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Melisa Clark is well known to most American audiences for her columns and her cook books - they are widely read, used and loved. Her recipes are intriguing not always what you would expect, the step by step guides are always clear and the pictures excellent. This is a very user friendly Cook Book that is certainly having and also extends your own skill and range as a cook. Perhaps one of the endearing things about the book is the way that when she talk about food and cooking up come stories of past relationships and people she has cooked for. It's like having a dinner conversation with a friend about your life.
So... I'm a fan of Melissa Clark's, but I think I like her mature / NY Times style better than her early work. This book strikes me as a little too idiosyncratic. For example, in the introduction to her "Tuscan Kale with Anchovies, Garlic, and Pecorino", she claims to eat this dish for dinner when home alone, which is nice for her but makes me feel bad when I'm just looking for a side dish for my half pound of carbonara. I made the kale and it was fine, but I was a little disappointed by it - it tasted a little muddled. Her tips for "any greens you've got salad dressing" yielded a nice dressing that would have dressed a handful of greens but certainly not the quantity I actually had, which again is fine except that the recipe said it would dress two quarts and then did not. This might be a matter of taste. This might all be a matter of taste. The same thing happened with the "sesame soba salad with roasted shiitakes and tofu croutons." The tofu croutons were delightful, as was the dressing, but again there was nowhere near enough dressing for the whole salad. This may in fact confirm that it is a matter of taste. The big problems happened around the "baked apples with fig and cardamom crumble". I love cardamom and apples, and enjoy a fig here and there. Unfortunately we started things off on the wrong foot when Melissa claimed to dislike the "mushy, applesauce-like fruit at the bottom" of apple crumbles. Warned, I might have noted that she claimed to dislike exactly what I consider makes crumbles worth eating and have left it at that, but I must have cardamom, so I gave the recipe a shot. Not only were my apples not applesauce-like at the end of it, they never softened up at all after double the called-for time in the oven. I used particularly hard apples, but then again Melissa said I could in the instructions. The taste was good but would have been better without figs. Yet again, I wondered, is it supposed to be like this? Is this what she wanted? In the case of "lemony olive oil banana bread with chocolate chips", I think the answer is yes, but to me the combination of banana, olive oil, lemon, and chocolate was weird. As so often in this book, I just thought there was too much going on. Not all my experiences with these recipes were disappointing. The double coconut granola was great, although I prefer her olive oil granola on the New York Times website. The "fragrant lentil rice soup with spinach and crispy onions" was really good. The "gingery split pea soup with toasted coriander" was good too. I'm going to keep cooking from this book, but I'm going to be more selective about the recipes I try. There's a braised pork one that sounds awesome - for some reason I didn't cook any meat dishes from this book, and knowing Clark they'll be pretty good. I really like the seasonal and monthly format, and Clark is very generous in listing a number of possible alterations and additions to each recipe in a separate section below the recipe proper. The book feels personal and is about how to make the most of the produce you have, given the needs of those you're cooking for. I really like the spirit of the book, and it may be I just need a bit more time getting used to it. I've cooked from it a lot because the recipes all sound so intriguing, and I'm actually pretty happy about how all of them except for the two desserts came out in the end; after some time reading Melissa Clark, though, I'm coming to accept we don't have quite the same taste in desserts, and, of course, that's perfectly fine.
I adore Melissa Clark and her simple, reliable and delicious recipes. There are loads of fancy recipe books out there where I make hours-long recipes seduced by the sexy photos and wonder why I couldn't have cut out 75% of the steps or worse yet, where the results are less than delicious after all that work. Clark is someone who cooks rather than photographs and packages her recipes (vs. someone like Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks who does a beautiful job of styling and photographing her food).
Everything I've made from the book has been easy to follow and really good. They often get tagged for a repeat which doesn't happen all that often. I also really like the notes at the end of the recipe that allows for customizations and such.
One thing that I don't love is that the organization of the book makes the recipes a bit less accessible. Now that I'm in California, the seasonal divisions make less sense for me, and I frequently make kale recipes in the summer as well as in the fall/winter. I think I'd prefer an ingredient-centric organization cross-referenced with seasonal menus as suggestions.
I initially borrowed a digital copy of this book from the library and found I had bookmarked at least 12 recipes. My criteria for keeping a cookbook has always been three good recipes, so this one seemed to have great potential. I particularly liked the organization by month, based on what is available in local farmer's markets (at least on the east coast.) When I saw it on sale in the kindle store, I immediately purchased it. Clark's style of cooking is very relaxed and she gives multiple variations to each recipe so that you needn't worry about not having a particular ingredient. A good basic for weeknight meals, with clear and simple instructions and amusing head notes, this is not an exhaustive survey, but a well curated collection of achievable meals that are tasty and reasonable healthy. Enough to keep a foodie interested but not scary to a novice, I highly recommend this book in either digital or old fashioned paper format. (The digital format has a few extras which are nice...)
If you've ever cooked anything from Melissa's famed Good Appetite column in the NYTimes, you know that her recipes work. They are also delicious and practical for the home cook. This book is her kitchen diary for a year - what she actually cooked for herself and her family. The book is structured seasonally, month by month, making it really easy for those getting into seasonally inspired cooking to follow the book along. Having cooked many recipes from the book already, I can tell you it's a lovely addition to my shelf. So much so that I keep it within arm's reach for inspiration for what to make for tonight's dinner. In fact, tonight we'll be making roasted cauliflower from her book - a delicious, easy, terrific side dish. Andrew Scrivani (who is amazing) photographed this book - and each picture is mouthwateringly delicious. This will be a book you'll love forever.
Melissa Clark's inauthentic, but superb recipe for a Moroccan vegetarian stew in the NYT inspired me to order one of her books. This one was recommended by several reviewers because it is somewhat lighter than her first book, ideal for healthy everyday cooking. I use it often. Every recipe I've tried has turned out perfectly. Many are vegan (or can be easily made so), simple to make, but impressive to present.
The book itself is fine, but I was disappointed in the recipe selection—just bored me. I often cook and have much better luck finding inspiration reading her NYT choices. So this book went into the recycle book pile.
This is a terrific book with recipes that will go directly into your arsenal. The recipes are organized by month of the year, which is actually a really engaging and sensible way of putting them together. You don't have to read through 30 chicken recipes, half of which you can't make that day anyway. I gave it to a friend who told me she kept telling her husband "Just let me read one more month!" before going to sleep. There are recipes in here for every day, recipes that are sophisticated enough for foodie company and yet you won't spend all day making them, and there's a recipe for mallomars which I made and is a revelation. Every recipe has options and suggestions for switching things up, adding or taking away ingredients, and pairing. I highly recommend it for anyone or for any gift giving.