Thursday, January 28, 2016

How to Cook Without A Book by Pam Anderson

I stumbled upon this book completely by accident.  I do like to browse cookbooks, but I'm drawn by colorful illustrations or well-known celebrity chef authors, and How to Cook Without a Book; Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart is not either one of these.  It's completely without pictures, and the author, while a former editor of Cook's Illustrated isn't exactly well-known.

That's a shame, and it's a shame that this book won't get picked up by more aspiring cooks, because having read through it and used some of the recipes and suggestions in it, it's way more useful for real world cooks than a lot of cookbooks.  What this book does is to start with a simple base recipe for something and then provides alternatives for people who want to change up the base.

So for example, the basic tomato sauce recipe consists of tomatoes, salt and pepper, some kind of fat  - butter, olive oil, etc., and garlic or onions or both. Quick and easy, but perhaps a little boring.  So on subsequent pages, you find out how to easily modify that sauce by adding different vegetables, meats, and seafood to create new dishes.  There are over a dozen types of tomato sauces included, and it's pretty easy to riff off the recipes to create your own combinations.

In addition to tomato sauces, the book covers soups, stir fry, meats and poultry, creating pan sauces, omelets, and more.  I've used this book for a number of dishes - the vinaigrette dressing recipe is now my go-to salad dressing.  It's not difficult at all and allows me to control the types of oils and the quality of ingredients that I use.  More and more people are concerned with the sources of their food.  The techniques covered in How to Cook Without a Book will help you to move beyond processed foods without overwhelming you with complicated ingredients and processes.   Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers cooked like this, and we can too.

VBPL has an amazing cookbook collection covering just about every type of cuisine you can imagine.  Stop by your local library and check one out!

Review by Becky D.

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