`sara foster's casual cooking' is Sara Foster's third book of recipes from her North Carolina `Foster's Market', and her second collaboration with West Coast culinary writer, Carolynn Carreno, who co-authored another recent `easy meals' book, `A Twist of the Wrist' with La Brea baker, Nancy Silverton. Since I liked Silverton's book, and I believed Foster's second book, her first with Carreno, was better than Foster's first book, Carreno appears to be a major contributor to the works to which she contributes.
The title and collaborator may give one the impression that Foster's book has a lot in common with Silverton's book, but it does not. While Silverton's book is oriented toward preparing food at home, Foster's book continues her journal of recipes from her market. And, while the title of the book suggests `easy' preparation, I would leave it at `easier than her previous books'.
Foster's books, and her personal history, have much in common with Ina Garten. Both were Martha Stewart collaborators, and both ran (and Foster still currently runs) catering businesses in upscale neighborhoods. There is also a lot in common in their selection of recipes; however, Garten has thoroughly transplanted her comfort zone from the commercial to the home kitchen. Thus, Foster's recipes all seem to be just a bit more highly polished and a bit more suitable for fancy entertaining, in spite of the `casual' rubric.
Ms. Foster starts with the seemingly obligatory `things you need in your pantry' chapter, which is a good read, but always irrelevant. The best course is the great advice from Mahdur Jaffrey, who recommends just acquiring what you need for the recipes you cook and learn, and stock up for those recipes only, adding things as you learn new recipes.
Foster's first chapter of recipes immediately sets the true tone of the book, as more of a source for relatively easy entertaining, rather than a book of recipes for cooking family meals. In fact, the first recipe is the famous James Beard tea sandwich, with its petite chopped parsley edging.
The second chapter on salad meals is closer to home, and introduces us to `Salad Meals'. It also introduces my favorite feature of this cookbook, the list of ten (10) simple and relatively easy recipes for a stock culinary preparation. In this chapter, the subject is vinaigrettes. On the one hand, vinaigrettes are so easy, one wonders why we even need any recipes for them at all. It would seem that once you get the hang of it, just about any vinaigrette would seem to be within your reach. But, as someone who has been cooking regularly for the last six years, and who has read close to 500 cookbooks, I still like the reassurance of consulting someone who has done it before. Foster, for example, suggests adding pesto or apple juice to two of her vinaigrettes. Now I may have thought of pesto, but I would never have thought of apple juice, and there always seems to be some hanging around after some baking project or other.
The third chapter is sandwiches, and this subject always warms my interest in a book, especially when Ms. Foster gives us her take on Po'boy sandwiches where the oysters are NOT fried. The next chapter on savory flatbread preparations is the kind of thing you should really read through several times at your leisure, then be prepared with its recipes as suggestions for improvisations with English muffins, day old baguettes, or tortillas. The pasta chapter has another of those thumbnail quick and easy recipe collections. Here, we get `nine quick and easy pasta sauces'. Almost all of them are old favorites, such as carbonara, basil pesto, Alfredo, and Pepperonata sauces, but Foster gives us the confidence to realize these should come very easily to us. Many of them are the sorts of recipes we should really know by heart, and Foster gives us the essentials to make it easy to remember them.
The `anytime eggs' chapter covers my favorite subject, recipes with eggs, including several recipes which will encourage us to master the art of poaching eggs. The recipes point up an important aspect of the book, which is less of a cooking manual than a simple list of good ideas for things to do with very traditional cooking techniques.
The list of easy techniques in `simple suppers' is both `My Foolproof Marinades' and `Three Easy Ways to Turn Sausage into Dinner'. One suggestion I might make to Madame Foster is to give both outdoor and indoor versions for recipes such as `backyard barbecued pork tenderloin', as we urbanites living above the Mason-Dixon line may not have lots of opportunities to fire up a charcoal grill.
The `Fish in a Flash' is fairly routine, except for the generally high level of interesting flavor combinations. The `Fast and Easy Side Dishes' is one of my favorite chapters, as I often run out of steam when putting together a main course, and have nothing left to do anything interesting for those all-important vegetables. The `quickie list' in this chapter is eight `quick things to do with a bag of spinach'. I'll offer the suggestion that such a list is great even if you are only cooking for two, as you always seem to use just half of that 10 ounce bag of pre-washed spinach, and don't quite know what to do with it before it wilts. I will note that a few of the recipes may not be quite as fast and easy as you may like, especially things like `Hoppin john', with its four or five ingredients requiring prep work. The list of interest in the dessert chapter is `ten easy, elegant parfaits'. This is less work to produce a greater `wow' value at the end of a meal.
Sara's recipes all seem to be just a bit brighter and more interesting than average. This is a far more valuable return from this book than `just another fast and easy recipe' book.
- Buy this item and get 90 days Free Amazon Music Unlimited. After purchase you will receive an email with further information. Offer valid for a limited time only. Terms and Conditions apply.” Learn more here.