An entire cookbook devoted to flavored butters?
Each year, plenty of single-subject cookbooks pop out of publishing houses like cupcakes from an oven, many of them admirable additions to any collection - titles such as "Mac & Cheese" by Ellen Brown or "The Meatball Shop Cookbook" by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow.
But do we need a book whose directions can be summarized as "mix ingredients into softened butter and chill until firm"?
Ultimately, you decide, but in "Flavored Butters" (Harvard Common Press, $12.95), author Lucy Vaserfirer does deliver a number of variations on compound butter (the culinary name for these mixtures) that surprise - French radishes, caviar, truffles - going beyond classics like garlic butter.
Why make them? As Vaserfirer points out, these butters are "a great vehicle for other flavors" and can transform a grilled steak, steamed vegetables or pasta. We've summarized three of her recipes here. To make them, simply mix as directed, then chill before using. Or shape them into a log first, following her directions:
To form into a log: Place the finished butter in the center of a sheet of parchment (or wax) paper. Bring the top of the paper over the butter. Press the butter into a log. Roll the log up in the paper and twist the ends in opposite directions. Chill until firm.
Blend 1 stick softened unsalted butter, 1 clove garlic, grated, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 pinch hot red pepper flakes.
Force 4 chipotles in adobo sauce through a fine-mesh sieve to remove skins/seeds. Blend the puree with 1 stick softened unsalted butter, 1 clove garlic, grated, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a generous pinch toasted ground cumin.
Put 6 dried apricot halves in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Soak until rehydrated, 10-12 minutes. Drain apricots on paper towels, 1 minute. Pulse apricots in food processor with 1 stick softened unsalted butter, 1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds, 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.