Very approachable recipes with accessible, affordable ingredients for the home cook
Reviewed in the United States on 15 March 2018
Clearly, Iron Chef Alex Guarnascelli has chosen all of the many recipes in this book with great care so as to be accessible to the home cook--from those looking for simple weeknight suppers to those who have more time on weekends (perhaps to make "James Beard Strawberry Shortcake"?) or those who, like me, are retired, love to cook, and are just always looking for new adventures in the kitchen.
Most of the ingredients are accessible--whether locally or via amazon--and affordable. Some that may be more challenging include cerignola olives, cherry peppers, trout (or salmon) roe, tequila (for curing salmon), live lobsters, littleneck clams, sea bass or halibut, shrimp, optional lily buds, saffron, and oxtails. Unlike Chef Alex's "Comfort Food," this is not entirely a budget-friendly cookbook. However, there are a LOT of recipes in this book, so I definitely don't feel left out because of a few hard-to-find ingredients.
On the other hand, the author has definitely made an effort to make the recipes accessible in terms of simplicity, and that means using a lot of carefully-selected, store-bought ingredients: she uses frozen chopped spinach, frozen artichokes (for dip), frozen phyllo dough and puff pastry, dumpling wrappers, potato hot dog buns (for lobster rolls), store-bought mayo, canned tomatoes, bottled clam juice, oyster crackers, canned beans, store-bought shrimp stock, dried mushrooms, and (presumably) store-bought mozzarella and ricotta. There are 9 pasta recipes in her "Pasta and..." chapter, and every single one uses dried pasta (she prefers DeCecco). She tells us how she cooks chickpeas from scratch but tells us that she often uses canned chickpeas. The author provides wonderful vegetable recipes, and even an entire chapter devoted to "Supermarket Mushrooms Made Sexy". There are chapters devoted exclusively to sauces and dressings; salads: everything from many side salads to "Salad for Dinner". There are several dozen recipes for desserts: cookies, fruit/berry-based, cakes, pies, and quickbreads, all selected with an eye to simplicity of the making and baking.
Kindle review: TOC is clickable, and recipes are clickable from the chapter title pages. Index is semi-clickable. Embedded recipes are clickable. Finally, only perhaps 25% of the recipes have color photos, which I know are important to many readers, and some that appear are grouped close to the recipes.
Every recipe comes with a headnote telling us why the author loves the dish, about its ingredients, or both. Chef Alex's classical French training often shines through as she weaves in recipes from her childhood: her Italian grandparents, her adventurous-in-the-kitchen mother and Chinese-food-loving father; or the recipes she makes for her daughter. Despite the fact that many of the ingredients mentioned above are not available in my itty-bitty grocery store (there are no Whole Foods in my state), and some amazonable ingredients don't fit my budget, I bookmarked an astonishing--for me--number of recipes (about 10) that I'm anxious to try. After all, how can I not make Chef Alex's "Garlic Cream" when she tells us that it's one of her top ten favorite recipes?
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