreign country.
I recently learned the Tampa-Hillsborough County Library System has more than 10,000 cookbooks. This includes approximately 3,200 ethnic varieties.
Impressed? I certainly was.
And I also learned the Ruskin Library will be showing off some of them on July 20, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., when it hosts a special cookbook discussion group. Sponsored by the Friends of the Ruskin Library, the free event is a spin on an old-fashioned recipe swap, and will include refreshments and door prizes.
You can bring along your favorite cookbooks to share and debate with other amateur cooks. Sounds like lots of fun to me. I'll see you there!
The Ruskin Branch Library is at 26 Dickman Drive S.E., Ruskin. For more information, call (813) 273-3652.
If you live in another part of the county, I'd check the county library system's online calendar to see if your local branch library is offering book discussions like this at www.hcplc.org.
As I was thumbing through one of my new cookbooks, Jeffrey Saad's "Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders," I spotted a turkey burger that hits all the right notes. While the book is packed with page after page of mouth-watering recipes, this one caught my eye as being particularly summer-friendly, so I thought I'd share it with you. Enjoy!
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.
Asian Turkey Burgers
3 large leeks
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns
Sriracha sauce or other condiment of your choice
Cut off the dark green parts of the leeks and discard, then cut the leeks in half. Pull out the hard yellow cores and discard. Rinse the leeks under cold water, pulling back the folds to get the water in between. (Leeks can be very dirty.) Slice the leeks thinly. You should have about 2 cups.
In a medium skillet over medium to medium-low heat, add butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, closely monitoring the heat so that the leeks soften but do not brown. Set aside to cool.
Turn on a grill to medium-high. In a medium bowl, add the turkey, panko, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, cooled leeks and salt. Use a fork to combine it all thoroughly but do not overwork the mixture or the burgers will be tough.
Form the mixture into four equal-size patties. Push your thumb into the center of each burger so that the burger does not bulge as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper and place on the hot grill. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through but still juicy. Once you have a nice sear on the burgers, turn down the heat to medium to fully cook the turkey without burning the outside.
Toast the buns on a grill or under a broiler, if you like. Place the open buns on a plate and spread with Sriracha sauce or another condiment. Place the burgers on top. Serve immediately.