Geoffrey Zakarian with Amy Stevenson and Margaret Zakarian
Clarkson/Potter Publishers, 2014
I'm thoroughly enjoying being part of the Blogging for Books program through which I get some truly interesting (and tasty!) cookbooks to preview and tell my readers about. Today's cookbook is such a one.
I cook just like this book's premise: keep essential ingredients on hand and buy the fresh ingredients that look good and/or are on sale (or come in the CSA box!) each week as I need them. Zakarian's 50 essentials comprise a solid list that is surprisingly ordinary. Anchovies and espresso powder are perhaps on the exotic end (although certainly not hard to obtain) and flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder on the more mundane end.
The book is organized around these pantry stars, so it essentially has 50 short chapters: one per key pantry staple. Chapters are organized alphabetically. Zakarian showcases each pantry staple's particular strengths in three recipes which cover a range of functions (appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, breakfast). In addition to the three recipes in each short chapter are an introduction describing the unique qualities of the ingredient and a gorgeous page of photos of the three recipes.
Are the recipes tasty? Good question! No cookbook can be truly rated without a sampling of its cuisine. According to my usual pattern, I set out to try three recipes: Sweet and Spicy Popcorn (from the "Popcorn" chapter), Cast Iron Burgers with Secret Sauce (from the "BBQ" chapter), and the Almond-Crusted Pork Chops with Apples (from the "Almonds" chapter). Um, yum!! I had planned to sample a few recipes, rate the cookbook, and loan it to a friend. The night I made the burgers, I called her and told her no such luck. I'm hangin' onto this bad boy a bit longer. The recipes aren't complicated or even truly innovative-sounding; just goes to show that perfect technique and blending of flavors makes the difference from ordinary to extraordinary.
This is not an all-purpose cookbook, so it won't hold that function in a small cookbook library. But for folks who enjoy cooking and are curious to see some new recipes using ordinary ingredients, this is one to check out. An index that included recipes listed by course/meal would be helpful as would page numbers on the photo pages, but as the chef becomes more familiar with the cookbook, these organizational details will seem less necessary.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review