Electric Review

Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms

Notable Cookbooks

ONE-DISH DINNERS. Jean Anderson. William Morrow.

This book (previously published under the titleDinners in a Dish or a Dash) parallels the Food Channel’s “30 Minute Meals” in theme – an ode to simple dishes that taste good. The idea here is to teach busy folks who work full-time to prepare healthy fare rather than constantly eating out in restaurants:

“…With both parents working these days, we’re busier than ever. We’re more stressed out, less inclined to cook after hard hours at the office. There’s fast food, of course, but many of us feel guilty about settling for burgers, pizza, fried chicken, or ‘Chinese’ night after night. Even ‘gourmet’ takeout soon becomes boring (not to mention expensive).”

(Introduction at page 1)

In response to this, Anderson (who has written some 20 other cooking manuals) brings us One-Dish Dinners: a bookwhich demonstrates how to take convenience items from the supermarket and turn them into entrees that are really tasty. Tasty and fast to make. That’s the combination Anderson’s blended here.

Truth be told, most young single working people don’t cook at home more because it’s too much of a hassle. How much is all this going to cost — can’t I really eat out cheaper? What ingredients will I need to make a full meal? Do I have enough pans to make something that fancy? Can I eat that much food before it goes bad? The answers to these kinds of questions and much more are included in these pages, the recipes clearly written, the instructions easy to follow.

Here, wonderful dishes abound: Meatball Soup (with cabbage, carrots and potatoes) offers a hearty dinner soup full of vegetables and protein, but without the high sodium content of processed soups. Warm Shrimp and Wild Rice Salad (with curry-sour cream dressing) kicks in with an exotic taste twist — it’s really hard to believe you can make this so fast. Malay Spiced Lamb and Vegetables makes us think beyond chicken, showing us that there are other lean and healthy meats we might try instead. Mushroom-baked Flounder (with rice and peas) would make a nice romantic dinner for two.

Aside from the recipes, readers get advice on how to save time in the kitchen and make the cooking process easier (cutting sun-dried tomatoes with scissors is really the way to go!). In short, One-Dish Dinners is a cookbook written specifically for working folk who just don’t have time to create their meals over the course of the whole day.

Recommended for the general reader, and also appropriate for libraries in the public sector as a general reference text.

To order go to amazon.com or harpercollins.com.

THE VINEYARD KITCHEN. Maria Helm Sinskey. Harper Collins.

Maria Helm Sinskey is known throughout food circles as one of the top chefs in the states — an inventive and dedicated cook who pours herself into her dishes. Sinskey became known in the bay area when she worked as Executive Chef at The Plumpjack Cafe, an upscale eatery near the northern edge of the San Francisco waterfront. After Sinnskey left Plumpjack’s, she brought her unique style of cooking to the “classroom,” directing the kitchen and teaching classes at the Robert Sinskey Vineyard — a Napa Valley winery she and her husband own.

Vineyard is Sinskey’s first book, and it is a marvel — an elegant collection of recipes basted in real simplicity: rather than flaunt her “great chef” title, Sinskey instead chooses to forsake pomp for the love of her craft. The result is a book that steps out to teach rather than talk.

There are many fine selections among these recipes (neatly segregated into “Fall,” “Winter,” “Spring” & “Summer” chapters), but the standouts include the red-wine braised short ribs with roasted root vegetables and the spring lamb stew; also the pancetta-wrapped grilled figs with baby arugula offers a new twist to the prosciutto and figs staple that so many Italians enjoy on their late summer tables.

Along with Tom’s Big Dinners (William Morrow), Vineyard Kitchen is a great choice for an all-around kitchen manual that will serve full-time cooks and on-the-run commuters equally well.

To order go to amazon.com.
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This entry was posted on September 1, 2004 by in 2004, Books, Quick Picks, September 2004 and tagged , .
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