The Three Cookbooks I’m Reading

Six Seasons:

I promise this is a cookbook you will actually cook from. It has become my canon when I have a pile of vegetables and little inspiration, both at Stomping Ground and at home. McFadden’s recipes have a welcome clarity of flavors with lovely twists. So next Saturday at the Farmer’s Market go crazy; grab turnips, parsnips, peppers you don’t know the names of, and whatever else you like. McFadden will help you learn a very basic technique and create layers of flavor you didn’t know were possible. My personal favorite is his spaghetti with swiss chard, pine nuts, raisins and chilies. A sweet, salty, spicy, earthy dish…and he recommends you fold leftovers into a frittata. It’s perfection.





Ah Gabrielle Hamilton. My culinary touchstone. She’s an incredible Chef and author (she has still been known to work the line at her first and only restaurant). Although she recently has received some controversial press, I still couldn’t love her more. If you have any curiosity about how Chef’s scale up recipes for their kitchens and give instructions to cooks, this is the book for you. It is written to Gabrielle’s cooks in her distinctive voice, with as much instruction, encouragement, information, and scolding as you would find if you actually came to work at Prune as a line cook. Her work is deeply personal and gracious and highly original. I love love love this book. Her years of experience comes through in just about every recipe. She will tell you what to expect from a dish at every turn, making it very difficult to make mistakes along the way. Reading her recipe for an omelet will make you a pro!


Side note: I also adore her gritty autobiography, Blood Bones and Butter, The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. You can purchase both at Stomping Ground in our small retail area at the front.




The Food Lab:

There are two different kinds of approaches to food. Prune, listed above, is highly romantic and ritualistic. In direct contrast, The Food Lab breaks down techniques scientifically; busting myths and providing context as to why food and recipes work and do not work. J. Kenji Lopez has a cult-like following for those that like to weigh, measure and time while cooking. If you like to bake and can’t cook, you may find The Food Lab the way to savory success. If you want to know the best way to boil an egg, The Food Lab has the answer. The New York Times credits Kenji as, “…reliable, personable and unpretentious. He is also a gifted explainer, making difficult concepts easy to grasp for those of us with a lifelong lack of aptitude for the sciences.” This is a great book to learn techniques, but not necessarily a great book for flavor combinations (Check out The Flavor Bible for that).


Photo Credit: W. W. Norton & Company


  • The latest from Nicole
Head Janitor, Chef, and Proprietor | Stomping Ground
Nicole’s cooking style is rooted in, but not limited to, her love of southern biscuits and her diverse culinary upbringing. A military brat, she spent her childhood in the Chicago suburbs enjoying her great-grandmother Mae’s Lithuanian cooking. As a tween, she moved to Paulding County, Ga. where she begrudgingly fell in love with the charmingly perplex small towns of the Deep South. She fondly remembers grubbing on Martin’s biscuits, late-night Waffle House debauchery and cooking with her family. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Nicole started a marketing career at an art nonprofit in Atlanta. At 25 years old, she became the youngest executive at the local Atlanta NPR affiliate. Chasing her dreams, she moved to Alexandria, Va. where she took a short post in the Whole Foods marketing department. Realizing that cooking had been her true love all along, she began night courses at L’Academie de Cuisine. She completed her apprenticeship at Blue Duck Tavern where she was promoted to a line cook after graduation. From there, Nicole worked as a private chef for busy Washington D.C. executives and their families. As grown-ups tend to do, Nicole realized something about her childhood — the best parts were enjoying small town communities, cooking with her great-grandmother and sharing meals with family and friends. She opened Stomping Ground to build a safe and welcoming community around yummy, handmade food from local sources. As her first foray running her own kitchen, she has shamelessly hired better, smarter cooks to fill her kitchen and your bellies. Her great-grandmother’s recipes often appear on the Stomping Ground menu without advertisement and, no, she won’t tell you the secret ingredients. Nicole lives in Del Ray and won’t shut up about how much she loves living there.

If you wander down Del Ray’s, “The Avenue,” you won’t miss the farm-red building with a rustic fence bordering the patio. Stomping Ground opened two years ago and quickly became popular for its made-from-scratch biscuits and its neighborhood vibe. On weekends, excited guests line up before Stomping Ground opens hoping to be the first to get a just-out-of-the-oven biscuit or a fresh salad. Stomping Ground is mostly known for its fast casual breakfast and lunch but on Thursdays and Fridays they provide a full dinner service after 5:00pm. All meals are built from local, seasonal food that is organic whenever possible.

2309 Mt Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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