March 02, 2006

Donna Hay: Off the Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry


Technique. It's Always About Technique.

The more cookbooks I examine methodically for the website, the more I'm beginning to realize that the main problem with most books is the description of How. How to prep the ingredients, how to assemble them, how to brown or broil or sauté -- the problem is very often a faulty description of How. This book is no different. The ideas are fantastic and the food is often excellent, but as I was cooking from Off the Shelf, I realized that I was doing a mental exercise about "next time." "Next time I'll make sure to slice the parsnips smaller so they cook faster." "Next time I'll add some garlic to this to make it zestier." "Next time I'll melt the chocolate with hot cream so that it doesn't seize." That's a lot of "Next times" -- shouldn't the recipes work this time? The very first time?

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February 02, 2006

Sara Moulton: Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals


I wanted to like this book...

I like Sara Moulton's show on the Food Network. I like her low-key, straightforward style. (The Food Network apparently is no longer interested in a no-nonsense, educational approach to cooking programs; they're changing their focus to "entertainment," and Sara Moulton will be moving to PBS.)

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December 01, 2005

Giada De Laurentiis: Everyday Italian


A Good Book That Could Have Been Better

Giada De Laurentiis' first book, Everyday Italian, is a good primer on Italian-American cooking. None of the recipes are complicated or time-consuming to make, and the basic techniques are simple. Which makes the occasional problems especially annoying, because the book could have been excellent, but because there are numerous oversights, it's merely good.

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November 10, 2005

Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way


What Celebrity Cookbooks Should Aspire To

This is an outstanding book. Every restaurant chef who decides to write a cookbook should be required to take a look at Jacques Pépin's approach in Fast Food My Way to get an idea of how to write a cookbook that's actually useable.

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November 01, 2005

Jamie Oliver: Jamie's Dinners


A Good Cookbook? Yes. A Frustrating Cookbook? Also Yes.

I'm torn about how to review this book; on the one hand, I really enjoyed cooking out of it and usually had good results from the recipes. On the other hand, the book caused a lot of head-scratching, eyeballing, and guessing in order to produce the food, and that's not usually what I'm looking for in a cookbook.

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October 17, 2005

Wolfgang Puck: Live, Love, Eat!


Wolfgang's Greatest Hits

That would be a fitting subtitle for this book. It's a selection of favorites from Puck's various restaurants, and old family recipes from his native Austria. The book lacks a unifying theme, unless the theme is "Hey, check out some of my recipes!"

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October 05, 2005

Rachael Ray: 30-Minute Meals 2


Hey, Rachael Ray can cook!

After the mess that was 30-Minute Get Real Meals , I figured I should give Rachael Ray another chance. She's an extremely popular cookbook author, and I assumed that she must be more successful when she's cooking in her own element, rather than according to a marketing plan.

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September 27, 2005

Rachael Ray: 30-Minute Get Real Meals


All Aboard the Low-Carb Gravy Train

I have a confession to make: I've never seen Rachael Ray on TV. I know she's a popular Food Network personality. And she's a prolific cookbook author; at least ten different titles on Amazon, along with coasters, recipe cards, magnetic note pads, and journals. When I saw 30-Minute Get Real Meals at Target, I decided to choose it for my maiden voyage into critiquing waters, since it was sure to be a popular book, and it might even be good!

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